Saint Jerome said, “The book of Chronicles, the epitome of the old dispensation, is of such importance that without it anyone who claims to have a knowledge of the Scriptures makes himself a fool.” Yet like many of the Writings, the third section of the Hebrew Scriptures, Chronicles is a much neglected book in the church today. Of course if we followed the Hebrew order of the Old Testament and put Chronicles last then we would not be as apt to overlook it. Psalms, opening the Writings, and Chronicles, closing the Writings, are major books.
Ray Dillard’s commentary on 2 Chronicles notes also the following quote by A. Saltman: “anyone who claims to know Chronicles without having a thorough knowledge of Scripture would be making an even bigger fool of himself, for least of all books of the Bible can it be studied in isolation.” Chronicles assumes that you know the details of many of the Scriptures before it. We should not be surprised by this because the book was written from the perspective that careful study of the written Scriptures is of paramount importance.
Dillard says, “From its position at the end of the Hebrew canon and among the latest writings of the Old Testament, the Chronicles reflect on the history of the universe, from Adam to the Chronicler’s own day; there are few issues in the history of exegesis which are not in some way touched by these books, so that along with their richness, they involve the interpreter in a labyrinth of related questions.”
He explains the project of Chronicles this way: “Chronicles is through and through a theological essay; the Chronicler describes the past to demonstrate the validity of particular premises that addressed the needs of Israel in his own day. Chronicles is not only a writing of history; it is a tract.” Indeed, he says, “The data create two very strong impressions: that of a writer working carefully with a wide variety of reliable sources, and that of an able theologian ministering to his own people.”
The Dillard-Longman introduction explains that the reason the book is divided into two in English Bibles is due to the LXX (Septuagint, Greek) translation. There is no other reason to tear the book in half.
The Hebrew title is ”events/words of the days.” This is the same phrase, the Dillard-Longman intro notes, used for official histories cited elsewhere in the Bible (they give the following examples: 1 Kings 14:19, 15:31, 16:5, 14, 20, 27).
Only Chronicles covers the whole of human history until his own day. The Chronicler does so by using a genealogy. The Gospel of Matthew does something similar, however, Matthew’s genealogy is nowhere nearly as extensive as Chronicles and does not begin with Adam. The Gospel of Luke includes a genealogy that goes back to Adam, but that genealogy doesn’t really have the same purpose.
Chronicles was written during the postexilic era since he knows of the decree of Cyrus and includes at least two generations of the Davidic royal family line past Zerubbabel. The monetary value in 1 Chron 29:7 is told in darics, which were not used before 515 B.C. and would not have been a common currency for quite some time.
It is fitting that some argue the book may have been written by a Levitical musician. There is indeed much interest in the book in Levitical concerns, and the book answers the Psalms in the Writings. It appears to have a special interest in music compared to the Prophetic histories and does quote from the Psalms.
The Dillard-Longman introduction notes three major sections to the book: the genealogies (1 Chron 1-9), the united monarchy (1 Chron 10-2 Chron 9), and the post-schism kingdom (2 Chron 10-36). They say, “Although these ancient genealogies may be somewhat of a ‘turn-off’ to modern readers, the genealogies of the individual tribes contain many interesting features that repay the effort invested in studying them.” The nine chapters of genealogy look to be fun! When we turn to the stories of David and Solomon perhaps the most interesting thing is those things that the Chronicler did not mention – leaving out rebellions, the sin concerning the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and the sins of Solomon too. Certainly the Chronicler was well aware of these things, but he leaves them out for a reason.
One feature of the way that Chronicles is crafted that introduction calls ”recapitulative historiography.” Here the Chronicler will take ”an earlier incident from Israel’s history or from his own writings and [use] it as a paradigm or model to describe a subsequent situation.” Thus he will use the story of the succession of Moses to Joshua to describe the succession of David to Solomon. He also describes Solomon and Huram-abi as another Bezalel and Oholiab (recall Exodus). What this means then is that you may miss the point the Chronicler is trying to make if you too quickly move to see how his work harmonizes with that in Samuel or Kings. Some of the variations apparently also exist because Chronicles quoted other versions of Samuel or Kings, some of which were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Also often noted concerning Chronicles is the theology of immediate retribution. Here the point is to show that God did bless or condemn each generation based on their actions. The purpose for this was to make sure the audience knew that the punishment for their sins did not have to wait for a future generation.
Braun’s commentary on 1 Chronicles notes the following literary forms in 1 Chronicles: 1. genealogies (ch.1-8); 2. lists (1 Chron 9:3-23, 11:10-47, 12, and much of chapters 22, 28, 29); 3. speeches, sermons and prayers (like found in chapters 22, 28 and 29); 4. an unnamed genre (1 Chron 10-11, 13-14, 16, 17-21) consisting mainly of quotes from Samuel and Kings, chapter 16 from Psalms, with variations. Considering that unnamed genre, Braun says, ”One may ask what form of literature this is which draws so heavily upon a Scriptural source but feels free to alter details, to omit, and to expand as seems desirable. In large measure, the ostensible form of this literature is that which it exhibited in its earlier setting; however, that form has become largely insignificant in its new setting, and its earlier purpose has been adapted to a new one.”
Thus given all these things, you will benefit greatly from reading about Chronicles each week and reflecting on these books deeply.