“The Book of Deja Vu”
HOST: Michael Whitworth
The books of Chronicles certainly rank among the most neglected books in the OT. The first nine chapters of names are quite daunting. Those who make it through the first nine chapters get bogged down in material that is mostly repetitive from 2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings. So why would someone want to study these books? We’ll answer those questions in this episode.
Though the author is anonymous, there are some clues that lead us to one person in particular. Whoever was the author was writing from a period of time after the return from Babylonian exile since he mentions Cyrus’ decree (2 Chron. 36:22-23). In addition, the genealogies given at the first of the book list two generations after Zerubbabel (the grandson of the last Davidic king and the leader of the exiles when they returned to Jerusalem. We know that Zerubbabel lived in the latter half of the 500 BC, so two generations later would have placed it no earlier than 475 BC. Finally, 1 Chron. 29:7 lists donations to the Temple construction project in the currency of darics, a Persian coin named after Darius. This coin was not minted until 515 BC, and scholars argue that some time had to have passed for it to gain wide circulation in Judah for the author to reference it. Since the mid-nineteenth century, there have been several arguments made for Ezra having been the author of Chronicles. His own book (along with Nehemiah) indeed form a nice complement to the books of Chronicles. However, we cannot know for sure.
Date & Audience
Though the author is anonymous, we can place the date of authorship of Chronicles between 450 and 400 BC (see above). The books were written to a post-exilic Israel to warn them of past events, to explain why God had allowed these things to happen, and to offer hope for the future that God would one day restore Israel with a king even greater than David.
Chronicles & the NT
Much of the reflection of Chronicles in the NT could also be attributed to Samuel and Kings, including the Matthew’s gospel presenting Jesus as the Son of David and the Anointed One come to save Israel from her sins. Two unique aspects of Chronicles and the NT deserve mention, however.
- The first nine chapters of Chronicles contain endless lists of names. In the NT, all believers desire to see their names written in the Book of Life (Dan. 12:1; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8).
- Also, in Matt. 23:35; Jesus references the blood of Zechariah, the last murder of 2 Chronicles (24:20-21). The book of 2 Chronicles is the last book in the Hebrew Bible (similar to Malachi in our own), thus Jesus references the first and last murder in “the Bible.”
Keys to Reading
- The genealogies that open the book are not to be discounted or considered worthless. They instead remind us of Israel’s continuity, of how God has faithfully brought them safe thus far instead of allowing history to swallow them up as he did so many other nations.
- With the exception of David’s census (1 Chron. 21), the author of Chronicles does not record events that present David and Solomon in a negative light. Neither is Rehoboam faulted with the schism in Israel that produced a northern and southern kingdom (cf. 2 Chron. 13:6-7). Instead, David and Solomon are portrayed as “the good old days.” Not intending to whitewash their lives; he knows their sins are well known. Rather, he wants to emphasize their good qualities in order to positively inspire the people to faithfulness.
- The Chronicler is interested in showing how God rewards good and punishes evil immediately, rather than many years later. In that spirit, in Chronicles, wicked kings do not engage in building programs, have many wives and/or children, have great wealth, large armies, or receive any other tokens of divine blessing. Note especially the burial place given for a king. Particularly wicked kings (Joash, 2 Chron. 24:25; Ahaz, 28:22; Manasseh, 33:20; Amon, 33:24) are said to not have been buried in the royal cemetery with other past kings.
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