The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah form a single series of works in the Hebrew text. The authorship is unknown, but is most likely to be Ezra, as stated by Talmudic tradition, "Ezra wrote his own book and the genealogy of the book of Chronicles until his period." (Talmud: Baba Bathra 15a). The ending of 2 Chronicles is identical to the beginning of Ezra, thus it seems that the same person wrote both books.
The books are similar in style, as both give attention to lists and genealogies. Ezra lived at the time of the restoration of Judah and had led the nation in the rebuilding of the temple and the renewal of the covenant. Therefore the history of the temple and faithfulness to the Covenant would have been important themes for him.
Place in Hebrew Scriptures
Like the books of Samuel and Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles is a single book in the Hebrew Bible. It is final book in the Writings, the third major section of the Hebrew Scriptures. When translated into Greek in the Septuagint, it was moved to its current position among the history books, and divided into the two books in modern Bibles.
The estimated date for the writing of 1 and 2 Chronicles is sometime around 450 BC, after the return from exile. Ezra led the major return from Babylon in 458 BC. Chronicles mentions the exiles that returned to Judah (1 Chr 9:1-34). The genealogy ends at seven generations beyond Jehoiachin, named as Jeconiah in Chronicles (1 Chr 3:16-23), who was king for three months in 598 BC before being taken to Babylon. The money referred to in 1 Chr 29:7 is in Persian Darics, so the author has updated the money and given it in a currency that the exiles can understand. The Aramaic in the Book of Ezra is similar to that found in the Elephantine scroll which is dated in the 400's BC.
The author of 1 & 2 Chronicles gives footnotes to refer to his sources of information:
1. Official Records
A large number of different official court records are mentioned, including: The record of the Chronicles of King David (1 Chr 27:24), The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (2 Chr 27:7, 35:27, 36:8), The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (2 Chr 16:11, 23:26, 28:26), The Book of the Kings of Israel (1 Chr 9:1, 2 Chr 20:34), The words (affairs and records) of the Kings of Israel (2 Chr 33:18), The Commentary (Midrash) on the Book of the Kings (2 Chr 24:27), The Decree of David the King of Israel, and The Decree of Solomon his Son (2 Chr 35:4).
2. References to prophetic writing and records
The author also refers to the writings of various prophets, including: Samuel the seer (1 Chr 29:29), Nathan the prophet (1 Chr 29:29, 2 Chr 9:29), Gad the seer (1 Chr 29:29), Ahijah the Shilohite (2 Chr 9:29), Iddo the seer (2 Chr 9:29, 12:15), Shemaiah the prophet (2 Chr 12:15), Jehu the son of Hanani (2 Chr 20:34), Isaiah the prophet (2 Chr 26:22, 32:32), and the Chronicles of the seers (2 Chr 33:19).
Purpose of writing
The author is writing for the remnant that has returned to Judah after the seventy-year exile. He is writing for a group of people who need to know that they are a continuation of God's involvement in history. The exiles have returned to a destitute land where they faced poverty and opposition from their neighbours. They have built the second temple at the command of God through his prophets, but it is a temple lacking in physical splendour. The ark is missing, and the glory of God did not fill this temple as it had the Tabernacle and Solomon's temple. They have no Davidic king on the throne, but instead Persia rules over them.
Chronicles teaches that the temple is important as the central place for worship. It shows that the Priests and Levites are essential to worship, and so the author gives the background for the Davidic organization of worship that is being set up in the restored community. Chronicles teaches that true worship is a matter of the heart and adherence to the covenant, and though the restored people had no king they did have all the elements needed for worship: they had a temple, the priests and Levites and the covenant. Thus religious devotion is encouraged.
The author of Chronicles wants to strengthen what remains, and teach the people what is essential. The people are at a time of a new beginning, so Ezra, as well as Nehemiah, led the people in a covenant renewal ceremony where the people promised that they would uphold the Covenant. There are three areas that are particularly stressed: tithes for the priesthood and upkeep of the temple, keeping the Sabbath, and restraining from mixed marriages which leads to idolatry. Thus in the Book of Chronicles the kings who were faithful to the covenant are shown to be blessed. The natural conclusion for the returned exiles is that faithfulness to the temple, Levites and the covenant will result in the blessing of the Lord.
Chronicles shows that what pleases the Lord: obeying the words of the prophets, keeping the covenant and honouring the temple, the priesthood and the Levites.
The returned exiles can please the Lord, if they follow the positive examples described in Chronicles. But if they are unfaithful, like the negative examples in Chronicles, then they will receive the discipline of the Lord. The recent discipline of the Lord would be fresh in the minds of these Jews who have just returned from the exile in Babylon.
The genealogies are important for the remnant because they point out that God has chosen them. The genealogies begin with Adam and continue up until the time of the returned exiles. They illustrate that these returned exiles are the remnant of the faithful descendants of Judah. There were a few from the North who had moved down to Judah before the fall of Samaria. Some of these also returned from Babylon, but the majority of the exiles who returned were from the tribe of Judah . The genealogies confirm that the community of God has continued. God's people were corrected but not abandoned. Chronicles gives these returnees a link with their religious heritage; a heritage which they are to continue in.
Chronicles is probably also a warning to this new generation. They have a fresh understanding of why the temple was destroyed and the people were deported from their land. This is important for them to learn, so that history does not repeat itself. God does not show favour to buildings (temples) when the people's hearts are unfaithful. The exiles have just rebuilt the temple and this rebuilt temple is a visual symbol that God has once again restored his favour, but this favour only continues if the people's hearts remain true to their God.
Chronicles does not deal with the apostate Northern Kingdom of Israel, which is dismissed as follows: "So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day". (2 Chr 10:19). In the Book of Ezra, God's people are once again threatened by their northern neighbours, the Samaritans, who had their own priesthood and place of worship. Once again the message to not ally oneself with evil is important.
The restored Jews are experiencing a renewal in their worship, thus the author of Chronicles describes in detail the important revivals in Judah's history; especially under Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah.
Chronicles portrays a true king (one that points to the Messiah) as the king who is faithful to the Covenant, seeks God, and honours and upholds the temple.
The author of Chronicles wants the new generation to do a better job than their ancestors. In the restored nation the focus is on individual as well as the corporate piety of the people in the nation. No longer is righteousness centred around a king, each individual in Israel is accountable before God.
Occasion of writing
The Temple was destroyed in 586 BC, and the nation was removed from land by the Babylonians. Worship had stopped. Everything was in ruins.
The books of Chronicles aim to give the returned exiles a sense of identity as a people, and to define those who were true Jews, thus ensuring racial purity. The author seeks to give the people an understanding of their roots so they could understand their religious and political past. The glory of the past was characterised by both the glorious kingdom of David and glory of the temple and its worship as the people were restoring these things after the return.
The aim is to remove disillusionment. In Ezra and Nehemiah there is an emphasis on the worship: by all kinds of people (Neh 7:7b-38), the priests (7:38-42), the Levites (7:43), singers (7:43), gatekeepers (7:45), temple servants (7:46-56) and Solomon's servants (7:57-59).
After repentance, they made a covenant (Neh 10), which included the following elements: no mixed marriages (v30), keeping the Sabbath laws (v31), giving money to maintain the temple (v32), wood for offering on the altar (v34), tithes and firstfruits (v35), the firstborn (v36), tithes for Levites (v37), and not neglecting the house of our God (v39).
The books of Chronicles also guide the nation towards the rebuilding of the national worship. There is an emphasis on priestly duties and restoring a sense of pride in their worship. They need to keep religious purity by preserving the proper priesthood and worship. The people needed to be faithful to God, showing what happens if they are not faithful. Two of the key words in the books are 'faithful' and 'seek'.
This emphasis can be seen through the four major sections of the book
In the genealogical section (1 Chr ch 1-10) there is an emphasis on the tribe of Judah, who are given 2½ chapters (2:1 - 4:23). There is a whole chapter listing the Levites, giving details of the different worship leaders. The lists of the returning exiles in chapter 9 include priests (v10-13), Levites (v14-16), gatekeepers (v17-27), those responsible for holy things (v28-32), and singers (v33-34). By contrast, the 2½ tribes forsake God (5:25f), Judah were removed into exile because of their unfaithfulness (9:1), just as Saul died because of his unfaithfulness (10:13). Compared with 1 Samuel, very little is said about King Saul.
In the section of the reign of David (1 Chr ch 11-29), there is an emphasis on building the temple and the establishment of worship, which is given 13 chapters, compared with only six chapters on David’s victories in battle. 1 Chronicles describes the glory of the temple in detail, 100,000 talents of gold, and a million talents of silver (22:14), David’s organisation of temple worship (23-26), and his personal offering (ch 29). When compared with 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles omits David’s sin with Bathsheba, portraying him as the perfect, ideal political, military and religious leader. The only sin of David mentioned is when Satan incited David to count the people of Israel (21:1).
In the section describing the reign of Solomon (2 Chr 1-9), many of the same events are described, including Solomon asking for wisdom, and building the temple, but Chronicles includes a longer section on the dedication of the temple, when compared with 1 Kings. However, the apostasy of Solomon is omitted completely (1 Kg 11).
In the final section describing the divided kingdom (2 Chr 10-36), there is hardly any mention of the ministry of Elijah and Elisha, because the northern kingdom of Israel is dismissed. Fewer prophets are mentioned. However, there is much more emphasis on the temple, especially the reforms carried out by Hezekiah (2 Chr 29-31).
Prophets named in the Books of Chronicles
Prophets also mentioned in 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings
Samuel the Seer (1 Chr 26:28; 29:29; 2 Ch 35:18)
Gad the Seer (1 Chr 21:10-21:1; 29:29; 2 Ch 29:25)
Nathan the Prophet (1 Chr 17:1-15; 29:29; 2 Chr 9:29; 29:25)
Ahijah the Shilonite (2 Chr 9:29; 10:15)
Shemaiah the Man of God (2 Chr 11:1-14; 12:2-9,15)
Jehu the Son of Hanani the Seer (2 Chr 19:1-3; 20:34)
Elijah the Tishbite (2 Chr 21:12-15)
Zedekiah, Son of Chenaanch & 700 prophets (2 Chr 18:4-27)
Micaiah the Son of Imlah (2 Chr 18:7-27)
Isaiah the Son of Amoz (2 Chr 26:22; 32:20,32)
Huldah the wife of Shallum (2 Chr 36:15-16)
Prophets not mentioned in 1 & 2 Samuel or 1 & 2 Kings
Asaph, Heman, Jeduthan (Ethan) and their Sons, the Levitical Singers (1 Chr 6:31-48; 9:15-16; 15:16-22; 16:4-7,37-38,41-42; 25:1-31; 2 Chr 5:11-14; 20:14-17;29:12-19, 25-30;35:15)
Iddo the Seer (2 Chr 9:29; 12:15; 13:22)
Azariah the Son of Obed (2 Chr 15:1-9)
Hanani the Son of Obed (2 Chr 16:7-10)
Jahaziel the Son of Zechariah .. a Levite of the Sons of Asaph (2 Chr 20:14-17)
The Prophets during Jehoshaphat's reign (2 Chr 20:20)
The Prophets during Joash's (Jehoash's) reign (2 Ch4 24:19)
Zechariah the Son of Jehoiada the Priest (2 Chr 24:20-22)
A Man of God (2 Chr 25:6-9)
A Prophet (2 Chr 25:14-16)
Odeb (2 Chr 28:8-15)
The Seers during Manasseh's reign (2 Chr 33:10,18,19)
Jeremiah (2 Chr 35:25; 36:12, 21-22)
Differences from the Books of Kings
For a list of the differences between the Books of Kings and Books of Chronicles, see the Kings / Chronicles page.