IN THE WIDE shade of the ageless oak, a mother watches her toddler discover acorns, leaves, and dandelions. Nearby, her mother, aunt, and uncle spread the tablecloth over a park bench and cover it with plates and bowls of fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, and assorted family recipes. The clanging of Grandpa’s and Dad’s horseshoes against stakes regularly pierces the air and mixes with cheer, laughs, and shouts of the teenagers game of football. A family reunion – a sunny afternoon filled with four generations and miscellaneous kids, parents, and second cousins once-removed.
These meetings are important… touching and connecting with other branches of the family tree, tracing one’s personal history back through time and culture, seeing physical reflections (her eyes, his nose), remembering warm traditions. Knowing one’s genetical and relational path provides a sense of identity, heritage, and destiny.
It is with this same high purpose that the writer of Chronicles begins his unifying work with an extensive genealogy. He traces the roots of the nation in a literary family reunion from Adam onwards recounting its royal line and the loving plan of a personal God. We read 1 Chronicles and gain a glimpse of God at work through his people for generations. If you are a believer, these people are your ancestors too. As you approach this part of God’s word, read their names with awe and respect, and gain new security and identity in your relationship with God.
The previous book, 2 Kings, ends with both Israel and Judah in captivity, surely a dark age for God’s people. Then follows Chronicles (1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one book). Written after the captivity, it summarises Israel’s history, emphasising the Jewish people’s spiritual heritage in an attempt to unify the nation. The chronicler is selective in his history telling. Instead of writing an exhaustive work, he carefully weaves the narrative, highlighting spiritual lessons and teaching moral truths. In Chronicles the northern kingdom is virtually ignored. David’s triumphs – not his sins – are recalled, and the temple is given great prominence as the vital centre of national life.
The book begins with Adam, and, for nine chapters, the writer gives us a “Who’s Who” of Israel’s history with special emphasis on David’s royal line. The rest of the book tells the story of David – the great man of God. Israel’s king – who served God and laid out the plans for the construction of and worship in the temple.
This account is an invaluable supplement to 2 Samuel and a strong reminder of the necessity for tracing roots, and thus rediscovering our foundation. As you read 1 Chronicles, trace your own godly heritage, thank God for your spiritual forefathers, and recommit yourself to passing on God’s truth to the next generation.
PURPOSE: To unify God’s people, to trace the Davidic line, and to teach that genuine worship ought to be the centre of individual and national life
AUTHOR: Ezra, according to Jewish tradition
TO WHOM WRITTEN: All Israel
DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 430 B.C., recording events that occurred from about 1000-960 B.C.
SETTING: 1 Chronicles parallels 2 Samuel and serves as a commentary on it. Written after the exile from a priestly point of view 1 Chronicles emphasises the religious history of Judah and Israel.
KEY VERSE: “And David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and that his kingdom had been highly exalted for the sake of his people Israel” (14:2).
KEY PEOPLE: David, Solomon
KEY PLACES: Hebron, Jerusalem, the temple
The Genealogies of Israel (1:1-9:44) The long list of names that follows presents a history of God’s work in the world from Adam to Zerubbabel. Some of these names remind us of stories of great faith, and others of tragic failure. About most of the people named, however, we know nothing. But those who died unknown to us are known by God. God will also remember us when we die.
- Ancestry of the nation
- The tribes of Israel
- Those returned from exile in Babylon
The Reign of David (10:1-29:30) David loved the Lord and wanted to build a temple to replace the tabernacle, but God denied his request. David’s greatest contribution to the temple would not be the construction, but the preparation. We may be unable to see the results of our labours for God in our lifetime, but David’s example helps us to understand that we serve God so he will see his results, not so we will see ours.
EXPLANATION: By retelling Israel’s history in the genealogies and the stories of the kings, the writer laid down the true spiritual foundation for the nation. God kept his promises and we are reminded of them in the historical record of his people, leaders, prophets, priests, and kings.
IMPORTANCE: Israel’s past formed a reliable basis for reconstructing the nation after the exile. Because God’s promises are revealed in the Bible, we can know God and trust him to keep his word. Like Israel, we should have no higher goal in life than devoted service to God.
EXPLANATION: By listing the names of the people in Israel’s past, God established Israel’s true heritage. They were all one family in Adam, one nation in Abraham, one priesthood under Levi, and one kingdom under David. The national and spiritual unity of the people were important to the rebuilding of the nation.
IMPORTANCE: God is always faithful to his people. He protects them in every generation and provides leaders to guide them. Because God has been at work throughout the centuries, his people can trust him to work in the present. You can rely on his presence today.
David, the King
EXPLANATION: The story of David’s life and his relationship with God showed that he was God’s appointed leader. David’s devotion to God, the law, the temple, true worship, the people, and justice sets the standard for what God’s chosen king should be.
IMPORTANCE: Jesus Christ came to earth as a descendant of David. One day he will rule his king over all the earth. His strength and justice will fulfil God’s ideal for the king. He is our hope. We can experience God’s kingdom now by giving Christ complete control of our lives.
EXPLANATION: David brought the ark of the covenant to the tabernacle at Jerusalem to restore true worship to the people. God gave the plans for building the temple, and David organised the priests to make worship central to all Israel.
IMPORTANCE: The temple stood as the throne of God on earth, the place of true worship. God’s true throne is in the hearts of his people. When we acknowledge him as the true king over our lives, true worship takes place.
EXPLANATION: God ordained the priests and Levites to guide the people in faithful worship according to his law. By leading the people in worship according to God’s design, the priests and Levites were an important safeguard to Israel’s faith.
IMPORTANCE: For true worship to remain central in our lives, God’s people need to take a firm stand for the ways of God recorded in the Bible. Today, all believers are priests for one another, and we should encourage each other to faithful worship.
©Kingsway International Church 1973