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INTRODUCTION TO 1 AND 2 Chronicles

  1. NAME OF THE BOOK

    1. The name of the book in Hebrew is "the words (events) of the days (years)." This is used in the sense of "a chronicle of the years." These same words occur in the title of several books mentioned as written sources in 1 Kings 14:19,29; 15:7,23,31; 16:5,14,20,27; 22:46. The phrase itself is used over thirty times in 1 and 2 Kings and is usually translated "chronicles."

    2. The LXX entitled it "the things omitted (concerning the Kings of Judah)." This implies that Chronicles is to Samuel and Kings what the Gospel of John is to the Synoptic Gospels. See How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, pp. 127-148.

      As the Gospel writers under inspiration (see SPECIAL TOPIC: INSPIRATION) had the right to select, adapt, and arrange the life of Jesus (not invent actions or words), so too, the inspired authors of OT narratives (see Expository Hermeneutics: An Introduction, by Elliott E. Johnson, p. 169). This selection, adaptation, and chronological/thematic arrangement of words/events was to convey theological truth. History is used as a servant of theology.

      Chronicles has suffered, much as the Gospel of Mark did. They were both seen as "Readers Digest" summaries and not "a full history." This is unfortunate! Both have an inspired message. We, as readers committed to inspiration, must ask, "Why include this?" "Why choose not to record this?"

    3. Jerome, in his "Prologus Galeatus," entitled it "Chronicle of the whole sacred history" because its genealogy goes back to Adam and the companion books of Ezra/Nehemiah relate to the post-exilic Period (i.e., Cyrus II ‒ Darius II). See SPECIAL TOPIC: KINGS OF PERSIA and SPECIAL TOPIC: POST-EXILIC CHART)

      The concluding nature of Chronicles can be illustrated by a quote from Jesus in Matt. 23:35 and Luke 11:51, where He mentions Abel (cf. Gen. 4:8) and Zechariah (cf. 2 Chr. 24:20-21). This clearly demonstrates the canonical MT position that Chronicles was written last.

    4. 1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one book in Hebrew, which was divided by the LXX, as were the books of Samuel and Kings. This artificial division was contextually done poorly. It was only for the reason of length, not historical context.

  2. CANONIZATION

    1. 1 and 2 Chronicles are the last books of "the Writings" section of the Hebrew canon, which means 2 Chronicles is the last book of the Hebrew Bible.

    2. Its position in the Hebrew canon implies:
      1. its late composition
      2. its summary nature
      3. its having been seen as an appendix
      4. its being accepted in the canon late, see SPECIAL TOPIC: CANON (HEBREW)

    3. The LXX placed it after Kings and before Ezra. It is surprising that Ezra/Nehemiah are put before Chronicles, possibly because
      1. of the summary nature of Chronicles
      2. it ends on a positive note

  3. GENRE

    1. Chronicles is historical narrative but in a special selective theological sense. See several Special Topics at the beginning of the Table of Contents. Also see the valuable summary section on OT narrative in How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, pp. 89-106.

    2. It removes most of the negative aspects of the reigns of:
      1. David (1 Chronicles)
      2. Solomon
      3. the "godly" Judean Kings
        1. Asa
        2. Jehoshaphat
        3. Uzziah
        4. Hezekiah
        5. Josiah

    3. It is attempting to affirm to the post-exilic community of Judah that YHWH is still their covenant God and can be trusted.

    4. See Special Topics:
      1. THE OLD TESTAMENT AS HISTORY
      2. OLD TESTAMENT HISTORIOGRAPHY COMPARED TO NEAR EASTERN CULTURES
      3. OLD TESTAMENT HISTORICAL NARRATIVE

  4. AUTHORSHIP

    1. The Bible is silent on authorship.

    2. Baba Bathra 15a says Ezra wrote the genealogy of Chronicles unto himself. This has been interpreted in two ways.
      1. Ezra wrote Chronicles
      2. Ezra (or a later common editor) finished the history started in Chronicles up to his own day

    3. Ezra 1:1-4 and 2 Chr. 36:22-23 are similar in Hebrew. Both E. J. Young and R. K. Harrison say Chronicles was written first. This is partly confirmed by a scribal technique used by Babylonian scribes of linking two works together by means of a "catch-line" or colophon. The technique is not seen in the rabbinical writings. This would imply that Ezra (or a later editor) was using Chronicles as a historical introduction to his own work which continued the history of the Jewish people.

    4. The author(s) of Chronicles and Ezra/Nehemiah have the same theological interest and perspective:
      1. focus on the Temple (i.e., Mosaic Covenant) and priesthood (especially lists of Levites)
      2. extensive use of statistical records and genealogies
      3. the vocabulary and literary styles are similar
      4. it must be said, they also differ:
        1. spell names differently
        2. Chronicles focuses on David's royal line while Ezra/Nehemiah focuses on Mosaic Covenant

    5. William Albright attributes authorship to Ezra between 428 and 397 b.c. Ezra's reform found in Ezra 7-10 occurred in 458-457 b.c. under Artaxerxes I (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HISTORICAL ALLUSIONS TO PERSIAN KINGS).

    6. Because of the focus of Chronicles on the temple and its procedures and personnel, it is probable that the author/editor was a Levite or priest working at the restored second temple in Jerusalem after the edict of Cyrus II and the returns of Nehemiah and Ezra.

    7. Chronicles uses many sources:
      1. previously written Scriptural revelations (cf. 1 Chr. 16:40; 23:18; 2 Chr. 25:4; 31:3; 35:12,26)
        1. Chronicles uses about half of Samuel and Kings or at least the same sources
        2. I Chronicles seems to know of some OT texts specifically:
          (1) Gen. 35:22 ‒ 1 Chr. 5:1
          (2) Gen. 38:7 ‒ 1 Chr. 2:3
          (3) Gen. 38:30 ‒ 1 Chr. 2:4,6
          (4) Gen. 46:10 ‒ 1 Chr. 4:24
          (5) Gen. 46:11 ‒ 1 Chr. 6:16
          (6) Gen. 46:13 ‒ 1 Chr. 7:1
          (7) Gen. 46:21 ‒ 1 Chr. 7:6,12
          (8) Gen. 46:24 ‒ 1 Chr. 7:13
          (9) Ruth 4:18-21 ‒ 1 Chr. 2:11-13
          (10) 1 Sam. 27:10 ‒ 1 Chr. 2:9, 25-26
          (11) 1 Sam. 31:1-6 ‒ 1 Chr. 10:1-12
          (12) Psalm 96; 105; 106 ‒ 1 Chr. 16
        3. NIV Study Bible's introduction to Chronicles includes as sources:
          (1) Pentateuch
          (2) Judges
          (3) Ruth
          (4) 1 Samuel
          (5) Kings
          (6) Psalms
          (7) Isaiah
          (8) Jeremiah
          (9) Lamentations
          (10) Zechariah
        4. See A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible by Robert H. Stein, p. 91
      2. written historical documents from the divided kingdom
        1. possibly official court documents:
          (1) the chronicles of King David, 1 Chr. 27:24
          (2) the book of the kings of Judah and Israel, 2 Chr. 16:11; 25:26; 28:26; 32:32
          (3) the book of the kings of Israel and Judah, 2 Chr. 27:7; 35:27; 36:8
          (4) the book of the kings of Israel, 1 Chr. 9:1; 2 Chr. 20:34
          (5) the words of the kings of Israel, 2 Chr. 24:27; 33:18
        2. prophets:
          (1) acts of King David, 1 Chr. 29:29:
          (a) Chronicles of Samuel, the seer
          (b) Chronicles of Nathan, the prophet
          (c) Chronicles of Gad, the seer
          (2) acts of Solomon, 2 Chr. 9:29:
          (a) records of Nathan the prophet
          (b) prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite
          (3) acts of Jeroboam I in the visions of Iddo the seer, 2 Chr. 9:29
          (4) acts of Rehoboam in 2 Chr. 12:15:
          (a) records of Shemaiah the prophet
          (b) Iddo the seer
          (5) acts of Abijah in 2 Chr. 13:22 by Iddo the prophet
          (6) acts of Jehu in 2 Chr. 20:34 by the son of Hanani
          (7) acts of Uzziah by Isaiah, son of Amoz in 2 Chr. 26:22
          (8) acts of Manasseh in 2 Chr. 33:19 by Hozai (LXX "the seer")
        3. tribal genealogical records:
          (1) Simeon, 1 Chr. 4:33
          (2) Gad, 1 Chr. 5:17
          (3) Benjamin, 1 Chr. 7:9
          (4) Asher, 1 Chr. 7:40
          (5) All Israel, 1 Chr. 9:1
          (6) Levitical gatekeepers, 1 Chr. 9:22 (implication being each Levitical division also had records [cf. 1 Chr. 23:1ff; 28:13; 2 Chr. 35:4]).
        4. foreign sources:
          (1) Sennacherib's letters, 2 Chr. 32:17-70
          (2) Cyrus' decree, 2 Chr. 36:22-23

    8. Like Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles lists the genealogies of several people. Some of these extend into the future, after the traditional close of 2 Chronicles, to four to six generations. There have been two ways to deal with this:
      1. these were editorial additions
      2. these are contemporary families, not generations
      3. see discussion below, V. A.

  5. DATE

    1. There are two texts in Chronicles that imply a period after the return of the Exile for the writing of Chronicles:
      1. 1 Chronicles 3:19-21. This is a list of the descendants of Zerubbabel:
        1. some say to the sixth generation
        2. others say only to two generations, followed by a list of four Davidic families who were contemporaries of the two descendants of Zerubbabel ‒ Pelatiah and Jeshaiah (Young & Harrison)
        3. the LXX extended the list of Zerubbabel's descendants to the eleventh generation (this shows editorial updating)
      2. 1 Chronicles 3:22-24. This is a list of the descendants of Shecaniah mentioned in 2 Chr. 3:21:
        1. some say the list is to four generations (NIV Study Bible)
        2. if this is true then the date of the author (editor) is extended from Zerubbabel's genealogy in 1 Chr. 3:19-21
      3. 2 Chronicles 36:22-23:
        1. this mentions Cyrus II and his decree which allowed all the conquered people to return home, including the Jews
        2. Cyrus II issued his decree in 538 b.c. The first return was undertaken immediately by a Judean prince who was appointed governor, Sheshbazzar. He started to rebuild the Temple but did not finish. Later, under the Persian King, Darius I, others began to return under Zerubbabel of the Davidic line and Joshua a descendant of the High Priest. They did finish rebuilding the Temple in 516 b.c. with the encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah.

    2. From the genealogies of the book the date of the compiler seems to be between 500-423 b.c. This terminus date is possible because the post-exilic books mention the latest historical allusion in the Old Testament (i.e., Darius II was crowned about 428 b.c., he is mentioned in Neh. 12:22). Also, tradition says that the Old Testament canon was finalized about this time. A good general guess for the date would be before 400 b.c.

    3. 1 Chronicles covered the same period as 1, 2 Samuel, however, its genealogies go back to Adam. 2 Chronicles covers the same period as 1 and 2 Kings but extends it, almost until the time of Cyrus II.

  6. CORROBORATING THE HISTORICAL SETTING

    1. There are some real differences between the historical presentation of Samuel and Kings and that of 1 Chronicles:
      1. The numbers in Chronicles are usually larger (E. J. Young, p. 394-400)
        1. this is generally true, compare 1 Chr. 21:5 with 2 Sam. 24:9
        2. often Chronicles has smaller numbers, compare 1 Kgs. 4:26 with 2 Chr. 9:29
        3. most of the number problems are also found in the LXX translation, which means they predate 250 b.c.
      2. Chronicles accentuates the positive aspects of the Judean kings of the line of David
      3. Chronicles omits much of the negative material about David and Solomon. However, as E. J. Young points out (pp. 395-398), it also omits almost everything about their private lives, not only the negative but also some of the positive aspects.
      4. Chronicles also omits all references to the northern kingdom. The reason is uncertain. Many assume it was because all the northern kings were condemned because of the golden calves set up at Dan and Bethel. The south was considered the only true, faithful Davidic (Messianic) line.
      5. There are two books that help moderns understand the possible differences in the historical books.
        1. E. R. Thiele, in his ground breaking book, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 1954, 1965, explains the differences by:
          (1) two dating systems for reigns:
          (a) accession year
          (b) non-accession year
          (2) co-regencies
        2. John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture, which discusses how oral cultures passed on their historical traditions

    2. The validity of Chronicles' history tends to be supported:
      1. in the genealogical material that is paralleled by:
        1. Samuel
        2. the Dead Sea Scrolls
        3. the LXX
      2. when the genealogical material of Chronicles is paralleled in Genesis and Numbers in the Masoretic Text and the Samaritan Pentateuch, its historical validity is supported

  7. LITERARY UNITS (context)

    1. Brief Outline:
      1. Genealogical material from Adam to Saul, 1 Chr. 1:1-9:44
      2. The reign of David, 1 Chr. 10:1-29:30
      3. The reign of Solomon, 2 Chr. 1:1-9:31
      4. The reign of other Judean Kings to the Exile and to Cyrus, 2 Chr. 10:1-36:23

    2. For helpful outlines see:
      1. E. J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 401-402
      2. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 1152-1153
      3. NIV Study Bible, pp. 581-582

  8. MAIN TRUTHS

    1. This is a selective theological history of Judah, using but extending the parallel accounts in 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings.

      It must be remembered that Samuel and Kings addressed an exilic community who were asking, "why?" while Chronicles is addressing a post-exilic community asking "what now?" "why have we been restored?"

      Notice how 1 Chr. 17:12 and 2 Chr. 7:14 answer these questions. YHWH has a wider purpose for Judah. See SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH'S ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN.

    2. This was written for a post-exilic community who desperately needed to know that the Covenant God was still their God. Israel's past history shows YHWH's faithful love for His covenant people. The Temple (since there was no king) was the focus of God's renewed Covenant. The Covenant was still conditional on obedience to God's Mosaic Covenant (see SPECIAL TOPIC: KEEP). The Chronicler focused on temple details and temple personnel.

    3. It primarily focuses on God's promises to David and his son(s) found in 2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17:
      1. deals exclusively with David's sons and ultimately King Messiah (i.e., Jesus)
      2. gives a positive account of the reigns of David, Solomon and the "godly" Kings of Judah
      3. records the restorations of the Hebrew exiles to Jerusalem by Cyrus II, 1 Chr. 36:22-23
      4. stresses a future Davidic King (Messiah). One way this was accomplished was through the recording of the "godly" reigns of David, Solomon, and the godly kings of Judah. This Messianic hope is also expressed in Zechariah and Malachi.

    4. There is also an emphasis on all of God's people being united. This is seen by the use of the collective term "all Israel" (cf. 1 Chr. 9:1; 11:1-3,4; 12:38; 16:3; 18:14; 21:1-5; 28:1-8; 29:21, 23,25; 2 Chr. 1:2; 2:8; 9:30; 10:1,16; 12:1; 18:16; 28:23; 29:24; 30:1,6,25-26; 34:7,9,33).

    5. Genealogies are used:
      1. like those in Ezra and Nehemiah, to show that the restored Israel is legitimately the Israel of old
      2. to summarize the history of the Hebrews back to Adam

  9. HISTORICAL METHODOLOGY

    1. Should a modern interpreter try to harmonize the historical accounts of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles (see William Day Crockett, A Harmony of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles)? Try to fit them together in one unified historical account? I think this is not the best approach. Each of these inspired works has an authorial purpose. The interpretive key to find the original author's inspired purpose and the target hearer. This same approach should be used on how the four Gospels present the life of Christ. Each had a separate target group but all expressed one gospel message/history.

    2. It is helpful to see a harmonious approach so that one can see quickly
      1. what is unique
      2. what is parallel
      3. the differences in the parallel accounts

      The interpretive questions must be asked:

      1. "Why include this?"
      2. "Why exclude this?"
      3. "Why modify the presentations of earlier revelation?"

    3. Ancient historical narrative is different from modern history. Please read the opening articles (see Table of Contents).
      1. SPECIAL TOPIC: THE OLD TESTAMENT AS HISTORY
      2. SPECIAL TOPIC: OLD TESTAMENT HISTORIOGRAPHY COMPARED TO NEAR EASTERN CULTURES
      3. SPECIAL TOPIC: OLD TESTAMENT HISTORICAL NARRATIVES

  10. Chart of the Kings of the Divided Kingdom

    SPECIAL TOPIC: KINGS OF THE DIVIDED KINGDOM

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