1 and 2 Chronicles are not frequently read books, but that does not mean they are not worth reading.
In Hebrew, its title is “the book of the events of the days”. In the Septuagint its title is “the things left out”. The title we know the books by, Chronicles, comes from Jerome who thought “A Chronicle of All of Sacred History” was a better title.
Chronicles begins with Adam and tells the story of Israel until King Cyrus of Persia allows the exiles to return home. 1 and 2 Chronicles tell another version of Israel’s history. These books were probably written during the post-exilic period, perhaps around 450-332 BCE. As we read, we will notice that Chronicles quotes from Ezra, Zechariah, the final form of Torah and the prophets. This use of some many Old Testament texts is one reason scholars think Chronicles was written after the exile. 1 and 2 Chronicles probably were originally one book. Some commentators feel that 1 and 2 Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah all had the same author or editor. Other commentators disagree and think 1 and 2 Chronicles had a different author or editor.
Generally speaking Chronicles divides into four literary sections; one dealing with the reigns of David and Solomon, one concerned with the divided kingdom of Judah, one concerned with the reunited kingdom and a block of genealogies. A large part of Chronicles deals with the reigns of David and Solomon. We will notice less emphasis on Moses and the covenant. The Temple is given a greater role. Chronicles is also more interested in an inclusive Israel. This perspective is different from what we will find in Ezra and Nehemiah. We will notice that Chronicles emphasizes different aspects of the history and experience of Israel and Judah than the other historical books. After the kingdom divides, Chronicles focuses on Judah (the Southern Kingdom) where Kings told the stories of both the Southern and Northern Kingdoms. In Kings prophets were involved in the life of the Northern Kingdom and are not common in the Southern. In Chronicles we are told about prophets who were part of the Southern Kingdom.
Chronicles, like the other historical books we have read, is a mixture of “real” history and stories adapted to the author’s particular theological agenda. Chronicles was written to the postexhilic community living in Jerusalem. They were in Jerusalem but were ruled by the Persians. Recall that the Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians and many persons, especially the wealthy and elite had been taken to Babylon. The Persians defeated the Babylonians in 539 BCE and the exiles slowly began to return home. As Throntveit writes, “For two hundred years the community formed an insignificant, poverty stricken outpost on the frontiers of the Persian Empire.” (Throntveit,312).
Chronicles is first and foremost a theological work. The author, sometimes called the chronicler, is writing to his particular generation and is attentive to their situation and needs. Chronicles is concerned to answer the questions, “Are we still the people of God?” and “What do God’s promises to David and Solomon mean to us today?” which the returning exiles need to contend with. (Throntveit,313) Other historical books deal with the question of why? Chronicles maybe looking to the past to ask, “What now?” Allen calls Chronicles “inspirational literature”…”The chronicler had a pastor’s heart and a teacher’s mind, and his concern for his constituency surfaces throughout.” (Allen, 308)
Watch for these important theological ideas in Chronicles. First, the idea of “all Israel”. Not just the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin but all twelve tribes. Secondly, continuity with the past. Third, blessing and judgment. And notice the theme of exile and restoration. The text uses that theme both in a historical sense and a metaphorical sense.
An Outline of First and Second Chronicles ( from Allen)
I. 1 Chronicles 1:1-9:34 Israel: Elect and Inclusive, Unfaithful but Restored
A. 1:1-2:2 Israel’s Election
B. 2:3-9:1 A Panorama of Pre-exile Israel
C. 9:2-34 Israel’s Restoration in Principle
II. 1 Chronicles 9:35- 2 Chronicles 9:31 The Reigns of David and Solomon
A 9:35-29:30 The Reign of David
B. 1:1-9:31 The Reign of Solomon
III. 2 Chronicles 10:1-28:27 The Divided Kingdom
A. 10:1-12:16 Rehoboam’s Checkered Reign
B 13:1-16:14 Trusting the True God in Times of Crisis
C. 17:1-21:1a Jehoshaphat Chooses and Loses the Lord’s Presence
D. 21:1b-23:21 The Threat to the Dynasty Averted
E. 24:1-26:23 How to Lose the Race in Three Lessons
F. 27:1-28:27 Royal Models of Right and Wrong
IV. 2 Chronicles 29:1-36:23 The Reunited Kingdom
A. 29:1-32:23 Hezekiah Attains Royal Potential
B. 33:1-35:27 Dross Into Gold
C. 36:1-23 Recurring Exile and the Prospect of Restoration
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of 1 and 2 Chronicles
Allen, Leslie C. “The First and Second Books of Chronicles: ” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 3, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1999.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Knoppers, Gary N.”1 Chronicles” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Fully Revised 4 th Edition, Michael Cougan, ed. (New York:Oxford University Press) 2010.
Stinespring, William F. and Burke O. Long “1 Chronicles” and “2 Chronicles” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds.(New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
Throntveit, Mark A. “I Chronicles” and “2 Chronicles” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.