Book of 1 Chronicles
A history from Saul through David written for the Jews after their exile
By an unknown chronicler, possibly Ezra, the priest who came out of exile
As the Jews return from their Babylonian captivity exile to their parents’ and grandparents’ homeland in Judah, all are excited by the prospect of renewing the people’s covenant with the Lord.
GOD’s Chosen Nation
Many generations have passed since the people enjoyed the freedom of ruling their own nation and worshiping their own God in Jerusalem.
They aren’t even known as Israelites anymore—the Babylonians have renamed them the “Jews.” These Jews have been oppressed by the pagan rule of the Babylonians and kept from worshiping the Lord in Jerusalem.
Now their God has given them the opportunity to return home, though the Jews have been separated from much of their own history and many of their traditions by the exile in Babylon.
As their leaders and priests begin to rebuild Jerusalem, her temple and her government, the author, known as the chronicler, wants to remind his fellow Jews of their position as God’s people.
The Lord chose them out of all of Adam’s descendants, their neighbors, their allies, and their enemies as His nation. Now the Jews must remember their ancestors, the Israelites, and learn from their mistakes; they must remember their covenant and follow God’s commands.
From David and Solomon’s Focus To The Focus Of The Jews
Fondly does the chronicler remember the stories of Israel’s two greatest kings, David and Solomon. Both were men of God who furthered Israel’s dedication to the Lord.
David dedicated his reign to drafting the plans for the temple. Solomon put those plans to work, building a most magnificent temple.
As they focused on God when ruling the nation and leading the religion, so must the Jews now focus as they rebuild Israel’s government and her temple.
Rebuilding Jerusalem’s Glory
Also the chronicler remembers the examples of Israel’s later Judean kings—kings such as Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah—who reformed the political and religious practices of the wayward and returned Judah to proper observation of the law and worship of the Lord.
As the Jews now begin the arduous work of returning Jerusalem to her glory, they must remember these kings’ stories and adopt their zeal for right worship and practice.
Remembering GOD And Ancestral Works
What the chronicler is recording for his people is a history of Israel from their first ancestor to the end of their Babylonian exile. This history reminds the Jews of their ancient status as God’s chosen nation and of their illustrious ancestors’ work to form the nation.
1 Chronicles 2:35
Although many of the Jews’ female ancestors are influential in the development of the nation of Israel — women such as Rahab, Jael, and Deborah who perform feats even men are too faint of heart to accomplish — the men are the ones who build wealth and power over the generations. Because of the way inheritances work, only a son can continue his family’s lineage.
When a father dies, his property is divided among his sons, with the first son inheriting a double portion of the assets. Daughters are typically married off and take on the identities of their husbands’ families; so when a man dies without any sons, his family line ends and his assets are disbursed to the nearest male relatives.
1 Chronicles 3:1
The tradition of firstborn rights in inheritance and genealogy is often the norm in the ancient world, but God sees fit to rearrange customs and alter expectations. In such an important listing of Israel like the book of Chronicles — which marks out in detail the Israelite people all the way to Adam — Jacob’s firstborn Reuben is not mentioned until the third spot!
The genealogy starts in chapter 4 with Judah and then moves to Simeon, Reuben, Gad, Manasseh, and Levi. The prominence of David from Judah’s line goes back to the Genesis stories that told of how Reuben, Simeon, and Levi all committed horrible sins that removed them from royal contention and headship over their brothers, who would later become twelve tribal groups.
In a way, everything in Chronicles (from ancestry lists to temple building) is set around King David from Judah and his lineage up to the Babylonian exile, which concludes the book of Chronicles.
1 Chronicles 4:1
Each tribe is influential in the nation of Israel and has the honor of being descended from the Jews’ ancestor Jacob, but the tribe of Judah has prominence and power.
From this tribe comes Israel’s monarchy, even though their forefather Judah was not the oldest son and therefore not the one who would have been expected to father kings.
The selection of Judah as the progenitor of kings demonstrates that God is in control of His people even when tradition and convention are contrary to His ways.
1 Chronicles 6:16
While the tribe of Judah boasts the kingly lineage, specifically Israel’s beloved kings David and Solomon, the tribe of Levi is the priestly tribe.
These men are at the center of the worship of the Lord, performing the daily rituals and sacrifices required in the law.
1 Chronicles 7:1
If the Levites are servants of the temple, then why can they live anywhere besides Jerusalem? The temple calendar is set up so that each Levite only serves for two weeks each year at the temple.
For the remainder of the year, the Levites are spread throughout the nation and live in pastoral settings, planting grains and tending flocks just as most of the Israelites do.
But they have one more function. Within the various cities, they collect the temple taxes that each Israelite owes based on the tribal area where he lives. This way the Levites keep all of the Israelites accountable to God year round.
1 Chronicles 8:29
Although these ancestral and tribal lists seem tedious and monotonous, they are absolutely essential for marking identity and place in the post exilic community.
For example, a person from Saul’s line among Benjamin may have positioned himself for the Judean throne during a time of political and economic weakness.
If such a person has arisen from Benjamin or any other tribe such as Ephraim, which is the dominant tribe of the Northern Kingdom, then the scribes in Jerusalem can simply consult the tribal lists in the book of Chronicles.
These lists are not just for noting the “insiders” and “outsiders,” but they also serve the purpose of setting forth a long and special covenant identity before the Eternal One and the specific roles within His nation and people called “Israel.”
The ancestry lists of Chronicles support the one who says, “I am a singer before the Eternal One,” and those who say, “We are guards at the house of our God.”
1 Chronicles 9:2
It might seem strange that the Jews’ genealogy continues seamlessly from pre-exilic Judah and Israel to their return home, especially since the generations of people who live in exile are lost from the list.
But it is important that those who return, who become known as “Jews” while they are exiled in Babylon, are connected to the Israelites.
The Jews are the continuation of God’s covenant, so they should remember the long history of faithful ancestors and use them as examples in building the new Israel.
1 Chronicles 9:34-35
 All priests may be Levites, but not all Levites are priests. Priests are descendants of Aaron, Israel’s first high priest, and perform sacrifices in the temple.
Levites who are descendants of the other Levite patriarchs perform all the other duties necessary in the temple; they are elders, custodians, musicians, assistants, handymen, gatekeepers, treasurers, etc.
All jobs are equally necessary to the functioning of the temple, so no one of them should be more highly regarded than another. Even the high priest is no more important than the young Levite who sweeps the floor every day.
1 Chronicles 10:1
Having explained how the Israelites and the post exilic Jews are part of the same family with this extensive genealogy, the chronicler now presents a narrative about the most glorious period of Israel’s history: the united kingdom.
It is in kings David and Solomon that the returning Jews are to find inspiration to rebuild their nation and follow their God.
1 Chronicles 11:10
King David chooses Jerusalem as his capital for political and military reasons. Resting between Benjamin and Judah, it is not located within any of the twelve tribes’ borders, making it politically neutral.
No one can say that David is showing preference to one tribe over another by locating his capital — and the center of the Israelite religion — within one tribe’s borders.
And there is a very good reason the Jebusite city remained unconquered by any Israelite tribe when all other Canaanite cities had fallen, a reason that further justifies David’s selection of the city: Sitting on a high ridge, Jerusalem is easy to defend. Its very location will help save it from future invaders, such as the Assyrians, when other Israelite cities fall.
1 Chronicles 12:15
Large armies such as David’s require many men and complex coordination. In the battlefield, men are lined up according to what weapon they use: Spearmen are in front, protected by their shields and able to fight other spearmen hand-to-hand.
Slingers are behind them, able to hoist heavy projectiles over their own spearmen and thin out their opponents’ frontline.
Archers are in the back, able to shoot their arrows long distances to attack their opponents’ midline or to infiltrate high battlements. All three are necessary for sieges, but not all military leaders are able to gather so many men of varying skills to their causes.
The size and capability of David’s army demonstrates his power and the peoples’ widespread support of him.
1 Chronicles 13:4
Having been established as the king over Israel, David’s first act is to ensure proper religious practice for his nation. He decides to make Jerusalem the center of both political and religious power in Israel by moving the chest containing Moses’ covenant there.
Since God dwells wherever it is, moving the covenant chest to Jerusalem should move God’s presence to Jerusalem. As long as it remains in Jerusalem, Jerusalem is more than just the average national capital — it is God’s holy city.
If anyone chooses to wage war against David and his city, then that person fights God.
1 Chronicles 14:8
David is obviously God’s man. The blessings God pours out on David are apparent: he is experienced in political and military success, his family rapidly expands, and his massive building projects are visible everywhere.
1 Chronicles 17:1
After David moves the covenant chest to Jerusalem, Israel has two places of worship and two high priests. One is with the chest in Jerusalem, and the other is at the congregation tent in Gibeon.
Although David intends to build a temple in Jerusalem and reunite the covenant chest and the congregation tent, that one worship center will not be built until his son, Solomon, is king.
1 Chronicles 17:15
God is clever! David comes to Him, asking to build Him a house, but God turns it around on the king. God uses the opportunity to talk about something more important than a house with four walls; instead, He wants to talk about David’s house — David’s monarchy.
This promise gives the Jews the inspiration they need as they rebuild the temple. Certainly buildings are fleeting, for even Solomon’s glorious temple that David draws the plans for is destroyed.
But God’s promise remains. David’s descendants continue to lead His people, just as He has led the Jews back from Babylon.
1 Chronicles 18:12
These weren’t just any surrounding nations; these nations each have long histories as adversaries of Israel. Edom, descended from Jacob’s older brother Esau, lost any chance of being God’s chosen people when Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for stew.
Moab and Ammon were formed by the descendants of an incestuous relationship between Abraham’s nephew Lot and Lot’s daughters.
The Philistines, although not related to the Israelites, were frequent enemies whose military prowess threatened Israelite tribes on many occasions. And the Amalekites, also descended from Esau, were almost constant enemies of the Israelites, employing ruthless tactics in their war mongering.
By subduing these nations, David not only secures the safety of Israel, but he reaffirms God’s selection of Israel as His people over all the other nations in the land.
1 Chronicles 21:2
In the parallel passage of 2 Samuel 24, David receives three options for punishment concerning his disobedience. He knows the Eternal is far more merciful than human beings, so he elects three days of divine pestilence.
Sadly thousands of Israelites die because of David’s arrogance in wanting to know just how powerful his kingdom has become.
But the chronicler does something the writer of Samuel does not: he explains how this incident determines where David will plan to build the temple ( 22:1 ).
The threshing floor of Ornan is the perfect spot for it since this is where God stops the hand of the heavenly messenger from destroying Jerusalem.
1 Chronicles 23:3
The Israelites can now be blessed by David’s organization in two ways.
- First, as they begin rebuilding the temple, his preparations are practical: they explain what tools and artisans and materials are needed to build God’s house.
- But his organization blesses the Israelites another way: he shows what consistent devotion to God looks like.
Even though David knows he won’t see the temple with his own eyes, he is no less committed to doing God’s work. The process of rebuilding Jerusalem is an arduous one, one that will take more than one lifetime to complete. So the Israelites cannot become complacent about God’s work just because they may not see it come to fruition themselves.
They must work for the advancement of His kingdom because that is what He desires.
1 Chronicles 23:28
This alteration of age from 30 years in 1 Chronicles 23:3 to 20 years of age here may indicate that more workers were needed from the Levite tribe for the temple since the change from a moveable tent for worship to the continual service in the permanent structure.
1 Chronicles 26:2
One of the most interesting and indeed essential observations from these tribal and ancestry lists is the organic and symbiotic nature of the Israelite community. Every person in every tribe has his or her responsibility for the community as a whole.
If certain persons are not guarding the various gates of the city, then marauders and bandits can easily attack. If certain persons are not playing instruments or singing, then the community is without leadership in corporate worship and praise of the Lord and His many benevolent and redemptive acts toward Israel.
In the following sections, the specific lists of persons indicate roles both in the worship ethic and in the military life of Israel.
1 Chronicles 27:25
The exile takes a toll not just on the lives of the Jews, but also on Israel herself. The chronicles of King David are among several historical documents stored in the royal archives. When the Babylonians attack Jerusalem and destroy Solomon’s temple, those official records are lost as well.
Israel loses significant portions of the nation’s written history, so that history remains only in the oral traditions of the people.
Because of this loss of history, the chronicler writes this book for the Jews — so that their descendants will have a testament to the early history and the greatness of the Israelites before they are forgotten.
1 Chronicles 28:8
God has a tendency to choose younger sons to lead His people. This is remarkable! Everyone else in the ancient world is led by the oldest sons; it’s tradition.
But God chose Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, David over his six older brothers, and now Solomon over his many older brothers.
This tendency to choose the unexpected demonstrates that Israel is God’s nation, not the nation of any monarch. God is not bound by human traditions, no matter how old those traditions may be.
As the Jews face seemingly impossible situations, their ancestors’ lives remind them that God can and will do anything to accomplish His goals. He often supports those with a hopeless cause.
Why else would He rescue His people, the Jews, from the great Persian Empire and choose them to rebuild His nation?
1 Chronicles 29:1
Now that the Jews are rebuilding Jerusalem in the post exilic period, they should take David’s words to Solomon as their own charge. They, too, must make their relationships with God of primary importance.
He will guide them as they rebuild His temple and His nation, if they continue to follow His purpose. The Jews must not be daunted by the size of the project before them.
God will use great leaders like Ezra and Nehemiah to guide them through every step of rebuilding His temple and rebuilding His nation.