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1 Chronicles 5-9

These chapters continue the genealogy lists from Adam to post-exilic Judah. Here is the rest of Boadt’s introduction to the Books of Chronicles that sets all of this in context….
Because of the changed world of Israel after the exile, the priestly leaders felt the need for an updated version of Israel’s history. They took up and rewrote the great Deuteronomistic history found in the Books of Samuel and Kings from their own perspective. No doubt one important reason to do this was to explain the proper role of the kings over Israel in the past now that they were gone for good. Another was to emphasize the temple for religious worship.
Chronicles often follows the Books of Samuel and Kings word for word through whole chapters. But we get a sense of its distinctive message when we compare the many places where it either leaves out matter found in Kings or adds to it new material. In the story of David, for example, it leaves out altogether his terrible sin with Bathsheba, or the revolt of his own son Absalom, and never mentions David’s deathbed instructions to kill all his enemies. When Kings reports that David sinned in taking a census, Chronicles adds that it was Satan that tempted him. For the Chronciler, David was a holy and dedicated leader who followed Yahweh faithfully. All his faults are set aside or downplayed. Instead, the Chronicler praised David even more than Kings does. He stresses David’s role in composing the psalms and establishing guilds of levites to serve the temple. And while David never built the temple itself, in Chronicles he gets everything ready and makes all the plans which Solomon only has to carry out (despite the fact that this clearly contradicts the view of the authors of Samuel and Kings that David was forbidden to plan a temple—see 2 Sam 7). In Chronicles David also prays a lot. In short, David is shown to be totally consumed with zeal for the right worship of Yahweh. He becomes a second lawgiver almost as great as Moses.
This picture of David as the founder of a community centered on the temple becomes the standard by which the Chronicler then judges the rest of Israel’s history. For example, he explains the exile and destruction of the nation as the result of the people’s failure to perform true worship. The main section of the Chronicler’s history (from 1 Chronicles 10 through 2 Chronicles 34) was written soon after the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah and the pitiful rebuilding of the temple in 516 B. C. It was intended as a blueprint for struggling Judeans just back from exile. Past failures of the people and the true example of David’s faith both teach a lesson about how urgent is the need to restore the temple liturgy to its proper ritual, and perhaps even a search for a new king like David who would dedicate his life not to political glory but to the glory of God’s worship.
The Chronicler had a second important reason for revising the history of the nation. In the earlier traditions of Israel there was a great deal of confusion about the role of the priests and the levites in worship. There had been traditions of levites serving as priests at important shrines such as Dan (Jgs 18), and Eli, who was not even a levite, had been priest at Shiloh (1 Sam 1-4). David had named priests from the family of Abiathar and from the family of Zadok (2 Sam 8:17). But Solomon had rejected the priests of Abiathar (1 Kgs 2:26). Ezekiel goes further and demands that the high priest come only from the family of Zadok (Ez 44:10,15). Deuteronomy makes a special point that levitical priests, often without any place to live and work, were active in many towns and cities (Dt 12:18-19; 18:1; 26:12-13), yet the Book of Numbers accepts only descendants of Aaron as priests, and allows levites to be their helpers or assistants (Num 3 and 18). In order to clear up this confusion and establish temple worship on a firm basis with a clear description of the different roles needed, the Chronicler goes into great detail about the proper relationships between the priests and levites. He limits those who could be priests to the family of Aaron, but assures the levites an important and permanent place in the temple service by explaining how David himself set up their jobs as singers, musicians, doorkeepers, sacristans and guardians of the temple alongside the role of the priests (1 Chr 23-26).
Other major theological concerns of the Books of Chronicles are the following:
a.     God often intervenes miraculously to save the people no matter what the odds (2 Chr 13, 14, 17, 25; 2 Chr 14, 16).
b.     Judah and Jerusalem are a holy kingdom or congregation—much more so than the northern Israelites (1 Chr 26:6-9; 28:4-7; 2 Chr 7:3-10; 13:8-12; 24:8-11).
c.     The high priest has authority even over the king (2 Chr 19:8-11; 26:16-21).
d.     The prophets support the cultic life of the people and do not oppose it as in earlier traditions (2 Chr 20:5-23).
e.     The law is now clearly the Pentateuch with its priestly regulations rather than the Deuteronomic law book in 2 Kgs 22 (1 Chr 6:48-49; 2 Chr 24:6-9).
All of these points are made by the Chronicler in order to achieve his purpose of giving hope to Jerusalem and Judah in a time of great depression…. In short, Chronicles is intended as a series of lessons in the divine plan for history.[1]
We see some of these emphases even in what to us is the dull introduction to these books formed by the genealogical lists. The Chronicler concludes these lists from the past by saying:
So all Israel was enrolled by genealogies and these are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. And Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their unfaithfulness. Now the first to live again in their possessions in their towns were Israelites, priests, Levites, and temple servants. (1 Chronicles 9:1-2)
Notice the emphasis on the priests and the Levites. However, intriguingly, the Chronicler also points out that it was not merely the tribe of Judah that returned after the exile, but some of the people of Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh too.
The one verse that spoke to me the most, in the midst of these dry genealogical lists, was 1 Chronicles 5:20 where we read that when the Reubenites, Gadites, and half of the tribe of Manasseh went to war, they were victorious because “they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their entreaty because they trusted in him.” May we too cry out to God in the midst of our battles today! If we do, then we will see him grant our entreaties because we trust in him.

[1] Boadt, Reading the Old Testament, 451-453


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