The Old Testament: 2 Chronicles I – Alternate Takes Reveal

If a movie is real popular (or the exact opposite, real bad), a studio will sometimes try and milk the film by releasing a director’s cut (or, in the case of a flop, redeem a movie). I like these director’s cuts.  These tend to offer a much different take on the story.  For example, Aliens 3.  David Fincher’s first feature film did so-so at the box office (considered a flop by many), and left most fans cold.  The problem is that the film shown in theaters (and later on VHS) was not the film he made.  When he screened the film for the Fox execs, they balked.

Studios have a reputation of trimming and also re-cutting a film based on how well they think the film will work with an audience, eliminating nuisances, flourishes for which a director is known or they cut any detours that are not deemed interesting enough.  Sometimes—often—they order reshoots to simplify a story, which in most case makes it less interesting. This is what they did to Aliens 3, and the changes so pissed off Fincher that he doesn’t even discuss this film.  (For a fascinating look at the story behind this film, check out the special edition of Aliens 3—where you can also watch Fincher’s original cut, which is MUCH better and feels more complete).

What’s cut—if a full-on director’s cut is not released—often ends up as outtakes on a DVD, and these scenes often add depth to how you understand a character (and his or her motivations). If all you’re after is the story, story, story—say what you have to say and be done with it—these might not appeal to you.

Given that 2 Chronicles offers a slightly different spin on events and people previously covered in the Old Testament, this book of the Bible functions as some of these outtake-like stories, and they often shed fresh, interesting light on a component.

Take King Rehoboam (10:7).  In places, his story is drawn out in ways compressed in other bible books.  For example, his glaring downfall stems from his flexing his military muscles just because he can.  When he hears Israel’s concerns about having their burden lifted, he ignores his wise, older counsel in favor of the young, inexperienced counsel, who suggests he be a jerk to his people, threatening that he can make their lives worse (10:14-15).  The Book of Kings rushes through this moment.  The added benefit is that by handling the story again, you can better appreciate how painful it is to watch someone so clouded by power that they make the wrong choice.

Basically, Kim Jong-un.

But some of these alternate takes on events previously discussed in the Old Testament are altered (as in 1 Chronicles, so that the message is not obscured by pesky details) and the resulting effect reduces some of these stories to the equivalent of an Afternoon Special.  The reversal or epiphany is arrived at too easily.  And without appreciating the true struggle, can you truly appreciate the goal?

For example, with Egypt’s army attacking Jerusalem, a prophet informs Rehoboam that, since he’s been so wicked (turning his back on the lord, etc.) the lord won’t be around to defend him this time.  So the king, along with the other leaders of Israel “humbled themselves” (12:6).  Chapters and chapters have been devoted to how bad of a king (and perhaps a person in general) Rehoboam is.  And then one uttered phrase—he humbled himself—gets the lord to change his mind. There’s no developed sense of a struggle—the brevity makes the action look so simple.

Handling the story in this way makes it seem like you can basically do whatever you want and then when you are backed into a corner you can say a sentence and be all good.  Life doesn’t work this way, and other books in the Old Testament make people work harder to undo all of their awful actions.  Here, though, it seems that all you need is a group hug and all is wiped clean.

Perhaps the author of this Bible book thought this was a better way to deliver the message?  But in doing so, the attention is then focused only on the awful actions, not the context—the lesson being: don’t do this.  But lessons are so rarely learned in this way.  Given how frequently—and quickly—people in the Old Testament stray from God, you’d think they’d have tried a different tactic to get them in line.

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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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