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In this episode of The Bible for Normal People, Pete makes the case for why you shouldn’t skip 1 and 2 Chronicles after slogging through Samuel and Kings. He explores the Chronicler’s distinct theology, uncovers themes of hope and divine sovereignty, and explains what Chronicles reveals about ancient Israelites’ ideas about God. Join him as he asks the following questions:

  • Why aren’t we doing two episodes on two books?
  • How is Pete going to convince us that Chronicles is not a waste of time after admitting that it covers the same storyline as Samuel and Kings?
  • Is Chronicles in the same place in the Hebrew Bible when we look at the Jewish canon? Why or why not?
  • What clues do we have about when Chronicles was written?
  • Who wrote Chronicles?
  • What is the Chronicler’s relationship to the older texts, Samuel and Kings? Is he using them to write Chronicles?
  • How does the focus point differ between 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles?
  • In what ways do the Chronicler and the Deuteronomistic Historian recount different narratives of the same events?
  • Why is Judah singled out in the lineage?
  • How does the Chronicler describe David? Why does it seem that David is idealized in Chronicles?
  • What clues do we have throughout the narrative of the Chronicler’s agenda?


Pithy, shareable, sometimes-less-than-280-character statements from the episode you can share.

  • Chronicles covers the same storyline that Samuel and Kings cover: the period of the monarchy. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • Chronicles specifically is a retelling of the story that we see in Samuel and Kings, but from a very different perspective. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • When you read Chronicles, you’re reading one group’s expression of the nature of their existence as the people descended from the ancient Israelites. You’re watching them put the pieces together and how they see themselves and their God. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • Chronicles is a piece of contextual theology. Jews and then Christians ever since have been doing the very same thing the Chronicler does. How do we connect today with those stories from back then? — @peteenns @theb4np
  • My goal here is to convince you that this is not a waste of your time, and that Chronicles is actually a book worthy of your very careful attention. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • In the Jewish canon, Chronicles is not just tucked away after 2 Kings. It’s placed last. And boy, is this telling. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • [Chronicles] recounts the past, but in such a way that it gives a hope for the future. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • Chronicles is a presentation of the past that basically begins with Saul. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • Chronicles does not simply repeat Samuel—Kings and fill in some missing details, but it is its own distinct presentation of Israel’s history. It is a piece of theology, and we need to treat it as that. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • There seems to be little question that the Chronicler not only knew of the existence of Samuel—Kings, but used these books and then consciously diverged from them to tell his own story. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • 1 Chronicles deals with Saul and David, and follows the very broad subject matter of 1 and 2 Samuel. 2 Chronicles focuses on Solomon and the divided kingdom, which is the subject of 1 and 2 Kings. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • Chronicles is an expression of faith in God’s continued care for the people of Judah despite their past. The Chronicler tells the history of Israel in a creative way to drive home that very practical theological point. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • The author is bringing his own people into this story front and center because this is the story of their survival. And this is the story of their continued existence and the hope that they want to have for that future. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • The lesson is this: a kingless throne is not evidence of God’s abandonment. It’s God’s throne, it’s God’s kingdom, and God is still in charge. — @peteenns @theb4np
  • A major theme of Chronicles is the notion that God treats each individual as they deserve. And if you sin, forgiveness is just one humble, truly heartfelt prayer away. — @peteenns @theb4np

Mentioned in This Episode

Read the transcript

B4NP S8E268 Pete Ruins Chronicles V1

Pete: You’re listening to The Bible for Normal People, the only God ordained podcast on the internet. I’m Pete Enns. 

Jared: And I’m Jared Byas. 

Pete: Hey, everybody, Pete here to remind you that this is the last call to pay what you can for our April class taught by yours truly. It’s called Divine Violence in the Old Testament: Exploring Violence in the Biblical Text.

And in the class, we cover key texts in the Old and New Testament that condone violence, why ancient writers’ understanding of God was tied to violence and how readers today can interpret the Bible respectfully and responsibly while still critiquing its violent depictions of God. And as part of our spring semester in the Old Testament, our April class is actually pre recorded and comes with a study guide, meaning you can purchase it and watch it on the same day regardless of your schedule.

There’s also going to be a live Q& A with me in May to talk about all three of our Old Testament classes. But you only have one day left to pay what you can. Starting tomorrow, April 16, the class will cost 25. If you’re a member of our online community, the Society of Normal People, you get automatic access to the class and study guide, plus a bonus roundtable video featuring our amazing nerds in residence.

For more info and to sign up for the class, head to  

Jared: Before we get started with our episode today, we have a huge announcement to make. As you know, our mission at The Bible for Normal People is to bring the best in biblical scholarship to everyday people.

And for seven years we’ve done that through podcasts, books, and classes, but we’ve missed an important demographic: kids. 

Pete: Yeah, you know, we get asked all the time, how do I teach my children about the Bible without all the weird stuff attached? That’s why we’re creating a children’s Bible called God’s Stories as Told by God’s Children. With this project, our vision is to bring the best in biblical scholarship to everyday kids.

Jared: And when kids have access to a Bible that highlights the diversity, the nuances, and the historical contextual criticism in the text, rather than trying to cover that all up, then they’ll learn how to engage with God and their faith instead of being pushed away from it.

This children’s Bible has fun features to show kids how the Bible was written and reflection questions to help them draw wisdom from the Bible today, because if we’re honest, kids are some of the best critical thinkers out there. 

Pete: This storybook Bible will feature a collection of 60 stories written by a diverse group of biblical scholars, theologians, pastors, and ministers, writers, and activists from all over the world.

If this sounds like the children’s Bible you’ve been looking for all your life, now’s your chance to help make this dream a reality. We’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $60,000 to fund this project, and we really can’t do it without you. 

Jared: Your money will go toward paying our amazing team of authors, illustrators, and designers, offsetting our production costs for printing and shipping, as well as the cost of promoting the book.

So take a look at our Kickstarter page to check out some sneak peeks into the Children’s Bible itself. Plus, the rewards we have for supporters, which we’re pretty excited about. We would be so honored to have you join our mission to bring the best in biblical scholarship to the next generation. One Children’s Bible won’t change the world, but we’re hoping the kids who read it just might.

Pete: Head to to check it out.

Pete: Hey, folks, welcome to this episode on 1 and 2 Chronicles. And let me say right off the bat that we’re only doing one episode on these two books. See, there’s a reason for that, mainly because Chronicles, it covers the same storyline that Samuel and Kings cover: the period of the monarchy. So there’s no need to walk through that narrative from Saul to David and then to Solomon and then the divided monarchy and then the two exiles of North and South.

No need to do that. We’ve covered that already in the last several Pete Ruins episodes. Chronicles specifically is a retelling of that story that we see in Samuel and Kings, but from a very different perspective. So we’ll be focusing on what that perspective is. 

[Music plays under clip of Pete speaking]

“See, when you read Chronicles, you’re reading one group’s expression of the nature of their existence as the people descended from the ancient Israelites. You’re watching them put the pieces together and how they see themselves and their God. Chronicles is a piece of contextual theology. Jews and then Christians ever since have been doing the very same thing the Chronicler does. How do we connect today, with those stories from back then?”

[Ad break]

Typically Chronicles is not the most popular book in the Hebrew Bible, am I right? Precisely because after slogging through Samuel and Kings, we’re met with Chronicles, which basically covers the exact same territory. You know, “I’m not reading that again.” I can imagine some of you might not be terribly excited about a whole episode on Chronicles.

Well, my goal here is to convince you that this is not a waste of your time, and that Chronicles is actually a book worthy of your very careful attention. All right, so just let’s start with some preliminaries as we always do. The Hebrew title of Chronicles is Dīvrē-hayYāmīm, which means something like the “words of the days” or the events of the days, and probably implied the book of the events of the days.

That doesn’t mean this book was actually recording daily events or something like that. It just means this book is an account of the past. And an interesting account it is. Now, that’s all well and good, but the Greek title is different from the Hebrew title and has had an undue influence, I think, on how people today might look at Chronicles.

See, you may recall from past episodes that the Hebrew Bible was of necessity translated into Greek, and that happened after the conquest of Alexander the Great in the late 4th century BCE. The Greek title given to Chronicles is Paraleipomena which means something like “the things missing” or the things left over, namely from Samuel and Kings. 

Now that’s not the best bit of marketing if you want people to actually read this, the sense given is that Chronicles contains, you know, some details that were left out of Samuel and Kings. And frankly, who cares? I mean, who wants to go through this after having just read Samuel and Kings just for a few leftover crumbs, but here’s the thing: Chronicles is not simply things that didn’t make the first cut. Rather, it is itself an independent, ideologically independent, it’s not independent in other ways, we’ll get to that. But it’s an independent, focused, intentional, purposeful retelling of Israel’s past from their own time, from the time in which this was written. Folks, and that’s the key, it’s a retelling of the past for their own time.

Now, unfortunately, the fact that it appears right after Samuel and Kings clearly discourages people from seeing it as an independent work. In the Jewish canon, however, Chronicles is not just tucked away after 2 Kings. It’s placed last. And boy, is this telling. See, it’s not grouped with the other, as Christians call them, “historical books”. It’s grouped with those books referred to in Judaism as The Writings, sort of a general category which includes things like Psalms, wisdom literature, and other books that Christians place among the historical books, but Jews don’t. Namely Esther and Ruth. 

See, even Daniel, which is a prophetic book in the Christian Bible, is in the Jewish Bible categorized in this third group called the writings. And that’s where Chronicles is placed: last. Why? Well, placing it at the end of the canon signals that Chronicles is a final summation of Jewish experience at the time it was written. It’s a way of closing out the Hebrew Bible. It’s a final statement of here’s where we were and here hopefully is where we’re going.

It recounts the past, but in such a way that it gives a hope for the future, and we’ll get to the nature of that hope a little bit later. But see, placing it last ensures that it is taken as a statement in its own right, not just a collection of things simply left out of the Deuteronomistic history that we should just ignore because we just read it.

By the way, folks, while we’re on the topic, if you ever want evidence that the Bible is absolutely and indeed multivocalic, that it speaks in different voices on the same subject—if you’re convinced that’s not the case, and if you want some evidence, just compare Chronicles to Samuel—Kings. They tell the same story, but they tell it very, very differently.

And our focus here in this episode is on how the story in Chronicles is a different story that this author wants to tell his audience. It’s a different take on Israel’s past, specifically the monarchy. So more preliminaries here. Let’s talk about the date of the book. Chronicles is a presentation of the past that begins, basically begins with Saul.

Now, if you’re familiar with Chronicles, you know right away that I’m leaving out a very boring part, the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles, which is a long genealogy. Yes, I’m leaving that out just for the moment. The historical story that it tells, it begins with Saul and it goes all the way to the Babylonian exile, back in 586 roughly, BCE.

And then it continues to talk about the return from exile. This is a helpful clue as to the dating of this book. See, Chronicles ends with the release of the Judahites from Babylon in 539 BCE by the Persian king Cyrus. In other words, Chronicles was written after the exile, after the return from the exile at some point during the Persian period. And the Persian period is 539 to 322 BCE. 

More specifically, the date range typically given by scholars is the late 5th to the early 4th century BCE. So let’s just say for argument’s sake, somewhere between 450 and 350. One reason for this specific date range is the fact that the genealogy, oh, we’re back to the genealogy here that opens the book, right, in Chapters 1 through 9. That genealogy gives seven generations of names beyond the governor of Judah, whose name was Zerubbabel, who was appointed by the Persian king Cyrus. And he governed Judah in the late 6th century. And Chronicles includes seven generations of names after Zerubbabel. 

So we’re well into the 5th century, but probably before the Greek period, which started around 332 with Alexander the Great, right? So we’re probably before the Greek period, since there’s no evidence of Greek influence in Chronicles. And Greek influence would be something relatively easy to see, because we actually do see Greek influence in later books of Judaism that were written under Greek influence, right? So anyway, the date range for Chronicles is before the Greek period, but in the Persian period, and pretty much in the latter half of the Persian period.

So again, between 450 and 350 BCE. That’s the standard date range given to the book, although, you know, there’s always debate among scholars. That’s how we get paid. So anyway, but that’s what we’re sticking with, that time period. So Chronicles gives a later perspective on Israel’s history. That’s the point of this. It gives a later perspective of the mid fifth to the mid fourth century, and that’s later than what we find in Samuel and Kings. Those earlier books, Samuel and Kings, are united by an earlier theological perspective, namely the theology of the Book of Deuteronomy. And here I just want to ask if you’re not familiar with some of this stuff, and that’s fine, we spent a lot of time in the last few episodes talking about the theology of the Book of Deuteronomy and how it affects the books of Samuel and Kings.

And that’s why, as you may recall, the author of Samuel—Kings is referred to in modern scholarship as the Deuteronomistic historian, the historian who writes from a Deuteronomistic point of view. The author of Chronicles also has his own perspective on that same history, and this perspective is signaled to us throughout his retelling by what he includes and what he doesn’t include. And also, by the many slants that he gives to many of the stories we find in Samuel and Kings. And this author is usually referred to as the chronicler which is shorter, isn’t it than Deuteronomistic historian? But that’s good. So he’s referred to as the chronicler and I’ll stick with that in referring to this author.

So what is the chronicler’s relationship to these older texts, Samuel and Kings, right? If it’s pretty much covering the same territory, is he using these books? What’s going on? And that, that is a very good question. And there’s room for some debate here, but there seems to be little question on at least one point. And that is that the chronicler not only knew of the existence of Samuel—Kings, but used these books and then consciously diverged from them to tell his own story. Now, if it helps, especially if you’re not familiar with, you know, grappling with these historical narratives of the Hebrew Bible, I can offer an analogy, if it helps, from the New Testament. And it’s only a rough analogy, but here it is. 

Essentially still a consensus in biblical scholarship. The author of Matthew’s gospel used the earlier gospel of Mark. Mark is earlier than Matthew. He used it as his basis, but then intentionally augmented it, changed it, and then adapted it for his own purposes, to tell his own story of Jesus, which is not the same as Mark’s telling of the story. And sticking with this analogy for a moment, we should remember that there is much more to Matthew’s gospel than simply a reworking of Mark and making some changes. There are other influences that New Testament scholars talk about, there’s also Matthew’s personal genius and ingenuity and creativity and things like that.

But generally speaking, something like that which is happening in the Gospels is also at work with Chronicles and his relationship to Samuel and Kings. He is repurposing an earlier version. He is adapting it for a new purpose. As I’ve been saying, Chronicles does not simply repeat Samuel—Kings and fill in some missing details, but it is its own distinct presentation of Israel’s history. It is a piece of theology, and we need to treat it as that. 

Now, do we know who wrote Chronicles? Well, no. Like every biblical book, at least, I would argue that we don’t know who wrote Chronicles. One traditional view is that Chronicles was authored by the same person who wrote Ezra and Nehemiah. And the reason for making that claim is that the last verses of Chronicles, and that would be 2 Chronicles 36, verses 22 to 23. This is where we read of the decree of Cyrus, the Persian king, and his order to release the captives and let them go back home. Well, these verses are repeated verbatim in the opening verses of the book of Ezra.

Again, if I can just offer a New Testament analogy we might be more familiar with, it’s like the ending of the Gospel of Luke is repeated in a certain sense, not quite verbatim, but it’s repeated in a sense at the beginning of the Book of Acts, and that has alerted scholarship that the same author is at work there. So, you have something similar here going on in Chronicles with Ezra and Nehemiah, and it’s led people to conclude that whoever wrote Chronicles wrote Ezra and Nehemiah as well. 

Now, another reason for this hypothesis is that the genealogical information, and Chronicles has a lot of it, right? Those first nine chapters, the genealogical information in both Chronicles and Ezra Nehemiah are similar. Now, all that is well and good, but just again, to get to more of the scholarly consensus, despite these similarities, this view that the author of Chronicles and of Ezra Nehemiah are the same person, that has fallen out of academic favor. Why? Well, there seemed to be too many differences in theological themes and writing style between the books to suggest one person is responsible for both.

And here’s the thing too. Even if we could surmise that they were written by the same person, we still wouldn’t know who that person is. So, to say it’s one author or multiple authors doesn’t tell us who wrote it, and as I said with most books of the Bible, I think we have to agree to say we don’t know who wrote some of this stuff. You know, we just don’t. Chronicles is an anonymous text. 

[Ad break]

All right, so Chronicles, let’s get into an outline of Chronicles, and as you know, I love outlines. So, Chronicles can be divided into five sections. That’s just my scheme. The first is the genealogy in 1 Chronicles chapters 1 to 9. The second section is very brief, it’s chapter 10, and this is a note basically on the death of Saul, the king who preceded David.

The third section is all about the reign of David, which covers the rest of 1 Chronicles. This is chapters 11 through 29. Second Chronicles begins with the reign of Solomon in chapters 1 through 9. That’s the fourth section, and then chapters 10 to 36 make up the fifth section, which deals with the history of Judah, from the division of the monarchy, that’s after the death of Solomon, to the fall of Jerusalem, and then the decree of Cyrus, the Persian king, to allow the people to return.

So roughly speaking, 1 Chronicles deals with Saul and David, and follows the very broad subject matter of 1 and 2 Samuel. 2 Chronicles focuses on Solomon and the divided kingdom, which is the subject of 1 and 2 Kings. You can think of it that way. 1 Chronicles corresponds to the Samuel books, 2 Chronicles corresponds to the Kings books.

Now, not to complicate things, but we could divide Chronicles into three historical sections. That’s the genealogy, right? That’s chapter 1 to 9 of 1 Chronicles. Then we can just combine the stories of Saul, David, and Solomon and just put them under the heading of what? Well, united Monarchy. That would be 1 Chronicles 10 to 2 Chronicles 9.

And then the last part, 2 Chronicles 10 to 36, is the divided Monarchy. Some people like 3, some people like 5. I’m just sticking with the 5 part outline for the purposes of this. So, you ready folks? Let’s take each of these five sections and look at what is distinctive about them compared to Samuel—Kings.

And remember, it is the distinctive elements that clue us in to the Chronicler’s theology to answer the question of why he even wrote this book. And rather than putting us all on a fox chase, let me just say at the outset what the big difference in perspective is between the chronicler and the Deuteronomistic historian. And I think knowing at the outset will help make sense of some of the things we’re going to look at. Simply put, our two authors are asking different questions and therefore giving very different takes on the history of the monarchy. The Deuteronomistic historian is asking the question, why are we in exile? Why did it happen? How can we reconcile this tragic event with the goodness and justice of God? 

The answer that author gave, you may recall, is that exile is not a sign of God’s weakness or God’s distractedness or God’s abandonment, but of God’s sovereign just will. See, the exile, why are we in exile? It’s punishment. It’s punishment for failing to maintain the covenant, namely the laws about the exclusive worship of the God of Israel named Yahweh and the exclusive worship in the temple itself. And according to the Deuteronomistic historian, the failure to uphold this is why the two exiles happened, the exile of the North in 722 and of the South in 586.

The Chronicler, however, is living at a different time, and he is asking another question entirely. After all that has happened, our deep past, and all the struggles, are we still the people of God, or has God forgotten us completely? Is God merciful? Has God forgiven us? Is God going to punish us forever? Do we have a future?

See, his answer to those questions is basically that God is just, and God will treat His people justly, and the future looks bright. See, in other words, the Deuteronomistic history is an explanation for why the exile happened. Chronicles is an expression of faith in God’s continued care for the people of Judah despite their past. The chronicler tells the history of Israel in a creative way to drive home that very practical theological point. That’s the heart of it, folks. So let’s now look at each of those sections and highlight some points that illustrate the Chronicler’s theology.

So first, the genealogy. Several observations, if I may. First, the genealogy begins with Adam, and this is the only place Adam is mentioned after Genesis 5. By the way, I know the word Adam appears in Joshua, it appears in Hosea, but it’s a place name. It’s irrelevant. It’s not the name of the character. Right? So we begin this genealogy with Adam. He hasn’t been mentioned since Genesis 5. And the chronicler begins, see, his story at the beginning. That’s the point. He begins at the very beginning of Israel’s story because he’s going to trace a genealogy that goes from there to his own time. It’s as if he wants to remind his people that their pedigree goes way back, that they are part of an ancient story, and that God has not forgotten them. That they are connected to the past. They are connected to the very beginning. 

So he traces the lineage from Adam to Israel, also known as Jacob, but this is in basically chapter one of the genealogies. Then we move on to the lineage of Israel and the 12 tribes, the sons of Jacob, and that takes up most of the genealogy. This takes us to the very beginning of chapter nine.

But, here’s the thing, in chapter 2, when he’s going through the lineage of the twelve tribes, the focus is immediately on the lineage of one of Jacob’s twelve sons. Which one is that? Glad you asked. Judah. Who the heck cares? Here’s why. Why single out Judah? Well, this is our first clue about what makes Chronicles distinctive. It focuses on Judah, meaning the nation of Judah. The southern nation. Remember how 1 and 2 Kings go back and forth between the kings of the North and the kings of the South, sort of telling alternating stories? Well, not Chronicles. He’s focusing on the story of one tribe, that nation, that Southern Nation that survived exile and return. And that tribe is highlighted in the genealogy. 

The author is bringing his own people into this story front and center because this is the story of their survival. And this is the story of their continued existence and the hope that they want to have for that future. Now, the chronicler, he’s not ignoring by any means the other tribes. He gives their lineages as well. He gives a lot of space to the Levites, for example. Those were from Levi, one of the sons of Jacob, and the Levites are those who are in charge of the temple. Why spend time on this? Because this was too important to the author to not talk about. He’s very interested in temple worship. It is huge for him. 

So the Levites, they dominate chapters 6 and 7. And, you know, tucked into chapter six also is a list of the temple musicians that David appointed focus on temple worship. And as we’ll see, David has a connection to the temple that is simply missing from Samuel—Kings. That’s a side issue, but we’re going to get to that big time in just a few minutes.

See, next, we’re still in the genealogy here, folks, next we see a list of names of those who returned to Jerusalem after the exile, and this is chapter 9, basically starts in verse 2 and it goes to verse 34. And the list of those who returned to Jerusalem after the exile is very important for the chronicler. His genealogy, as I said before, it links the present post-exilic 5th century community to Israel’s deep past. Again, I just really want to underscore that. This is a practical theological pep talk for His people, and this is the purpose of the genealogy. “Remember your pedigree, have hope, the same God is still active and has not abandoned His people.”

Now, the genealogy ends with the line of Saul, and it bridges, therefore the genealogical section to his actual treatment of Saul, which is our section two, that’s chapter 10. And the chronicler takes care of Saul’s story pretty quickly though, and he focuses on Saul’s death. He’s really not that interested in Saul. Saul is more of an entrance ramp to get us onto the David Highway, and that’s now section three, and will occupy the rest of First Chronicles, that’s chapters 10 through 29. 

And folks, this is where things get interesting, and we need to slow down just a bit and look at some of the details about how the Chronicler handles the reign of David. As a way of getting into that, let me give a related concrete example. It’s not one of the things I want to focus on too much. It’s just a very succinct way of getting into the mindset of the author of Chronicles concerning how he handles what he reads in Samuel—Kings and how he adapts it for his own reason.

And that example is from 2 Samuel 7:16. And how does Chronicles handle this verse? Well, here is in this part of the story in 2 Samuel, we have Nathan the prophet, he’s speaking for God, and he’s prophesying to David, this is all about David, that Solomon, his next in line, he will be the next king, and that David’s line is firmly established. His reign, his kingdom, his lineage will be forever. And here’s what 2 Samuel 7:16 says. This is again, God speaking through Nathan to David. “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever. Before me, your throne shall be established forever.” 

See, this is a comment on David’s lineage and how there’s always going to be a son of David sitting on the throne, and that’s your house, David. That’s your kingdom. It’s your throne. Now, here’s the problem, of course, with all this in 2 Samuel 7, and that’s that David’s line did indeed come to an end, at least functionally, in the exile. That’s the whole point of it. So, when telling this story of David, and especially of 2 Samuel 7, what the Chronicler does is he clearly changes Nathan’s speech.

Here he says, I will confirm him, and the him here is Solomon. “I will confirm him in my house,” whose house is it? It’s God’s house. It’s not mine. David’s house. “And in my kingdom forever and his throne shall be established forever.” Hmm. A little bit different, right? That’s 1 Chronicles 17:14. Just notice the big picture.

There are a lot of details we could talk about here, but just keep an eye on the big picture here. Notice whose house and whose kingdom it is here in Chronicles. It’s God’s. The historical reality at the time is that there is no one occupying the throne of David. That hadn’t happened since the exile. But here’s the thing. It’s, according to the Chronicler, it’s, it’s not even David’s throne. It’s God’s throne. That’s what the Chronicler wants to get across. See, here’s the practical piece of encouragement to a people that finds itself in the land, but without the blessing of a king in the line of David, which was the promise of 2 Samuel 7, right?

Here’s the point. Despite what it looks like, folks, Israel’s throne and kingdom are squarely in God’s hands. It is His throne and His kingdom. Even if no earthly king is involved, don’t let that detail discourage you from the ultimate reality. See, the lesson is this, a kingless throne is not evidence of God’s abandonment. It’s God’s throne, it’s God’s kingdom, and God is still in charge. 

See, this is just one example of the way in which the Chronicler adapts his own main source for writing his story, which is Samuel—Kings. Anyway, let’s talk specifically now about the Chronicler’s David, which is a very different David than what we see in Samuel—Kings.

I would like to highlight four examples of how the Chronicler presents an idealized portrait. That’s really the term I’m looking for here. An idealized portrait of David. For example, it is explicit in 2 Samuel 7 that David will have nothing to do with building the temple. That will be all Solomon’s deal. He’s going to do it. And then in 1 Kings chapters 5 and 6, we see Solomon making preparations for the temple, like gathering materials, and then actually overseeing its construction. The only thing David does in 2 Samuel that even remotely ties him to the preparation of the temple is his last act in that book, which was to erect an altar on the threshing floor of some dude named Araunah, who is a Jebusite.

Jebusites, by the way, were the original inhabitants of Jerusalem, and after David conquered it, he made it his city. There are Jebusites there. So anyway, he offered sacrifices on this altar to appease God, who was currently plaguing the people, because of the census that David took. Okay, so what’s, who cares, what’s the tie of this story to the temple? Well, it’s indirect, but it’s still there. And this threshing floor, we read in the story, would become the site of Solomon’s temple, which David didn’t plan. He just erected an altar on this threshing floor of Araunah to offer a sacrifice. That’s where the temple would be built, but this is not explicit.

David’s not thinking to himself, yeah, I’m founding a site for the temple here. It’s a very innocent little story. It connects to the temple, but it’s not really David going out of his way to make preparations or anything like that for the temple. And this is the only thing David does in the Deuteronomistic history that is really related to temple preparation and to temple building.

So anyway, the next story of the temple building is told very briefly. It’s in two chapters, 1 Kings 6 and 7, and all again without involvement from David. The Chronicler, however, and you can see where this is going, he has David very involved in the temple. He doesn’t build it, but he does everything but build it. Where can you read this? Oh, I don’t know. 1 Chronicles chapters 22 through 29, eight chapters of David doing all sorts of stuff. He gives the order to have the temple built. 

And he gives a charge to Solomon, you know, he’s like the overseer of the whole project. He assembles all the priests and the Levites and gives them a pep talk. He sets up the musicians, gatekeepers, treasurers, and others. And then he assembles all Israel together and publicly instructs Solomon to build the temple. David, he’s not building it, but he’s doing everything but. See, the reason given for David’s, let’s call it helicopter parenting, of Solomon’s temple project is laid out in 1 Chronicles 29:1-2. Let me quote, “King David said to the whole assembly, ‘My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great, for the temple will not be for mortals, So, I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, etc.’”

You see, Solomon can handle it, but he can’t handle it. So I’ve arranged everything, you’re welcome. It reminds me of a parent telling their recent college graduate that they need to live on their own and make it on their own. So the parent helps them along by finding them a job, setting them up with an apartment, and then giving them a new car.

The Chronicler makes David responsible for the temple. Not for building it, but for doing everything but. Why? Well, see, he’s not interested in painting a rosy picture of David or something just because he likes David. Rather, the Chronicler’s David is a model for what their true and future king would look like: a temple-honoring king. That’s what it means to be in the line of David, to have an attitude towards the temple that David explicitly had, at least explicitly according to the Chronicler. 

Remember, at this time, they have no king. The Chronicler’s David points the reader future in time. It’s not a trip down memory lane. And let me add here that The Chronicler, I’m trying to avoid using modern language and modern biases here, but the Chronicler is not distorting the past. He’s using it, let’s call it, for pastoral purposes. He’s using it to establish for his community a vision for their future with a righteous, temple-honoring Son of David to rule them.

So David’s awesome. Hmm. Having said that, how awesome David is and righteous, let’s talk about the David and Bathsheba incident. This is our second example of how the Chronicler treats David. In 2 Samuel 11, we read the famous story of David’s rape of Bathsheba. And by the way, if you haven’t seen the brief three part video series on the David and Bathsheba story by our very own Nerd in Residence, Cynthia Schafer-Elliott, you need to do that right away. Please access your social media accounts and take a few minutes and learn everything you’ve wanted to know ever about this story. 

Anyway, with respect to the David and Bathsheba story in 2 Samuel, this is happening in 2 Samuel chapter 11. That’s the rape of Bathsheba, and David had been crowned king. His opposition had been removed. He brings the ark back to Jerusalem. He enjoys battle victories. He offers a pious prayer, etc. And this goes on through chapter 10. So here’s the point. Chapters 5 through 10, those are the good times for David. This is when everything is as it should be. But that comes to a screeching halt here in chapter 11.

His rape of Bathsheba led to political trouble, which marks the remainder of his career. See, David has no peace, but suffers the consequences of his actions. So how does the Chronicler handle this episode, one that makes David look so imperfect? Well, how does he handle it? He doesn’t. He skips it entirely. This incident, the effects of which would follow David for the remainder of his life, according to the Deuteronomistic historian, is completely left out of the Chronicler’s picture. Rather than smooth it over or give it a good spin, which I think is impossible to do in this story, he just omits it. Let me suggest that this incident is not something he could easily fold into his retelling of the David story.

He’s giving us an idealized David, and this idealized David would come to dominate both Judaism in the centuries to follow and the early Christian movement. David the morally flawed character of the Deuteronomistic history, would become, thanks in large part to the Chronicler, the man after God’s own heart. See, that nicer narrative eventually dominates the Jewish and Christian landscape.So much so that well intentioned Bible readers today have some trouble accepting the Deuteronomistic historian’s unflattering portrait of David, especially in the David and Bathsheba story. 

And by the way, this is why the Chronicler’s retelling of David’s census is what it is. You may remember David numbers his troops, which displeases the Lord greatly in both 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. The difference is that in 2 Samuel, it is the Lord Himself who incited David to do this, to count the number of his fighting men. And so God plagued everyone because of it, which is an odd story. He plagues David for a census that the Lord Himself incited him to do. One of those weird stories in the Bible.

Anyway, in 1 Chronicles, it’s not the Lord who incites David, it’s Satan. Now just what is meant there at this point in history by Satan is an interesting issue we can’t get into here, but the main point is pretty clear. The troubling relationship between David and God that’s implied in 2 Samuel is sidestepped completely by the Chronicler.

The plague is still there in Chronicles, but not because God had a beef with David. God and David get along. The last example concerns the transfer of power from David to Solomon. Another really interesting moment here. In 1 Kings 1-2, the transfer of power, you know, it reads like a Game of Thrones episode, folks, with intrigue and murder of rivals and all sorts of stuff like that. In 1 Chronicles, the transfer, however, is smooth as silk. It’s hardly worth a comment. 1 Chronicles 23 verse 1: “When David was old and full of days, he made his son Solomon king over Israel.” It’s like, here’s your crown, boy, have at it. It’s not a big deal. 1 Chronicles ends, and here I’m talking about chapter 29 verses 22 to 25, but 1 Chronicles ends by repeating the sentiment and praising David at his death, having lived a life of fullness, riches, and honor.

The smooth transfer of power emphasizes the unity of the nation, which is a big theme in Chronicles, by the way. It also emphasizes God’s blessing on David and then Solomon. That’s what this rewriting, this retelling of the transfer of power in Chronicles accomplishes. It presents a very different picture of the stability of the reign of David and of God’s presence with David. 

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That’s so much for David. Let’s move on to the fourth section and talk briefly about Solomon, and this is 2 Chronicles 1-9. Now, he is, of course, David’s son and the last king of the united monarchy, and the Chronicler’s focus differs from that of the Deuteronomistic history, which you probably have guessed by now, right?

So, the story of Solomon’s completion of the temple dominates this section in Chronicles. The Chronicler leaves out things that don’t enhance Solomon’s role in the temple, like, you know, that famous story of the two women who each claimed that an infant was theirs and the true mother cried out in horror when Solomon suggested he solve this problem by just cutting the infant in half, right, remember that?

Well, the Chronicler leaves that out, and he also leaves out Solomon’s apostasy in 1 Kings 11. This is where Solomon built high places for his foreign wives to worship their foreign gods on Israelite land. Bad move, Solomon. And according to 1 Kings, this act was the reason for the division of the monarchy itself into north and south. See, Solomon blew it. So what does the Chronicler do with all this? Well, the Chronicler focuses on the temple as Solomon’s only act of note. And this section, these first nine chapters of 2 Chronicles, this section is centered around that temple, literally centered around it. The middle section, chapters 3 through 7, are all about the construction of the temple and the dedication of the temple, right?

Five of the nine chapters. Framing that section are chapters 2 and 8. 2 is about Solomon’s preparations for the temple, and chapter 8 is about the final touches put on the temple. And then framing that entire section is chapters 1 and 9, and these are two sections about Solomon’s kingly reputation.

Chapter 1 talks about his wisdom and wealth, and chapter 9 talks about his international reputation, this is the whole incident with the Queen of Sheba, and also about his wealth. See, anyway, Chronicler’s focus is on what is at the center of this 9 chapter section, which is the actual temple building. Everything before leads up to it, everything that comes after is a result of it. 

Now, one thing I want to point out here quickly about this section is chapter 9 verse 8, because here we see a theme of Chronicles that we’ve already glimpsed, and this is why I want to emphasize this. These are the words of the Queen of Sheba, what she says to Solomon, right?

She visits him and sees his wealth, blah, blah, blah. And she says, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the Lord your God.” You know, it’s so easy to miss, folks, that little line there, but the Queen of Sheba says that the throne is God’s. Solomon is just the one occupying it. And this is one of these micro details, but it is all part of the Chronicler’s purpose, the Chronicler’s agenda for penning this story of Israel’s history. And that purpose is, among other things, to bring some comfort to his generation in knowing that the throne is occupied at all times either by God or by a king.

Okay, enough with Solomon here. Let’s, let’s move to the final section, and this is the divided monarchy in chapters 10 to 36 of 2 Chronicles. The big distinctive mark of this section is that only the careers of the southern kings are mentioned. Now, northern kings are mentioned here and there as they play roles in the dealings of the southern kings, but they don’t get their own sections as they do in 1 and 2 Kings.

The Chronicler is only interested in telling the story of the southern nation of Judah because they are the ones left standing. The North, you may recall, was exiled in 722 BCE by the Assyrians, never to return, about 350 years earlier. They’re all gone. What’s left is the South. And what’s fascinating is not just leaving out the northern kings, but it’s how the Chronicler gives his own twist to these narratives of the southern kings.

And in some cases, there is more of a twist than in others. And just to not bore you with five examples, which would take too long anyway, I just want to focus on one illustration that really drives home how thoughtful and creative and intentional and theological the Chronicler is in telling the story of his people.

And the one illustration is the story of King Manasseh. This is found in 2 Chronicles 33 and also in 2 Kings 21. And I’m telling you, folks, just printing them out, this is what I do for my undergraduate students. Just printing them out and laying them side by side is itself an education in what Chronicles is all about.

So Manasseh, who is this guy? Well, he is hands down the worst king of Judah. The story in Second Kings goes like this. The author tells us in great detail all about Manasseh’s wicked reign, which includes not only the worship of the Canaanite gods Baal and Asherah, but child sacrifice, and both are major no-no’s. And after that, the author gives his evaluation of Manasseh, which is this. Because of all this horrible stuff that he did, here’s what’s going to happen. God will bring upon Judah the same fate he brought upon the northern kingdom of Israel, which is exile. See, Manasseh’s deeds and, as the narrator tells us, the great amount of blood that he spilled, those things are too much for God to overlook. In several generations, because of what Manasseh did, Judah will have to be exiled. That’s about as bad as you can get, folks, in the Old Testament, in terms of evaluating a king. This guy’s responsible for you people losing your land, and your king, and your temple.

How is the Chronicler’s version of Manasseh different? Well, he begins the same way, by recounting Manasseh’s sins from Second Kings, and almost verbatim. There are some small differences, but basically, line by line, it reiterates all that stuff. But that’s where the similarities end, and where the spin begins.

To cut to the chase, the story of Manasseh is creatively rewritten by the Chronicler in such a way that Manasseh now becomes an object lesson for repentance for the people of Judah. Right? Let me lay this out. This is, I think, a very important illustration for understanding the nature of the Chronicler’s handling of Samuel and Kings.

See, after recounting his sins, here’s what we read in 2 Chronicles. The Lord spoke to Manasseh and the people to try to get them to see the error of their ways, but they don’t heed God’s warning. So God’s next move, now this is the key point here folks, God’s next move is to have the Assyrians attack Jerusalem and take Manasseh captive and then bring him in chains to Babylon. Now, there’s a lot of odd going on here. You know, for one thing, Second Kings knows nothing of the Assyrians attacking during this period. Manasseh reigned mid to late 7th century BCE, and Second Kings certainly knows nothing of the Assyrians capturing Manasseh, let alone taking him captured and bound to Babylon.

They’re Assyrians. What are they doing taking him to Babylon? This is in my opinion, historically implausible. It seems more like the chronicler is trying to say something. Hold that thought. 

Next, we read in Second Chronicles that while he was in Babylon, Manasseh had a basically, I’m gonna say, conversion experience. He humbles himself and he repents before God for all that he’s done. And as a result, God rewards him by restoring him to his throne. So he not only was captured, he gets back somehow, and he sits on the throne again. And after he got back, Manasseh, among other things, he cleaned the house of the Lord from foreign gods, and he led the people in the proper worship of God, right?

This is a major repentance, about-face here for Manasseh. And Second Kings knows nothing of this. Manasseh learned his lesson, but here’s the problem. Why did the exile happen if Manasseh is a good guy? Well, the people kept sacrificing at the high places. Now, the only sacrifice to the Lord, mind you, which is good, it’s better, but still, sacrificing at the high places, even to Yahweh, was simply verboten.

So for the Chronicler, the cause of the exile was no longer Manasseh. He repented of his sins. It’s just that the people didn’t follow the program. They were to blame. See, this episode, as the chronicler tells it, didn’t happen. The Assyrians did not take Manasseh captive to Babylon. That historically is just fraught with all sorts of unlikelihoods.

But he tells the story this way, creatively, to make a point, and it’s not about Manasseh, but it’s about the writer’s audience and their situation. A major theme of Chronicles is the notion that God treats each individual as they deserve. And if you sin, folks, forgiveness is just one humble, truly heartfelt prayer away. God listens. See, probably the most famous line in Chronicles is in 2 Chronicles chapter 7, and this is where God is speaking to Solomon after his construction and dedication of the temple. And let me read to you verses 12 through 14 of 2 Chronicles 7, and many of you will recognize these words because they’re usually used at election time every cycle, but let’s not get into that.

So here God is speaking. Here’s what he says to Solomon: “I’ve heard your prayer and have chosen this place, this is the temple, for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among the people. If my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land.”

See, this is a major theme of Chronicles. Prayer, humility, repentance are always available, and they work. It even worked for Manasseh, the worst king on the planet, and so it can work for you. As God brought Manasseh out of exile in Babylon on account of his repentance, God brought your ancestors out of Babylon, too. And as for you, people stuck here in Persian run Judea, no matter how bad things get for you, no matter how much you might think that God has abandoned us as His special people, no matter how deeply you’re worried that there is no future for you and your people, we, like Manasseh, can also become fully restored. If it happened to Manasseh, it can happen to anybody. 

By the way, the Chronicler’s version of the story of Manasseh seems to have inspired a later writer to pen something that we call today the Prayer of Manasseh, which you can find in any version of the Bible that contains the Apocrypha. And I recommend reading it. It’s great stuff. It’s a brief, it’s only 15 verses long, but it’s a brief but powerful statement of Jewish piety during the late Second Temple period. 

Well, folks, I don’t know, there’s so much to talk about with First and Second Chronicles, and can’t get to all of it, as you know, but I hope these highlights have given you some sense of why Chronicles is much more than just some tidbits that didn’t make it into Samuel—Kings. Rather, it is a thoughtful, worked out piece of theology expressed by means of a creative retelling of the history of the monarchy. And I understand that some listening might balk at the notion that two such very different stories of 500 years of Israel’s history can coexist in the same Bible. That can’t be. That’s a contradiction…And yet here they are. And the differences between them are not minor details to be ignored, nor are they problems that need fixing. Rather, it’s not the bug, right? It’s actually the heart of the matter. 

These episodes, just the ones that we’ve gone through, are snapshots of how ancient Israelites at a different time understood differently their relationship with their God. And that understanding is affected by the time and place and circumstances of this author. Actually, the same goes for both authors. The Deuteronomistic Historian and the Chronicler are both people writing and describing and talking about and emoting the events that are important to them and telling the story in a way that gets across what they want to get across.

Their theologies or their theology reflects their setting. And frankly, folks, a more obvious statement could not be made. And yet this acknowledgement is still fraught with controversy, at least in some circles. See, when you read Chronicles, you’re reading one group’s expression of the nature of their existence as the people descended from the ancient Israelites.

You’re watching them put the pieces together and how they see themselves and their God. Chronicles is, if I can use this expression, it is a piece of contextual theology, and it would not be the last. Jews and then Christians ever since have been doing the very same thing the Chronicler does. How do we connect today with those stories from back then? That’s the question all faith traditions ask sooner or later. How do we today connect with the past? And in Chronicles, we have one early, and I’m going to say thoroughly biblical, example of this living dynamic between past and present. 

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Pete: Pause for a drink. What kind of drink, you ask, Stephen? And/or Brittany? Coffee. It’s eight in the morning here. 

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Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.