Bible Book Number 13—1 Chronicles
Place Written: Jerusalem (?)
Time of Writing: c. 460 B.C.E.
Time Covered: After 1 Chronicles 9:44: 1077–1037 B.C.E.
1. In what ways is First Chronicles an essential and beneficial part of the divine record?
IS First Chronicles just a dry list of genealogies? Is it merely a repetition of the books of Samuel and Kings? Far from it! Here is an illuminating and essential part of the divine record—essential in the day of its writing in reorganizing the nation and its worship, and essential and beneficial in showing a pattern of divine worship for later days, including this present day. First Chronicles contains some of the most beautiful expressions of praise to Jehovah to be found in all Scripture. It provides wonderful foregleams of Jehovah’s Kingdom of righteousness, and it is to be studied with profit by all who hope in that Kingdom. The two books of Chronicles have been treasured by Jews and Christians alike through the ages. The Bible translator Jerome had such an exalted opinion of First and Second Chronicles that he considered them an “epitome of the Old Testament” and asserted that “they are of such high moment and importance, that he who supposes himself to be acquainted with the sacred writings, and does not know them, only deceives himself.”a
2. Why was Chronicles written?
2 The two books of Chronicles apparently were originally one book, or roll, which was later divided for convenience. Why was Chronicles written? Consider the setting. The exile in Babylon had ended about 77 years before. The Jews were resettled in their land. However, there was a dangerous trend away from Jehovah’s worship at the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. Ezra had been authorized by the king of Persia to appoint judges and teachers of the law of God (as well as that of the king) and to beautify the house of Jehovah. Accurate genealogical lists were necessary to assure that only authorized persons served in the priesthood and also to confirm the tribal inheritances, from which the priesthood gained its support. In view of Jehovah’s prophecies regarding the Kingdom, it was also vital to have a clear and dependable record of the lineage of Judah and of David.
3. (a) What was Ezra desirous of infusing in the Jews? (b) Why did he highlight the history of Judah, and how did he stress the importance of pure worship?
3 Ezra was earnestly desirous of arousing the restored Jews from their apathy and of infusing in them the realization that they were indeed the inheritors of Jehovah’s covenanted loving-kindness. In the Chronicles, therefore, he set before them a full account of the nation’s history and of the origins of mankind, going back as far as the first man, Adam. Since the kingdom of David was the focal point, he highlighted the history of Judah, omitting almost entirely the absolutely unredeeming record of the ten-tribe kingdom. He depicted Judah’s greatest kings as engaged in building or restoring the temple and zealously leading in the worship of God. He pointed out the religious sins that led to the kingdom’s overthrow, while emphasizing also God’s promises of restoration. He stressed the importance of pure worship by focusing attention on the many details pertaining to the temple, its priests, the Levites, the masters of song, and so on. It must have been very encouraging for the Israelites to have a historical record that focused on the reason for their return from exile—the restoration of Jehovah’s worship at Jerusalem.
4. What evidence favors Ezra as the writer of Chronicles?
4 What is the evidence that Ezra wrote Chronicles? The closing two verses of Second Chronicles 36:22, 23 are the same as the opening two verses of Ezra 1:1, 2, and Second Chronicles ends in the middle of a sentence that is finished in Ezra 1:3. The writer of Chronicles must therefore have been the writer also of Ezra. This is further borne out in that the style, language, wording, and spelling of Chronicles and Ezra are the same. Some of the expressions in these two books are found in no other Bible books. Ezra, who wrote the book of Ezra, must also have written Chronicles. Jewish tradition supports this conclusion.
5. What were Ezra’s spiritual and secular qualifications?
5 No one was better qualified than Ezra to compile this authentic and accurate history. “For Ezra himself had prepared his heart to consult the law of Jehovah and to do it and to teach in Israel regulation and justice.” (Ezra 7:10) Jehovah aided him by holy spirit. The Persian world-ruler recognized the wisdom of God in Ezra and commissioned him with wide civil powers in the jurisdictional district of Judah. (Ezra 7:12-26) Thus equipped with divine and imperial authority, Ezra could compile his account from the best available documents.
6. Why may we have confidence in the correctness of Chronicles?
6 Ezra was an extraordinary researcher. He searched through older records of Jewish history that had been compiled by reliable prophets contemporary with the times as well as those compiled by official recorders and keepers of public records. Some of the writings he consulted may have been documents of state from both Israel and Judah, genealogical records, historical works written by prophets, and documents possessed by tribal or family heads. Ezra cites at least 20 such sources of information.b By these explicit citations, Ezra honestly gave his contemporaries the opportunity to check his sources if they wished to do so, and this adds considerable weight to the argument for the credibility and authenticity of his word. We today can have confidence in the correctness of the books of Chronicles for the same reason that the Jews of Ezra’s time had such confidence.
7. When was Chronicles written, who have regarded it as authentic, and what time period does it cover?
7 Since Ezra “went up from Babylon” in the seventh year of the Persian king Artaxerxes Longimanus, which was 468 B.C.E., and Ezra makes no record of Nehemiah’s significant arrival in 455 B.C.E., Chronicles must have been completed between these dates, probably about the year 460 B.C.E., in Jerusalem. (Ezra 7:1-7; Neh. 2:1-18) The Jews of Ezra’s day accepted Chronicles as a genuine part of ‘all Scripture that is inspired of God and beneficial.’ They called it Div·rehʹ Hai·ya·mimʹ, which means “The Affairs of the Days,” that is, history of the days or times. Some 200 years later, the translators of the Greek Septuagint also included Chronicles as canonical. They divided the book into two parts and, supposing it to be supplementary to Samuel and Kings or to the entire Bible of that time, called it Pa·ra·lei·po·meʹnon, meaning “Things Passed Over (Left Untold; Omitted).” Though the name is not particularly appropriate, still their action shows that they regarded Chronicles as authentic, inspired Scripture. In preparing the Latin Vulgate, Jerome suggested: “We may more significantly call [them] the Khro·ni·konʹ of the whole divine history.” It is from this that the title “Chronicles” appears to have been derived. A chronicle is a record of happenings in the order in which they occurred. After listing its genealogies, First Chronicles is concerned mainly with the time of King David, from 1077 B.C.E. down to his death.
CONTENTS OF FIRST CHRONICLES
8. Into what two sections does the book of First Chronicles divide?
8 This book of First Chronicles divides naturally into two sections: the first 9 chapters, which deal primarily with genealogies, and the last 20 chapters, which cover events during the 40 years from the death of Saul to the end of David’s reign.
9. Why is there no reason to favor a later date for the writing of Chronicles?
9 The genealogies (1:1–9:44). These chapters list the genealogy from Adam down to the line of Zerubbabel. (1:1; 3:19-24) The renderings of many translations take the line of Zerubbabel to the tenth generation. Since he returned to Jerusalem in 537 B.C.E., there would not have been enough time for so many generations to have been born by 460 B.C.E., when Ezra evidently completed the writing. However, the Hebrew text is incomplete in this section, and it cannot be determined how most of the men listed were related to Zerubbabel. Hence, there is no reason to favor a later date for the writing of Chronicles, as some do.
10. (a) What generations are first given? (b) What genealogy is logically traced at the start of the second chapter? (c) What other listings are made, ending in what?
10 First there are supplied the ten generations from Adam to Noah, and then the ten generations down to Abraham. Abraham’s sons and their offspring; the posterity of Esau and of Seir, who lived in the mountainous region of Seir; and early kings of Edom are listed. From the second chapter, however, the record is concerned with the descendants of Israel, or Jacob, from whom the genealogy is first traced through Judah and then ten generations to David. (2:1-14) The listing is also made for the other tribes, with particular reference to the tribe of Levi and the high priests, and ending with a genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin by way of introduction to King Saul, a Benjamite, with whom the historical narrative in a strict sense then opens. Sometimes there may appear to be contradictions between Ezra’s genealogies and other Bible passages. However, it must be kept in mind that certain persons were also known by other names and that language changes and the passing of time could change the spelling of some names. Careful study removes most of the difficulties.
11. Give examples of other useful information interspersed in the record of genealogies.
11 Ezra intersperses his genealogies here and there with bits of historical and geographical information that serve to clarify and to give important reminders. For example, in listing Reuben’s descendants, Ezra adds an important piece of information: “And the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel—for he was the firstborn; but for his profaning the lounge of his father his right as firstborn was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, so that he was not to be enrolled genealogically for the right of the firstborn. For Judah himself proved to be superior among his brothers, and the one for leader was from him; but the right as firstborn was Joseph’s.” (5:1, 2) Much is explained in these few words. Further, it is only in Chronicles that we learn that Joab, Amasa, and Abishai were all nephews of David, which helps us to appreciate the various events surrounding them.—2:16, 17.
12. What are the circumstances of Saul’s death?
12 Saul’s unfaithfulness results in his death (10:1-14). The narrative opens with the Philistines pressing the attack in the battle of Mount Gilboa. Three of Saul’s sons, including Jonathan, are struck down. Then Saul is wounded. Not wishing to be taken by the enemy, he urges his armor-bearer: “Draw your sword and run me through with it, that these uncircumcised men may not come and certainly deal abusively with me.” When his armor-bearer refuses, Saul kills himself. Thus Saul dies for acting “faithlessly against Jehovah concerning the word of Jehovah that he had not kept and also for asking of a spirit medium to make inquiry. And he did not inquire of Jehovah.” (10:4, 13, 14) Jehovah gives the kingdom to David.
13. How does David prosper in the kingdom?
13 David confirmed in the kingdom (11:1–12:40). In time the 12 tribes assemble to David at Hebron and anoint him as king over all Israel. He captures Zion and goes on ‘getting greater and greater, for Jehovah of armies is with him.’ (11:9) Mighty men are put in charge of the army, and by means of them, Jehovah saves “with a great salvation.” (11:14) David receives united support as the men of war flock together with one complete heart to make him king. There is feasting and rejoicing in Israel.
14. How does David fare in battle with the Philistines, and what faith-inspiring occasion gives rise to joyful song?
14 David and the ark of Jehovah (13:1–16:36). David consults the national leaders, and they agree to move the Ark to Jerusalem from Kiriath-jearim, where it has been for about 70 years. On the way, Uzzah dies for irreverently ignoring God’s instructions, and the Ark is left for a time at the home of Obed-edom. (Num. 4:15) The Philistines resume their raids, but David crushingly defeats them twice, at Baal-perazim and at Gibeon. Instructed by David, the Levites now follow theocratic procedure in moving the Ark safely to Jerusalem, where it is put in a tent that David has pitched for it, amid dancing and rejoicing. There is an offering of sacrifice and singing, David himself contributing a song of thanks to Jehovah for the occasion. Its grand climax is reached in the theme: “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be joyful, and let them say among the nations, ‘Jehovah himself has become king!’” (1 Chron. 16:31) What a stirring, faith-inspiring occasion! Later, this song of David is adapted as the basis for new songs, one of which is Psalm 96. Another is recorded in the first 15 verses of Psalm 105:1-15.
15. With what marvelous promise does Jehovah answer David’s desire to build a house for unified worship?
15 David and Jehovah’s house (16:37–17:27). An unusual arrangement now obtains in Israel. The ark of the covenant resides in a tent in Jerusalem where Asaph and his brothers are in attendance, while a few miles northwest of Jerusalem at Gibeon, Zadok the high priest and his brothers carry on the prescribed sacrifices at the tabernacle. Always mindful of exalting and unifying Jehovah’s worship, David indicates his desire to build a house for Jehovah’s ark of the covenant. But Jehovah states that not David but his son will build a house for Him and that He will “certainly establish his throne firmly to time indefinite,” showing loving-kindness as from a father to a son. (17:11-13) This marvelous promise by Jehovah—this covenant for an everlasting kingdom—moves David to the heart. His thankfulness overflows in petitioning that Jehovah’s name “prove faithful and become great to time indefinite” and that His blessing be upon David’s house.—17:24.
16. What promise does Jehovah carry out through David, but how does David sin?
16 David’s conquests (18:1–21:17). Through David, Jehovah now carries out His promise to give the entire Promised Land to Abraham’s seed. (18:3) In a rapid series of campaigns, Jehovah gives “salvation to David” wherever he goes. (18:6) In smashing military victories, David subdues the Philistines, strikes down the Moabites, defeats the Zobahites, forces the Syrians to pay tribute, and conquers Edom and Ammon as well as Amalek. However, Satan incites David to number Israel and thereby to sin. Jehovah sends a pestilence in punishment but mercifully brings an end to the calamity at Ornan’s threshing floor, after 70,000 have been executed.
17. What preparation does David make for building Jehovah’s house, and how does he encourage Solomon?
17 David’s preparation for the temple (21:18–22:19). David receives angelic notice through Gad “to erect an altar to Jehovah on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” (21:18) After purchasing the location from Ornan, David obediently offers sacrifices there and calls upon Jehovah, who answers him “with fire from the heavens upon the altar of burnt offering.” (21:26) David concludes that Jehovah wants his house built there, and he sets to work in shaping the materials and assembling them, saying: “Solomon my son is young and delicate, and the house to be built to Jehovah is to be surpassingly magnificent for beauteous distinction to all the lands. Let me, then, make preparation for him.” (22:5) He explains to Solomon that Jehovah has not permitted him to build the house, as he has been a man of wars and blood. He exhorts his son to be courageous and strong in this undertaking, saying: “Rise and act, and may Jehovah prove to be with you.”—22:16.
18. For what purpose is a census taken?
18 David organizes for Jehovah’s worship (23:1–29:30). A census is taken, this time according to God’s will, for the reorganizing of the priestly and Levitical services. The Levitical services are described in greater detail here than anywhere else in the Scriptures. The divisions of the king’s service are then outlined.
19. With what words does David commission Solomon, what plans does he provide, and what splendid example does he set?
19 Near the end of his eventful reign, David congregates the representatives of the entire nation, “Jehovah’s congregation.” (28:8) The king rises to his feet. “Hear me, my brothers and my people.” He then speaks to them concerning the desire of his heart, “the house of the true God.” In their presence he commissions Solomon: “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart and with a delightful soul; for all hearts Jehovah is searching, and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning. If you search for him, he will let himself be found by you; but if you leave him, he will cast you off forever. See, now, for Jehovah himself has chosen you to build a house as a sanctuary. Be courageous and act.” (28:2, 9, 10, 12) He gives young Solomon the detailed architectural plans received by inspiration from Jehovah and contributes an immense personal fortune to the building project—3,000 talents of gold and 7,000 talents of silver, which he has saved up for this purpose. With such a splendid example before them, the princes and the people respond by donating gold worth 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics and silver worth 10,000 talents, as well as much iron and copper.c (29:3-7) The people give way to rejoicing at this privilege.
20. What sublime heights are reached in David’s final prayer?
20 David then praises Jehovah in prayer, acknowledging that all this abundant offering has actually proceeded from His hand and petitioning His continued blessing on the people and upon Solomon. This final prayer of David reaches sublime heights in exalting Jehovah’s kingdom and His glorious name: “Blessed may you be, O Jehovah the God of Israel our father, from time indefinite even to time indefinite. Yours, O Jehovah, are the greatness and the mightiness and the beauty and the excellency and the dignity; for everything in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Jehovah, the One also lifting yourself up as head over all. The riches and the glory are on account of you, and you are dominating everything; and in your hand there are power and mightiness, and in your hand is ability to make great and to give strength to all. And now, O our God, we are thanking you and praising your beauteous name.”—29:10-13.
21. On what lofty note does First Chronicles end?
21 Solomon is anointed a second time and begins to sit on ‘the throne of Jehovah’ in place of the aging David. After a reign of 40 years, David dies “in a good old age, satisfied with days, riches and glory.” (29:23, 28) Ezra then concludes First Chronicles on a lofty note, emphasizing the superiority of David’s kingdom over all the kingdoms of the nations.
22. How were Ezra’s fellow Israelites encouraged by First Chronicles?
22 Ezra’s fellow Israelites derived much benefit from his book. Having this compact history with its fresh and optimistic viewpoint, they appreciated Jehovah’s loving mercies toward them on account of his loyalty to the Kingdom covenant with King David and for his own name’s sake. Encouraged, they were able to take up the pure worship of Jehovah with renewed zeal. The genealogies strengthened their confidence in the priesthood officiating at the rebuilt temple.
23. How did Matthew, Luke, and Stephen make good use of First Chronicles?
23 First Chronicles was also of great benefit to the early Christian congregation. Matthew and Luke could draw on its genealogies in clearly establishing that Jesus Christ was the “son of David” and the Messiah with legal right. (Matt. 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38) In concluding his final witness, Stephen spoke of David’s request to build a house for Jehovah and of Solomon’s doing the building. Then he showed that “the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands,” indicating that the temple of Solomon’s day pictured far more glorious heavenly things.—Acts 7:45-50.
24. What in David’s glowing example may we copy today?
24 What of true Christians today? First Chronicles should build and stimulate our faith. There is much that we can copy in David’s glowing example. How unlike the faithless Saul he was, in always inquiring of Jehovah! (1 Chron. 10:13, 14; 14:13, 14; 17:16; 22:17-19) In bringing up the ark of Jehovah to Jerusalem, in his psalms of praise, in his organizing of the Levites for service, and in his request to build a glorious house for Jehovah, David showed that Jehovah and His worship were first in his mind. (16:23-29) He was no complainer. He did not seek special privileges for himself but sought only to do Jehovah’s will. Thus, when Jehovah assigned the building of the house to his son, he wholeheartedly instructed his son and gave of his time, his energy, and his wealth in preparing for the work that would commence after his death. (29:3, 9) A splendid example of devotion indeed!—Heb. 11:32.
25. To what appreciation of Jehovah’s name and Kingdom should First Chronicles stir us?
25 Then there are the climactic concluding chapters. The magnificent language with which David praised Jehovah and glorified his “beauteous name” should stir in us joyful appreciation of our modern-day privilege of making known the glories of Jehovah and his Kingdom by Christ. (1 Chron. 29:10-13) May our faith and joy ever be like David’s as we express thankfulness for Jehovah’s everlasting Kingdom by pouring ourselves out in His service. (17:16-27) Truly, First Chronicles makes the Bible theme of Jehovah’s Kingdom by his Seed scintillate more beauteously than ever, leaving us expectant of further thrilling disclosures of Jehovah’s purposes.
a Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. II, page 574.