Readings – Week of July 24

SunOf Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience
WCF 19
MonOT: 1 Chronicles 1
NT: James 1
Psalm 19
TuesOT: 1 Chronicles 2
NT: James 2
Psalm 20
WedOT: 1 Chronicles 3-4
NT: James 3
Psalm 21
ThursOT: 1 Chronicles 5
NT: James 4
Psalm 22
FriOT: 1 Chronicles 6
NT: James 5
Psalm 23
SatOT: 1 Chronicles 7
Psalm 24

Introduction to the Post-Exilic Books

This last section of the lectionary, going to the end of the year, will cover the post-Exilic books of 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Esther, and Malachi.  Also included in these readings as an interlude in the account of Solomon in 2 Chronicles is the Songs of Songs, traditionally understood to have been written by Solomon.  The Book of Deuteronomy anticipated that God’s People would apostatize from Him, which He would punish by driving them into Exile.  Deuteronomy 30:1-10, also anticipated that the LORD would regather His people from Exile and restore them.

Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Also the Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And you will again obey the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments which I command you today. The Lord your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers, 10 if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

By bringing His People back from Exile, God fulfilled His covenant promises in Deuteronomy.  God’s People, however, were nevertheless left with several questions:  How could they be sure that they had been restored?  Could they lose their status again and this time for good?  How would God fulfill His other covenantal promises, particularly with regard to the Davidic Kingship and Kingdom?  The post-Exilic books speak into these questions, reminding the people of God’s covenant faithfulness that had brought them through the Exile, calling them to obedience and faith in the present, and pointing them to the coming of a Messiah and the New Covenant that was still yet to come.

First and Second Chronicles provides a selective recounting of Israel’s history to show how God has preserved the Davidic line and the centrality of the Temple.  The Hebrew Bible ends on a note of hope, with the account of the restoration from Exile in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23.  Ezra and Nehemiah describe the return of God’s people to the land, including the renewal of the covenant, the building of Zerubbabel’s Temple, and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.  Such rebuilding did not go smoothly, as God’s People faced persecution from the inhabitants of the land and temptations to assimilate and intermarry with them.  Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were prophetic calls to repent, return to the Lord, and finish the Temple as God called them to do.  Esther described a particular set of circumstances in which God’s People came close to being annihilated but were saved by the LORD. 

Introduction to 1 and 2 Chronicles

Author and Date

Early Jewish tradition stated that the priest Ezra wrote these books, probably sometime between 450 and 425 BC.  Ezra also wrote the book associated with his name, along with Nehemiah, these two books typically understood as a unified history.  There has been debate among scholars as to whether 1 and 2 Chronicles was part of this unified history or separate from it, but there is no consensus on that question.

Structure, Thematic Focus, and Reading Points

Structurally, 1 and 2 Chronicles is quite clear and falls into five divisions:

  1. Genealogies from Creation to Restoration (1 Chronicles: 1:1-9:34)
  2. The Destruction of the House of Saul (9:35-10:14)
  3. The Reign of David (chs. 11-29)
  4. The Reign of Solomon (2 Chronicles chs. 1-9)
  5. The History of Judah to Its Fall (chs. 10-36)

In the historical narratives, there is considerable overlap with 1 and 2 Kings topically, but often giving additional details and a different perspective.  First and second Kings highlights how departure from covenantal faithfulness led to the fall and destruction of Israel and Judah.  First and second Chronicles does not contradict that, but its focus is on Judah in particular, rather than both the northern and southern kingdoms.  These books also focus more on the continuity of the Davidic line and the construction and consecration of the Temple.  The former highlights God’s covenant promise to David and the latter was the touchstone for national identity, particularly in the post-Exilic period.

One difficult thing about reading 1 and 2 Chronicles is the extensive genealogies and lists of names.  To modern readers, they are quite boring.  To the original readers, however, they would have been a reminder both of Israel’s history and key individuals within it, as well as have provided connection points for individuals to connect their own genealogies to the national one.  This would have been important to a people who were engaged in rebuilding and reconstituting the nation.  For modern Christians, the specificity of the names points forward to how all God’s people will be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 20:11-15).  We are in the midst of being composed into the Kingdom of God.

Detailed Outline of 1-2 Chronicles

The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem

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