1 Chronicles begins with Adam and, through extensive genealogies, connects Adam to David. The majority of 1 Chronicles focuses on the reign of David. 2 Chronicles will tell the story of Solomon and the kingdom of Judah. Much of the background material listed here will apply to 2 Chronicles as well. That’s because 1 & 2 Chronicles was originally one book.
In order to understand 1 & 2 Chronicles it is important to know when it was written and why it was written. On first read through you will notice that it covers the same period of history that Samuel and Kings covers, but with a very different flavor. That is because of its time and purpose. Chronicles was written to the people of Judah after they had been in exile in Babylon and Persia and had returned to rebuild the destroyed city of Jerusalem. At this point the kingdom of Israel and the ten tribes that comprised its population were ancient history. The city of Jerusalem has been lying in a pile of rubble for 70+ years, and the people of Judah have known nothing but oppression and exile for their entire lives. How would you feel in that situation? How would you feel about God, about the significance of your people, of your place in the world? It is safe to say that the people probably felt pretty lost, alone, small, and insignificant. The Chronicles was designed to give the nation a boost of spirit and hope. It does not focus on all of the nations “dirty laundry” like Samuel and Kings does. Instead, it focuses in on the power and majesty of David’s reign (leaving out the whole Bathsheba incident) and the centrality of the temple in the true worship of God. The book was designed to encourage the returned exiles to recapture the love of God and thrive in the land that He promised to their ancestors.
I am about to dump some theology on you that I hope will expand your understanding of the church as a whole and, hopefully, your insight into Chronicles as well. Throughout history people have had differing perspective on the nature of God; some emphasizing this aspect of God, some emphasizing another aspect. For example, in our current Christian culture, there are two major “theological lenses” that people wear. On the one hand you have people who are “Bible-Centered” in their theology. These people are more rationally oriented and believe that all the secrets of the mysteries of God are to be found through a proper interpretation of the Bible. All experience must be filtered through and judged by the Word. Thinking wins over feelings. On the other hand there are people who are more “Spirit-Centered” in their approach and believe that the same Spirit that inspired the writers of Scripture is alive and well in us today and we can have immediate access to Him in a spiritually dynamic way. They believe in the Bible, but they hold to their communication with the Spirit of God as equally as valid a means of revelation as scripture. Feeling/experience wins over thinking.
Now, the truth is that both emphases are correct, yet are incomplete on their own. It’s much like the tension between truth and love that we have discussed so much. You must have both. The Word of God is the authoritative revelation in our lives, yet that does not mean that the Spirit doesn’t directly intervene and communicate with us. Typically, people are drawn to one emphasis or the other. Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are more “Spirit-Centered.” When you hear people say they went to a “Spirit-Filled” church, this is what they are talking about. Baptists, Christian Church, Evangelical Free, and the like, are more “Bible-Centered” in their emphasis. People from this camp judge a church’s value on whether they “preached the Word” or not. Of course, there are many other nuances and emphases that exist, but these are two major ones that are present.
Why do I bring this up? Glad you asked. Theological lenses have influenced people from the dawn of time. The Old Testament is no different. One of the major reasons that Chronicles and Samuel/Kings are so different is because of the lenses they wear. The two predominant lenses of the Old Testament are the “Law-Centered” on the one hand and the “Temple-Centered” on the other. The scholars have fancy labels for these views. They call the “Law-Centered” the Deuteronomistic Theology because it emphasizes the message of Deuteronomy 30 as the centerpiece of truth; obey and live, disobey and die. They call the “Temple-Centered” the Priestly or the Cultus Theology because it emphasizes the ritual acts of sacrifice and the role of the priest in the proper worship of God. Both are true, both are needed, both are incomplete in and of themselves.
There are two reasons why it is important for us to know this. First, it helps us with the task at hand in understanding the emphases of Chronicles. Samuel and Kings were written from the Deuteronimistic or “Law-Centered” perspective. That is why those books are not afraid to speak of the sins of David and Solomon and the subsequent consequences of those sins. Remember, one of the running themes was that outward sacrifice was not the point; it was an inward love of God and obedience to His law that mattered. Chronicles was written from the “Temple-Centered” perspective. Notice how the stories of David are much more sanitary. He is painted as a very noble leader whose main focus was preparing the way for his son to build the temple. The temple is the central figure in these two books as well as the role that the priests played in it. The Chronicler is trying to reconnect the returning exiles to the importance of the temple in the proper worship of God. The kingdom of Israel isn’t even mentioned because they cut themselves off from the temple, thus they were no longer true followers of God.
The second reason it is important to know these two emphases is because of the role it plays in the New Testament. When Jesus was on the scene there were two major camps of Jewish religious leaders. The Pharisees were “Law-Centered” and would have looked more toward Samuel and Kings as their guiding lights. The Sadducees were “Temple-Centered” and would have resonated more with the Chronicles. How did Jesus deal with these two differing factions? He didn’t. His lenses were much bigger than either of those. Jesus saw the kingdom of God as being fully embodied in himself and he came to rescue the lost and heal the sick. It is important for us to be aware of the lenses people wear. We need to meet them in their perspective, learn from them, and then guide them into a broader perspective of the Kingdom of God.