The last time I read the Bible right through I was a teenager. It was a bit of a skim read that time. My abiding impression since then has been that Chronicles is “Kings again, slower and more boring”.
So I’ve been surprised to find it interesting, relevant and encouraging, and possessing a sharp and distinct literary construction.
The first half, Chronicles 1 at least, is incredibly upbeat. I mean, it is Israel’s glory days. But even so, it’s much more upbeat than two Samuel, which covers the same material.
You get the sweep of genealogy over the first nine chapters from Adam to the time Chronicles was written. Admittedly to read, it’s one of the more boring parts of the Bible, like reading a phone book.
But I really got the significance of it reconnecting and tying the original readers to the grand history of their people and their land. It’s tribal, it’s familial, it’s saying “this glory you are about to read about is your glory”.
One way and another it’s been my year for hearing the voices of many indigenous Christians. They tell stories of growing up sometimes not knowing Aboriginal or Torres strait Islander culture, because it has been disregarded and broken by the European colonisation.
This is a similar story of gaining hope though rediscovery and reconnection. The Israelites have been exiled, and their culture smashed. This book focuses relentlessly on the messianic line of David, the priesthood and the temple to restore hope for the fulfillment of God’s promises.
The Bible is all about your response to the people, time and place you have been put in while in your mortal body. Responses of justice and love in Australia are intimately intertwined with our cultural and spiritual identity.
I’ve inherited both the spirituality of the messianic revelation, and the original custodians of my country. Both are histories, not of my people, but of my identity, which reward my effort to understand.
So I remember the first nine chapters as powerful, not boring. Just as I’m not European any more, but Australian, by adoption into God’s kingdom, it’s the power of MY God on display. It’s my the fulfillment of my hope too.
David’s effectiveness is depicted through a series of telling military victories. These set up peace and prosperity, show how to have confidence that the outcome is in God’s hands, and show his mortality as he starts to sit out the battles. Ultimately, the bloodshed is given as the reason why he can’t build the temple.
David’s godliness is shown through being a king who acknowledges God as king. I thought the chapter about his leadership, 12 should be read by all new leaders. He is an ideal.
Nation building acts interleave the battles artfully, such as the founding of Jerusalem and bringing in the Ark. The theme is that it works when you place your hope in God’s way, not your own.
David’s messy family life is omitted, even his sin with Bathsheba.
His prideful sin of counting the people is his major flaw here, but even that turns upbeat and hopeful when the place of his repentance is transformed into the location of the temple.
Jesus would say “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things (material provision) will be added to you. That is very much modelled in Chronicles. People are mostly shown as obedient to God, not chasing worldly success, but given it anyway.
Which is interesting, because the restoration of Jerusalem and the temple at the end of the old testament is by contrast quite downbeat. The optimism dries up as its clear that Ezra and Nehemiah’s new Jerusalem is only a shadow of the first one and certainly is not the new Jerusalem the one of Isaiah and Daniel/Revelation.
I read it during a time when I had a lot of stress about job insecurity and frustration with my own character. Jesus taught that he is the king, we are the temples, we are the priests. I found the way those ideas were fleshed out here here powerful and helpful in a pretty bleak time, the last thing I expected.
Israel’s origin story
1 List of Israel’s forebears from adam to noah. A tribal origin story of god’s people, written for a time when their identity had been smashed and needed to be reestablished, after conquest and exile.
2 Jacob’s sons, 12 tribes…
3 King David’s sons, all the kings in his line…
4 Descendents of Judah. An aboriginal friend from work helped me realise how valuable even tiny historical facts can be when a culture has been smashed.
5 Tribes’ settlement of the holy land
6 Detail about the tribe of Levi, the priest tribe. Major theme, this book is obsessed with the temple and religious practise
7 Descendents, biographical notes on the other tribes. The anniversary of my own father’s death.
8 Tribe of Benjamin, mainly Jersusalem inhabitants, relevant to original audience
9 Completes the family lists up to the time of return from exile, the 9 chapters offer an epic sweep through history from adam til ‘now’, the time of authorship.
David becomes King, establishes Jerusalem
10 End of Saul, David highlighted his sin by refusing to compete for the throne
11 David becomes king, his warriors, his founding of Jerusalem as capital
12 How David unified the tribes and gathered armies, his leadership
13 Carrying the ark your way, not God’s way – a sharp reminder to the people
14 David’s early victories – life lived properly is about discovering God’s will more than doing it
Bringing back the Ark – Doing God’s work your way vs God’s way
15 Ark carried right, God’s way, its bought to Jerusalem, one of David’s greatest days
16 The celebration of the ark, a feast, a song about the eternal omnipotent God
17 David told not to build the temple is a great example of contentment, of sufficiency in God. Accepting ‘no’ from God.
Military victories establish a time of peace and prosperity
18 Davids military victories laying the groundwork of peace and prosperity for his son to build the temple. I contemplate ‘holy’ war
19 An example of the confidence of David’s army against ridiculous odds, they don’t imagine they could lose, and the enemy retires in confusion
20 A 3rd chapter of military victories… an oblique reference to David’s sin when he sits one out, and showing god blessing his people instead of him
A place of David’s weakness and repentance becomes the site of the temple
21 David’s flaw, his pride in counting ‘his’ people, treating God’s grace to him as a legacy of his own greatness. The place of his repentance becomes the site for the temple.
22 David makes elaborate preparations for building the temple. He has too much blood on his hands to undertake the project.
The organisation of worship in David’s time
23 A tent is made for the Ark, it is at rest, priests are assigned to shout praise. Writing on Saturday morning after a long week, I shout praise too.
24 The families and organisation of the Levite, priest, tribe. I praise sundays when you are in a good church.
25 The organisation of the musicians for the tabernacle. Ever a priority.
26 List of gatekeepers and treasury assistants
27 List of the military guards for the tabernacle in David’s time
Old David hands over the temple project to his son Solomon
28 David starts to hand over the temple project to Solomon, I contemplate dreams vs. journeys, collaboration, pride and legacy
29 Solomon accepts the task and prays for wisdom, I think about a good attitude to earthly blessing, enjoying but not demanding it.