Introduction to I Chronicles
The two books of Chronicles, like the two books of Samuel and the two books of Kings, were originally one book. I Chronicles deals mainly with the reign of David, substantially paralleling but abbreviating Samuel’s accounts. II Chronicles begins with the reign of Solomon and continues through Judah’s entire history to the time of the Babylonian invasion and exile, thus paralleling the two books of Kings. However, Chronicles all but ignores the corresponding history of the northern kingdom.
There are many indications that the two books of Chronicles date from the post-exilic period (for example, some of the genealogies in the first nine chapters extend into that period; also, the note in the final two verses of II Chronicles speak of the decree of Cyrus authorizing the rebuilding of the temple), and this suggests that Ezra the scribe probably was the final editor and author. In fact, there exists significant evidence that Chronicles was originally one book with Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra’s authorship is not unquestioned, of course, but it seems reasonable and is confirmed by almost unanimous Jewish tradition.
Thus, the books of Chronicles were written long after Samuel and Kings, and the Chronicler no doubt had these two (or four) books to select from in developing his account. There were also numerous other ancient documents and records available, some of which are actually mentioned in the Bible. Note for example, the mention of the writings of the prophets Nathan and Gad (I Chronicles 29:29). In II Chronicles the authors mention: “the book of the kings of Judah” (II Chronicles 16:11); “the book of the kings of Israel” (II Chronicles 20:34); and the “book of the kings of Judah and Israel” (II Chronicles 25:26). There are numerous other sources listed, some twenty in all.
Since all these ancient documents are lost, there is no way of knowing which of them were used by Ezra (or whoever the Chronicler may have been). He undoubtedly used Samuel and Kings, since many sections in Chronicles are almost exact quotes (I Chronicles 11:1-3 with II Samuel 5:1-3).
A natural question is why such duplication was necessary, when the four books of Samuel and Kings were already available. From the viewpoint of the returning exiles, however, it was important for them to have a document establishing their ties with their founding fathers, with their continuing role in the plan of God for His chosen people, and with the eventual Messianic kingdom. Therefore, the detailed genealogies and the strong emphasis on David and the Davidic line leading ultimately to the Messiah are again recorded in these books. This theme not only explains why certain events were duplicated but why certain new records were added and why there were many omissions. As far as the latter are concerned (the events of Saul’s reign, the history of the northern kingdom, David’s sin and Absalom’s rebellion, Solomon’s moral decline in his later years), these were records of failure and rebellion which had no ultimate bearing on that great theme which the Chronicler needed to emphasize. The ultimate apostasy of Judah and her exile, of course, had to be included to explain the situation in which the returning exiles now found themselves.
Just as there is duplication in the four gospels of the New Testament, so also there is duplication between the book of Chronicles and the books of Samuel and Kings. Nevertheless, in both cases, the superficial amount of duplication merely serves as confirmation of the historicity of the events from a different perspective and also provides additional information. The net effect of this duplication is to give a greater in-depth understanding of God’s great plan.