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I Chronicles

Author: Unknown

Date Written: 517-400 BC

Date of Narrative: 1050-970 BC

 

Like the books of Samuel and Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles should be read together because they were originally one book.  The books of Chronicles review the history of Israel in a different way than Samuel-Kings.  Rather than offering a systematic presentation of Israel's history, they offer an interpretation, an understanding of Israel's history.  The books quote from and allude to several biblical books and they even copy some sections directly from Samuel and Kings.  The author, often referred to as The Chronicler, is writing after the people have returned from exile.  He seeks to explain God's plan for his people and his commitment to his promises down through the generations.  While the books of Kings saw the exile as the end of the nation, Chronicles is about the nation's new beginnings after exile.  The returned exiles are struggling to pick up the pieces of their civilization and regain their identity as Israelites.  The Chronicler puts covenant faithfulness at the heart of this process.  St. Jerome said that Chronicles was so important and so valuable that anyone who claims to know Scripture without knowing Chronicles ought to laugh at himself.

 

Traditionally, the author of 1 and 2 Chronicles was thought to be the same as the author of Ezra-Nehemiah.  Yet recent scholarship has found serious differences between the writing of Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles which suggest that they were not written by the same author.

 

1 Chronicles begins with a series of long genealogies from Adam to the period after the exile (1-9).  These sections seem boring to contemporary readers, but they serve as an historical record of the people.  They connect Adam, Abraham, Jacob and David with the present day of the Chronicler.  They show a direct link between the past and the present, helping the returned exiles to understand that the promises of God which applied to their ancestors now apply to them.  The genealogies are the template of Israelite identity.  Additionally, they preserve the lineage of the kings of Judah, which designate certain men as claimants to the vacant throne of David.  They constitute an ancestral record for the priests and Levites, which confirms their privilege to serve in the Temple.  The genealogies are like a constitution of ancient Israel, designating who holds political and religious power which is transmitted by birth.

 

1 Chronicles highlights the achievements of David and avoids discussing his most embarrassing sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11).  The Chronicler records David's victories (18-20), his devoted soldiers (11-12) and his kingdom officers and officials (27).  The narrative pays a great deal of attention to the Ark of the Covenant, which David brings to Jerusalem and to the everlasting covenant which the Lord establishes with him (17).  The only sin of David that Chronicles emphasizes is the census of fighting men which he conducts near the end of his reign (21).  The census symbolizes that David is trusting in human power rather than in God's power so God releases a plague against Israel.  David stops the plague by building an altar at the threshing floor of Araunah, which later becomes the site of the Temple.

 

The last section of 1 Chronicles narrates David's preparations for the Temple.  He divides the Levites into 24 groups to conduct Temple worship and he makes all the practical provisions possible for the Temple's construction.  David and other Israelites donate building material for the construction of the Temple and David explicitly charges Solomon to construct it.

 

1 Chronicles offers an interpretation of the Israelite kingdom's early history which sees God's hand at work in the ancestors and leaders of Israel.

 

By Mark Giszczak

 

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