The Book of Chronicles

The final book of the Bible recounts the nation's history, but what it emphasizes and de-emphasizes is telling.

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Solomon & the Temple

God has chosen Solomon not only as David's successor, but also as the builder of the Temple. During this announcement, David is described as publicly giving Solomon the plans for the building of the Temple, including a detailed accounting of the amount of gold to be used in making the Temple's vessels, "all this in writing from God upon me..." (I Chronicles 28:19). In particular, David and Solomon are held responsible for establishing the divisions of the priests and Levites who work in the Temple, as well as the order of songs to be sung, an order which later kings are charged to uphold (II Chronicles 29:25). This conception of David's role in ordering the Temple finds parallels in Nehemiah's description of the Temple (Nehemiah 12:24), which seems to be characteristic of the post-exilic period.

Chronicles goes to great lengths to describe the genealogies of the Temple workers whom David appointed (I Chronicles chapters 15, 16, 23-27). Genealogies of the early Israelites are also described in detail, with I Chronicles chapters 1-9 being a summary of Israelite history until the time of King David; the summary consists almost entirely of genealogies.

It seems that Chronicles' focus on connection with the land, monarchy, Temple, and genealogy reflects the concerns of society in the land of Israel during the Return to Zion period. In the attempt to re-establish itself after the wrenching and disorienting experience of the Babylonian exile, institutions that highlighted stability and permanence were uppermost in the minds of the Jewish community. Thus, the Chronicler describes the history of the most glorious period of Israel's earlier history, by emphasizing the aspects most of concern to the Jews of his time.

Law & Religion

An additional concept that is emphasized many more times in Chronicles than in the parallel passages in Samuel or Kings is the concept of Torah, the law. In II Chronicles 6:16, God is described as having promised David that his dynasty will endure if his descendants "follow God's Torah." This replaces the formulation "walk before God" in the parallel passage in I Kings 8:25. In this passage, as in many others, the concept of a set divine Torah is highlighted. This is also a concept that is central to the Jews of the Return to Zion period: the leaders of the Return, Ezra and Nehemiah, seek to ensure that all the returnees know God's laws, as canonized in the Torah, and organize public readings of the Torah (Nehemiah chapter 8),  In re-telling earlier Israelite history, the Chronicler emphasizes or reformulates concepts in such a way that they are more directly relevant to the Jews of his time.

In describing the careers of the later kings of Judah, Chronicles places particular emphasis on their religious acts, on the question of their obedience to God and His prophets and the rejection of idolatry. One of the kings who led a movement for religious reform, Hezekiah, therefore occupies a prominent place in II Chronicles. (Hezekiah reigned from 727 to 698 BCE). Hezekiah's reign is described from chapter 29 to 32. The order in which Chronicles narrates his reign is particularly interesting. First, the Chronicler describes Hezekiah as gathering the priests immediately after he ascended to the throne, and ordering them to purify the Temple from idolatry and neglect. Hezekiah then orders all of Israel to come and participate in the Passover sacrifice; this is the central activity of a religious reform in which the Israelites abandon idolatry and turn once more to God and to His Temple. Finally, as a result of Hezekiah's reforms, the Assyrians, who came to threaten and attack Jerusalem, are rebuffed:

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Shawn Zelig Aster is Assistant Professor of Bible at Yeshiva University.