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1 and 2 Chronicles

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible What is This? Provides accessible, authoritative coverage for all major topics pertaining to the study of the Books of the Bible.

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1 and 2 Chronicles

In Jewish tradition, the book is named “sēfer dibrê hayyāmîm,” “the Book of the Events of the Annuals/Years” or the “Book of the Acts of the Days,” a term occurring in Kings (1 Kgs 14:19, 29; 15:7, 23, 31; 16:5, 14, 20, 27; 22:39, 45 [Heb. 46]; 2 Kgs 1:18; 8:23; 10:34; 12:19 [20]; 13:8, 12; 14:15, 18, 28), Nehemiah (12:23), and Esther (2:23; 10:2; in 6:1 the term is interpreted by “The Book of Records / Memoirs,” or vice versa), although none of these refer to our book. Its more ancient name is unknown. Nevertheless, the book appears with this name in rabbinic literature (e.g., m. Yoma 1:6), and was transliterated as Dabre Aiamim by Jerome (Prologus galeatus, his introduction to the Latin translation of Samuel–Kings). The Aramaic Targum stresses both of the literary features of the book, the genealogical lists and the narratives, by combining the names “The Acts of the Days (ptgmy dywmy') and “The Book of Genealogies” (sefer yḥwsy'; cf. 1 Chr 1:1). In the Septuagint (LXX) Codex Alexandrinus the book is named Paraleipomenōn Basileōn Iouda, “The Things Omitted concerning the Kings of Judah,” apparently because the book concentrates primarily on the history of the southern kingdom of Judah rather than both its history and that of the northern kingdom of Israel, as does the book of Kings. The Syriac translation, the Peshitta, names the book sefar berjamîn / debarjamin (“the Book of the Acts of the Days”), and similar to Codex Alexandrinus adds: “the book remembering the days of the kings of Judah.” However, the other major versions of LXX (Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) name the book simply Paraleipomenōn, that is, “the matters omitted” from 1–4 Kingdoms (= MT Samuel and Kings). The latter Greek name was also used in the Old Latin translation. In his Prologus galeatus, Jerome suggested that it would be more accurate to call the First and Second Paraleipomenōn as “Chronicle of the Divine History,” even though in his Vulgate Jerome kept the Greek name. However, in his translation of the Bible into German (1534), Martin Luther followed Jerome's term, and named the book “Die Chronica” or “Das erste und zweite buch der Chronik / Chronikbücher.” Shortly after, English translations of the Bible (e.g., King James Version, 1611) used “1 and 2 Chronicles / Chronicles,” and other Western translations followed suit.

Rabbinic tradition refers to Chronicles as one comprehensive book (as it also does for Samuel and Kings; b. B. Bat. 14b, 15a). This tradition is reflected in a note by the Masoretic scribes at the end of what is now called 2 Chronicles: “The sum of all the verses of the book is 1,765.” Accordingly, they pointed to 1 Chronicles 27:25 as “the middle of the book in verses.” Because of its large size, the Greek translator(s) divided the book into two portions, 1 Paraleipomenon and 2 Paraleipomenon, as with the other historical writings, “the books of Kingdoms”: 1–2 Kingdoms (roughly = MT 1–2 Samuel), 3–4 Kingdoms (roughly = MT 1–2 Kings). The division of Chronicles into two books—“1–2 Chronicles”—is followed by all Christian translations of the Bible in various languages since antiquity, and also in printed editions of Jewish Bibles to the present.

Canonical Status and Location in Canon.

While Samuel and Kings were included in the second division of the Jewish canon, Nevi'im (Prophets), because of its relatively late composition Chronicles was not included there but was placed in the third division, Ketuvim (Writings). This location of Chronicles fits the rabbis' opinion that the book was composed by Ezra and Nehemiah, who were not prophets. According to the Babylonian Talmud (b. B. Bat. 14b) Chronicles is located at the end of Ketuvim. In the Aleppo (ca. 930 C.E.) and Leningrad (or Leningradensis, ca. 1010 C.E.) Codices, Chronicles is at the beginning of Ketuvim, although in most other major manuscripts and early printed editions Chronicles is placed last. Despite its focus on the history of the First Temple period, it was placed after Daniel, Esther, and Ezra-Nehemiah, which recount events of later periods. Most likely this reflects an understanding of Chronicles as a summary of the entire Hebrew Bible, from Adam to Cyrus, and therefore is located at its end. Its positive, “Zionistic” intention may have also played a role in its placement at the culmination of the Bible (Kalimi 2009, pp. 27–31).

No rabbinic text discusses the canonicity of Chronicles, in contrast to other books in the Writings; but in some Christian communities, such as the Syrian, Egyptian, and Ethiopian churches, its canonicity was disputed. In the thirteenth century, Hugh of Saint-Cher (and later also Spinoza; see below) stated his astonishment at its inclusion in the Bible.

In the Septuagint, Chronicles was considered a historical writing, and was located with other historical books, after 1-2-3-4 Kingdoms but before Ezra–Nehemiah and Esther. Most probably this was also the place of Chronicles among the thirteen historical books of the twenty-two books of the Jewish scriptures that were counted by Josephus at the end of the first century C.E.: “From the death of Moses until Artaxerxes…the prophets subsequent to Moses wrote the history of the events of their own times in thirteen books” (C. Ap. 1.38–41). This order, which originated in the Egyptian Jewish community, is followed in the Vulgate, and consequently in the vast majority of Christian Bibles.


There is no direct evidence about either the authorship or the date of composition of Chronicles. According to Baba Batra 15a and talmudic sources, the authors of Chronicles were Ezra the scribe and Nehemiah, son of Hacaliah: “Ezra wrote the book that bears his name [the book of Ezra = Ezra–Nehemiah], and the genealogies of the book of Chronicles up to himself (or, his own time).…Who then completed it [the book of Chronicles]?—Nehemiah, son of Hacaliah.” The exact place where he left off is vague, but may refer to 1 Chronicles 6:11 [Heb. 5:40], suggesting that Ezra composed from 1 Chronicles 1:1 to 6:11, while Nehemiah composed the rest of the book, that is, 1 Chronicles 6:12—2 Chronicles 36:23. This rabbinic view regarding the authorship of Chronicles was also accepted by the church fathers (Curtis and Madsen, 1910, p. 3).

In modern biblical scholarship the author of the book of Chronicles is generally called “the Chronicler,” though in previous generations this term was often used for the combined work of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah, following the rabbinic view, and the fact that a form of Cyrus's decree ends Chronicles and begins Ezra, which had suggested to some scholars that the books were once joined (see further below). The identification of the Chronicler, namely the composer of Chronicles, is unknown. Because the author is very much in sympathy with the Levites (1 Chr 15:11–24; 23–26; 16:4, and cf. 2 Chr 34:30 with 2 Kgs 23:2), and because he is well-informed about the Temple and Temple rituals and personnel, most likely he was a Levite from Jerusalem.

Literary History.

For the last two centuries of biblical scholarship, a well-established and widely accepted position maintained that the books of Samuel–Kings were composed some time before the composition of the book of Chronicles. Moreover, the major source (Vorlage) of the Chronicler was the text of Samuel–Kings as it is currently preserved, and therefore there are some identical or very close parallel texts between the former and the latter. In many other cases, there are differences between the parallel texts reflecting different viewpoints. Furthermore, the historical credibility of these texts in Chronicles (as well as at least some of the unparalleled texts that appear only in Chronicles—the “additions” or Sondergut/Zusätze) is generally doubtful. This approach, suggesting that Chronicles was an unreliable refashioning of Samuel–Kings, was already formulated by W. M. L. de Wette, reevaluated and improved by C. P. W. Gramberg and K. H. Graf, and reached its peak with J. Wellhausen. Ever since, it has been widely accepted by historians and biblical scholars, and remains the dominant hypothesis of the vast majority of scholars until the present (Kalimi 2005B, pp. 4–5). The advocates of this approach assume that in principle the version of the books of Samuel–Kings to which the Chronicler had access—his Vorlage—was identical with the one available to us, that is, the consonantal portion of the Hebrew/Masoretic Text (MT) of Samuel–Kings. This assumption is basic to most older scholarly research and exegetical literature relating to Chronicles. The fragments of Samuel–Kings that were uncovered among the biblical manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the mid-twentieth century (on the tiny fragment of Chronicles that were found in Qumran, see below), did not fundamentally alter this view. Rather they made us aware that the Chronicler used a slightly different text than what we have now in the MT version. In addition, the comparison of the MT and Qumran texts of Samuel–Kings shows that besides the fact that the Qumran text preserved original text, it also contain much deliberate editing, rewording, and harmonizing of the original Hebrew version. Moreover, it also shows that the MT of Samuel-Kings itself has sometimes been deliberately changed.

In order to rehabilitate the historical credibility of Chronicles and make it equal to Samuel–Kings, which were widely respected for their general reliability, some scholars of the nineteenth century (such as Eichhorn, Bertholdt, Bertheau, Dillmann, Havenick, and Keil 1878) developed the idea of a “third” common source (gemeinschaftliche Quelle). According to these scholars, an earlier and independent source that had first served the authors of Samuel–Kings, later on also served the Chronicler. This, rather than the Chronicler's having borrowed from Samuel–Kings, would explain the existence of the parallel texts. The differences between them, these scholars explain, reflect divergent emphases and usages employed by the authors of Samuel–Kings, on the one hand, and by the Chronicler, on the other, in editing the earlier and detailed “third” common source to which they both had access. This hypothesis was largely rejected and accordingly neglected; it was seen as part of the conservative-orthodox school of nineteenth-century biblical study (Kalimi 2005B, pp. 2–6).

This view was revived by A. G. Auld, who claims that Samuel–Kings should not be regarded as older than Chronicles: “The Chronicler and the Deuteronomist both breathed the same post-exilic air” (Auld 1994, p. 163). Auld asserts that the Chronicler did not use Samuel–Kings as his Vorlage, but shared with the authors of Samuel–Kings a primary common—“third”—source that recounted the history of Judah, which each author expanded in his own way. This theory has been accepted by some scholars. R. F. Person, for example, argues that “the Deuteronomistic History and the book of Chronicles are Persian-period historiographies produced by two competing scribal guilds, the Deuteronomistic school and the Chronistic school, but that these historiographies are nevertheless based on the same broader tradition, including a common exilic source” (Person 2010, p. 163). Nevertheless, nearly all scholars continue to hold that the composition of Samuel–Kings took place much earlier than the composition of Chronicles, and that the vast majority of the parallel texts in Chronicles were based on the earlier historical work of the Deuteronomistic Historian(s).

Careful philological examination of biblical and nonbiblical texts shows clear differences between preexilic (early/classical) biblical Hebrew, and postexilic (late) biblical Hebrew in vocabulary, syntax, and orthography. The language of Samuel–Kings is early biblical Hebrew, while the language of Chronicles is late biblical Hebrew, containing substantial Aramaisms and Persian loanwords. Alternatives, such as the assertion of E. A. Knauf (1990) that biblical Hebrew is an artificial language which was invented in the Persian period, and the hypothesis of some other scholars that Jewish scribes of the Persian period used two different sorts of Hebrew language at the same time, are both to be rejected.

Chronicles does contain anachronisms from the Persian period (e.g., 1 Chr 29:7 mentions the Persian gold coin daric in a description of David's time). Unlike Samuel–Kings, it also mentions the name of the Persian king (e.g., Cyrus the Great in 2 Chr 36:22–23), and has a genealogical list that extends until the mid-Persian age (e.g., 1 Chr 3:19–24; see below). Moreover, that the Chronicler used Samuel–Kings is also evident because textual errors and irrelevant expressions in the books of Samuel–Kings reappear in the parallel texts in Chronicles (Curtis

1 and 2 Chronicles

Persian Daric.

Chronicles contains several anachronisms from the Persian period including mention of darics at 1 Chronicles 29:7. This daric depicts Darius I (r. 522–486 b.c.e.) as a royal archer. Photograph by Zev Radovan.


view larger image

and Madsen, 1910, p. 19). Finally, the Chronicler often alludes to narratives in Samuel–Kings, and it is often impossible to understand his allusions without first being familiar with those narratives (1 Chr 10:13–14; 15:29; 29:27; 2 Chr 10:15; Kalimi 2005B, pp. 194–214, 2011; McKenzie, pp. 82–85).

The Relationship between Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah.

No ancient Jewish or Christian source considers Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah as one composition. Some scholars, however, have assumed that they were originally a single book whose author wished to describe in a comprehensive historical work the history of Israel from the earliest times to the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. This was the view of some medieval Jewish commentators, such as Nachmanides (1194–1270) in his commentary on Exodus 1:1; and Gersonides (1288–1344), in his commentary on 2 Chronicles 36:22 states that because of their similar language Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah had the same author. Don Isaac Abarbanel (1437–1508/9), in the introduction to his commentary on Samuel, and in his second introduction to Kings, agreed, “since the verses that conclude Chronicles [2 Chr 36:22–23]…are the same verses that open the book of Ezra [Ezra 1:1–3A]” (Abarbanel, p. 165). A modern scholarly foundation for this opinion was provided by L. Zunz in 1832. Two years later F. C. Movers reached a similar conclusion, and for many decades it was almost axiomatic in most introductory works, commentaries, and scholarly studies on Chronicles. Some (e.g., Ackroyd 1991; Gunneweg 1985; Haran 1985; Noth 1957, Smend 1978; Tuell 2001) speak of a “Chronistic History,” which was later separated into two books—Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah—because of its length. In addition to the reasons given by medieval Jewish commentators, scholars also pointed out that in 1 Esdras, the book of Ezra continues Chronicles without any interruption. Moreover, both Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah share such themes as the Temple and its rituals and priesthood, and Jerusalem. Other scholars (e.g., de Wette 1806; Keil 1878; Willi 1972; Welten 1973) have argued that although Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah are separate works, they were written by the same author, a view anticipated by Abarbanel. However, several earlier scholars and a growing majority of contemporary scholars (see Japhet 1968; Kalimi 2005B, p. 9) consider Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah to be two separate historiographical works, as they appear in the Hebrew and Christian canons and in all ancient translations, that were composed by different authors and at different times. Although no clear linguistic evidence requires either single or separate authorship for the two works (see Klein 2006, p. 6; Talshir 1988), they do have significant differences in historiography and style, which, along with the repetition caused by combining them into a single unit, make it unlikely that they were written by the same author. Here are some specific examples of differences between Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah:

  • 1. While Ezra–Nehemiah expresses harsh opposition to intermarriage with non-Jews (Ezra 9–10; Neh 13:1–3, 23–27), the Chronicler ignores the issue. For example, he mentions without comment the Canaanite wife of Judah—the eponymous ancestor of the core tribe of the southern kingdom of Judah and its successor, the province of Yehud, during the Chronicler's own time—(1 Chr 2:3), and David's aunt, Abigail, who married Jether, the Ishmaelite (1 Chr 2:17). The expert who worked in gold and silver and other materials for Solomon was “son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre” (2 Chr 2:13–14 [Heb. 12–13]; cf. 1 Kgs 7:13–14). King Solomon married Pharaoh's daughter (2 Chr 8:11 // 1 Kgs 9:24), and the mother of his son, King Rehoboam, was Naamah, an Ammonite (2 Chr 12:13 // 1 Kgs 14:21). See also 2 Chronicles 24:26 (cf. 2 Kgs 12:21[22]). (See further Knoppers 2001.)
  • 2. The Chronicler omits the account of Solomon's transgressions in 1 Kings 11:1–13. In contrast, Nehemiah 13:26 talks about King Solomon's sins in marrying foreign women, who made “even him to sin.”
  • 3. Ezra 3:2, 8; 5:2 and Nehemiah 12:1 state that Zerubbabel was the son of Shealtiel, the oldest son of King Jehoiachin of Judah, but according to 1 Chronicles 3:19 Zerubbabel was son of Pedaiah, the third son of Jehoiachin (called Jeconiah).
  • 4. In passages in Chronicles without parallels in other books of the Bible there are several descriptions of God's direct intervention in human action; this is entirely lacking in Ezra–Nehemiah.
  • 5. As noted by Braun, Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah vary in “the concept and terms associated with the doctrine of retribution, in their attitude towards the surrounding inhabitants of the land, and at a minimum in its greater emphasis upon Davidic monarchy” (Braun 1979, p. 63).

For these and other reasons, the theory of a common authorship for Chronicles–Ezra–Nehemiah is implausible, and they must be considered different writings by different authors in different times.

The similarity between the works results from their having been composed in adjacent periods by authors who shared common religious, cultural, social, political, geographical, and linguistic backgrounds. According to the most likely chronology, both Ezra and Nehemiah were operating (together or separately) through the reign of Artaxerxes I, king of Persia (464–424 B.C.E.). According to Nehemiah 5:14 and 13:6, Nehemiah wrote his memoirs some time after the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes' reign (433/432 B.C.E.). The genealogical list appearing in Nehemiah 12:10–11 ends with Jaddua, son of Jonathan, who (according to the Elephantine texts) served as high priest in 407 B.C.E. Thus, the memoirs of Nehemiah were probably written near the end of the fifth century, and the memoirs of Ezra at about the same time. The Chronicler, who apparently composed his book between 400–375 B.C.E. (see below), was aware of Ezra and Nehemiah's activity and made use of their memoirs ( e.g., the list of residents of Jerusalem appearing in 1 Chr 9:2–17 was taken from Neh 11:3–19, and 2 Chr 36:22–23 was taken from Ezra 1:1–3A).

The Original Extent of Chronicles.

Scholars disagree regarding the unity of Chronicles: is the book a single composition to be attributed to one author, or has the Chronicler's original work been supplemented by later authors and redactors? Scholars who hold the latter view differ about the identity and scope of these secondary additions. This question arises largely regarding the various lists in 1 Chronicles 1–9; 12:1–22 [23]; parts of chapters 15–16; and chapters 23–27. Some view these chapters as an integral part of the Chronicler's original work; others consider them (entirely or partially) as a late addition resulting from the work of a late redactor (“second Chronicler”) or a number of redactors. Between these extremes, another approach views the main parts of the lists as late additions by the hands of various redactors, although the Chronicler was the source for some of the lists (Kalimi 2005A, pp. 43–45; 2005b, pp. 406–407). Nonetheless, the existence of similar literary and historiographical features in the texts with parallels elsewhere in the Bible as well as in those without such parallels (including the genealogical and geographical lists), may testify to the compositional unity of Chronicles. Thus, the extent to which Chronicles is a literary unit continues to be debated.

Date of Composition and Historical Context.

Though Chronicles principally deals with the history of the First Temple period, there is no doubt that it was composed in the Second Temple period. The language of the book (postexilic/late biblical Hebrew) and its ideology reflect this period. Because the Chronicler does not mention when he composed his book, or any specific event from his own time, the work must be dated on indirect inner evidence. Directly significant to the dating of Chronicles is the question of the relationship between Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah on the one hand, and the question of the original extent of the book itself on the other. Those scholars who accept Chronicles–Ezra–Nehemiah (completely or partially) as a single literary unit composed by one author find indications for dating the composition in Ezra–Nehemiah, which mentions both King Artaxerxes (ruled 464–424) and Darius II (424–404). But scholars who think Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah were two separate literary units, composed by different authors and in different times, cannot draw upon those texts. One also finds scholars who consider the genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1–9 (partially or completely) as additions from one or more later editors, and thus cannot use evidence regarding the date of the book from these chapters. Those who think of these chapters as an integral part of Chronicles will take them into consideration. The diversity of scholars' opinions concerning the date of the composition of Chronicles reflects, therefore, the diversity of their starting-points. Accordingly, there is even dispute concerning a general period of composition—the Persian period (539–332 B.C.E.) or Hellenistic period (332–164 B.C.E.).

Chronicles, on the one hand, contains no Greek words nor does it reflect any feature of Hellenistic thought, culture, or history. There is also no indication of anachronism from the Hellenistic period in the book. On the other hand, the language of the book is late biblical Hebrew, influenced by Aramaic, and contains Persian words (e.g., nādān [“sheath,” 1 Chr 21:27]; parbār [“colonnade,” 1 Chr 26:18]; ganzak [“treasury,” 1 Chr 28:11; cf. Esth 3:9; 4:7]; adarkonim [= Persian gold coin darics, 1 Chr 29:7]). Chronicles cites not just from Ezra–Nehemiah, but also from First Zechariah and Malachi, both of which are dated no earlier than the late sixth century B.C.E. (cf. 2 Chr 15:5 with Zech 8:10; 2 Chr 16:9 with Zech 4:10; 2 Chr 30:9 with Mal 1:9). Furthermore, persons and events from the Persian epoch are mentioned in the book; in addition to those mentioned above, the list of Jerusalem's residents comes from the time of Nehemiah (1 Chr 9:2–17 // Neh 11:3–19). In general, it is reasonable to presume that the book was composed sometime in the Persian era (539–332 B.C.E.), before the invasion of Alexander the Great (332 B.C.E.).

The only indication of a terminus a quo is found in 1 Chronicles 3:19–24, which lists six generations after Zerubbabel, who was active in the late sixth century B.C.E. Allowing approximately twenty years per generation, this means that Chronicles cannot have been written before the late fifth or early fourth century B.C.E., or the years 382–376, with one generation lasting for twenty-three to twenty-four years. Give or take a few variations in ages, one can conclude that Chronicles was composed sometime in the late fifth century or in the first quarter of the fourth century B.C.E., and probably not long after that, since the genealogy stops at the sixth generation. The last person mentioned is Anani, who may be the same person mentioned in the Elephantine papyri (407 B.C.E.) as a resident of Jerusalem, confirming this dating. (Other proposed identifications of some of those named in the genealogy with persons occurring in other nonbiblical sources are less likely; Kalimi 2005A, pp. 41–65).

Structure and Content.

Chronicles is built from two main kinds of texts: lists and narratives. Almost half of the book has parallel texts in the Torah, Former Prophets (particularly Samuel–Kings), Psalms, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, and, occasionally, other biblical books. The rest consists of material unique to Chronicles, that is, with no parallels in any biblical or nonbiblical sources.

Generally speaking, the book of Chronicles recounts the history of Israel from the earliest times until the Babylonian destruction of the First Temple, Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C.E. It ends with Cyrus's decree in 538 B.C.E. that allowed Jews exiled to Babylonia to return to their homeland, and rebuild their Temple and Jerusalem. Within this chronological framework, the book has a narrower focus: the large tribe of Judah, the history of David, Solomon, and the Davidic dynasty which ruled the southern kingdom of Judah, and especially Jerusalem, the Temple, and its rituals and personnel. The book is structured in three major sections, each with its own subdivisions:

(1) Genealogical and Geographical Introduction (1 Chr 1–9)

(2) The United Kingdom (1 Chr 10—2 Chr 9)

  • Reign of Saul (1 Chr 10)
  • Reign of David (1 Chr 11–29)
  • Reign of Solomon (2 Chr 1–9)

(3) The Kingdom of Judah (2 Chr 10–36)

Literary Genre and Interpretation.

Definition of the literary genre of Chronicles affects the understanding of the book, its content, its aim, and reliability as a source for the history of Israel mainly in the monarchic era, and for the development of Judaism in the Second Temple period. Some scholars (e.g., Wellhausen) consider the Chronicler as a midrashist, seeing Chronicles as an imaginative expansion of Samuel and Kings. While there are some midrashic elements in the book, all in all this conclusion is inaccurate. Others (e.g., Willi 1972; Becker 1986, 1988) view the Chronicler as an exegete who interpreted Samuel–Kings, which he treated as if they were canonical; however, although there are some interpretive elements in Chronicles, this is not a feature of the entire book. Other scholars (e.g., Ackroyd 1991; W. Johnstone 1997) have viewed the Chronicler as a theologian. But while there are theological notions in Chronicles, as a whole it cannot be defined as a theological work. A close examination of Chronicles shows that the Chronicler's primary intent was to relate events of the past, and he acts mainly as a creative historian. The book as a whole is historiography, specifically, a “sacred-didactic” historical writing; that is, its “philosophy of history” is mainly theological and its purpose didactic in nature. The presence of exaggerated numbers, fictive speeches, prayers, letters, theological features, inner-interpretations, and midrashic elements are not inconsistent with the identification of Chronicles as historical writing. In fact, these elements are also present in earlier biblical historical writing, in ancient Near Eastern documents, and in Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman historiography. As a historian, the Chronicler selected from and evaluated texts and themes related to his own agenda and audience, with his own logic and presuppositions, expressing his own beliefs and opinions along the way. The evaluation took place with both specific literary concerns and religious standards. He did not intend to describe past events, institutions, and personalities as they really happened. Rather, he meant to review them within the specific setting of his own time, place, social, religious, cultural, and political circumstances. This does not mean that the modern historian must accept the writings and methods of the Chronicler and uncritically credit them with historical credibility. While there is some historicity in events and details recounted in the book, the book must be carefully evaluated in order to extract potentially reliable historical data for the pre- and postexilic periods. To be sure, Chronicles can also be looked at in other ways, including textual, linguistic, theological, exegetical, and comparative, and recently, particular attention has been given to the reception history, impact history, and history of interpretation of Chronicles.

Is Chronicles Intended to Replace Samuel–Kings?

The Chronicler alludes to events or themes mentioned in detail in the Torah and Former Prophets (or to a narrative elsewhere in his own work) by repeating a linguistic unit that already appeared in the episode alluded to. He seems to have assumed that the potential audience would be familiar with events that appeared in earlier books and that an allusion would be enough to nudge their memories. Moreover, a reader would be unable to understand many items in Chronicles without prior familiarity of the contents of Samuel–Kings. It seems most probable, therefore, that the Chronicler principally attempted to build his work on the accounts in the earlier works, rather than to undermine them or replace them, as some researchers have asserted. In fact, literary allusions are found all over Chronicles, both in texts that have parallels in earlier biblical books and in non-parallel texts that appear merely in Chronicles, and in narrative as well as in statements embedded in genealogical lists (see Kalimi 2005B, pp. 194–214).

The Chronicler's Agenda and His Essential Tendency.

Most likely, then, the Chronicler wished to provide a comprehensive work, alongside the books of Samuel–Kings, which describes the history of the tribe of Judah and the Davidic dynasty, while paying particular attention to Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Temple, and its services and servers. As a historian who was conditioned by his time, place, and historical setting, he selected from the earlier books texts and themes that related to his audience, and had actual functions in his sociohistorical context: he attempted to enhance for his own community in the Persian province of Yehud the holiness and superiority of the Temple, Jerusalem, and its leaders—the Davidic descendant Anani (1 Chr 3:24), the high priest (e.g., 2 Chr 24:6, 11), and particularly the Levites. He evaluated the earlier historical texts and themes in Samuel–Kings from his own religious norms (e.g., celebration of the eighth day of assembly after Sukkot [Azeret]; 2 Chr 7:8–10) and theological viewpoint (e.g., immediate reward and punishment) in the Second Temple period. In order to ease the minds of the readers of Torah and Samuel–Kings, the Chronicler harmonized contradictory texts in these books (e.g., 2 Chr 35:13). He judged the historical personalities of the monarchic age and their acts as though the Deuteronomistic and the Priestly Codes had existed in those past times as they did in his own (e.g., 1 Chr 13:7; 14:12; 18:17). He guided his audience by providing “historical” descriptions of national personalities who carefully observed or did not observe the Torah's commandments (e.g., 1 Chr 14:12; 2 Chr 1:3, 5). As such, these personalities set an example for the Chronicler's contemporaries and for future audiences as well. The Chronicler made use of them to teach his society how to behave and how not to behave, so that his small community surrounded by problematic neighbors could survive. He took opportunities to dispute with the northern neighbors in Samaria (e.g., 2 Chr 3:1; 13), as well as addressed his message to Jews in Diaspora to immigrate to Jerusalem (e.g., 2 Chr 36:22–23). At the same time, in order to make his book more persuasive and readable, the Chronicler updated the literary forms, the language, and the style of the earlier sources. He completed some texts, omitted difficult ones and secondary information, altered some of their informative contents, shaped their religious meanings, and explained why events happened as they did.

History of Interpretation.

Signs of interpretation of Chronicles appear in the Hebrew Bible itself (Qoh 6:2; Dan 1:1–2; 9:2). Apart from a phrase in Acts 26:17, possibly taken from 1 Chronicles 16:35A, there is no direct quotation of the book in the New Testament. Nonetheless, Chronicles was used in several ways: Luke 11:50–51 and Matthew 23:35 refer to the murder of Zechariah that appears only in 2 Chronicles 24:20–22; by contrasting Zechariah's cry for divine vengeance at his death with the pleas for divine forgiveness by Jesus and Stephen (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:59–60); by imitating the story of the captives of the Judahites (2 Chr 28:8–15) in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37); and by referring to some Chronicles' speech and genealogies.

Josephus either ignores the contradictions between the parallel texts of Chronicles and Samuel–Kings, while preferring the latter because of its older age, or harmonizes them. Sometimes he combines a story from Samuel–Kings with the parallel text in Chronicles, while in other cases he prefers the Chronicler's telling over that in Samuel or Kings.

Chronicles was not a subject of pesher (interpretation) as were Psalms and several prophetical books. However, the numerous differences between Chronicles and the earlier biblical books were apparent to the rabbis. These dissimilarities provided opportunities for midrashic exposition, although Chronicles does not have a specific midrashic commentary dedicated to it. Usually the rabbis attempt to harmonize the contradictory parallel texts. For example, they struggled to reconcile the intermarriages mentioned in Chronicles with the opposition to intermarriage stated in Ezra–Nehemiah, saying that the intermarriages were acceptable to Ezra and Nehemiah (to whom they ascribed the composition of the book) under certain conditions. They interpreted the genealogical lists allegorically or typologically in order to bestow them with extra meaning; names in them were given into folk etymologies based on wordplay, far removed from the simple meaning of the texts or their historical, ethnological, or geographical background. The relatively small number of midrashim on Chronicles in talmudic literature may reflect that study of the book was limited. The book of Genealogies mentioned in rabbinic literature was a commentary on biblical genealogies in general, including those that appear in Chronicles. The late comments about midrashic books on Ezra and Chronicles and “Sefer haAggadah of Chronicles” refer to the midrashim on Chronicles in the anthology of Rabbi Shimeon Kara, Yalqut Shimeoni (ca. 1200–1300 C.E.). The latter is mainly a collection of scattered midrashic comments on Chronicles, especially the genealogies, in the talmudic literature.

In contrast to some other late biblical books, Chronicles has a complete Targum. Although traditionally Targum Chronicles is attributed to Rab Joseph (early fourth century C.E.), it is highly dependent on earlier Targumim (Targum Onqelos, and Pseudo-Jonathan on the Torah, and on Targum Jonathan on the Prophets) and was not finalized until the eighth century. Targum Chronicles was unknown even to leading medieval Jewish scholars, including commentators on Chronicles such as Pseudo-Rashi and Radak, and it was not printed in the first editions of the Mikraot Gedolot. This Targum harmonizes Samuel–Kings and the Torah.

The neglected status of Chronicles was mentioned by several medieval Jewish scholars, many of whom also studied and interpreted it. For the first time, meticulous commentaries in both Hebrew and Arabic were written on the book, in European as well as Mediterranean countries.

Azariah de'Rossi (ca. 1511–1577) and Uriel da Costa (1583/84–1640) were the first to take a critical approach to some issues in Chronicles. Nevertheless, they did not break with fundamental concepts with regard to the book. In contrast, Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (1591–1655) opposed the credibility of Chronicles as a source for the history of monarchic Israel. Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) questioned the very canonicity of the book and would have preferred to canonize some pseudepigraphical books instead. He also challenged the rabbinic view on the unity and composition of Chronicles. The assertions of Delmedigo and Spinoza with regard to Chronicles may be considered the beginning of the critical era in the study of Chronicles. These influential thinkers were radical biblical scholars in their own times and forerunners of modern Chronicles scholarship, proceeding unchained from traditional opinions and biases. Nonetheless, their comments did not encourage study of Chronicles, and critical investigation of the book waned until the fresh approach of W. M. L. de Wette (1806) in general, and of L. Zunz (1832) in particular. Since de Wette, and especially J. Wellhausen (1878), for the most part the study of Chronicles was connected with the Documentary Hypothesis of the Pentateuch. However, in recent decades the study of the book has had a scholarly renaissance, prompted by research on the less studied parts of the Hebrew Bible and the less investigated periods in Israelite history; the Persian period in particular has been a focus of scholarly and archaeological interest. In addition, the book of Chronicles is the only biblical book where we have detailed knowledge of most of its sources. The book has moved from the periphery to the center of biblical scholarship, and receives much deserved scholarly attention.

Reception History.

Biblical scholars, both ancient and modern, have often referred to the underappreciated and neglected situation of Chronicles among the scriptures. This statement is true when the study, interpretation, treatment, and usage of Chronicles are compared with those of other biblical books. Nonetheless, over the generations, Chronicles was included in Jewish religious and intellectual life and had a place in Jewish thought and theology; exegesis; poetry; mystical, liturgical, ritual, and artistic activities; and historical writings. As mentioned above, Chronicles was already used in the Hebrew Bible, as well as in the New Testament. It was probably also used as a literary model for Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, and by other authors of Jewish works that were later classified as “apocrypha” and “pseudepigrapha.” The translation of Chronicles into Greek received little priority, and took place later than that of Samuel–Kings. Although the LXX was produced by Jews for Jews, it was abandoned by Judaism after its adoption by Christianity. Thus the miscalculation with regard to Greek Chronicles, as evident in its title (see above), was retained in the Christian world and caused further underestimation of the book in Christianity.

In contrast to Philo of Alexandria, who did not use Chronicles in his biblical-philosophical writings, the Hellenistic Jewish historians used it extensively. For example, Eupolemus generally depends on Samuel–Kings and Chronicles. In fact, many times he prefers Chronicles to Samuel–Kings; because it was written against the background of the completed Torah, it was better suited to Eupolemus's religious concepts. It also contained additional material on Judah, which was the major topic of his work as of the Chronicler's. In his Jewish Antiquities, Josephus gives both histories—the Deuteronomistic and the Chronistic—their due, with maximal use of each one's unique materials. Usually he takes Kings' more extensive, Israel-oriented sequence as a basis and integrates the Chronicler's materials on Judah into it. Thus he meticulously uses the nonparallel texts as supplementary data for the material in the Deuteronomistic History. His approach toward Chronicles is in continuity with the attitudes of the LXX's translator(s) and some authors of pseudepigrapha.

Chronicles is represented among about eight hundred biblical manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls by a single tiny fragment (4QChr = 4Q118; ca. 50–25 B.C.E.), which may be a slightly different version of 2 Chronicles 28:27; 29:1–3. The fragment was severely damaged and, out of the four extant verses, only several complete words survive intact. It is difficult to know if the fragment is part of the Chronicles manuscript or only a quotation of Chronicles in a manuscript that was discussing another issue. Though some Qumran writers referred to Chronicles (e.g., 4Q225, 4Q252, 4QapPsb = 4Q381, 4Q504 IV 2–3, 4Q522, 1QS), it was studied and copied much less than

1 and 2 Chronicles

Samuel Anointing David (1 Sam 16:1–13).

Fresco in the Dura Europos synagogue, Syria, third century C.E. The artist preferred the Chronicler's view regarding the number of David's brothers—six rather than the seven mentioned in Samuel.


view larger image

other books in Qumran, which may be an indication of its lesser status.

Still, the presence of fragments of Targum Chronicles, Pseudo-Rashi's commentary on Chronicles, the commentary of Judah Ibn Bal'am, and Jonah Ibn Jana's commentary in the Cairo Genizah, shows that Chronicles was studied and used for educational purposes in Cairo's medieval Jewish community.

In art, the artist of the fresco “Samuel Anointing David” in the synagogue of Dura-Europos (upper west bank of the Euphrates, at the northeast edge of the Syrian Desert; 244–245 C.E.) preferred the Chronicler's view with regard to the sum of David's brothers—six brothers, over the traditions preserved in Samuel—three/seven brothers (Chronicles' preference is obvious also in some medieval Christian illustrators). The ancient synagogue of En-gedi has an impressive mosaic inscription (fifth to early seventh century C.E.) with a genealogical list of the world's thirteen ancestors from Adam to Noah and his sons, taken from 1 Chronicles 1:1–4. The inscription also contains several biblical expressions in Aramaic. Two of them are probably translations of 2 Chronicles 16:9B and 1 Chronicles 16:36B.

In general, then, Chronicles was used in a range of Jewish communities in various places and times. The opposite can be said of some Christian communities, which excluded this book from their religious agenda entirely. Thus, in the sixteenth century, Cranmer was anxious to ensure that the whole Bible was used in the Anglican offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, except the book of Chronicles (and the book of Revelation from the New Testament). Chronicles was also excluded from the Stuttgarter Familenbibel, because it was considered a duplicate of stories that were already told in Samuel–Kings.



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Isaac Kalimi

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