Discovering Chronicles

As with Samuel and Kings, though Chronicles appears as two books in our English Old Testaments, it was originally given as one unified book in Hebrew. Like these books, it gives detailed historical information about the nation of Israel, beginning with the rise of King David and ending with the Babylonian captivity.

In some ways Chronicles appears to repeat what has already been said in 2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings, but this is not the case. Like the four gospels in the New Testament which record the life and ministry of Jesus from different perspectives and for distinct reasons, Chronicles retells the history of Israel in a special way and for a special reason.

Kings emphasized the supreme authority of God’s prophetic word over the kings and over the nation. In this way it emphasized the ministry of the prophets. Chronicles emphasizes the ministry of the priests instead and focuses on the spiritual condition of the people’s hearts, with a special emphasis on worship.

This message served a very important purpose because Chronicles was likely written several decades after Kings. Though Kings had been written to the Jews who were in exile, Chronicles appears to have been written to Jews who had returned from exile and were faced with the challenge of rebuilding the Temple, restoring Temple worship, and resettling in the land.

For this reason, they needed some lessons from history to encourage their next steps into the future. Most importantly, they need to learn the importance of seeking the Lord at the center of all their endeavors.

An Overview

You can outline this book in the following way:

Genealogies (1 Chron 1-9)
Though the lists of descendants may appear monotonous at first, they feature some important details.

They begin with the history of the world, going all the way back to Adam. This underscores the timeless, faithfulness of God to his people and to his promise to send a person who would deliver mankind from sins (Gen 3:15).

They focus on tracing the line of Judah up to King David and then up to the present day at the time of writing. This also emphasizes God’s unswerving commitment to provide the Messiah to the world through David’s line.

The genealogies also trace the lines of Aaron’s descendants who served the Lord in the Temple at Jerusalem. This feature underscores a major theme for this book – worshipping God.

The reign of David and plans for the Temple (1 Chron 10-29)
Following the genealogies, the writer of Chronicles gives extensive attention to the reign of King David. In chapters 10-21, he focuses on the life and reign of David. This section paints a grand and successful perspective and mostly ignores any negative aspects of his life – like when he was persecuted by Saul or when he committed adultery.

By writing about his life in this way, the author portrays David in a positive way. He made good decisions, brought peace to the kingdom, and led the nation into increasing victory and an expanding territory. This portrayal presents David in an ideal way, which sets him up not only as a standard for the kings who would come after him, but as a king who would cause people to look ahead to a king who would be like him but better.

One bad decision by David stands out in this section, however – when he disobeyed God by numbering the people (1 Chron 21). As a consequence, the Lord reduced the population of Israel by more than 70,000 men. In repentance for this sin, David purchased a threshing floor for an expensive price and offered sacrifices and offerings to God.

Though this moment distinguished David from the true Messiah that would come (since the Messiah would never disobey God), it also pointed ahead to the Messiah in a very special way.

  • This field, located at Jerusalem, was the same place where God told Abraham to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice, only for God to provide a lamb of his own instead (Gen 22:1-14).
  • It was also the place where the prophet Gad told David to build God’s temple (which Solomon would later do) and where David would later bring the Ark of the Covenant (2 Chron 28:14; 2 Chron 3:1).
  • Most stunning of all, though, is that this was also right near the place where the crucifixion of the Jesus, the true Messiah, would die for the sins of the world.

Know these things, it is clear that this site served as an important place where Abraham, David, and the Jewish people for centuries would offer sacrifices to God to atone for their sins. Ultimately, it would be the place God had chosen for Christ would die as the once-for-all sacrificial lamb for sin.

Following this strategic chapter, Chronicles shifts the focus to David’s plans for building a permanent Temple for worshiping God.

The reign of Solomon and building the Temple (2 Chron 1-9)
Following the reign of David, Chronicles continues to portray his son Solomon in a grand and positive way. Most importantly, this section focuses on the fulfillment David’s plans when Solomon completed the building of the Temple and instituted worship and sacrifice to God at this new location.

By building the Temple and ushering in peaceful and prosperous conditions for the nation of Israel, this section serves as the pinnacle of the book and of the history of Israel to this point. It begins with the creation of mankind in the Garden of Eden and culminates in the worship of God by his people at the Temple in Jerusalem.

The rest of the kings who reigned in Jerusalem (2 Chron 10-36)
From this point forward, the writer of Chronicles describes the reigns of the kings who would come after David and Solomon. Unlike the book of Kings, this book focuses only on the kings of the southern kingdom – the kingdom where Jerusalem was located, Temple worshipped occurred, and the descendants of David reigned. Even the priests and Levites relocated from all the other tribes down to Judah to serve in the worship of God at the Temple (2 Chron 11:13-17).

This section provides portrays the kings of Israel as a series of character studies. Those who devoted themselves to worshipping the Lord and following his ways experienced success and blessing. Those who worshipped other gods, neglected to follow God’s ways, and worshipped God in the wrong way experienced failure and hardship.

The book concludes with yet another emphasis on the Temple.

  • 2 Chronicles 36:15 indicates that God had been slow to judge Israel because he had compassion for his people and for the Temple (“his dwelling place”).
  • 2 Chronicles 36:17-19 records that the Babylonians confiscated the worship items from the Temple, destroyed the Temple with fire, and broke down the protective wall around Jerusalem.
  • 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 explains that the nation had not gone into captivity indefinitely but would be in exile for 70 years to compensate for their failure to uphold the laws of Sabbath rest in the land for a total of 70 years.
  • 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 describes how at the end of this period, the Persian king named Cyrus made a royal proclamation given to him by God to release the Jews from exile to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

The Israelites who read this book were on the other side of these historical events. They had rebuilt the Temple and were in the process of returning to wholehearted worship of God.

The last sentence of this book is especially interesting. You may not be able to tell in your English translation, but this is actually an incomplete sentence. “Who is among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him and let him go up…” (2 Chron 36:23).

This indicates that the writer of Chronicles was no merely looking to the Temple which Ezra and Nehemiah had built, but was looking ahead to a future restoration that was still yet to come … one that would be governed by the one, true Davidic Messiah, Jesus Christ in conjunction with the future, millennial and heavenly Temple which was to come.

Some Personal Application

Devote yourself to seeking after God.
Throughout these books, you will notice many occurrences of words and phrases like “seeking the Lord,” “seeking God,” “prepare your heart,” and “a loyal heart.” This emphasizes more than outward, external obedience and reminded the Israelites of the shema, the central command in the law of Moses to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deut 6:4-5).

Moses had prophesied this at the beginning of their nation and Joshua and Samuel had reiterated it. Then throughout the reigns of David’s descendants over Israel, God evaluated the character of people (esp. the kings) based upon whether they devoted their heart to seeking the Lord or whether they pursued other priorities and worshipped other gods.

This theme is emphasized in God’s response to Solomon’s prayer at the grand dedication ceremony of the Temple (2 Chron 7:12-14).

“Then the LORD appeared to Solomon by night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Do you seek the Lord with all your heart, or are you being pulled away by other things?

Finish well, no matter what your past is like.
A man like Uzziah ruled in a wise and godly way. He “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” and he “sought God” (2 Chron 26:4-5). At the end of his life, however, he willfully bypassed the priests to offer a sacrifice to God by himself (2 Chron 26:16-18). Due to this pride and disobedience, God afflicted him with leprosy, a disease that would make him ceremonially unclean and prevent him from worshipping in the Temple anymore (2 Chron 26:19-21).

Just because you had a close relationship with God at an earlier point in your lay does not guarantee that you will have the same approach in your later years. You need to seek the Lord all the days of your life.

But what about a person who lived wickedly for many years? Is it possible for such a person to return to the Lord before the end? King Manasseh was like this. He “did evil in the sight of the Lord,” far more so than any king that had come before him, even than the kings of the surrounding pagan nations (2 Chron 33:2, 9)!

As a consequence, the foreign king of Assyria carried him away as a captive (2 Chron 33:11). During this time, however, Manasseh “humbled himself greatly before God” and prayed to him (2 Chron 33:12). In response, God brought him back to Jerusalem and re-established him as king (2 Chron 33:13). He even removed the idols and repaired the Temple for proper worship of God (2 Chron 33:15-16).

Even if you’ve lived a terrible life, God will respond to a humble heart who repents and asks for forgiveness. If a good king like Uzziah can end badly and a bad king like Manasseh can end well, then what about you?

As the people of Israel faced a new future with a rebuilt Temple following their exile in Babylon, they faced a similar turning point. Would they seek the Lord their God with all their hearts (like David and the other somewhat good kings) or would they turn away from God and seek after other Gods (as the bad kings had done)?

What about you?

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