Background

The two Old Testament books of 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles were originally written as one book in the Hebrew language called the Words of Days, or the Events of Days.  Greek translators later renamed the book The Things Passed By, or The Things Left Out, because they (incorrectly) felt it was simply another history book of the people of Israel meant to fill the gaps of events not recorded in any other writing.  They also split the one book into two separate books.  Jerome, who revised the Latin version of the Bible used during the Middle Ages, renamed the book to Chronicles, which we see reflected in modern English translations.

Authorship

Ancient Jewish tradition holds that the author of Chronicles was the scribe Ezra, who was among the exiles who returned from captivity in Babylon (Ezra 7:1-7).  This is supported by the fact that the style of Chronicles is very similar to the style of the book of Ezra.  In fact, since Chronicles ends exactly where the book of Ezra begins (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-3), some believe they were originally meant to be one work in the form of a two-volume set.

Ezra was an expert in the law of the Old Testament who became a well-respected spiritual leader for God’s people upon his arrival in the land of Israel.  While he cites many references available to him at the time,1“The gifted man who wrote Chronicles in a spirit of deepest reverence for the ancient religion and worship of his people surely must have been well versed in the older historical literature of the Jews. It is just as certain that he did not simply copy from others what he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Not only does he furnish much information that is not found anywhere else, but when he speaks of the same occurrences, his presentation is altogether independent. He also takes pains to inform the readers what documents were at his disposal. His most frequent reference, couched in varying but essentially identical terms, is to “the book of the kings of Judah and Israel” (2 Chronicles 16:11). He also had a biography of King Uzziah, written by Isaiah the prophet (2 Chronicles 26:22); a history written by Iddo the prophet (2 Chronicles 13:22); a book of Jehu (2 Chronicles 20:34); a vision of Isaiah, recorded in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel (2 Chronicles 32:32); and certain words of the seers (2 Chronicles 33:18).” Schaller, John, Loren A. Schaller, and Gary P. Baumler. The Book of Books: A Brief Introduction to the Bible. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 1990. 41. he was also obviously a very gifted author who was inspired to provide information we do not read elsewhere in Scripture.  For more information on Ezra see the introductory page for the Old Testament book of Ezra.

Place and Date of Writing

The book of 2 Chronicles ends with King Cyrus of Persia’s decree that gave the exiles permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (2 Chronicles 36:22-23), which came 70 years after being taken into captivity in Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:20-21).  Since this is mentioned by the author, it is reasonable to assume the book was not written until after Cyrus’ decree.  Ezra arrived in Jerusalem around 458 BC, so if he’s the likely author then it’s safe to assume he wrote Chronicles around that time.

See the Chronology of the Old Testament Kings and the Chronology of Latter Prophets and Intertestamental Period for more information.

Purpose and Content

While some have believed the book of Chronicles was simply meant to offer supplemental information about the history of Israel, a closer look at the style, arrangement, and general theme of the book reveals a much deeper purpose.  The author was writing at time in Israel’s history where there didn’t seem like much hope for God’s people.  They were a once great nation who had been crushed by foreign kings, taken into exile, and robbed of their land and once illustrious capital city.  Because of this, the honor and pride of being God’s people was also losing its luster.

So the author of Chronicles wanted to remind the people of their place in God’s heart.2“As Nehemiah had rebuilt the physical walls of Jerusalem, so the Chronicler was engaged in rebuilding the spiritual walls of Zion.” Wendland, Paul O. 1 Chronicles. 2nd ed. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 2002. 7.  He wanted to remind them that their God is the God who rules over and everything in world history.  He wanted to remind them of the blessings that come from the Word of God and from the worship of God.  And he also wanted to remind them of the dire consequences of forsaking God, his Word, and his temple so they could avoid the sins of their ancestors that brought these difficulties upon them.

To do this, the author begins by summarizing the history of salvation up until the time of King Saul and King David via genealogies beginning with Adam.  From there the author relates the history of Israel during the time of King David and onwards, putting special emphasis on the temple and the worship of God.  He gives the details about the preparation and the building of the temple, as well as information about the priests and Levites (see Leviticus) and how the temple was the focus of the lives of God’s faithful people.  He also relates the history of the kings—both good and bad—and God’s faithfulness in sending prophets to guide his people.

All of it was meant to steer these former exiles away from despair and toward the hope of the coming Messiah, who would sit upon the throne of David and reign forever as God had promised (2 Samuel 7:12-13; 1 Chronicles 22:10).  Therefore we, too, read these books of 1 and 2 Chronicles with awe and hope as we hear about God’s powerful direction of his people and of world history for the sake of the promised Savior and those whom he’d save.

Christ Connection

Since God’s people needed hope, the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles seem to show Israel’s most glorious kings, King David and King Solomon, in the best light possible.  The writer has left out many of the stories that might hurt the people’s opinion of them as kings.  For example, there is no mention in Chronicles of David’s sin with Bathsheba or Solomon’s idolatry. The writer uses David and Solomon to point to the perfect King, Jesus Christ, who would come many years later and fulfill God’s promise to David (1 Chr 17:11-14; Lk 1:30-33).

Notable Passages

  • 1 Chronicles 17:11-14
  • 1 Chronicles 22:2-5
  • 1 Chronicles 29:6-9
  • 1 Chronicles 29:10-13
  • 1 Chronicles 29:14
  • 2 Chronicles 1:7-12
  • 2 Chronicles 3:1-2
  • 2 Chronicles 5:13-14
  • 2 Chronicles 6:41-42
  • 2 Chronicles 7:14
  • 2 Chronicles 34:15,21,26-28
  • 2 Chronicles 36:15-23

Outline

Theme: “Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom.” (1 Chronicles 29:11)

  1. An overview of God’s kingdom from the beginning to the restoration (1 Chronicles 1:1-9:44)
  2. God establishes his kingdom in Israel under David (1 Chronicles 10:1-29:30)
  3. God exalts his kingdom under Solomon (2 Chronicles 1:1-9:31)
  4. God preserves his kingdom in Judah until the return from exile (2 Chronicles 10:1-36:23)3Wendland, Paul O. 1 Chronicles. 2nd ed. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 2002. 10-12.

References   [ + ]

1. “The gifted man who wrote Chronicles in a spirit of deepest reverence for the ancient religion and worship of his people surely must have been well versed in the older historical literature of the Jews. It is just as certain that he did not simply copy from others what he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Not only does he furnish much information that is not found anywhere else, but when he speaks of the same occurrences, his presentation is altogether independent. He also takes pains to inform the readers what documents were at his disposal. His most frequent reference, couched in varying but essentially identical terms, is to “the book of the kings of Judah and Israel” (2 Chronicles 16:11). He also had a biography of King Uzziah, written by Isaiah the prophet (2 Chronicles 26:22); a history written by Iddo the prophet (2 Chronicles 13:22); a book of Jehu (2 Chronicles 20:34); a vision of Isaiah, recorded in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel (2 Chronicles 32:32); and certain words of the seers (2 Chronicles 33:18).” Schaller, John, Loren A. Schaller, and Gary P. Baumler. The Book of Books: A Brief Introduction to the Bible. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 1990. 41.
2. “As Nehemiah had rebuilt the physical walls of Jerusalem, so the Chronicler was engaged in rebuilding the spiritual walls of Zion.” Wendland, Paul O. 1 Chronicles. 2nd ed. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 2002. 7.
3. Wendland, Paul O. 1 Chronicles. 2nd ed. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 2002. 10-12.