Introduction from the NIV Study Bible | Go to 1 Chronicles
The Hebrew title (dibre hayyamim) can be translated “the events (or annals) of the days (or years).” The same phrase occurs in references to sources used by the author or compiler of Kings (translated “annals” in, e.g., 1Ki 14:19,29; 15:7,23,31; 16:5,14,20,27; 22:45). The Septuagint (the pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT) refers to the book as “the things omitted,” indicating that its translators regarded it as a supplement to Samuel and Kings. Jerome (a.d. 347–420), translator of the Latin Vulgate, suggested that a more appropriate title would be “chronicle of the whole sacred history.” Luther took over this suggestion in his German version, and others have followed him. Chronicles was first divided into two books by the Septuagint translators.
Author, Date and Sources
According to ancient Jewish tradition, Ezra wrote Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah (see Introduction to Ezra: Literary Form and Authorship), but this cannot be established with certainty. A growing consensus dates Chronicles in the latter half of the fifth century b.c., thus possibly within Ezra’s lifetime. And it must be acknowledged that the author, if not Ezra himself, at least shared many basic concerns with that reforming priest—though Chronicles is not so narrowly “priestly” in its perspective as was long affirmed.
Some believe the text contains evidence here and there of later expansions after the basic work had been composed. While editorial revisions are not unlikely, all specific proposals regarding them remain tentative.
In his recounting of history long past, the Chronicler relied on many written sources. About half his work was taken from Samuel and Kings; he also drew on the Pentateuch, Judges, Ruth, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations and Zechariah (though he used texts of these books that varied somewhat from those that have been preserved in the later standardized Hebrew texts). And there are frequent references to still other sources: “the book of the kings of Israel” (9:1; 2Ch 20:34; cf. 2Ch 33:18), “the book of the annals of King David” (27:24), “the book of the kings of Judah and Israel” or “. . . of Israel and Judah” (2Ch 16:11; 25:26; 27:7; 28:26; 32:32; 35:27; 36:8), “the annotations on the book of the kings” (2Ch 24:27). It is unclear whether these all refer to the same source or to different sources, and what their relationship is to Samuel and Kings or to the royal annals referred to in Kings. In addition, the author cites a number of prophetic writings: those of “Samuel the seer” (29:29), “Nathan the prophet” (29:29; 2Ch 9:29), “Gad the seer” (29:29), “Ahijah the Shilonite” (2Ch 9:29), “Iddo the seer” (2Ch 9:29; 12:15; 13:22), “Shemaiah the prophet” (2Ch 12:15), “the prophet Isaiah” (2Ch 26:22), “the seers” (2Ch 33:19). All these he used, often with only minor changes, to tell his own story of the past. He did not invent, but he did select, arrange and integrate his sources to compose a narrative “sermon” for postexilic Israel as she struggled to reorient herself as the people of God in a new situation.
Purpose and Themes
Just as the author of Kings had organized and interpreted the data of Israel’s history to address the needs of the exiled community, so the Chronicler wrote for the restored community. The burning issue was the question of continuity with the past: Is God still interested in us? Are his covenants still in force? Now that we have no Davidic king and are subject to Persia, do God’s promises to David still have meaning for us? After the great judgment (the dethroning of the house of David, the destruction of the nation, of Jerusalem and of the temple, and the exile to Babylon), what is our relationship to Israel of old? Several elements go into the Chronicler’s answer:
- Continuity with the past is signified by the temple in Jerusalem, rebuilt by the Lord’s sovereign influence over a Persian imperial edict (2Ch 36:22–23). For a generation that had no independent political status and no Davidic king the author takes great pains to show that the temple of the Lord and its service (including its book of prayer and praise, an early edition of the Psalms) are supreme gifts of God given to Israel through the Davidic dynasty. For that reason his account of the reigns of David and Solomon is largely devoted to David’s preparation for and Solomon’s building of the temple and to David’s instructions for the temple service (with the counsel of Gad the seer and Nathan the prophet, 2Ch 29:25, and also of the Levites Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun, 2Ch 35:15). See also the Chronicler’s accounts of the reigns of Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah and Josiah. The temple of the Lord in the ancient holy city and its service (including the Psalms) were the chief legacy left to the restored community by the house of David.
- The value of this legacy is highlighted by the author’s emphasis on God’s furtherance of his gracious purposes toward Israel through his sovereign acts of election: (1) of the tribe of Levi to serve before the ark of the covenant (15:2; see 23:24–32), (2) of David to be king over Israel (28:4; 2Ch 6:6), (3) of Solomon his son to be king and to build the temple (28:5–6,10; 29:1), (4) of Jerusalem (2Ch 6:6,34,38; 12:13; 33:7) and (5) of the temple (2Ch 7:12,16; 33:7) to be the place where God’s Name would be present among his people. These divine acts give assurance to postexilic Israel that her rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and its continuing service mark her as God’s people whose election has not been annulled.
- In addition to the temple, Israel has the law and the prophets as a major focus of her covenant life under the leadership of the house of David. Neither the Davidic kings nor the temple had in themselves assured Israel’s security and blessing. All had been conditional on Israel’s and the king’s faithfulness to the law (28:7; 2Ch 6:16; 7:17; 12:1; 33:8). In the Chronicler’s account, a primary feature of the reign of every faithful Davidic king was his attempt to bring about compliance with the law: David (6:49; 15:13,15; 16:40; 22:11–13; 29:19), Asa (2Ch 14:4; 15:12–14), Jehoshaphat (2Ch 17:3–9; 19:8–10), Joash (2Ch 24:6,9), Hezekiah (2Ch 29:10,31; 30:15–16; 31:3–4,21), Josiah (2Ch 34:19–21, 29–33; 35:6,12,26). And to heed God’s prophetic word was no less crucial. The faithful kings, such as David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah—and even Rehoboam (2Ch 11:4; 12:6) and Amaziah (2Ch 25:7–10)—honored it; the unfaithful kings disregarded it to their destruction (Jehoram, 2Ch 21:12–19; Joash, 2Ch 24:19–25; Amaziah, 2Ch 25:15–16,20; Manasseh, 2Ch 33:10–11; see 36:15–16). Chronicles, in fact, notes the ministries of more prophets than do Samuel and Kings. Jehoshaphat’s word to Israel expresses the Chronicler’s view succinctly: “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful” (2Ch 20:20). In the Chronicler’s account of Israel’s years under the kings, her response to the law and the prophets was more decisive for her destiny than the reigns of kings.
Thus the law and the prophets, like the temple, are more crucial to Israel’s continuing relationship with the Lord than the presence or absence of a king, the reigns of the Davidic kings themselves being testimony.
- The Chronicler further underscores the importance of obedience to the law and the prophets by emphasizing the theme of immediate retribution. See the express statements of David (28:9), of the Lord (2Ch 7:14) and of the prophets (2Ch 12:5; 15:2,7; 16:7,9; 19:2–3; 21:14–15; 24:20; 25:15–16; 28:9; 34:24–28). In writing his accounts of individual reigns, he never tires of demonstrating how sin always brings judgment in the form of disaster (usually either illness or defeat in war), whereas repentance, obedience and trust yield peace, victory and prosperity.
- Clearly the author of Chronicles wished to sustain Israel’s hope for the promised Messiah, son of David, in accordance with the Davidic covenant (2Sa 7) and the assurances of the prophets, including those near to him (Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi). He was careful to recall the Lord’s pledge to David (1Ch 17) and to follow this with many references back to it (see especially his account of Solomon’s reign and also 2Ch 13:5; 21:7; 23:3). But perhaps even more indicative are his idealized depictions of David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah. While not portrayed as flawless, these Davidic kings are presented as prime examples of the Messianic ideal, i.e., as royal servants of the Lord whose reigns promoted godliness and covenant faithfulness in Israel. They were crowned with God’s favor toward his people in the concrete forms of victories, deliverances and prosperity. They sat, moreover, on the “throne of the Lord” (29:23; see 28:5; 2Ch 9:8) and ruled over the Lord’s kingdom (17:14; 2Ch 13:8). Thus they served as types, foreshadowing the “David” to come of whom the prophets had spoken, and their remembrance nurtured hope in the face of much discouragement (see the book of Malachi). See further the next section on “Portrait of David and Solomon.”
- Yet another major theme of the Chronicler’s history is his concern with “all Israel” (see, e.g., 9:1; 11:1–4; 12:38–40; 16:1–3; 18:14; 21:1–5; 28:1–8; 29:21–26; 2Ch 1:1–3; 7:8–10; 9:30; 10:1–3,16; 12:1; 18:16; 28:23; 29:24; 30:1–13,23–27; 34:6–9,33). As a matter of fact, he viewed the restored community as the remnant of all Israel, both north and south (9:2–3). This was more than a theological conceit. His narrative makes frequent note of movements of godly people from Israel to Judah for specifically religious reasons. The first were Levites in the time of Rehoboam (2Ch 11:14). In the reign of Asa others followed from Ephraim and Manasseh (2Ch 15:9). Shortly after the Assyrian destruction of the northern kingdom, many from that devastated land resettled in Judah at Hezekiah’s invitation (2Ch 30). Presumably not all who came for Hezekiah’s great Passover remained, but archaeology has shown a sudden large increase in population in the region around Jerusalem at this time, and the Chronicler specifically mentions “men of Israel . . . who lived in the towns of Judah” (2Ch 31:6). He also speaks of “the people of Manasseh, Ephraim and the entire remnant of Israel” who joined with “the people of Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” in restoring the temple in the days of Josiah (2Ch 34:9). These were also present at Josiah’s Passover (2Ch 35:17–18). So the kingdom of “Judah” had absorbed many from the northern kingdom through the years, and the Chronicler viewed it as the remnant of all Israel from the time of Samaria’s fall.
- The genealogies also demonstrate continuity with the past. To the question “Is God still interested in us?” the Chronicler answers, “He has always been.” God’s grace and love for the restored community did not begin with David or the conquest or the exodus—but with creation (1:1). For the genealogies see below.
- The Chronicler often introduces speeches not found in Samuel and Kings, using them to convey some of his main emphases. Of the 165 speeches in Chronicles of varying lengths, only 95 are found in the parallel texts of Samuel and Kings. Cf., e.g., the speeches of Abijah (2Ch 13:4–12), Asa (2Ch 14:11) and Jehoshaphat (2Ch 20:5–12).
Portrait of David and Solomon
- The Chronicler has idealized David and Solomon. Anything in his source material (mainly Samuel and Kings) that might tarnish his picture of them is omitted. He makes no reference to the wars between Saul’s house and David, the negotiations with Abner, or the murders of Abner and Ish-Bosheth (2Sa 1–4). The Chronicler presents David as being immediately anointed king over all Israel after the death of Saul (ch. 11) and enjoying the total support of the people (11:10—12:40; see note on 3:1–9). Subsequent difficulties for David are also not recounted. No mention is made of David’s sin with Bathsheba, the crime and death of Amnon, the fratricide by Absalom and his plot against his father, the flight of David from Jerusalem, the rebellions of Sheba and Shimei, and other incidents that might diminish the glory of David’s reign (2Sa 11–20). David is presented without blemish, apart from the incident of the census (the Chronicler had a special purpose for including it; see ch. 21 and notes).
The Chronicler handles Solomon similarly. Solomon is specifically named in a divine oracle as David’s successor (22:7–10; 28:6). His accession to the throne is announced publicly by David and is greeted with the unanimous support of all Israel (chs. 28–29). No mention is made of the bedridden David, who must overturn the attempted coup by Adonijah at the last moment to secure the throne for Solomon. Nor is there mention that the military commander Joab and the high priest Abiathar supported Adonijah’s attempt (1Ki 1). Solomon’s execution of those who had wronged David (1Ki 2) is also omitted. The accession of Solomon is without competition or detracting incident. The account of his reign is devoted almost wholly to the building of the temple (2Ch 2–8), and no reference to his failures is included. No mention is made of his idolatry, his foreign wives or the rebellions against his rule (1Ki 11). Even the blame for the schism is removed from Solomon (1Ki 11:26–40; 12:1–4) and placed on the scheming of Jeroboam. Solomon’s image in Chronicles is such that he can be paired with David in the most favorable light (2Ch 11:17).
The David and Solomon of the Chronicler, then, must be seen not only as the David and Solomon of history, but also as typifying the Messianic king of the Chronicler’s expectation.
- Not only is there idealization of David and Solomon, but the author also appears to consciously adopt the account of the succession of Moses and Joshua as a model for the succession of David and Solomon:
- Both David and Moses fail to attain their goals—one to build the temple and the other to enter the promised land. In both cases the divine prohibition is related to the appointment of a successor (22:5–13; 28:2–8; Dt 1:37–38; 31:2–8).
- Both Solomon and Joshua bring the people of God into rest (22:8–9; Jos 11:23; 21:44).
- There are a number of verbal parallels in the appointments of Solomon and Joshua (compare 22:11–13,16; 28:7–10,20; 2Ch 1:1 with Dt 31:5–8,23; Jos 1:5,7–9).
- There are both private and public announcements of the appointment of the successors: private (22:6; Dt 31:23); public (28:8; Dt 31:7—both “in the presence/sight of all Israel”).
- Both enjoy the immediate and wholehearted support of the people (29:23–24; Dt 34:9; Jos 1:16–18).
- It is twice reported that God “exalted” or “made great” Solomon and Joshua (29:25; 2Ch 1:1; Jos 3:7; 4:14).
The Chronicler also uses other models from Pentateuchal history in his portrayal of David and Solomon. Like Moses, David received the plans for the temple from God (28:11–19; Ex 25:9) and called on the people to bring voluntary offerings for its construction (29:1–9; Ex 25:1–7). Solomon’s relationship to Huram-Abi, the craftsman from Tyre (2Ch 2:13–14), echoes the role of Bezalel and Oholiab in the building of the tabernacle (Ex 35:30—36:7). See note on 2Ch 1:5.
Analysis of genealogies, both inside and outside the Bible, has disclosed that they serve a variety of functions (with different principles governing the lists), that they vary in form (some being segmented, others linear) and depth (number of generations listed), and that they are often fluid (subject to change).
There are three general areas in which genealogies function: the familial or domestic, the legal-political, and the religious. In the domestic area an individual’s social status, privileges and obligations may be reflected in his placement in the lineage (see 7:14–19); the rights of the firstborn son and the secondary status of the children of concubines are examples from the Bible. In the political sphere genealogies substantiate claims to hereditary office or settle competing claims when the office is contested. Land organization and territorial groupings of social units may also be determined by genealogical reckoning—e.g., the division of the land among the 12 tribes. In Israel military levies also proceeded along genealogical lines; several of the genealogies in Chronicles reflect military conscription (5:1–26; 7:1–12,30–40; 8:1–40). Genealogies function in the religious sphere primarily by establishing membership among the priests and Levites (6:1–30; 9:10–34; Ne 7:61–65).
As to form, some genealogical lists trace several lines of descent (segmented genealogies) while others are devoted to a single line (linear genealogies).
Comparison of genealogical lists of the same tribal or family line often brings to light surprising differences. This fluidity of the lists may reflect variation in function. But sometimes changes in the status or relations of social structures are reflected in genealogies by changes in the relationships of names in the genealogy (see notes on 1:35–42; 6:22,27) or by the addition of names or segments to a lineage (see notes on 5:11–22; 6:27; 7:6–12). The most common type of fluidity in Biblical materials is telescoping, the omission of names from the list. Unimportant names are left out in order to relate an individual to a prominent ancestor, or possibly to achieve the desired number of names in the genealogy. Some Biblical genealogies, for example, omit names to achieve multiples of 7: For the period from David to the exile Matthew gives 14 generations (2 times 7), while Luke gives 21 (3 times 7), and the same authors give similar multiples of 7 for the period from the exile to Jesus (Mt 1:1–17; Lk 3:23–38).
The genealogies of Chronicles show variation in all these properties; the arrangements often reflect the purpose for which the genealogies were composed prior to their being adopted by the Chronicler as part of his record.
- Genealogies: Creation to Restoration (1Ch 1–9)
- The Reign of David (1Ch 10–29)
- Death of Saul (ch. 10)
- Capture of Jerusalem; David’s Power Base (chs. 11–12)
- Return of the Ark; Establishment of David’s Kingdom (chs. 13–16)
- Dynastic Promise (ch. 17)
- David’s Conquests (chs. 18–20)
- The Census (ch. 21)
- Preparations for the Temple (ch. 22)
- Organization of the Temple Service (chs. 23–26)
- Administrative Structures of the Kingdom (ch. 27)
- David’s Final Preparations for Succession and the Temple (28:1—29:20)
- Succession of Solomon; Death of David (29:21–30)
- The Reign of Solomon (2Ch 1–9)
- The Schism, and the History of the Kings of Judah (2Ch 10–36)
- Rehoboam (chs. 10–12)
- Abijah (13:1—14:1)
- Asa (14:2—16:14)
- Jehoshaphat (17:1—21:3)
- Jehoram and Ahaziah (21:4—22:9)
- Joash (22:10—24:27)
- Amaziah (ch. 25)
- Uzziah (ch. 26)
- Jotham (ch. 27)
- Ahaz (ch. 28)
- Hezekiah (chs. 29–32)
- Manasseh (33:1–20)
- Amon (33:21–25)
- Josiah (34:1—36:1)
- Josiah’s Successors (36:2–14)
- Exile and Restoration (36:15–23)
© Zondervan. From the Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Used with Permission.
Published Wednesday, January 15, 2014