Books of Chronicles
CHRONICLES, BOOKS OF (דִּברֵי הַיָּמִים, chronicles of events or happenings of the days; LXX, παραλειπόμενα). This Heb. expression occurs some thirty-two times in the Book of Kings, twice in Esther (6:1;
Paraleipomena, the name used in the present Gr. and Lat. VSS of Chronicles, reflects the meaning that these are the things omitted in the accounts of Samuel and Kings, esp. concerning the kingdom of Judah. Luther, in using the title Chronicles, followed Jerome in designating these as 1 and 2 Chronicles.
In the modern Heb. Bible thestand last in order in the third division usually identified as the Kethubim, or writings. In the Eng. Bible these books follow 1 and 2 Kings in order.
In the transmission of the Heb. text of Chronicles it was regarded as a single unit until a.d. 1448 when the division into two books was introduced in the Heb. MS (cf. Bentzen, vol. II, p. 211). A Masoretic notation at the end of Chronicles indicating that
In the course of the transmission of the Gr. text of the OT, this book was divided into two. Evidence is insufficient to date this division which may have been made by the translators at the time of tr. or at some subsequent period. By a.d. 400 the Gr. VS used by Jerome had Chronicles identified as two books.
Examination of the content of Chronicles likewise points to its unity. From beginning to end there does not seem to be any indication of differences in style or interest that would suggest more than one author. This account beginning with Adam and continuing to the return of the exiles from Babylon in 539 b.c. reflects the work of one author who used numerous sources in his composition.
OT scholarship has generally recognized the similarity between the account in Chronicles and the Ezra-Nehemiah vol. which in the Heb. Bible likewise was a single unit. The latter seems to be a continuation of the history of the Jews beginning with the decree of Cyrus in 539 b.c. which concluded the account in Chronicles. The style, content, and interest of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah are so similar that it is commonly acknowledged that one author was responsible for both.
Although the evidence may not be conclusive, there is no one known from OT times who is more likely to have been the author of Chronicles than Ezra who is identified as a scribe in the Ezra-Nehemiah vol. (
Since the Ezra-Nehemiah volume accounts for approximately the 1st cent. of the restored Jewish state after the return from exile in 539 b.c. and reports primarily on the activities of Ezra and Nehemiah after a brief account of the return and rebuilding of the Temple, it is quite likely that Ezra wrote this book. In order to provide the proper background for the restored Jewish state, Ezra may have felt the need for an up-to-date account of the history of Israel that made his generation conscious of the importance of the Temple, and the priests who were responsible for leading in the religious observances according to the prescriptions in the Mosaic law and the organization begun by David, the first great king of Israel. The Book of Chronicles would have provided such a historical background.
Ezra returned to Jerusalem in 457 b.c. Although the Temple had been rebuilt in 520-515 b.c. the laxity prevailing in Judah when Ezra arrived seemed to provide the opportune time for him to remind the people of the Mosaic law. Nehemiah returned in 444 b.c. and again in 432 b.c. as governor of the Jewish state providing leadership in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and with Ezra promoting many needed reforms. It may well have been during these decades of Nehemiah’s leadership that Ezra may have felt the need of writing the account of Israel’s religious past as recorded in the books presently known as 1 and 2 Chronicles.
Place of origin and destination.
If Ezra wrote the Chronicles it is quite probable that this task was accomplished after he returned to Jerusalem in 457 b.c. Being under Pers. rule the Jewish state enjoyed relatively peaceful times. Nehemiah came to Jerusalem with authority from the king of Persia to serve as governor. Since Ezra was so intensely interested in the religious life of his people he may have found the political leadership of Nehemiah providing a favorable climate in which to do his research and writing. It’s likely this literary account of Judah’s religious history was designed to offer a better understanding for the Jews in their relationship with God and the promotion of Temple worship in Jerusalem.
More literary sources are referred to throughout Chronicles than in any other book in the OT. Great care is shown in noting the various sources the author uses in compiling this unified religious history of Judah. Although many of these sources may have been lost and are not identifiable they likely were known to the generation in which the author lived.
The literary sources used in the Book of Chronicles may be divided into two classes:
1. Official records
a. The record of the Chronicles of King David (
b. The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (
c. The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (
d. The Book of the Kings of Israel (
e. The words (affairs or records) of the kings of Israel (
f. The Commentary [Midrash] on the Book of the Kings (
g. The decree of David the king of Israel and the decree of Solomon his son (
2. References to prophetic writings and records.
a. Samuel the seer (
b. Nathan the prophet (
c. Gad the seer (
d. Ahijah the Shilonite (
e. Iddo the seer (
f. Shemaiah the prophet (
g. Jehu, the son of Hanani (
h. Isaiah the prophet (
i. “The Chronicles of the Seers” (
In addition to the above mentioned sources the author also had genealogical lists, official documents such as the message (
The official records listed above should not necessarily be interpreted as always identifying different documents. Sometimes the same document may have been referred to by a variable designation. In some cases the material ascribed to Israel also includes Judah (cf.
Most of the prophets listed above are more fully identified in theand Kings. Usually they were closely associated with their respective rulers and consequently constituted reliable sources concerning the ruling king. Interestingly enough the author of Chronicles normally quoted either an official record or a prophet, but not both.
How the prophetic sources the author of Chronicles quoted were related to the Books of Samuel and Kings is difficult to ascertain. It is quite likely that schools of the prophets existed during the divided kingdom period, c. 931-586 b.c., which kept record of the events taking place in both kingdoms. Likely they were located in various cities—not the capitals of either kingdom—where they were free from the direct influence of the kings so that they could record the deeds of the kings even though they were uncomplimentary. (Cf. Thiele, pp. 174-191.) Prophets who encountered their respective kings may have reported their experiences and observations to these centers of prophetic activity where the records were kept. The Books of Samuel and Kings likely were considered the writings of the prophets. Beyond that there may have been many records by prophets available to the author of Chronicles which have been lost to subsequent generations.
The author of Chronicles may also have been familiar with the prophetic books from Isaiah to Malachi according to Eissfeldt (p. 534). Quotations in
Although Ezra was active in Jerusalem teaching the law for more than a decade before Nehemiah came as governor in 444 b.c., the completion of the walls of Jerusalem seemed to be the occasion for a renewed emphasis of genuine religious involvement for the Jews who were citizens of the restored postexilic State. Gathered in a public assembly the people listened to the reading of the Mosaic revelation concerning their responsibilities in the covenant relationship with God. The was observed in an unprecedented manner, and the covenant was renewed (
This extensive community-wide involvement under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah may have been the occasion for Ezra to provide for his people an account of their past which gave them the religious and political background for the re-established state. As noted above, numerous literary sources were available so that Ezra may have compared Nehemiah’s activities with those of David. Although the former was not king he was the governor appointed by the king of Persia. Since David had taken leadership in reforms, organization of the priests and Levites, and was subject to the Mosaic law so did Nehemiah in establishing the religion of the Jewish State. The religious involvements of the Davidic kings in Judah’s past may have been referred to repeatedly by Ezra and Nehemiah as precedents that it would have been quite probable that Ezra compiled the account in the present Books of Chronicles as a point of reference for his people and future generations.
The purpose of the author is nowhere explicitly stated in the Book of Chronicles. However, when the content is examined and compared with other lit. available concerning this same period, it is in order to make certain observations as to the plan and aim the author possibly had in mind in compiling this particular volume.
The kingship of David and his successors seems to be a focal point throughout as he outlined the history of Israel. Although he reported the rebellion of the northern tribes when Rehoboam became king he did not give an account of the establishment of the northern kingdom under Jeroboam. Seldom does he provide any extended information concerning the kings of this seceded kingdom unless it is definitely related to developments in the southern kingdom of Judah.
The fact that Chronicles is not merely a supplement nor a parallel account to the Books of Samuel-Kings history of Israel is also significant. It is true that the former does supplement and parallel the latter frequently, but a careful evaluation of these seems to indicate that the author had a definite purpose for doing so. He omitted much that is recorded in Samuel-Kings but he also provided a considerable number of facts and events which add to the total knowledge of the Davidic dynasty.
The reign of David was given the most extensive consideration (
David’s reign is portrayed in Chronicles with emphasis upon his military supremacy and religious interest. His military heroes and victories over surrounding nations are listed. The Levites and priests were organized and involved in bringing the Ark to Jerusalem and in the worship of God. Although David could not build the Temple he was assured of an eternal throne and made arrangements for the building of the Temple. The extensive account in Chronicles of the leadership David exerted in matters of religion must have been of intensive interest to Ezra and Nehemiah as they stimulated the reforms and renewed the covenant.
This positive religious interest of the Chronicler seems to emerge throughout the rest of his account. He portrayed Solomon in all his glory as the one who built and dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem. His apostasy and idolatry so extensively delineated in
A purpose that seems to emerge from a consideration of his entire account is that the author wanted to impress the readers with the fact that people who really feared God could expect divine favor and blessing. As God’s people they had a covenant relationship with Him. Defection from their commitment as God’s people and disobedience to the prophets who were God’s spokesmen often brought God’s judgment which is indicated concerning several kings.
Although the exiles, who had returned after the exile and the great judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem had taken its course, were unable to establish the kingdom as it had existed under David, they were permitted under the governorship of Nehemiah and the leadership of Ezra to achieve the purpose of wholehearted religious devotion to God as explained by the emphasis of the Book of Chronicles. They had the liberty to adjust their pattern in living to that which had been prescribed for them in the Mosaic revelation and exemplified by numerous leaders who had followed the example of David.
Ever since the Heb. Bible or OT canon has been completed, the Book of Chronicles has never been subject to question as to its canonicity. It was included in the count of twenty-two books by Josephus who held that the canon was completed by 400 b.c.
In the arrangement of the books in the Heb. canon the Book of Chronicles is classified in the third division—Kethubim (writings)—and is the last book in that division. In the Eng. Bibles the Books of Chronicles normally follow 1 and 2 Kings. It is difficult to attach any significance to the place Chronicles has in either order as seems to be indicated by some scholars (cf. Myers, I Chronicles, pp. XVI and XVII).
The order or arrangement of the books in the OT canon likely was a matter of historical development and convenience during the 1st millennium of the Christian era. In the Jewish tradition of the transmission of the Heb. text the first specific indication of any division within the twenty-two scroll canon is that of Josephus. He listed five as law, thirteen by the prophets, and four as “Hymns to God and counsels for men for the conduct of life.” It is unlikely that Chronicles could have been classed in either the first or third group in this classification. Since the Jews continued to transmit their OT text on scrolls, they eventually developed an order in which the twenty-two books were arranged as twenty-four—listing Ruth and Lamentations separately instead of being on the scrolls of Judges and Jeremiah respectively. In this arrangement Chronicles was listed in the third division.
In the transmission of the Gr. text of the OT under Christian auspices the order of the books varies. The NT in its reference to the OT does not reflect any definite arrangement. Frequently it refers to the OT as the “law and the prophets,” indicating a possible twofold division. When the codex or book form replaced the scroll and the books were bound in one vol. a definite order had to be followed. Although the arrangements by various church leaders differed, the order which is commonly used in the Eng. Bibles is more closely related to the Gr. text than to the Heb. Consequently the particular place Chronicles has in either arrangement does not have any bearing on its canonicity in OT times nor since then.
Examination of the text of the Book of Chronicles seems to indicate that less care was exercised in the transmission of this book than in some of the others. The charge of excessive transcriptural errors in Chronicles, however, has often been exaggerated.
The spelling of names varies in numerous cases when compared with the Genesis-Kings account. The similarities between some of the Heb. consonants and the introduction of vowel points by the Masoretic scribes in the Heb. text after a.d. 500 may account for some of the variants in spelling.
The transmission of numerals in the Heb. text of Chronicles accounts for a number of difficulties. Although some scholars have charged the author of Chronicles with exaggeration a comparison of his figures with those of Samuel-Kings indicates that in the vast number of instances the numerical values are in agreement (cf. Archer, p. 394). Out of approximately twenty discrepancies, one-third have larger numbers in Samuel-Kings than in Chronicles. Some discrepancies can also be explained on the basis of a slightly different context. It should also be noted that frequently numbers are given in thousands indicating an approximation rather than exact figures. It is quite likely that in OT times alphabetic letters were used to represent numbers and consequently were more liable to corruption by scribes in transmitting the text (cf. Keil, pp. 43, 44).
On the basis of Elephantine Papyri usage, it seems probable that the Hebrews used vertical and horizontal strokes for digits up to ten with special signs for hundreds and thousands. This kind of system would multiply the difficulties in transmitting the text from generation to generation by scribes.
The original records concerning the kings of Judah were contemporary productions by men who recorded in full accord with the facts of the times in which they lived. Many of these accounts were available to the author of Chronicles. Copies usually were transmitted with utmost fidelity. Consequently to assert that the scribes deliberately altered the facts is without foundation. Difficulties encountered in the present text need to be examined carefully in the light of all the evidence available with high regard for the original text which may have been subject to errors in transmission throughout the centuries of time.
A number of scholars have dated the composition of Chronicles considerably later than the time of Ezra. Some consider it to have been written several generations after Ezra, c. 350 b.c., and then altered and changed by various editors in subsequent generations (cf. Eissfeldt, p. 540). Others date the compilation of Chronicles as late as 250-200 b.c. (cf. Pfeiffer and others). The argument most frequently advanced is the problem concerning the interpretation of the passage in
A careful analysis of the numerous lists given in the Book of Chronicles indicates that the author did not always list successive generations. Frequently he listed several sons born to an individual named. It is reasonable to interpret this passage as extending only to the second generation after Zerubbabel (cf. Young, p. 383).
The date of Ezra, who may have been the author of the Book of Chronicles, is also subject to various interpretations. The “seventh year of Artaxerxes” was equated with the year 398 b.c. in the Journal of Biblical Literature (1921), pp. 104-124, assuming that this referred to Artaxerxes II. W. F. Albright in his second ed. of From Stone Age to Christianity (1946, p. 366) dated Ezra in the thirty-seventh year of Artaxerxes or about 428 b.c. This was based on the assumption that
Another problem cited in the text is the reference to a sum of money in darics (adarkonim). This name for money likely was derived from Darius I who ruled Persia from 520 to 486 b.c. In the text it is mentioned in connection with King David. Since the daric had been in circulation for some time when Ezra lived, it is reasonable to assume that Ezra converted the figure he found in the text before him from gold to darics, so that he would communicate more intelligently to his generation how much each of the princes in David’s time contributed to the service of the Temple.
Some critics have made the charge that the author of Chronicles was in error in tracing the musical guilds serving in the Temple back to the time of David. Concerning this W. F. Albright made the following observation in his article entitled “The b.c., and that the names of the founders of these guilds in the Biblical records are demonstrably of Canaanite type. The name Calcol (
The Book of Chronicles begins with Adam and concludes with the decree of Cyrus in 539 b.c. In this extensive sweep of history from the beginning of the human race to the 5th cent. b.c., it parallels the historical account in the OT as given in Genesis through Kings.
The history of David and his dynasty is of primary importance throughout this account. More space is allotted to David and the establishment of his kingdom than any other individual. In a total of approximately fifty pages given to Chronicles in an ordinary Eng. Bible, about fifteen account for David’s reign, nine for the introduction tracing the genealogical background, six to Solomon, and about twenty to the kings of Judah ruling on the Davidic throne from Rehoboam to Zedekiah (931-586 b.c.).
For an analysis of the content of Chronicles the following outline may be helpful:
From a critical analysis of the material included in the Book of Chronicles there emerge certain emphases which the author must have wanted to impress upon his readers. The following may be noteworthy of consideration.
The genealogy is definitely selective. Since the list of families residing in Jerusalem after the Exile is given in
Except for the lineage of David, the author offers nothing about the background or early life of David. Even the reign over Judah is omitted. Crowned as king of all Israel, David was established as king, with Jerusalem as the capital and the support of mighty men from all the tribes of Israel. Special emphasis was given to the Ark and the extensive organization of the Levites to officiate and serve in the worship of God. Although David was not permitted to build the Temple, he was promised that his dynasty would be established forever. Extensive delineation is also given to David’s arrangements for building the Temple and the elaborate organization for service in the Temple after it was completed.
The account of Solomon’s reign is comparatively brief. The Temple continued to be the focal point of interest with extensive coverage of the dedicatory address and prayer by Solomon.
Throughout the three and a half centuries surveyed in the rest of Chronicles, the importance of the Temple and the maintenance of true worship in harmony with the law of Moses and the practice of David is primarily important. The observance of the feasts and seasons are elaborately described. Emphasis repeatedly is given to the importance of periods of revival after there had been a period of apostasy.
The theological perspective of the author seems to be indicated in
Beginning with David the kings who heeded the prophets and sought to observe the law and maintain worship in the Temple are commended. Kings who made ungodly alliances and turned to idolatry were severely rebuked and judged. God-fearing people were the recipients of God’s favors.
Captivity and exile were a manifestation of God’s wrath upon the people who had spurned the prophets (
H. L. Allrik, “The Lists of Zerubbabel and the Hebrew Numeral Notation” in BASOR 136 (Dec. 1954), 21-27; W. Rudolph, Chronikbucher (Handbuch zum Alten Testament v. 21) (1955); A. Bentzen, Introduction to the Old Testament (1957), vol. II, 211-217; S. J. Schultz, The Old Testament Speaks (1960); G. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (1964), 389-395; J. M. Myers, I Chronicles (The Anchor Bible) (1965); E. R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, rev. ed. (1965); O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament (1965), 529-540; C. F. Keil, The Books of the Chronicles, reprint (1966).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(dibhere ha-yamim), "The Words of the Days"; Septuagint paraleipomenon:
1. The Name
2. The Position of Chronicles in the
3. Two Books, or One?
4. The Contents
5. Sources Biblical and Extra-Biblical
6. Nehemiah’s Library
7. The Way of Using the Biblical Sources
8. Additions by the Chronicler
9. Omissions by the Chronicler
10. The Extra-Biblical Sources
11. The Object in Writing the
12. The Text
13. Critical Estimates
14. Date and Authorship
15. Evidence as to Date and Authorship
Arguments for a Later Date
16. Truthfulness and Historicity
(1) Alleged Proofs of Untruthfulness
(2) Truthfulness in the Various Parts
17. The Values of the Chronicles
1. The Name:
The analogy of this title to such English words as diary, journal, chronicle, is obvious. The title is one which frequently appears in the Hebrew of the Old Testament. It is used to denote the records of the Medo-Persian monarchy (
As applied to our present Books of Chronicles this title was certainly not intended to indicate that they are strictly copies of public documents, though it may indicate that they have a certain official character distinguishing them from other contemporary or future writings. The Greek title is Paraleipomenon, "Of Things that have been Left Untold." Some copies add "concerning the kings of Judah," and this is perhaps the original form of the title. That is, the Greek translators thought of Chronicles as a supplement to the other narrative Scriptural books. Jerome accepted the Greek title, but suggested that the Hebrew title would be better represented by a derivative from the Greek word chronos, and that this would fit the character of the book, which is a chronicle of the whole sacred history. Jerome’s suggestion is followed in the title given to the book in the English and other languages.
2. The Position of Chronicles in the Old Testament:
In most of the VSS, as in the English, the Books of Chronicles are placed after the, as being a later account of the matters narrated in Kings; and Ezra and Nehemiah follow Chronicles as being continuations of the narrative. In the Hebrew Bibles the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah and 1 and 2 Chronicles are placed last. By common opinion, based on proof that is entirely sufficient, the three books constitute a single literary work or group of works, by one author or school of authors. It is co nvenient to use the term "the Chronicler" to designate the author, or the authors if there were more than one.
3. Two Books, or One?:
It is the regulation thing to say that 1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one book, which has been divided into two. The fact is that Chronicles is counted as one book in the count which regards the Old Testament as 22 or 24 books, and as two books in the count which regards the whole number of books as 39; and that both ways of counting have been in use as far back as the matter can be traced. Both ways of counting appear in the earliest Christian lists, those of Origen and Melito, for example. 1 Chronicles closes with a summary which may naturally be regarded as the closing of a book.
4. The Contents:
With respect to their contents the Books of Chronicles are naturally divided into three parts. The first part is preliminary, consisting mostly of genealogical matters with accompanying facts and incidents (1Ch 1-9). The second part is an account of the accession and reign of David (1Ch 10-29). The third part is an account of the events under David’s successors in the dynasty (2 Ch).
The account in Chronicles of the reign of David divides itself into three parts. The first part (1Ch 10-21) is a series of sections giving a general view, including the death of Saul, the crowning of David over the twelve tribes, his associates, his wars, the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem, the great Davidic promise, the plague that led to the purchase of the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite. The second part (
The history of the successors of David, as given in 2 Chronicles, need not here be commented upon.
5. Sources Biblical and Extra-Biblical:
The sources of the Books of Chronicles classify themselves as Biblical and extra-Biblical. Considerably more than half the contents come from the other Old Testament books, especially from Sam and Ki. Other sources mentioned in the Books of Chronicles are the following:
(1) The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (
(2) The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (
(3) The Book of the Kings of Israel (
(4) The Book of the Kings (
It is possible that these may be four variant forms of the same title. It is also possible that they may be references to our present Books of Ki, though in that case we must regard the formulas of reference as conventional rather than exact.
(5) The Book of the Kings of Israel (
(6) The Midrash of the Book of the Kings (
(7) The Words of the Kings of Israel (
Observe that these seven are books of Kings, and that the contents of the last three do not at all correspond with those of our Biblical books. In the seventh title and in several of the titles that are yet to be mentioned it is commonly understood that "Words" is the equivalent of "acts" or "history"; but it is here preferred to retain the form "Words," as lending itself better than the others to the syntactical adjustments.
(8) The Words of Samuel the Man of Vision and the Words of Nathan the Prophet and the Words of Gad the Seer (
(9) The Words of Nathan the Prophet (
(10) The Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (
(11) The Visions of Jedo the Seer (
(12) The Words of Shemaiah the Prophet (
(13) "Shemaiah wrote" (
(14) Iddo the Seer in Reckoning Genealogies (
(15) "The Words (The History) of Jehu the son of Hanani, which is inserted in the Book of the Kings of Israel" (
(16) "The rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the Prophet, the son of Amoz, write" (
(17) "The Vision of Isaiah .... in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel" (
(18) The Words of the Seers (
(19) References to "Lamentations," and to "Jeremiah" etc. (
(20) The Midrash of the Prophet Iddo (
(21) Liturgical writings of David and Solomon (
(22) Commandments of David and Gad and Nathan (
(23) The Commandment of David and Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun (
(24) Chronicles of King David (
(25) Last Words of David (
6. Nehemiah’s Library:
If such a library as this existed we should perhaps expect to find some mention of it somewhere. Such a mention I think there is in the much discussed passage in 2 Macc 2:13-15. It occurs in what purports to be a letter written after 164 BC by the Maccabean leaders in Jerusalem to Aristobulus in Egypt. The letter has a good deal to say concerning Nehemiah, and among other things this: "And how he, founding a library, gathered together the books about the kings and prophets, and the (books) of David, and letters of kings about sacred gifts." It says that these writings have been scattered by reason of the war, but that Judas has now gathered them again, and that they may be at the service of Aristobulus and his friends.
This alleged letter contains statements that seem fabulous to most modern readers, though they may not have seemed so to Judas and his compatriots. Leaving out of view, however, the intrinsic credibility of the witness, the fitting of the statement into certain other traditions and into the phenomena presented in Chronicles is a thing too remarkable to neglect. In the past, men have cited this passage as an account of the framing of a canon of Scripture--the canon of the Prophets, or of the Prophets and the Hagiographa. But it purports to be an account of a library, not of a body of Scripture; and its list of contents does not appear to be that of either the Prophets or the Hagiographa or both. But it is an exact list of the sources to which the author (or authors) of Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah claim to have access--"books about the kings" (see above, Numbers 1-7), "and prophets" (Numbers 8-20), "and of David" (Numbers 21-25 ff), "and letters of kings about sacred gifts" (those cited in Ezra and Nehemiah). The library attributed to Nehemiah corresponds to the one which the Chronicler claims to have used; and the two independent pieces of evidence strongly confirm each the other.
7. The Way of Using the Biblical Sources:
The method in which the Biblical sources are used in Chronicles presents certain remarkable features. As a typical instance study
This phenomenon is interesting for many reasons. It has its bearings on the trustworthiness of the information given; a copy of an ancient document is of higher character as evidence than a mere report of the contents of the document. It has a bearing on questions concerning the text; are the texts in Kings and Chronicles to be regarded as two recensions? It is especially interesting as illustrating the literary processes in use among the writers of our Scriptures.
In the transcribed passages, almost without exception, there has been a systematic editorial revision. Words and clauses have been pruned out, and grammatical roughness smoothed away. Regularly the text in Chronicles is somewhat briefer, and is more fluent than in Samuel or Kings. If we give the matter careful attention we will be sure that this revisional process took place, and that it accounts for most of the textual differences between Chronicles and the earlier writings, not leaving many to be accounted for as corruptions.
8. Additions by the Chronicler:
Of course the most significant changes made by the Chronicler are those which consist in additions and omissions. It is a familiar fact that the added passages in Chronicles which bulk largest are those which deal with the temple and its Worship and its attendants--its priests, Levites, musicians, singers, doorkeepers. Witness for example the added matter in connection with the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem, the preparations for the temple, the priests’ joining Rehoboam, the war between Abijah and Jeroboam, the reforms under Asa and Jehoshaphat, details concerning Uzziah, Hezekiah’s passover, the reform of Manasseh, the passover of Josiah (1Ch 15-16; 22- 29;
Next in bulk comes the added genealogical and statistical matter, for example, the larger part of the preliminary genealogies, details as to David’s followers, Rehoboam’s fortified cities and family affairs with details concerning the Shishak invasion, Asa’s military preparations and the invasion by Zerah, with numbers and dates, Jehoshaphat’s military arrangements, with numbers, Jehoram’s brothers and other details concerning him, Uzziah’s army and his business enterprises (1Ch 2-9; 12; 27;
9. Omissions by the Chronicler:
As the Books of Chronicles thus add matters not found in the older books, so they leave out much that is contained in theand Kings. Here, however, the question should rather be as to what the Chronicler has retained from his sources than as to what he has omitted. He writes for readers whom he assumes to be familiar with the earlier books, and he retains so much of the older narrative as seems to him necessary for defining the relations of his new statements of fact to that narrative. From the point where the history of David begins he has omitted everything that is not strictly connected with David or his dynasty--the history of northern Israel as such, the long narratives concerning the prophets, such distressing affairs as those of Amnon and Absalom and Adonijah and the faithlessness of Solomon, and a multitude of minor particulars. We have already noticed his systematic shortening of the passages which he transcribes.
10. The Extra-Biblical Sources:
There are two marked phenomena in the parts of Chronicles which were not taken from the other canonical books. They are written in later Hebrew of a pretty uniform type; many parts of them are fragmentary. The Hebrew of the parts that were copied from Samuel and Kings is of course the classical Hebrew of those books, generally made more classical by the revision to which it has been subjected. The Hebrew of the other parts is presumably that of the Chronicler himself. The difference is unmistakable. An obvious way of accounting for it is by supposing that the Chronicler treated his Scriptural sources with especial respect, and his other sources with more freedom. We will presently consider whether this is the true account.
There are indications that some of the non-Biblical sources were in a mutilated or otherwise fragmentary condition when the Chronicler used them. Broken sentences and passages and constructions abound. In the translations these are largely concealed, the translators having guessed the meanings into shape, but the roughnesses are palpable in the Hebrew. They appear less in the long narratives than in the genealogies and descriptive passages. They are sometimes spoken of as if they were characteristic of the later Hebrew, but there is no sense in that.
For example, most of the genealogies are incomplete. The priestly genealogies omit some of the names that are most distinguished in the history, such names as those of Jehoiada and two Azariahs (
11. The Object in Writing the Books of Chronicles:
On the basis of these phenomena what judgment can we form as to the purposes for which the books of Chronicles were written? There are those who find the answer to this question a very simple one. They say that the interests of the writer were those of the temple priesthood, that it seemed to him that the older histories did not emphasize these interests as they ought, and that he therefore wrote a new history, putting into it the views and facts which he thought should be there. If this statement were modified so as not to impugn the good faith of the Chronicler, it would be nearly correct as a statement of part of his purpose. His purpose was to preserve what he regarded as historical materials that were in danger of being lost, materials concerning the temple-worship, but also concerning a large variety of other matters. He had the historian’s instinct for laying hold of all sorts of details, and putting them into permanent form. His respiration from God (we do not here discuss the nature of that inspiration) led him this way. He wanted to save for the future that which he regarded as historical fact. The contents of the book, determined in part by his enthusiasm for the temple, were also determined in part by the nature of the materials that were providentially at his disposal. There seems also to have been present in his consciousness the idea of bringing to completion the body of sacred writings which had then been accumulating for centuries.
As we have seen, the Greek translators gave to the Books of Chronicles a title which expressed the idea they had of the work. They regarded it as the presentation of matters which had been omitted in the earlier Scriptures, as written not to supersede the older books, but to supplement them, as being, along with Ezra and Nehemiah, a work that brought the Scriptures up to date, and made them complete.
12. The Text:
The text of the Books of Chronicles has been less carefully preserved than that of some other parts of the Old Testament. Witness for example the numbers 42 and 8 for the ages of Ahaziah and Jehoiachin (
13. Critical Estimates:
In critical discussions less semblance of fair play has been accorded to Chronicles than even to most of the other Scriptures. It is not unusual to assume that the Chronicler’s reference to sources is mere make-believe, that he "has cited sources simply to produce the impression that he is writing with authority." Others hurry to the generalization that the Books of Kings mentioned in Chronicles (see Numbers 1-7 above) are all one work, which must therefore have been an extensive Midrash (commentary, exe getical and anecdotal) on the canonical Books of Kings; and that the references to prophetic writings are to sections in this Midrash; so that practically the Chronicler had only two sources, the canonical books and this midrashic history of Israel; and that "it is impossible to determine" whether he gathered any bits of information from any other sources.
Into the critical theories concerning Chronicles enters a hypothesis of an earlier Book of Ki that was more extensive than our present canonical books. And in recent publications of such men as Buchler, Benzinger and Kittel are theories of an analysis of Chronicles into documents--for example, an earlier writing that made no distinction between priests and Levites, or an earlier writing which dealt freely with the canonical books; and the later writing of the Chronicler proper.
What we know in the matter is that three sets of authors combined in producing the Books of Chronicles--first, the men who produced the canonical sources, second, the men who produced the other sources, and third, the man or men who directly or indirectly put the contents of these sources together into the book which we have. We have no means of knowing what most of the intermediate processes were, and it is superlatively useless to guess. It is gratuitous to say that the mention of sources in Chronicl es is not made in good faith. It is probable that among the sources were Midrashim that were nearly contemporaneous. It is exceedingly improbable that none of the sources mentioned were genuine and ancient. All probabilities agree to the effect that the returned exiles and their near descendants were likely to study the ancient history of their race, and to gather materials for that purpose. As we have seen, the phenomena of the book indicate the presence of an antiquarian motive which was sure to be interested in genuine items of evidence from the remote past.
14. Date and Authorship:
The current opinion sixty years ago was that the Books of Chronicles and the whole Old Testament were completed about 404 BC, near the time when Artaxerxes Mnemon succeeded Darius Nothus. The statement now fashionable is that the Books of Chronicles were completed not later than about 250 BC, and this constantly degenerates into the statement that they were written about 250 BC or later. In fact, they were completed within the lifetime of Nehemiah, not later or not much later than 400 BC.
In discussing this we cannot ignore the fact that Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah are one work, or, if you prefer, one series. The closing verses of 2 Chronicles duplicate the opening verses of Ezr. This is not, probably, an inadvertent repetition. The Books of Chronicles were written later than the other parts of the series. The closing verses are the Chronicler’s notification to his readers that he has brought up the earlier history to the point at which he had previously begun the narrative in Ezr. The testimony concerning Ezra and the "men of the" and Nehemiah and their work on the Scriptures does not deserve the contempt with which some persons treat it. We know nothing concerning the Great Synagogue as an organization, but we know much concerning the succession of men, from Daniel to Simon the Just, who are called the men of the Great Synagogue. The old traditions do not say that Ezra was the founder of the succession, but they make him the typical person in it. Two bits of tradition are not necessarily inconsistent if one attributes work to Ezra which the other attributes to the men of the Great Synagogue. The regulation remark that tradition attributes Biblical work to Ezra and not to Nehemiah is untrue. Nehemiah was one of the men of the Great Synagogue, and prominent as such. He is introduced to us as a handsome boy, a king’s favorite, coming to Jerusalem in 444 BC. In 433 BC he returned to the king. After an unknown interval of time he came back to Judea, and presumably spent the remainder of his long life there, dying some years or sortie decades after 400 BC.
15. Evidence as to Date and Authorship:
The placing of the work of the Chronicles at the close of the Hebrew Scriptures is in itself of the nature of testimony. The men who placed it there testify thereby to their belief that these are the latest writings of the Old Testament aggregate. We are familiar with the testimony of Babha’ Bathra’ to the effect that most of the later books of the Old Testament were due to the men of the Great Synagogue and to Ezra, but that Nehemiah completed the Books of Chronicles. We cannot avoid including the Chronicles among the 22 books which Josephus says were written before the death of Artaxerxes Longimanus (Apion, I, 8). Of course the limit of time here really intended by Josephus is not the death of Artaxerxes, but the lifetime of men who were contemporary with him--that of Nehemiah, for example. We have already noted the testimony concerning Nehemiah’s library (2 Macc 2:13-15). The time when the library was being gathered was the most likely time for it to be used as the Chronicler has used it. Add the recapitulation in Ecclesiasticus (44-49), which m entions Nehemiah latest in its list of Old Testament worthies.
Internal marks, also, justify the conclusion that the work of the Chronicler was complete before Nehemiah died. The abundant presence of Persian words and facts, with the absence of Greek words and facts, seems conclusive to the effect that the work was done before the conquests of Alexander rendered the Greek influence paramount. In some of the sections (e.g.
Arguments for a Later Date.
Josephus, however, apparently regards the Darius who commissioned Sanballat as the last of the kings of that name, and says that Jaddua was contemporary with, thus dating the Samaritan schism a little before 331 BC. All scholars reject these statements when they are used for dating the Samaritan schism, but some scholars eagerly accept them for the purpose of proving the late date of the last books of the Hebrew Bible. The argument never was valid, and it is completely exploded by the Aramaic papyri recently discovered in Egypt, which show that Bagoas and the high priest Johanan and the sons of Sanballat were contemporaries in 407 BC, the 17th year of Darius Nothus, and for some years earlier.
Dr. Driver (LOT, edition 1897, 518) expresses an opinion very commonly held concerning the Chronicles: "The only positive clue which the book contains as to the date at which it was composed is the genealogy in
Dr. Driver suggests, however, that in
16. Truthfulness and Historicity:
"The Books of Chronicles are a tendency writing of little historical value"; "a distorted picture in the interest of the later institutions of postexilic Judaism"; "some ancient facts, having trickled down through oral or written tradition, are doubtless preserved. .... They are few indeed compared with the products of the imagination, and must be sifted like kernels of wheat from a mass of chaff." These statements, taken at random from the book that happens to be handiest, fairly represent the opinion held by many. They regard the Chronicles as a fabrication made in the interest of a religious party, a fabrication in which the history has been intentionally falsified.
A principal motive for this opinion is to discredit the testimony of Chronicles against certain critical theories, the said testimony being more full and detailed than that in Samuel and Kings and the prophets. But on the whole question the testimony of Chronicles is to the same effect with that of the other books. The testimony of the other books supports that of the Chronicles. The discrediting of Chronicles is part of a theory which denies the historical trustworthiness of practically all parts of the Old Testament and.
(1) Alleged Proofs of Untruthfulness.
Against the Chronicles it is alleged that they sometimes contradict the older books; but nearly all the instances are capable of satisfactory solution. The large numerals in Chronicles, for example those concerning the armies of David, Abijah, Jeroboam, Asa, Zerah, Jehoshaphat, Amaziah, Uzziah, are adduced as extravagant and incredible. Most of the difficulty in connection with such numbers, whether in Chronicles or Exodus or Numbers or Judges or Samuel, disappears when we observe that they clearly belong to an artificial way of counting. These numbers are given in even thousands or even hundreds (even fifties or tens in a very few instances), which would not be the case if the hundreds and thousands were merely numerical. It is alleged that the Chronicler views the glories of the past as on a larger scale than that in which they are presented in the earlier books, but this is not uniformly the case. On the basis of these allegations the Chronicler is charged with an extravagance that is inconsistent with sober truthfulness, but this charge follows the fate of the others. It is said that the Chronicler lacked trustworthy sources, but that is a thing to be proved, not taken for granted, and we have seen that it is improbable. It is alleged that the text is in such bad shape as to render the contents unreliable. This may be balanced against the counter conjecture that, since the Books of Chronicles have not been so often copied as the Books of Ki, their text is in the transcribed passages to be preferred to that of Ki. In fine, the reasons alleged against the historicity of Chronicles dwindle on examination, though there remain some problems that cannot be so easily disposed of.
(2) Truthfulness in the Various Parts.
Different parts of the Chronicles have their own separate problems of historicity. Take the genealogies, for example. If anyone had fabricated them, he would not have put them into their present fragmentary form, in which they have no story interest, and are of no direct use to anybody. On the other hand it is reasonable to account for their present form by the hypothesis that the writer used such materials as he had. This hypothesis is not derogatory to the inspiration of the writer. Deity saw fit to have these materials placed in the Scriptures, and to this end He influenced men of different generations through providential leadings and through impulses of the Spirit. No one thinks that the Spirit-guided man who put the genealogies in their final form received them as miraculous revelations. He received them as the product of effort in study--his own efforts and those of his predecessors. He is entitled to be counted as truthful if he used good judgment and fidelity in selecting and recording his materials.
Similar statements would be true in regard to the other statistical matter, and in regard to the many incidents that are mentioned in connection with the genealogies and other matters. To think of them as inventions by the Chronicler is not congruous with human experience. They are too brief and broken to have interest by themselves as stories. You can assign no possible reason that one could have for inventing them. They bear the marks of being genuine antiquarian discoveries. The final writer believed that he had come across facts which would be of interest if put into connection with the history as currently narrated. These matters are much more reasonably accounted for as facts than as inventions. And furthermore, a good many of them, first and last, have been corroborated by exploration. Take, for example, Manasseh’s being carried to Babylon by the captains of the king of Assyria, or the account of Uzziah’s military greatness (
Possibly on a different footing is such a passage as the account of Abijah and Jeroboam (
On still a different footing are such narratives as those concerning the bringing up of the ark, the first making of Solomon king, the reforms under Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah. These are sober narratives, with nothing in them to suggest flights of the imagination. Probably no one doubts that the Chronicler intended them to be understood as historical fact. If one is under bondage to the modern tradition which dates De from the time of Josiah and the priestly laws from after the exile, he must needs count these parts of Chronicles as falsified history; but if he is free from that bondage he will see no strong reason for counting them so.
17. The Values of the Chronicles:
In fine men are correct when they say that the greatest values of the Books of Chronicles lie in their availability for vividly illustrating the great truths of religion. They are correct when they assign great value to these books as depicting the ideas of the time when they were written. But they are none the less of great value as repeating from the other Scriptures the outline of the history of the religion of Yahweh, and presenting additional material for the filling in of that outline.
Among the older commentaries on Chronicles see that of Keil in the Keil-Delitzsch series, published in English in 1872; that of Zockler in the Lange series, 1876; that of Barker in the Pulpit Commentary, after 1880. Among more recent works, from the point of view which denies the historicity of Chronicles, see R. Kittel in the Polychrome Bible, 1895, and Curtis and Masden in the International Critical Commentary, 1910. A brilliant characterization from that point of view is that by Torrey, "The Chronicler as Editor and as Independent Narrator" in AJSL, January, 1909, and subsequent numbers. On the other side see Beecher, Reasonable, 1911, chapters xviii and xxii; "Is the Chronicler a Veracious Historian?" in Bible Student (October, 1899 and subsequent numbers), is a defense of the historicity. All works on Old Testament Introduction discuss the questions concerning Chronicles. In view of the many proper names in Chronicles, such a book as Gray, Studies in Hebrew , has its uses. For the chronological facts, especially in connection with the closing of the Old Testament history, see Beecher, Dated Events of the Old Testament, 1907. For the Egyptian papyri see Drei Aramaische Papyrusurkunden aus Elephantine, Sachau, Berlin, 1907, or the Appendix to Toffteen, Historic Exodus. Also Sprengling’s article in AJSL, April, 1911. As to light on the Chronicles from explorations, see "The Excavations of Gezer, 1902-5, and 1907-9," PEF; or Bible Sidelights from the Mounds of Gezer, 1906. For other books see the lists in Encyclopedia Biblica and HDB.
Willis J. Beecher