I just finished reading through Samuel and Kings and as I’ve delved into Chronicles something becomes obvious quite quickly: The books of Samuel and Kings were written before the exile and Chronicles were written after the exile. This is fascinating for someone who appreciates history because we have a retelling of the same story from a completely different perspective.
I want to take a few moments and tease some of that unique perspective out.
Who’s My Daddy?
Identity has become crucially important to the Israelites in exile. The writers and leaders of Israel dispersed became keenly aware that Israel was sent into exile because they had rebelled against “God Almighty” who had made a special Covenant with Abraham.
Because of Israel’s special relationship with God (for better or worse) it became important in the extreme to not become absorbed into the population of the people of the land they were exiled in. If they hoped to be restored so that God’s Covenant promise to Abraham could be fulfilled, they had to remember who they were and where they came from. Charting the family tree was a top priority.
Interestingly, it seems obvious that the Chronicler had access to Genesis, Samuel and the Kings (if not other material) while in exile. He starts off with Adam (a la Genesis 1) and the story line is moved forward for the next nine chapters almost exclusively by means of genealogical recording.
The storyline picks up with only one chapter devoted to Saul and the rest of 1 Chronicles to King David.
Was David Perfect?
The first major absence I felt while reading 1 Chronicles was the absence of Uriah in the lists of “David’s Mighty Men”. Back in 2 Samuel 23:39 the list of David’s mighty men concludes with this: “… and Uriah the Hittite.” Uriah was the wife of Bathsheba whom David had an affair with and then murdered. The book of Samuel seems intent on reminding the reader of David’s sin and magnifies it by focusing the rest of the story of David on his family woes which was Gods punishment for murdering Uriah after sleeping with his wife (2 Samuel 12:11).
This entire story has been intentionally left out of Chronicles! First as I already said, Uriah has been completely erased from the list of David’s mighty men (1 Chronicles 11:26-47).
Next the affair with Bathsheba has also been intentionally deleted. In 2 Samuel 11 the story is told like this:
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men… But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing… She came to him and he slept with her… The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant”… David wrote a letter to Joab, “Put Uriah in the front line… withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die”… Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel. Joab then sent messengers to David, saying “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city… So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. He took the crown from the head of their king. – 2 Samuel 11-12
That whole story covers two chapters from the time “kings go out to war” to when David “took the crown from the head of their king”. As the story is retold in 1 Chronicles, everything in between is absent. Here is how that same story is told in 1 Chronicles:
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, Joab led out the armed forces. He laid waste the land of the Ammonites and went to Rabbah and besieged it, but David remained in Jerusalem. Joab attacked Rabbah and left it in ruins. David took the crown from the head of their king. – 1 Chronicles 20:1-2
What Samuel takes two chapters to tell, the Chronicler takes only two verses. Because the wording is so precisely the same in Chronicles and Samuel, it seems clear that the Chronicler was using Samuel as one of his sources; which means that like two buns without the fixings of a sandwich, Chronicles intentionally left out the good stuff.
There is also no mention of family strife. No mention of Amnon raping Tamar, of Absalom’s murder of Amnon or of his coup d’état when he took the kingdom of David, or when David’s other son Adonijah sets himself up as king. Nope. None of that is mentioned. In fact, by the impression of the Chronicler, you’d think none of it ever happened. Solomon’s rise to the throne was peaceful, without dispute and totally assumed: (cf. 1 Chronicles 22:5-19).
Finally, the Chronicler also seems to want to remove the idea that the Lord was the cause of David’s sin as the story is told in 2 Samuel 24:1:
Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”
The Chronicler retells the story this way:
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. – 1 Chronicles 21:1
An odd exchange to be sure (and one I explored here).
Note This Guy
I want to leave you with one last request. Take note of the name Jehoiachin (or if you look at your footnote: Jeconiah) Jehoiachin was the last Davidic king to sit on David’s thrown with possible heirs. When he was taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, his uncle (or brother) Zedekiah is placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar to replace him. But Zedekiah is later taken captive, all of his children are killed (bar none), his eyeballs are gouged out and he disappears from the scriptures. Jehoiachin (or Jeconiah) is the last royal heir to the throne of David. If the Messiah is to come through the royal line, he is to come through Jeconiah. (Cf. 2 Kings 24:8-17; 2 Kings 25:7; 2 Kings 25:27-30 and 1 Chronicles 3:16-17)
This character will become important later, so I just want to draw attention to him now.