The book of Kings presents the stories of the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah at the same time. It “synchronizes” their stories, switching back and forth between them as if to say, ‘while all this was going on in the north, this was going on in the south.’ Though Chronicles presents an account of the same time frame, its story only has to do with the south.
Chronicles appears as the last book in the Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, it is called “Words of Days.” When in the 2nd. century B.C. it was translated into Greek, the translators called it “Things Left Out” (meaning things left out of the other historical books). In the 4th century AD, Jerome noted that Chronicles begins not with David, but with Adam, and he called the book in Latin “The Chronicle of the whole of Sacred History.” That name stuck and today, it is called “Chronicles.” It is the third longest book in the Old Testament. Again, the most important question in a study of this book is: “Why was the book written?”
Chronicles was written sometime after 532 B.C. because the last thing mentioned in that book is that date. That was the date of the return of the Jewish people from Babylonian exile to rebuild Jerusalem and their temple. Whatever message is in this book, it is for those returning exiles.
The writer of Chronicles covers the history of the world from Adam to Saul, the first king of Israel, in the opening nine chapters. He does so simply through geneology. Along the way, interspersed through the geneologies, he makes a few side comments. Jabez prayed and God heard his prayer (4:9-10). Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn lost his birthright because of immorality (5:1-2). Three tribes went to war with 4 ancient nations, and won, because they prayed to God (5:18-22). A half tribe was destroyed by the Assyrians because of their wickedness (5:24-26).
You get the picture: From the beginning of time, success has depended on a faithful relationship with God. As the book progresses, David is held up as the example for everyone else (David’s failures – his sin with Bathsheba for example – are not mentioned). The kings of Judah are compared with David. Those who compare well are good. Those who do not, are not.
Chronicles focuses on God’s faithfulness when his people turn to him. First, over and over are references to the trustworthiness of God’s promises. Second, from 2 Chronicles 10-36, there are some 46 references to prayer. In Kings, Manasseh is portrayed as a horrible King. But in Chronicles, Manasseh is one whose prayers God heard when he called to the Lord. God says: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). That promise will be important to exiles returning to rebuild their lives and their nation.
Chronicles still speaks to the people of God. No matter their relationship, God will not tolerate wickedness forever. At some point, a lack of repentance will bring judgment. But despite the judgment, God loves forever. He seeks a renewed relationship with his people, and they are never so far from him that when they call he will not hear, or come to their aid. Not even when they are exiled a thousand miles away in Babylon. The returning exiles needed that assurance, and God, through the history of the Jewish people in Chronicles, provided it to them. The message remains just as valid for us, who are now called by the name of His son, Jesus the Christ.