Leslie J. Hoppe
The Chronicler's Work
As the introduction to this book notes (OT, p. 435 ), the first book of Chronicles is part of a larger work that includes the second book of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. This larger work begins with Adam (1 Chr 1, 1 ) and concludes with the writer's own day: the fifth century following the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple after the Babylonian Exile that lasted from 587 to 539 BC. Originally 1 and 2 Chronicles formed one book. The division into two came with the printed Bible. Similarly, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were a single work that was divided into two.
Although Chronicles begins with Adam, it repeats none of the familiar stories found in Genesis. The first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles are almost completely without narrative material. The text is little more than genealogical lists that the author gleaned from biblical texts and other sources available to him. The narrative proper begins with the story of Saul's death and burial ( 10, 1–14 ). Perhaps this is the Chronicler's way of stating that it is with David that Israel's story really begins (see note to 1, 1–9, 34, OT, p. 436 ).
About half of the material found in Chronicles comes from the books of Samuel and Kings. While Samuel and Kings describe and explain the rise and fall of the Israelite kingdoms, the Chronicler appears to be more interested in the future of the Israelite people. Examining how the Chronicler uses material from Samuel and Kings, and analysis of the material unique to Chronicles, reveals the Chronicler's religious message: Judah's religious institutions and their continuity with the past are critical for its future. One aim of the work is to defend the legitimacy of the Temple of Jerusalem and the significance of its worship for Israel's life. The Chronicler believed that Israel could secure its future only by worshipping its God according to the pattern set by David at God's direction. Israel's hope, then, did not reside in the restoration of its political institutions but in the renewal of legitimate worship in the Temple of Jerusalem under the direction of its priests and Levites.
Position in the Canon
The Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) titled the books of Chronicles Paraleipomena (“things that were left out”). This was also the name for Chronicles used in the Douay‐Rheims version and some other Roman Catholic versions. Evidently those responsible for the Septuagint considered Chronicles a kind of supplement to the books of Samuel and Kings. Perhaps that is why the Septuagint places Chronicles immediately following the books of Kings. Jerome followed this order in the Vulgate (his Latin translation of the Bible). English Bibles used by both Protestant and Catholic Christians also follow this order.
The books of Chronicles are the last books in the Jewish Bible. Christian Bibles follow an arrangement that has the Old Testament end with the Prophets. The final passage is Malachi's prophecy of the return of Elijah, who will announce the “day of the Lord” (Mal 3, 23f ). The Church reads a messianic meaning in this text and, following the lead of tHe New Testament, identifies John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus, as the returning Elijah (Mt 11, 11–14; 17, 11–13 ). A prophecy regarding the precursor of the Messiah is the perfect way to lead into the story of Jesus' birth with which the New Testament begins.
In the Hebrew Bible as arranged by the rabbis, the prophetic books follow the books of Moses (the Torah or the Pentateuch), since the early rabbis viewed the prophets as expositors of the Torah. The rabbinic Bible has a third division, called the Writings, which is a miscellaneous collection of books that belong to neither the Torah nor the Prophets. The last books of this collection are 1 and 2 Chronicles. Thus the Hebrew Bible ends with the decree of Cyrus (2 Chr 36, 23 ) that calls for the people of Judah to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. For two millennia, then, religious Jews scattered throughout the world have found that the last words of their Bible were a call to return to Jerusalem (see also the note to 2 Chr 36, 22f, OT, p. 508 ).