(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)
1 Chronicles 1-9; 10,11
1 & 2 Chronicles is a book that details the historical events of Israel from the time of King Saul to Israel’s exile into Babylon. It covers basically the same Jewish history as 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. However, Chronicles focuses on the priestly aspect of this history, specifically that of the southern kingdom which was generally more faithful to God. Most assert that 1 and 2 Chronicles are written in a post exilic time (time after the exile of the Jews into Babylon) by someone who was attempting to show to God’s people their history in order to reaffirm their original purpose in the God with which they had entered into covenant with.
With this in mind the author of both first and second Chronicles has traditionally been held to be Ezra, the Jew who was a Babylonian scribe who helped lead thousands back to Israel from exile. So the historical situation that this book is in is one of restoration and reconciliation. The Jews are returning to their homeland and seeking the covenant with God that they had once rejected, leading to their exile. Now that they are returning the author of Chronicles is seeking to turn the nation of Israel back to its original purpose as a nation (hence the various reminders of its past history, such as 1 Chronicles 11:1-2).
1 Chronicles 1-9 is mostly a compilation of genealogies that broadly cover Israel’s history, including the descendants of the major players in the story of its history. Ah yes, genealogies. Most of the time that we spend reading them is filled with us wondering about why they are in the Bible. We may think that they once served a purpose to different people with a different purpose other than ours, but much of the Bible is written this way. Its message was written in a way that is not our own to a people whose culture was not our own. And yet nonetheless the truth that it asserts and points to is just the same today as it was when any of the books of the Bible were written.
So what is the point of having nine chapters of genealogies in the beginning of a historical narrative? While there is more to say about it than there is time to get into, basically, the beginning of this collection of genealogies functions to defend the Davidic claim of rulership against others who were claiming the right to rule over Judah and Jerusalem at the time. The Jews who returned to Israel were surrounded by many people who threatened their existence in that land. They were having an identity crisis, and their very existence as God’s people was in need of solidification. Apparently other rulers, including other Jewish tribes, threatened the proper Davidic line of rulership in Israel, hence the need for the Davidic line explained in the beginning of the genealogies to be reinforced. This is not just a fight for one tribe to have power in the kingdom: Keep in mind that God’s promises of a Jewish messiah were intrinsically tied to the Davidic line, and were a reflection of David himself. However, on top of all of this, not only is the Davidic right to rule asserted, but the proper worship of God in the temple is seen to be enforced through the proper Davidic line of leadership. So in a nutshell the overall point of this genealogy is to reinforce the temple focused Davidic messianism. The promise of the Jewish messiah that the prophets had been talking about since before the exile is once again reaffirmed right here in this seemingly insignificant set of genealogies.
So what does this have to do with us? What I notice is that despite it all, God is faithful. He is faithful to do what He has promised to do, even in the midst of disaster. He promised to ultimately redeem the Jews through a messiah. And here, even though the kingdom of Israel fell apart and other nations and people threaten Israel’s existence, God still holds true just the same and maintains His messianic promise.
If anything we can have confidence in the fact that God is faithful; He will do what He said He will do, in us and in His church as a whole. Most notably, Jesus said that the church would do greater things than He did after He was gone. There is no reason that we should not hold God to that. Also, we can be certain that the same God who disciplined and guided His people Israel, disciplines and guides His people, the church, today.