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The Bible - Book by Book - 1 & 2 Chronicles

The books of 1 & 2 Chronicles are probably some of the most overlooked books of the Bible. The content is often seen as a repetition of content from Samuel and Kings. There are long genealogies of name after name after name. In fact, the history of the study of these books shows that they have often been treated as something to supplement the work of Samuel and Kings. Yet, there are important lessons for us to learn in 1 & 2 Chronicles. If all of Scripture is inspired (2 Tim 3:16) and given for our benefit that we might know God and what duty he requires of us (WSC 3), then we need to know this book.

The book of Chronicles (both parts were originally one book) can be dated to sometime between 515BC and 390BC. This is a wide gap of time. But largely it encompasses the time around the return of the Israelites from exile in Babylon. Some scholars date the book to around the time of the reconstruction of the temple under Zerubbabel (c.525-515BC). Supporting this idea is the connection in Chronicles between the house of David and temple, the detail about the Levitical priestly duties, and the omission of Solomon’s downfall due to pagan women. The majority of scholars view the date as closer to the early 4th century BC, shortly after the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah. It is best, therefore, to keep the dating broad and simply assert that it was written sometime in the post-exilic stage of Israel’s life.

The author of Chronicles is unknown, though Jewish tradition has tapped Ezra. It is certainly plausible but far from confirmed. Regardless of the author, there are certain considerations about the reason for writing that bubble up through the text. The author does not write for purely historical reasons. Often, because the text is primarily narrative, it is assumed that Chronicles is simply another historical account. Viewed from this perspective, numerous problems arise. The historical accounts of Chronicles and Samuel/Kings do not always seem to mesh. But when it is seen that the author of Chronicles is not writing history, per se, but rather theology, it clarifies these difficulties. Chronicles is using history to convey theology. The account of Israel’s past has been shaped to convey specific theological truths about Israel’s present reality as they return from exile. It is written to highlight certain aspects of Israel’s past to remind them of God’s gracious covenantal promises for the future.

Dr. Richard Pratt attempts to summarize the massive content of 1 & 2 Chronicles by highlighting these themes, “The Chronicler wrote his historical record to direct his audience to reconsider what they believed about the people of God, about the king and the temple, and about God’s blessings and curses.”[1]

The opening genealogies in 1 Chr 1:1-9:34 are difficult to read. But it is important that they start with Adam and run through Zerubbabel’s family. Again, the point here is not to document the genealogy for genealogy’s sake. Rather, it is to denote who is the people of God. These are the tribes and people who belong to God. In addition, these lists concentrate on the lines of Judah and Levi. There is an attempt to find Israel’s true king and true priest. This search will continue right into the genealogical lists of Matthew where Jesus is revealed as both King and Priest.

The book of Chronicles shows the people of God centered around the Davidic throne and the temple in Jerusalem. This is seen in 1 Chr 9:35-2 Chr 9:31 where the United Kingdom is held up as the ideal under the reigns of David and Solomon. And it is seen in 2 Chr 10:1-28:27 where the focus is on the southern kingdom of Judah. Unlike Kings, Chronicles does not bounce from northern to southern kingdoms. Instead it emphasizes the line of David and the role of the temple.

Lastly, the Reunited Kingdom is displayed in 2 Chr 29:1-36:23. Hezekiah reunites the northern and southern kingdoms under the house of David. The joining of the two calls on both sides to see the successes and failures of all the tribes of Israel as the successes and failures of the whole. Thus, when the tribes of Israel endure exile and are called back to the land under the edict of Cyrus, they do so as one people. And as one people they look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises for all. The covenant, the Law, the promises, blessings, and the curses belong to them all. Together they are called to repentance and faith as they look forward to coming of God’s anointed to sit on the throne of David.

The return from exile did not solve Israel’s problems. In fact, Chronicles highlights that many of the same heart issues remain. The people need to humble themselves and call upon the Lord. They need to repent of their sin. They need to believe in God and trust in his promises to come. These are the same issues we face today. We too look forward to the consummation of these promises in the return of God’s anointed, Jesus Christ.

[1] Pratt, Richard. 1-2 Chronicles, in Van Pelt et al., A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, 531.

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