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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Chronicles, Books of

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— Biblical Data:

The two books of Chronicles form a history of the Temple and its priesthood, and of the house of David and the tribe of Judah, as guardians of the Temple, with references to the other tribes, and with some connected material. The contents may be briefly summarized as follows:

    (a) IChron. i-ix. contain chiefly genealogies, from Adam, through Noah's sons, and then particularly through the line of Shem to Esau and Israel and their descendants. The last twelve verses of ch. i. contain a list of Edomitish kings and chiefs. Brief narratives from various periods are interspersed among the genealogies (e.g. , 2:23 4:9,10, 39-43 5:9,10, 18-22,25, 26). The last genealogy in this collection, 9:35-44, that of Saul's family, forms a kind of transition to the following section.
    (b) 1Chronicles 10 -xxix. This section is concerned with David's reign, the introduction being the last battle and the death of Saul (x:1-12, parallel to 1Samuel 31:1-13 ), and the conclusion, the accession of Solomon (xxiii:1 28:5 et seq. 29:22 et seq. ).
    (c) 2Chronicles 1 -ix. is devoted to Solomon's reign. The first chapter speaks of his sacrifice at Gibeon (vs. 1-13) and Solomon's splendor (vs. 14-17). The building of the Temple is described in ch. ii.-iv., and its dedication in 5:1-14. The following chapters speak of Solomon's prayer, vision, sacrifices, glory, and in 9:31 the death of Solomon is mentioned.
    (d) 2Chronicles 10 -xxxvi. contains the history of the kingdom of Judah down to the fall of Jerusalem, with the division of the kingdoms as preface, and the restoration-edict of Cyrus as appendix (viz., 10:1-19, accession of Rehoboam and division of the kingdom xi. xii., Rehoboam 13:1-22, Abijah xiv.-xvi., Asa xvii.-xx., Jehoshaphat xxi., Jehoram 22:1-9, Ahaziah 22:10-12, xxiii., Athaliah xxiv., Joash xxv., Amaziah xxvi., Uzziah xxvii., Jotham xxviii., Ahaz xxix-xxxii., Hezekiah 33:1-20, Manasseh 33:21-25, Amon xxxiv., xxxv., Josiah 36:1-3, Jehoahaz 36:4-8, Jehoiakim 36:9,10, Jehoiachin 36:11-13, Zedekiah 36:17-21, fall of Jerusalem 36:22,23, restoration-edict of Cyrus.


— In Rabbinical Literature:
Rabbinical literature does not recognize the division of Chronicles into two books. In B. B. 15a it is named as one ), and the Masorah counts the verse 1Chronicles 27:25 as the middle of the book. Tradition regards this one book as consisting of two unequal parts viz., (1) lists largely of a genealogical nature with brief historical details and (2) an extensive history of the kings in Jerusalem. The authorship of the first part, which is designated "Yaḥ as" ( = "genealogy") of the "Dibre ha-Yamim" is ascribed to Ezra (B. B. 15a). In Pes. 62b this part is connected with a Midrash and quoted as ("Book of the Descents") while Rashi names the Midrash ( ), "Mishnah of Dibre ha-Yamim," etc., which, according to him, contained expositions of certain passages of the Torah. This part was not to be explained to the men of Lud nor to those of Nehardea, for reasons not stated perhaps it was feared that these interpretations might meet with irreverence.

On the whole, Chronicles was regarded with suspicion its historical accuracy was doubted by the Talmudic authorities, it being held to be a book for homiletic interpretation, (Lev. R. 1:3 Ruth R. ii., beginning compare Meg. 13a). The names were treated with great freedom and many which clearly belonged to different persons were declared to indicate one and the same man or woman (Soṭ ah 12a Ex. R. 1:17 , et passim ). Numerous as these fanciful interpretations of verses in Chronicles are in Talmudic-Midrashic literature, the loss of many similar expositions was deplored (Pes. 62b). E. G. H.

Title.


— Critical View.

— I. Position in Old Testament Literature: Chronicles, which in the Hebrew canon consists of a single book, is called in the Hebrew Bible ("Annals") in the LXX.— Codex B, π α ρ α λ ε ι π ο μ έ  ω  ("of things left out") Codex A adds (τ ῶ  ) β α σ ι λ έ ω  ι ο  δ à ("concerning the kings of Judah") i.e. , a supplement to the Book of Kings in the Vulgate, Liber Primus (and Secundus) "Paralipomenon." The modern title "Chronicles" was suggested by Jerome's speaking of the book in his "Prologus Galeatus" as "Chronicon totius divinæ historiæ ." The book belongs to the Hagiographa, or "Ketubim," the third and latest-formed section of the Hebrew canon. The view that its canonicity was matter of discussion among the Jews seems to rest on insufficient evidence (Buhl, "Kanon und Text des A. T." Eng. ed., p. 31). In Hebrew lists, manuscripts, and printed Bibles, Chronicles is placed either first (Western or Palestinian practise, as in the St. Petersburg Codex), or last (Eastern or Babylonian, as in the Babylonian Talmud) see Ginsburg, "Introduction," pp. 1-8. In Greek and Latin lists, and in manuscripts and editions of the LXX. and Vulgate, Chronicles usually follows Kings the exceptions are more numerous in the Latin lists (Swete, "The Old Testament in Greek According to the Septuagint," Introduction, pp. 201-230).

Chronicles, originally a single work, is first found divided into two books in Codices A and B of the LXX., which were followed by subsequent versions, and ultimately by printed editions of the Hebrew text. It is part of a larger work, Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah, composed (see Section II.) in the Greek period between the death of Alexander (B.C. 323) and the revolt of the Maccabees ( B.C. 167). It expresses the piety of the Temple community, and their interest in its services and history. They felt that the services had reached an ideal perfection, and were led to think of the "good kings" as having shaped their religious policy according to this ideal. Probably the author of Chronicles did not intend to supersede Samuel and Kings. There are slight traces of Chronicles in Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), ( e.g. , 47:8 et seq. compare 1Chronicles 25 ) perhaps also in Philo (see Ryle, "Philo and Holy Scriptures," pp. 286 et seq. ), and in the N. T. (for example, compare 2Chronicles 24:21 with Matthew 23:35 ). The references to Samuel-Kings are more numerous. The omission (see Swete, l.c. p. 227) of Chronicles from some Christian lists of canonical books is probably accidental.

Authorship and Date.
II. Composition:

  1. An earlier historical work cited as: "The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel" (2Chronicles 16:11 , 25:26 , 28:26 ) "The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah" (ib. 27:7, 35:26) "The Acts of the Kings of Israel" ( ib. 33:18) and perhaps also as "The Midrash of the Book of Kings" ( ib. 24:27).

  2. Sections of a similar history of David and Solomon (unless these references are to that portion of the former work which dealt with these kings), cited as: "The Words of Samuel the Seer" (1Chronicles 29:29 ) "The Words of Nathan the Prophet" (ib. 2Chronicles 9:29 ) and "The Words of Gad the Seer" (1Chronicles 29:29 ).

  3. Sections of "The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah," and possibly of other similar works, cited as: "The Words of Shemaiah the Prophet and of Iddo the Seer" (2Chronicles 12:15 ) "The Words of Jehu the Son of Hanani" (ib. 20:34) "The Words of the Seers" (LXX., R. V., margin) "of his Seers" ("S. B. O. T.") "of Hozai" ( 2Chronicles 33:19-20 , R. V.) "The Vision of Iddo the Seer" (ib. 9:29) "The Vision of Isaiah the Prophet" ( ib. 32:32) "The Midrash of the Prophet Iddo ( ib. 13:22) "The Acts of Uzziah, Written by Isaiah the Prophet" ( ib. 26:22) and "The Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite" ( ib. 9:29).

In the absence of numbered divisions like the present chapters and verses, portions of the work are indicated by the name of the prophet who figures in it— probably because the Prophets were supposed to have been the annalists (ib. 26:22). Thus, "the Vision of Isaiah" is said to be in "The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel" and "the Words of Jehu the son of Hanani," inserted in "The Book of the Kings of Israel."

Thus the main source of Chronicles seems to have been a late post-exilic Midrashic history of the kings of Judah and Israel. Possibly, this had been divided into histories of David and Solomon, and of the later kings. The author may also have used a collection of genealogies and perhaps additions were made to the book after it was substantially complete. In dealing with matter not found in other books it is difficult to distinguish between matter which the chronicler found in his source, matter which he added himself, and later additions, as all the authors concerned wrote in the same spirit and style but it may perhaps be concluded that details about Levites, porters, and singers are the work of the chronicler (compare Section III. of this article).

III. Relationship to Samuel-Kings:

    (a) Comparison of Contents . Chronicles omits most of the material relating to Saul and the northern kingdom, including the accounts of Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha, and most of what is to the discredit of the "good kings" e.g. , the story of Bathsheba. Chronicles adds (see table, B and D ) long accounts of the Temple, its priests and its services, and of the observance of the Pentateuchal laws also records of sins which account for the misfortunes of "good kings"— e.g. , the apostasy of Joash (2Chronicles 24 ) of the misfortunes which punished the sins of "bad kings"— e.g. , the invasions in the reign of Ahaz (ib. xxviii.) and of the repentance which resulted in the long reign of Manasseh ( ib. xxxiii.) besides numerous genealogies and statistics. Chronicles has numerous other alterations tending, like the additions and omissions, to show that the "good kings" observed the law of Moses, and were righteous and prosperous (compare ib. 8:2 and 1 Kings 9:10,11 see also below).
    (b) Literary Connection . It might seem natural to identify the main source of Chronicles with Samuel-Kings, or with "The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel" and "The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah," frequently referred to in Kings. But the principal source can not have been Kings, because "The Book of the Kings" is sometimes said to contain material not in Kings— e.g. , the wars of Jotham (2Chronicles 27:7 ) neither can it have been the "Chronicles" cited in Kings, because it is styled "Midrash" (A. V., "story" R. V., "commentary"), which was a late form of Jewish literature (2Chronicles 13:22 , 24:27 ). This main source, "The Book of the Kings," is therefore commonly supposed (see II. d) to have been a postexilic work similar in style and spirit to Chronicles. The relation of this source to Kings is difficult to determine. It is clear that Chronicles contains matter taken either directly or indirectly from Kings, because it includes verses inserted by the editor of Kings (compare 2Chronicles 14:1,2 and 1 Kings 15:8,11 ). Either Chronicles used Kings and "The Book of the Kings," both of which works used the older "Chronicles" (so Driver, "Introduction to the Literature of the O. T." 6th ed., p. 532), or Chronicles used "The Book of the Kings," which had used both Kings and the older "Chronicles," or works based on them.
    (c) Text . It is not always possible to distinguish minor editorial changes from textual errors but, when the former have been eliminated, Chronicles presents an alternative text for the passages common to it and Samuel-Kings. As in the case of two manuscripts, sometimes the one text, sometimes the other, is correct. For example, 1Chronicles 18:3 has, wrongly, "Hadarezer," where 2Samuel 8:3 has "Hadadezer" but conversely 1Chronicles 17:6 has, rightly, "judges," where 2Samuel 7:7 has "tribes."
IV. Historical Value:
    (a) Omissions . Almost all these are explained by the chronicler's anxiety to edify his readers (compare Section III. a) and they in no way discredit the narratives omitted.
    (b) Contradictions . Where Chronicles contradicts Samuel-Kings preference must be given to the older work, except where the text of the latter is clearly corrupt. With the same exception, it may be assumed that sections of the primitive "Chronicles" are much more accurately preserved in Samuel-Kings than in Chronicles.
    (c) Additions . The passages which describe the Temple ritual and priesthood and the observance of the Pentateuchal law before the Exile are a translation of ancient history into the terms of the chronicler's own experience. The prophetical admonitions and other speeches are the chronicler's exposition of the religious significance of past history according to a familiar convention of ancient literature. Such material is most valuable: it gives unique information as to the Temple and the religious ideas of the early Greek period. Most of the material included under C in Section II. d, above has apparently been borrowed from an older source, and may constitute an addition to present knowledge of pre-exilic Israelitish history. The religious and other interests of the chronicler and his main source do not seem to account for the origin of the genealogies, statistics, accounts of buildings, etc., in C .
The character of another set of additions is not so clear viz., Abijah's victory (2Chronicles 13 ), Zerah's invasion (ib. xiv., xv.), and Manasseh's captivity ( ib. xxxiii.). However little the chronicler may have cared about writing scientific history, the fact that he narrates an incident not mentioned elsewhere does not prove it to be imaginary. Kings is fragmentary and its editors had views as to edification different from those of the chronicler (see Judges ), which might lead them to omit what their successor would restore. Driver and others hold that Chronicles is connected with early sources by another line than that through Kings (note also C , Section II. d). Hence the silence of Kings is not conclusive against these additions. Nevertheless, such narratives, in the present state of knowledge, rest on the unsupported testimony of a very late and uncritical authority. Much turns on internal evidence, which has been very variously interpreted. Some recognize a historical basis for these narratives (W. E. Barnes, in "Cambridge Bible," pp. xxx. et seq. A. H. Sayce, "The Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments," p. 465) others regard them as wholly unhistorical (see "Chronicles, Books of," in "Encyc. Bibl."). As to Chronicles in general, Professor Sayce writes ( l.c. p. 464): "The consistent exaggeration of numbers on the part of the chronicler shows us that from a historical point of view his unsupported statements must be received with caution. But they do not justify the accusations of deliberate fraud and ' fiction' which have been brought against him. What they prove is that he did not possess that sense of historical exactitude which we now demand from the historian."
Bibliography : R. Kittel, The Books of Chronicles in Hebrew , in S. B. O. T. ed. Haupt, 1895 W. H. Bennett, The Books of Chronicles , in The Expositor's Bible , 1894 F. Brown, Chronicles, I. and II. , in Hastings, Dict. Bible , 1898 S. R. Driver, Chronicles, Books of , in Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. 1899. E. G. H. W. H. B.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Chronicles, Books of'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tje/c/chronicles-books-of.html. 1901.

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