Overview of 2 Chronicles – Those Who Ignore History Will Repeat It!

Posted: June 30, 2020 in 14-2 Chronicles

OVERVIEW OF 2 CHRONCLES

Personal Reflection on Overview of 2 Chronicles

This morning, we begin the next book of the Bible, 2 Chronicles. As 1 Chronicles ended, we saw that the baton of kingship was passed from David to Solomon. It was under Solomon that the Israelite kingdom reached its greatest expanse geographically and reached its zenith of influence among the ancient Middle Eastern kingdoms and empires. The country was strong and secure and economically vibrant. It was a time of peace and prosperity in the Israelite kingdom. Although there were undercurrents of tribal jealousies that smoldered under the surface, Solomon was a shrewd and wise ruler for most of his days and was able to manage it all and keep opposition dispersed. Solomon’s kingdom was undoubtedly the Golden Age of Israel. 

From that point forward, it is like watching how rich families rise and fall. Many of the wealthiest families that you see in the world over the past two centuries have usually been started by a shrewd and entrepreneurial founder of a company. His ingenuity and management skill creates a vast empire of wealth. Usually the second generation is equally astute though not as cutthroat as his father before him. But usually this son of the founder is able to expand the wealth empire but not on the scale of nothing to supreme wealth as the father did. However, in succeeding generations, the lack of being in touch with the reality of having nothing as the founding father did (and who instill that in his direct heir, his son) usually leads to frivolous spending and lack of concentration on the business enterprises of the family. These succeeding generations often turn over business operations to unrelated employees so that they can pursue fun. With each generation, the family becomes more and more like these depraved reality shows that you see on MTV. Ultimately, these families end up not resembling anything like the hard working, hard charging founding father of it all. These families are not even grateful what that founding father did. They just assume wealth is a way of life and that the money will never end. With each succeeding generation the creation of wealth ends and the party lifestyle ensues. You can see Israel in what I just described. David founded it. Solomon expanded and strengthened it and then the succeeding generations just messed it all up to the point that the Israelite kingdom (both the northern part and the southern part) was wiped off the map.

The book of 2 Chronicles shows us this rise and fall. In it, we can see ourselves, the United States. We grew up in homes where we had full and complete access to the things of God. And, many like us in the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation and all of Generation X, we scattered from the church. It was not hip enough for us. It was stuck in the mud even then to us (and some traditional churches still haven’t changed a bit since the Gen X exodus). We sought to live for ourselves. We knew best. We questioned whether God even existed. We humanized Jesus into a radical, anti-establishment rabbi with great philosophical wit and wisdom and took away His deity. We made Jesus into a regular guy not the Creator of the Universe. We made Jesus just one of the ways to get to heaven. We made ourselves our own gods. We followed our own hearts and did what was right in our own eyes. We lost our way seeking ever greater and greater senses of pleasure. Then we raised succeeding generations to be just like us who then as the Millennial generation and now Generation Z are taking the world even deeper into godlessness and pleasure seeking.

It is then look into the demise of once great kingdom of Israel that should stand as a stark warning to us as a nation as we approach Independence Day weekend. The warning to us is that as we pursue political correctness, as we pursue all roads lead to heaven, as we pursue the elevation of the rights of self over the rights of society, as we pursue running further and further away from the Word of God as a nation, there will be a reckoning for a nation now just as there was for biblical Israel. Let us not ignore this history. Those who ignore or rewrite history are destined to repeat it.

Amen and Amen.

OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF 2 CHRONICLES

This overview is a combination of materials drawn from the following two websites: http://reformedanswers.org/answer.asp/file/41781 and from https://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-2-Chronicles.html

Purpose:

The Books of 1 & 2 Chronicles cover mostly the same information as 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. The Books of 1 & 2 Chronicles focus more on the priestly aspect of the time period. The Book of 2 Chronicles is essentially an evaluation of the nation’s religious history.

Date:

The Book of 2 Chronicles was likely written between 450 and 425 B.C.

Key Verses:

  • 2 Chronicles 2:1 – “Solomon gave orders to build a temple for the Name of the LORD and a royal palace for himself.”
  • 2 Chronicles 29:1-3 – “Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them.”
  • 2 Chronicles 36:14 – “Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.”
  • 2 Chronicles 36:23 – “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you—may the LORD his God be with him and let him go up.'”

Author:

The Book of 2 Chronicles does not specifically name its author. The tradition is that 1 and 2 Chronicles were written by Ezra.

Brief Summary:

The Book of 2 Chronicles records the history of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, from the reign of Solomon to the conclusion of the Babylonian exile. The decline of Judah is disappointing, but emphasis is given to the spiritual reformers who zealously seek to turn the people back to God. Little is said about the bad kings or of the failures of good kings; only goodness is stressed. Since 2 Chronicles takes a priestly perspective, the Northern Kingdom of Israel is rarely mentioned because of her false worship and refusal to acknowledge the Temple of Jerusalem. Second Chronicles concludes with the final destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Time and Place of Writing:

The final verses of the 2 Chronicles (2 Chron. 36:21-23) indicate that the Chronicler wrote after the release of the exiles from Babylon (c. 538 B.C.). The lack of Hellenistic influences suggests that he composed his history before the Alexandrian period (c. 331 B.C.). Nevertheless, opinions vary over the precise date of composition.

Some interpreters have proposed that the Chronicler wrote as early as the reconstruction of the Temple under Zerubbabel (c. 520-515 B.C.). At least three evidences support this view:

  • The Chronicler consistently presented the Temple and its personnel in close partnership with the royal line of David (see “Purposes and Distinctives”). This emphasis suggests the possibility of composition near the days of Zerubbabel when expectations of royal and priestly partnership were still high (e.g., Zech. 4:1-14).
  • The Chronicler gave much attention to the details of priestly and Levitical duties (1 Chron. 6:1-53). This focus suggests a date of composition during the time when the new Temple order was being established.
  • The Chronicler’s omission of Solomon’s downfall due to intermarriage (1 Kings 11:1-40) stands in striking contrast to Nehemiah’s appeal to Solomon’s difficulties (Nem. 13:26). This omission suggests that the Chronicler may have written before intermarriage had become a major issue in the postexilic community.

The majority of interpreters have held that the Chronicler wrote during or after the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah, in the latter half of the fifth century or the early decades of the fourth century B.C. The main evidence in favor of this view is the royal genealogy in 1 Chronicles 3:17-24, which some interpreters believe extends up to five generations after Zerubbabel.

A specific date of composition for Chronicles cannot be determined. It seems best to accept a range of possibilities from sometime near the days of Zerubbabel to sometime soon after the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah (c. 515-400 B.C.). The major themes of the book fit well within these boundaries.

The Chronicler wrote for historical and theological reasons. His extensive use of historical documents (see “Author”) and devotion to numerical and chronological details (e.g., 1 Chron. 5:18; 2 Chron. 14:1, 9; 16:1, 12, 13) indicate that he intended to give his readers an inerrant historical record. But he did not merely offer information about the past; he also wrote to convey a relevant theological message. Comparing the Chronicler’s history with those of Samuel and Kings reveals that he shaped his account of Israel’s past to address the needs of the postexilic community. He wrote to encourage and guide his readers as they sought the full restoration of the Kingdom after the Babylonian exile.

The people who had returned from exile faced numerous difficulties. The restoration had not brought about the dramatic changes for which many had hoped. Instead, they endured discouraging economic hardship, foreign opposition and internal conflict. These difficulties raised many questions: Who may legitimately claim to be heirs to the promises God gave his people? What political and religious institutions should we embrace? Should we hope for a new Davidic king? What is the importance of the Temple in our day? How may we find the blessings of security and prosperity for our restored community? The Chronicler addressed these and similar questions in his history.

Purposes and Distinctives:

The book of Chronicles was originally untitled. Its traditional Hebrew name may be translated “the annals (events) of the days (time).” This expression appears often in the book of Kings with other qualifications (e.g., 1 Kings 14:29). It also occurs elsewhere in this form without further qualification (Neh. 12:23; Esther 2:23; 6:1). Some Septuagint (Greek Translation of the Old Testament) texts refer to Chronicles as “the things omitted”; i.e., a supplement to the history of Samuel and Kings. Jerome (and Luther following him) called the book “the chronicle of the entire sacred history.” Our modern title stems from this tradition.

The Chronicler’s theological message may be summarized in many ways, but three concerns were particularly prominent:

  • The People of God. Throughout his history the Chronicler identified the people who should be included among the heirs of God’s covenant promises. The prominence of this theme appears in his frequent use of the expression “all Israel” (see notes on 1 Chron. 11:1; 2 Chron. 10:1; 29:24). The Chronicler’s concept of God’s people was both narrow and broad. On the one hand, he looked on those who had been released from exile as the people of God. Representatives of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, who had returned to the land, were the chosen people (see note on 1 Chron. 9:3). As such, they played a vital role in the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.

On the other hand, however, the Chronicler identified God’s people with all the tribes of Israel (see note on 1 Chron. 2:3-9:1). The restoration of Israel was incomplete so long as some of the tribes remained outside the land, separated from the Davidic king and the Jerusalem Temple. As a result, the Chronicler went to great lengths to include both the northern and southern tribes in his genealogies (1 Chron. 2:3-9:1), to present an ideal of a united Kingdom under David and Solomon extending to all the people (see note on 1 Chron. 11:1) and to depict the reunification of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms in the days of Hezekiah (see note on 2 Chron. 29:1-36:23). The returnees were the remnant of God’s people, but they had to pray and hope for the restoration of all the people of God. As Hezekiah put it in his day, “If you return to the LORD, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate” (2 Chron. 30:9).

  • The King and Temple. In the Chronicler’s view, God had organized his people around two central institutions: the Davidic throne and the Jerusalem Temple. These political and religious structures were fundamental to the life of Israel. In his genealogies, the Chronicler gave special attention to David’s lineage (1 Chron. 2:10-17; 3:1-24) and to the organization of the priests and Levites (1 Chron 6:1-81). He emphasized that God had chosen David’s line as the permanent dynasty over the nation (1 Chron. 17:1-27; 2 Chron. 13:5; 21:7; 23:3). The establishment of David’s throne was a demonstration of divine love and blessing for Israel (1 Chron. 14:2; 2 Chron. 2:11).

The Chronicler also focused on the Temple as the dwelling place of the Name (2 Chron. 7:12, 16; 33:7). The joy and splendor of music in Temple worship were chief concerns in the Chronicler’s history (see notes on 1 Chron. 6:31-47, 9:15-16, 28-34, 15:16-24; 16:4-6; 25:1-31; 2 Chron. 5:12-13; 23:13, 19, 29:25-30; 34:12).

The Chronicler drew a close connection between kingship and the Temple in many other ways as well (e.g., 2 Chron. 13:4-12; 22:10-24:27). With this emphasis on king and Temple, he instructed his postexilic readers not to lose sight of either institution. The full restoration of the Kingdom could not take place apart from the Davidic king and the Jerusalem Temple. As the Lord said to David, “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his Kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever” (1 Chron. 17:11-12).

  • Divine Blessing and Judgment. The Chronicler composed his history to show his readers how to receive God’s blessings in their day. He accomplished this end by drawing close connections between fidelity and blessing, as well as infidelity and judgment (1 Chron. 28:9; 2 Chron. 6:14; 7:11-22; 15:2; 16:7-9; 21:14-15; 24:20; 25:15-16; 28:9; 34:24-28). The king and the Temple could not in themselves secure God’s blessing for Israel. His blessings depended on obedience to the Mosaic Law (1 Chron. 6:49; 15:13, 15; 16:40; 22:12-13; 28:7; 29:19; 2 Chron. 6:16; 7:17-18; 12:1-2; 14:4; 15:12-14; 17:3-9; 19:8-10; 24:6, 9; 25:4; 30:15-16; 31:3-21; 33:8; 34:19-33; 35:6-26) and to the prophetic/priestly instruction (2 Chron. 11:4; 12:5-8; 20:20; 21:12-19; 24:19-25; 25:7-10, 15-20; 26:17-20). Blessings came to those who upheld the purity of Temple worship (2 Chron. 15:1-19; 17:1-6; 24:1-16; 29:1-31:21; 34:1-35:19) and humbly relied on God instead of human strength (1 Chron. 5:20; 2 Chron. 13:18; 14:7; 16:7-8; 32:20).

When the people of God and their kings turned to sin, the immediate retribution of illness and military defeat often followed (1 Chron. 10:1-14; 2 Chron. 13:1-16; 16:12; 18:33-34; 21:15-19; 25:14-24; 26:19-20; 28:1-5; 33:1-11). Even so, when the people came under God’s judgment, they could be restored to blessing by humbly seeking God through repentance and prayer (1 Chron. 21:1-22:1; 2 Chron. 7:13-15; 12:1-12; 33:10-13). By emphasizing these themes the Chronicler showed his postexilic readers the way to divine blessing in their day. The full restoration of God’s people would come only as they lived in fidelity to the Lord. The prophet Azariah stated the matter succinctly to King Asa: “If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2).

As the book unfolds, prominent motifs appear a number of times, but certain themes are emphasized over others in each portion. The history divides into main parts: (1) the genealogies of God’s people (1 Chron. 1:1-9:34), (2) the united Kingdom (1 Chron 9:35-2 Chron 9:31), (3) the divided Kingdom (2 Chron. 10:1-28:27), and (4) the reunited Kingdom (2 Chron. 29:1-36:23). Each part contributes specific elements to the Chronicler’s overall theological purpose.

  • The Genealogies of God’s People (1 Chron. 1:1-9:34). Genealogies in the ancient Near East followed a variety of forms and served many different functions. These variations appear in the Chronicler’s use of genealogies in the first nine chapters of his history. Some passages follow the form of linear genealogies that trace a single family line through many generations (e.g., 1 Chron. 2:34-41); others are segmented and sketch several family lines together (e.g., 1 Chron. 6:1-3). The Chronicler’s genealogies also skip generations without notice, emphasizing persons and events that were important to his concerns (e.g., 1 Chron. 6:4-15). Beyond this, just as other ancient genealogies often included brief narratives highlighting significant events, the Chronicler paused on occasion to tell a story (1 Chron. 4:9-10; 5:18-22).

 In addition to different forms, the function of ancient genealogies also varied. They occasionally sketched political, geographical and other social connections. In some such cases, the expressions “son of” and “father of” had a meaning other than immediate biological descent. In line with these ancient (yet ordinary for that time) functions of genealogies, the Chronicler provided an assortment of lists, including families (e.g., 1 Chron. 3:17-24), political relations (e.g., 1 Chron. 2:24, 42, 45, 49-52), and trade guilds (e.g., 1 Chron. 4:14, 21-23).

The Chronicler included extensive genealogical records in his book to establish that his readers were the legitimate continuation of God’s elect people. He accomplished this end by reporting the special election of Israel from all of humanity (1 Chron. 1:2-2:2), the arrangement of the tribes of Israel (1 Chron. 2:3-9:1), and the representatives of the tribes who returned from Babylon (1 Chron. 9:16-34).

By identifying the postexilic readers as the continuation of the chosen line, the Chronicler pointed to their opportunities and responsibilities. Since they were God’s people, they were offered the opportunity of God’s blessing in the Promised Land. They had a solid basis for hope in the full restoration of the Kingdom. But their identity as God’s elect people also entailed many responsibilities. The Chronicler’s genealogies focused on the breadth and order of the tribes of Israel, emphasizing especially the importance of the Davidic and Levitical families (see note on 1 Chron. 2:3-9:1a). If his readers were to receive the blessings of God, they had to observe these divinely ordained arrangements carefully.

  • The united kingdom (1 Chron. 9:35-2 Chron. 9:31). The Chronicler viewed the reigns of David and Solomon as Israel’s period of glory. He focused on the positive qualities of these kings and chose not to reference many of their well-known shortcomings and troubles recorded in Samuel and Kings (see notes on 1 Chron. 9:35-29:30 and 2 Chron. 1:1-9:31). David and Solomon ruled over all the tribes and territories of Israel (see note on 1 Chron. 11:1); they provided rich blessings through their political structures (1 Chron. 14:2; 2 Chron. 2:11; 9:8) and the Temple (1 Chron. 22:1; 2 Chron. 7:11-22).

For this reason, the united kingdom laid the foundation of hope for the postexilic readers. God had chosen David’s line and the Temple in Jerusalem to be the instruments of blessing for his people through all generations.

But this hope of blessing was conditional. The Chronicler also presented David and Solomon as models to be imitated. The postexilic community had to devote itself to the ideals of the united kingdom. Humble and faithful reliance on God, commitment to Davidic rule and devotion to the Temple were essential to receiving the blessing of God.

  • The Divided Kingdom (2 Chron. 10:1-28:27). The Chronicler’s record of Israel’s history from Rehoboam to Ahaz focuses on events in the Southern Kingdom, Judah. Although he relied on the book of Kings for much of his information, the Chronicler omitted large blocks of material dealing with the Northern Kingdom, Israel. In his view, the important historical events of this period took place in Judah, where the Davidic king and the Temple resided.

In many respects, the Chronicler evaluated the kings of this period according to the ideal of the united kingdom. He applied several criteria to Judah’s kings (see “Purposes and Distinctives: Divine Blessing and Judgment”). Was the king faithful to the Law of Moses? Did he support the Temple order established by David and by Solomon? Did the king listen to prophetic and priestly instruction? Did he rely on foreign alliances, or seek God in humility and prayer? The writer evaluated some kings negatively (Jehoram, 1 Chron. 21:4-20; Ahaziah, 1 Chron. 22:1-9; Ahaz, 1 Chron. 28:1-27) and others positively (Abijah, 1 Chron. 13:1-14:1; Jotham, 1 Chron. 27:1-9). For the most part, however, he distinguished between each king’s years of fidelity and infidelity (Rehoboam, 2 Chron. 10:1-12:16; Asa, 1 Chron. 14:2-16:14; Jehoshaphat, 1 Chron. 17:1-21:3; Joash, 1 Chron. 22:10-24:27; Amaziah, 1 Chron. 25:1-28; Uzziah, 1 Chron. 26:1-23).

The Chronicler reported these events to illustrate how the conditions of Israel depended on her fidelity to the ideals established in the united kingdom. With remarkable regularity, he demonstrated that God blessed his people when they proved to be faithful and chastised them when they turned away from him. Victory, security and prosperity came to those who sought the Lord, but defeat, trouble and illness to those who forgot him (see “Purposes and Distinctives: Divine Blessing and Judgment”).

This portion of the Chronicler’s history addressed the needs of the postexilic readers by explaining their situation and offering them guidance. Just as Judah’s kings had experienced God’s chastisement, the postexilic community suffered difficulties because of infidelity. God’s promises of restoration had not failed; the people had failed. Similarly, just as the kings of Judah were blessed as they turned toward the Lord, the Chronicler’s readers could hope for restoration, security and prosperity if they would do the same.

  • The Reunited Kingdom (2 Chron. 29:1-36:23). Beginning with Hezekiah, Israel entered a new phase of her history. The Chronicler presented Hezekiah as a new David/Solomon; Hezekiah reunited the faithful of Israel and Judah around the Davidic throne through worship and celebration at the Temple (see notes on 1 Chron. 29:1-36:23 and 1 Chron. 29:24). This reunited people experienced several periods of failure: Manasseh’s apostasy (1 Chron. 33:1-10), Amon’s entire reign (1 Chron. 33:21-25,) and the overall reigns of the kings of Judah just before the exile (1 Chron. 36:2-14). But each of these failures was followed by God’s gracious renewal of the people: Manasseh’s restoration (1 Chron. 33:11-17), Josiah’s reforms (1 Chron. 34:3-35:19), and the return from exile (1 Chron. 36:22-23).

This portion of the Chronicler’s history also offered hope and guidance to his readers. Despite the failures of the reunited Kingdom, God continued to grant blessings to his repentant people. These events reminded the readers that God extended his mercy to them, offering them his blessing. At the same time, however, the events of this period demonstrated the requirements placed on those who longed for the full restoration of the Kingdom during the postexilic period. The nation must turn to the Lord in humility and live faithfully before him.

Christ in Chronicles:

As with all references to kings and temples in the Old Testament, we see in them a reflection of the true King of Kings—Jesus Christ—and of the temple of the Holy Spirit—His people. Even the best of the kings of Israel had the faults of all sinful men and led the people imperfectly. But when the King of Kings comes to live and reign on the earth in the millennium, He will establish Himself on the throne of all the earth as the rightful heir of David. Only then will we have a perfect King who will reign in righteousness and holiness, something the best of Israel’s kings could only dream of.

Similarly, the great temple built by Solomon was not designed to last forever. Just 150 years later, it was in need of repair from decay and defacing by future generations who turned back to idolatry (2 Kings 12). But the temple of the Holy Spirit—those who belong to Christ—will live forever. We who belong to Jesus are that temple, made not by hands but by the will of God (John 1:12-13). The Spirit who lives within us will never depart from us and will deliver us safely into the hands of God one day (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). No earthly temple contains that promise.

Practical Application:

The reader of the Chronicles is invited to evaluate each generation from the past and discern why each was blessed for their obedience or punished for their wickedness. But we are also to compare the plight of these generations to our own, both corporately and individually. If we or our nation or our church is experiencing hardships, it is to our benefit to compare our beliefs and how we act upon those beliefs with the experiences of the Israelites under the various kings. God hates sin and will not tolerate it. But if the Chronicles teach us anything, it is that God desires to forgive and heal those who will humbly pray and repent (1 John 1:9). If you could have anything you wished from God, what would you ask for? Fabulous wealth? Perfect health for you and your loved ones? The power over life and death? Amazing to think about it, isn’t it? But more amazing is that God made such an offer to Solomon and he chose none of these things. What he asked for was wisdom and knowledge to complete the task God had assigned to him and to do it well. The lesson for us is that God has given each of us a commission to fulfill and the greatest blessing we can seek from God is the ability to carry out His will for our lives. For that, we need the “wisdom from above” (James 3:17) to discern His will, as well as the understanding and intimate knowledge of Him in order to motivate us to Christlikeness in both deed and attitude (James 3:13).

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