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Books of Chronicles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the Christian Bible, the two Books of Chronicles (commonly referred to as 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, or First Chronicles and Second Chronicles) generally follow the two Books of Kings and precede Ezra–Nehemiah, thus concluding the history-oriented books of the Old Testament.[1]

In the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles is a single book, called Diḇrê Hayyāmîm (Hebrew: דִּבְרֵי־הַיָּמִים‬, "The Matters [of] the Days"), and is the final book of Ketuvim, the third and last part of the Tanakh. Chronicles was divided into two books in the Septuagint and called I and II Paralipoménōn (Greek: Παραλειπομένων, "things left on one side").[2] The English name comes from the Latin name chronikon, which was given to the text by scholar Jerome in the 5th century.

Chronicles starts with a genealogy from the first human being, Adam, and passes into a biblical narrative of the history of ancient Judah and Israel until the proclamation of King Cyrus the Great (c. 540 BC).

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Transcription

The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles. While they're two separate books in our Bibles that division is not original. Due to scroll lengths the book was divided in two but it was written as one book with one coherent storyline. Now in our English Bibles, Chronicles comes after the books of Samuel and kings and most of Chronicles is actually repeat content from those books and so most modern readers when they come to Chronicles they think, "Wait a minute, I just read all of this!" and so they skip it, and that's a shame because this book is really unique and important in the Bible. In the traditional Jewish ordering of the Bible, Chronicles is actually the last book, because it summarizes all of the Jewish Scriptures. The first word in the book is Adam, the first character at the beginning of the story, and then the last paragraph announces the return of Israel from exile. Now we don't know, who wrote this book, but we can tell from details within it. It was produced by somebody, who lived a couple hundred years after the Israelites returned from the Babylonian exile. Now for this author, Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt some time ago, and as we learned for Ezra & Nehemiah, things were not going well. The great prophetic hope was that the city and the temple would be rebuilt, that God would come to live among his people, the Messianic King would come and all the nations would come live under his peaceful rule, and none of that has happened. And so, the author of Chronicles has reshaped these stories of David and Solomon and the Kings of the past in order to provide a message of hope for the future. And we'll see that he's designed this book to emphasize two clear themes: First - the hope of the coming Messianic King and second - the hope for a new temple. Let's just dive in and you'll see these themes all over the book 1 Chronicles begins with nine chapters of genealogies - long list of names, and you'll read these and think that this is kind of boring, and that may be true for you, but actually they're very, very important. The author is summarizing here the whole storyline of the Old Testament by naming all of the key characters in the stories. And as he does so, he shapes the genealogies to emphasize two key lineages. First is a line of the promised Messianic King. So lots of space is dedicated to tracing the line of Judah that led all the way to King David to whom the Messianic promise was given. And then from David the author traces that line up into his own day. The other family line that receives lots of attention here is that of the priesthood, the descendants of Aaron, who of course served in the temple. and so, right from the start, you can see the two main themes. The author's hope of the Messiah coming to build a new temple and it's rooted in these ancient genealogies. Now after that, the author moves into the stories about David, and most of these are going to be familiar to you from the book of Samuel but again there's some really important differences. So first of all the author leaves out all of the negative stories about David, where he's portrayed as weak or immoral, so Saul chasing David around the desert and persecuting him, the story of David's adultery with Bathsheba and then murdering her husband, all of that is gone, and what's left are the stories that portray David as a good guy. And not only that. There's also new additional material that you won't find in the book of Samuel, that shows David in a very positive light, so there's a large block of chapters, where David makes preparations for the temple. He arranged his resources and builders and Levites and choirs. And not only that. The author also portrays David as a Moses like figure. God gives David plans for building the Temple, just as he gave plans to Moses for building the tabernacle. So why all this new material about David? The author's not trying to hide David's flaws. He knows that anybody can go read about them in the book of Samuel. Rather, he's trying to portray David as the ideal king in order to make him an image or a type of the future Messiah from the line of David. It's very similar to how Jeremiah or Ezekiel spoke of the coming Messiah as a new David. This is most clear and how the author retells the story of God's covenant promise to David in 1 Chronicles 17. When you compare the story with its parallel, in 2 Samuel 7, You'll see that the author of Chronicles is highlighting that neither David nor Solomon, nor any of the Kings from his line were the Messianic King, and that when the Messiah does come, He will be a king like David. And so for this author, these stories about David from the past are what sustained his hope for the future. After David dies, we move into 2 Chronicles, which focuses on the kings that lived in Jerusalem. And again, there's lots of overlap with 1 and 2 Kings, but there are many key differences. So the author has left out all of the stories about the kings of northern Israel, so he can just focus on the line of David. And there's lots of new material about these kings from David's line. He highlights the kings that were obedient to God and he adds new stories about how their obedience led to success in God's blessing. But he also adds new stories about kings who were unfaithful to God. They didn't follow the Torah, they led Israel to worship idols, and these kings face horrible consequences, all leading up to Israel's exile, a mess of their own making. And so, this whole section becomes a series of character studies, where the author wants later generations of Israelites to learn from their family history, and so become faithful to their God and the Torah. Now the book's conclusion is really unique, too. At the very end of the book, the king of the Persians, his name's Cyrus, and he tells the Israelites that they can go back home, return from exile, rebuild the city and the temple. And he says (last line of the book) : "... whoever there is among you, of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him and let him go up..." and that's how the book ends, with an incomplete sentence! Now of course, the author knows about the first return from exile and the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah, but clearly in his view, the prophetic hopes of Israel were not fulfilled in those events. And so, this incomplete ending shows that the author's hope is set on yet another return from exile, when the Messiah will finally come to rebuild the temple and restore God's people. And so, the Book of Chronicles, the final book of the Jewish Scriptures, it ends by pointing forward. It calls God's people to look back in order to look ahead, because the past has become the source of hope for the future. So, Chronicles concludes the Old Testament as a story in search of an ending, and that's what this book is all about.

Contents

Summary

The Chronicles narrative begins with Adam and the story is then carried forward, almost entirely by genealogical lists, down to the founding of the first Kingdom of Israel (1 Chronicles 1–9). The bulk of the remainder of 1 Chronicles, after a brief account of Saul, is concerned with the reign of David (1 Chronicles 11–29). The next long section concerns David's son Solomon (2 Chronicles 1–9), and the final part is concerned with the Kingdom of Judah with occasional references to the second kingdom of Israel (2 Chronicles 10–36). In the last chapter Judah is destroyed and the people taken into exile in Babylon, and in the final verses the Persian king Cyrus the Great conquers the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and authorises the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the return of the exiles.[3]

Structure

Originally a single work, Chronicles was divided into two in the Septuagint, a Greek translation produced in the 3rd and 2nd centuries Before Christ.[4] It has three broad divisions: (1) the genealogies in chapters 1–9 of 1 Chronicles; (2) the reigns of David and Solomon, taking up the remainder of 1 Chronicles and chapters 1–9 of 2 Chronicles; and (3) the story of the divided kingdom, the remainder of 2 Chronicles.

Within this broad structure there are signs that the author has used various other devices to structure his work, notably the drawing of parallels between David and Solomon (the first becomes king, establishes the worship of Israel's God in Jerusalem, and fights the wars that will enable the Temple to be built, then Solomon becomes king, builds and dedicates the Temple, and reaps the benefits of prosperity and peace).[5]

Composition

Origins

The last events in Chronicles take place in the reign of Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who conquered Babylon in 539 BC; this sets an earliest possible date for the book. It was probably composed between 400–250 BC, with the period 350–300 BC the most likely.[5] The latest person mentioned in Chronicles is Anani, an eighth-generation descendant of King Jehoiachin according to the Masoretic Text. Anani's birth would likely have been sometime between 425 and 400 BC.[citation needed] The Septuagint gives an additional five generations in the genealogy of Anani. For those scholars who side with the Septuagint's reading, Anani's likely date of birth is a century later.[6]

Chronicles appears to be largely the work of a single individual, with some later additions and editing. The writer was probably male, probably a Levite (temple priest), and probably from Jerusalem. He was well read, a skilled editor, and a sophisticated theologian. His intention was to use Israel's past to convey religious messages to his peers, the literary and political elite of Jerusalem in the time of the Achaemenid Empire.[5]

Jewish and Christian tradition identified this author as the 5th century BC figure Ezra, who gives his name to the Book of Ezra; Ezra was also believed to be the author of both Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah, but later critical scholarship abandoned the identification with Ezra and called the anonymous author "the Chronicler". One of the most striking, although inconclusive, features of Chronicles is that its closing sentence is repeated as the opening of Ezra–Nehemiah.[5] The latter half of the 20th century saw a radical reappraisal, and many now regard it as improbable that the author of Chronicles was also the author of the narrative portions of Ezra–Nehemiah.[7]

Sources

Much of the content of Chronicles is a repetition of material from other books of the Bible, from Genesis to Kings, and so the usual scholarly view is that these books, or an early version of them, provided the author with the bulk of his material. It is, however, possible that the situation was rather more complex, and that books such as Genesis and Samuel should be regarded as contemporary with Chronicles, drawing on much of the same material, rather than a source for it. There is also the question of whether the author of Chronicles used sources other than those found in the Bible: if such sources existed, it would bolster the Bible's case to be regarded as a reliable history. Despite much discussion of this issue, no agreement has been reached.[8]

Genre

The translators who created the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint) called this book "Things Left Out", indicating that they thought of it as a supplement to another work, probably Genesis-Kings, but the idea seems inappropriate, since much of Genesis-Kings has been copied almost without change. Some modern scholars proposed that Chronicles is a midrash, or traditional Jewish commentary, on Genesis-Kings, but again this is not entirely accurate, since the author or authors do not comment on the older books so much as use them to create a new work. Recent suggestions have been that it was intended as a clarification of the history in Genesis-Kings, or a replacement or alternative for it.[9]

Themes

The message which the author wished to give to his audience was this:

  1. God is active in history, and especially the history of Israel. The faithfulness or sins of individual kings are immediately rewarded or punished by God. (This is in contrast to the theology of the Books of Kings, where the faithlessness of kings was punished on later generations through the Babylonian exile).[10]
  2. God calls Israel to a special relationship. The call begins with the genealogies (chapters 1–9 of 1 Chronicles), gradually narrowing the focus from all mankind to a single family, the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob. "True" Israel is those who continue to worship Yahweh at the Temple in Jerusalem, with the result that the history of the historical kingdom of Israel is almost completely ignored.[11]
  3. God chose David and his dynasty as the agents of his will. According to the author of Chronicles, the three great events of David's reign were his bringing the ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, his founding of an eternal royal dynasty, and his preparations for the construction of the Temple.[11]
  4. God chose the Temple in Jerusalem as the place where he should be worshiped. More time and space are spent on the construction of the Temple and its rituals of worship than on any other subject. By stressing the central role of the Temple in pre-exilic Judah, the author also stresses the importance of the newly-rebuilt Persian-era Second Temple to his own readers.
  5. God remains active in Israel. The past is used to legitimise the author's present: this is seen most clearly in the detailed attention he gives to the Temple built by Solomon, but also in the genealogy and lineages, which connect his own generation to the distant past and thus make the claim that the present is a continuation of that past.[12]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Japhet 1993, p. 1-2.
  2. ^ Japhet 1993, p. 1.
  3. ^ Coggins 2003, p. 282.
  4. ^ Japhet 1993, p. 2.
  5. ^ a b c d McKenzie 2004.
  6. ^ Isaac Kalimi (January 2005). An Ancient Israelite Historian: Studies in the Chronicler, His Time, Place and Writing. Uitgeverij Van Gorcum. pp. 61–64. ISBN 978-90-232-4071-6.
  7. ^ Beentjes 2008, p. 3.
  8. ^ Coggins 2003, p. 283.
  9. ^ Beentjes 2008, p. 4-6.
  10. ^ Hooker 2001, p. 6.
  11. ^ a b Hooker 2001, p. 7-8.
  12. ^ Hooker 2001, p. 6-10.

Bibliography

Beentjes, Pancratius C. (2008). Tradition and Transformation in the Book of Chronicles. Brill. ISBN 9789004170445.
Coggins, Richard J. (2003). "1 and 2 Chronicles". In Dunn, James D. G.; Rogerson, John William. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802837110.
Hooker, Paul K. (2001). First and Second Chronicles. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664255916.
Japhet, Sara (1993). I and II Chronicles: A Commentary. SCM Press. ISBN 9780664226411.
Kalimi, Isaac (2005). The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 9781575060583.
Kelly, Brian E. (1996). Retribution and Eschatology in Chronicles. Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 9780567637796.
Klein, Ralph W. (2006). 1 Chronicles: A Commentary. Fortress Press.
Knoppers, Gary N. (2004). 1 Chronicles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Doubleday.
McKenzie, Steven L. (2004). 1–2 Chronicles. Abingdon. ISBN 9781426759802.

External links

Translations

Introductions

Bible: Chronicles public domain audiobook at LibriVox

Books of Chronicles
Preceded by
Ezra-Nehemiah
Hebrew Bible Succeeded by
None
Preceded by
1–2 Kings
Western Old Testament Succeeded by
Ezra
Eastern Old Testament Succeeded by
1 Esdras
This page was last edited on 5 December 2018, at 01:02
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