Have you ever had the experience of reading through 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings and then being plunged right back into the same stories in 1-2 Chronicles? Why do we even have Chronicles? Isn’t it kind of redundant?
How Are Samuel/Kings and Chronicles Similar?
The books of Samuel/Kings and Chronicles cover a similar period of time. Much of the narrative of both sets of books cover the basic periods between King Saul and the exile. They both provide the history of the kings of Judah, describing their reigns and encouraging the people to remain faithful to God. Both highlight David as being a special ruler and the measure by which later kings are judged. Both sets of books are included in both the Jewish and Christian canons.
How Are Samuel/Kings and Chronicles different?
There is a difference between Chronicles and Samuel/Kings. To begin with, they do not appear in the same sections within the Hebrew Bible. The Jewish order of the books is different than the Christian order (which is based on the Greek Old Testament).
The Hebrew Bible has three sections: Law, Prophets and Writings. Samuel and Kings are found in the Prophets section, specifically the Former Prophets along with Joshua and Judges. Chronicles is found within the writings, along with books such as the Psalms, Proverbs and others.
When you read Samuel/Kings and Chronicles, there is an obvious difference. The earlier books deals with both kingdoms, Israel and Judah, while Chronicles is only interested in Judah. Israel is only dealt with when it has an immediate impact on the events in Judah.
But there is another difference that not everyone sees. Chronicles cleans up the reputation of the kings. For example, if you go to 1 Chronicles 20, you can see where the story of Bathsheba fits but it is not there. Chronicles removes most of the bad stuff. The same is true of Solomon. In 1 Kings, we see that Solomon really lost his way in the final years of his reign. If you only read Chronicles, you would think his reign was a complete success.
Why do these differences exist? It comes down to the historical context. Samuel/Kings was written at the beginning of the exile. It was a time of repentance and reflection of how they had come to that terrible situation. Chronicles was written after the exile was over and the Jews were trying to re-establish themselves. It would do no good to go over their sinful past. They needed to have renewed faith in their leaders. Chronicles was written for a Jewish people who needed encouragement and strengthening. That is exactly what Chronicles does.
The Final Word
One final note. In the Hebrew Bible, the final book is 2 Chronicles. That would make the final verse of the Bible:
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’” (2 Chronicles 36:23 ESV)
In the Christian Old Testament, the final verse is:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”” (Malachi 4:5–6 ESV)
Both end with a word of hope. Chronicles ends with the hope of what Cyrus is doing in the present. Malachi ends with hope for what God will do in the future.