In Praise of 1 Chronicles!

Posted on January 19, 2022

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By David Ettinger

Note: Much of the information in this blog comes from Eugene H. Merrill in his introduction to 1 Chronicles from the book, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, edited by Walvoord and Zuck.

Not the Easiest “Read”
This morning I read the first 10 chapters of 1 Chronicles. Admittedly for most, it is not the most enjoyable “read” in the Bible.

I, however, thoroughly enjoy this book (a word on this at the conclusion). The reason why the Book of 1 Chronicles can be difficult and even, for some, a bit tedious, is because of its extensive genealogies and lists of names. It can be monotonous trudging through 29 chapters of names.

On the other hand, the Book of 2 Chronicles is a great read! It expands on certain elements of previous historical Bible books, and almost comes off as a novel, what with its great narratives and insights into the featured personalities. But not so much 1 Chronicles.

With this in mind, I’d like to pay tribute to 1 Chronicles, and in so doing, you too may gain a greater appreciation of it.

Getting to Know the Chronicles
The first thing to know about 1 and 2 Chronicles is that it was originally one book. In Hebrew, this single book was called dibre hayyamim, which means, “the words concerning the days.”

So when did this 1 book become 2? The earliest evidence is found in the Septuagint – the Greek version of the Old Testament produced in about 200 B.C.

Jewish tradition leans to Ezra as the author of the 2 books, but this cannot be proven. Many scholars believe the Chronicles were written by a Levitical scribe. Scholars also generally believe that the unity of the Chronicles supports the one-author-belief.

One of the key components of the Chronicles is the number of sources the author used. These include:

  •  “the book of the annals of King David” (1 Chronicles 27:24).
  • “the books of the kings of Israel and Judah” (2 Chronicles 16:11; 25-26; 28:26; 32:32)
  • “the book of the kings of Israel” (1 Chronicles 9:1; 2 Chronicles 20:34)
  • “the annals of the kings of Israel” (2 Chronicles 33:18)
  • “the records of Samuel the seer” (1 Chronicles 29:29);
  • “the records of Nathan the prophet” (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29)
  • “the records of Gad the seer” (1 Chronicles 29:29);
  • Ahijah the Shilonite, Iddo the seer (2 Chronicles 9:29).

According to Merrill: “The author was a meticulous historian who carefully utilized official and unofficial documents.”

In all, 1 and 2 Chronicles parallels more than half of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.

The Date of Chronicles
Most scholars attribute the writing of Chronicles to about 400 B.C., though some say between 450 and 430 B.C. Both these timeframes are also attributed to the authorship of Malachi.

It’s quite possible that Chronicles was written after Malachi, which would make it the last Old Testament book written, though Malachi covers the later part of Israel’s history.

Maybe.

Why maybe? According to Merrill, the latest person named in Chronicles is Anani, of the 8th generation of Jehoiachin (1 Chronicles 3:24), who went into Babylonian captivity in 598 B.C. If 25 years are allotted for each generation, Anani would have been born between 425 and 400 B.C. This gives credence to the later-date (400 B.C.) authorship of Chronicles, and points to the fact that it rivaled Malachi for “latest historical Old Testament reference” honors.

The Purpose of Chronicles
Basically, Chronicles is a historical account of the “days” of the Davidic kings of Israel and Judah. The time period of the book – regarding narrative rather than genealogy – is Adam through the decree of Persian king Cyrus in 538 B.C.

The focal point of the Chronicles is the life of David and the monarchy of the southern kingdom of Judah. Therefore, the northern kingdom of Israel gets very little mention.

If there is a “star” of Chronicles, it is King David, whose reign takes up 19 chapters (1 Chronicles 11-29). The reign of his son Solomon is covered in the first 9 chapters of 2 Chronicles, and the Davidic monarchy is related in 2 Chronicles Chapters 10-36.

Another major theme of the Chronicles is Israel’s religious life, accounting for the book’s focus on the priestly and Levitical lines (1 Chronicles 1-9).

Throughout Chronicles, much attention is paid to the temple and temple worship from the time of David onward.

Why this emphasis?

The Chronicles was written long after the monarchy had ceased as a viable institution, when political and religious power became more and more the priesthood’s responsibility. This explains the focus on the priesthood.

There was another important emphasis of the Chronicles – the building of Messianic expectation. Merrill writes: “The twin emphases of 1 and 2 Chronicles – on David as king and the priesthood as a royal function with messianic implications – is central to a theological understanding of these books.”

Seeing the Davidic dynasty as a precursor for the coming Messiah no doubt contributed heavily to the seeming “slant” of the author’s portrayal of David. Though some of his sins are mentioned, the major omission of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and plot to kill Uriah is notably absent.

My Thoughts
Knowing more about the background of Chronicles certainly increases my interest in this “divided book.” Yet, there is still the issue of 1 Chronicles, which is dominated by genealogies and lists consisting of oodles and oodles of names.

When reading 1 Chronicles, I challenge myself to search for little gems here and there. For instance, we have the reference to Jabez’s prayer, which makes me think of the controversial mega-seller written by Bruce Wilkinson.

Another gem is when I recognize among the myriad of names one of obscurity which is referenced in the Samuel and/or Kings books. I love when that happens.

Another thing I enjoy about 1 Chronicles is that though the plethora of names are rather unsensational, it does make me consider the truth that individuals are important to God, all lives are precious to him, and all people have the potential of leaving some kind of mark on this world as God enables them.

But more than anything, perhaps the most significant reason I love 1 Chronicles is that it is part of God’s Word which He ordained would stand throughout the annals of human history. God included 1 Chronicles in His precious Holy Word, and He wants His people to read it.

It is part of His divine and sovereign communication to the human race, and for this reason alone, I love the Book of 1 Chronicles – multitudinous genealogies and all.

So, though not the most quoted or read book of the Bible, 1 Chronicles is one all Christians should read. Sadly, many Christians skip over it, and give it little thought.

Not me, however, for I have not come to bury 1 Chronicles, but to praise it!