Today we begin a new book, the first book of the Chronicles. The first few chapters are largely genealogies and fragments of genealogies. You might be excused from reading every syllable, since many of the names are unfamiliar tongue-twisters. There are a couple of interesting tidbits of information embedded in these four chapters like the famous prayer of Jabez and some Simeonites (you hardly ever hear about those guys) who ended up settling in Edom (Mt. Seir) and taking out the remnant of the Amalekites (finally!).
So, I thought what I might do in the blog today is provide a brief introduction to the book itself to set up the remainder of our time in 1 and 2 Chronicles.
The Chronicles are considered in the Hebrew Bible as being part of the “Hagiographa”. The Jewish Bible is divided into three groups: the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa. Into the Hagiographa goes what we might call the poetic and wisdom literature, but also Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra/Nehemiah, and the Chronicles.
The outline of the two books looks something like this…
- Genealogy (1 Chron. 1-9)
- The reign of David (1 Chron. 10-29)
- The reign of Solomon (2 Chron. 1-9)
- The history of Judah to its fall (2 Chron. 10:1–36:23)
Ezra is traditionally understood to be the author of the Chronicles, and the books do take us down to the times of Ezra and the return of the exiles. This would place the time of writing at about 520-515BC (more or less).
Although the books of Kings and the books of Chronicles cover roughly the same era of history, they are different in their focuses (or foci, if you wish) and purposes. Chronicles (I’m assuming that 1 & 2 Kings is still fresh on your mind) focuses on the throne of David, mentioning the nation and kings of Israel (northern kingdom) only as necessary to tell the story of the kings of Judah. Certain stories are missing from the Chronicles like 1) David’s 7-yr reign in Hebron, 2) David’s interaction with the rival Ishbosheth (Saul’s son), 3) adultery with Bathsheba, 4) the rape of Tamar, murder of Amnon, and treason of Absalom — and much more.
The purpose of the author seems to be to showcase how the faithful practice of the true religion of the LORD, following the pattern given, was key to the prosperity and strength of the nation as a whole. This theme would have certainly resonated with the returning exiles who may have been desperately discouraged at having to build their nation and Temple from scratch with nothing but a handful of workers — and who would have been very familiar indeed with the reason they had been exiled in the first place.
Wouldn’t this be good for us to meditate on, too?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.