The Old Testament: 1 Chronicles I – The Devil’s in the Details?

I’ve often heard that some of the best singers of my generation could sing the phone book and create a hit. Adele, for example.  And although this might be true, in part because of her ability to know which elements of a song to stress and where to use her unique inflections, I still couldn’t sit through a whole song of her singing said phone book, even if I did appreciate the effort

No, if I were to see her live (I had tickets—a birthday gift from Jared—but then her voice problems sidelined her), I’d revel in the songs to which she does such a fantastic job infusing her palpable verve, sadness, despair, longing, etc.  And, of course, if someone asked me how the show went, I’d have to distill my opinion into a quick clip—it’s was great, phenomenal, etc.  Who would have the time to sit through a point by point recall of each song, each memorable moment—just provide the bottom line, right?

Although this is fine for some people—not everyone likes dealing with a concert (the expense, the crowd, the noise, etc).—I like to know HOW a person sounds, how well the singer/band departs from the recording, and what they say in the banter between. The details provide a true sense of the experience, and no short version provides this.

1 Chronicles serves as a recap of (what the author of this book considers) relevant history for the Israelites who return from Babylonian exile.  Since they are working to rebuild their lives in Jerusalem, and most of them have no idea about their history, the author of 1 Chronicles borrowed from previous texts and constructed a narrative of the key rulers of Israel.  The beginning of the book is built on a series of lists of important individuals—Israel’s historical phone book, if you will.  And it’s about as interesting to read as the credits from a film.

But, understandably, that’s not the point. When the meat of the book arrives, we get a trimmed version of key people and events. In fact, he expunged the nuisances and context in these stories in favor of highlighting their strong moral messages.

Take 1 Chronicles discussion of David, for example.  We jump right into his assuming the throne after Saul’s death: no exploration of his confrontation with Goliath, no rendering of his constant struggles with Saul.  No, this book focuses on his military achievements and how he instilled the importance of unity among his people (12:22).  Sure, this provides important models for being successful, but when you leave out the struggles and human element (when he falls short), this creates an almost unattainable figure to emulate.  It robs the listener of the true experience.

It also suggests, because this account acts as a historical record, how people can manipulate a story to reflect their version of what’s important. This problem is especially noticeable in light of how much effort is given to describing what the key people went through in earlier books of the Old Testament. Without the other accounts to illustrate the disparity, one would not know what had been omitted. It also seems that some people probably just don’t care: tell me the important stuff and hold the rest.

To put this in a different context, it’s like listening to only the hit single off of an album without listening to the whole work.  For some people this is fine—they get what they come for.  For the people who do take the time to experience the album, they get a better, more well-rounded sense of an artist’s vision.  Though, of course, some artists are more gifted than others.  But if you rely on someone else’s opinion of what’s worthy of your attention, who misses out? Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing if you only ask for someone’s opinion of the “important” part.

Next: The fun continues in 2 Chronicles.

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About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: http://goo.gl/yvT24K His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to 5Writer.com. On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: www.BibleProjectBlog.com Follow his work at: www.BradWindhauser.com VirgoWriter@gmail.com
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