By JOHN BENNETT Kirkby-in-Ashfield, England
Although some of the history of this book is shared with 2 Samuel, it must be remembered that 1 Chronicles was written much later than the books of Samuel. Indeed, as Rossier reminds us, ‘the stamp of being composed later, after the return from the Babylonian captivity, is impressed [upon us] … throughout the text’.1
The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles demonstrate to us God’s preservation of the history of His people throughout their exile. The sovereignty of God provides the background of the historical account. As Darby suggests, ‘He records at the same time the names of those who had gone through the trials mentioned in this history without being blotted out of the book’.2
Most of 1 Chronicles charts the history of King David, chh. 11-19, and it establishes what God’s desires for His people were. Little mention is made of Saul and a passing mention is made of Hebron, but only as the place from which David was made king in Jerusalem. Thus, although David reigned for forty years, only his period in Jerusalem is covered by this book.
In making any comparison between 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, it should be noted that the writer omits certain serious failures of David. Whilst there is a reference to David’s wives, 14. 3, there is little of the detail contained in the former book. Equally, the reign of Saul is mentioned only in its ignominious conclusion. In 1 Chronicles you will find no mention of David’s sin with Bathsheba, his murder by proxy of Uriah the Hittite, or the rebellion of Absalom and its consequences for the kingdom. However, you will find significant detail about the preparations that David made for the building of the Temple and the worship of the people.
As Chronicles presents the divine or priestly view of historical events, it is wholly appropriate that it should commence with genealogies.3 A cursory glance into the books that record the return from exile, Ezra and Nehemiah, would indicate the importance of a genealogy. Those that served in the Temple or its services must be able to trace their ancestry back to the line of Aaron and his sons.4 One commentator says, ‘Technically, the book is anonymous – no author or compiler is named’ but the author may well have been ‘a priest or Levite because of the writer’s interest in the temple’.5
Similarly, one of the major themes of Chronicles is that the Davidic dynasty would be the instrument through which God would bring salvation and blessing to Israel, and through Israel to the whole world. How important, then, to establish the continuation of that dynasty. Indeed, the first book of the New Testament, Matthew’s Gospel, gives the genealogy of the final Davidic king, Jesus Christ. But for those returning from exile it was important to see that ‘the future did not depend ultimately on the decisions of Cyrus, king of the Persian Empire, but on the faithfulness of Yahweh (cf. Hag. 2:21–22)’.6 As Darby wrote: ‘The Books of Chronicles give us the history … under another aspect (that is, that of blessing and of the grace of God); and, more particularly, they give us the history of the house of David with respect to which this grace was manifested’.7
In its simplest form we might divide the book into two main sections. In chapters 1 to 9 we have the genealogies from Adam through to David, and following the Davidic line through to Zerubbabel and his grandsons. In chapters 10 to 29 the writer considers the thirty-three years of David’s rule as God’s anointed leader of His people:
We might sub-divide these accordingly:
1. The Ancestry of the Nation
1.1. Adam to Abraham, ch. 1;
1.2. Israel to David, ch. 2;
1.3. The Davidic line, ch. 3;
1.4. The sons of Israel and their progeny, chh. 4-8;
1.5. The Nation in its relationship to the Temple, ch. 9;
2. The Activity of the Nation
2.1. The reign of Saul, ch. 10;
2.2. The reign of David over all Israel, chh. 11-29;
2.2.1 David’s mighty men, chh. 11, 12;
2.2.2 The return of the Ark, chh. 13-16;
2.2.3 David’s desire to build the Temple, ch. 17;
2.2.4 David’s expansion of the kingdom, chh. 18-20;
2.2.5 David’s sin in numbering the people, ch. 21;
2.2.6 David’s preparations for the building of the Temple, chh. 22-29.
The first nine chapters of the book form a long list of names detailing the families of various key individuals within the record of scripture. As the ‘endless genealogies’ progress,8 we might find it difficult to understand their significance in that they are not important to us. Yet, under divine inspiration and as offering the priestly view of historical events, the writer opens his book thus. The purpose is to help his readers to appreciate their heritage and to tie themselves to Adam, Abraham, and David in particular. Equally, for us, it reminds us that we are linked to Adam naturally, but, by faith, we are linked to Abraham spiritually through David’s greater Son.
In showing Israel’s place among the nations, it is important to establish the following links: (1) with Adam, as the head of the human race; (2) with Abraham as the father of the nation; and, (3) with David as Israel’s model king. In the world there is a fascination with ancestry and its role in the history of nations, but, as believers, we rest in the knowledge that He who chose to record these names here knows also their history and their journeying. Indeed, He knows all His creatures and His own people by name.<
It should also be noted that the names given may also vary with other passages of scripture. This variation in spelling provides evidence of the date of writing of the book and that the pronunciation of many names differed from their early pronunciation owing to changes in dialect brought about by the captivity.9<
Rossier offers a further note of caution appropriate before we consider the lists of names; ‘Yet we should … note that … Jewish genealogies present innumerable difficulties. First, very frequently those who are called the son of so-and-so are not necessarily his children at all … Then there are cases where the head of a clan is regarded as the father of a generation, all the generations between being omitted. There are cases where through the “right of redemption” a distant relative … becomes the head of an extinct family. There are those cases, very frequent during the captivity, where one family took a place in the inheritance of another family which had disappeared … There are cases too where, the name of ancestors being missing, the name of the birthplace replaced, so to say, the name of the family head. There are cases, common among the Jews, where a person had more than one name … And lastly there are cases where an abridged genealogy was given, the names indicated being nothing more than a few pointers to establish the line of descent’.10
By Simon Sherwin Innerleven, Fife, Scotland<
The two books of Kings and 2 Chronicles cover the period of the monarchy from the reign of Solomon down to the captivity of the nation of Judah in Babylon. Whilst, during the period of the divided kingdom from Rehoboam and Jeroboam I onwards, Kings deals with the history of both kingdoms, Chronicles confines itself to the southern kingdom of Judah, only mentioning Israelite kings when they have a bearing on the history of Judah. The view of Chronicles regarding the northern kingdom of Israel is summed up in chapter 10 verse 19, ‘And Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day’. The existence of the northern kingdom was a denial of the essential unity of the nation of Israel as a whole. Whilst the chronology of the books of Kings until the captivity of the northern kingdom therefore is somewhat convoluted, because the writer is weaving together two separate histories, the narrative in Chronicles is much more straightforward. Although based on contemporary sources, which are often cited, both Kings and Chronicles are the work of a later author, though in neither case is the author known.
In crude terms, Kings is written to explain why the exile was inevitable and that God is just in His judgements. Chronicles, on the other hand, is much more positive, stressing the possibility of recovery. In New Testament terms, Kings could be related to the Great White Throne, where every man is judged ‘according to their works’, Rev. 20. 13. Chronicles is the Judgement Seat of Christ, where what is to be commended is brought to light and ‘every man shall have praise of God’, 1 Cor. 4. 5. Of course, this can only be true in general terms for, sadly, in Chronicles, not every king can be commended. However, it is certainly true that several kings receive commendation whom we would have completely written off, had we only the account in Kings to go by. Kings is a book that deals with sin and its consequences. Chronicles, in contrast, deals with the possibilities and potential when the Lord is given His place, however imperfectly or briefly.
1. The reign of Solomon, chh. 1-9;
2. The divided kingdom – the history of Judah and its kings, chh. 10-36.
1.1. Solomon’s wisdom and wealth, ch. 1;
1.1.1 Solomon asks for wisdomvv. 1-13;
1.1.2 Solomon’s wealth, vv. 14-17.
1.2. Preparation for the Temple, ch. 2;
1.2.1 Materials requested from Hiram of Tyre, vv. 1-10;
1.2.2 Hiram’s response and Solomon’s payment, vv. 11-16;
1.2.3 The requisition of labour, vv. 17, 18.
1.3. Building the Temple, ch. 3;
1.3.1 Construction, vv. 1-6;
1.3.2 Cladding, vv. 7-14;
1.3.3 Columns and chapters, vv. 15-17.
1.4. The furniture for the Temple, ch. 4;
1.4.1 The brazen items, vv. 1-6; 9-18
1.4.2 The golden items, vv. 7, 8; 19-22.
1.5. The dedication of the Temple, chh. 5-7;
1.5.1 Solomon dedicating, 5. 1-14;
1.5.1 Solomon blessing, 6. 1-11;
1.5.3 Solomon praying, 6. 12-42;
1.5.4 Solomon sacrificing and feasting, 7. 1-11.
1.6. The fame of Solomon, chh. 7-9;
1.6.1 The Lord’s promise, 7. 12-22;
1.6.2 Solomon’s cities, 8. 1-16;
1.6.3 Solomon’s ships, 8. 17, 18;
1.6.4 The Queen of Sheba, 9. 1-12;
1.6.5 Solomon’s wealth, 9. 13-28.
2. The divided kingdom – the history of Judah and its kings, chh. 10-36.
2.1 Rehoboam and Jeroboam,chh. 10-12.
2.2 Abijah, Asa, Nadab, Baasha, chh. 13-16.
2.3 Jehoshaphat and Ahab, chh. 17-20.
2.4 Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehoiada, chh. 21-23.
2.5 Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, chh. 24-27.
2.6 Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, chh. 28-35.
2.7 Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah, ch. 36.
H. L. Rossier, Meditations on the First Book of Chronicles, found here: http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/rossier/1CHRON.html#a0 [my insertion]. One of the reasons Rossier gives for this assertion is: ‘the omissions in the genealogies in the first nine chapters of our book are a valuable testimony to the time at which it was written’.
J. N. Darby, Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, Volume 1, Morrish, pg. 546.
See, for example, Dr. Kenneth Boa, 1 Chronicles, found here: https://bible.org/seriespage/18-1-chronicles.
See, for example, Ezra 2; 8; 10; Nehemiah 7; 10-12.
David Malick, An Introduction to 1 and 2 Chronicles, found at: https://bible.org/article/introduction-first-and-second-chronicles.
T. Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible, Galaxie Software, 2003.
1 Tim. 1. 4. See also Titus 3. 9.
H. L. Rossier, op.cit.
H. L. Rossier, op. cit.