As the bells toll in the New Year, 1 Chronicles emerges as our next “biblical book of the month.” And it would seem that the “Chronicler,” as the author is often called, was calling God’s people to recognize a new era, a new dawn.
Having just worked through the multi-century historical accounts of 1 and 2 Kings, we may feel a bit discouraged when we turn the biblical page and find two more thick historical books canonically stationed in our reading path. What may incite even more frustration is when we realize that 1 and 2 Chronicles seem to chronicle the same series of events we just made it through having come to the full stop at the end of 2 Kings 25.
But it is also quite interesting to have multiple storytellers recount for us the same goings-on in history.
Anyone who pays close attention to contemporary news coverage must admit that the recounting of global and national events is always interpretive. What I mean is that history is not simply the reproduction of the bare historical facts. History is an interpretive rendering of those facts.
The history that concerns the work of the Chronicler is the royal dynasty of King David and the institution of the Jerusalem Temple. The years of Judah’s monarchy are recounted in 1–2 Samuel and 1–2 Kings. But the Chronicler is re-presenting this history for his own time. Dated later than 1–2 Samuel and 1–2 Kings, it would seem that 1–2 Chronicles are written to remind God’s people, beleagured and worn down, of the great legacy of David’s royal line and the great wonder of Solomon’s Temple. Meaningful history cannot be exhausted in one retelling (as the four canonical Gospels affirm!). The Chronicler calls us to reconsider the days of David and the reign of his bloodline in new circumstances. Old times and long-gone legendary figures have import for the present… and future.
“David” and “Temple” are “key words” for 1 Chronicles. Probably the key exhortation is to seek the Lord—in seeking him David’s rule was confirmed, and the history demonstrates that drifting away from God leads to national disaster. In those bygone glory days, the Temple came to serve as a visible, material reminder of God’s proximity and accessibility. He could be sought and found right there in the city of David.
It is likely that the Chronicler’s retelling of the old sagas found in 1–2 Samuel and 1–2 Kings was meant to reinvigorate the people of God in a day when the Temple was either still in ruins or perhaps there stood a 2.0 version much inferior to the original. In remembering David’s ancient rule, readers would also be reminded of the divine promises of the Messiah’s future rule. The genealogies that feature in the beginning of 1 Chronicles are probable evidence that the author wants to remind the Jews of their divine identity as children of God, along with being servants to the throne of David which is empty for the time being, but may well be occupied in due course.
Christian readers of 1 Chronicles will appreciate the messianic hopefulness. And that is not a bad way to begin a New Year after celebrating the Advent of the One in whom all messianic hopes converge. Happy reading….