1-2 Chronicles (Overview)

Subscribe to the Bible Reading Challenge Podcast


1 Chronicles 1-9 – Genealogies
1 Chronicles 10-21 – David’s Reign
1 Chronicles 22-29 – David’s Temple Preparations
2 Chronicles 1-9 – Solomon’s Reign
2 Chronicles 10-20 – Rehoboam to Jehoshaphat
2 Chronicles 21-28 – Jehoram to Ahaz
2 Chronicles 29-36 – Hezekiah to Cyrus

The Message of Chronicles

In the Hebrew Bible, 1-2 Chronicles are one book. We don’t know who the Chronicler was, but some have identified him as Ezra the scribe. One of the reasons for this is that the last verses of Chronicles and the first verses of Ezra are essentially the same, both record the decree of Cyrus king of Persia to go and rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem (2 Chr. 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-4). We might call Ezra-Nehemiah, “3rd Chronicles,” because it continues the story of God’s house as it was rebuilt by the Jews.

First Chronicles begins with Adam, the first man, and Second Chronicles ends with Cyrus, the LORD’s messiah (Is. 45:1). At the center of Chronicles is the reign of Solomon and the construction of the temple. This is what the history of the world from Adam-David is meant to lead up to, and it is what the whole of human history is all about: God coming and dwelling amongst His people, making them into a house for His name. Chronicles sets up and anticipates the incarnation of God in the man Christ Jesus. So as you read through these lists of names, and cycles of kings and their reigns, allow it to stir up in you that narrative tension that finds its fulfillment in the birth and reign of Jesus Christ. Chronicles gives us context for the greatest event in human history.

The book of Chronicles spans about 3,480 years from Adam to Cyrus, and of all the things that God could have told us about that time, this is what He chosen to give us. The question we should ask here is “Why?” What is so important about all these names and genealogies? Is this information really necessary? It is when we come to these sections of Scripture that we need to remember what Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This means we cannot be complete Christians without the book of Chronicles. There is something here, even in these genealogies, that will be beneficial for our growth in Christ. It is just a matter of searching these treasures out.

Differences Between Kings & Chronicles

One of the major differences between Kings and Chronicles, is that Kings tells the history of both northern and southern kingdoms, whereas Chronicles focuses almost exclusively on the southern kingdom of Judah. Kings contains lengthy sections describing the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, whereas Chronicles includes far less prophetic activity. You may also notice that Chronicles omits certain sins of David while highlighting others. For example, in 2 Samuel, David’s great sin is his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. But in Chronicles, David’s great sin is taking a census (1 Chronicles 21). Why was this census such a sinful action? Because according to Exodus 30, taking a census was a military action that required atonement, it was a mustering of the troops wherein each man had to give half a shekel to the Lord to cover (atone for) the necessary bloodshed of battle.

Peter Leithart has pointed out that this census is like David’s sin with Bathsheba but on a national scale. In 2 Samuel 7, David seizes the wife of a single warrior, but in 1 Chronicles, David seizes the host and bride of Yahweh and treats it as if it were his own; he also bypasses the Levites who were essential to the preparation for war (Deut. 20:2). This focus on the priestly aspect of Israel’s history is a major theme of Chronicles. We might say that Samuel-Kings is the history of Israel from a prophetic perspective, and Chronicles is the history of Israel from a Levitical or priestly perspective. This is evident in how the genealogies in Chronicles emphasize the priestly line. For example, the tribe of Levi is structurally at the center of the first nine chapters of genealogies.

1 Chronicles 1-9 – Genealogies

A  1 Chronicles 1 – Before Tribes
B  1 Chronicles 2-4:23 – Royal Tribe of Judah
C  1 Chronicles 4:24-5 – Peripheral Tribes: Simeon, Reuben, Gad, Manasseh
D  1 Chronicles 6 – Levites
C′ 1 Chronicles 7 – Peripheral Tribes: Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Asher
B′ 1 Chronicles 8 – Royal Tribe of Benjamin
A′ 1 Chronicles 9 – New Israel After Exile

In the first chapter of Chronicles, we go from Adam to Abraham, and if you remember God’s promise to make Abraham the father of many nations, the genealogies that follow are a testimony to this promise. Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and Esau beget chiefs and kings upon the earth, and there’s a good chance that righteous Job is the same Jobab who was king of Edom (1 Chr. 1:44).

In chapters 2-4 we are given the messy but royal line of Judah. We see David and Solomon, down to Zedekiah and Zerubbabel. This genealogy is especially important for establishing the divine right of Jesus to inherit the throne of David. Remember that the first verse in the New Testament, Matthew 1:1 is a new genesis, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” The fruitfulness of Adam, Abraham, and David has a specific telos, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Eve that her seed would one day crush the serpent’s head. In Christ, that day of victory has come.

After the royal tribe of Judah, we are given the lines of Simeon, Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh, and 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 gives us some insight into the logical ordering of these genealogies. The chronicler says, “Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel—he was indeed the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph, the son of Israel, so that the genealogy is not listed according to the birthright;yet Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came a ruler, although the birthright was Joseph’s.” This is the background to the rivalry between Judah and Ephraim (one of Joseph’s sons). When the kingdom was divided after Solomon’s death, Judah and Benjamin remained together under Rehoboam, but the other tribes followed Jeroboam the Ephraimite (1 Kings 11:26). Ephraim eventually becomes shorthand for the northern kingdom of Israel and there is a long conflict between them. However, Isaiah prophesies that one day the enmity between these rival brothers will come to an end, “The envy of Ephraim shall depart, And the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, And Judah shall not harass Ephraim” (Is. 11:13). One of the marks of the Messiah is that he will rise from the Root of Jesse (Is. 11:10) and bring together not only these scattered tribes, but the gentile nations as well. Chronicles gives us context for this future reunion of brothers.

In chapter 6 we come to the center of these genealogies and find the priestly line of Levi. From there we then move back out in chapter 7 to the peripheral tribes of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Asher. Chapter 8 gives us the other royal tribe of Benjamin, and then chapter 9 gives us Israel after the exile with a special focus on the priestly work at Jerusalem. We then move backwards in time to the death of Saul and the beginning of David’s reign at Hebron.

1 Chronicles 10-29 – David’s Reign and Temple Preparations

Chapters 10-21 record the reign of David which focuses on the ark of the covenant and its eventual relocation to Zion. Then in chapters 22-29, we are given the preparations for the temple. This focuses on a new administration for the priests, musicians, gatekeepers, and other Levitical duties. Throughout the entirety of 1 Chronicles, it is the house of God that is structurally central. Everything else exists to protect, support, and build up the worship of God. By studying the organizational structure of Israel at this time, we can gain many insights into how a Christian society should be structured today. There are many lessons here for how church and state can interact, and how civil and ecclesiastical offices can work together to defend and promote the true worship of the Triune God. In this sense, Chronicles can be read as a manual for reformation, and a manual for worship. When kings go bad and priests are unfaithful, the people suffer under God’s judgment. But when the king is righteous, and the priesthood is faithful, God is magnified throughout the earth. Joyful music and the sacrifice of praise is why cities and nations exist. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. This is the message of 1 Chronicles.

2 Chronicles 1-36 – From Solomon to Cyrus

Second Chronicles takes us from the reign of King Solomon to the decree of Cyrus. In the first nine chapters we get the construction and dedication of the temple, which culminates with a visit from the Queen of Sheba (1 Chr. 9). That the temple would be a house of prayer for all the nations is fulfilled in Solomon’s day, and we are told that, “All the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put it in his heart.” This is a foretaste of what John describes at the end of Revelation, “And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it” (Rev 21:24). The kingdom of Christ is what Solomon’s kingdom pointed to, a time of glory, peace, and prosperity for the people of God.

Now the rest of the book, from chapter 10-36 is very similar to the period of the Judges. There are these cycles of: faithfulness, followed by idolatry, followed by oppression at the hands of their enemies, followed by repentance, followed by God raising up a new faithful king to bring about reformation. One of the ways the Chronicler tracks this progress is by noting the status of the building materials in the house of God. When Judah is in the downward sin cycle, the gold and silver articles are taken from the temple, and when they are in a time of reformation, the house of God is restored. The temple is a visual symbol of God’s people. When they worship idols, their glory devolves from gold to lesser metals like bronze (2 Chr. 12:9-10), and eventually to dust and ashes. Just as the judges were replaced by Davidic kings, now the Davidic kings are replaced by Gentile kings (Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, etc.). Chronicles closes with the temple in ruins, the Jews in exile, and the land at rest for seventy years. But this is not the end of the story, Cyrus declares a great commission to go up to Jerusalem and rebuild God’s house. And that is where 3rd Chronicles, or what we call Ezra-Nehemiah will pick up the story.