If we read the first book of Kings and the second book of Kings on the one hand and the first books of Chronicles and the second book of Chronicles on the other hand, we notice the great similarity between the contents of the two books of Kings and the two books of Chronicles. They therefore describe the same historical opinions. Yet there is an important difference. In the two books of Kings and the two books of Chronicles the history is described from a different point of view. They can be compared with each other, just as we compare the four Gospels with each other. Each writes history in his own way, while it is one Spirit who leads the writers. Therefore, there is no contradiction, but harmony. The books complement each other.
Who is used by the Holy Spirit to write these books is not known. Jeremiah has been mentioned as the author of the two books of Kings, while the two books of Chronicles has been understood as having been written by Ezra. However, there is no hard evidence for this.
The books of Chronicles occupy a special place among the historic books of the Old Testament. We can compare this with the special place the Gospel according to John occupies among the Gospels. John goes back to what was “in the beginning” (Jn 1:1), when the eternal Word was with God. The Chronicles also go back to the beginning, but then from the history of man to follow that history along a line of promise and grace.
We find in these books the history of kings who ruled over God’s people. The first three kings – Saul, David and Solomon – ruled over all Israel, the twelve tribes. For a short time, Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, also ruled over the entire realm of the twelve tribes. But under his government the kingdom is torn into two parts: one part of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, which continue under the name of Judah, and the other part of ten tribes, the other tribes, which continue under the name of Israel or also called Ephraim.
Nineteen kings ruled over each of the two realms until they both ceased to exist. After the nineteenth king of Israel, Hoshea, this realm was conquered by the king of Assyria and the inhabitants were scattered. After the nineteenth king of Judah, Zedekiah, this realm was taken away into exile by the king of Babylon.
Of the kings who have ruled over Judah, some are relatively good, others exceptionally bad; some start well and finish bad; others start bad and finish good. But they all fall short of the glory of God and of God’s ideal of what a king should be. Only the Lord Jesus answers perfectly to it. God calls him ‘My King’. The kings of the ten tribes are without exception bad.
The history described in both books mentioned in Chronicles, runs from Adam until the year 538 BC, roughly 3,500 year. Both books of Chronicles are written, or at least completed, after the return from exile. This is shown by the fact that the exile of Judah and Jerusalem is mentioned by Nebuchadnezzar as a historical fact in the first book of Chronicles (1Chr 6:15).
Both books of Chronicles form a whole. The first book describes the history of David. In the second book we find the history of David’s posterity. Many of these histories can also be found in the first book of Samuel and the second book of Samuel and the first book of Kings and the second book of Kings. These four books can also be viewed as a whole.
Nevertheless, there is an important difference between the series of these four books and the books of Chronicles. The books of Samuel and Kings focus on the history of Israel and its kings, with the emphasis on the responsibility of man. In the books of Chronicles the emphasis will be more on the history of Judah and his kings with the accent on the grace of God.
After man has totally failed in his responsibility in the books of Kings, we see in the books of Chronicles the God of grace Himself working to write history again from the beginning. It is the history of God’s people that the Holy Spirit places in the spotlight. It has been said that the history in the books of Chronicles that it describes history as God loves to remember it. Therefore only those mistakes are mentioned which must be known to understand the teaching of His grace. The books of Chronicles show us the kingship according to the grace of God and not according to its responsible character as in books of Kings.
The first book of Chronicles for example is silent about the suffering and the rejection of David, which is described in the books of Samuel, but we see David directly as king in his glory. The books of Kings mainly give the history of the northern tribes realm. The sins of the royal house of David are meticulously mentioned in it, so that the reader may know the reasons for the decay and the tearing. Prophets come to the fore there, because the people have cut themselves off from the service of the priests and Levites, which is connected to the temple in Jerusalem. It is God’s provision that He provides for their spiritual needs through these prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha.
The first book of Chronicles and the second book of Chronicles, written after the return of a remnant from the Babylonian exile to the land of Israel, seem to have been written more for this remnant. For it is a great encouragement for the returning handful of Judeans who read in these books to be reminded of God’s former gracious actions with His people. The books of Chronicles seem to be written more for the remnant, while the books of Kings seem to be written more for the whole people.
Also the genealogies we find in the first book of Chronicles, have their use. They are important because only the seed of Abraham is entitled to the promised land. The purpose of these genealogies is to prove origin. Happy he who has kept his genealogies and appreciates the inheritance of the LORD. It is a proof of their faith.
Furthermore, the genealogies are a means to prevent mixing with the surrounding peoples. They also serve to determine the succession of the Aaronite priesthood. For example, we read in the book of Ezra that a person who wants to serve as a priest must be able to prove from the genealogies that he indeed comes from a priestly family and is thus entitled to the priesthood (Ezra 2:62-63; cf. Neh 7:64-65).
Above all, it is possible to determine from these genealogies Who as Messiah is entitled to kingship. This shows the importance of the genealogy in Matthew 1. This clearly shows that the Lord Jesus has the legitimate right to the throne of David. This genealogy can be seen as a continuation of the registers given to us in 1 Chronicles 1-9.
For us who belong to the church of the living God, such genealogies are not important. We do not need to prove our origin. When we think of our origins, it is enough to know that we originate from a sinful Adam. Therefore we are subject to the judgment of God. We have realized this and have been made able to believe in the work of the Lord Jesus that has been necessary to make us a new generation. Through faith in Him we are born again and belong to the family of God (Jn 1:12).
Belonging to that family is not based on natural descent, but on our new birth, through which we share the nature of God (2Pet 1:4). For us, terrestrial registers are not important. Names can be removed from such registers. We may know that our names are written down in the heavens (Lk 10:20; Heb 12:23). No names can be removed from these registers.
The main theme of the books of Chronicles is the temple. In these books the ‘house of God’ is often mentioned, while that name does not occur once in the books of Kings. That might plead for the priest-scribe Ezra to be the author of Chronicles. Temple and priest belong inextricably together. The book of Ezra is also closely linked to Chronicles. We can see that in the last verses of 2 Chronicles, which form the opening verses of the book Ezra (2Chr 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-2). Much attention is paid to the temple service, which was established by David and has fallen into decay, but is restored at the end of 2 Chronicles under Hezekiah and Josiah.
The actual importance of the books Chronicles for us is related to the main theme, the temple. As in the Old Testament the temple is called the dwelling place or house of God, so in the New Testament the church is called the dwelling place or house of God (Eph 2:21-22; 1Tim 3:15). Often we will make the ‘translation’ of what is described in Chronicles to our time.
The Bible itself indicates that this is permitted. With regard to the history of Israel in the wilderness we read: “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1Cor 10:11). On this basis we can therefore expect that through both books of Chronicles we can learn a lot about the church and our behavior in it.
In Hebrew, the title of Chronicles is ‘words of the days’, which means ‘events of the time’. In the Hebrew Bible, the books of Chronicles are at the very end (cf. Mt 23:35). These things say something about the span of Chronicles. Chronicles begin with the origination of mankind and extend beyond the period of exile to eight generations before the Messiah. Then the thread of the genealogies is taken up again at the beginning of the New Testament with the genealogy of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 1 (Mt 1:1-17). Chronicles begins with the first Adam; the genealogy of Matthew 1 ends with Christ, the last Adam.
The Holy Spirit begins in Chronicles with the history of mankind, to focus in the midst of mankind attention on that one people of Israel and among that people to focus on Judah and finally to focus on the family of David and in that family on the one man David. This one man is chosen by God.
The authority of the books of Chronicles as Word of God is confirmed by the Lord Jesus. He refers to some events from these books. Thus He refers to the visit of the queen of Sheba to Solomon (Mt 12:42; 2Chr 9:1-12) and to the murder of Zechariah (Mt 23:35; 2Chr 24:20-21). Further a verse from 1 Chronicles is quoted in Hebrews 1 (1Chr 17:13; Heb 1:5).
The book 1 Chronicles can be subdivided as follows:
1. 1 Chronicles 1-9 The people of God
2. 1 Chronicles 10-12 The anointed of God
3. 1 Chronicles 13-16 The ark of God
4. 1 Chronicles 17-29 The house of God
Introduction to the first book of Chronicles
Before we look at the content of this chapter, let us first make some general remarks about the first part of the book, 1 Chronicles 1-9. This first part consists mainly of names. These are chapters that are almost never read. Yet they are part of the whole Word of God and therefore it is useful to read them with attention. The following also applies in these chapters: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2Tim 3:16-17).
As a stimulus for reading these genealogies I would like to quote something from a comment on 1 Chronicles that has encouraged me: ‘Reading the Chronicles takes some perseverance. The introduction to the genealogies at the beginning of this Bible book can easily reduce our interest. But whoever possesses a little energy and enter into this ‘treasure room’ with prayer will come out again with a hymn of praise.’ (H. Rossier, ‘The Scroll of the Book’, the books of Chronicles I.)
The names mentioned are of great value, because they often contain a message in their meaning (Heb 7:1-2). Here is a gold mine for the zealous researcher. Using a search program and dictionaries of biblical names, many lessons can be learned here. With a few exceptions, this comment leaves the research for the meaning of the names to the reader.
Just one more general remark about the genealogies we encounter here, and elsewhere in the Bible. Paul warns Timothy not to pay “attention to myths and endless genealogies” (1Tim 1:4). It will be clear that Paul does not mean the genealogies we encounter in the Bible, for they belong to the inspired Word of God (2Tim 3:16).
The genealogies that Paul mentions in his first letter to Timothy and against which he warns are lists of data originating from the human spirit. They do not come from the Spirit of God. The word ‘genealogy’ means ‘a doctrine about origin’. What the Jews are concerned with are theories about the origins of angels and the families they are supposed to have. This has nothing to do with the Bible, but with being busy mystical (Col 2:18).
To conclude this general introduction to 1 Chronicles 1-9 a few tips for self-study of these chapters:
1. Read through a chapter or part of a chapter every day.
2. Write down at least one characteristic of a name of which you know something. (For easy retrieval also note the verse.)
3. Sometimes there is just a peculiarity mentioned between the names. Write it down in your own words. As far as I have noticed any details, I will point this out, without saying that there are no more.
4. Write down a verse from each chapter or a name that appeals to you.
Every name that comes after Adam is just another manifestation of this first Adam. In some of his descendants we also see that faith reveals itself. Where there is faith, there must be new life, a new nature, that is to say, the Divine nature. Where faith reveals itself, God is glorified.
The first chapter of the first book of Chronicles goes from Adam to the sons of Jacob, who are mentioned in the next chapter. There they are called “the sons of Israel” (1Chr 2:1-2). This chapter deals with two series of names, which are then further elaborated (1Chr 1:1-4,24-27).
We can imagine reading the names of this genealogy we are at a cemetery. We walk along the graves and see the names of past generations. They are all names of people who were born and died, they loved and suffered, people who have made their way through the world. The names are engraved on these fixed plates, tombstones. If Christ does not come to take us up during our lives, so will our names. “All flesh”, including ours, “is like grass” (1Pet 1:24).
Each of these lives has fulfilled a necessary part in the progress of the race and has passed on the torch of human life. Each will also exist on the other side of death, after being revealed before the judgment seat of Christ (2Cor 5:10).
The names of the persons in this chapter, who are individually known to God, can all be found in the book of Genesis (Genesis 5; 10; 11; 25; 36). There are ten listings. First ten ancestors, from Adam to Noah, are mentioned (1Chr 1:1-4). This is followed by seventy peoples from Noah. Then come the names of another ten ancestors, now from Shem to Abraham (1Chr 1:24-27). Then again seventy nations that come forth from Abraham.
This shows a divine order. The fact that the genealogies start with Adam shows that David’s house – because it is about him in the genealogies – is not only important for Israel, but for the whole of humanity.