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- 1 Chronicles
by John Dummelow
1. Character and Contents. Chronicles at first not only formed a single book but probably constituted one continuous work with Ezra and Nehemiah. The English name is a tolerable equivalent of the Hebrew; whilst the corresponding Greek rendering probably means ’supplement’ (lit. ’things passed over,’ i.e. by the preceding historical books). Its author is unknown; but from the prominence which is given in the book to the Levitical order it has been conjectured that he was himself a Levite. Its contents comprise, (a) certain genealogies, (b) the history of David and Solomon, and (c) the history of Judah (the history of the northern kingdom being entirely omitted). Its date, in conjunction with that of Ezra and Nehemiah, may be approximately determined by the mention in 1 Chronicles 3:24 of the sixth generation after Zerubbabel (who was living in 520 b.c.), which implies a date subsequent to 340 and this is supported by the reference in Nehemiah 12:11, Nehemiah 12:22 to Jaddua, who was high priest in the time of Darius Codomannus (335-330) and of Alexander the Great (336-323). It was thus probably composed not much before 300 b.c., and consequently separated by a much longer period than Kings from the events it records.
2. Sources. Among the sourees of information referred to in the course of the narrative are (a) genealogical tables (1 Chronicles 5:17); (b) the book of the kings of Judah and Israel (2 Chronicles 16:11, the same work being probably meant by the slightly different titles in 2 Chronicles 27:7; 2 Chronicles 33:18); and (c) the writings of certain prophets, Samuel, Nathan, Gad, Ahijah, Shemaiah, Iddo, Jehu, and Isaiah (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 13:22; 2 Chronicles 20:34; 2 Chronicles 26:22; 2 Chronicles 32:32). But certain of the authorities included in (c) are expressly stated to have been inserted in the historical work mentioned in (b)—see 2 Chronicles 20:34; 2 Chronicles 32:32 RV; and it is possible that the others were also embodied in the same book, which will then be the immediate authority to which the writer is principally indebted. It will be obvious, however, from a comparison of the parallels between Chronicles and earlier books of the Bible, that large parts of the former are practically derived from Genesis, Samuel, and especially Kings, by a process of mere transcription; so that at first sight it would seem that the canonical books of Kings constitute the work just alluded to. But as the latter is quoted as recording the prayer of Manasseh, which finds no place in our Kings (2 Chronicles 33:18), and as Chronicles also contains much matter (2 Chronicles 11:5-12; 2 Chronicles 26:6-10; 2 Chronicles 28:17-18) which is likely to have come from an annalistic writing, but does not occur in Kings, it is probable that the book which is cited by name was different from, but based on, our Kings, and was the means through which the writer of Chronicles came to incorporate portions of the latter. The differences between Chronicles and Kings consist of omissions, additions, and minor modifications. The former, besides leaving out all the history of the Ten Tribes after the Separation, omits most of the sins and weaknesses of David and Solomon. Its principal additions comprise details of the Temple organisation and certain incidents in the history of the kings of Judah. For some statements of Kings it substitutes others, the alterations being most noticeable in connexion with numbers, those of Chronicles being generally the higher (cp. 1 Chronicles 21:5 with 2 Samuel 24:9, 2 Chronicles 3:15 with 1 Kings 7:15, 2 Chronicles 4:5 with 1 Kings 7:26).
3. Value. In considering the historical value of Chronicles account need only be taken of those parts in which it differs from Kings. In view of its greater remoteness from the events described, it cannot be considered so good an authority as the latter, and in cases of discrepancy the statements of Kings deserve the preference. In regard to matters upon which it is the sole informant, earlier materials seem to have been utilised; but in many cases the numbers given in connexion with the different subjects are too large to be probable (see 1 Chronicles 29, 2 Chronicles 13, 14, 17, etc.), and later details appear to have been read into the description of the Temple arrangements as organised by David (1 Chronicles 23-26). On the other hand, the religious value of Chronicles is as manifest as that of Kings. In it, as in the latter, those events of the national history have been selected for treatment which most conspicuously illustrated the divine purpose and providence. The writer, even in a greater degree than his predecessor, points the moral of the events which he relates (2 Chronicles 12:12; 2 Chronicles 25:20; 2 Chronicles 27:6), both the judgments and mercies of God being shown to stand in intimate connexion with human conduct. Even if there are anachronisms in his account of the Temple services, light is thereby thrown on the state of the organisation of religion in his own time, and the spiritual instruction conveyed is not seriously affected. The interest manifested in the details of the Temple regulations calls attention to the care which the public worship of God ought at all times to claim. The music, to which such importance is attached, has its value in promoting unity of feeling amongst a number of individual worshippers, and in elevating and sustaining the religious emotions. The author of Chronicles, in dwelling at such length upon the external side of religion, was animated by the spirit of his age. But he is far from being exclusively concerned with the outward forms of worship. He devotes a great deal of space to the activities and teaching of the prophets; and those who have less sympathy than he with religious ceremonial can still derive edification from his work.
the Second Week of Advent