Some think 1 and 2 Chronicles just duplicate Samuel and Kings. But Chronicles gives additional meaningful lessons intended for our spiritual growth.
The two books we call 1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one book, and they have been known by a variety of names over time. The fourth-century writer Jerome gave the name “Chronicles” to the book, which was called by the Jews “The Accounts of the Days” or “The Words of the Days.”
The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) used the title “Of Things Omitted,” meaning that 1 and 2 Chronicles contain various incidents and facts omitted in Samuel and Kings—especially focusing on the kingdom of Judah, the temple and its worship system.
The history that precedes 1 and 2 Chronicles starts with the Genesis creation and ends with both Israel and Judah in captivity and Cyrus issuing a decree in 539 B.C. allowing the Jews to return.
The two books of Chronicles repeat part of the same story, and end at the same point, as the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. But in Chronicles special attention is given to the reigns of David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and the temple in Jerusalem. No date for the writing is given, but 440 to 430 B.C. is a likely period.
Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible by James Hastings states: “The material is most carefully chosen, with the object of bringing out the importance of Judah, the greatness of the line of David, the religious value of Jerusalem, and the position of the Levites. A comparison of the narrative in Chron. with the earlier narratives of Samuel and Kings will do more than anything else to convince the reader of the pragmatism of the Chronicler” (p. 131).
The NKJV Study Bible adds, “First Chronicles is an inspirational history. Writing after the Exile, the author sought to inspire the remnant of Israelites with their extraordinary spiritual heritage. Appropriately, the book focuses on David. He was not only Israel’s greatest king, but also one of Israel’s greatest spiritual leaders. When he became king, one of his first priorities was to establish the worship of God as the center of Israel’s national life. … This was Israel’s extraordinary spiritual legacy: true worship of the living God” (introduction to 1 Chronicles).
Importance of repetition
Halley’s Bible Handbook notes: “Believing, as we do, that the whole Bible is the Word of God, designed for Universal use, we wonder if God had some purpose other than Ezra’s immediate need in resettling the land in thus repeating TWICE over this part of the sacred story. Repetition means Importance. At least, it is a caution not to neglect this part of the Bible … [as] they contain the story of God’s dealings with His people; and, in reading, we find therein some of the finest jewels of Scripture” (pp. 213-214).
The Lion Handbook to the Bible by David and Pat Alexander discusses how repetition was helpful for the original readers, those who had returned from exile to rebuild Jerusalem. “The new community needed to be linked with the past. They needed to know the right lines on which to re-establish patterns of worship. And, if history was not to repeat itself, they needed most of all to be reminded of the greatest lesson their history had to teach: that prosperity and well-being depend absolutely on faithfulness to God. Idolatry and neglect of God’s law always has and always will result in judgement and disaster” (p. 286).
These are lessons for us today as well.
Position in the canon
According to the Hebrew arrangement of the Old Testament books, the two books of Chronicles were positioned at the end of the Writings (Psalms) division. See more about the Writings section in our article “The Writings.” In the English Bible 1 and 2 Chronicles follow 1 and 2 Kings.
The two books of Chronicles are placed last in the Hebrew Old Testament. The conclusion of 2 Chronicles is the same as the beginning of Ezra, thus connecting these two books with Ezra and Nehemiah. Jewish tradition ascribes the authorship of both 1 and 2 Chronicles to Ezra.
Ezra’s purpose was to stress the continuity of God’s way of life and promises, and to inspire those who had returned from exile to rebuild Jerusalem. This explains why the two books of Chronicles focus on David’s lineage (from which the Messiah would come) and the planning, preparation and building of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.
The first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles contain genealogies from Adam to the time of Ezra, or the postexilic period.
Why record these in such detail?
Halley’s Bible Handbook notes: “The most important and precious of all promises was that the World’s Saviour would come in David’s family. The central interest of these genealogies is their tracing the descent of David’s line (see Matthew 1:1-17). Most of the genealogies are incomplete, with many breaks in the lists. But the main line is there. These nine chapters of genealogies form the generation-to-generation tie-up of all preceding Biblical history. These … are the skeleton framework of the Old Testament, the thing that binds the whole Bible together, and gives it unity, and makes it look like real HISTORY, not legend.”
Outline of 1 Chronicles
I. Genealogies from Adam to David (chapters 1-9).
Chapter 1: Adam to Jacob.
Chapters 2:1–4:23: Judah and the house of David.
Chapters 4:24–8:40: The 11 other tribes of Israel.
Chapter 9: Inhabitants of Jerusalem; the family of Saul.
II. Highlights of David’s kingdom (chapters 10-29).
Chapter 10: Saul’s reign ends with his death.
Chapters 11-12: David begins to reign, captures Jerusalem and consolidates his power.
Chapters 13-16: Central worship is established in Jerusalem; the Ark of the Covenant is transported to Jerusalem.
Chapter 17: God’s covenant guarantees David’s throne.
Chapters 18-20: David’s army defeats surrounding nations.
Chapters 21–22:1: David’s disastrous census; the temple site is selected.
Chapters 22:2–26:32: Preparations for building the temple; temple service organized; duties of the Levites; divisions of the priests, musicians and temple guards.
Chapter 27: Military and civilian authorities appointed.
Chapters 28-29: The government passes on to Solomon; David’s prayer for Solomon and Israel before his death.
Some instructive and edifying verses from 1 Chronicles
“Now therefore, in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the LORD, and in the hearing of our God, be careful to seek out all the commandments of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land, and leave it as an inheritance for your children after you forever.
“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever” (28:8-9).
Note David’s zeal and passion as he prepared for the construction of the temple:
“‘And the work is great, because the temple is not for man but for the LORD God. Now for the house of my God I have prepared with all my might. … Moreover, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, my own special treasure of gold and silver.’ …
“Then the people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the LORD; and King David also rejoiced greatly” (29:1-3, 9).
David praised God in prayer (29:10-20), and concluded with these words:
David praised God in prayer and concluded with these words: “O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You” (29:18).
“O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You” (29:18, emphasis added throughout).
That is meaningful advice for people throughout all ages!
Lesson: the prayer of Jabez
Interestingly, 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 records a prayer by a relatively unknown individual called Jabez.
Why did God answer his prayer?
Jabez recognized and called upon the only One who could help and intervene for him—the God of Israel.
He prayed earnestly that God would answer his prayer. This approach is similar to what is recorded in James 5:16-18.
Jabez realized he needed supernatural help—God’s guidance and power.
He prayed to be kept from evil. In Christ’s outline of prayer, He instructed us to pray for God to “deliver us from the evil one,” the influence of Satan the devil (Matthew 6:13).
It was not a selfish prayer—he prayed that he would not be the cause of pain or grief to others.
The outcome was favorable: “So God granted him what he requested” (verse 10)!
Lesson: David’s disastrous census
In 1 Chronicles 21 and the parallel account in 2 Samuel 24, David commanded his military leaders to take up an ill-advised national census. The result was that God sent a plague among the people causing the death of 70,000 people.
Why did this happen?
The Bible offers the following explanation in 1 Chronicles 21:1: “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” So, Satan had an influence on what David did. Satan stood up against Israel, and David apparently yielded to that influence, and even rejected the sound advice of Joab. Later, though, David realized he had sinned greatly. He had yielded to the devil, and afterwards repented.
The plague was halted when the angel reached the threshing floor of Ornan (Araunah), located on top of Mount Moriah. (In 2 Chronicles 3:1 we see this later became the site of the temple.) David was instructed to erect an altar there and offer burnt offerings. Ornan offered to give David the site and the animals for the sacrifice.
Notice David’s reaction.
He declared that he would not “offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). When our offerings of money or service require some form of personal sacrifice, this is especially pleasing to God.
Lesson: Why did God kill Uzza?
While transporting the ark from Kirjath Jearim to Jerusalem on a new cart, the oxen stumbled, and Uzza put his hand on the ark to steady it. As he touched the ark, he was struck dead (1 Chronicles 13:1-10).
God warned the Levites not to touch any of the holy things they were to carry, lest they die (Numbers 4:15).
The parallel account (2 Samuel 6:6-7) states that God smote Uzza for his “error” or “irreverence” (marginal note). The ark was extremely holy.
In 1 Chronicles 15:2 David realized he had made a mistake, and the ark was then carried by the Levites according to “the proper order” and “according to the word of the LORD” (15:13, 15). When they transported the ark according to the instructions God gave, they were able to bring the ark to Jerusalem “with joy” (1 Chronicles 15:25).
A vital spiritual principle is to do exactly as God commands and be attentive not to follow our own human reasoning or water down His laws, commandments and instructions. Following our own ways apart from God may end in premature death (Proverbs 14:12).
Some final thoughts
The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible (revised edition) makes the following insightful observation in its commentary on 1 Chronicles:
“A purpose that seems to emerge from a consideration of his entire account is that the author wanted to impress the readers with the fact that people who really fear God could expect divine favour and blessing. Defection from their commitment as God’s people … often brought God’s judgement” (p. 842).
This is a principle repeatedly stated in the Bible. Those willing to obey God and put Him first in their lives will be blessed, now and forever.
Each of us will respond to this principle according to how much we honor, love and respect God and His laws. Learn more about this in our articles “Fear of the Lord: What Does It Mean?” and “Seven Ways to Please God.”
May God bless and guide us as we strive to walk in His ways.
For a quick link to all the other books of the Bible, see “Books of the Bible” on the Learning Center.