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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Chronicles, Books of

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In the Hebrew Bible the two books of Chronicles form one volume. The writer has not recorded his name, though he has mentioned books and documents from which he gathered his information (1 Chronicles 9:1; 1 Chronicles 27:24; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 16:11; 2 Chronicles 24:27; 2 Chronicles 33:19; 2 Chronicles 35:25). His account in some ways parallels the record found in the books of Samuel and Kings, but it is by no means a repetition. The Chronicler wrote for a particular group of people and with a particular purpose in mind.

Purpose of Chronicles

During the period covered by 1 and 2 Kings, the Israelite kingdom divided into two, the northern kingdom being known as Israel, the southern as Judah. When the people of the northern kingdom were taken into captivity by Assyria (732-722 BC), many became so widely scattered in the Assyrian Empire that they largely lost their national identity. When the people of the southern kingdom were taken into captivity by Babylon (605-582 BC), they remained together in Babylon and retained their national identity. It was people of this latter group who began returning to Palestine after Persia’s conquest of Babylon in 539 BC.

Most of those who returned had never lived in Palestine and knew little of the operations of the Jerusalem temple in the days before its destruction. These were the people for whom the Chronicler wrote. He wanted to give them some background concerning their nation’s history, and especially concerning its religion. He wanted them to realize that they were more than just a lot of migrants returning to the land of their forefathers. They were a continuation of that pre-captivity nation whose political life was based on the Davidic dynasty, and whose religious life was based on the Levitical priesthood.

Features of Chronicles

By carefully choosing and arranging his material, the Chronicler impressed upon the released captives the importance of rebuilding their nation according to God’s design. They were not to be led astray by former bad examples. Though he traces the history of the nation from the time of its first king, Saul, to the time of the captivity in Babylon, he mentions Saul only briefly and says little about the northern kingdom. He is concerned almost entirely with the Davidic line of kings who reigned in Jerusalem.

The northern kingdom was a breakaway from the God-appointed kingdom of David. Its religion was a rebellion against the true worship of God that was centred on the temple in Jerusalem. The Chronicler’s reason for scarcely mentioning the northern kingdom is that he does not want to interest his readers in its sinful ways. For him, David’s is the only legitimate dynasty, Jerusalem the only legitimate capital, the temple the only legitimate sanctuary, and the Levitical priesthood the only legitimate religious order.

In concentrating on the history of the southern kingdom (i.e. the dynasty of David), the Chronicler wants to show what an important part the one and only God-given religion played in the national life of God’s people. For this reason, features of Israel’s religious organization that are omitted from Samuel and Kings are given in great detail in Chronicles. On the other hand, failures of individual Davidic rulers that are found in Samuel and Kings are omitted from Chronicles.

The Levites are of particular interest to the Chronicler. Whereas the writers of Samuel and Kings seldom mention them, the Chronicler speaks of them frequently, showing the important part they played in the nation’s affairs. He wants his readers to see how God intended the Davidic kind of civil administration and the Levitical kind of religious order to function in harmony for the benefit of the nation.

Contents of 1 Chronicles

Genealogies were useful in showing the returning captives how they fitted into God’s plan for the nation. After tracing the origins of Israel (1:1-54), the genealogies deal with the tribes of Judah and Simeon (2:1-4:43), the two and a half eastern tribes (5:1-26), the Levites (6:1-81), and the remaining tribes (7:1-8:40). The Chronicler then lists those who had recently gone to Jerusalem as the first group of returning captives (9:1-34).

After dealing very briefly with the reign of Saul (9:35-10:14), the Chronicler deals at length with the reign of David, beginning with David’s rise to power (11:1-12:40). Having been made king, David brought the ark to Jerusalem and began organizing the singing and music that were to characterize public worship in Israel (13:1-16:36). When David said he wanted to build God a temple, God replied that he would build David a dynasty (16:37-17:27). The section closes with stories recalling David’s greatness (18:1-22:1).

The final section of the book deals with David’s preparations for the temple that his son Solomon would later build. Having encouraged Solomon for this task (22:2-19), David made detailed arrangements concerning the functioning of the priests and Levites (23:1-26:32). Arrangements for military and civilian leaders are much less detailed (27:1-34). Before his death, David presented the new king to the people (28:1-29:30).

Contents of 2 Chronicles

Solomon was a king of great wisdom and wealth (1:1-17). For the Chronicler, however, his chief importance had to do with his construction of the temple in Jerusalem (2:1-7:22). Building programs and clever trading activities contributed further to Solomon’s greatness (8:1-9:31).

Although the northern tribes broke away from Jerusalem after Solomon’s death, the Chronicler refused to recognize them as a separate legitimate kingdom. Solomon’s son Rehoboam ruled well as long as he followed the teaching of the Levitical priests, but when he introduced foreign religious practices, God punished him (10:1-13:22).

Asa began a reform, but then he also departed from the ways of God (14:1-16:14). It was left to the next king, Jehoshaphat, to restore the nation to the ways of God. Priests and Levites played an important part in his reform (17:1-20:37). When Jezebel’s Baalism spread from the north into Judah (21:1-23:21), priests and Levites were again leaders in the reform that got rid of it, the king on this occasion being Joash (24:1-27).

The prosperity of Judah under Uzziah and Jotham was followed by disaster and chaos under Ahaz (25:1-28:27), but Hezekiah then sought to correct matters with wide-sweeping reforms. The Chronicler deals with Hezekiah’s religious reforms at length (29:1-31:21), but discusses his political reforms only briefly (32:1-33). After the evil reigns of Manasseh and Amon (33:1-25), there was a final reform under Josiah. The Chronicler’s emphasis again is on the religious aspects of the reform (34:1-35:27).

Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent captivity are recorded, but with little detail. More important for the Chronicler’s readers are the current realities of release from captivity and return to the homeland (36:1-23).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Chronicles, Books of'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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