Many of the Jewish exiles had returned to the land God promised their ancestors. They needed to remember both the glory days and the difficult times that had gone on before them. This history begins to be told again in 1 Chronicles.
1 Chronicles is the thirteenth book in most English Bibles; in the Hebrew Bible, 1 and 2 Chronicles are placed at the end, part of the Ketuvim or “Writings.” 1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one book divided in antiquity. 1 Chronicles begins with a genealogy beginning with Adam and continuing into the post-exilic period, but its narrative focuses on David’s reign (ca. 1000-950 BCE). The Chronicler, as the author of 1 and 2 Chronicles is often called, has many affinities with Ezra and may well in fact be Ezra. Both 1 and 2 Chronicles rely on earlier court records, including 1 Samuel through 2 Kings, and were written in their present form sometime around 430-400 BCE. 1 Chronicles provides genealogical records and the history of David’s reign to emphasize continuity between pre-exilic and post-exilic Israel and the importance of proper service to God.
1 Chronicles 1:1-9:44 presents a genealogical listing for Israel. The listing from Adam to the sons of Israel are provided (1 Chronicles 1:1-2:2); the Chronicler focuses on Judah, Levi, and Benjamin but does provide some information regarding other tribes (1 Chronicles 2:3-8:40). The Chronicler also gives a genealogy of returned exiles (1 Chronicles 9:1-34).
After providing Saul’s genealogy again (1 Chronicles 9:35-44), the Chronicler narrates Saul’s death and David’s accession to the throne (1 Chronicles 10:1-14; cf. 1 Samuel 31:1-13). The rest of 1 Chronicles describes the reign of David: David anointed as king, conquering Jerusalem, his mighty men, the Ark brought to Jerusalem, David’s family, the defeat of David’s enemies, God’s covenant with David, the disgrace of David’s men by the Ammonites and the subsequent defeat of the Ammonites, David’s census, David’s preparations for building the Temple and his exhortation to Solomon to build the Temple, David’s organization of the Levites, priests, musicians, gatekeepers, treasurers, other Temple functions, the military, and tribal leaders, and David’s final charges to Israel, Solomon, offerings for the Temple, and the death of David (1 Chronicles 11:1-29:30).
The events described in 1 Chronicles 11:1-29:30 are also recounted in the books of 2 Samuel 1:1-24:25 and 1 Kings 1:1-2:12. There are many similarities: some events, like the humiliation of David’s men and the response against Ammon, are repeated almost verbatim (2 Samuel 10:1-19, 12:26-31, 1 Chronicles 19:1-20:3). On the whole the Chronicler’s account is more chronological: discussions of David’s mighty men and his census are part of the whole narrative and not set aside in an appendix as in 2 Samuel 21:1-24:25.
Yet the differences between the Samuel/Kings’ and Chronicler’s accounts of the history are quite notable. Much of the 2 Samuel narrative is devoted to David’s sin with Bathsheba and its consequences as it relates to David’s children and kingdom (2 Samuel 11:1-12:23, 13:1-19:43); none of this is recounted in the Chronicler’s account. The Chronicler proves far more interested in David’s relationship with the Temple and its functioning: while 2 Samuel does mention the Ark’s journey to Jerusalem and David’s intention to build the Temple (2 Samuel 6:1-7:29), the Chronicler provides far more detail regarding how the Ark came to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13:1-14, 15:1-16:43) and provides detailed accounts of David’s gifts and preparations for the Temple and ascribes the organization of the Temple administration to David (1 Chronicles 22:1-29:22).
It was good for the Jews who returned from the exile to remember how God blessed David His servant with a kingdom and how David organized the Temple administration so that they could carry on the administration of the second Temple while awaiting the promised king from the line of David. God is faithful to His promise; let us follow after Jesus the son of David and be saved!