The Past in Search of the Present: 1 and 2 Chronicles

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Originally First and Second Chronicles were united in one scroll with one narrative. Beginning with Adam, Seth, and Enosh (Enoch), the history of ancient Judah and Israel is summarized, culminating in the proclamation of the Persian king, Cyrus the Great (c. 540 BC) to let the Jews return to Palestine.

Due to the length of the book, Chronicles was eventually divided in the Septuagint (G. the Paralipomenon [Παραλειπομένων]; “things left on one side”).

As a narrative, First and Second Chronicles parallel First and Second Kings, but with a distinction.

First and Second Kings records a divine view of the kings of Israel; First and Second Chronicles record the events through the eyes of each king.

The Chronicles have been dated as being written during the Persian period, c. 538 – 333 BC. The archaeological evidence for this is based on fragments of an actual manuscript of Chronicles found at Qumran.

The author of Chronicles is unknown. What is known is that the book had to be written sometime after the Israelites returned from the Babylonian Captivity, for the Temple, and Jerusalem, have been rebuilt.

In addition, the book had to be written by someone intimately connected to Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles for, in the Tanakh (pronounced, ta’ nax), the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles is the final book and concludes the third section of the Ketuvim (lit. the “writings”).

Both books, Kings and Chronicles, were written to enable the Hebrew people to remember their past, keep in mind their place in the plan of God in human history, and live with hope in their hearts.

Two Main Themes

The prophetic hopes of the Jewish people in Babylon were that after their exile, they could return to Jerusalem, rebuild the temple, and wait for the Messiah to come so that all the nations on earth could come and live under His peaceful rule.  In order to keep those prophetic hopes alive, The Chronicler wrote stories about the past. The Chronicles write with two main themes: Hope for the Coming Messiah-King; Hope for the Temple to be Rebuilt

Important Topics in Chronicles

There are several important topics to be found in the book of Chronicles: genealogy, society, government, religion, prophecy, prophets, man, woman, sex, children, family issues, war, sorcery, God, love, and the Messiah. Look for them.

A Simple Outline of Chronicles: The First Division: 1 Chronicles 1 – 29

In the first nine chapters of Chronicles, we see many names detailing the genealogies of some of the Jewish people.

While these chapters are tedious to read, the names are important, for they establish the lineage of the coming Messiah-King.

Special attention is paid to the line of Judah, leading to King David, to whom the Messianic Promise was given. Through the prophet Nathan, God promised David the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would come from his lineage, and that the tribe of Judah would be forever established (2 Samuel 7; 1 Chron. 17:11-14; 2 Chron. 6:16).

Additional attention is also given to the priesthood, beginning with the line of Aaron, to confirm the priesthood.

The importance of this twin emphasis is to establish the fact the Messiah would be a King-Priest, after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 7:13-17 explains how Jesus fulfills this prophetic image.

“For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.  17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb. 7:13-17).

From the genealogies, the Chronicler begins to tell stories about David. These stories are familiar, for they can be found in Samuel and Kings. There are some differences, however. In the Chronicles, the negative stories about David are omitted. He is neither weak, nor immoral. David’s persecution by Saul. His adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of Uriah the Hittite are omitted.

David is presented in the best light possible. David is a good man. He is a righteous man. David is the man after God’s own heart. David is the man who prepares the resources to build the Holy Temple (1 Chron. 22 – 29). Builders and choirs are put together for the holy work.

In all of this, David is presented as a type of Moses. As Moses received plans for building the Temple, and the Ark of the Covenant, so God gave to David the plans to build the Holy Temple.

The purpose of this positive portrait of David is not to cover-up his transgressions, but to present him as the anti-type of the Messiah. Indeed, the Messiah would come from the line of David.

The prophet Jeremiah had spoken of a “new” David, who would lead people to serve the Lord. “But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them” (Jer. 30:9). The Chronicles simply reminds the Jewish people of God’s covenant promise to David (1 Chron. 17:7-14).

When the story of 1 Chronicles 17 is compared to 2 Samuel 7, it will be noted that neither David, nor Solomon, nor any of their kingly descendants were the Messiah. That honor would go to Jesus Christ, the son of Joseph, who was a King, like David.

The Second Division: 2 Chronicles 1 – 36

With the death of David, the narrative moves to the reign of king Solomon in 2 Chronicles 1 – 9, while 2 Chronicles 10 – 36 records the division of Israel into two separate nations. Tragically, the Northern Kingdom, Israel had no good kings, while the Southern Kingdom, Judah had a mixture of kings who were both good, and bad. Much can be learned from their lives.

An Abrupt Conclusion

Chronicles ends suddenly with the decree of Cyrus allowing the Jews to return home and rebuild the Temple. “Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up” (2 Chron. 36:23).

A main point of Chronicles is to remind the Hebrew people that God is not finished with them. Not then, and not now. The events of May 14, 1948, the day modern Israel was reborn, confirm the fact that national Israel still has an important place in the plan of God in human history. For the Jew, the past is the hope of the future.

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