First_Book_of_Chronicles_Chapter_11-1_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)
David being annointed as king (1 Chronicles 11:1-3)

Who wrote 1 Chronicles?
1 Chronicles names no author, but according to Jewish tradition, Ezra wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles. The writer is commonly called the Chronicler in commentaries and the like. The book of Ezra starts off with the same few lines that 2 Chronicles ends with, though it could have simply been borrowed. The Chronicler highly valued religion, and it appears they were close to the temple, likely a priest or Levite who had access to temple records.

What is 1 Chronicles about?
1 Chronicles 1-9 describes major genealogies since the time of Adam in Genesis. Afterward, the story shifts to a narrative of the death of Saul, and then follows David’s reign all the way through to his death. At the end, we see lists of the people of Israel close to the king at that time, in a similar manner to the genealogies.

Why does… wait, that sounds familiar. Isn’t a lot of this content from 2 Samuel?
Yes, there is significant overlap between 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, as well as some overlap from 1 Samuel when Saul dies and 1 Kings when David dies. As described above, most of 1 Chronicles details David’s rule as king.

What does 1 Chronicles have that 2 Samuel doesn’t, then?
The Chronicler is more explicit in tying the actions of the kings to responses from the Lord. For example, 1 Chronicles 10:13 says that Saul died because of his lack of faith, and 1 Chronicles 18:13 says that it was the Lord that gave David his military victories. The Chronicler tends to skip over David’s missteps towards the Lord. In 1 Chronicles, there is no mention of Bathsheba, who David committed adultery with. The rebellions from David’s family are not mentioned either. This does not mean that the Chronicler wanted to erase these events, because the Chronicler does draw from 2 Samuel. To make this a more credible interpretation, we shall see the same thing with David’s successor Solomon in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. 2 Chronicles explicitly draws from 1 and 2 Kings, and says it is something the reader should consult to learn more—sins of Solomon included. We should realize that the aim of the Chronicler was on the topic of God’s workings in Israel – detailing everything that David did was not as important to that goal.

When was it written?
1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one book. Taking into account the last event in 2 Chronicles, the decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C., we know the book could not have been written earlier than that. 1 Chronicles records Zerubabbel’s descendants for at least two generations, pointing to a date of at least around 400 B.C. The date is important when interpreting the book. Israel was just starting to come back to Judah, which had been destroyed earlier. The destruction of Judah was explained in Chronicles as a natural result of Israel’s unfaithfulness, and so the Chronicler advocates not repeating their mistakes.

How does 1 Chronicles apply to me today?
As 1 Chronicles zooms out chronologically and references people from the very beginning of the Bible, it is a good opportunity to reflect on what God has done for the nation of Israel up to that point. In the three thousand years or so between Adam and Eve and David’s reign, God established a covenant with Abraham in Genesis, rescued a nation in Exodus, made His law known in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, helped the Israelites settle Canaan in Joshua, oversee the rulers during Judges, and also oversee the first two kings, with the third ready to assume the lead, in 1 and 2 Samuel. While the faithfulness of Israel has at times wavered, God was still very present in Israel.

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Recommended resources:

As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
Our article on 2 Samuel.

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Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0