The Books of Chronicles—Why Were They Written?
HAVE you ever read the Bible through? Perhaps when you came to the book of First Chronicles you found little there to encourage you to continue reading. Seemingly endless lists of unfamiliar names confronted you. The historical narrative, primarily dealing with events from King David’s reign, does not begin until 1 Ch chapter ten. Then, too, in Second Chronicles you found that the history basically covered events from the reign of David’s son Solomon down to the desolation of Judah and Jerusalem, a period about which you had already read in the books of First and Second Kings.
Yes, you may have asked, ‘Why was this information written and preserved in the Bible? What real purpose does it serve?’ To learn the answer to those questions, consider the background of the Jewish people at the time that Ezra, a priest and scribe, committed First and Second Chronicles to writing.
Roughly eight decades had passed since the return of a faithful Jewish remnant from Babylonian exile. The exile itself had disrupted their ties with the past. So there was much that the Jews needed to know about their history to avoid the disastrous mistakes of their ancestors. Especially was it important for them to come to appreciate the vital role of true worship. They needed to be strengthened in their faithfulness to Jehovah and in fulfilling their covenant obligations. The books of First and Second Chronicles admirably filled the needs of the returned exiles in these respects. Let us see how.
The genealogies directly linked the Jews with their past history. These genealogies furnished the basis for establishing royal descent and family inheritances. They also revealed who were authorized to serve at the temple as priests or in other capacities. The genealogy involving the royal line was of particular value, as it would provide one means for identifying the Messiah.
Though basically embracing the same period as covered in First and Second Kings, written more than a century earlier by Jeremiah the prophet, the later historical narrative of First and Second Chronicles gives greater prominence to temple worship. Why? Is it because Ezra, as a priest, was more interested in the worship at the temple than was the prophet Jeremiah? No, for Jeremiah was also a priest. Rather, like Jeremiah, Ezra wrote under inspiration and according to the needs of his contemporaries. The Jews then needed to be encouraged to continue upholding true worship as carried on at the temple, and the books of First and Second Chronicles served that purpose in a fine way.
The account is written in such a manner as to show that the events of Israel’s history were shaped by the attitude of the rulers and their subjects toward Jehovah and his righteous law. The history itself becomes instruction. It establishes that faithful adherence to true worship results in blessings, whereas abandonment of true worship spells disaster. What strong encouragement this was for the Jews to avoid the course that had brought calamity upon their forefathers!
We today can also benefit from these historical examples that serve to encourage faithfulness to Jehovah. By loyally upholding true worship, we can demonstrate that we have not missed the purpose of the books of Chronicles.