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- 1 Chronicles
by Donald C. Fleming
As with Samuel and Kings, Chronicles consists of two books in our Bibles, but was only one book in the original Hebrew Bible. The writer has not recorded his name, though he has recorded the names of some books and documents from which he gathered his material (1 Chronicles 9:1; 1 Chronicles 27:24; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 16:11; 2 Chronicles 24:27; 2 Chronicles 33:19; 2 Chronicles 35:25).
A chronicle is a record of events, and the biblical writing called Chronicles records events that took place in Israel during the period covered by the books of Samuel and Kings. But Chronicles differs from Samuel and Kings in both style and content. The Chronicler wrote for people of a specific period and with a clear purpose in mind.
Circumstances of the time
Chronicles was written many years after Israel and Judah had been taken into captivity. After the captivity of the northern kingdom (Israel) by Assyria in 732 and 722 BC, many of the people of Israel became scattered among the nations where they lived, and largely lost their national identity. Those of the former southern kingdom (Judah), who were taken captive to Babylon in a number of stages between 605 and 582 BC, largely retained their national identity. When Persia conquered Babylon in 539 BC and gave permission to the Jews to return to their homeland, those who returned were people of this latter group. Further migrations followed in succeeding generations.
Most of those who returned had never lived in Palestine and knew little of the temple that once functioned in Jerusalem. These were the people for whom the Chronicler wrote. He wanted to give them some background knowledge about their country and their religion. In particular he wanted to impress upon them that they were more than just a lot of migrants living back in the land of their forefathers. They were a continuation of that pre-captivity nation whose life had been built on the twofold foundation of the Davidic dynasty and the Levitical priesthood.
Characteristics of Chronicles
God had a purpose in restoring his people to their homeland. He was still in control of their history, and the promises he had given to David and his dynasty would yet be fulfilled. The Chronicler has therefore chosen and arranged his material carefully, so that his readers might see the importance of rebuilding their nation according to God’s design. Although he traces the history of the nation from the time of its first king, Saul, he says little about Saul. He is concerned almost entirely with the Davidic line of kings and the temple in Jerusalem with which they were connected.
The northern kingdom was a breakaway from God’s chosen line through David, and its religion a rebellion against the true worship of God that was centred in Jerusalem. The writer of Chronicles has no desire to interest his readers in the northern kingdom and its sinful ways. For him the Davidic line of kings is the only legitimate dynasty, Jerusalem the nation’s only legitimate capital, the temple in Jerusalem its only legitimate sanctuary, and the Levitical priesthood the only legitimate religious order. In concentrating on the southern kingdom, the writer wants to show his readers how the God-given Davidic kingship and the God-given Levitical order were essential to the national life of God’s people.
Because of his special interests, the writer of Chronicles gives many details that the writers of Samuel and Kings do not record. This is particularly so in relation to Israel’s religious organization during the period of the monarchy. On the other hand there are many things that he does not record, such as the failures of some of the Davidic kings. His aim is not to examine the lives of individuals, but to show that the Davidic kingdom was established with the religious order as an inseparable part of Israel’s national life.
The Levites are always of particular interest to the writer of Chronicles. Whereas the writers of Samuel and Kings scarcely mention them, the Chronicler mentions them repeatedly, to show the part they played in the nation’s affairs. He wants to impress upon his readers that the nation functions best when the civil administration of the Davidic kings and the religious order of the Levites work in harmony as God intended.
OUTLINE OF 1 CHRONICLES
Genealogies of the tribes of Israel
The reign of David
Preparations for the temple
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14