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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1 Chronicles

- 1 Chronicles

by Thomas Constable

Introduction

TITLE

The earliest Hebrew title for the Books of Chronicles translates as, "The Things Left Behind." This name describes Chronicles as containing remnants of the monarchy history not recorded in the preceding Old Testament historical books. A later title that appears in most copies of the Hebrew Bible is, "The Accounts of the Days," or "Daily Matters." This title emphasizes the nature of Chronicles as official annals (cf. Est_2:23; 1Ki_14:19). Chronicles contains the official records of Israel’s kings, especially those of the Southern Kingdom after the kingdom split. The English title "Chronicles" comes down to us from Jerome’s statement that the books contained "the chronicle of the whole of sacred history." [Note: Quoted in Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 190.]

As was true of Samuel and Kings, the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Hebrew Old Testament was responsible for dividing the single Book of Chronicles into 1 and 2 Chronicles. Scribes divided these long books to make them easier for copyists and readers to handle. We could translate the Septuagint title as, "Things Omitted." This title implies that Chronicles contains material left out of other inspired histories of Israel. This is true, but it also contains much material that the former historical books included.

". . . fully 50 percent, of 1 & 2 Chronicles is the same material found in 1 & 2 Samuel , 1 & 2 Kings." [Note: David M. Howard Jr., An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books, p. 231. See also Eugene H. Merrill, "The Chronicler: What Kind of Historian Was He Anyway?" Bibliotheca Sacra 165:660 (October-December 2008):397-412.]

WRITER AND DATE

Early Jewish tradition recorded in the Babylonian Talmud ascribed the authorship of Chronicles to Ezra and Nehemiah. [Note: Baba Bathra 15a.] Modern studies of the linguistic differences that exist between the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles have led some scholars to reject this ancient view. [Note: E.g., Sara Japhet, "The Supposed Common Authorship of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah Investigated Anew," Vetus Testamentum 18 (1968):330-71.] Internal evidence suggests that if the writer was not Ezra and or Nehemiah, he was probably a contemporary of these men. It is very common today to speak of the unknown writer as "the Chronicler."

There is quite a bit of difference of opinion, even among conservative evangelical scholars, regarding the date of composition. Most of them place it within Ezra’s lifetime (ca. 450-400 B.C.). [Note: Cf. Bruce K. Waltke, "The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Text of the Old Testament," in New Perspectives on the Old Testament, pp. 212-39; Eugene H. Merrill, "1 Chronicles," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 589; Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 413; Gleason L. Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p. 405; and J. Barton Payne, "First Chronicles," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 367. See also John Bright, A History of Israel, p. 417.] This date would make Chronicles one of the last if not the last historical book of the Old Testament. In the Hebrew canon, 1 and 2 Chronicles conclude the third major section, the Writings, which also suggests that they were written late. The date of composition of Ezra was probably about 446 B.C. The Book of Nehemiah probably came into existence between 420 and 400 B.C. The date of writing of Esther was probably shortly after 473 B.C.

"It is now clear from comparison of Chronicles with the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Greek translations of the Pentateuch that the text Chronicles used was more like these texts than the MT [Masoretic Text]." [Note: J. A. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles, p. 23.]

Some scholars hold a date as early as the middle of the fifth century B.C. (450 B.C.), while others date Chronicles as late as 200 B.C. [Note: For further discussion, see Archer, pp. 405-7; R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 1153-57, 1169-71; or any of the major commentaries.]

"The best view is that Chronicles as a whole was in place by 500 B.C., but that additions as late as the early fourth century continued to be added, especially genealogies, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." [Note: Eugene H. Merrill, "1 Chronicles," in The Old Testament Explorer, pp. 294-95.]

SCOPE AND PURPOSE

Chronicles covers a broader period of history than any other Old Testament book. In this, it is similar to Matthew, which also covers all of human history from creation to the writer’s day. Chronicles begins with Adam and ends with Anani who lived eight generations after King Jehoiachin (1Ch_3:24). If we allow 25 years for each generation, the birth of Anani would have been between 425 and 400 B.C., assuming this genealogy is complete.

"In Near Eastern antiquity, the generation (that is the years between a man’s birth and his begetting his first-born son) is ordinarily 25 years or less." [Note: Frank M. Cross, "A Reconstruction of the Judean Restoration," Interpretation 29:2 (1975):192-93.]

Since the writer had great interest in David’s family, it is unlikely that any of David’s descendants after Anani was known to him when he wrote the book. If they had been, the writer probably would have included their names.

Other Old Testament books, especially Genesis, Samuel, and Kings, cover over half the material that Chronicles contains. [Note: See Appendix 1 at the end of these notes for a table of passages unique to Chronicles.] There are two main reasons for this repetition. First, the writer wanted to give his readers another version of those events. In this respect, Chronicles and the other historical books are similar to the Gospels in the New Testament. Each gives a unique interpretation and emphasis. Each writer selected the historical materials that would present what he wanted to emphasize. Chronicles is more similar to John’s Gospel than the other Gospels. Both books are very sermonic, and each has a purpose that is easy to identify (Joh_20:30-31; 2Ch_7:14). Chronicles is also similar to Deuteronomy, the last book of the Pentateuch, which also preaches by recalling history.

Second, the writer of Chronicles explained and expounded the meaning of many events in Israel’s history, much like the writers of modern commentaries do. This was especially important since the original readers of Chronicles needed to remember their history and the spiritual issues that had molded and would mold their destiny. These observations would guide them as they sought to reestablish Israel in the Promised Land after the Babylonian captivity.

"The purpose of these two volumes [1 and 2 Chronicles] is to review the history of Israel from the dawn of the human race to the Babylonian captivity and Cyrus’ edict of restoration. This review is composed with a very definite purpose in mind, to give to the Jews of the Second Commonwealth the true spiritual foundations of their theocracy as the covenant people of Jehovah. This historian’s purpose is to show that the true glory of the Hebrew nation was found in its covenant relationship to God, as safeguarded by the prescribed forms of worship in the temple and administered by the divinely ordained priesthood under the protection of the divinely authorized dynasty of David. Always the emphasis is upon that which is sound and valid in Israel’s past as furnishing a reliable basis for the task of reconstruction which lay ahead. Great stress is placed upon the rich heritage of Israel and its unbroken connection with the patriarchal beginnings (hence the prominence accorded to genealogical lists)." [Note: Archer, p. 404. See also Eugene H. Merrill, "A Theology of Chronicles," in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 158, 185.]

". . . ’the Chronicler’ is no mere chronicler! He is a theologian, sharing with all the biblical writers the burden of interpreting God’s ways to human beings." [Note: J. G. McConville, I & II Chronicles, pp. 2-3.]

The writer saw principles operating in history. He selected unmistakable instances of them and applied them to his own times.

"If Kings, composed after the final collapse of the kingdom in 586 B.C., concentrates on how sin leads to defeat (2Ki_17:15; 2Ki_17:18), then Chronicles, coming after the two returns from exile in 537 and 458 B.C., recounts, from the same record, how ’faith is the victory’ (2Ch_20:20; 2Ch_20:22)." [Note: J. Barton Payne, "1, 2 Chronicles," in I Kings-Job, v. 4 of The Expository’s Bible Commentary, p. 303.]

". . . the Chronicler goes even further than the Deuteronomic historian [i.e., the writer of 1 and 2 Kings] in attempting to correlate blessing with faithfulness and judgment with disobedience within each separate generation." [Note: H. G. M. Williamson, 1 and 2 Chronicles, p. 31.]

Another statement of the purpose of Chronicles is as follows:

". . . to rally the returned remnant to hopeful temple worship . . . by demonstrating their link with the enduring Davidic promises." [Note: Jeffrey Townsend, "The Purpose of 1 and 2 Chronicles," Bibliotheca Sacra 145:575 (July-September 1987):283. Cf. John Goldingay, "The Chronicler As a Theologian," Biblical Theological Bulletin 5:2 (June 1975):99-126; and Kenneth R. Cooper, "King and Cultus: A Suggested Framework for a Theology of the Chronicles," Journal of Dispensational Theology 12:36 (August 2008):63-83.]

"The past is explained so that its institutions and religious principles become relevant to the present, and the ways of the present are legitimized anew by being connected to the prime source of authority-the formative period in the people’s past." [Note: Sara Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and Its Place in Biblical Thought, pp. 515-16.]

DISTINCTIVE CHARACTERISTICS

Three major features of Chronicles appear when we isolate the material the writer included that is not in Samuel or Kings. First, the genealogies reflect the writer’s goal of encouraging Israel’s racial and religious purity. [Note: See M. D. Johnson, The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies, pp 77-82. He identified nine purposes.] Second, the emphases on the temple, ark, and worship show his desire that the returned exiles reestablish worship according to the Mosaic Law. [Note: See Roddy L. Braun, "The Message of Chronicles: Rally ’Round the Temple," Concordia Theological Monthly 42:8 (September 1971):502-14.] Third, the record of David’s glories and the victories God gave his successors were his way of encouraging his original readers as they sought to reestablish their nation in the Promised Land. [Note: Payne, "1, 2 Chronicles," pp. 313-14. See Werner E. Lemke, "The Synoptic Problem in the Chronicler’s History," Harvard Theological Review 58 (1965):349-63.]

Conservative students of Chronicles differ in their opinion concerning the amount of Messianic expectation the Chronicler held out to his readers. My belief is that he presented much hope of a coming Messiah who would fulfill the promises given to David in the Davidic Covenant. I shall point this out at the appropriate places in the notes that follow. [Note: For a review of the history of the study of Chronicles, see Sara Japhet, "The Historical Reliability of Chronicles," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 33 (October 1985):83-107.]

"I regard Chronicles as one of the richest mines of spirituality in all of Scripture." [Note: Simon J. De Vries, 1 and 2 Chronicles, p. xiv.]

OUTLINE

I.    Israel’s historical roots chs. 1-9

A.    The lineage of David chs. 1-3

B.    The house of Israel chs. 4-7

1.    The family of Judah 1Ch_4:1-23

2.    The family of Simeon 1Ch_4:24-43

3.    The families of Transjordan ch. 5

4.    The family of Levi ch. 6

5.    The remaining families of Israel ch. 7

C.    The lineage of Saul chs. 8-9

II.    The reign of David chs. 10-29

A.    The death of Saul ch. 10

B.    David’s coronation and capital 1Ch_11:1-9

C.    David’s mighty men 1Ch_11:10 to 1Ch_12:40

D.    David and the ark chs. 13-16

1.    The removal of the ark from Kiriath-jearim ch. 13

2.    Restoring fellowship with Yahweh ch. 14

3.    The importance of the priests and Levites 1Ch_15:1-15

4.    The joy produced by God’s presence 1Ch_15:16 to 1Ch_16:6

5.    David’s concern for the universal worship of Yahweh 1Ch_16:7-43

E.    God’s covenant promises to David chs. 17-29

1.    The first account of God’s promises to David chs. 17-21

2.    The second account of God’s promises to David chs. 22-27

3.    The third account of God’s promises to David chs. 28-29

 

(Continued in notes on 2 Chronicles)

Appendix 1

Passages Unique to Chronicles
(In probable chronological order)
[Note: Compiled from W. D. Crockett, A Harmony of the Books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles.]
GenealogiesThe genealogical tables1 Chronicles 1-9
DavidThe list of the men who came to David at Ziklag1Ch_12:1-7
The list of the men who joined David on his way to Ziklag1Ch_12:19-22
Data concerning the number of warriors who made David king1Ch_12:23-40
The Gadites who "separated themselves unto David"1Ch_12:8-15
David’s hymn of praise when he moved the ark1Ch_16:4-36
David’s final preparations for the building of the temple1Ch_22:1-19
The national convention1Ch_23:1 to 1Ch_29:22
SolomonThe making of the altar of brass2Ch_4:1
The close of Solomon’s dedicatory prayer2Ch_6:40-42
RehoboamThe adherence of the Levites in all Israel to Rehoboam2Ch_11:13-14
The immigration of other pious Israelites to Judah2Ch_11:16-17
Rehoboam’s fortifications2Ch_11:5-12
Rehoboam’s family2Ch_11:18-23
AbijahAbijah’s family2Ch_13:21
AsaThe ten years of peace under Asa2Ch_14:1
Asa’s defense policy2Ch_14:6-8
Asa’s victory over Zerah the Ethiopian2Ch_14:9-15
The warning of the prophet Azariah2Ch_15:1-7
The four years of peace under Asa2Ch_15:19
The renewal of the covenant2Ch_15:9-15
The warning of the prophet Hanani2Ch_16:7-9
Asa’s transgression2Ch_16:10
JehoshaphatJehoshaphat’s strengthening of his kingdom2Ch_17:1-7
The mission of the princes, Levites and priests2Ch_17:7-9
Jehoshaphat’s increasing power2Ch_17:10 to 2Ch_8:1
The prophet Jehu’s judgment on Jehoshaphat2Ch_19:1-3
Jehoshaphat’s further reforms in worship and law2Ch_19:4-11
The deliverance from Moab and Ammon on Mt. Seir2Ch_20:1-30
JehoramThe posthumous message of Elijah to Jehoram2Ch_21:12-15
The invasion of the Philistines and Arabians2Ch_21:16-17
Jehoram’s illness2Ch_21:18
JoashJoash’s matrimonial affairs2Ch_24:3
The temple worship2Ch_24:14
The death of Jehoiada2Ch_24:15-16
The sins of Joash2Ch_24:17-19
The stoning of Zechariah2Ch_24:20-22
The reverses of Judah due to Hazael’s operations2Ch_24:23-24
AmaziahAmaziah’s planned expedition against Edom2Ch_25:5
Amaziah’s hiring of 100,000 mercenaries out of Israel and dismissing them2Ch_25:6-10
The pillage of the cities of Judah by the dismissed mercenaries2Ch_25:13
Amaziah’s further wickedness2Ch_25:14-16
UzziahUzziah’s success in war2Ch_26:6-8
Uzziah’s building and farming2Ch_26:9-10; 2Ch_26:15
Uzziah’s army2Ch_26:11-14
Uzziah’s fame2Ch_26:8; 2Ch_26:15
JothamJotham’s subjugation of the Ammonites2Ch_27:5-6
AhazObed the prophet’s obtaining the release of the Jewish captives during Ahaz’s war with Rezin and Pekah2Ch_28:9-15
The Edomite and Philistine invasions under Ahaz2Ch_28:17-19
HezekiahThe cleansing of the temple by Hezekiah2Ch_29:3-19
The consecration of the temple2Ch_29:20-36
Preparations for the Passover2Ch_30:1-12
The keeping of the Passover2Ch_30:13-22
The keeping of "other seven days"2Ch_30:23-27
Hezekiah’s further religious reforms2Ch_31:1-21
Hezekiah’s wealth and building2Ch_32:27-30
Sennacherib’s second entry into Judah for invasion2Ch_32:1
Hezekiah’s precautions in view of Sennacherib’s second entry into Judah for invasion2Ch_32:2-8
Hezekiah’s renewed prosperity2Ch_32:23
ManassehManasseh’s captivity2Ch_33:11
Manasseh’s repentance and restoration2Ch_33:12-13
The acts of Manasseh after his restoration2Ch_33:14-16
The spiritual condition of the people2Ch_33:17
JosiahJosiah’s early reformations2Ch_34:3-7
CaptivityThe length of the captivity2Ch_36:20-21
Cyrus’ proclamation permitting return from the captivity2Ch_36:22-23

Appendix 2

Numbers in Chronicles That Disagree
With Their Old Testament Parallels
[Note: Content from Payne, "1, 2 Chronicles," p. 561.]
HigherSameLowerParallel PassageEvaluation of Chronicles
A1Ch_11:11300 slain by Jashobeam, not 8002Sa_23:8Scribal error
B1Ch_18:4Hadadezer’s 1,000 chariots and 7,000 horsemen, not 1,000 [chariots] and 700 horsemen2Sa_8:4Correct
C1Ch_19:18 a7,000 Syrian charioteers slain, not 7002Sa_10:18 aCorrect
D1Ch_19:18 b [Note: The number is the same in 1 Chronicles and in 2 Samuel, but Payne listed the number in 1 Chronicles as lower, for some reason. The difference is not in the number but in the type of soldier described.] and 40,000 foot soldiers, not horsemen2Sa_10:18 bCorrect
E1Ch_21:5 aIsrael’s 1,100,000 troops, not 800,0002Sa_24:9 aDifferent objects
F1Ch_21:5 bJudah’s 470,000 troops, not 500,0002Sa_24:9 bMore precise
G1Ch_21:12Three years of famine, not seven2Sa_24:13Correct
H1Ch_21:25Ornan paid 600 gold shekels, not 50 silver2Sa_24:24Different objects of purchase
I2Ch_2:23,600 to supervise the temple construction, not 3,3001Ki_5:16Different method of reckoning
J2Ch_2:1022,000 baths of oil to Hiram’s woodmen, not 20 kors (=200 baths)1Ki_5:11Different objects
K2Ch_2:183,600 to supervise the temple construction, not 3,3001Ki_5:16Different method of reckoning
L2Ch_3:15Temple pillars 35 cubits, not 181Ki_7:15Scribal error
M2Ch_4:5Sea holding 3,000 baths, not 2,0001Ki_7:26Scribal error
Numbers in Chronicles That Disagree
With Their Old Testament Parallels (cont.)
N2Ch_8:10250 chief officers for building the temple, not 5501Ki_9:23Different method of reckoning
O2Ch_8:18450 gold talents from Ophir, not 4201Ki_9:28Correct or scribal error
P2Ch_9:16300 gold bekas per shield, not 3 minas1Ki_10:17Different method of reckoning
Q2Ch_9:254,000 stalls for horses, not 40,0001Ki_4:26Correct
R2Ch_22:2Ahaziah king at 42 years, not 222Ki_8:26Scribal error
S2Ch_36:9Jehoiachin king at 8, not 182Ki_24:8Scribal error

There is a total of 19 disagreements out of 213 paralleled numbers. Note that K repeats I above.

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