1 and 2 Chronicles

CHRONICLES, 1 and 2. These books are called in Hebrew diverê ha-yāmîm, “the words [affairs] of the days,” meaning “the annals” (cf. 1Chr.27.24). Similar annals, now lost, are mentioned in 1 and 2 Kings (e.g., 1Kgs.14.19, 1Kgs.14.29); they cannot, however, consist of our present books, which were not written until a century later. The church father Jerome (a.d. 400) first entitled them “Chronicles.” Originally they formed a single composition but were divided into 1 and 2 Chronicles in the LXX, about 150 b.c. In the Hebrew they stand as the last book of the OT canon. Christ (Luke.11.51) thus spoke of all the martyrs from Abel in the first book (Gen.4.1-Gen.4.26) to Zechariah in the last (2Chr.24.1-2Chr.24.27).

Because of these emphases, many modern critics have rejected Chronicles as being Levitical propaganda, a fiction of “what ought to have happened,” with extensive (and conflicting) revisions as late as 250 b.c. The book’s high numeric totals (such as the one million invading Ethiopians, 2Chr.14.9) have been questioned despite the elucidations presented by several conservative scholars (see, e.g., E. J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 1949, pp. 388-90). Although Chronicles does stress the bright side of Hebrew history, it does not deny the defects (cf. 1Chr.29.22 on the successful second anointing of Solomon, and 2Chr.17.3 on the more exemplary first ways of David). The prophetic judgments of Kings and the priestly hopes of Chronicles are both true, and both are necessary. The morality of the former is invaluable, but the redemption of the latter constitutes the more distinctive feature of Christian faith.

While primarily historical in nature, the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles reflect a distinct theology. This theology is set forth in the selection and arrangement of historical events as well as in the chronicler’s comments on these events.

One of the important theological themes of the books of Chronicles is the necessity of obedience for divine blessing. The chronicler observes that Saul’s death was due to unfaithfulness (1Chr.10.13-1Chr.10.14), as was the exile of the southern kingdom (1Chr.9.1; see also 2Chr.6.24). On the other hand, obedience will bring blessing to the nation (1Chr.28.8; 2Chr.7.14-2Chr.7.18). Even the lengthy genealogy that forms the preface to 1 Chronicles contains affirmations of this fact (2Chr.4.10; 2Chr.5.1, 25). The narration of selected events from the life of David focuses on the steps of obedience that led to his successful administration of the kingdom. Instances of David’s disobedience are minimized. Thus the obedience of David was presented as an ideal for the postexilic community.

Another theological aspect of Chronicles is its emphasis on the Davidic theology. David’s role in the establishment of Israelite worship receives prominence (1Chr.22.2-1Chr.22.5; 1Chr.23.1-1Chr.23.32; 1Chr.25.1-1Chr.26.32). But most important to the Davidic theology is the restatement of the terms of the Abrahamic covenant to David (1Chr.17.1-1Chr.17.27; cf. 2Chr.6.1-2Chr.6.11). The Davidic covenant established the divine authority of the Davidic dynasty and guaranteed its perpetuity (1Chr.21.7).

The theology of worship in Chronicles acknowledges only one site where Israel may worship. The legitimacy of the postexilic temple and its personnel is established by virtue of its continuity with the temple built by Solomon under the sponsorship of David (1Chr.17.24; 2Chr.6.7-2Chr.6.9).

Bibliography: J. M. Myers, I Chronicles (AB), 1965, and II Chronicles (AB), 1965; P. R. Ackroyd, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1973; H. G. M. Williamson, 1 and 2 Chronicles (NCB), 1982.——JBP