We are studying most of 1 Chronicles 16 for Sunday, December 8. It’s the Chronicler’s account of the installation of the Ark of the God in its tent in Jerusalem, which mainly includes the lyrics of the psalm that was part of that ceremony. Here are my exceptionally brief notes on this text:
BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT: Last week, we looked at the Chronicler’s account of David’s bringing the Ark to Jerusalem. The next step – our text for this week – is to install the Ark in its new place, with the appropriate ceremony. After that [stay tuned for next week] David will start laying plans for building the Ark a permanent home. Then the Chronicler will tell the rest of his [expurgated] account of David’s reign, and move on to Solomon, and the rest of the kings of what remains of the kingdom the Chronicler is interested in [Judah] and finish up with the end of the monarchy, and with the epilogue that announces the end of the exile. This time of the Ark that we’re looking at is one of the Chronicler’s happiest memories.
We can tell from reading Chronicles that the author has a different perspective on the history of Israel than the author of the Deuteronomistic history. [Seemingly a more utopian vision.] The use of the Psalms in the chapter we’re looking at may support this. The Psalms have a timeless feel; it seems likely that they had that feel already in the Chronicler’s day. It affirms continuity between this depiction of beautiful “ancient” worship and the “restoration” worship that could have been taking place in the Chronicler’s own day.
Again, I note: this is one of those stories you wouldn’t know if all you know about the Bible is the lectionary. No Chronicles in the lectionary.
CLOSER READING:1 Chronicles 16:8-22 corresponds to Psalm 105:1-15. With one slight difference: in Chronicles, the worshippers are told, with an imperative, to remember God’s covenant forever; in the Psalm, they are told that God remembers it forever.
In the context of Psalm 105, verses 12-15 come before a long review of the mighty acts of God in saving the family of Israel from famine by providing for them in Egypt, and then later rescuing Israel from Egypt. That positions the “few in number, of little account” as the patriarchal households – doesn’t it? The same words in the context of 1 Chronicles 16 may bring to mind a different image of the few in number, and of the kings who are rebuked on their account.
1 Chronicles 16:23-33 corresponds to Psalm 96, with some minor modifications – how significant these are we might wonder. For instance, the worshippers in Chronicles are not told to “sing a new song to YHWH” and are saying among the nations that YHWH is king right after the heavens are being glad and the earth is rejoicing.
1 Chronicles 16:34-36 corresponds to Psalm 106:1 and 47-48, with a change in the name of God, a little intensification of the theme of salvation and rescue, and an affirmation that the people did, indeed, say “Amen!” and praise the Holy One, as they are instructed to do in Psalm 106.
We might want to remember that people edit liturgy for specific purposes all the time. 1 Chronicles 16 is, in a sense, an archived bulletin from a memorable worship service. Fondly recalled.