When read in the Hebrew order, the final book of the Old Testament is Chronicles; which, of course, our Bibles break into two separate books. I want to share why Chronicles makes so much more sense when it is read as the last book rather than reading it immediately following Samuel-Kings. Here are some things from Chronicles to consider.
When reading a historical narrative, like Chronicles, you have to consider the historical context of the story itself, but also the context of the audience for whom this story was written. Chronicles covers much of the same material as the books of Kings. However, the audiences for whom these books were written are different and therefore the stories themselves are different.
Kings was written to explain to exiled Jews why they were exiled and why they needed to repent. Chronicles, on the other hand, was written to Jews who had returned from exile to explain that God was merciful and willing to forgive their sins. The authors of these two different books may be covering some of the same events, but they cover them in very different ways, because they are writing in a different context.
The author of Chronicles assumes the reader is already familiar with the historical facts of the story. His goal is not just to relay the facts of what happened. His audiences already knows what happened. His goal is to retell the story in such a way as to make a very important point. With wisdom from God’s Spirit, he leaves out key details of the story, depicts historical figures in a slightly different light, and emphasizes different themes than the author of Kings. He is counting on his audience noticing these differences, because his point is being made by the different way the story is being told.
When you read Chronicles, you have to understand that the context of the story is after the decree of Cyrus that allowed Jews to start returning from Babylon to Judah. The original audience was asking themselves, “Does God still love us? Will he restore his kingdom to us?”
Notable Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
The book of Kings focuses on the history of both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, showing how both kingdoms “broke faith” with God and were exiled for their disobedience. However, Chronicles focuses only on Judah, mentioning Israel’s history only when it intersected with Judah’s history. The author of Chronicles is not concerned with the story of Israel’s fall, his audience knows that story already. He is concerned with depicting Judah as a nation that has fallen but will rise again.
Another difference is the moral makeover David, Solomon, and others receive. David and Solomon are depicted in a much better light in this book than they are in Samuel-Kings. The author makes no mention of David’s sin with Bathsheba or his murder of Uriah. Solomon’s heart is not said to have been lead astray by his foreign wives; no mention is made of his idolatry at all. In fact, his Egyptian wife is mentioned just to point out the fact that Solomon insisted she live in her own house because the house of David was holy.
Little to no mention is made of the political power struggles and the division in Israel during the reigns of David and Solomon. Israel is said to have been “as one man” in their devotion to these kings. Of course, the reason for this way of telling the story is obvious. The author was reminding the exiles that another son of David would arise to lead all of Israel once again and that they should rally around him in loyalty and allegiance, just as they had with David and Solomon. This book focuses nearly all of its attention on the Kings who were descended from David.
One interesting theme in Chronicles is the connection between the king and the priesthood. The obedient and repentant kings of Judah focused much attention on appointing priests and making sure the temple was functioning as it was supposed to function. Again, it’s not hard to understand why this is an important theme when we remember the context of this book’s author and audience. The temple needed to be rebuilt and the priesthood needed to be reorganized. That’s why it is so important to read Chronicles in conjunction with Ezra-Nehemiah.
God’s Steadfast Love Endures Forever
I would have to say that the major theme of Chronicles is God’s “steadfast love endures forever.” There are so many examples and instances of kings and people realizing they have sinned, repenting of their sin, and seeking God’s mercy. There are so many reminders that God’s steadfast love for his people never fails.
The point was, if God’s people will humble themselves and return to God, he would most certainly forgive them and restore the kingdom to them. Passages like the following encapsulate the theme of the whole book rather well:
“If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you.”
When this book was written, the Jewish people needed reassurance that:
- they were still God’s people
- God was willing to forgive them
- God would still raise up a descendant of David to be their king
- God would bring back the scattered sheep of Israel and make them one people again
Of course, as Christians, we know now God would do all that and more through his Anointed King, Jesus. However, these people would have to wait 400 years for that day to come. So, in the meantime, the Jews rebuilt the temple, appointed priests, taught the Law, and reminded themselves that God’s steadfast love endures forever.
I love you and God loves you,