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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Chronicles, Books of

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(chrah' nih cluhss) What is the wisest use that you can make of your time in your sojourn here on earth? The scribe(s) who gave us 1,2Chronicles answers: building the household of faith. Ezra, the author of 1,2Chronicles according to tradition, prepared his heart to understand, to keep, and to teach in Israel the law of the Lord (Ezra 7:10 ). 1,2Chronicles is an excellent example of teaching the law of the Lord in Israel. Ezra (or whoever is the author) was inspired of God to write these books to encourage the people of his day—exilic and postexilic Israelites—to build God's house and to center their lives around the worship of God as the only way to survive and to fulfill their destiny. Readers today can use these books under the leadership of God's Spirit to call their nation back to God and to encourage wholehearted devotion to God and His house as the only way to build an enduring and blessed nation, family, and/or individual life.

Nature and Focus of Chronicles 1,2Chronicles are the first and second books of a four-book series that includes Ezra and Nehemiah. These four books provide a scribal (priestly) history of Israel from the time of Adam (1 Chronicles 1:1 ) to the rebuilding of the house of God and the walls of Jerusalem and the restoration of the people in the worship of God according to the law of Moses (Nehemiah 13:31 ).

The special focus of these books is on the fortunes of God's house in Jerusalem upon which God has set His name forever (2 Chronicles 7:16 ). David found Israel to be like scattered sheep. As God's chosen shepherd and line through whom God would build His house, David sought to order the life of Israel around the worship of God. Under God he made the city of Jerusalem his capital (1 Chronicles 11:4-9 ), transferred the ark of God to the city (1 Chronicles 16:1 ), and began to prepare for the building of the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-2 ). Solomon, his son, built the Temple (2 Chronicles 2:1 ), and Zerubbabel, his son of succeeding generations, rebuilt the Temple (Ezra 3:8 ). The intervening sons of David, who served as kings of Judah, were judged by whether or not they were faithful to God and to His house. Compare, for example, the reign of wicked King Ahaz with that of good King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 28:1-4 , 2 Chronicles 29:1-11 ).

Significance of the Title The two books now called 1,2Chronicles were originally one book. The division into two books was first made after 300 B.C. by the Jewish elders who translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, producing the Septuagint. The reason for their making Chronicles into two books is quite simple. The Hebrew manuscript, which usually contained no vowels, could be written on one large roll. The Greek translation with its vowels, however, required nearly twice as much space. The division seems quite appropriate with 1Chronicles concluding the reign of David, and 2Chronicles beginning the reign of Solomon.

The English title “Chronicles” is derived from the Latin Chronicon , which was applied to these writings by Jerome. He described these materials as “a chronicle of the whole of sacred history.” The Septuagint (Greek) title is Paraleipomena , meaning “omitted things.” That title reflects their understanding of Chronicles to be a supplement to the materials found in Samuel and Kings.

Closest to the heart is the Hebrew title. It means “the acts or deeds of the day or times.” However, the books do more than recount the various acts of the people of that day. Chronicles focuses on the most important deeds of that time or indeed of any time—building the house of God. God's house was, of course, the Temple in Jerusalem. But God's house transcends that building. Included, historically, would be the many forms in which we find the house of God, namely: the various altars established by the patriarchs, the tabernacle of God erected by Moses, the Temple built by Solomon, the Temple rebuilt by Zerubbabel, the Temple refurbished by Herod, and the various church-houses throughout the ages. The house of God is more than a meeting place. It is also the household of faith—the people of God. David's dwelling “in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:6 ) means dwelling forever with God and His people in the abode of God. In the ultimate sense we would equate God's house with His kingdom. Accordingly, the writer(s) of Chronicles reminds us that the most important of all deeds are those by which God's kingdom is built in the hearts of people.

Significance of Chronicles' Place in the Canon Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah stand among the Hagiographa , meaning “holy writings,” which is the third division of the Old Testament. The order of English versions with Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah after Samuels and Kings goes back to the Septuagint.

The Hebrew Bible places Chronicles as the last book in the Old Testament after even Ezra and Nehemiah. Chronicles doubtless occupied this position in the time of Christ, since he cited Zechariah as the last named prophet who suffered a violent death (2 Chronicles 24:20-22; Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51 ).

Three explanations are given as to why the Hebrews concluded the Old Testament with Chronicles. One is the view that Chronicles was the last book to be accepted in the Old Testament canon. The second is that the author(s) first wrote Ezra-Nehemiah and then Chronicles. The third and most likely is to have the Old Testament conclude with God's providential control of history to build (rebuild) His house in Jerusalem. The final admonition of the Hebrew Old Testament then is for God's people to go up to Jerusalem to build God's house (2 Chronicles 36:23 ). Moreover, God's final promise is to bless with His presence those who indeed go up to build (2 Chronicles 36:23 ).

Authorship, Date, and Sources We do not know for sure who wrote Chronicles. As has been noted, tradition names Ezra the “ready scribe,” a priest descended from Zadok and Phinehas (Ezra 7:1-6 ), as author of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. This tradition cannot be proved, but there is no valid objection to it. If he did not, we do not know who did. The position of these books in the Hagiographa indicates that the author was not a prophet. Moreover, the emphasis upon the priests and Levites suggests the author to be someone like Ezra who was one of them. Also, in the seventh year of his reign, Artaxerxes Longimanus, the Persian king from 465 to 425 B.C., sent Ezra to Jerusalem to order the civil and religious life of the Jews according to the law of Moses ( Ezra 7:8 ,Ezra 7:8,7:14 ). Accordingly, Ezra was the leader of the spiritual restoration effort these books were written to accomplish. An editor(s) could account for any material extending beyond the time of Ezra.

The use of sources by the author(s) is obvious. Much of the material came from the biblical Books of Samuel and Kings. However, other sources are evident such as official chronicles (1 Chronicles 27:24 ), the writings of the prophets (1 Chronicles 29:29 ), and commentaries on the events of that day (2 Chronicles 24:27 ). The genealogies reflect the carefully kept records of the Levites. Sources for the Temple materials include “the works of Asaph and David” (2 Chronicles 29:30 ) and the God-given “pattern” (1 Chronicles 28:19 ).

Purposes and Enduring Value The principal purpose of 1,2Chronicles is to show God's control of history to fulfill His desire to dwell among His people in a perfect relationship of holiness in which God is God and the redeemed are His people. God first shared His desire with Moses (Exodus 25:8 ). The tabernacle and the Temple symbolize that desire. God is fulfilling His desire through the Lord Jesus Christ—the Son of David. When Christ shall have completed His redemptive work, “the tabernacle of God” will be “with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Revelation 21:3 ). Chronicles shows how God worked from the time of Adam but particularly in the times of David through Ezra and Nehemiah to accomplish His desire to dwell in holiness with His people.

A second purpose is to show God's choice of a person and a people to build His house. The person is the Son of David—the Messiah. Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, but the Son who is building and shall build to completion God's true house and the Son whose reign God will establish forever is the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Chronicles 17:12; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 15:14-16 ). The people are those of faith whose lineage goes back to Adam through Seth to Shem to Abraham (1Chronicles 1:1,1Chronicles 1:17,1 Chronicles 1:28 ) to whom God made the promise of the seed (the Christ) through whom He would bless all nations (Genesis 12:1-4; Genesis 15:4-6; Genesis 17:7; Genesis 22:16-18; Galatians 3:16 ). His people are those of Israel and indeed of all nations who will put their trust in Him.

A third purpose is to show that God who dwells in holiness must be approached according to the law that God gave to Moses. David, in seeking to unite his people around the presence of God, learned that God must be sought in the proper way (1 Chronicles 15:13 ). Basic is the necessity to come to God by way of the altar of sacrifice as ministered by the Levitical priesthood. God in His merciful forgiveness of David revealed the place of the altar of sacrifice to be in Jerusalem at the threshing floor of Ornan (1 Chronicles 21:18-22:1 ). There David erected the altar and built the Temple according to God's directions. But most importantly, there the Son of God, our great High Priest, sacrificed Himself on the cross in our stead to bring His people into the glorious presence of God (Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 5:1-10 ).

A fourth purpose of Chronicles is to encourage God's people to work together with God and one another to build God's house. That is the reason the author(s) shared with his people the challenge of God through King Cyrus to go up to Jerusalem to build God's house. That is the reason he shared with them God's promise to be with them to bless as they obediently went up to build. (See 2 Chronicles 36:23 .) That is the reason he shared with them the history of the fortunes of God's house and God's people. He demonstrated thereby God's blessing upon those who built and otherwise honored God's house, but God's judgment upon those who neglected, thwarted the building of, or desecrated the house of God. As such, 1,2Chronicles stands as a challenge to God's people of every generation to devote themselves with all their heart to building God's house. Accordingly, “who is there among you of all his [God's] people? The Lord his God, be with him, and let him go up” (2 Chronicles 36:23 ).

1,2Chronicles: Blessings for Building God's House


I. Israel's People of Faith (1 Chronicles 1:1-9:44 )

A. Godly line of Adam (1 Chronicles 1:1-4 )

B. Sons of Noah focusing on Shem (1 Chronicles 1:5-27 )

C. Sons of Abraham focusing on Isaac (1 Chronicles 1:28-34 )

D. Sons of Isaac focusing on Israel (1 Chronicles 1:34-54 )

E. Sons of Israel focusing on Judah and Levi (1 Chronicles 2:1-9:44 )

II. David's Learning Obedience (1 Chronicles 10:1-22:1 )

A. God's replacing rebellious Saul with David (1 Chronicles 10:1-14 )

B. God's bringing David to power (1 Chronicles 11:1-12:40 )

C. David's seeking to build around God's presence: David's son to build God's house (1 Chronicles 13:1-17:27 )

D. David's marring his victories by his sin (1 Chronicles 18:1-21:17 )

E. God's revelation in mercy of the site of the Temple and the place of the altar of sacrifice (1 Chronicles 21:18-22:1 )

III. David's Preparing to Build God's House (1 Chronicles 22:2-29:30 )

A. Preparing workmen and materials (1 Chronicles 22:2-5 )

B. Preparing Solomon to build (1 Chronicles 22:6-16 )

C. Charging the princes to help Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:17-19 )

D. Making Solomon king (1 Chronicles 23:1 )

E. Ordering the priests and Levites and princes for service (1 Chronicles 23:2-27:34 )

F. Charging Solomon and the people (1 Chronicles 28:1-21 )

G. Inspiring gifts to build (1 Chronicles 29:1-9 )

H. Worshiping God and enthroning Solomon (1 Chronicles 29:10-25 )

I. Summarizing David's reign (1 Chronicles 29:26-30 )

IV. Solomon's Building God's House (2 Chronicles 1:1-9:31 )

A. God's blessing of Solomon to build (2 Chronicles 1:1-17 )

B. Construction and consecration (2 Chronicles 2:1-7:22 )

C. Solomon's other achievements (2 Chronicles 8:1-18 )

D. Solomon's wisdom and wealth and fame (2 Chronicles 9:1-28 )

E. Concluding Solomon's reign (2 Chronicles 9:29-31 )

V. God's Judging Judah's Kings by Their Faithfulness to His House (2 Chronicles 10:1-36:21 )

A. The wicked reign of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 10:1-12:16 )

B. The wicked reign of Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:1-22 )

C. The sin-marred reign of good King Asa (2 Chronicles 14:1-16:14 )

D. The godly reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:1-21:1 )

E. The wicked reign of Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:2-20 )

F. The wicked reign of Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 22:1-9 )

G. The wicked reign of Athaliah (2 Chronicles 22:10-23:21 )

H. The good reign of Joash (2 Chronicles 24:1-27 )

I. Imperfect devotion of Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:1-28 )

J. Uzziah's violation of the priestly office (2 Chronicles 26:1-23 )

K. Good but imperfect reign of Jotham (2 Chronicles 27:1-9 )

L. Wicked reign of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:1-27 )

M. Unqualified good reign of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33 )

N. Conversion of wicked King Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:1-20 )

O. Wicked reign of Amon (2 Chronicles 33:21-25 )

P. Unqualified good reign of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:1-35:27 )

Q. Wicked reigns of Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim: beginning of Exile (2 Chronicles 36:1-8 )

R. Wicked reigns of Jehoiachin and Zedekiah: final stage of Exile (2 Chronicles 36:9-21 )

VI. Providential Decree to Rebuild God's House (2 Chronicles 36:22-23 )

A. Date and origin of decree (2 Chronicles 36:22 )

B. Purpose of decree (2 Chronicles 36:22 )

C. Motivating force of decree (2 Chronicles 36:23 )

D. Substance of decree (2 Chronicles 36:23 )

John H. Traylor Jr.

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Chronicles, Books of'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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