This is beginning of the journey through Chronicles. According to the Jewish Talmud, Ezra wrote Chronicles. It was originally one book but got divided when the Greek Septuagint was translated. Both 1 and 2 Chronicles plus Ezra and Nehemiah which follow may have been written by the same author. All four books emphasize genealogies, the centrality of Jerusalem, and God’s temple and sacrifice. 1 and 2 Chronicles were written primarily for the exiled Jews who had returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. The house of David had been dethroned and the nation, Jerusalem, and the temple had been destroyed. The Jews needed to re-establish a sense of the continuity of the past with the present. God was still interested in them, His covenants with them remained in force, and His promises to King David still held meaning for them. Subsequent generations that read 1 and 2 Chronicles were reminded that as God is faithful to His covenant promises, so they also needed to remain faithful to Him.
God’s chosen people had experienced great hardship over the years and as a result of their disobedience, sinfulness, and rebellion, they were taken into exile in Babylon. Now that their 70-year sentence is over and many have returned to Jerusalem, they have a chance to start over. This is a new opportunity to obey God’s covenant and to receive His blessings.
Here is something to think about. It might seem like the author of 1 Chronicles is repeating the same facts and text that we have already read in Samuel and Kings concerning David and Solomon. But remember that the author of 1 Chronicles wanted to emphasize God’s covenant faithfulness, and to encourage his readers to obey the Lord. Yes, there are very long lists of genealogies and many details concerning the army. Reading all the details about the Levitical priesthood and temple service preparations can seem very tedious. But the author is intentional here. Look more closely at what is being written. Pay particular attention to the manner in which the author traced God’s working throughout sacred history. Note especially how constant the author is in presenting the line of David as the chosen lineage of the Messianic king. We will encounter this particularly in chapter 17. Israel had serious planning to do now that the temple of God…the center of worship…was about to be built. The author took this seriously. It is as though he was proclaiming “The Jerusalem temple is the house of God, and the Levitical priesthood is the only legitimate temple ministry.” And when we get to chapters 28-29, notice how much attention David and Solomon and others paid to the details of the temple’s construction and the joy they experienced in the renewed opportunity to make sacrifices to the Lord.
Judah and Benjamin, the only surviving tribes of Israel had returned to the land after the Babylonian exile and they had rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem. But in some ways, it still seemed they were in exile. They didn’t have a good understanding of where they fit with God after the 70-year absence from Jerusalem and they didn’t understand how they fit in with the Davidic line and covenant. This book was also written for social renewal. After having been in exile they had to learn how to be a nation all over again. And they certainly did not want to make the same mistakes their forefathers did. It was important for them to do things differently. But to do that, they needed to understand what had gone wrong before them.
There are a couple of themes that run through this book. The first is that of the Davidic covenant. God’s covenant with David preserved the nation and let Solomon build the temple. In the covenant, God committed to preserving David’s line of descendants on the throne, even through their disobedience and unfaithfulness. We need to remember, as did the Jews, that being an heir of the Davidic covenant also meant living according to the covenant God made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. The genealogies in today’s reading emphasize the tribes of Judah and Benjamin because Chronicles is mostly concerned with the Davidic dynasty. God promised David that one day his descendant would rule an everlasting kingdom. Chronicles demonstrates God’s faithfulness to that promise even though the people were anything but faithful.
The second theme concerns the temple and temple worship. The temple itself is an extension of the Davidic covenant. By that I mean that David provided for the construction of the temple. He accumulated the materials needed and organized the duties and the people needed to operate the temple so that it honored the Lord. His successors were to ensure the people continued on in faithful worship, that the temple is maintained in good repair, and purified anytime something defiled it. Temple personnel were to come to the aid of the Davidic dynasty anytime there was trouble. The Levites played an important role in maintaining the whole system of worship. Meticulous emphasis is placed upon all the details David made for the construction of the temple. He did much in preparation for his son Solomon. The ark is brought back to Jerusalem. Levites are appointed to attend to it. David charged his son Solomon to build the temple and ordered Israel’s leaders to help. Near the end of his life, David gave Solomon the blueprints for the temple that he had received from the Lord. David called for the people to bring voluntary offerings for the temple construction.
The third theme is the people of Israel themselves. They were starting with a clean slate. Jerusalem and the temple lay in ruins. The rebuilding of the city and the temple would be a huge undertaking. The people needed some fresh confidence. By tracing their genealogy all the way back to Adam, the people could see how they were connected to the giants of their faith. They could also see How God had been present in every generation of His people. He had been faithful even when His people weren’t. He had given them countless blessings and promises. And they were at the center of God’s purpose from the very beginning. The northern kingdom is mentioned some but the Chronicler is focused on the line of Judah. This is where the ultimate promise lays.
You will notice that some of the names are spelled differently in Chronicles as opposed to Samuel or Kings. It is not a mistake. And you will notice time spent talking about the gatekeepers of the temple. Think of them as a paramilitary security force. We will see lot casting, but this has nothing to do with chance. Quite the opposite in fact. Lot casting prevented partiality and emphasized the divine nature of the decision. They believed the outcome was from the Lord when they cast lots. King David did not have a standing army. Instead, his army was more like a militia or citizen army, something more like the National Guard. And one more thing. It does not appear that King David levied any taxes during his reign. His court appears to have been financed by extensive land holdings, commerce, plunder from his many wars and tribute exacted from kingdoms he had subdued.
There are A LOT of names in this reading, and it is tempting to skim over them. But there are tidbits of good information interspersed with all the names. It is easy to follow family lines with this reading because everybody is listed in one place. You don’t have to pronounce the names out loud but at least look the lists over to see the familiar names.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W