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The Book of Chronicles is a book in the Hebrew Bible (also see Old Testament). It was originally written as one book, but in the Septuagint (LXX), the book appears in two parts, and in the fifteenth century, it begins appearing in two parts in Hebrew Bibles. This division into two parts may be in accordance with more manageable scroll sizes, and thus in Christian bibles it is usually published in two parts, I Chronicles and II Chronicles.
In Hebrew the title of this book is Divre Hayyamim, i.e., "History of the Days." Jerome, in his Latin translation of the Bible (Vulgate), titled this book Chronicon; in English this word translates as "Chronicles."
In the Greek Septuagint the book is also divided into two parts; here it bears the title ParaleipomÍna, i.e., "things omitted," or "supplements", because it contains details not found in the Books of Samuel and the Books of Kings. In the Douai Bible translation the books are accordingly styled the "Books of Paralipomenon".
Some divide the book into four parts:
- The first nine chapters of Book I contain a list of genealogies in the line of Israel down to the time of King David.
- The remainder of the first book contains a history of the reign of David.
- The first nine chapters of Book II contain the history of the reign of King Solomon.
- The remaining chapters of the second book contain the history of the separate Kingdom of Judah to the time of the return from Babylonian exile.
Others, though, divide the book into three parts, combining the sections treating David and Solomon since they represented rule over all the tribes of Israel.
The time of the composition of the Chronicles is believed to have been subsequent to the Babylonian Captivity, probably between 450 and 435 B.C.. The contents of this twofold book, both as to matter and form, correspond closely with this idea. The close of the book records the proclamation of Cyrus the Great permitting the Jews to return to their own land, and this forms the opening passage of the Book of Ezra, which is viewed as a continuation of the Chronicles, together with the Book of Nehemiah. The peculiar form of the language, being Hebrew in vocabulary but Aramaean in its general character, harmonizes also with that of the other books which were written after the Exile. The author was likely contemporary with Zerubbabel, details of whose family history are given (1 Chronicles 3:19).
According to Jewish tradition, Ezra the scribe was regarded as the author of Chronicles. There are many points of resemblance between Chronicles and the Book of Ezra which seem to confirm this opinion. The conclusion of the one and the beginning of the other are almost identical in expression.
In their general scope and design these books are not so much historical as didactic. The principal aim of the writer appears to be to present moral and religious truth. He does not give prominence to political occurrences, as is done in Samuel and Kings, but to religious institutions, such as the details of the temple service. "The genealogies, so uninteresting to most modern readers, were really an important part of the public records of the Hebrew state. They were the basis on which not only the land was distributed and held, but the public services of the temple were arranged and conducted, the Levites and their descendants alone, as is well known, being entitled and first fruits set apart for that purpose." The Chronicles are an epitome of the sacred history from the days of Adam down to the return from Babylonian Exile, a period of about 3,500 years. The writer gathers up "the threads of the old national life broken by the Captivity." In the Hebrew bible, where the book of Chronicles is usually the last book, it can be said to fulfil a role similar to the end credits of a modern movie: To mention all those also-rans without whom the preceding wouldn't have been possible.
The sources whence the chronicler compiled his work were public records, registers, and genealogical tables belonging to the Jews. These are referred to in the course of the book (1 Chr. 27:24; 29:29; 2 Chr. 9:29; 12:15; 13:22; 20:34; 24:27; 26:22; 32:32; 33:18, 19; 27:7; 35:25). There are in Chronicles, and the books of Samuel and Kings, forty parallels, often verbal, proving that the writer of Chronicles both knew and used those other books (1 Chr. 17:18; comp. 2 Samuel 7:18-20; 1 Chr. 19; comp. 2 Samuel 10, etc.).
As compared with Samuel and Kings, the Book of Chronicles omits many particulars there recorded (2 Sam. 6:20-23; 9; 11; 14-19, etc.), and includes many things peculiar to itself (1 Chr. 12; 22; 23-26; 27; 28; 29, etc.). Often the Chronicles paint a somewhat more positive picture of the same events, in comparison to the (compared to other books of their time) unusually critical books of Samuel and Kings. This corresponds to their time of composition: Samuel and Kings were probably completed during the exile, at a time when the history of the freshly wiped out Hebrew kingdoms was still fresh in the mind of the writers, and it was largely considered a colossal failure. The Chronicles, on the other hand, were written much later, after the restitution of the Jewish community in Palestine, at a time when the kingdoms were beginning to be regarded as the nostalgic, rosy-coloured past, something to be at least partially imitated, not something to be avoided.
Twenty whole chapters of the Chronicles, and twenty-four parts of chapters, are occupied with matters not found elsewhere. It also records many things in fuller detail, as (e.g.) the list of David's heroes (1 Chr. 12:1-37), the removal of the ark from Kirjath-jearim to Mount Zion (1 Chr. 13; 15:2-24; 16:4-43; comp. 2 Sam. 6), Uzziah's leprosy and its cause (2 Chr. 26:16-21; comp. 2 Kings 15:5), etc.
It has also been observed that another peculiarity of the book is that it substitutes more modern and more common expressions for those that had then become unusual or obsolete. This is seen particularly in the substitution of modern names of places, such as were in use in the writer's day, for the old names; thus Gezer (1 Chr. 20:4) is used instead of Gob (2 Sam. 21:18), etc.
The Books of Chronicles are ranked among the Kethubim, the third section of the Tanach, and they usually occupy the final position in Hebrew bibles, although some Hebrew bibles place Chronicles at the first of the Kethubim. They are alluded to, though not directly quoted, in the New Testament (Hebrews 5:4; Matthew 12:42; 23:35; Luke 1:5; 11:31, 51).
Online translations of the Books of Chronicles:
- 1 Chronicles at The Great Books (http://www.anova.org/sev/htm/hb/13-1chronicles.htm) (New Revised Standard Version)
- 2 Chronicles at The Great Books (http://www.anova.org/sev/htm/hb/14-2chronicles.htm) (New Revised Standard Version)
- 1 Chronicles at Bible Gateway (http://www.biblegateway.com/bible?language=English&Version=NIV&passage=1Chronicles) (various versions)
- 2 Chronicles at Bible Gateway (http://www.biblegateway.com/bible?language=English&Version=NIV&passage=2Chronicles) (various versions)
- 1 Chronicles at Wikisource (http://wikisource.org/wiki/Bible%2C-English%2C-King-James%2C-1-Chronicles) (Authorised King James Version)
- 2 Chronicles at Wikisource (http://wikisource.org/wiki/Bible%2C-English%2C-King-James%2C-2-Chronicles) (Authorised King James Version)