1 and 2 Chronicles

Authorship:

First and Second Chronicles are one book. It is uncertain who authored Chronicles. The traditional belief of rabbinical Judaism and medieval Christianity has been that Chronicles through Nehemiah were a single work written by Ezra the scribe. It is clear that the four books share many linguistic and theological concepts. Others have maintained that while Chronicles and Ezra/Nehemiah were written by one author, that author was not Ezra but another scribe. Still others maintain that Chronicles and Ezra/Nehemiah derived from different authors. Proponents of this position highlight the differences rather than similarities of literary and theological concepts. This view has become increasingly popular since the late nineteenth century among modern biblical scholars.

In favor of seeing one author behind these four books, whether Ezra or not, are the following arguments. First, the ending of Chronicles (2 Chron. 36:22-23) overlaps with the beginning of Ezra (Ezra 1:1-4), which was standard practice for books that were intended to build on each other. Second, despite some variety in literary and theological elements between Chronicles and Ezra/Nehemiah, there appears to be more continuity than discontinuity. Third, Chronicles and Ezra/Nehemiah both include many scriptural and historical documents and sources and they both quote from these often. The author frequently makes use of the historical, prophetic, and wisdom books of the Old Testament Scriptures. Certainly as a scribe, Ezra was well versed in such documents and writings and would be a likely candidate in utilizing them in his writings. Fourth, given Ezra’s influence and the spiritual revival among those returning from exile, Ezra would have had a good incentive as a leader in the new community to produce these two combined works for the edification of the Jews.

In a final analysis, however, absolute certainty regarding who wrote Chronicles and/or Ezra/Nehemiah is not possible. Neither Scripture nor reason allows us to solve this tension beyond all dispute. And in reality, the importance of these works does not depend on identifying the human author but what they contain and communicate about God, His plan, and His purpose.

Date:

Chronicles was written shortly before or during the ministry of Ezra in Judah. In 586 BC the Babylonian army conquered the land of Judah and sent the remaining tribes of Israel into exile (the northern tribes were exiled around 721 BC). The exile was God’s judgment against His people for their failure to repent. God sent many prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel to condemn the people for their sins and call them to repentance. But Judah failed to listen to God’s message and continued her path to ruin. The end result was complete and utter destruction. Jerusalem was destroyed. The temple was torn down. The people were cast into exile.

The exile of Judah continued for about seventy years. But Persia rose to power over Babylon in 539 BC. Around 538 BC Cyrus, king of Persia, issued a decree that the exiled people could return to their land to rebuild the temple and the walls of Jerusalem. There they waited for the final fulfillment of God’s promises.

It is into this frame of reference that 1 and 2 Chronicles was written. The chronicler’s view of history was meant to enliven, strengthen, and encourage the Lord’s people—reminding them that God was not through working with them.

Considering the prophecy of Cyrus’s edict at the end of 2 Chronicles, the earliest date Chronicles could have been composed would be about 538 BC. But given the internal evidence from the genealogies, Chronicles was most likely composed sometime between 450 and 425 BC.
(For a chronology of the kings of Judah and Israel, see Introduction to 1 and 2 Kings

Theme:

God’s acts in history from Adam through the son of David to build a kingdom of true worship from the heart.

Purpose:

To call people to turn from idols and seek the Lord in holy worship, motivated by hope in God’s covenant faithfulness to the son of David.

Synopsis:

The Contribution of Chronicles to Redemptive Revelation
Chronicles records a worship-centered history of God’s kingdom going back to the creation of the world. This focus has not always been properly recognized. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) titles Chronicles, “things left out concerning the kings of Judah” (paralipomena ton basileon Iouda), which gives the impression that this volume is nothing more than historical leftovers concerning the history of Joshua through Kings. But those who see Chronicles as nothing more than historical leftovers miss the true significance of these books.

The Hebrew title of the work is “the matters of the days” (dibre hayyamim). Jerome titled these books “First and Second Chronicles” from the fourth century AD. This would carry the connotation that Chronicles was nothing more than short annals of the kings of Israel and Judah. However, Chronicles tends to give more extensive biographical information regarding kings, rulers, and individuals than typically found in extrabiblical chronicles.

In addition, Chronicles is selective when compared to the material in the books of Samuel and Kings. For example, it passes over Saul’s kingship, David’s adultery with Bath-sheba, and Absalom’s rebellion against his father. It views Israel’s history through the lens of a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6), giving particular attention to the tribe and kingdom of Judah, and the construction and use of the temple. Chronicles focuses upon the gift of God’s presence.

This emphasis upon the presence of God with His people appears in the frequent references to seeking the Lord. To seek the Lord (sometimes translated “enquire” of Him) means to draw near to God in worship and prayer with desire for His presence (“face”), reliance upon Him for salvation, repentance of sins against Him, and submission to His laws (1 Chron. 13:3; 15:13; 21:30; 22:19; 28:8-9; 2 Chron. 7:14; 12:14; 14:4,7; 15:2,4,12-13,15; 16:12; 17:3-4; 18:4-7; 19:3; 20:3-4; 22:9; 25:15,20; 26:5; 30:19; 31:21; 34:3,21,26).

Though Chronicles centers its plot upon the temple in Jerusalem, it emphasizes the “heart” as the key to true godliness. Seeking God must engage the heart (1 Chron. 16:10; 22:19), for He sees the heart and desires righteousness in it (28:9; 29:17; 2 Chron. 6:30). People must serve the Lord with a “perfect” heart, that is, one that is not divided among many gods but entirely (though not sinlessly) devoted to Him (1 Chron. 28:9; 29:9,19; 2 Chron. 15:17; 16:9; 19:9; 25:2). They must seek Him with “all” their heart (6:14,38; 15:12,15; 22:9; 31:21; 34:31). Their hearts must be “tender” and humble, easily broken by God’s words to sinners, and not “hardened” and stubborn (34:27; 36:13). Otherwise their hearts will be “lifted up” with pride (25:19; 26:16; 32:25-26). Therefore people of God must “prepare” their hearts, that is, intentionally direct their thoughts and affections toward the Lord as their only God (12:14; 19:3; 20:33; 30:19). This all must come of God’s grace, who alone can give people a heart to keep His commandments (1 Chron. 29:18-19; 2 Chron. 30:11-12).

Seeking God results in experiencing His “rest” (2 Chron. 15:15). This term is linked to the golden years of Solomon’s reign. It denotes both the peace of His salvation from their enemies and the joy of His presence with them in the temple (1 Chron. 22:8-10,17-19; 23:25; 28:2; 2 Chron. 14:6-7; 15:15; 20:30; cf. Pss. 95:11; 132:8,14; Heb. 3:7-4:13). Having set their hearts by His grace to seek Him, they will enjoy access to God’s own heart in His temple (2 Chron. 7:16).

The concern for a godly heart in Chronicles comes to particular focus in its more than a dozen references to the spiritual condition of the heart of the king. God’s blessing upon His people and temple depends upon the heart of the son of David toward God. David’s preparations for the temple climax in his prayer, “And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes, and to do all these things, and to build the palace, for the which I have made provision” (1 Chron. 29:19).

Chronicles intertwines the Davidic monarchy with God’s dwelling among His worshipers. Its plot rises to a peak in the covenant God made with David (1 Chron. 17), where He promised that David’s seed or offspring would build God’s house and would reign forever. God gloriously (though only partially) fulfilled that covenant when Solomon constructed the temple (2 Chron. 2-7). However, Chronicles concludes with the tragic history of how the sinful and hardened hearts of the seed of David provoked the Lord to end the monarchy and destroy the temple (2 Chron. 36). Yet hope remained, for the Lord restored His people from exile to rebuild God’s house (v. 23). Therefore, Chronicles encouraged the postexilic remnant to hope in the coming, righteous son of David who would establish God’s presence with them in a far more glorious and permanent manner.

Looking ahead and looking back in time, Chronicles indicates that the son of David is the climax of human history. That is the implicit point of the long section of genealogies on which the author spends almost a third of his first book. Beginning with Adam, these genealogies trace the development of God’s purpose for mankind to the line of David. They testify to God’s faithfulness in preserving the line of the promised Seed through whom God would restore His blessing to fallen man (Gen. 3:15; 22:18). The exile of Israel could not overthrow God’s purposes of salvation any more than previous judgments such as the flood of Noah. Chronicles contributes to the redemptive message by showing that the progression toward the fullness of time was right on track. God’s presence, lost in the garden, will be restored through the coming King. The temple, decorated with trees, fruit, gold, gems, and cherubim (2 Chron. 3) was a type of the return to dwell with God in paradise (Gen. 2; Rev. 22).

Chronicles is thus a bridge from creation to new creation and from the old covenant to the new. It is the last book in the order of the Hebrew Old Testament. The gospel of Matthew picks up where Chronicles stopped with another genealogy leading to Jesus, and the revelation that Christ is Immanuel, God dwelling with His people through the son of David. He is the hope of God’s people.

Outline:

  1. Kingdom Promised (1 Chron. 1:1-9:44)
    1. Adam to Abraham (1 Chron. 1:1-27)
    2. Esau (1 Chron. 1:28-54)
    3. Jacob to David (1 Chron. 2:1-55)
    4. David (1 Chron. 3:1-24)
    5. Twelve Tribes (1 Chron. 4:1-8:40)
    6. Returning Exiles (1 Chron. 9:1-34)
    7. Saul (1 Chron. 9:35-44)
  2. Kingdom Established (1 Chron. 10:1-2 Chron. 9:31)
    1. Saul’s Death (1 Chron. 10:1-14)
    2. David’s Rise to Power (1 Chron. 11:1-12:40)
      1. David’s Pursuit of God’s Presence (1 Chron. 13:1-17:27)
      2. David’s Attempts to Bring the Ark to Jerusalem (1 Chron. 13:1-16:43)
      3. God’s Promise to David: Covenant Made (1 Chron. 17:1-27)
    3. David’s Military Victories (1 Chron. 18:1-20:8)
      1. David’s Wars with His Enemies (1 Chron. 18:1-13)
      2. David’s Rule (1 Chron. 18:14-17)
      3. David and the Ammonites (1 Chron. 19:1-19)
      4. David’s Other Battles (1 Chron. 20:1-8)
    4. David’s Preparations for the Temple (1 Chron. 21:1-26:32)
      1. David’s Sinful Census and the Temple Site (1 Chron. 21:1-22:1)
      2. David’s Preparations for the Construction of the Temple (1 Chron. 22:2-19)
      3. David’s Organization of the Levites for the Temple (1 Chron. 23:1-26:32)
    5. David’s Administration of the Nation (1 Chron. 27:1-34)
    6. David’s Assembly for the Future Temple (1 Chron. 28:1-29:22)
    7. David’s Death and Solomon’s Glory (1 Chron. 29:23-2 Chron. 1:17)
    8. Solomon’s Construction of the Temple: Covenant Partially Fulfilled (2 Chron. 2:1-7:22)
      1. Solomon’s Arrangements for Materials and Workers (2 Chron. 2:1-18)
      2. Solomon’s Construction of the Building and Furnishings (2 Chron. 3:1-4:22)
      3. Solomon’s Assembly to Dedicate the Temple (2 Chron. 5:1-7:22)
    9. Solomon’s Works, Wisdom, and Death (2 Chron. 8:1-9:31)
  3. Kingdom Divided (2 Chron. 10:1-28:27)
    1. King Rehoboam (2 Chron. 10:1-12:16)
    2. King Abijah (2 Chron. 13:1-22)
    3. King Asa (2 Chron. 14:1-16:14)
    4. King Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 17:1-20:37)
    5. King Jehoram (2 Chron. 21:1-20)
    6. King Ahaziah (2 Chron. 22:1-9)
    7. Queen Athaliah (2 Chron. 22:10-12)
    8. King Joash (2 Chron. 23:1-24:27)
    9. King Amaziah (2 Chron. 25:1-28)
    10. King Uzziah (2 Chron. 26:1-23)
    11. King Jotham (2 Chron. 27:1-9)
    12. King Ahaz (2 Chron. 28:1-27)
  4. Kingdom Reformed and Ruined (2 Chron. 29:1-35:27)
    1. Hezekiah’s Righteous Reign (2 Chron. 29:1-32:33)
    2. Manasseh’s Idolatry and Repentance (2 Chron. 33:1-20)
    3. Amon’s Idolatry (2 Chron. 33:21-25)
    4. Josiah’s Righteous Reign (2 Chron. 34:1-35:27)
  5. Kingdom Destroyed (2 Chron. 36:1-23)
    1. King Jehoahaz (2 Chron. 36:1-3)
    2. King Jehoiakim (2 Chron. 36:4-8)
    3. King Jehoiachin (2 Chron. 36:9-10)
    4. King Zedekiah (2 Chron. 36:11-16)
    5. Jerusalem Conquered (2 Chron. 36:17-21)
    6. Cyrus’s Proclamation (2 Chron. 36:22-23)

Extracted from: Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Notes(Beeke, Joel R. 2015. Reformation Heritage Books).

By Justus