In the Jewish Bible, Chronicles is counted as one book and is called in Hebrew, dibhere hayamim: “The words concerning the days.” (The Jewish Bible regards the Old Testament as 22 books.) The Septuagint labels it: Paraleipomena, “Supplements” (to 1 and 2 Kings). The Latin Vulgate refers to these books as: Chromicon, from which we get “Chronicles.”
First and Second Kings provide the political record of this time period; First and Second Chronicles provide the religious record. Along with Ezra and Nehemiah, these two books were added to the Old Testament last. (They were probably com-piled by Ezra after the return from the Exile.)
The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles take the form of a history, beginning with Adam (1 Chr 1:1) and ending with the decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C. (2 Chr 36:23). David and Judah are the focal points, with an emphasis on the priestly and Levitical orders.
The Rise and Fall of Israel’s Monarchy
What we know about Saul, Israel’s first king, comes from First Samuel. Only his death is recorded here—Chronicles is all about David and his family. Saul showed early promise: a Benjamite from Gibea, he was physically striking and was al-so, in many ways, modest, direct, and generous, particularly in the early years. However, Saul fell into the trap many of us do when given some authority and responsibility—irreverent presumption, willfulness and impatience. Many times he was dis-obedient and deceitful.
David, Israel’s second king, did well at first. His zenith was glorious. He was a victorious warrior and a very clever general. He also organized the priesthood and was a profound poet and songwriter—most of the Psalms are his work.
But there was a turning point. People who know little else about David know about David and Bathsheba. First there was adultery and then, to cover up his sin, David arranged for Uriah —Bathsheba’s husband and one of the mighty men of David—to be killed in battle.
We must recognize that these sins were not mere stumbles; they were the result of a process. David was enjoying his prosperity and ease. He was not with his fighting men any longer, but at the palace when these things transpired. He had begun a life of self-indulgence. Deuteronomy 17 prohibited kings from accumulating wives, and David did. Yet the other side of this is David’s repentance and remorse, which is sincere and commit-ted and gives rise to Psalm 51, a masterpiece.
Because of his attitude and his commitment, God says some-thing about David that is not said of anyone else in Scripture: God speaks of David as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). But although he had remorse and contrition, it did not obliterate the consequences of what he did. The sword never departed from his house: incest, fratricide, intrigues, rebellion and ultimately civil war derived from this act.
Solomon, Israel’s third king, was very brilliant even before he asked for wisdom, but he lacked moral vigor. He was bright, but he wasn’t decisive. He also became excessively self-indulgent. He presided over the peak of Israel’s prosperity. The Queen of Sheba couldn’t believe the stories she heard about Solomon, so she actually traveled to meet with him. She’s famous for saying, “The half of it was not told me.” The splendor of the kingdom under Solomon was staggering, even by today’s standards.
Yet Solomon, in all of his glory, is always an adverse reference point in the Scripture. Jesus said of the lilies, “Solomon, in all of his glory, was not arrayed as one of these.” In other words, he’s used as a very high point but not quite high enough.
Israel’s kings were not to multiply wealth, horses or wives, and Solomon did all three. He traded chariots and horses, which the Torah prohibited. He indulged 700 or so foreign wives and had approximately 300 concubines. Many of the wives were political relationships, but they were from the very nations that he was warned against by Moses and the other counselors of the past.
Among other things, his wives introduced false gods and false worship into the community. Solomon actually built temples to these false gods on the Temple Mount.
In the end, Solomon got sick and tired of his self-life and wrote Ecclesiastes, which concluded that all is vanity. He had access to every worldly thing, but found they don’t satisfy.
Solomon’s excesses led to apostasy and God took the kingdom away—not from Solomon, but from Solomon’s son. This was an accommodation to David, not Solomon. This point is reiterated over and over in Chronicles.
The Davidic dynasty is the main theme through all of this. David is the standard of measure for all the kings.
Also, God again and again intervenes to protect the Davidic line. After the death of Azaziah, Joash was going to be killed (they were trying to kill all the heirs to the throne), but he was preserved from the usurper’s sword by Jehosheba, who hid the baby. His child is Hezekiah, who was miraculously preserved while under an Assyrian siege.
The captivity of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem are emphatically ascribed to the sovereignty of Jehovah. So these things are not happenstance, but a result of God’s intervention in their lives for His purposes. He ultimately used Nebuchadnezzar as his instrument of judgment to take them captive.
The emphasis of I and II Chronicles is the Southern King-dom and the preservation of the Davidic line. First Chronicles parallels 2 Samuel very closely, and 2 Chronicles parallels the Kings.
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