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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

- 1 Chronicles

by Multiple Authors

First Chronicles

OVERVIEW: The book of Chronicles reports a detailed genealogy of the kingdom of Judah, demonstrating how all human beings are derived from a single man and how our Savior the Son of God descended from it. In addition, it describes the cities and the tribes that followed one another in the land of God after the captivity in Egypt

THE GENEALOGY OF JUDAH. There is abundant information in the books of Chronicles which were written to continue the books of the Kings and to preserve the memory of such important events. The first book begins with a genealogy that sets out to demonstrate how the human race came from a single man. Since it focuses only on the single kingdom of Judah, it can tell us about its cities and the villages, and from where they took their names. Here we come to know Nathan, from whom the blessed Luke constructed the beginning of his genealogy of our Lord and Savior, Son of David and Solomon’s brother on his mother’s side: “The following children were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimeah, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon, that is, the four children he fathered with Bersabea, daughter of Ammiel.” And Rechab herself, who is mentioned in many books of Scripture, is said to have come from the tribe of Judah.

It also clearly explains why Reuben lost his birthright and Joseph gained it and also, finally, the reason why the tribe of Judah obtained the highest honor: “The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel. He was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel, so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright; though Judah became prominent among his brothers and a ruler came from him, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph.” It also explains the reason why such a great honor was conceded to Joseph. By the will of God Judah had the dignity of receiving the Lord who was born from him according to the flesh. This is the sense tacitly expressed with the words “a leader from him.” Indeed the passage seems to assert that not only the kings of the earth derived from Judah, but also the eternal king himself who had no beginning and will never end.

It also describes the situation of the tribes beyond the Jordan, those of Reuben and Gad, and even the tribes of Manasseh which later were received into those of the Hagarites and the Itureans, and talks about the tribes of the Naphiseans, and all those peoples who entered into conflict with them. In addition the text relates how they fought and won, and made the Hagarites flee. And it also reports the reason for the victory: “When they received help against them, the Hagarites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried to God in the battle, and he granted their entreaty because they trusted in him.” It also describes the amount of the spoils of war: “They captured their livestock: 50,000 of their camels, 250,000 sheep, 2,000 donkeys and 100,000 captives. Many were slain because the war was from God. And they lived in their territory until the exile.”

THE GENEALOGY OF THE PRIESTS AND THE LEVITES. The genealogy of the priests and the Levites comes after this. It relates that Zadok, who was high priest at the time of David, had been the eleventh from Aaron; that Azariah, nephew of Zadok, had been the first to receive the priestly anointing in the temple built by Solomon. Among them there was also Jehozadak, who was brought to Babylon as a war prisoner. Jesus was his son, a high priest as well, who delivered the people from bondage together with Zerubbabel, and built a temple for the Lord. Here we also learn that Korah, who revolted against the great Moses, was a nephew of Isaar, son of Caath and brother of Amram, Aaron’s and Moses’ father. According to this lineage he was related to the first legislator. But he himself paid in the desert for his errors, although his children did not share the punishment of their father. From here Samuel came and then Aeman, who intoned Psalms and was a nephew of the prophet Samuel. In fact he was the son of Joel, son of Samuel. On the other hand, Asaph, one of the singers, came from the lineage of Gerson, son of Levi and brother of Caath. Aetham, who also belonged to the group of the singers, had Merari, the third son of Levi, as greatgrandfather.

The text also explains the difference between the priests and the Levites. It relates that the Levites were initiated into all the ministries of the holy altar of God: “But Aaron and his sons made offerings on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense, doing all the work of the most holy place, to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.” It seems to me, in fact, that this book was written after the return from Babylon. For this reason it also talks about the bondage and explains its cause: “So all Israel was enrolled by genealogies; and these are written in the book of the Kings of Israel. And Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their unfaithfulness. Now the first to live again in their possessions in their towns were Israelites, priests, Levites, and temple servants.” These accounts show that the book was begun after the captivity. Indeed no historian ever relates facts that happened afterwards, but what happened before or during his times. And actually only the prophets have the power to foretell the future. In addition it says that also those who had inhabited that land before them had been enslaved. And actually many of them still live with them: the Canaanites, Chettites, Jebusites, who had been their companions in such a misfortune. Also the priests and the Levites were brought into captivity with the Israelites. I believe that those who were called “the saints’ servants” were then called Nathinim. Many of them, in fact, consecrated themselves to the ministries of the priests and the Levites. There were among them also those who were entrusted with the carrying of the water, the gathering of wood and other necessary duties. Indeed, if it was imposed to the Gabaonites, who were foreigners, to follow Joshua in the praises and to perform some works as porters or carpenters, this task was even more the duty of the Israelites. As a proof of this I have found in the interpretation of Hebrew names that this name means “house of Iaō,” that is, “of the God who is.” The text, in fact, mentions the children of Israel and among them Judah and Benjamin, and Ephraim and Manasseh. It also mentions the priests and the Levites, who inhabited those cities. About the Korēnites it says that they derived from Korah. It also says that among them there had been the guardians of the temple of God as well, and it seems that this custom had been introduced by Samuel and David. “All these, who were chosen as gatekeepers at the thresholds, were two hundred twelve. They were enrolled by genealogies in their villages. David and the prophet Samuel established them in their office of trust. So they and their descendants were in charge of the gates of the house of the Lord, that is, the house of the tent, as guards. The gatekeepers were on the four sides, east, west, north, and south.”

In May 1690, French soldiers and their Indian allies raided the Anglo‐ American settlement in Casco Bay, Maine, brutally killing many of its inhabitants. The attack was one of many in King William’s War (1688–1697), a bitter struggle between France and England for sovereignty in the New World. Among the Abenaki Indians’ captives were Hannah Swarton, her three sons, and a daughter. Within two months, her eldest boy had been killed and the other children taken away. Swarton remained a prisoner, first of the Indians and then of the French, for five years. Following her release she provided an account of her ordeal, singling out the book of Chronicles as her main source of consolation:

And 2 Chronicles 6:36-39. was a precious Scripture to me, in the Day of Evil. We have Read over, and Pray’d over, this Scripture together, and Talk’d together of this Scripture, Margaret [a fellow captive] and I; How the Lord hath Promised, Though they were Scattered for their Sins, yet there should be a Return, if they did Bethink themselves, and Turn, and Pray. So we did Bethink our selves in the Land where we were Carried Captive, did Turn, did Pray, and Endeavour to Return to God with all our Hearts: And, as they were to Pray towards the Temple, I took it, that I should Pray towards Christ; and accordingly did so, and hoped the Lord would Hear, and He hath Heard from Heaven, His Dwelling Place, my Prayer and Supplication, and mentained my Cause, and not Rejected me, but Returned me. (C. Mather 1697: 70–71)

Swarton found justification in Chronicles of her suffering as well as a roadmap for deliverance. Her testimonial circulated widely as an appendix to a published sermon by Cotton Mather (1663–1728), the leading Puritan minister of his time. In his homily, Mather also focused on Chronicles, referencing another verse that spoke of salvation through humiliation and repentance (2 Chronicles 12:7) (C. Mather 1697). Swarton’s account was added to reinforce a prominent theme of Chronicles: God rewards the true penitent.

While Chronicles’ distinctive offerings have attracted devoted readers like Swarton and Mather in every age, for many today the book is unfamiliar terrain. Some modern commentators go so far as to judge Chronicles to be one of the least influential and interesting books of the Bible. They cite in particular its opening nine chapters of genealogies as a major stumbling block, causing readers to give up the fight even before they begin, and further characterize its narrative as repetitious (duplicating large portions of Samuel and Kings) and overly pious. In Chronicles’ account, most of David’s wrongdoings are omitted, as are those of Solomon. Also missing are many colorful triumphs, including David’s contest with Goliath and Solomon’s legendary judgment on the baby claimed by two mothers. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of the popular volume Biblical Literacy, declares that Chronicles is “the least read of the Bible’s historical books” (Telushkin 1997: 395), and the claim is not baseless. Anyone searching for selections from Chronicles in the Revised Common Lectionary – the three‐year cycle of weekly readings for Protestant churches – will seek in vain.

Yet Chronicles’ reception history demonstrates that it has commanded a highly attentive audience. Saint Jerome (c.347–420) was drawn to its succinct rendition of Israel’s past from Adam to the end of the Babylonian exile, and his admiration spawned its modern title. Jerome lauded the book for giving its readers “a chronicle of the whole of the sacred history” (Hieronymi Prologus Galeatus, NPNF2 6.490). For Jerome and countless other interpreters, up to and including the present, Chronicles’ offer of an alternative to the books of Samuel and Kings (primarily) is precisely what makes the book so significant. Its differences and deviations create interpretive opportunities for readers. In some cases, the variations can be dramatic. For instance, in Chronicles the prophet Oded admonishes his fellow Israelites of the Northern Kingdom to return their Judean prisoners, captured during Israel’s victory over King Ahaz. After clothing, feeding, and anointing their captives, the Israelites do so (2 Chronicles 28:8-15). This account, entirely absent from Kings, may have inspired the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 10:25-37).

Chronicles’ small and subtle shifts in tone or emphasis can be equally potent. The verses Swarton singled out (KJV 2 Chronicles 6:36-39) closely parallel Solomon’s dedication prayer in Kings (KJV 1 Kings 8:46-50), but the wording is not quite identical. In Chronicles, Solomon implores God alone for relief, whereas in Kings he includes a plea for the compassion of Israel’s captors. In choosing Chronicles, Swarton kept the focus on God’s acceptance of repentance and a return from captivity, to the exclusion of everything else.

The history of Chronicles’ reception is largely shaped by interpreters who have opted to stray from the account of Israel contained in Genesis through Kings, what David Noel Freedman has well termed the “primary history” (1962). In these instances, Chronicles’ version of events takes the place of, or is read alongside, what have tended to be considered the “standard” biblical accounts of Samuel and Kings. Even when it is not obvious, Chronicles almost always stands in relation to other passages of Scripture.

More about Chronicles

In the same way that Deuteronomy offers a second presentation of the law, the books of Chronicles offer a second recounting of the history of Israel. Christian Bibles include 1 and 2 Chronicles among the “historical books” after 1 and 2 Kings. In the Hebrew Bible and in Jewish tradition, both books of Chronicles constitute a unity, with the name of dibrê hayyâmîm (“the events of the days”) and are found in the Writings (ketubim), the third section of the Hebrew Bible. Chronicles had already achieved authoritative status by the second century bce, but with the exception of Jerome, the church fathers didn’t pay much attention to Chronicles. Neither did it enjoy a prominent place in Jewish tradition. The great Jewish scholar Don Isaac Arbarbanel (1437–1509) stated, “my transgressions do I mention today; I have never read this book in my life and never researched its issues—never before today!”

The book itself, like most of the literary works composed before the Hellenistic period, does not include a title or the name of its author. The name given to it by the Jewish sages and church fathers reflects their intention to describe or qualify its content.

Authorship and Relationship with Ezra and Nehemiah

The Talmud attributes part of the authorship of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah to Ezra, and part of it to Nehemiah. Medieval Christian scholars were not so certain. Hugh of St. Cher (c. 1200–1263 ce), a French Dominican, affirmed that the author was unknown, although he trusted the veracity of its content.

In the nineteenth century, the great majority of biblical scholars considered the book of Chronicles to form a unity with Ezra and Nehemiah. Nowadays, the consensus has moved into considering the book of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah as two different and independent works. The major arguments behind such a shift are differences in language and style peculiarities and the “substantive differences in theology, purpose, and perspective” between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah. Immediate divine retribution, a central theological motif in Chronicles, is not that relevant in Ezra-Nehemiah. The almost complete disregard for the exodus tradition and the Mosaic tradition is not as significant in Chronicles as it is in Ezra-Nehemiah. In Chronicles, there is hope of a future reunification with the northern kingdom (2 Chronicles 30:1-27), something absent in Ezra-Nehemiah. The “Levitical sermons,” a prominent feature of Chronicles, are completely absent in Ezra-Nehemiah. Some of the more recent major commentaries on Chronicles have both adopted such a position.


There is a certain agreement among scholars that Chronicles is a postexilic composition. But as Klein states, “the evidence for a more specific date within that period is thin and ambiguous”. The suggested dates by scholars range from 520 bce to 160 bce. Chronicles doesn’t indicate any Hellenistic influence, so there is some consensus to date the book during the Persian period (539–332 bce).

Literary Characteristics

Chronicles begins with a long genealogical section focused on biblical characters who are significant for the author’s theological purposes. Genealogies fulfill various functions in the Bible. Some are meant to show the relationship between Israel and the neighboring nations (Genesis 10:1-32; Genesis 19:36-38; Genesis 22:20-24; Genesis 25:1-6); others are used to bridge the temporal gap between events (Genesis 5:1-32; Genesis 11:10-27; Ruth 4:18-22); and others to bring together traditions from different origins (Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9). One of the characteristics of ancient historiography was the inclusion of discourses or speeches. As the Greek historian Thucydides (fifth century bce) stated regarding the uses of speeches in his history, “the speeches are given in the language in which, as it seemed to me, the several speakers would express, on the subject under consideration, the sentiments most befitting the occasion” (History of the Peloponnesian War 1.22). Chronicles includes several speeches and prayers: Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 6:14-42); Jehoshaphat when facing the Ammonites and Moabites (2 Chronicles 20:6-12); and a number of speeches labeled by Gerhard von Rad as “Levitical sermons” (2 Chronicles 15:2-7; 2 Chronicles 16:7-9; 2 Chronicles 19:6-7; 2 Chronicles 20:15-17; 2 Chronicles 20:20; 2 Chronicles 29:5-11). These speeches and sermons are a valuable source of information about Chronicles’ theological perspectives.

Chronicles as Genuine History

With the emergence of history as a scientific discipline under the leadership of figures like Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886), the positive valorization of Chronicles by the church fathers and medieval scholars suffered a strong blow. A more positive attitude toward the Chronicler was developed during the second half of the twentieth century. Contemporary scholarship tends to accept Chronicles as a valid historiographical work. “A consideration of the work’s relevant features, such as aim, plan, form, and method, must lead to the conclusion that Chronicles is a history, an idiosyncratic expression of biblical historiography.” The Chronicler acts as a historian when he gathers material and sources about the past of his community, decides what is significant for his time, and connects diverse events from his sources to produce a coherent narrative about the past. The difference between a mere past event and a historical event is, after all, how significant that event is for the present community. As Isaac Kalimi states, Chronicles “represent the principle of ‘each generation with his own historiography and historian.’ . . . Chronicles is the ‘right’ composition, ‘the true one,’ for its time, place, and audience.”

Works Used To Compose Chronicles

Chronicles abounds in citations of works used by the author to compose his narrative. The book of the kings of Israel and Judah is cited several times, although sometimes with a slightly different name (2 Chronicles 16:11; see 2 Chronicles 20:34; 2 Chronicles 25:26; 2 Chronicles 27:7; 2 Chronicles 28:26; 2 Chronicles 32:32; 2 Chronicles 33:18; 2 Chronicles 35:26; 2 Chronicles 36:8); there is also a mention of the midrash of the books of Kings (2Ch 3:22; 24:27). The Chronicler also refers to prophets or prophetic records like the acts of Samuel the seer, the acts of Nathan the prophet, the acts of Gad (1 Chronicles 29:29), the prophecy of Ahijah, and the visions of Iddo (2 Chronicles 9:29). The Chronicler is also familiar with the genealogical information provided by the books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Samuel, and Ruth. There is a citation of what is written “in the law of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 16:40), which possibly refers to the Pentateuch; and a reference to a book of laments, unknown to us, that included a “lament of Josiah” (2 Chronicles 35:25). The author seems to know the books of Isaiah (2 Chronicles 28:16-21), Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 36:21), and Zechariah (2 Chronicles 36:9). The Chronicler also used information from lists (1 Chronicles 6:1-15), and three canonical psalms (Psalms 96; Psalms 105; Psalms 106) are cited in 1 Chronicles 16. Without being exhaustive, this list of sources shows evidence of a dedicated historian at work.

1 Chronicles 1:1 to 1 Chronicles 9:44 : Genealogical Registry of Israel

Israel’s Ancestors (1 Chronicles 1:1 to 1 Chronicles 2:2)

The first chapter of Chronicles is based on genealogical information from the book of Genesis. The author distinguishes an antediluvian generation (1 Chronicles 1:1-23) and a postdiluvian generation (1 Chronicles 1:24—2:2), similar to Assyrian and Babylonian cosmogonic genealogies. The Chronicler begins the genealogy with Adam in order to emphatically place the people of Israel in the context of universal history. “Indeed, one can only appreciate the experience of Israel within its land if one has some understanding of lands and peoples relevant to Israel and how they are related to Israel”

Panorama Of Early History (1 Chronicles 1)

The genealogies and other dry-looking information in 1 Chronicles put off many readers from making a serious effort to study the book. And there is no denying that much of the factual information is, in itself, of very limited usefulness to us today. So one of the challenges involved in studying 1 Chronicles is to step back once in a while, in order to see the broader purpose behind the information that the chronicler has written down for us.

The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles parallel the four-book set of 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings. Yet the approach in Chronicles is different and more narrowly focused. Chronicles aims to teach us history, but with a particular emphasis on the interaction between history and holiness. The Chronicles account follows history primarily from the perspective of David’s family and the tribe of Judah. That family provided the kings of the more faithful half of Israel for several centuries, and that tribe was the ancestor of the Messiah Jesus.

The book begins with a sweeping review of the earliest names in the Bible (1 Chronicles 1:1-27). Some of these persons are still famous, while others have been forgotten and ignored since the day that they passed from this earth. But all of them were part of an important story, and all of them mattered to God. By reciting the names even of obscure persons with no obvious spiritual significance, God emphasizes that he seeks relationships with everyone he has created, whether the world considers them to be important or not.

Then comes the family of Abraham, who holds so much significance both historically and spiritually (1 Chronicles 1:28-34). An additional reason for following Abraham’s family line is to see how God fulfilled the many special promises that he made to the patriarch. Abraham’s family started at a time when most men would have been unable to have children, yet his descendants became "as numerous … as the sand on the seashore". Each of them in turn inherited at least some of the holy promises to Abraham himself.

It may seem odd for the chronicler to make such a lengthy digression to cover the genealogy of Esau’s descendants (1 Chronicles 1:35-54). Although the Edomites (Esau’s descendants) followed in Esau’s own faithlessness, they were still descendants of Abraham and brothers of the Israelites. They inherited many of the same promises, because God’s promises come by grace. And so for centuries God preserved the kingdom of Edom and protected it from harm - sometimes even from Israel. God’s promises to the Edomites were holy, even when the Edomites chose not to be.

This bare-bones list of names gives us a sweeping panorama of early Bible history. Some of these names remind us of interesting stories, or of great acts of faith, or sometimes of shameful acts of folly. Two overall lessons stand out above the rest. God’s intentions on this earth have always revolved around his desire personally to know the humans that he created and put here. Every soul, whether believer or not, is precious to God. And God’s promises are trustworthy. He can point to these names of real human beings to show how his promises have been heard, accepted, passed along, and enjoyed through the centuries.

A Holy Family (1 Chronicles 2:1 to 1 Chronicles 4:23)

The books of Chronicles are especially concerned with David’s family and the tribe of Judah. This was a holy family, not because of superior morality or outstanding achievement, but because through this family that God would provide leadership, national and spiritual, for so many believers over the centuries. Amongst other lessons, this family helps us understand that holiness has nothing to do with moral superiority, but simply means to belong to God.

After a fast-paced genealogy stretching from Adam all the way to Abraham’s grand-children, the chronicler now slows down to describe Judah’s descendants in considerable detail (1 Chronicles 2:1-54). Afterwards he will continue to go through the other tribes of Israel, but Judah gets the first place in his account. As a young man, the tribe’s patriarch was an insensitive brute like most of his brothers; yet he grew in maturity and in compassion to the point that his sacrificial love for others moved Joseph to tears.

As with Abraham’s family, the names in Judah’s line are significant in themselves, whether or not they are known for any personal characteristics or exploits. Judah was the tribe of the kings David and Solomon, and then of the royal line of the more faithful (southern) half of Israel in the following centuries. Even more importantly, Judah’s line served as the human ancestors of the Messiah Jesus. All of this makes Judah’s genealogy another important reminder of God’s faithfulness to his promises.

The line of David also holds special importance, for numerous reasons (1 Chronicles 3:1-24). David inherited and embodied the promises made to Abraham and to Judah. David lived at times as a king and at times as an outcast, as a rough shadow of the life of Jesus, his distant human descendant.

On the other hand, David’s messy family situation, with his numerous sons by various women, reminds us of David’s human side, and his complete dependence on God’s grace. Even with the Bible’s graphic depictions of Davis’s many faults and crimes, we have a tendency to mythologize David instead or realizing how much grace God had to pour out on him. The genealogical record provides at least one reminder of what David’s life was really like. David was holy not because he had some special level of righteousness, but because he belonged to God and rejoiced in it.

The other branches of Judah hold lesser importance for the chronicler, but the names of their descendants too are preserved in the chronicle (1 Chronicles 4:1-23). Alongside David’s descendants, the kings, and Jesus’ family, there lived many other descendants of Judah, unimportant to us but still precious souls to God. The genealogy here reminds us that the famous and prominent are but a small proportion of the souls in this world. God does not want us to forget Judah’s more obscure descendants, and he does not want us to forget anyone alive today, no matter how little the world values him or her. Every soul can be holy, because any soul can belong to God.

Judah’s Lineage (1 Chronicles 2:3 to 1 Chronicles 4:23)

This section consists of three parts:

(a) 1 Chronicles 2:3-55, the genealogies of the tribe of Judah;

(b) 1 Chronicles 3:1-24, the house of David; and

(c) 1 Chronicles 4:1-23, additional genealogies of the house of Judah.

The first part (1 Chronicles 2:3-55) stresses both the divine election of Judah and God’s intolerance toward unfaithfulness as exemplified in the case of Er, who “was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death” (1 Chronicles 2:3), and of Achar, “the troubler of Israel who transgressed in the matter of the devoted thing” (1 Chronicles 2:7). The importance of Ram (1 Chronicles 2:9-17), who is not the firstborn but occupies the first place on the list, is due to his ancestral relationship to David. In 1 Chronicles 2:13-15, David is listed as the seventh son of Jesse (according to 1 Samuel 16:6-9; 1 Samuel 11-13; 1 Samuel 17:13-14, Jesse had only four sons). Later tradition adopted the Chronicler’s view. David’s sisters are only mentioned here (1 Chronicles 2:16-17).

The descendants of Caleb are listed in 1 Chronicles 2:18-24. The first part of the genealogy (1 Chronicles 2:18-20) deals with Bezalel, a silversmith (see Exodus 31:2; Exodus 35:30), who although belonging to a period prior to David, is associated with David and the tabernacle in view of the future construction of the temple by Solomon. The second part (1 Chronicles 2:21-24) establishes a connection between Judah and a group of descendants of Gilead. It follows the descendants of Jerahmeel (1 Chronicles 2:25-41), and an additional list of descendants of Caleb (1 Chronicles 2:42-55).

David’s nineteen sons are enumerated (1 Chronicles 3:1-9), as are the kings of Israel (1 Chronicles 3:10-16) and the postexilic generation (1 Chronicles 3:17-24). The extension of David’s genealogy to such a late period reflects the importance of David’s descendants even during the restoration period (see Haggai 2). The best known of the genealogies contained in 1 Chronicles 4:1-23 is the one dedicated to Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9-10) and his prayer granted by God. The Hebrew version of this prayer presents some difficulties and perhaps would be best translated, “if you blessed me and enlarged my borders, and if your hand might be with me, and that you would extend lands of pasture.” This way, the greatest honor Jabez deserves could be attributed to the extension of his territory due to prayer and not to military force. The two genealogical sections of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:3-55 and 1 Chronicles 4:1-23) “form an envelope around the genealogy of David and his descendants, who are the centerpiece of the tribe of Judah in chapter 3”.

Generation After Generation (1 Chronicles 4:24 to 1 Chronicles 8:40)

The book of 1 Chronicles opens with an extensive genealogical table connecting Adam with Saul, and surveying many centuries of God’s efforts to seek humanity. It gives particular prominence to Judah, which produced both the original royal lineage of Israel and also the human ancestry of the Messiah Jesus. While the lengthy lists of unfamiliar names in these chapters may seem pointless, the chronicler is reminding us of the importance to God of every generation and person.

After the account of Judah, the genealogy Israel continues with Simeon, Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 4:24 to 1 Chronicles 5:26). The order of the genealogy deliberately varies from the birth order of the tribal patriarchs. Simeon, the second-born, comes after Judah, and only then comes the first-born Reuben. God was never bound by human rules of inheritance, for he gives everything by grace, not by law. Joseph’s two sons were given the family rights of the first-born, while it was Judah whose descendants would lead the nation.

The table for the tribe of Levi has a different focus (1 Chronicles 6:1-80). For centuries, the Levites shared all of the responsibilities for worship and sacrifice in Israel. The Levites had no land, and no physical inheritance like the other tribes. Instead, each clan and family held certain responsibilities, ranging from sacrifices to preparations to singing and more. Generation after generation, the Levities faithfully served in ways that were often unnoticed and unappreciated. The chronicler names many of these anonymous servants, as a reminder to us of how many faithful believers in every era do things that we may not notice, but that God appreciates.

The remaining tribes are covered more briefly (1 Chronicles 7:1-40). The chronicler doesn’t ignore them, but he has also made the points he wanted to make. All of these tribes were full of men and women whose souls mattered to God whether we know their names or not. Many of them were faithful, many were unfaithful. They all heard God’s Word and his promises, and made up their minds whether or not to believe in their hearts. From God’s perspective, he sees all this clearly; so he does not overreact to short-term developments the way that we do.

The chronicler does return to provide more detail for Benjamin, the tribe of Israel’s first king Saul (1 Chronicles 8:1-40). Benjamin had a tumultuous history, having nearly become extinct in the time of the Judges. In some respects Saul was typical of his tribe, strong but prone to self-destructive impulses. We do not know much about the other Benjamites listed here, but we do know that they played their small part in Israel’s history by preparing the way for Saul.

Generation after generation, new souls came and went on the earth, as they come and go today. The first few chapters of Chronicles record only a fraction of their names. It does not matter to God whether we think these chapters are "boring", for he cared about the faithless and the faithful alike. We cannot see the broad picture the way that God does, but we can remind ourselves once in a while that the world is always full of human beings and their spiritual needs.

Descendants of Simeon (1 Chronicles 4:24-43)

The tribe of Simeon comes after that of Judah due to geographical proximity. The cities that are listed in 1 Chronicles 4:28-33 were considered part of Judah from ancient times (see Joshua 19:2-8). In times when the people of Israel are dispersed and the prophets are proclaiming the future restoration of Israel ( Jeremiah 16:14-15; Jeremiah 23:7-8; Zephaniah 2:7-9), “the author revives the ideal of a larger tribal federation”

The Tribes of Transjordan: Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (1 Chronicles 5:1-26)

This section enumerates the descendants of Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:1-10), Gad (1 Chronicles 5:11-22), and the half-tribe of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 5:23-26). At the beginning of this section, the Chronicler clarifies the reason why Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, does not come first in his genealogy (see Genesis 29:31-32). The author’s interest in demonstrating that God often discards the firstborn (see 1 Chronicles 2:3; 1 Chronicles 26:10) seems to emphasize the fact that before God there are no natural rights, only the benefit of divine election. The section dedicated to Gad (5:11-22) points to the theology of the Chronicler when explaining the reason for military success. They cried to God in the battle (see 2 Chronicles 14:11-15; 2 Chronicles 20:5-30; 2 Chronicles 32:20-21) and God granted their wish (see 1 Chronicles 12:19; 1 Chronicles 15:26; 2 Chronicles 25:8; 2 Chronicles 32:8) because they trusted in him (see 2 Chronicles 32:10); therefore, the Hagrites and all those who were with them “were given into their hands” (5:20). The section dedicated to Manasseh (5:23-26) explains the reason for the exile of the northern tribes (see 2 Kings 17:7-23). Israel had transgressed against God (see 2 Chronicles 36:14), idolatry being one of the main issues; thus God sends a foreign army to punish his people (see 2 Chronicles 36:17), and the consequence is the exile (see 2 Chronicles 36:18-20).

Descendants of Levi (1 Chronicles 6:1-81)

The section is divided into two parts: the genealogy of the Aaronide priests and other Levites (1 Chronicles 6:1-53), and the settlements of the Levites (1 Chronicles 6:54-81). The lineages of David and Aaron (see 1 Chronicles 2:10-17; 1 Chronicles 3:1-16) are the only cases in which the generations are enumerated from the patriarchal era until the exile. The importance the Chronicler attributes to the Levites is evident in the number of verses dedicated to the tribe of Levi. Together with Judah and Benjamin, they capture the attention of the Chronicler in the genealogy section.

Tribes of the Central Mountainous Region (1 Chronicles 7:1-40)

Surprisingly, in the genealogies of both Manasseh and Ephraim, there is no mention of any stay in Egypt. Manasseh appears to be associated with Aramean groups in Canaan, from where he takes his wife (1 Chronicles 7:14-19), leaving aside the tradition of the stay in Egypt and emphasizing the continuity of the occupation of his territory (the northern part of the territory east of river Jordan). Something similar happens with the genealogy of Ephraim (1 Chronicles 7:20-29), who according to the Genesis narrative is born and dies in Egypt (Genesis 41:50-52; Exodus 16). However, in Chronicles, Ephraim is in no way associated with Egypt. Rather, Ephraim is presented as originally from and settled in Canaan. The narrative of the murder of his sons as the result of a conflict with Gath’s men and the foundation of three cities by his daughter Seerah, “who built both Lower and Upper Beth-horon, and Uzzen-sheerah” located in Canaan, does nothing but reinforce the local Canaanite emphasis, which the author of Chronicles places on Ephraim’s sons. In a similar vein, Joshua is presented as already established on the land, in contrast to the conqueror role he is given in the book that bears his name. His leadership in the conquest is omitted in Chronicles.

Additional Descendants of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 8:1-40; 1 Chronicles 9:1 a)

This new chapter, concerning the tribe of Benjamin, is structured in two sections: a list of Benjamite ancestral houses (1 Chronicles 8:3-32), and a genealogy of the family of Saul (1 Chronicles 8:33-40). While the previous section dedicated to Benjamin was centered on the military census (1 Chronicles 7:6-12), the current chapter is centered on geographical distribution.

Looking Back & Looking Ahead (1 Chronicles 9)

The book of 1 Chronicles starts with a genealogical overview of history up through the time of King Saul, and then proceeds with a more detailed history beginning with David. In the two books of Chronicles, the chronicler will continue this history through the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Although this is the main focus of the books of Chronicles, 2 Chronicles finishes with a brief statement about the return to Judah that began in 538 BC. Here in 1 Chronicles 9, the chronicler provides a transition into his main history by looking both backwards and forwards.

The people of Judah had been taken captive by the pagan Babylonians so that they could rebuild a spiritual identity and a new sense of belonging to the living God; and then they were allowed to begin coming back home (1 Chronicles 9:1-2). As we read Chronicles, it helps to have an awareness of what will happen over the course of the books. God is well aware that his people will alternate times of faithfulness and times of spiritual struggle - he loves us just as much either way, and he simply plans accordingly for our own good.

When the chronicler lists the families of those who lived in Jerusalem, it is ambiguous whether this is the generation that was exiled or the generation that returned (1 Chronicles 9:3-9). This could be deliberate, because one of the themes of Chronicles is a spiritual continuity, a continuing holiness of God’s people, that transcends generations and events. It is not of special importance whether the particular individuals named in these verses went into exile or returned from exile, because either way they served a worthwhile purpose in God’s eyes.

We too can learn from this. Too often we want to believe that there is something especially dramatic or exciting that is in store for our generation, for our own time and place. This is the flesh speaking, not God. Quiet faithfulness is of far greater value to God than it is to humans. Whether it is patient endurance during difficult times or humble gratitude during good times, God appreciates and rejoices over those who faithfully accept their calling.

The next section details the particular Levites who were given various duties, ranging from the priesthood to gatekeeping and many other responsibilities (1 Chronicles 9:10-34). This echoes the similar details recounted in chapter 6 - over the centuries the various families of Levites each had their particular responsibility, many of them rarely seen or appreciated by the community as a whole. The little bit of recognition that they get in 1 Chronicles, though, is nothing compared with the joy God has in knowing that these families did their jobs year after year, generation after generation, out of simple faith.

To complete the prolog of the book, the Chronicler repeats the genealogy of Saul that was previously given in chapter 8 (1 Chronicles 9:35-44). The redundancy brings us back to the situation at the start of the book’s main narrative, and it re-emphasizes the troubled spiritual situation of the nation during Saul’s reign. Centuries of history are already behind, but much more lies ahead.

The Postexilic Community (1 Chronicles 9:1-44)

On concluding the descendants of Jacob (1 Chronicles 1-8), the Chronicler adds a final section listing the inhabitants of Jerusalem, paying special attention to the priestly families (1 Chronicles 9:10-13), the Levitical families (1 Chronicles 9:14-16), and the gatekeepers (1 Chronicles 9:17-33).

The fact that many of the names found in this section are not found in other books of the Hebrew Bible led the Jewish sages to argue that the people listed in the genealogies are actually people mentioned in other parts of the Bible, but under different names. One medieval Jewish scholar commented that “even though what is written here cannot be found in any of the prophetic books you should not ask how Ezra knew all these things . . . for they are all traditions” Theodoret of Cyrus commented that the purpose of the genealogies was to establish that “all human beings are derived from a single man and how our Savior, the Son of God descended from it.” Some chapters deserved especial attention by Theodoret, like the genealogy of Judah, because of its connection with the genealogy of Jesus.

The genealogical section has a provisionary summary in the opening of chapter 9: “So all Israel was enrolled by genealogies; and these are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel” (1 Chronicles 9:1). It is likely that its main purpose is to delimit the essential character of exilic Israel; those who cannot prove their genealogically “pure” connection with the ancestors become suspicious. As with many contemporary communities of faith, the exilic community struggled to set standards that would clearly establish who belonged to the community and who did not. In times of crisis, when what is perceived as the core set of beliefs and practices is threatened, those criteria that determine who is and who is not a member of the community tend to become more specific and enforceable. Could this be the intention of the God who claimed through Isaiah of the exile, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19). Do statements of faith or genealogies serve or hinder the expected inclusive character of the community of the kingdom, here and now?

1 Chronicles 10:1 to 1 Chronicles 12:40 : Death of Saul and David’s Coronation

A Time Of Transition (1 Chronicles 10:1 to 1 Chronicles 11:3)

After the extensive genealogies and other historical information, the chronicler now turns to his main historical narrative. Passing over the turbulent reign of Saul, he focuses only on the king’s death and the ensuing time of transition for Israel. The chronicler is less interested in the mistakes for which God removed Saul from the throne than he is in the way that Saul’s life fits in with God’s overall plans and hopes for his holy people.

Saul’s tormented life and disappointing reign both end on the field of battle against the Philistines (1 Chronicles 10:1-7). Sensing his doom, Saul kills himself rather than giving "these uncircumcised fellows" the satisfaction. His sons also die, abruptly ending Israel’s first royal line. The terrified Israelites near the battle zone flee, abandoning their homes to the advancing Philistines. It looks as if the once promising era of Saul is ending in disaster - but in reality, it is the start of a better time.

Even after death, Saul’s body is subjected to abuse and indignity (1 Chronicles 10:8-12). The victorious Philistines take both his armor and his head as trophies, using them to decorate the temple of one of their "gods". This kind of barbarous act was considered normal in its time, yet we should not smugly assume that we are superior. Today’s "civilized" nations also have a long history of humiliating defeated foes, in ways that are merely a little less bloody or obvious.

Although Saul could be the subject of extensive commentary, the chronicler makes only one terse comment to explain his disastrous end (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). Saul made no huge strategic mistakes, and he did little that most believers today would consider to be especially sinful. But "he did not keep the word of the Lord" and "did not inquire of the Lord".

Saul simply acted based on the expediency of the moment. The book of 1 Samuel identifies two incidents that led to his removal as king: impulsively offering a sacrifice instead of waiting for Samuel (1 Samuel 13:7-15) and keeping some of the plunder from the Amalekites instead of offering it all as a sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:1-23). Both times, Saul’s mistake was to misuse holy things - things that belonged to God. This may not seem as bad as David’s acts of murder and adultery, but to God it is a more fundamental problem. God seeks humility above perfection, and in his own holiness he says, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6).

Meanwhile, God has already long before arranged for the start of a new era in Israel by preparing David to become king (1 Chronicles 11:1-3). David had numerous flaws of his own, but he understood the meaning and importance of holiness. He would never doubt that he belonged to God, and when confronted with his sins he would acknowledge them and confess them.

To the Israelites, David’s significance came from his famous defeat of Goliath and from his other military exploits; but even though they looked only on the surface, at least this time they were in accord with God’s will. David is made king at Hebron - Jerusalem did not yet belong to Israel; but in fact this would be one of David’s early accomplishments. A new era was beginning.

The death of Saul (1 Chronicles 10:1-14) is paralleled in 1 Samuel 31:1-13. For the Chronicler, the reign of Saul is more than a prologue to the history of David. Saul’s unfaithfulness will be remembered throughout the Chronicler’s work (2 Chronicles 26:16; 2 Chronicles 26:18; 2 Chronicles 28:19; 2 Chronicles 28:22; 2 Chronicles 29:5-6; 2 Chronicles 29:19; 2 Chronicles 30:7; 2 Chronicles 33:19; 2 Chronicles 36:14). It is summarized in 10:13, where Saul dies for disobeying the Lord by not keeping his commands and for seeking guidance from a medium instead of the Lord. The account of the death of Saul and his sons begins after 1 Chronicles 9:35-44. The battle takes place on Mount Gilboa, and the results are disastrous. Saul is terrified of what might happen to him if he falls into enemy hands. His apparent self-inflicted death on the battlefield is the only case of suicide in the Bible (see 2 Samuel 1:10, where Saul dies instead at the hand of an Amalekite). The Chronicler replaces “his armor-bearer and all his men” from 1 Samuel 31:6 with “all his house died together,” highlighting the end of the dynasty (1 Chronicles 10:6).

This is the only place in Chronicles where Yahweh directly intervenes to make a dynastic change. The Chronicler clearly points out that the death of Saul is a punishment for his sins. As Klein states, “What happened in the transition from Saul to David . . . was divine retribution at work, and even more, divine providence”,two essential elements of Chronicles’ understanding of history.

The Era Of David Begins (1 Chronicles 11:4 to 1 Chronicles 12:40)

Saul’s death in battle against the Philistines was a temporary setback for Israel, but it prepared the way for a new era. God had already prepared David to become Israel’s new king, and the new ruler got off to a fast and successful start. David proved popular with all kinds of different persons, and the early years of his reign held considerable promise.

One of David’s most legendary successes was to capture the fortified city of Jerusalem, which had been held by the Jebusites since before the time of Joshua (1 Chronicles 11:4-9). The Jebusites had seen many generations of Israelites prove incapable of dislodging them from their stronghold, and so they had become self-confident and boastful. But David ignores their taunts. Using both strength and strategy, he takes the city and makes it the new royal residence (replacing Hebron). Like so many other humans, the Jebusites are let down by their own pride.

Part of David’s influence as king stemmed from the famous "mighty men’ who surrounded him and added to his mystique (1 Chronicles 11:10-47). The chronicler details some of their most renowned feats of strength and bravery; and one anecdote in particular tells us a great deal about their relationship with David.

Once when David had been fighting near Bethlehem, he expressed an offhand wish to drink from a familiar old well. The three most famous "mighty men" take this as a special commission, and risk death to bring him a cup of water from the well. For his part, David is so moved that they risked their lives for him that he does not feel right drinking the water - instead he pours it out on the ground as a unique type of sacrifice. Even though most of these "mighty men" were mere roughnecks with little appreciation for David’s spiritual qualities, David’s ability to form such devoted friendships undoubtedly came in large part because of his own closeness with God.

In fact, even before David became king, he had attracted a sizable entourage of warriors and adventure seekers (1 Chronicles 12:1-22). Even when David was officially declared an outlaw because of Saul’s jealousy, large numbers of men from around the kingdom preferred to follow David rather than the king. Many of them came from Saul’s own tribe of Benjamin, doubly emphasizing the level of mutual respect that David was able to establish with those who met him.

Once David was made king, he drew an even more impressive measure of support (1 Chronicles 12:23-40). The chronicler gives the numbers of men who came from each tribe, emphasizing the widespread acclaim for the new king. Most of these fighting men came to Hebron without prompting, solely because what they knew about David made them ready and eager to see him made their king.

To be sure, both then and now military strength is overpraised. But a great deal of David’s ability to command such loyalty does seem to have come from something deeper than physical strength or even military accomplishments. Whether they realized it for what it was or not, a lot of these persons seem in their own way to have sensed the presence of God in David’s heart.

King David’s coronation is described in 1 Chronicles 11:1 to 1 Chronicles 12:40. Even though the material for this section comes from 2 Samuel 5, the Chronicler presents it with intent to highlight the divine intervention in favor of David. During Saul’s reign, David established his power center in Hebron (1 Samuel 30:31), and according to 2 Samuel 2:4, this is exactly the place where he is anointed king over the house of Judah. In Chronicles, all Israel is “together with” David, while in Samuel the tribes only “came” to David. Then David made a covenant with all the elders who had declared their union with the house of David: “we are your bone and flesh.” According to the Chronicler’s theological perspective, all this happened in accordance with what God had already announced through Samuel (1 Samuel 15:28; 1 Samuel 16:1-3).

The new dynasty needs a capital in neutral territory, and Jerusalem is the chosen place (1 Chronicles 11:4-9). Once again, it is “all Israel” who marches instead of “the king and his men” (2 Samuel 5:6). From this moment and until today, Jerusalem will be the city of David par excellence. The verse “David became greater and greater, for the Lord of hosts [sabaoth] was with him,” summarizes the essential elements of David’s ascent to the throne (1 Chronicles 11:9; 2 Samuel 5:10); “popular and divine election coalesce in establishing David’s rule”.

Jewish commentaries on the death of Saul focus on the question of whether it is legitimate to take one’s life when the alternative is facing unbearable pain or torture. The rabbis portrayed the transition from the house of Saul to the house of David as inevitable, irrespective of Saul’s behavior, because the “scepter shall not depart from Judah” (Genesis 49:10). Saul’s reign was, therefore, provisional and did not have any future. Gregory of Nazianzus compared the transition from Jebus to Jerusalem with the Christian transition from temple to word. Augustine read the destiny of David as an example of how futile it is to resist the will of God. Commenting on all the men who come to Hebron, Augustine states: “Obviously it was of their own will that these men made David king; the fact is clear and undeniable. Nevertheless, it was God, who effects in human hearts whatsoever he wills, who wrought this will in them.”

Around the year 1000 bce, Jerusalem became the capital of the nation of Israel and its religious and political center. Since then, the “City of David,” which never ceased to be the religious center of the Jewish people, has witnessed wars; famine; destruction and rebuilding; and foreign occupation by Greeks (Hellenistic), Romans, Byzantine Christians, Muslims, the Ottomans, the British, and Jordanians throughout the centuries. It was not until 1967 that Jerusalem was reunited and reestablished as the capital city of Israel. Today, the ancestral Jewish claim is challenged by Islam, which after its expansion out of the Arabian Peninsula and violent conquest of Jerusalem in 637 ce, occupied the land and built the Al-Aqsa Mosque (completed in 705 ce) on top of the Temple Mount. Alternative narratives are sometimes not equally legitimate and should be examined thoroughly, but is the loss of human life in these successive occupations worth being right?

1 Chronicles 13:1 to 1 Chronicles 16:43 : Transferring the Ark to Jerusalem

Joy & Responsibility (1 Chronicles 13)

King David often addressed situations that Saul and Israel’s other leaders had ignored. Decades previously, the Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant; and though the Philistines found the ark too much to handle and returned it, it had been left unattended in Kireath Jearim. So David’s decision to bring it back was widely applauded - but the time of joy would be brief.

David’s focus on holy things motivated him to bring back the ark (1 Chronicles 13:1-3). While other Israelites saw the ark as a lucky charm or a mysterious relic, David knew that it represented the presence of God. David was no theologian, and his understanding of the ark was purely personal, not doctrinal or even historical. A more complete awareness of God is of course desirable - and we shall see that David overlooked some important things. But David was a ’man after God’s own heart’ because to him God was above all personal.

The Israelites celebrate the occasion unrestrainedly (1 Chronicles 13:4-8). They are having a great time, and they are doing so in the name of the Lord - yet in their excitement they are ignoring the responsibilities that come with being holy. Joy in itself is never bad, for God likes his creations to enjoy and appreciate the blessings he gives them. The problem is not with expressing joy, but in doing so without taking the corresponding responsibility.

Indeed, an unexpected disaster occurs (1 Chronicles 13:9-11). One of the men guiding the cart holding the ark sees the ark start to slip and reaches down to steady it. It seems like a helpful thought - yet he is instantly struck dead for touching the holy ark. The excitement and fun stop abruptly, replaced with fear. It seems unfair, but it happened for a reason; and it holds lessons for us.

Later (chapter 15), David realizes what they did wrong: the law prescribed a specific way to transport the ark, and this would have prevented the mishap. But note that they were not ’punished’ for ’breaking a rule’. The directions in the law for transporting the ark, like everything God tells us, were designed to make sure that God’s presence can be a blessing and a joy to us, rather than a threat. Making and following rules for rules’ sake is pointless, but living as God calls us to live protects us from unnecessary spiritual risks. Holy things require respect.

Even though David has made a mistake in letting his joy cause him to forget the responsibilities that come with holiness, he nonetheless sees the situation clearly, and he realizes what matters most (1 Chronicles 13:12-14). He is disturbed that he may not be able to bring the ark any closer, because he knows that with the ark God’s presence is nearer. And indeed, while David rethinks what to do with the ark, the family with whom it resides is blessed just because it is near them.

God’s presence brings both joy and responsibility. Today we do not have to worry about disaster coming from touching the wrong thing. But we carry around with us the presence of God, and it should not be taken lightly. What happened to Uzzah reminds us of the importance of acting and thinking with the grace of Christ, not to fulfill our own agendas or to satisfy our own desires.

1 Chronicles 13:1-4 contains an episode not found in the book of 2 Samuel. It introduces the first failed attempt to transfer the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, which could in no way be the religious center of Israel if the ark was not there. David’s procedure indicates his role as popular leader. It is not by royal decree that the decision is made, but rather after consulting with the commanders and leaders. Such a move needed to have the support of all Israelites, and their priests and Levites (1 Chronicles 13:1-2). The festive occasion, a narrative climax, precedes the tragedy that follows—from general rejoicing to experiencing the fear of divine mystery. Uzzah, who with all good intentions tries to stop the ark from falling, is killed by God and causes quite a stir (1 Chronicles 13:10). David retracts his original idea as a response to the uncontrollable divine action, and decides not to take the ark “into his care into the city of David” (1 Chronicles 13:13). Rather, he takes it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. Paradoxically, the ark ends up in the house of a Philistine at the service of the royal household. Contrary to David’s fears, “the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that he had” (1 Chronicles 13:14).

In 2 Samuel, the first attempt to take the ark to Jerusalem is immediately followed by a second try, this time successful (2 Samuel 6:12-19). In 2 Samuel 6:12, the transfer is triggered by the news that David receives of the Lord’s blessing of the house of Obed-edom. In Chronicles, David’s religious zeal is presented as the initial cause of this new attempt. According to Knoppers, the Chronicler’s accounts of David’s attempt to retrieve the ark “ultimately ratify the historical primacy, central status, and continuing privileges of the Jerusalem Temple”.

King David (1 Chronicles 14)

David was a man of contrasts. He killed many men in battle, yet he valued God’s holiness above all. He could be insensitive and selfish, especially towards women; yet he could also notice the subtlest signs of God’s presence. He could make grave errors of judgment, yet express the deepest and most spiritual thoughts in his psalms. Throughout his reign, there is often little consistency, with one important exception: he was always aware of God’s presence in his life.

David’s renown spread even to neighboring kingdoms such as Tyre (1 Chronicles 14:1-2). The king of Tyre has little awareness of God’s presence, yet he lavishes valuable gifts on David because of David’s earthly successes. Significantly, David understands the real reason for this, and he does not make the mistake of seeing himself in worldly terms. He knows that his personal fame is only a means for God to bless all of Israel - God’s blessings are meant to be shared.

Despite his spiritual qualities, David frequently took objectionable liberties in his personal life, a habit that later would cause considerable harm both to him and to the nation (1 Chronicles 14:3-7). For the moment, David’s numerous wives and children are a source of pride to a nation that seeks its king primarily in worldly terms. The chronicler does not repeat the children David had before becoming king - those were listed in 1 Chronicles 3:1-4 (1 Chronicles 14:4-7 parallels the list in 1 Chronicles 3:5-9). As with all of us, famous and obscure, it can take years before the full impact of our spiritual flaws becomes clear.

On the other hand, David’s ongoing campaign against the Philistines illustrates why God was so eager to make him king in the first place (1 Chronicles 14:8-17). While the Israelites (and for that matter their enemies) saw only David’s victories, to God what mattered was the way that David so carefully sought out God’s guidance in everything that he did. Each time that the Philistines attack Israel, David does not react angrily or impulsively. Instead, he discusses the situation with God and allows God to determine his course of action.

On the first occasion, God simply tells David to go into battle with the promise of victory. But the next time, God tells him to pursue a plan different from David’s original intention. Both of these examples will find parallels in our own experience when God answers our own prayers. When we ask God for guidance, it is best to allow him to choose whether to attend to the details or simply to give us a general indication of which way we should go.

Nor is it important for us to know how God ’spoke’ to David; for both then and now God has many ways of making his will known. What matters is for us to seek God’s will and to pray to him, allowing him to answer when and how he pleases. God does not expect it always to be simple for us to discern his will. The process of becoming attuned to God’s words, of listening for his gentle whisper, is in itself of even greater value than the earthly help he provides.

The Ark Finally Comes Back (1 Chronicles 15 & 16)

After David’s first attempt to bring back the ark of the covenant ended in an abrupt disaster, the ark sat idly for several months. But David did not forget about it. Holy things were important to him, and he understood the ark’s importance in a way that most other Israelites could not. He is now ready to try again, and this time he has learned some valuable lessons about holiness.

It appears that David had never lost the intention of bringing the ark to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:1-2). Since the calamity with his first attempt, he had been busy with other construction in Jerusalem; but now that he has completed his other projects he is eager to resolve the ark’s status. And in the meantime he has developed a better understanding of the ark’s significance. Apparent spiritual failure never has to be the end. There are always things we can learn for the future.

David’s more careful plans this time show what he has learned (1 Chronicles 15:3-15). He has taken the time to learn the properly prescribed way of carrying the ark, but the rule in itself is not the key to understanding the situation. God does not make rules for rules sake, either then or now. Rather, the things God tells us to do (or tells us not to do) are for the purpose of keeping us spiritually safe. They help us to avoid a lot of dangerous situations.

When we follow what God teaches us, it makes it much easier for him to remain close to us and to protect our hearts. We may still end up in danger from worldly threats, but our souls are always safe - and moreover, when we are in the habit of humbly following God’s will, it also makes it much easier for him to alert us even to the worldly hazards. On the other hand, when we choose to ignore or reject God’s words, he does not punish us for this. But we needlessly endanger ourselves when we don’t pay attention to God.

And so this time, because they have been more careful with their plans and have allowed God to guide them rather than merely indulging their emotions, the occasion can now be one of undiminished joy (1 Chronicles 15:16-29). David’s improved understanding also brings joy to others participating in the celebration. He makes sure that a prominent role goes to Obed-Edom, in whose home the ark had remained after the first return was abandoned. The only negative note is that one of David’s wives, Saul’s daughter Michal, resents the joy that she sees. We too should always remember to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn."

With the ark now in its own place, David next arranges for an ongoing ministry of praise and thanks (1 Chronicles 16:1-6; 1 Chronicles 16:37-43). The king also offers his own special praise for this special occasion (1 Chronicles 16:7-36). While the sentiments he expresses are at first glance somewhat generic, they also represent a constant awareness of God’s presence, which in itself is more important than any other specific blessing. And David has seen to it that the praise will continue beyond this special occasion. We should not need a special occasion or a motivational talk to help us to appreciate God’s presence, because knowing him is in itself a constant blessing of immeasurable value.

The Chronicler points out the distinction between the Levites and the “descendants of Aaron,” the Aaronide priests (1 Chronicles 15:4), and then sets out the list of Levites according to their families (Kothar, Merari, Gershom, and so forth): “no one but the Levites were to carry the ark of God” (1 Chronicles 15:2). In 2 Samuel, the ark is transferred by David, while in Chronicles it is a collective endeavor in which the elders of Israel and the military leaders also take part. Chronicles emphasizes that the Levites are the ones who carry the ark, followed by the main strata of the Israelite society, the military, civilian, and religious groups. The organization of worship that follows (1 Chronicles 16:4-42) has no parallel in the Deuteronomistic history and can be attributed to the Chronicler’s composition. Once again, David is the one to name ministers, to invoke—literally to “remember”—praise, and to thank the Lord. As a corollary to the above description, the Chronicler includes a song of thanksgiving and praise ordered by David, “by Asaph and his kindred” (1 Chronicles 16:7-38). The reference to Asaph is important, as the texts that mention him in place of Heman or Ethan are considered very ancient. The psalm of the Chronicler includes parts of Psalms 105 (vv. 1-5); 96 (vv. 1-3); and 106 (vv. 47-48). By including these postexilic psalms, “the Chronicler establishes a continuity between the worship life established by David and that of his own day.”

The unexpected death of Uzzah while transporting the ark demanded an explanation. Some have suggested that it was David’s mistake to try to carry the ark on a wagon (Numbers 7:9 states that sacred objects had to be carried on shoulders) and proposes that David reasoned that God’s commandment was only valid for the time of the wilderness. Salvian the Presbyter stated that Uzzah “was undutiful in his very act because he went beyond his orders,” and because “even what seems to be a very little in fault is made great by the injury to God,” he deserved his punishment.

The ark narrative seems to value the sacredness of objects more than human life. Uzzah’s good intentions expressed in his attempt to prevent the ark from falling from the wagon do not mitigate God’s anger and subsequent reaction. A contemporary commentator justifies God’s behavior by stating that “the fate of Uzzah is a fearful warning against over-familiarity with God. His attitude to the thing should have been as reverent as his attitude to the Person” However, Uzzah’s literary killing (of course, gods do not kill people) justifies the death of another innocent victim, adding to the long list of religion-based (literary and real) murders.

1 Chronicles 17:1 to 1 Chronicles 21:30 : David’s Kingdom Is Consolidated

David’s Relationship With God (1 Chronicles 17)

Because of David’s persistence in learning about holy things, the ark of the covenant finally came to Jerusalem after a long period of neglect. Yet David sensed that there was still more that should be done. As it happens, his dream of building a temple was not what God desired. David accepted this, and we can see in his acceptance another aspect of his relationship with God.

David wishes to build a temple to house the ark, and his reasoning is simple (1 Chronicles 17:1-2). He sees the contrast between his own luxurious palace and the simple tent that holds the ark; and though God will direct him otherwise, David’s focus on holy things again reminds us to pay more attention to spiritual reality of than to the ways that events affect our interests in this world.

The story takes a twist when God reveals to the prophet Nathan that he has a different plan in mind for the temple (1 Chronicles 17:3-10 a). God mentions some things that neither of these faithful believers had thought of. Although God appreciated their eagerness to take good care of the ark, God himself had never asked for lavish housing for it. God’s presence does not dwell only where there is luxury and wealth; so God never minded having his ark sit in a humble tent.

Then also, God’s plans for David were specific, and they did not include David being the one to build a temple. God used David to strengthen Israel and to force Israel’s enemies to respect the young nation - but this required the use of force, which in itself is something God does not enjoy. And so, as is confirmed in 1 Chronicles 28:3, all the blood that David shed made it inappropriate for him to build a temple to God, even though David had done this in service to God. God has always used different believers for different purposes, and not even a David can do everything.

Any disappointment David may feel is tempered by the further news God gives him about the future (1 Chronicles 17:10-14). God plans to give no lack of blessing both to David and to David’s family. And to answer David’s specific desire, God assures him that his own son will be a man of peace who will be well-suited to erect the temple that David dreams of. And that will only be the start, because long after Solomon there will be much more waiting for David’s descendants.

When David hears the prophet’s report, his response is worthy of someone called "a man after God’s own heart" (1 Chronicles 17:15-27). He is able not only to accept the fact that God will not allow him to fulfill his original dream, but also that the greatest blessings for his family will not be poured out until many years after David himself is gone from this earth. Both his humility and his long- term perspective are greatly needed in today’s church of Jesus Christ.

All too often we fixate on our personal ’dreams’, and we assume that God wants them because we can support them with human logic. David’s example reminds us that we only know one certainty about God’s will for us personally - he wants us to know him and to live in his presence. Anything else we must accept by grace, and we should be willing to adapt as God wills us to.

Nathan’s oracle (1 Chronicles 17:4-14) is of fundamental importance for the development of the concept of covenant between God and Israel. In both Samuel and Chronicles, Nathan’s oracle is preceded by an introduction (1 Chronicles 17:1-2; 2 Samuel 7:1-3). The Chronicler omits the second part of 2 Samuel 7:1, “the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him,” and substitutes the rhetorical question in Samuel—“Are you the one to build me a house to live in?” (2 Samuel 7:5)—with a negation: “You shall not build me a house to live in” (1 Chronicles 17:4). This clarifies that God is not against the construction of the temple, but rather against the man who was ready to begin the construction. God offers the reasons by means of the prophet, explaining that since leaving Egypt, God has lived in a tent and tabernacle. Both of these are synonymous and contrast with “house,” which indicates a construction with walls. The passage then turns from the negative statement (it won’t be David who builds the temple) to the positive one: it will be God who builds the house of David to assure his descendants, and it will be from these descendants that the person who will build the temple will come (1 Chronicles 17:7-15; 2 Samuel 7:8-16). God’s covenant with David will be perpetuated in Solomon, from whom God will never withdraw his steadfast love (1 Chronicles 17:13)—the opposite of what happened with Saul, David’s predecessor. David responds to Nathan’s oracle with a prayer (1 Chronicles 17:16-27), which consists of two parts: 1 Chronicles 17:16-22 and 1 Chronicles 17:23-27. The first responds to the content of the first part of Nathan’s prophecy: God’s benevolence toward David (vv. 7-8).

David responds, praising God for his promise to establish David’s house, and the enumeration of God’s promise to Israel (vv. 9-10a). David also refers to the exodus, conquest, and the covenantal relationship between God and Israel (vv. 20-22). The second part of the prayer (vv. 23-27) claims the fulfilling of God’s promise on the establishment and continuity of the Davidic dynasty.

Chapters 18–20 present a summary of David’s battles against the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Arameans based on 2 Samuel 8-21. In what follows, David orders a census and acquires the land to build the temple (1 Chronicles 21:1—22:1; 2 Samuel 24:1-4; 2 Samuel 24:8-25). The Chronicler follows the narrative of 2 Samuel in this case as well, noting, however, that it was not God who incited David to “go, count the people of Israel and Judah” (as in 2 Samuel 24:1) but “Satan,” who perhaps shouldn’t be understood as the devil but as “an emissary of the deity carrying out God’s punishment of Israel.”

David’s Years Of Success (1 Chronicles 18-19)

With the ark established in Jerusalem, God’s numerous assurances about the future, and nearly universal popular support, David’s situation could hardly be better. He has success in everything he does, whether in war or in peace. He continues to enjoy God’s blessings as he continues to do the work God had desired for him, which in turn brings God’s blessings to all of Israel.

God gives David a long string of victories, not merely to bless him but because the victories bring needed discipline to oppressors and blessed relief to the oppressed (1 Chronicles 18:1-10). The region had long endured a chaotic situation in which the Philistines, Moabites, and other aggressive kingdoms had made a habit of raiding and distressing their more peaceful neighbors.

Although God has just told David (in the previous chapter) that he was not the man to build the temple, primarily because David had shed so much blood, God nevertheless used David’s combination of faithfulness and military skills to redress some long-standing injustices and other ills. We can see here (1 Chronicles 18:9-10) one example of a neighboring king who showers David with thanks because David has brought relief the other king’s people.

Moreover, David made sure to keep his perspective, sharing the glory of victory and reminding himself that his success was due to God alone (1 Chronicles 18:11-17). He dedicates the profits from his battles to God; and he also takes numerous steps to see that all the responsibilities of the kingdom, ranging from the administrative necessities to the details of worship, are handled by responsible persons and are managed in an appropriate manner.

But a difficult challenge arises in the form of the aggressive Ammonites and their allies the Arameans (1 Chronicles 19:1-7). David had carefully established good relations with the Ammonites, but now a new Ammonite king deliberately insults David and Israel by needlessly humiliating David’s emissaries of goodwill. The Ammonites did this to signal their hostility to Israel, as a prelude to amassing a large army in preparation for attacking Israel.

Yet what shaped up to be an epic struggle turns out to be an easy victory for Israel, by God’s grace (1 Chronicles 19:8-19). David’s commanders are careful not to be drawn into battle prematurely, and they turn the impulsiveness of the Ammonites and the Arameans against them. The Arameans, in particular, are so distressed by the defeat that they make a permanent change in their policy, turning away from their alliance with Ammon and instead seeking peace with Israel.

Sadly, just after this things will start to go downhill for David, as his own character flaws come out in some very harmful ways. But during his years of success, God was able to use David, just as he was, to benefit both Israel and others. Long after David’s reign had taken a wrong turn, the nation still remembered these good days, and honored their famous king.

David Goes Astray (1 Chronicles 20-21)

How often does someone seem to have everything one could desire, and yet just then make an enormous mistake. This now happens to David - he makes two awful blunders that turn his reign from a golden era into a time of trouble. The chronicler focuses on one particular mistake that caused considerable suffering and loss in Israel; yet we are not meant to condemn David - it is one of Scripture’s reminders of human frailty and of our universal need for God’s mercy.

David’s trouble begins when he sends his army off to battle while he himself remains safe in his palace (1 Chronicles 20:1-3). The campaign is successful, but this time David gladly accepts the plunder and glory without taking any of the risk. Whatever we may think of David’s eagerness to engage in war, he usually took exactly the same risks that he asked his men to take. But this time he acts like many present-day ’leaders’, grabbing credit and reward for what others, not he, have done.

The chronicler does not mention - possibly because his audience already knew - that during this campaign David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife and then conspired to have the loyal Uriah killed (compare 1 Chronicles 20:1-3 with 2 Samuel 11:1 and 2 Samuel 12:30-31). For whatever reason, this was a time of spiritual deterioration for David, and his selfish behavior regarding the spoils of battle was really only a symptom of the more serious sins he had temporarily concealed.

Yet God continues to use David to protect Israel (1 Chronicles 20:4-8). David and his trusted associates continue their feats of bravery whenever Israel is threatened. God does not "make David lose"; for God cares about all the people. At the same time, David’s success does not justify him - for God can continue to work through us even when we too are struggling. David’s successes (like ours) are an act of grace upon the people, not an unqualified endorsement of David personally.

But now David makes an even bigger mistake, with his insistence on taking a detailed census of his subjects (1 Chronicles 21:1-15). His presumption in wanting to measure the exact force at his command is distasteful even to his brutish army commander Joab. David is taking a holy thing - God’s people - and turning it into a source of human pride. His mistake is also a caution to us.

Other censuses of Israel were taken with God’s approval, but they were for different purposes. Under the Levitical system, the need for regular redemptive sacrifices sometimes involved balancing the counts of other tribes compared to the Levites, or the counting of the firstborn of Israel so that they could be redeemed by sacrifice. But David’s census - like so much of the fixation with numbers in today’s churches - was motivated solely by curiosity and/or ego.

Too late, David sees his mistake and is spiritually crushed by the realization (1 Chronicles 21:16-30). Because David, the Lord’s anointed, has debased a holy thing, Israel is struck with a deadly plague. Yet David does soon realize what he has done - he responds with humility and accepts the responsibility. Great damage has been done, but at least he will no longer view his kingdom as a means to fulfill his personal ambitions and desires.

Paul writes, “Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Would it be more in accordance with the divine will to reallocate all the resources spent on “houses of worship,” in “sacred places,” toward enriching the lives of those sacred vessels that are human beings? It is noticeable that, as described in Revelation (1 Chronicles 21:22), there is no temple in the new Jerusalem.

1 Chronicles 22:2 to 1 Chronicles 27:34 : Preparation for Building the Temple

Preparations For The Future (1 Chronicles 22)

Even as King David tries to recover from his own foolish and harmful blunders, he is thinking of the future. He has derailed his personal life by committing adultery and murder, and he has caused great harm to the nation with his prideful insistence on taking a census - but true to God’s description of him as "a man after God’s own heart", David now returns to God while also thinking of what he can do for others.

Now thinking about the good of others rather than fulfilling his own desires, David realizes what a precarious situation he might leave for his son Solomon, and he takes important steps to help his successor (1 Chronicles 22:1-5). Knowing that it is God’s desire for Solomon to build the temple, David makes several practical arrangements so that Solomon will have a head start when the time comes. David stockpiles some necessary materials and hires workmen to stand ready.

Then David passes along to Solomon what God had told him about the desires God held for Solomon’s coming reign (1 Chronicles 22:6-13). The old king explains that he has been a man of war, largely out of necessity, and that he thus is not the right choice to build the temple. Solomon’s call is different - God wants him to be a man of peace who will lead the nation in a time of rest.

David knows that practical arrangements and spiritual principles are always intertwined in the real world. By having so much of the project prepared in advance, he is allowing Solomon the chance to develop a relationship with God that will help him keep a spiritual focus on the temple construction as well as his other responsibilities. We can apply the same principle in our own ministries, for it is often necessary to help others with purely practical needs before they can be asked to turn their focus to developing a better awareness of God’s will and God’s presence.

The arrangements that David has made will help Solomon get off to a good start when the time comes for him to build the temple; but they will also confer a responsibility on the future king (1 Chronicles 22:14-16). It will be a reminder of God’s presence and providence, while also reminding Solomon that he has been given this responsibility to fulfill with all diligence. "From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" (Luke 12:48). It is a call for us also to notice the responsibilities that God has conferred on us through his lavish blessings.

Moreover, David has not left Solomon to undertake this project all by himself; for David takes pains to prepare the rest of the nation for the things God has called Solomon to do when he becomes king (1 Chronicles 22:17-19). No one person can ever do all that God asks; and even our own individual ministries depend on the help of others more than we usually acknowledge. God desires Solomon’s reign not to be a time when a single great king is exalted, but rather a time when the nation works together in peace and in gratitude for God’s blessings.

This section is structured around David’s decisions before his death regarding the building of the temple. Chapter 22 consists of three sections:

1 Chronicles 22:2-5 describe David’s initial preparations;

1 Chronicles 22:6-16, the charge to Solomon; and

1 Chronicles 22:17-19, his command to the leaders of Israel.

Each of these sections has a rhetorical center—David’s thoughts (1 Chronicles 22:5); David’s words to Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:7-16); and his words to the leaders (1 Chronicles 22:18-19). Each of the following subsections begins with “David said” or “David commanded,” emphasizing David’s leadership in the whole project. In this way, Nathan’s oracle in 1 Chronicles 17:11-14 begins to be fulfilled: “I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.”

The Levites & The Priests (1 Chronicles 23-24)

The tribe of Levi has conducted ministry amongst the Israelites for centuries, yet David recognizes a need for a confirmation and elaboration of their specific responsibilities. There is a natural tendency for needs to change and new problems to arise over time, and David also foresees how the building of the temple will bring with it some changes in Israel’s worship.

David’s makes a basic distinction between the Levities who will be involved with the new ministries of the temple and those who will assume or continue in other responsibilities (1 Chronicles 23:1-5). There was nothing wrong with the existing arrangements, but David realizes that the new temple will bring with it many new responsibilities and will change some of the old ones. And so it simply makes sense to take a new look at the Levites and their ministries, with the future in mind.

Even in making changes to the Levites’ responsibilities, David preserves the centuries-old plan of organizing the Levities by clan, based on Levi’s three sons (1 Chronicles 23:6-23). For many generations, the Gershonites, Kohathites and Merarites had followed the examples of their ancestors, knowing what their general responsibilities were and what they would be in the future. Since this has always worked smoothly, David sees no reason to alter a worthwhile and comfortable practice.

At the same time, David and the Levites both recognize that there were some basic differences between the original Levitical ministry and the (then) present, when the ark of God had found a permanent resting place in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 23:24-32). Even while waiting for the temple to be built, they can already adapt their ministry based on the ark now remaining in one location - for example, no one has to worry about transporting the ark any longer. When things change, we too do well to re-evaluate our outward practices, for we shall often find better ways to serve God.

Another part of the re-organization of Levi involved the priests who would be entering inside the new temple (1 Chronicles 24:1-19). The basic responsibilities of the priests will be exactly the same - the interesting step that David takes is to have their updated responsibilities assigned by lot. When the temple is built, there could easily arise a sense of competition or entitlement with regards to the ministries centered on the temple. David heads that off before the temple is even built, relieving his son and the Levites themselves of some potentially thorny disputes.

Lots are also used in assigning responsibilities for the rest of the Levites (1 Chronicles 24:20-31). In this we see both David’s foresight and the humble acceptance of the Levites. Modern Americans tend to scoff at or be offended by such things, but without good reason. In our competitive pride, we equate position and authority with talent and ability; and we think that leaders have ’earned’ (or should ’earn’) their positions - but where did those talents come from?

Our talents and abilities themselves were distributed by God’s grace. None of us earned them, and we deserve no special reward for them. There is no reason not to enjoy these blessings, but we should also share them freely rather than seeing them as a sign of superiority.

In this project, it will not be the Israelites who will be subjected to forced labor (as Solomon would do in 1 Kings 5:27), but rather “aliens residing in the land.” The term gerim is used in Chronicles when referring to the Canaanites who remained in Israel (2 Chronicles 2:16); 8:7-10) as free men with limited legal rights. The description of Solomon as “young and inexperienced” is in harmony with the description of him in 1 Kings 3:7, a young child “who does not know how to go out or come in” (see also 1 Chronicles 29:1, where David describes him as “young and inexperienced”). Rehoboam is the other king to whom a similar description applies (“young and irresolute,” 2 Chronicles 13:7), which suggests that these are not mere descriptive terms but rather pejorative reflections of the immaturity that characterizes both kings.

The changes in the obligations of the Levites after the construction of the temple are explained in 1 Chronicles 23:26-28. Because they will no longer need to transport the tabernacle, they are assigned additional tasks established in the Pentateuch (1 Chronicles 23:25-26) as assistants to the Aaronide priests, emphasizing the subordination of the Levites to the priests (1 Chronicles 23:28-32). Music is central to the worship service and here related to the task of worship prophets. It seems evident that Levites also played this role (see 2 Kings 23:2; 2 Chronicles 34:30).

Praise & Protection (1 Chronicles 25:1 to 1 Chronicles 27:24)

Besides carefully re-organizing the responsibilities of the Levites and priests, David has other things he wants to do before he goes. In his earnest desire to leave his son as stable a realm as possible, David arranges for the defense of Jerusalem and of Israel. Moreover, in keeping with his role as the great writer of psalms, he takes steps to institute an ongoing ministry of praise and song. To a large degree all this reflects David’s own distinctive role in Israel’s history.

In his next steps, David works to ensure a healthy ongoing ministry of praise and prophecy (1 Chronicles 25:1-31). The chronicler describes these plans in surprising detail, enumerating the many persons involved and indicating that David once again assigned specific responsibilities by casting lots. "Young and old alike, teacher as well as student, cast lots for their duties." As with the duties of the priests and Levites, these will all be given entirely by grace.

Next, the king devotes the same detail-oriented care to the assignment of gatekeepers for Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 26:1-19). This is a more important responsibility than it may seem at first, because in an ancient city the gates were the key both to defense and to commerce. A good gatekeeper had to use good judgment and to remain alert at all times.

The chronicler tells us not only the names of the gatekeepers but also the plans they devise to ensure that each gate will be thoroughly watched at all times. David plans for them to work in small groups rather than as individuals, to maximize their watchfulness and coordination. These arrangements again can provide us with a spiritual example to consider in our own ministries.

The same care needed to be applied in the management of Israel’s treasury and other material goods (1 Chronicles 26:20-32). When God used David to protect Israel and to bring discipline to powerful nations who tried to oppress others, Israel’s victories often brought in considerable plunder. Most of the time David faithfully devoted this to God’s service, and apparently a large treasury has now built up from the unused portions.

In the description of David’s arrangements for administering Israel’s material wealth, the chronicler also tells us that David took note of the wealth accumulated under Samuel and Saul, and that the king made sure that everything belonging to the nation was put under a common administration so that God’s will would be considered in every decision made with it.

Then David also uses this occasion to re-organize the officers in Israel’s army (1 Chronicles 27:1-24). One of the recurring problems during David’s reign - described in much more detail in 2 Samuel than in 1 Chronicles - was that Joab and some of the other army commanders often took matters into their own hands, making rash or violent decisions that harmed others and the nation. This was in large part due to David’s own weakness, but now he seems to have realized the need for reform. The re-organization of the army decentralizes the command and establishes a more regular rotation for leadership, wisely limiting the influence of any one person.

The army is organized in twelve divisions (1 Chronicles 27:2-15), each of them of consisting of 24,000 men. All the chiefs are part of the list of the heroes of David (2 Samuel 23:8-11; 1 Chronicles 11:10-30). Jashobeam of the tribe of Judah is one of the sons of Judah, and is assigned to lead the first division during the first month (Nisan = March–April). He is also named commander in chief of the army during that period. In a similar fashion, all commanders for the rest of the months are listed.

Some Christian interpreters focused especially on 1 Chronicles 22:9-10, stating that the reign of Solomon (whose name means “peaceable”) was not that long, came to an end, and that the name Solomon was also given to Christ (“he is our peace,” Ephesians 2:14) (Theodoret of Cyrus). Eusebius also argued that Nathan’s prophecy (1 Chronicles 22:10) was really fulfilled by Jesus.

The allocation of such a large amount of materials and human effort to the construction of a place of worship makes us wonder: What is the best way to allocate the resources of religious communities? A symbol of power and prestige for the Jerusalem elite, the temple would hardly serve in any way the well-being of the rest of the population, and it reminds us of the failed intention of Genesis 11:4“let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” David’s existential needs (a memorable building, an everlasting lineage) are the literary reflection of our human “unbearable lightness of being.”

Preparing For The Future (1 Chronicles 27:25 to 1 Chronicles 28:21)

In his later years as king, David never stopped thinking about what things would be like after he was gone. He continued to do everything possible to leave Solomon with a stable kingdom and with well-defined spheres of responsibility: in building the temple, in worship, in the city of Jerusalem, and throughout Israel. David’s own path to the kingship was dangerous and difficult, but he is determined to make things much easier for his son.

The wide range of tasks that David pursues shows how thoroughly he has thought about the coming reign of Solomon (1 Chronicles 27:25-34). The chronicler’s latest summary focuses on agriculture and economics, showing us David’s awareness that even such mundane aspects of life depend on God’s grace, and thus call for us to accept some spiritual responsibility. The detail in some of these assignments also show us how well the king has come to know his kingdom.

Next David wants to make sure that not just Solomon himself, but also the whole nation, is aware of God’s plans for the next king (1 Chronicles 28:1-8). He assembles the people and reminds them of their history and of their many blessings. He is grateful for his own blessings, and he never forgets where they came from.

David humbly repeats to the nation God’s decision that he will not be able to build the temple because of his military involvement. He describes God’s desires for Solomon’s reign, and he calls upon the people to do their part. He confirms that Solomon is God’s choice both to rule the kingdom and also to direct the building of the temple. Therefore their support of Solomon as king will simply be part of their faithfulness to God himself.

David’s charge to Solomon himself emphasizes the need above all to stay close to God personally (1 Chronicles 28:9-10). Solomon will be blessed with an enviable position. Unlike David, he will start off with a united, prosperous nation behind him. His father will leave him with everything he needs for success. None of this is because Solomon is better or more spiritual than anyone else - it is an expression of God’s grace and love, both for the young king and for his people. The best way for Solomon to show gratitude for his blessings will be to stay close to God, to listen to God, and to let God guide him. He already knows much of what God will ask him to do.

When the king proceeds to detail for his son the advance arrangements he has made for building the temple, David continues to keep things firmly within the context of serving God and seeking God’s will (1 Chronicles 28:11-21). In particular, he repeatedly reminds the future king of the source of all the material wealth that will be used for the temple. The materials David has stockpiled have been given to God for his purposes, and are not ever to be used for Solomon’s personal benefit.

Even though David will have done everything possible to give his son a head start, building the temple will still be a big job. And so David continually exhorts Solomon not only to work hard, but also always to remember whom he is really working for.

1 Chronicles 28:1 to 1 Chronicles 29:30 : Solomon’s Investiture

Although chapters 28–29 relate Solomon’s enthronement, the central figure is David. David gathers all Israel’s officers (1 Chronicles 28:1), David says (1 Chronicles 28:2), David provides (1 Chronicles 29:1), David says (1 Chronicles 29:10; 1 Chronicles 29:20), David calls to bless the Lord (1 Chronicles 29:20). This version is different from the story in 1 Kings 1-2, where the people play a mere anecdotic role (see 1 Kings 1:39-40). In these two chapters, their role is fundamental.

David’s speech (1 Chronicles 28:2-10) focuses on three topics: the construction of the temple, Solomon’s divine election, and an exhortation to keep the commandments of God. In the same way that Moses could not enter the promised land and it fell to Joshua to lead in the final possession of this promised land, it will be Solomon and not David who will lead the construction of the temple. The promise of a lasting kingdom for Solomon, which in 1 Chronicles 17:4 is unconditional, appears conditioned here depending on his effort to keep God’s commandments and ordinances. The conditional character of the divine promise extends to the leaders of all Israel (28:8). From the perspective of the postexilic community, it is clear that the motive by which the Davidic dynasty had been displaced and the people taken into exile was the king and his leaders’ lack of observance of the divine commandments. In the same way that the plans of the tabernacle were revealed to Moses and then drawn (Exodus 25:9; Exodus 25:40), so too the plans of the temple were revealed to David and then drawn up (1 Chronicles 28:2; 1 Chronicles 28:12; 1 Chronicles 28:18-19). The difference between the times of Moses and the Chronicler is that Moses receives the revelation orally, while the revelation to David is in writing (1 Chronicles 28:19). For the postexilic community, the inspired word has become the inspired text. David becomes not only the architect of the temple but also the one who dictates the order of service and establishes the hierarchical order of the staff who serve the temple. Even if Solomon is the builder, David is the intellectual author of the whole project.

Another Time Of Transition (1 Chronicles 29)

In this world, change in itself is neither good nor bad - it is merely inevitable. The time has now come for David to pass from the scene, and for a new era to begin, for better or for worse. The old king knows this, and he even seems in a sense to be looking forward to it, for he knows that until he passes away the temple cannot be built. And so he spends his last days looking to the future and leaving behind whatever a new generation might be able to use and learn from.

As a final practical step for the building of the temple, David inspires the Israelites to follow his own example in donating valuable metals and other useful materials (1 Chronicles 29:1-9). The temple will be both holy and practical. It will belong to God, yet in a sense it will belong to the whole nation. By encouraging everyone to give something for the building of the temple, David is not only taking a practical step, but is also helping the people to develop a personal connection with it.

In David’s final appearance before the nation, he reminds them to keep their hearts focused first and foremost on God (1 Chronicles 29:10-20). He broadens the perspective, looking far beyond his reign and even beyond Solomon’s reign. The building of the temple and other contemporary matters, no matter how newsworthy or important in their own time, fade into insignificance when compared with the spiritual benefits of a lasting relationship with God.

David’s final message reminds everyone of God’s extraordinary grace and compassion. David’s own blessings, the blessings the nation would have under his son, the blessings we have today, all come by grace alone from the hand of a God who loves to show his people that he cares for them. None of our blessings can ever be earned or deserved - and if we can accept and understand this, then we won’t be so tempted to compare ourselves with each other or with those of other times and places - we can simply and humbly enjoy what God has graciously given us.

With God’s blessing and with his father’s practical arrangements in place, Solomon can begin his reign with an outpouring of support and with expectations of a promising future (1 Chronicles 29:21-25). For the time being, Solomon has inherited not only David’s throne but also the enormous reservoir of goodwill and respect that David had built up from the people. It will now be up to Solomon to remember that his blessings came by grace, not because he deserved them.

And so it is time for David to pass from the earthly scene forever (1 Chronicles 29:26-30). Ahead lie all kinds of events both good and bad. Solomon will have some great moments, and he will make some awful mistakes. The nation will at times love and revere him, and will at times hate and resent him. Both Solomon and the nation will learn a lot about each other, about themselves, and about God. David will no longer have any influence or control, and he knows this. Each of us can only do so much, and then we must allow divine grace to make up for the failings of human free will as the future relentlessly unfolds.

David’s prayer (1 Chronicles 29:10-19) contains three parts: the doxology (1 Chronicles 29:10-13), the presentation and dedication of the voluntary offering to God (1 Chronicles 29:14-17), and the supplication (1 Chronicles 29:18-19). David asks God that Solomon may faithfully uphold “your commandments, your decrees, and your statutes,” a clear reference to the Torah, so the temple may be built.

If it were not for the narrative in 1 Kings 1-2 describing the way Solomon reaches the throne, it would be impossible to understand the bloody family conflicts and palace intrigues that facilitated his ascent to the throne in the narration of the Chronicler (1 Chronicles 29:20-25). The Chronicler adds the offering of sacrifices by “all the assembly” (1 Chronicles 29:21) to the narrative of 1 Kings, pointing to the unity of the people in support of the new king (“and all Israel obeyed him,” 1 Chronicles 29:23).

The Chronicler then presents a summary of David’s reign (1 Chronicles 29:26-30), highlighting David’s reign over “all Israel” (1 Chronicles 29:26) without mentioning the fact that while he reigned in Hebron, the territory under his command covered only the tribe of Judah (see 1 Kings 2:11). In 1 Chronicles 29:28, he points out that David achieved everything a king could wish and died “in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honor.”

General remarks on First Chronicles by E.M. Zerr:

A few comments were made on the subject of Chronicles at 1 Kings 14:19. Having come to this part of the Bible, I believe it will be helpful to quote from two authentic secular sources some further information before entering upon the chapterand-verse study of the books just before us. The first will be from the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia, Vol. 1, P. 468. "Chronicles, The First and Second Books of. The name, since Jerome, for the Hebrew ’Book of the Events of the days,’ called in the Septuagint PARALEIPOMENA ("things omitted"). Originally our present First and Second Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, formed one book. The proof of this is the similarity of style, language, point of view, and the identity of the last two verses, of Second Chronicles XXXVI. 22, 23) with the first two of Ezra. These books, therefore, were once one book, a history of the Israelites from the beginning; although the first part is exclusively genealogical tables to the post-exilian period. [Period after the exile or captivity]. Our present division of this book into four parts is very ancient, originating with the Seventy. [Translators of the Septuagint Version]. Chronicles contains a reliable history, being drawn from the official records of the Israelites, which explains the numerous instances in which it coincides even verbally with Kings, and where it differs in names, etc., the discrepancy can be explained by textual corruptions, either in Chronicles, Kings, or their common source. But the point of view is priestly, and therefore the author dwells at greater length upon those features of the history which are ecclesiastical. Accordingly we find his narrative very full about David’s religious reforms and arrangements, Solomon’s erection of the temple, its consecration, and his care for religion (he passes over his defection). In regard to the other kings he emphasizes those like Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah, who were zealous for the Jewish religion."

The next is from Smith’s Dictionary; article, Chronicles. "Chronicles, First and Second Books of, the name originally given to the record made by the appointed historiographers in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. In the LXX [the Septuagint version] these books are called PARALIPOMENA (i. e. things omitted), which is understood as meaning that they are supplementary to the books of Kings. The constant tradition of the Jews is that these books were for the most part compiled by Ezra. One of the greatest difficulties connected with the captivity and return must have been the maintenance of that genealogical distribution of the lands which yet was a vital point of the Jewish economy. To supply this want and that each tribe might secure the inheritance of its fathers on its return was one object of the author of these books."

There are some special advantages in having these books of Chronicles; one is similar to that of having more than one record of the Gospel in the New Testament. Frequently a subject that is treated in one of the books will be given additional information in another. So with the books of Chronicles in the Old Testament. Subjects that appear in the books of Samuels and Kings will have more light shed on them in one of these books. The prevalence of so many proper names may seem unnecessary to us on first thought. In the first place, we should bear in mind that the Lord has a good purpose for everything he does, whether we can see the reason or not. But in this case we can see at least one reason for the circumstance. As stated in the quotation last made above, after the return from the captivity, every family was eager to show the proper claim to the inheritance coming from the ancestors. To do this it was necessary to prove the relationship, and that called for the registration records. Hence we have the necessary though tedious long list of names. Let us place ourselves in the place of these Jews, with a personal interest in the religious and temporal rights inherited from our forefathers. If we will do so, I believe we will study this book with interest. Due to the very nature of the subject matter, many of the verses will be grouped in a paragraph and comments made on the group as a whole. Where the names are of historical interest to us, special attention will be called to them; either for the purpose of citing the reader to other places in the Bible where they occur, or in order to explain some other spelling of the name for identification.

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