Biblegems # 105
Question: Many chapters in OT books are duplicated, or nearly duplicated, in other OT books. I heard that repetition is caused by one passage being a history while the other is poetic. How can I best understand this repetition, and thus understand the Bible better?
Actually, this duplication of material between books of the Bible extends to the New Testament as well, notably the Gospels. One of the benefits of this is that multiple witnesses add to the strength of any testimony. So when an event recorded in the Scriptures is repeated elsewhere in Scripture, the duplication actually adds weight to the claim that the event is historically accurate. But—let’s look at some examples in both the Old and New testaments.
The books of 1 & 2 Chronicles, perhaps composed by Ezra around 400 B.C., contain a record of God’s dealings with the Hebrew people from Adam to the captivity—and release—of the Jews under Cyrus—a period paralleling biblical history from Genesis to Ezra and Nehemiah. Some of the historical content in Chronicles was intended to fill in some gaps in other “official records” of the kings of Israel:
1 Chr. 27:24 Joab son of Zeruiah began to count the men but did not finish. Wrath came on Israel on account of this numbering, and the number was not entered in the book of the annals of King David.
For the most part, however, the purpose of Chronicles is not to give a chronological timeline of events, but to demonstrate through examples in history of how God blesses obedience and disciplines disobedience in His people.
The books of 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings on the other hand, many portions of which show up in the Chronicles, are intended to demonstrate God’s control, His absolute sovereignty, over the people of Israel in the fulfillment of His plan of salvation. So, king Josiah is commended in 2 Kings for eradicating idolatry from Israel:
2 Kings 22:2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.
Josiah’s actions are also recorded in 2 Chronicles 34-35. The difference is not so much in the details but in the purposes of the two accounts. The books of Kings highlight God’s sovereignty; Chronicles highlights God’s guidance through blessing and discipline. The result is like looking at the same event through binoculars.
The same principle is at work in the Gospels. Four Gospels represent four perspectives on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecy; Luke emphasizes the Holy Spirit and healing; Mark highlights Jesus’ sinless humanity; John exalts Jesus’ divine nature in human flesh.
We are fortunate indeed to have such a full account of biblical history, for—unlike human history recounted by a meaningless maze of dates and events—this is HIS-story:
Heb. 1:1-2 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.