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CHRONICLES

Israelite was concerned to prove the purity of his Hebrew descent (cp. Ezra ii. 59, 62). Commencing abruptly (after some Benjamite genealogies) with the death of Saul, the history becomes fuller and runs parallel with the books of Samuel and Kings. The limitations of the compiler’s interest in past times appear in the omission, among other particulars, of David’s reign in Hebron, of the disorders in his family and the revolt of Absalom, of the circumstances of Solomon’s accession, and of many details as to the wisdom and splendour of that sovereign, as well as of his fall into idolatry. In the later history the ten tribes are quite neglected (“Yahweh is not with Israel,” 2 Chron. xxv. 7), and political affairs in Judah receive attention, not in proportion to their intrinsic importance, but according as they serve to exemplify God’s help to the obedient and His chastisement of the rebellious. That the compiler is always unwilling to speak of the misfortunes of good rulers is not necessarily to be ascribed to a deliberate suppression of truth, but shows that the book was throughout composed not in purely historical interests, but with a view to inculcating a single practical lesson. The more important additions to the older narrative consist partly of statistical lists (1 Chron. xii.), partly of full details on points connected with the history of the sanctuary and the great feasts or the archaeology of the Levitical ministry (1 Chron. xiii., xv., xvi., xxii.-xxix.; 2 Chron. xxix.-xxxi., &c.), and partly of narratives of victories and defeats, of sins and punishments, of obedience and its reward, which could be made to point a plain religious lesson in favour of faithful observance of the law (2 Chron. xiii., xiv. 9 sqq.; xx., xxi. 11 sqq., &c.). The minor variations of Chronicles from the books of Samuel and Kings are analogous in principle to the larger additions and omissions, so that the whole work has a consistent and well-marked character, presenting the history in quite a different perspective from that of the old narrative.

The chronicler makes frequent reference to earlier histories which he cites by a great variety of names. That the names “Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah,” “Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel,” “Book of the Kings of Israel,” and “Affairs of the Kings of Israel” (2 Chron. xxxiii. Sources. 18), refer to a single work is not disputed. Under one or other title this book is cited some ten times. Whether it is identical with the Midrash[1] of the book of Kings (2 Chron. xxiv. 27) is not certain. That the work so often cited is not the Biblical book of the same name is manifest from what is said of its contents. It must have been quite an extensive work, for among other things it contained genealogical statistics (1 Chron. ix. 1), and it incorporated certain older prophetic writings—in particular, the debārīm (“words” or “history”) of Jehu the son of Hanani (2 Chron. xx. 34) and possibly the vision of Isaiah (2 Chron. xxxii. 32). Where the chronicler does not cite this comprehensive work at the close of a king’s reign he generally refers to some special authority which bears the name of a prophet or seer (2 Chron. ix. 29; xii. 15, &c.). But the book of the Kings and a special prophetic writing are not cited for the same reign. It is therefore probable that in other cases than those of Isaiah and Jehu the writings of, or rather, about the prophets which are cited in Chronicles were known only as parts of the great “book of the Kings.” Even the genealogical lists may have been derived from that work (1 Chron. ix. 1), though for these other materials may have been accessible.

The two chief sources of the canonical book of Kings were entitled Annals (“events of the times”) of the Kings of Israel and Judah respectively (see Kings). That the lost source of the Chronicles was not independent of these works appears probable both from the nature of the case and from the close and often verbal parallelism between many sections of the two Biblical narratives. But while the canonical book of Kings refers to separate sources for the northern and southern kingdoms, the source of Chronicles was a history of the two kingdoms combined, and so, no doubt, was a more recent work which in great measure was doubtless based upon older annals. Yet it contained also matter not derived from these works, for it is pretty clear from 2 Kings xxi. 17 that the Annals of the Kings of Judah gave no account of Manasseh’s repentance, which, according to 2 Chron. xxxiii. 18, 19, was narrated in the great book of the Kings of Israel. It was the opinion of Bertheau, Keil and others, that the parallelisms of Chronicles with Samuel and Kings are sufficiently explained by the ultimate common source from which both narratives drew. But most critics hold that the chronicler also drew directly from the canonical books of Samuel and Kings as he apparently did from the Pentateuch. This opinion is not improbable, as the earlier books of the Old Testament cannot have been unknown in his age; and the critical analysis of the canonical book of Kings is advanced enough to enable us to say that in some of the parallel passages the chronicler uses words which were not written in the annals but by one of the compilers of Kings himself. In particular, Chronicles agrees with Kings in those short notes of the moral character of individual monarchs which can hardly be ascribed to an earlier hand than that of the redactor of the latter book.[2]

For the criticism of the book it is important to institute a careful comparison of Chronicles with the parallel narratives in Samuel-Kings.[3] It is found that in the cases where Chronicles directly contradicts the earlier books there are few in which an impartial historical judgment will decide in Treatment of history. favour of the later account, and in any point that touches difference of usage between its time and that of the old monarchy it is of no authority. The characteristic feature of the post-exilic age was the re-shaping of older tradition in the interest of parenetic and practical purposes, and for this object a certain freedom of literary form was always allowed to ancient historians. The typical speeches in Chronicles are of little value for the periods to which they relate, and where they are inconsistent with the evidence from earlier writings or contain inherent improbabilities are scarcely of historical worth. According to the ordinary laws of research, the book, being written at a time long posterior to the events it records, can have only a secondary value, although that is no reason why here and there valuable material should not have been preserved. But the general picture which it gives of life under the old monarchy cannot have the same value for us as the records of the book of Kings. On the other hand, it is of distinct value for the history of its time, and presents a clear picture of the spirit of the age. The “ecclesiastical chronicle of Jerusalem,” as Reuss has aptly called it, represents the culminating point (as far as the O. T. Canon is concerned) of that theory of which examples recur in Judges, Samuel and Kings, and this treatment of history in accordance with religious or ethical doctrines finds its continuation in the didactic aims which characterize the later non-canonical writings (cf. Jubilees; Midrash).

The most prominent examples of disagreement with earlier sources may be briefly noticed. Thus, it would appear that the book has confused Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin (2 Chron. xxxvi. 5-8) and has statements which directly conflict with 2 Sam. xxi. 19 (1 Chron. xx. 5; see Goliath), and 1 Kings ix. 10 seq. (2 Chron. viii. 2); it has changed Hezekiah’s submission (2 Kings xviii.) into a brave resistance (2 Chron. xxxii. 1-8) and ignored the humiliating payment of tribute by this king and by Joash (2 Kings xii. 18; 2 Chron. xxiv. 23 sqq.).[4] That Satan, and not Yahweh incited

  1. R.V. “commentary,” properly, an edifying religious work, a didactic or homiletic exposition. A distinct tendency to Midrash is found even here and there in the earlier books.
  2. The problem of the sources is one of considerable intricacy and cannot be discussed here; the introduction to the commentaries of Benzinger and Kittel (see Bibliography below) should be consulted. The questions depend partly upon the view taken of the origin and structure of the book of Kings (q.v.) and partly upon the results of historical criticism.
  3. “A careful comparison of Chronicles with Samuel and Kings is a striking object lesson in ancient historical composition. It is an almost indispensable introduction to the criticism of the Pentateuch and the older historical works” (W. H. Bennett, Chronicles, p. 20 seq.).
  4. But xxxii. 1-8 may preserve a tradition of the account of the city’s wonderful deliverance mentioned in Kings (see Hezekiah), and the details of the invasion of Judah in the time of Joash differ essentially from those in the earlier source. Even 2 Chron. viii. 2 cannot be regarded as a deliberate alteration since the writer does not appear to be quoting from 1 Kings ix. 10 sqq. (the two passages should be carefully compared), and his view of Solomon’s greatness is already supported by allusions in the earlier but extremely composite sources in Kings (see Solomon).