This verse is sometimes taken as a rallying cry by American Christians, who believe that it holds out the promise of ‘healing’ our country if we humble ourselves before the Lord. We’ll take a look at whether that interpretation stands up, but first let’s consider who wrote The Books of Chronicles.
Who wrote 2 Chronicles 7:14?
The Book of Chronicles is found in both the Hebrew Bible and in the Christian Old Testament. It details the genealogy from Adam up to King Cyrus, who conquered Babylon and freed the Jews from captivity in 539 BC. Some scholars argue that the Chronicles are the work of a single author, usually identified in Jewish and Christian tradition as the Jewish priest, Ezra. Other scholars argue that the text is compiled from older sources, by unknown authors, to whom they have given the name ‘the Chronicler’. They suggest a date of composition late in the 4th century BC.
What is the meaning of 2 Chronicles 7:14?
2 Chronicles 7:14 New International Version
‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.’
God is talking to King Solomon. The people of whom God speaks are the Jews. God had entered into a covenant with Israel and had promised to take care of the Jewish people and bring them prosperity, just so long as they continued to obey Him. God is reminding Solomon that if the Jewish people turn from their ‘wicked ways’ He will forgive them and their land will once again be fertile. Bible verses can never be understood fully, without a consideration of their context; we’ll get into that a little later, but now let’s look at some other translations of this verse.
2 Chronicles 7:14 King James Version
‘If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn away from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.’
We can see at a glance that the New International Version has stayed very close to the King James Version of 1611, and makes only minor changes to modernize the language. The phrase ‘seek my face’ seems to me particularly striking. In a literal sense, we cannot see the face of God, but in a metaphorical sense we can see the face of God in all of creation.
2 Chronicles 7:14 New American Standard Bible
‘and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.’
Once again we see very little textual change from the King James Version of over 400 years ago. The next version, however, expands on the original text, so let’s consider whether that is helpful.
2 Chronicles 7:14 The Message
‘and my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health.’
The Bible was not written with chapter and verse divisions. They were not introduced to the Old Testament until 900 and the New Testament did not get them until 1551. They were introduced to make it easier to navigate the text but they often impose confusing divisions, which distort the meaning of the original text. The Message deals with this problem by restructuring the text into longer sections, in this instance, verses 12-18. This approach can reduce much of the confusion that a reader who encounters an isolated verse may experience. In its rendering of this verse, The Message does not distort the meaning of the original but it does offer some clarification for the modern reader. ‘God-defined people’ seems to me a helpful amplification of ‘my people’. God is speaking to the Jewish people but Christians are also called by God’s name and have inherited the covenant with Israel. The metaphorical ‘seek my face’ has been replaced by the less abstract ‘seeking my presence’, which again, seems to me, a helpful modification. What do you think?
2 Chronicles 7:14 in context
This chapter belongs to a section of text, which concerns itself with the kingship of King Solomon. Solomon built the temple that his father, King David, had intended to build. Solomon prays to God to bless the temple and confer favor upon his people and this is God’s response. Verse 14 is a continuation of the previous verse, rather than an utterance, which can stand-alone:
‘When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people’ 2 Chronicles 7:13
This preceding verse makes it clear that God is referring to a cycle of sin and repentance and that God punishes the people of Israel when they turn their back on Him. It enables us to make sense of the conclusion of verse 14, in which God promises to ‘heal their land’.
Reflections on 2 Chronicles 7:14
I began by saying that this verse is often read, by American Christians, as a rallying cry and that the phrase ‘heal their land’ is sometimes interpreted in a metaphorical way, so that the notion of ‘healing’ is extended to include social, political and moral dimensions. In the Old Testament, God is speaking to the Jewish people and what God expects is the repentance of an entire nation. Christ’s sacrifice ensured that all Christians are part of God’s covenant, but does that mean that if the Christians of America humble themselves and turn their back on sin that God will ‘heal’ America? What do you think?
Read next: What Does Jeremiah 29:11 Mean? ‘ “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ’ Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most well-known and frequently quoted verses in the Bible. It is however, a verse, which can be misunderstood when taken out of context. What is its meaning?