The Glossary of Terms

First and Second Books of Chronicles



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

The thirteenth and fourteenth books in the ot containing the compilation of data on Israel’s history made by the ‘Chronicler.’ Title: The Hebrew (as one book) is entitled ‘acts of the days,’ meaning ‘annals,’ while the Greek (as two books) is called ‘the things left out.’ This latter represents a serious misunderstanding of the work, namely, that it is designed to supplement the books of Samuel and Kings. Rather, the work must be understood as another presentation of the story of Israel from creation to the end of the monarchy.


The First and Second Books of the Chronicles

Content: The books may be divided into four sections: 1 Chronicles 1-9, by genealogies and lists, the story from Adam to the period of restoration after the exile; 1 Chronicles 10-29, the reign of David, prefaced by a presentation of Saul’s failure and culminating in Solomon’s commission to build the Temple; 2 Chronicles 1-9, the reign of Solomon centered on the building of the Temple; and 2 Chronicles 10-36, the monarchy of the Davidic line to its downfall in the exilic period.

The Relation of 1 and 2 Chronicles to Other OT Writings: The closest parallels are in Samuel and Kings and there are numerous points where the text is almost word for word that of Samuel and Kings. This suggests direct dependence on those books or on a similar form of their text. Textual evidence from Qumran suggests that the text used by Chronicles was closer to that form. However, large sections of Samuel and Kings do not appear in Chronicles—for example, almost the whole of the David narratives in 2 Sam. 9-20—and the Northern Kingdom is virtually ignored. In some instances, on the other hand, it is assumed that readers are familiar with material not included, as, for example, in the Hezekiah narratives of 2 Chronicles 32. Also, there is much material in Chronicles not found in Samuel and Kings, for example, the accounts of David’s preparations for the building of the Temple and information about his organization of Temple worship. Numerous narratives concerning the kings of Judah contain substantial unparalleled material, often of a homiletic nature. Detailed differences between the two texts (1 and 2 Chron. and 1 Sam.-2 Kings) may reflect changes made in the interests of the particular interpretation and the logical viewpoint of Chronicles. Some modifications may result from changes in the language by the time Chronicles was composed. Use is made in 1 Chronicles 1-9 of genealogies and lists found in Genesis and elsewhere. Small narrative fragments appear within the lists. Various theories of additions to earlier forms of the text have been proposed.

Position in the Canon: In the Greek and hence in the Latin and English, Chronicles appears, with Ezra and Nehemiah, among the narrative books—after Kings and before Esther. This is understandable, since these books are clearly designed to tell the story of Israel; all the narrative books offer interpretations of that story or parts of it.

In the Hebrew, Chronicles stands at the end of the third part of the canon, the Writings. Some manuscripts place it first in this part of the canon, before Psalms, associating Chronicles’ presentation of David as establisher of worship with the psalms as Davidic. Much of the third part of the Hebrew canon is associated with worship, and hence with David and Solomon as the royal founders of worship and the Temple.

The present division between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah shows an overlap: 2 Chron. 36:22-23 are repeated in Ezra 1:1-3a. These verses could have been added to Chronicles to give a hopeful ending to the book (and indeed to the canon) or could point toward the sequel in Ezra-Nehemiah, whether or not this is regarded as a continuation of Chronicles.

The Relation between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah: The textual traditions all separate these two works, but they have often been regarded as belonging to the same author or at least to the same school of thought. Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah may be treated as a single work, even without complete consistency of language or outlook. Arguments for separation based on linguistic use are not conclusive, partly because of the use of source material in all parts of the work. Arguments based on content and outlook are more significant. The stress on the Davidic monarchy in Chronicles contrasts with the relative absence of Davidic allusion in Ezra-Nehemiah, but the underlying concern of both is with the Temple, its foundation, and its rebuilding. The Davidic dynasty in Chronicles is of interest virtually only in relation to that Temple activity. Ezra-Nehemiah offers an interpretation of the authenticity of the rebuilt Temple as continuing the original one when Davidic rule has gone forever. The conciliatory attitude to the north, traceable in some passages (e.g., in 2 Chron. 28 and 31) contrasts with the exclusivism expressed in Ezra and Nehemiah. But the true Israel is in both limited to the areas of Judah and Benjamin (cf. Ezra 4:1), to which any loyal believer must adhere; the north is outside that orbit. The final decision is one of balance; whether the points of difference weigh too heavily against unity or against the concept of a school in which both works belong, or whether, considering the diversity that appears in many biblical writings, the differences here are no greater than in other instances. The earliest form of the text known to us invites us to read them together; and the Greek form in 1 Esdras in the Apocrypha reads the narratives through from 2 Chronicles 35 to Nehemiah 8 without a break, leaving out the main part of the clearly distinguishable Nehemiah material.

The Viewpoint of Chronicles: The central interest lies in the place of David as founder of the worship at the Jerusalem Temple and in Solomon as the builder of that Temple. Interest in the later kings concentrates largely on their loyalty to that Temple, approves their reforms (especially Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah) and condemns their failures (especially Ahaz). The people involved in this are the true Israel, consisting of Judah and Benjamin, which remained loyal to the Davidic house. An appeal is made to the apostate north to rejoin the true Israel, but the response is meager, and association with the apostates is condemned (e.g. Jehoshaphat). The successes and failures of the true Israel are measured in terms of obedience and loyalty. Wars lost are judgments on disloyalty, whereas victories are won by faith. In those victories God himself is the victor, responding to the appeals of his faithful and giving them success. The ultimate verdict of disloyalty and disregard of prophetic warning brings the disaster of the conquest by Babylon, and an exile that leaves the land totally empty. But the prospect of restoration is present not only in the final two verses (2 Chron. 36:22-23, possibly a later addition), but also in the lists of returned exiles in 1 Chronicles 9. The theology may be seen as representing a continuation and refinement of Deuteronomic thought, combined with a concern for holiness and purity that resembles the thought of the Priestly writers and Ezekiel. Yet Chronicles offers its own particular variant on these other theological viewpoints. The date of the work is uncertain, but probably fourth century b.c.; the authorship unknown.

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