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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Chronicles

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Chron´icles. This name seems to have been first given to two historical books of the Old Testament by Jerome. The Hebrews call them words of days, diaries, or journals, and reckon them but one book.

In 1 Chronicles 1-9 is given a series of genealogical tables interspersed with historical notices. These genealogies are not complete.

1 Chronicles 10-29 contains the history of David, partly agreeing with the account given of him in the books of Samuel, though with several important additions relating to the Levites.

2 Chronicles 1-9 contains the history of Solomon.

2 Chronicles 10-28 furnishes a succinct account of the kingdom of Judah while Israel still remained, but separate from the history of the latter.

2 Chronicles 29-36 describes the kingdom of Judah after the downfall of Israel, especially with reference to the worship of God.

From this analysis it appears that the Chronicles contain an epitome of sacred history, particularly from the origin of the Jewish nation to the end of the first captivity.

The diction of the Chronicles is such as suits the time immediately subsequent to the captivity It is substantially the same with that of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, which were all written shortly after the Babylonish exile. It is mixed with Aramaeisms, marking at once the decline of the Jews in power, and the corruption of their native tongue. The pure Hebrew had been then laid aside. It was lost during their sojourn in Babylon.

Internal evidence sufficiently demonstrates that the Chronicles were written after the captivity. Thus the history is brought down to the end of the exile, and mention is made of the restoration by Cyrus (). It is certain that they were compiled after the time of Jeremiah (), who lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. The genealogy of Zerubbabel is even continued to the time of Alexander (). The same opinion is supported by the character of the orthography and the nature of the language employed, as we have already seen, both which are Aramean in complexion, and harmonize with the books confessedly written after the exile. The Jews generally ascribe the Chronicles to Ezra, and it is extremely probable that they were really written by him.

The principal design of the writer seems to have been to maintain the proper distinctions between the tribes and families of the returning Hebrews, that the Messiah's descent out of the tribe and family whence he was to spring according to prophecy, might be made manifest. Accordingly, the family of David is specially noticed and prominently portrayed. The author also shows how the lands had been distributed before the captivity, that the people might obtain the ancient inheritance of their fathers. In doing so he goes back to the most ancient times, and presents to his countrymen their earliest history, lest, during their exile, they might have forgotten their original and lost the traces of their real ancestry. In addition to this object it was also intended to show how the worship of God should be properly resumed and orderly re-established. In accordance with such a purpose he gives the genealogy of the priests and Levites more fully than any other writer, records their functions and rank, and enters with particularity into the arrangements established among them by David and Solomon. These two purposes, which are closely allied, will serve to demonstrate the perfect congruity of all that is peculiar in the Chronicles. They account for the genealogical tables, the specifications of tribes and families with their situation, as also for a variety of references to the priests and Levites, to the preparations made by David for building the temple, the reformations I which took place at different periods, the prosperity of such kings as feared Jehovah and walked in his ways, to the marvelous interpositions of Heaven on behalf of those who trusted in Him alone, to the idolatry of Israel and their consequent misfortunes.

The books of Chronicles as compared with those of Kings are more didactic than historical. The historical tendency is subordinated to the didactic. Indeed, the purely historic form appears to be preserved only in so far as it presented an appropriate medium for those religious and moral observations which the author was directed to adduce. Samuel and Kings are more occupied with the relation of political occurrences; while the Chronicles furnish detailed accounts of ecclesiastical institutions.

A thorough examination of these books as compared with those of Samuel and Kings will satisfy the inquirer that the latter were known to Ezra and extensively used by him in the composition of Chronicles.

But these books are not the only source from which the Chronicles have been taken. Public documents formed the common groundwork of the three histories. The Pentateuch has also been used in their compilation. A comparison of the first nine chapters of I Chronicles with the Mosaic books will show the parallelism existing between them; and it should be especially noticed that agrees verbatim with . Perhaps, however, this passage in both has been drawn from the same source.

As the Almighty does nothing superfluously, and puts forth no exertion of His power where His infinite wisdom does not perceive a fitting necessity, it would have been unnecessary, as far as we can perceive, to suggest anew to the mind of the writer facts with which he must have been partially acquainted by tradition, and which he had an opportunity of knowing from the sacred records. It is evident that the Chronicles were compiled not only from former inspired writings, but, for the most part, from public records, registers, and genealogies belonging to the Jews. That national annals existed there can be no doubt. They are expressly mentioned, as in . They contained an account of the most important events in the history of the Hebrews, and were generally lodged in the tabernacle or temple, where they could be most conveniently consulted.

The histories of kings appear to have been usually written by prophets (; ; ; ). Hence they constantly refer to the divine rewards and punishments characterizing the theocracy. These historical writings of the prophets were, for the most part, inserted in the public annals, as is evident from ; ; ; . Whether they were always so inserted is questionable, for they seem to be distinguished from the annals of the kingdom in . From such sources Ezra extracted the accounts which he was prompted to write for the use of mankind in all ages. We cannot believe that his selection was indiscriminate or careless. His inspiration effectually secured him against everything that was inaccurate or unsuitable to the purposes for which he was supernaturally enlightened. That he committed mistakes cannot for a moment be admitted, else his history is impugned and its position in the canon inexplicable. His veracity, integrity, and scrupulous exactness must be held fast by every right-minded believer.

From an inspection of ; to ; 1 Chronicles 28; 1 Chronicles 29; ; , etc.; 26:16-21; 30; 31, it will be manifest, that it was one design of Ezra to notice with particularity the order of the divine worship as established by David and Solomon, with various reformations in the theocracy that took place at different times The Levitical priesthood, and the public service of God, are specially noticed and prominently brought into view. From 2 Chronicles 13; , etc.; 19:2, etc.; 25:7, etc., it is evident that God's miraculous interference on behalf of Judah, and His displeasure with idolatrous Israel, were also intended to be depicted. In accordance with the same object, pious kings evincing appropriate zeal for the glory of Jehovah are commended, and their efforts marked with approval (comp. ; , etc.; 20; 26:5, etc.; 27:4-6, etc.), while the ruin of idolatrous practices is forcibly adduced (, etc.; 28:5, etc.; 33:11, etc.; 25:14, etc.; 36:6).

Such are the characteristic peculiarities of these books; and we now ask the impartial reader to consider if they be not worthy of the Holy-Spirit under whose guidance the Chronicles were written. Are they not admirably in unison with the character of Ezra the high-priest and reformer? What more natural, or more accordant with the solicitudes of this holy man, than to dwell upon such matters as relate to the worship of Jehovah, to the priests, and Levites? Surely he was appropriately directed to record the reformations effected by godly kings, and the disastrous consequences of forsaking the true God, whose zeal was abundantly manifested in reform, and to whom idolatry was peculiarly offensive. And yet upon these very chapters and paragraphs charges the most flagrant have been founded. The author of them has been accused of hatred to Israel, predilection for the Levites, love of the marvelous, design to magnify pious kings and to heighten the mistakes of the kingdom of Israel. It is unnecessary to enter into any refutation of these monstrous accusations. They bear with them their own condemnation. They are the offspring of that Rationalism which resolves to see nothing but what, it relishes. On every page of these historical books are impressed genuineness and honesty. The writer candidly refers to the sources whence his information was derived; and contemporary readers, placing implicit reliance on his statements, allowed the original documents to perish. He relates many things disgraceful to Judah and its kings, while he evinces no desire to palliate or conceal sin. He even retains, as we have seen before, expressions incongruous with his own age, and therefore exactly copied from the ancient records. Surely a writer guilty of falsification would have been careful to alter these into exact correspondence with his own times. Transparent simplicity of character needs not such minutia.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Chronicles'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/c/chronicles.html.

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