Books of Chronicles

Books_of_Chronicles

reproduced from A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic

Approximate date: late 400s B.C.E. (Right, conservative-moderate, some Left); 300s B.C.E. (some Left); 200s B.C.E (some Left)

Time period: additional material not covered in Samuel-Kings, detailing the rise and fall of Israel’s monarchy

Author: Ezra (Right); an anonymous Chronicler (conservative-moderate, some Left); unidentified redactors (some Left)

Location of author: Land of Israel, possibly Jerusalem (Right, conservative-moderate, Left)

Target audience and their location: Jewish exiles having returned from Babylonian captivity (Right, conservative-moderate, Left)

Theological Summary: The Hebrew title of the Books of Chronicles is Divrei HaYamim, meaning “the Events/Annals of the Days/Years.” Similar terminology appears in Kings (1 Kings 14:19, 29; 15:7, 23, 31; 16:5, 14, 20, 27; 22:45). The Greek Septuagint actually titled this text Paraleipomenōn meaning “things omitted,” which some consider “not a very suitable name” (NBCR).[1] Its translators likely considered the text to be a supplement to Samuel-Kings, and they were the first to divide the text into two books. Jerome suggested that the Latin title Chronicon totius divinae historiae, “a chronicle of the whole of sacred history” (Harrison),[2] be used. It has since been adapted as “Chronicles.”

Chronicles is a very unique text when compared to its predecessor, Samuel-Kings. It does not focus on the Northern Kingdom of Israel, except in passing.[3] This work attempts to summarize events beginning with Adam all the way to Cyrus the Great of Persia. Chronicles jumps over and overlooks many people and events seen in Samuel-Kings, which is undeniably the author’s main source of information. Because of its irregular style of composition “The Chronicles have long been among the most neglected books in the Hebrew Bible” (Dillard and Longman).[4]

Protestant Christian tradition, following the order of the Septuagint and Vulgate, places 1&2 Chronicles among the Historical Books between 2 Kings and Ezra-Nehemiah. 1&2 Chronicles is actually the last book of the Tanach in the Jewish order, placed among the Writings.

The questions that Chronicles asks largely pertain to the Jewish people having returned from Babylonian exile.[5] Is God still interested in His people? Is He still faithful to His covenants? What do the Jewish people do under foreign (Persian) rule? Was God going to fulfill His promises? As a result of these, and other questions, the history presented in Chronicles presents itself with a more definite “slant” than Samuel-Kings, as it is designed to be uplifting and a message of hope to those who read it. Chronicles attempts to answer the question of who the returned Jewish exiles are as the people of God. The occasion for writing Chronicles is probably to call the people back to the Instruction of God (cf. Ezra 7:10) so that they may fulfill His Divine purpose.

Jewish tradition in the Talmud regards the priest Ezra as the author of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah (b.Bava Batra 15a).[6] This cannot be established with certainty as the text does not state an author directly.[7] It may be that Ezra was the principal composer of an early draft of the text. Harrison indicates, “Ezra [presumably] carried the narratives down to his own time.”[8] If Ezra were the principal composer, then it is no surprise that the various priestly genealogies seen in 1 Chronicles chs. 1-9 carry their way to him. Ezra-Nehemiah does pick up where Chronicles leaves off, and many conservatives believe that these two texts once made up a single work.[9]

There is a trend among conservative scholars today to not consider Chronicles a unified work with Ezra-Nehemiah,[10] as there have likely been redactions made to the text. In the original composition, the Chronicler indicates that he considered many sources, notably Samuel-Kings. Additional sources used by the Chronicler probably included the Torah, Judges, Ruth, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Zechariah (although probably not in their final, current form). References are made throughout Chronicles to other sources, including: the Book of the Kings of Israel (1 Chronicles 9:1; 2 Chronicles 20:34), the Book of the Annals of King David (1 Chronicles 27:24), the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel/Israel and Judah (2 Chronicles 16:11; 25:26; 27:7; 28:26; 32:32; 35:27; 36:8), and the Annotations on the Book of the Kings (2 Chronicles 24:27). These sources are all admittedly vague and no longer extant.[11] A number of non-extant prophetic writings are also mentioned throughout Chronicles.

Conservative theologians often date the composition of Chronicles in the late Fifth Century B.C.E., although a date in the late Fourth Century B.C.E. is probable if one accepts a unified composition with Ezra-Nehemiah.[12] It is asserted that the text had to have been written during the Persian period as there are no references to either Hellenism or the rise of Alexander the Great.[13]

Liberal theologians largely deny any kind of unified composition for Chronicles. Earlier liberals considered Chronicles to be a kind of sequel to P or the so-called Priestly Code[14] seen in their documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch (see Genesis entry for a summarization of the JEDP documentary hypothesis). It has been advocated that Chronicles reflects a distinctly religious history from a Levite,[15] placing the Levites in a very positive light and “glorifying Judaism and the Jews through the centuries beyond all possibilities…[rewriting] the history from David to Cyrus: he freely omitted from his sources, added to them, modified them, being blissfully unaware of anachronisms and impossibilities” (IDB).[16]

Liberals have commonly argued that Chronicles was composed over a broad period of time from the Fourth-Third Centuries B.C.E., and was intended to be the “first apology [meaning, defense] for Judaism” (IDB).[17] Some liberals even place the composition of Chronicles as late as the Second Century B.C.E.[18] Generally, liberals agree that Chronicles itself is pieced together from sources, such as the sections dealing with David and Solomon, as well as other individual kings, and over time were strung together and unified.

Liberal criticism against Chronicles has been immense. Most consider it to have some severe theological inconsistencies.[19] Criticism against Chronicles is nothing new, going back to the time of the writing of the Talmud, with many considering Chronicles to be “didactic or homiletical in nature” (Harrison).[20] Most liberal problems with Chronicles concern its historicity and reliability.[21]

Conservative theologians have largely responded to liberal criticism with the need to consider Chronicles as first theological, then historical. Harrison indicates, “it should be noted at once that the writings of the Chronicler did not lay claim to be considered as history in the contemporary occidental sense of that term.”[22] Our interpretation of Chronicles is directly connected to Samuel-Kings, and one must consider their unique vantage points: one before or during the Babylonian exile, and one after it.

The way the Chronicler records Israel’s history is not inconsistent from what we see among the documents at Qumran.[23] A modern reader cannot subject Chronicles to his or her expectations of historical accuracy, recognizing that among its contemporary ancient histories Chronicles demonstrates a strong level of affinity. “What the reader of the Chronicler needs is sensitivity to the method of writing history in biblical times together with some knowledge of the milieu in which the work came into existence, the need which it was intended to fill, and the audience to which it was addressed” (ISBE).[24] Current trends in liberal studies of Chronicles indicate an “emphasis…more on the Chronicler’s use of additional material, rather than upon that material’s historical value” (ABD).[25]

Both Aramaic and Hebrew are present in the Books of Chronicles. Its Septuagint Greek translation is important, but is often considered to be “paraphrastic…[and] bears witness to an older and often shorter form of the text” (ABD).[26] Others consider its LXX version to be extremely literal.[27] The Hebrew MT witness of Chronicles is in a “fair state of preservation” (Payne, EXP),[28] but due to its young date among Tanach books infrequent copying may have actually caused more textual errors[29] that could have been redacted—particularly with its numbering system. “[S]maller numbers [are] supplied by the LXX [and] seem to indicate that the larger ones of the Hebrew have not been transmitted in their original form, or that the compiler was scaling them down in the interests of factual reality” (Harrison).[30]

The author of Chronicles affirms a continuity to the past, with the Temple in Jerusalem being rebuilt by the approval of the Persian king (2 Chronicles 36:22-23), mirrored by his earlier references regarding Kings David and Solomon. The author focuses on the successes and failures of Israel’s earlier kings, and emphasizes how being faithful to the Torah and Prophets is more important than whether the Jews of his generation have a king. The author is often thought to consider his own Jewish people to represent “all Israel,” as the Southern Kingdom had absorbed a sufficient number of Northern Kingdom Israelites (2 Chronicles 34:9; 35:17-18). This can present some challenges to those who overemphasize the futuristic expectation of prophecies detailing the restoration of Judah and Israel, who fail to recognize the Jews as being “Israel.” Yet, exclusively relying on such references in Chronicles, though, to somehow claim that the Southern and Northern Kingdoms corporately, were restored in ancient times subsequent to the Babylonian exile—and using it as a reason to ignore prophecies that speak to the contrary—would be most ill-advised (cf. 2 Chronicles 10:19).

The author of Chronicles wants to sustain a hope for a Deliverer to come, i.e., a Messianic son of David (2 Samuel 7). He indicates that God has been faithful to His people going back through the recorded generations (1 Chronicles 1:1). God has chosen Israel for special purposes, but Israel’s relationship to God is contingent upon its obedience. As a result, the Chronicler is also concerned with God’s retribution upon His people.[31]

The dominant parts of Chronicles are dedicated to David (1 Chronicles 11-29) and Solomon (2 Chronicles 1-9), with negative information regarding these two kings largely omitted.[32] This has led to intense speculation that this is intentional, with the Chronicler portraying the “Messianic” qualities of these two leaders.[33] It may be that the author intends to use the lives of David and Solomon to address some serious post-exilic questions.[34]

Issues in interpretation largely regard the relationship of Samuel-Kings to Chronicles, and how to synthesize Samuel-Kings’ accounts of Ancient Israel’s history with how they are often “explained” in Chronicles.[35] “It is clear that Chronicles read by itself would give an unbalanced view of Israelite history” (NBCR),[36] as the author has a definite theological agenda.[37] Genealogies in Chronicles (1 Chronicles 1:1-9:44) are segmented in places compared to their listings in other Tanach Scriptures,[38] with the process of telescoping purposefully omitting names to make an important theological or ideological point (cf. Matthew 1; Luke 3).

Furthermore, there are serious issues in Chronicles regarding numbers and census accounts that may be a result of textual corruption. A notable one appears in 2 Chronicles 14:9 which refers to a million man army accompanied by only 300 chariots.[39] The Greek Septuagint is sometimes helpful in providing a more realistic number, but not always. Difficulties such as the spelling of proper names is a challenge to modern readers, but not to the Ancient Near Eastern worldview.

The Apostolic Scriptures do occasionally quote from Chronicles,[40] and undoubtedly formed an important part of the worldview of Yeshua and His Disciples.

Messianic handling of Chronicles is difficult to determine at the present time, concurrent also with its handling of Samuel-Kings, largely due to the overemphasis on the Torah in our Bible studies. Too frequently, when interpreters do examine Chronicles, the witness of Samuel-Kings is not considered, or vice versa. Even more issues may have to be considered with the possible unity between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah that is often proposed. Parallels are most certainly seen between characters in the Torah (i.e., Moses and Joshua) and how they are compared to some figures in Monarchist Israel (i.e., David and Solomon). The Chronicler is undeniably influenced by his position as a Southern Kingdom Jew, and is one who is ultimately interested in giving the returned exiles hope for the future in the covenant faithfulness of their God.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ackroyd, P.R. “Chronicles, I and II,” in IDBSup, pp 156-158.
Coggins, Richard J. “1 and 2 Chronicles,” in ECB, pp 282-312.
Dillard, Raymond B., and Tremper Longman III. “Chronicles,” in An Introduction to the Old Testament, pp 169-177.
Ellison, H.L. “1 and 2 Chronicles,” in NBCR, pp 369-394.
Harrison, R.K. “The Books of Chronicles,” in Introduction to the Old Testament, pp 1152-1171.
Hasel, G.F. “Chronicles, Books of,” in ISBE, 1:666-673.
Klein, Ralph W. “Chronicles, Book of 1-2,” in ABD, 1:992-1002.
Knoppers, Gary N. “Chronicles, Books of,” in EDB, pp 242-244.
Payne, J. Barton. “Chronicles, 1 and 2,” in NIDB, pp 210-211.
_____________. “1, 2 Chronicles,” in EXP, 4:303-562.
Pfeiffer, R.H. “Chronicles, I and II,” in IDB, 1:572-580.
Rothstein, David. “First Chronicles,” in The Jewish Study Bible, pp 1712-1764.
______________. “Second Chronicles,” in Ibid., pp 1765-1825.
Throntveit, Mark A. “1 Chronicles,” in New Interpreter’s Study Bible, pp 571-608.
_________________. “2 Chronicles,” in Ibid., pp 609-651.


NOTES

[1] H.L. Ellison, “1 and 2 Chronicles,” in NBCR, 369.

[2] Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1152; J. Barton Payne, “1, 2 Chronicles,” in EXP, 4:304.

[3] Gary N. Knoppers, “Chronicles, Books of,” in EDB, 243; Richard J. Coggins, “1 and 2 Chronicles,” in ECB, 282.

[4] Dillard and Longman, 169.

[5] Ibid., 173.

[6] “Ezra wrote the book that is called by his name and the genealogies of the book of Chronicles up to his own time. That accords with the position of Rab, for said R. Judah said Rab, ‘Ezra left Babylonia to go up to the land of Israel only after he had written his own genealogy.’ Who finished the book of Chronicles? Nehemiah b. Hachaliah” (b.Bava Batra 15a; The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary).

[7] J. Barton Payne, “Chronicles, 1 and 2,” in NIDB, 210; Coggins, in ECB, 282; Dillard and Longman, 170.

[8] Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1153.

[9] Ellison, in NBCR, 369; G.F. Hasel, “Chronicles, Books of,” in ISBE, 1:667; Payne, in EXP, 4:305-307; Dillard and Longman, 171.

[10] Dillard and Longman, 172.

[11] R.H. Pfeiffer, “Chronicles, I and II,” in IDB, 1:578-579; Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, pp 1159-1161; Payne, “Chronicles, 1 and 2,” in NIDB, 210; ISBE, 1:668; Payne, in EXP, 4:309-311; Ralph W. Klein, “Chronicles, Book of 1-2,” in ABD, 1:996-997; Gary N. Knoppers, “Chronicles, Books of,” in EDB, 242.

[12] Ellison, in NBCR, 369; Hasel, “Chronicles, Books of,” in ISBE, 1:670.

[13] Coggins, in ECB, 282.

[14] Pfeiffer, “Chronicles, I and II,” in IDB, 1:573-574.

[15] Pfeiffer, “Chronicles, I and II,” in IDB, 1:575; Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, pp 1161-1162; P.R. Ackroyd, “Chronicles, I and II,” in IDBSup, 157; Coggins, in ECB, 283.

[16] Pfeiffer, “Chronicles, I and II,” in IDB, 2:577.

[17] Pfeiffer, “Chronicles, I and II,” in IDB, 1:577; cf. Klein, “Chronicles, Book of 1-2,” in ABD, 1:994-995.

[18] Hasel, “Chronicles, Books of,” in ISBE, 1:670.

[19] David Rothstein, “First Chronicles,” in Jewish Study Bible, 1712.

[20] Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1163.

[21] Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, pp 1157-1158; Rothstein, in Jewish Study Bible, 1712.

[22] Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1158.

[23] Hasel, “Chronicles, Books of,” in ISBE, 1:667; Coggins, in ECB, 284.

[24] Hasel, “Chronicles, Books of,” in ISBE, 1:669.

[25] Klein, “Chronicles, Book of 1-2,” in ABD, 1:997.

[26] Ibid., 1:995.

[27] Payne, in EXP, 4:311.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1170.

[31] Hasel, “Chronicles, Books of,” in ISBE, 1:671-672.

[32] Klein, “Chronicles, Book of 1-2,” in ABD, 1:999-1000; Dillard and Longman, pp 174-175.

[33] Hasel, “Chronicles, Books of,” in ISBE, 1:672; Rothstein, in Jewish Study Bible, pp 1715-1716.

[34] Hasel, “Chronicles, Books of,” in ISBE, 1:669-670; Knoppers, “Chronicles, Books of,” in EDB, 243.

[35] Payne, in EXP, 4:315.

[36] Ellison, in NBCR, 370.

[37] Payne, “Chronicles, 1 and 2,” in NIDB, 211.

[38] Dillard and Longman, pp 173-174.

[39] Pfeiffer, “Chronicles, I and II,” in IDB, 1:574; Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1165; Hasel, “Chronicles, Books of,” in ISBE, 1:669; Payne, “Chronicles, 1 and 2,” in NIDB, 211; Payne, in EXP, 4:562.

[40] Payne, in EXP, 4:312.

About J.K. McKee 636 Articles
J.K. McKee (B.A., University of Oklahoma; M.A., Asbury Theological Seminary) is the editor of Messianic Apologetics (www.messianicapologetics.net), a division of Outreach Israel Ministries (www.outreachisrael.net). He is a 2009 recipient of the Zondervan Biblical Languages Award for Greek. He is author of numerous books and commentaries, dealing with a wide range of topics that are important for today’s Messianic Believers.

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