A chronicle is an account of historical events presented in the order in which they occurred. Studying 1 and 2 Chronicles can help students understand the overarching history of God’s ancient people from the time of Adam to the time of King Cyrus of Persia. Though 1 and 2 Chronicles present much of the same history as 1 and 2 Kings, there are additional details in Chronicles that give insight into how the Lord interacted with His people, especially during the reigns of the kings.
Although we do not know exactly who wrote or compiled the historical information in 1 and 2 Chronicles, “the books contain several references to the sources whence information was derived; for example, ‘the book of Nathan the prophet, the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and the visions of Iddo the seer’ (2 Chr. 9:29; 12:15; 13:22; 20:34; 26:22; 32:32; 33:18). These passages make it clear that, from the earliest times of the kingdom, writers living amid the events described, and generally of the prophetic order, recorded the history of their own times. These records along with [the books of] Samuel and Kings formed the material out of which our books of Chronicles were compiled, the compilers choosing such portions as suited the purpose of their composition” (Bible Dictionary, “Chronicles”).
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When and where were they written?
We do not know when or where the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles were written. However, 2 Chronicles mentions the decree made by King Cyrus of Persia allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem (see 2 Chronicles 36:22–23). This inclusion may suggest that the books of Chronicles, or at least a portion of them, were compiled sometime after 537 B.C., when King Cyrus made this decree. Originally, 1 and 2 Chronicles were one book (see Bible Dictionary, “Chronicles”).
What are some distinctive features of these books?
Although the books of Kings and the books of Chronicles cover much of the same period in Israelite history, the books of Chronicles highlight the Southern Kingdom of Judah and generally only mention the Northern Kingdom when describing ways that it interacted with Judah. Various details not found in the books of Samuel and Kings are included in Chronicles, such as a prophecy of Elijah concerning the wicked king Jehoram (see 2 Chronicles 21:12–15). “Though secular events are not excluded from [the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles], the writers dwell with most satisfaction upon the ecclesiastical and religious aspects of the history, and the progress of temple worship in Jerusalem” (Bible Dictionary, “Chronicles”).
1 Chronicles 1–9 Genealogies of the patriarchs and the sons of Jacob are listed.
1 Chronicles 10–22 After Saul dies, David reigns as king over all the tribes of Israel. He brings the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, which becomes the capital of the kingdom. The Lord commands David to not build a house of the Lord and promises that David’s son will build it. King David defeats other nations in battle and reigns justly in Israel.
1 Chronicles 23–29 David prepares his son Solomon and the Levites to build the temple. David dies, and Solomon reigns.
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2 Chronicles 1–9 King Solomon is blessed by the Lord with great wisdom and wealth. He builds and dedicates the temple in Jerusalem. The Lord appears to Solomon and promises to bless the Israelites according to their obedience. After a 40-year reign, Solomon dies and his son Rehoboam reigns.
2 Chronicles 10–35 Ten tribes of Israel rebel against Rehoboam, and the kingdom divides. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin remain in Judah. Many kings reign in the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
2 Chronicles 36 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon captures the Southern Kingdom and appoints Zedekiah to reign in Jerusalem. Zedekiah rebels, and Babylon destroys Jerusalem and the temple, taking the remnant of the people captive. After the Persian Empire overruns Babylon, the Jews are permitted to return and rebuild the temple.