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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

1 Chronicles

- 1 Chronicles

by Editor - William Robertson Nicoll

The Message of the Books of Chronicles

The chief interest in the study of the books of Chronicles as a whole turns on the contrast which they present to the books of Kings. The books, or rather the book for in the Hebrew Canon it is one of Chronicles, along with the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, forms the second great group of historical writings preserved in the Old Testament. Its character may be best brought out by exhibiting the series of contrasts it presents to the book of Kings.

I. In Chronicles we do not have history viewed from the standpoint of a contemporary, but the history looked back on, and interpreted in the light of God's dealings with His people through three hundred years. 'Samuel' might be called the Book of the King; 'Kings,' the Book of the Kingdom; while 'Chronicles' would have to be called the Book of the House. It is indeed more a history of the temple than of the people. Chronicles differs from Kings very much as Church history differs from ordinary history. The writer of Chronicles was a man of the priestly craft, in all probability a Levite, and his aim is to show how God revealed Himself specially in the religious life of the people.

II. If, with all this in our minds, we now turn to the book itself, we shall see how fully it is borne out by what we find there. The writer starts with Adam. He passes rapidly down the history, treating it in the most general manner, except when he comes to the tribe of Judah. When the writer passes from genealogies to history he shows quite clearly where his interest lies. Saul is disposed of in one chapter. The early history of David is treated in the most cursory manner. But when he comes to the account of the taking of the Ark up to Jerusalem he gives three chapters to this. The story of Solomon's reign is given in full, in order to show how David's preparation for the building of the temple was carried out. Beyond all question, Chronicles is didactic history, that is, history written with a purpose.

III. The book of Chronicles is occupied from beginning to end with magnifying God, and giving Him His right place in Israel. The fear of God is the foundation of all national prosperity. Israel was God's peculiar people. He had bound up her national existence with Himself. Now, at every stage of his book the chronicler impresses this lesson upon Israel. You cannot do without God, is the cry which rings through his book. But this lesson which it was so important for Israel to learn is the great lesson of life. For the nation and for the individual alike, prosperity is bound up with giving God His right place. So Israel found; so we shall find.

G. H. C. Macgregor, Messages of the Old Testament, p. 155.

The First Book of Chronicles

The books of Chronicles cover the period of history in 1 and 2 Kings. The distinctive note of the books is that of religion and its bearing on the national life. This book may be divided into two parts.

I. Genealogies. The period included in these genealogical tables is that from Adam to the restoration under Nehemiah, which are not exhaustive but serve a clearly defined purpose in that they indicate the Divine choice of the channels through which God moved to the accomplishment of His purpose. In tracing these genealogies it is interesting to notice how choice is based upon character; and moreover, how in the Divine progress there is constant deviation from the line of merely natural descent. A long section is devoted to the priestly tribe, and this division ends with the story of the death of the king chosen by men. Saul was a man than whom no other had greater opportunities, but his failure was disastrous.

II. David. In this division of the book there are four movements, the story of David's crowning events connected with the ark of God, the account of his reign, and matter concerning the building of the temple. Before coming to the last charges of David, in a parenthetical section, we have an idea of the internal order of the kingdom under the government of David. This chapter is a striking revelation of the fact that the greatness of David as a king was not confined to his victories in war. He was no less great in the arts of peaceful administration. There is no doubt that under the reign of David the Hebrew people realized their greatest strength even though they did not reach the height of their material magnificence. The book ends with an account of the solemn charge he gave to Solomon, and of the ceremony in which he gave to the Lord all that he had gathered for the carrying out of the work of the temple. Finally the chronicler declares that David 'died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour'.

G. Campbell Morgan, The Analysed Bible, p. 197.