June 29, 2010 David Balzer

Introduction to 1 and 2 Chronicles: The King, The People and The Temple

Chronicles is unusual because it describes many events which are also described in Samuel and Kings. In some places the writer (called the Chronicler) ADDED details which WEREN’T found in other parts of the Bible, and in other places he LEFT OUT parts of the story. He had a theological purpose behind these choices.

The Chronicler relied on many written sources. About half his work is taken from Samuel and Kings, with other sources including Judges, Ruth, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah. He also refers to other non-biblical books.

It seems likely that the book was written for the Jewish community who had returned from Babylon. God had exiled them there from 605 BC. David’s kingly line was lost, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. In 538 BC Cyrus allowed them to return. They are in the land, yet have no Davidic king and are under the rule of Persia.

Is God still interested in them? Are God’s promises to David still valid? Are they still God’s people? Where do the people go from here? These are the questions the writer of Chronicles seeks to answer for the returned Israelites. His big theme is that the way to restore God’s blessings for Israel is to restore the people, the king, and the temple to the way God intended them to be. He achieves his purpose by emphasising several themes;

1. The king: The reign of King David was the high point in Israel’s history. He was a man after God’s own heart. The Chronicler highlights the positive aspects of David’s reign, holding him up as the ideal that Israel can again aspire to. Returning a king from David’s line to the throne is a key step for the Chronicler in the restoration of God’s blessing to Israel.

2. The Law and the Prophets: This is a major focus of Israel’s covenant life under the leadership of the house of David. It was Israel’s obedience to the law, rather than simply the existence of Davidic kings or the temple which assured Israel of God’s blessing. A primary feature of the FAITHFUL king was his attempt to bring the people back to the law, and to heed God’s prophetic word.

3. The temple: The rebuilt temple and its service are God’s greatest gifts to his people. His account of the reign of David focuses on David’s preparation and instructions for the temple. The description of Solomon emphasises his building of the temple.

4. All Israel: Despite God’s people splitting into Judah (southern tribes) and Israel (northern tribes) during the reign of Rehoboam (2 Chron 10), Chronicles still emphasises “all Israel” – listing the genealogies and lands for all twelve tribes, and specifically noting when ALL Israel assembled during the reigns of David and Solomon. The narrative makes frequent mention of movements of godly people from the north to Judah for specific religious reasons. This also serves to give the readers hope for the day when God will restore more than simply the remnant to the land – but all Israel.

The book can be divided into the following sections;

a) 1 Chron 1-9: History of the kingdom

b) 1 Chron 10-2 Chron 9: The united kingdom

c) 2 Chron 10-28: The divided kingdom

d) 2 Chron 29-36: The united kingdom

5. God’s election: God has chosen the tribe of Levi to serve in the temple. He has chosen David as king, and Solomon to build the temple. He has chosen Jerusalem to be his city, and the temple to be the place where His name would dwell. These acts of God assure postexilic Israel that they are still God’s people whose election hasn’t been cancelled.

6. The Promised Messiah: Chronicles sustains Israel’s hope for the promised Messiah by recalling the Davidic covenant of 2 Sam 7 in 1 Chron 17, and then regularly referring back to it. The idealised depictions of the faithful kings (David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah) show the Messianic ideal. They served as types, foreshadowing the David to come of whom the prophets had spoken, encouraging hope in Israel in the face of discouragement.

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