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Book of 1 Chronicles


Author and Date
According to ancient Jewish tradition, Ezra wrote Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah 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; ; cf.), "the book of the annals of King David" (27:24), "the book of the kings of Judah and Israel" or ". . . of Israel and Judah" (), "the annotations on the book of the kings" (). 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; ), "Gad the seer" (29:29), "Ahijah the Shilonite" (), "Iddo the seer" (), "Shemaiah the prophet" (), "the prophet Isaiah" (), "the seers" (). 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.

Theme and Message
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:

  • 1.Continuity with the past is signified by the temple in Jerusalem, rebuilt by the Lord's sovereign influence over a Persian imperial edict (). 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, , and also of the Levites Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun, ). 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.
  • 2.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:
    • (A) of the tribe of Levi to serve before the ark of the covenant (15:2; see 23:24-32),
    • (B) of David to be king over Israel (28:4; ),
    • (C) of Solomon his son to be king and to build the temple (28:5-6,10;29:1),
    • (D) of Jerusalem (),
    • (E) of the temple () 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.
  • 3.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; ). 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 (), Jehoshaphat (), Joash (), Hezekiah (), Josiah (). 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 () and Amaziah () -- honored it; the unfaithful kings disregarded it to their destruction (Jehoram, ; Joash, ; Amaziah,; Manasseh, ; 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" (). 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.
  • 4.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 () and of the prophets (). 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.
  • 5.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 () and to follow this with many references back to it (see especially his account of Solomon's reign and also ). 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; ) and ruled over the Lord's kingdom (17:14; ). 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."
  • 6.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;). 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 (). In the reign of Asa others followed from Ephraim and Manasseh (). Shortly after the Assyrian destruction of the northern kingdom, many from that devastated land resettled in Judah at Hezekiah's invitation (). 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" (). 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 (). These were also present at Josiah's Passover (). 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.
  • 7.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.
  • 8.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 (), Asa () and Jehoshaphat ().