16. Chronicles

The books of Chronicles have suffered from a range of interpretations and evaluations over the course of modern Biblical scholarship. With certain major scholarly positions and texts in Chronicles in mind, discuss how you would treat the organization and literary history of this corpus, its historiographical character, and its value as a source on the history of ancient Israel and Judah.

I. Name

• Name: Heb Bible dibre hayyamîm, “the events of the days;” 

• LXX: Chron called Paraleipomena (Par.), i.e., “the things omitted” or “passed over.” 

• “Chronicles” Jerome in Prologus Galeatus (preface to Samuel-Kings) gives name Chronicon Totius Divinae Historiae, “Chronicle of the Entire Divine History” 

• Luther’s Bible: Die Chronik > familiar “Chronicles” in English Bibles.

• Theodoret thought meant that Chronicles assembled whatever 1–2 Kings omitted, though view does not indicate what Chronicles omitted from Kings (much info too). 

• The division into two books first in LXX and > Hebrew Bibles since 15th c CE.

II. Organization

• 1 or 2 books?

-Originally 1 book in Hebrew

-Divided into 2 books in LXX

-2-book division standard in Hebrew Bibles since the 15th century CE

Outline of 1/2 Chronicles

• Genealogies (I. 1–9)

• United monarchy from Saul’s death through Solomon (I.10–II.9)

-Saul (I. 10–11)

-David (I. 12–29)

-Solomon (II. 1–9) 

• Judah during divided kingdom (II. 10–28)

• Judah from the fall of Samaria until the exile (II. 29–36)

III. Theology and Purpose

•Emphases: Monarchy (especially David and Solomon), cult, temple, and genealogies.

•David is made into a great king, who even planned the preparation of the temple.

•Quick Divine Retribution: Adds theological reason for events noted in DH

-Shishak’s attack b/c Rehoboam’s forsaking YHWH

-Asa ill b/c didn’t rely on YHWH and imprisoned prophet.

-Uzziah’s leprosy b/c burned incense.

•Repentence leads to deliverance.

-Rehoboam repents and is spared.

-Northerners repeatedly repent and come south: right after schism, during Asa, during Hezekiah

-Manasseh repents and is restored from his imprisonment by Assyria

IV. Scholarly Debate about Date and Provenance

•Definitely written in Jerusalem (Temple, return to Jerusalem, etc.)

Is author of Chronicles same author as Ezra-Nehemiah?

•Talmud says Ezra wrote Ezra and Chronicles up to his time, and then Nehemiah finished Chronicles. If there was a "Chronicler’s History", including all or parts of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, then the Chronicler must be subsequent to the work of Ezra (458 or 398 B.C.E. [7th year of Artaxerxes I or Artaxerxes II]) and Nehemiah (445–432 B.C.E.).

•Probably 4th century. The evidence for dating the books of Chronicles apart from Ezra-Nehemiah rests on the following types of evidence.

-After 539 BCE b/c Persia and Edict of Cyrus mentioned (2 Chr 36:20-23).

-Before 150 BCE b/c LXX of Chronicles is cited in Eupolemus in 150 BCE

-1 Chr 3:17–24 sons of Jehoiachin goes for 6 generations in MT (400-350 BCE) or 11 generations in LXX (~250 BCE). But perhaps these lists were later additions (?).

-1 Chr 29:7 mentions darics, a Persian coin not minted before 515 B.C.E., in the reign of Darius I, is here used anachronistically; presumably, time had to pass for this anachronism to be made.

-The Language of the Book. Polzin (1976: 27–75) classifies the language of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah (exclusive of the Nehemiah Memoirs) as Late Biblical Hebrew, subsequent to P. However, it is doubtful whether the language by itself can be dated precisely within the postexilic period since he has only shown similarity of language, rather than similarity of authorship, in the three documents (Throntveit 1982a: 215). The absence of Greek words and Hellenistic influence might favor an earlier date within this period.

-Freedman: The Era of Zerubbabel (515 BCE). Chronicles is structured around figure of David and his dynasty. Circumstances are return from exile and rebuilding of temple under leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua (parallel to David and Zadok respectively).

-Cross (1975): Postulates three editions of the Chronicler’s History. 

1)The first edition (1 Chr 10–2 Chr 34 + Vorlage of 1 Esdr 1:1–5:65 [= 2 Chr 35:1–Ezra 3:13]); was composed in support of the restoration of Davidic rule, the building of the temple, and the establishment of the cult shortly after the founding of the temple in 520 and before its dedication in 515.

2)The second (1 Chr 10–2 Chr 34 + Vorlage of 1 Esdras [2 Chr 35:1–36:23; Ezra 1–10; Neh 8; and the story of Zerubbabel’s wisdom and piety in 1 Esdr 3:1–5:6]), was written after Ezra’s mission, in 450.

3)The final edition (1–2 Chr; Ezra-Neh), dated to 400 or a little later, incorporated the genealogies of 1 Chr 1–9 and the Nehemiah Memoirs, but suppressed the title “servant of the Lord” for Zerubbabel in Ezra 6:7 and the story of Zerubbabel’s wisdom and piety (= 1 Esdr 3:1–5:6). The 400 date is established by the Davidic genealogy in 1 Chr 3:17–24, the reference to Darius II (423–404) in Neh 12:22, and the references to the high priests Yohanan II and Yaddua II (late 5th century) in Nehemiah 12–13. McKenzie (1985: 189–206) suggests that the earliest edition (= Chronicles 1) was based on Dtr 1, the preexilic version of the Deuteronomistic History (hereafter DH).

**There is much debate on the date of composition of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah! Many more opinions exists with different forms of argumentation. But it is definitely after 539BCE and before 150BCE. That much is sure.

V. Scholarly Discussion on Unity of Chronicles and Ezra/Nehemiah

A.)Three Opinions on Authorship of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah.

1) Chronicler's History=one author of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah (Zunz; Movers; Noth)

Leopold Zunz (1832) and FC Movers (1834) proposed this. Noth supports it (1943).

Cross and Freedman maintain it.

2) Different authors; different books (Japhet 1968; and Williamson 1977; Knoppers 2003)

3) Same author; different books (Willi 1972; Welten 1973)

B.) Issues considered in this debate.

1) Doublet and 1 Esdras

a) Doublet (2 Chr 36:22–3 = Ezra 1:1–3a)

b) 1 Esdras = 2 Chr 35–6 + Ezra 1–10 + Neh 8

•Unity: End of Chronicles = Start of Ezra (2 Chr 36:22–3 = Ezra 1:1–3a). Haran states that this doublet is integral to both Chronicles and Ezra.

Disunity: In response to the Doublet–True, but may be later addition to tie them together or that Ezra was written as a sequel, but it does not demand a common author. Disunity: In response to to 1 Esdras–Again, it shows that someone thought of them as going together, but it does not mean that they have the same author.

•Freedman states that the doublet is there to remind the reader that Ezra is a continuation of Chronicles, since Chronicles and Ezra/Nehemiah do not appear next to each other in manuscripts (e.g., Leningrad Codex, Chronicles is in beginning of Writings and Ezra is at the end of Writings).

•It is clear that a connection exists between the books, but it is not completely apparent that they were one continuous story or that they were written by one author (Knoppers). In other words, is the apparent connection original or secondary? (Knoppers)

2) Linguistic similarities or differences?

Similarity: Zunz (1832), Kropat (1909), Driver (1914), and Curtis & Madsen (1910) say that Chronicles, Ezra/Nehehmiah exhibit common style, phraseology, and diction.


–But Japhet (1968) showed many orthographic, linguistic, and stylistic oppositions:

–E.g., Chr consistently uses short form in consecutive preterite of 3-w/y verbs, except for 1cs, even when DH has the unshortened form. Whereas in Ezr-Neh the short and long forms are in free variation. 

–Also, Williamson (1977) showed that supposed linguistic similarities are mostly irrelevant or favor diversity of authorship.

•Cross (1975) and Polzin (1976) argued that it is an issue of scribal transmission, not authorship.

•Mosis (1973) argued that Japhet didn’t adequately distinguish between Chr, his sources, and later additions.

•Seems to be at a stalemate: linguistics prove neither identity nor diversity of authorship.

3) Ideology

•Similarity: Lunz says same point of view, 

a) Common interest in geneologies, lists, Jerusalem, centrality of Temple, details of cultic affairs (sacrifices, feasts, and festivals, priest & Levites).

b) neither Chronicles, nor Ezra/Nehemiah focus on Exodus; both mention it briefly (Knoppers)

c) Japhet/Williamson claim that Chronicles focuses on David while Ezra/Nehemiah do not; But Knoppers explains that this is due to the time period that each book deals with, not with ideology! Chronicles focuses on kings of Judah while Ezra/Neh is after the time of the kings of Judah.

•Diversity: Braun (1979) and Williamson (1977) show diversity:

a) Chr is favorable to the northern tribes joining the south, whereas Ezra-Neh oppose the Samaritans.

b) Emphasis on prophets in Chr, whereas Ezr-Neh mention them little.

c) נְתִינִים are common in Ezr-Neh, but appear only once in Chr.

d) Chr lists mixed marriages with no sign of displeasure (1 Chr 2:35; 3:17), and gives only the slightest hint of displeasure at Solomon's marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter (2 Chr 8:11). Also, Chr makes no mention of Solomon’s many foreign wives that were his downfall. Since Ezra-Nehemiah both strenuously oppose marriage to foreigners, and Neh 13:26 even mentions Solomon’s foreign wives as his downfall, it seems strange that Chr would omit them from his sources if Chr is the same author as Ezra-Neh.

•Knoppers states that there is shared features such as the centrality of Jerusalem, support of priests and Levites, and role of Judah, Levi, and Benjamin to continue legacy of ancient Israel. But the difference in approach to foreigners and other differences probably mean that a different author wrote Chronicles and Ezra/Nehemiah. 

Summary of Opinions: Ezra-Nehemiah and Chr, are they related?-

There can be no question about there being a relationship between Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles as they currently appear in the biblical text since there is an overlap between 2 Chr 36: 22-23 and Ezra 1:1-3a.  The main question, it seems, is whether or not this overlap, coupled with other evidence like their unity in the Vorlage of 1 Esdras and supposed ideological unity,  signifies compositional unity or a later attempt to relate these texts to one another secondarily.  The classical view put forth by Leopold Zunz (1832) was that these texts comprised a Chronistic History and this view has, in various forms, continued to be popular in current scholarship.  While these works (or prts of them) were undoubtedly associated with one another eventually as 1 Esdras confirms, there is no evidence that necessitates unity of authorship and some evidence adduced by H.G.M. Williamson and S. Japhet convincingly disconfirms it in my view-particularly on their respective ideologies (Willi’s view that these are separate works by the same author is ridiculous and is made equally unlikely by the same evidence).  Among the most convincing points are their different views on mixed marriages, Chr’s emphasis on the importance of Jacob as a foundational character over against the exodus or Abraham, distinctive attitudes toward the north, Chr’s theology of immediate retribution, conceptions of priestly offices like the Levites and Netinim, and the idea of Israel as either the entire 12 tribes (Chr) or restricted to Judah and Benjamin (Ezra-Nehemiah).

VI. Historiography & Use of sources such as DH:

*Uses many section from 1Sam 31–2Kgs 25 verbatim

*Omissions with respect to DH

-Omits whatever doesn’t fit his positive agenda (i.e., great king, prepare for temple): 

rise to power (1Sam 16–2Sam 5), adultery (2Sam 11:2–12:25), Absalom’s revolt (2Sam 13:1–21:17), reduces activity of Solomon from 1Kgs 1-11. 

-Omits northern kingdom when not interacting with the south (1Kgs 15:25–21:29; 1Kgs 22:52–2Kgs 8:16)

*Additions with respect to DH

-1 Chr 16:39; 2 Chr 1:3 says that tent of meeting stood at high place of Gibeon. This avoids making it look like God appear at an illegitimate sanctuary.

-Credits sources to prophets rather than to the Chronicles of the kings.

-Mainly DH, but a different text of 1–2 Sam. Differences from 1–2 Kgs may be Vorlage rather than Tendenz, but we can’t know since we don’t have the alternate 1–2 Kgs like we do for 1–2 Sam.

-Genealogies from a variety of sources: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, etc.

-Adds a prayer of repentance by Manasseh. Presumably, he does this because Manasseh's long rule needs to be explained somehow in his "quick retribution" theology.

*Makes use of Pentateuch (geneologies), Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Zechariah! (Waltke). Also cites unknown annals of the kings of Israel and Judah and some lost prophetic writings. 

*In a sense, Chronicles is the precursor to the "re-written Bible" works such as Jubilees (Knoppers).

VII. Historical Reliability

•Widely disparaged. E.g., Spinoza, Wellhausen. Wellhausen stated, "See what Chronicles has made of David!" He went on to say that Chronicles made David into the founder of the temple and of public worship. He states that only the Sam-Kgs contains historical value regarding David.

•Many numbers seem too large to be literally true. 

-Asa defeated an army of 1 million Ethiopians. 

-David provided a million talents of silver for the temple.

•But adds some material for which we now have archaeological or epigraphic evidence:

-Hezekiah’s tunnel (2Chr 32:30; 2Kgs 20:20)

-Neco’s goal when Josiah intercepted him (2Chr 35:20–24)

-Solomon building up Hazor X, Megiddo VA-IVB, Gezer VIII.

*Collins holds that Chronicles is NOT a reliable source of pre-exilic Israel or Judah! Yet, it records reliable historical events which such as Solomon's building of Hazor and Megiddo!


ABD ‘Chronicles’

NIDOTTE ‘Chronicles 1, 2: Theology’

Japhet, S. 1968. The Supposed Common Authorship of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah Investigated Anew. VT 18: 330–71. Available online.

Japhet, S. 1985. "The Historical Reliability of Chronicles," JSOT 33: 83-107. Available online. This is a review of scholarship; she doesn’t advance arguments of her own.

Other authors cited are taken from the ABD article. I didn’t read them myself.

Knoppers. Chronicles. Anchor Bible. 2003.

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