chronicles, the books of Summary and Overview
chronicles, the books of in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Hebrew "Words" or "Acts of days." In the Septuagint Paraleipomena, i.e. "Supplements" to 1 and 2 KINGS. Probably compiled by Ezra. One genealogy, indeed, of a later date, namely, Zerubbabel's, was doubtless added by a more recent hand (1 Chronicles 3:22-24) as was Nehemiah 12:10-11-22-23. The Book of Ezra forms a continuation to Chronicles. The chief difficulty at the return from Babylon was to maintain the genealogical distribution of lands, which was essential in the Jewish polity. Ezra and Nehemiah therefore, as restorers of that polity, gave primary attention to this. Again, the temple service, the religious bond of the nation, could only be maintained by the Levites' residence in Jerusalem, for which end the payment of tithes and firstfruits was indispensable. Moreover, the Levitical genealogies needed to be arranged, to settle the order of the temple courses, and who were entitled to allowances as priests, porters, and singers. The people also needed to have their inheritances assigned according to their families, to be able to pay tithes. Hence, genealogies occupy a prominent place in the Chronicles, just as we should expect in a book compiled by Ezra under such circumstances. Zerubbabel, and subsequently Ezra and Nehemiah, not only strove in the face of difficulties (Ezra 2-3; Ezra 5-6; Ezra 8; Nehemiah 7-8) to restore the temple service to its state under the kings of Judah, but also to infuse into the people a national spirit. For this end, the Chronicles give a summary history of David, introduced by the closing scene of Saul's life, and of the succeeding kings, especially of some of the greatest and best kings who built or restored the temple, abolished corruption, and established the services in due order, as Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, etc. Since the northern kingdom of Israel had passed away, and Samaria its only remaining representative was among Judah's bitterest foes, Israel's history occupies a subordinate place. Accordingly, 1 Chronicles 1-8 give the genealogies and settlements; 1 Chronicles 9:1-24 their disturbance by the captivity, and partial restoration at the return; this portion is reinserted in Nehemiah 11:3-22 with additional matter from the archives, as to times succeeding the return from Babylon, down to Nehemiah 12:27, where Nehemiah's narrative is resumed from Nehemiah 11:2. At 1 Chronicles 9:35 begins Saul's genealogy, taken from the tables drawn up in Hezekiah's reign (for 14 generations from Jonathan to Azel correspond to the 14 from David to Hezekiah); then the history of (mainly) Judah's kings follows, and of the events down to the end of the book of Ezra, which suit the patriotic purpose of the compiler. 1 Chronicles 15-17; 22-29; 2 Chronicles 13-15; 17-20; 24; 26; 29-31; 35, are mainly unique to Chronicles, and manifestly are calculated to awaken by the glorious (as well as the sad) memories of the past a desire in the people to restrain the corruption which had led to the captivity, and to restore the national polity in church and state. The conclusion of Chronicles and the beginning of Ezra are similar, the one ending with Cyrus' decree for the restoration, the other telling how that decree was obtained and was carried out. If this connection of the two books were rejected, it would be hard to account for the breaking off of the narrative in Chronicles' close, in Ezra's lifetime, and the abruptness with which the book of Ezra opens (Ezra 1:1). The style of both, tinged with Chaldaisms, accords with this view. The mention in both 1 Chronicles 29:7 and Ezra 2:69 of the Persian coin, "darics" (as it ought to be translated instead of "dram"), is another proof. The law is often quoted in both, and in a similar formula, "according to the law of Moses" (1 Chronicles 23:31; Ezra 3:4). The sacrifices, the Passover celebration, the Levitical order, are similarly described in both. The high priests' genealogy is given in the descending line ending with the captivity, in 1 Chronicles 6:1-15; in Ezra 7:1-5 in the ascending line from Ezra himself to Aaron, abridged by the omission of many links, as the writer had in Chronicles already given a complete register. The writer's sources of information are genealogies drawn up in different ages, and accordingly terminating in the particular reign when they were severally drawn up. Thus, Sheshan's (1 Chronicles 2:34-41) ends with a generation contemporary with Hezekiah. That of the high priests (1 Chronicles 6:1-15) must have been drawn up during the captivity; that in 1 Chronicles 6:50-53, and those of Heman and Asaph (1 Chronicles 6:33-39, etc.) in David's or Solomon's time; that of the sons of Azel (1 Chronicles 8:38) in Hezekiah's time; that of the sons of Zerubbabel in Ezra's time (1 Chronicles 3:19-24). The sources must have been very ancient from which the compiler drew the account of the kings of Edom before Saul's reign, the slaughter of the sons of Ephraim by the Gittites (1 Chronicles 7:21; 1 Chronicles 8:13), the notice of the sons of Shelah, and their dominion in Moab (1 Chronicles 4:21-22). The genealogical records of Jotham and Jeroboam probably embodied from contemporary documents the details as to the Reubenites and Gadites (1 Chronicles 5:1-22). The account in 1 Chronicles 9:1-34 is drawn from records subsequent to the return from captivity; also 2 Chronicles 36:20. In Ezra (Ezra 2; Ezra 4) the documents used were still later, namely, the time of Pseudo-Smerdis or Artaxerxes. Thus, it appears that the Books of Chronicles and Ezra are compiled by one writer from records of various dates, extant when the compilation was made. The Books of Samuel the seer, Nathan the prophet, and Gad the seer (1 Chronicles 29:29), furnished information for David's reign; "the book of Nathan," and "the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite," and "the visions of Iddo the seer" (2 Chronicles 9:29), for Solomon's reign; "the story (midrash, 'interpretation') of the prophet Iddo," for king Abijah's "acts, ways, and sayings" (2 Chronicles 12:22). Iddo's "book concerning genealogies and the prophet Shemaiah's words," for Rehoboam's acts (2 Chronicles 12:15); "the book of the kings of Israel and Judah" (2 Chronicles 25:26; 2 Chronicles 27:7; 2 Chronicles 32:32; 2 Chronicles 33:18), "the sayings of the seers" (2 Chronicles 33:19, choza), for many subsequent reigns; "the words of Jehu the son of Hanani" (2 Chronicles 20:34), for Jehoshaphat's reign; "the vision of the prophet Isaiah" (2 Chronicles 26:22; 2 Chronicles 32:32), for Uzziah's and Hezekiah's reigns. There were besides the national records, "the book of the chronicles" (Nehemiah 12:23), which began as early as David (1 Chronicles 27:24), "the chronicles of king David," probably the same as Samuel's, Nathan's and Gad's books above noticed. So there was" the book of the acts of Solomon" (1 Kings 11:41). From "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah," or "of Israel" (1 Kings 11:28; 1 Kings 15:7), continued down to the end of Jehoiakim's reign (2 Kings 24:5; 2 Chronicles 36:8), the compilers of Chronicles and Kings drew the passages which are identical in both. Genealogical registers (Nehemiah 7:5) furnished many of the materials. The writer of the closing chapters of Kings lived in Judah, and died under Nebuchadnezzar; the writer of the close of Chronicles lived at Babylon and survived until the Persian dynasty began. Compare 2 Chronicles 36:9-23 and Ezra 1 with 2 Kings 24; 25. For the writer of Chronicles and Ezra gives no details of Jehoiachin or Zedekiah, or what occurred in Judah after the temple was burnt; but only dwells on the spiritual lessons which Jerusalem's overthrow teaches, and proceeds at once to the return from Babylon. One in Babylon would be the most likely to know all about Cyrus' decree, the presents to the captives, the bringing out of the temple vessels, their weight, the Chaldee treasurer Mithredath, and Zerubbabel's Chaldee name Sheshbazzar. Lord A. Hervey conjectures that Daniel at Babylon, under Nebuchadnezzar, and afterward under the Persian kings, vividly remembering Jeremiah's prophecies and bewailing the nation's perversity, wrote the close of Chronicles and Ezra 1, just as Jeremiah wrote the close of Kings. Compare with these passages Daniel 5:2; Daniel 5:23; Daniel 9:2; Daniel 9:5-8; Daniel 1:3; Daniel 1:7; Daniel 1:11. The close of 2 Chronicles and Ezra 1 supplies the gap between Daniel 9 and Daniel 10. Ezra, by the help of this portion, carried forward the history from the point where the Chronicles closed. The division of Chronicles into two books is due to the Septuagint. Much is omitted that was unsuitable to the compiler's patriotic design, e.g. Amnon's defilement of Tamar, David's adultery with Bathsheba and Absalom's rebellion, Sheba's revolt, the delivery of Saul's sons to the Gibeonites, etc. Unique to Chronicles are the lists of heroes who came to David at Ziklag, and those hosts who came to Hebron to make him king (1 Chronicles 12). David's preparation for building the temple (1 Chronicles 22). The order of the Levites and priests (1 Chronicles 23-24), of the army and captains (1 Chronicles 27). David's public directions (1 Chronicles 28-29). Rehoboam's fortifications, reception of priests and Levites from Israel (2 Chronicles 11). Abijah's successful war with Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13). Asa's terrifying his kingdom and overcoming' Zerab the Ethiopian's vast host (2 Chronicles 14); his suppression of idolatry with the help of Azariah's prophecy (2 Chronicles 15); Hanani's reproof of Asa's reliance on Syria instead of on Jehovah (2 Chronicles 16). Jehoshaphat's garrisoning the cities of Judah and of Ephraim; removal of high places and groves; sending his princes and Levites throughout the land to teach the people in "the book of the law of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 17-18); reproval by Jehu, son of Hanani the seer, and by Eliezer, son of Dodavah of Mareshah, for his alliance with the ungodly kings of Israel; instructions to the judges; victory over the vast, allied forces of Ammon and Moeb (2 Chronicles 19-20). Jehoram's idolatry and punishment (2 Chronicles 21). Apostasy of Joash, and murder of Zechariah his reprover, on the death of Jehoiada, Zechariah's father (2 Chronicles 24). Amaziah's war-like preparations; idolatry (2 Chronicles 25). Uzziah's victory and forces (2 Chronicles 26). Jotham's success against Ammon "because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God" (2 Chronicles 27). Hezekiah's reformation and Passover; riches (2 Chronicles 29-31). Manasseh's captivity, repentance, and restoration (2 Chronicles 33). All these instances were just what suited the purpose of one seeking the restoration of the religious and civil polity of the Jews on their return from the captivity, as we know was Ezra's great mission. Chronicles, with Ezra and Nehemiah, form the last link of the Old Testament genealogical chain which is resumed in the New Testament (Matthew 1). Messianic prophetic hints occur (1 Chronicles 17:17): "Thou hast regarded me according to the order (law) of the man from above"; and in the genealogy (1 Chronicles 5:2), "Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler," referring to the Messianic prophecy (Genesis 49:8-10, compare 1 Chronicles 28:4). The accuracy of the book appears from such incidental touches as 1 Chronicles 2:13-17, where Abigail is not called the daughter of Jesse, but only the sister of David; she was the daughter of Nahash, not of Jesse, and so only the half-sister to David. Also from its giving the very words of the documents used, even when inappropriate in the compiler's time, "unto this day" (1 Chronicles 4:42-43; 2 Chronicles 5:9). Also other scriptures confirm statements in Chronicles; compare 2 Chronicles 32:1-6 with Isaiah 22:8-11; Isaiah 22:2 Chronicles 20 with Psalm 48; 83; Joel 3. The names of the scribes before the restoration express the national hope at the time (1 Chronicles 3:19-20): Hananiah (Jehovah's grace); Berechiah (Jehovah's blessing); Hasadiah (Jehovah's mercy); Jushab-hesed ("mercy returns".) Akkub and Talmon, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:17-18, are stated in Nehemiah 12:25-26 to have been Levitical porters "in the days of Nehemiah and of Ezra, the priest, the scribe." Thus, every hint accords with the date and the author presumed above.