1902 Encyclopedia > Chronicles


CHRONICLES, BOOKS OF. In the Hebrew Canon the
Chronicles form a single book, entitled Q'P^n Events
of the Times. The full title would be D^n mi '"ISD, Book of Events of the Times; and this again appears to have been a designation commonly applied to special histories in the more definite shape—Events of the Times of King David, or the like (1 Chron. xxvii. 24; Esth. x. 2, &c). The Greek translators divided the long book into two, and adopted the title TlapaXwiro/ieva, Things omitted [scil. in the other historical books]. Jerome, following the sense of the
Hebrew title, suggested the name of Chronicon instead of Paralipomenon primus et secundus. Hence the English Chronicles.
The book of Chronicles begins with Adam and ends abruptly in the middle of Cyrus's decree of restoration. The continuation of the narrative is found in the book of Ezra, which begins by repeating 2 Chron. xxxvi. 22, 23, and filling up the fragment of the decree of Cyrus. A closer examination of those parts of Ezra and Nehemiah which are not extracted word for word from earlier docu-ments or original memoirs, leads to the conclusion that Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah was originally one work, dis-playing throughout the peculiarities of language and thought of a single editor, who, however, cannot be Ezra himself as tradition would have it. Thus the fragmentary close of 2 Chronicles marks the disruption of a previously-existing continuity,— due, presumably, to the fact that in the gradual compilation of the Canon the necessity for incorporating in the Holy Writings an account of the establishment of the post-Exile theocracy was felt, before it was thought desirable to supplement Samuel and Kings by adding a second history of the period before the Exile. Hence Chronicles is the last book of the Hebrew Bible, following the book of Ezra-Nehemiah, which properly is nothing else than the sequel of Chronicles.
While the original unity of this series of histories can hardly be questioned, it will be more convenient in the present article to deal with Chronicles alone, reserving the relation of the several books for the article EZBA AND NEHEMIAH. The author used a different class oí sources for the history before and after the Exile; and thus the critical questions affecting the Chronicles are for the most part quite distinct from those which meet us in the book of Ezra. Besides, the identity of authorship in the two histories cannot be conclusively demonstrated except by a comparison of results drawn from a separate consideration of each book.
Of the authorship of Chronicles we know only what can be determined by internal evidence. The colour of the language stamps the book as one of the latest in the Old Testament, but leads to no exact determination of date. In 1 Chron. xxix. 7, which refers to the time of David, a sum of money is reckoned by darics [E. V., drams], which certainly implies that the author wrote after this Persian coin had been long current in Judea. But the chief passage appealed to by critics to fix the date is 1 Chron. iii. 19, sqq., where the descendants of Zerubbabel seem to be reckoned to six generations (so Ewald, Bertheau, &c). The passage is confused, and the Septuagint reads it so as to give as many as eleven generations (so Zunz, Noldeke); while on the other hand those who plead for an early date are disposed to assume an interpolation or corruption of the text, or to separate all that follows the name of Jesaiah in ver. 21, from what precedes (Movers, Keil). But it seems impossible by any fair treatment of the text to obtain fewer than six generations, and this result agrees with the probability that Hattush, who, on the interpretation which we prefer, belongs to the fourth gene-ration from Zerubbabel, was a contemporary of Ezra (Ezra viii. 2). Thus the Chronicler lived at least two generations after Ezra. With this it accords very well that in Nehemiah five generations of high priests are enumerated from Joshua (xii. 10, sqq.), and that the last name is that of Jaddua, who, as we know from Josephus, was a contem-porary of Alexander the Great. That the chronicler wrote after the fall of the Persian monarchy has been argued by Ewald and others from the use of the title King of Persia (1 Chron. xxxvi. 23). What seems to be certain and important for a right estimate of the book is that the author lived a considerable time after Ezra, and stood

entirely under the influence of the religious institutions of the new theocracy. This standpoint determined the nature of his interest in the early history of his people.
The true importance of Hebrew history had always centred in the fact that this petty nation was the people of Jehovah, the spiritual God. The tragic interest which distinguishes the annals of Israel from the forgotten history of Moab or Damascus lies wholly in that long contest which finally vindicated the reality of spiritual things and the supremacy of Jehovah's purpose, in the political ruin of the nation which was the faithless depositary of these sacred truths. After the Captivity it was impossible to write the history of Israel's fortunes otherwise than in a spirit of religious pragmatism. But within the limits of the religious conception of the plan and purpose of the Hebrew history more than one point of view might be taken up. The book of Kings looks upon the history in the spirit of the prophets—in that spirit which is still echoed by Zechariah (i. 5, 6): " Your fathers, where are they 1 and the prophets, could they live for ever 1 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers ? so that they turned and said, Like as Jehovah of hosts thought to do unto us ... so hath he dealt with us." But long before the Chronicler wrote the last spark of prophecy was extinct. The New Jerusalem of Ezra was organized as a municipality and a church, not as a nation. The centre of religious life was no longer the living prophetic word but the ordinances of the Pentateuch and the liturgical service of the sanctuary. The religious vocation of Israel was no longer national but ecclesiastical or municipal, and the historical continuity of the nation was vividly realized only within the walls of Jerusalem and the courts of the Temple, in the solemn assembly and stately ceremonial of a feast day. These influences naturally operated most strongly on those who were officially attached to the sanctuary. To a Levite, even more than to other Jews, the history of Israel meant above all things the history of Jerusalem, of the Temple, and of the Temple ordinances. Now the author of Chronicles betrays on every page his essentially Levitical habit of mind. It even seems possible from a close attention to his descriptions of sacred ordinances to conclude that his special interests are those of a common Levite rather than of a priest, and that of all Levitical functions he is most partial to those of the singers, a member of whose guild Ewald conjectures him to have been. To such a man the older delineation of thehistory of Israel, especially in the books of Samuel and Kings, could not but appear to be deficient in some directions, while in other respects its narrative seemed superfluous or open to misunderstanding, as for example by recording, and that without condemnation, things inconsistent with the Penta-teuchal law. The history of the ordinances of worship holds a very small place in the older record. Jerusalem and the Temple have not that central place in the book of Kings which they occupied in the minds of the Jewish community after the Exile. Large sections of the old history are de-voted to the religion and politics of the ten tribes, which are altogether unintelligible and uninteresting when measured by a strictly Levitical standard; and in general the whole problems and struggles of the prophetic period turn on points which had ceased to be cardinal in the life of the New Jerusalem, which was no longer called to decide between the claims of the Word of Jehovah and the exigencies of political affairs and social customs, and which could not comprehend that men absorbed in deeper spiritual contests had no leisure for the niceties of Levitical legisla-tion. Thus there seemed to be room for a new history, which should confine itself to matters still interesting to the theocracy of Zion, keeping Jerusalem and the Temple in the foreground, and developing the divine pragmatism of the history, not so much with reference to the prophetic word as to the fixed legislation of the Pentateuch, so that the whole narrative might be made to teach that the glory of Israel lies in the observance of the divine law and ritual.
For the sake of systematic completeness the author begins with Adam, as is the custom with later Oriental writers. But he had nothing to add to the Pentateuch, and the period from Moses to David contained little that served his purpose. He, therefore, contracts the early history into a series of genealogies, which were doubtless by no means the least interesting part of his work at a time when every Israelite was concerned to prove the purity of his Hebrew descent (cf. Ezra ii. 59, 63). From the death of Saul the history becomes fuller and runs parallel with the books of Samuel and Kings. The limitations of the author's interest in past times appear in the omission, among other particu-lars, of David's reign in Hebron, of the disorders in his family and the revolt of Absalom, of the circumstances of Solomon's accession, and of many details as to the wisdom and splendour of that sovereign, as well as of his fall into idolatry. In the later history the ten tribes are quite neglected, and political affairs in Judah receive attention, not in proportion to their intrinsic importance, but according as they serve to exemplify God's help to the obedient and His chastisement of the rebellious. That the author is always unwilling to speak of the misfortunes of good rulers is not to be ascribed with some critics to a deliberate sup-pression of truth, but shows that the book was throughout composed not in purely historical interests, but with a view to inculcate a single practical lesson. The more important additions which the Chronicler makes to the old narrative consist partly of statistical lists (1 Chron. xii.), partly of full details on points connected with the history of the sanctuary and the great feasts or the archaeology of the Levitical ministry (1 Chron. xiii., xv., xvi., xxii.-xxix. ;
2 Chron. xxix.-xxxi., &c), and partly of narratives of victories and defeats, of sins and punishments, of obedience and its reward, which could be made to point a plain religious lesson in favour of faithful observance of the law (2 Chron. xiii., xiv. 9, sqq.; xx., xxi. 11, sqq., &c). The minor variations of Chronicles from the books of Samuel and Kings are analogous in principle to the larger additions and omissions, so that the whole work has a consistent and well-marked character, presenting the history in quite a different perspective from that of the old narrative.
Here, then, a critical question arises. Is the change of perspective wholly due to a different selection of items from authentic historical tradition 1 May we assume that every-thing which is new in the Chronicles has been taken exactly from older sources, or must we judge that the standpoint of the author has not only governed the selection, but coloured the statement of historical facts 1 Are all his novelties new data, or are some of them inferences of his own from the same data as lie before us in other books of the Bible 1 To answer these questions we must first inquire what were the historical materials at his command. The Chronicler makes frequent reference to earlier histories which he cites by a great variety of names. That the names " Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah," " Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel," " Book of the Kings of Israel," and " Affairs of the Kings of Israel" (2 Chron. xxxiii. 18, Ileb.) refer to a single work is not disputed. Under one or other title this book is cited some ten times. Whether it is identical with the Midrash [E.V., story] of the book of the Kings (2 Chron. xxiv. 27) is not certain. According to later usage the term Midrash would mean a commentary on the book of the Kings. But it is perhaps as plausible to suppose with Ewald that the book of the Kings was itself called a Midrash or learned compilation.

That the work so often cited by the Chronicler is not the Biblical book of the same name is manifest from what is said of its contents. It must have been quite an exten-sive work, for among other things it contained genealogical statistics (1 Chron. ix. 1), and it incorporated certain older prophetic writings—in particular, the debarim [words or history] of Jehu the son of Hanani (2 Chron. xx. 34, where for " who is mentioned in " read " which was copied into ") and the vision of Isaiah (2 Chron. xxxii. 32). Now it is noticeable that where the Chronicler does not cite this com-prehensive work at the close of a king's reign he generally refers to some special authority which bears the name of a prophet (2 Chron. ix. 29 ; xii. 15, &c). But the book of the Kings and a special prophetic writing are not cited for the same reign. It is therefore highly probable that in other cases than those of Isaiah and Jehu the writings of or about prophets which are cited in Chronicles were known to the author only as parts of the great book of Kings. Even 2 Chron. xxxiii. 18, 19, where the English version departs from the received Hebrew text, but probably expresses the correct reading, seems rather to confirm than to oppose this conclusion, which is now disputed by very few scholars except in the case of Isaiah's history of Uzziah, 2 Chron. xxvi. 22. The general conclusion is that it is very doubtful whether the chronicler used any his-torical work now lost with the exception of the book of Kings. Even his genealogical lists may have been wholly derived from that work (1 Chron. ix. 1), though for these he may also have had other materials at command.
Now we know that the two chief sources of the canonical book of Kings were entitled Annals [" events of the times "] of the Kings of Israel and Judah respectively. That the lost source of the Chronicles was not independent of these works at once appears probable both from the nature of the case and from the close and often verbal parallelism between many sections of the two Biblical narratives. But while the canonical book of Kings had separate sources for the northern and southern kingdoms, the source of Chronicles was a history of the two kingdoms combined, and so, no doubt, was a more recent work in great measure extracted from the older annals. Yet it contained also matter not derived from these works, for it is pretty clear from 2 Kings xxi. 17 that the Annals of the Kings of Judah gave no account of Manasseh's repentance, which, according to 2 Chron. xxxiii. 18, 19, was narrated in the great book of the Kings of Israel. It was formerly the opinion of Bertheau, and is still maintained by Keil, that the paral-lelisms of Chronicles with Samuel and Kings are sufficiently explained by the ultimate common source from which both narratives drew. But most critics hold that the Chronicler also drew directly from the canonical books of Samuel and Kings as he unquestionably did from the Pentateuch. This opinion is probable in Itself, as the earlier books of the Old Testament cannot have been unknown to the author ; and perhaps the critical analysis of the canonical book of Kings is already far enough advanced to enable us to say that in some of the parallelpassages the Chronicler uses words which were not written in the annals but by the author of Kings himself. In particular Chronicles agrees with Kings in those short notes of the moral character of individual monarchs which can hardly be ascribed to an earlier hand than that of the final author of the latter book. It is. of course, possible, as Bertheau points out, that the author of the chief source of Chronicles already used our canonical book of Kings; and in general the connections of the successive Historical books which preceded the present canonical
histories are sufficiently complex to make it very unwise to indulge in positive assertions on a matter in which so many possibilities may be suggested. Those critics who have a low opinion of the historical value of the Chronicles, and especially Graf, are ready to regard the earlier canonical books as the chief source of the work, and to suppose that the author seldom had authority for his additions to Samuel and Kings ; while Keil, on the other hand, is anxious to prove that the earlier canonical histories were not used at all, and so makes the most of the value of the special sources open to the Chronicler. The truth probably lies between these two extremes.
The close and frequently verbal coincidence of the text of so many passages of Chronicles and the earlier books raises a presumption that in general the later author copied his sources with great fidelity. In other cases diversities of statement occur from which inferences unfavourable to the Chronicler have often been drawn. It must, however, be remembered that even copyists at that time were allowed a degree of freedom which modern writers would not venture to exercise, and that different recensions of the same book —for example the extant Hebrew text of Samuel and that which lay before the Greek translators—frequently varied not only in points of expression but in names and numbers, in the addition or omission of details and explanatory remarks, and even in larger matters. Of course such variations must be more numerous and important in the case of parallel narratives which are derived only in an indirect way from the same original sources. If proper weight is allowed to these considerations we must agree with Bertheau that " critics ought not to have charged our author with intentional distortions of the narrative or with inventing false statements; evidence to justify such charges cannot be adduced." Full proof of the soundness of this observation cannot be given without a long discussion of details. As an example it may suffice to take the tendency to exaggerate which has been traced in the larger numbers of Chronicles (1 Chron. xxi. 5 compared with 2 Sam. xxiv. 9, 1 Chron. xxi. 25 compared with 2 Sam. xxiv. 24, and so forth). It may fairly be said that such larger numbers are in general characteristic of a later record. But they prove little as to the idiosyncrasy of the Chronicler, and cannot with any certainty be laid to his charge as an individual, when we find that in the Massoretie text of 1 Sam. vi. 19 the original number 70 has increased to 50,000. The tendency of numbers to grow in successive transcriptions is one which criticism must always keep in view, and which, doubtless, was at work before as well as after the time of the Chronicler.
Variations which can be distinctly connected with demonstrable personal peculiarities of the writer or with the specific object of his work belong to a different category. But here also great caution must be exercised. For example, no part of the narrative has been more suspected than the captivity and repentance of Manasseh. It is argued that the author's theory of Divine retribution made it incredible to him that a wicked and unrepentant king could enjoy the long reign granted to Manasseh. But it is quite plain from 2 Chron. xxxiii. 18 that this narrative existed in the sources which lay before the writer, and the Assyrian inscriptions have shown that what is said of the captivity of the Judasan king is in perfect accordance with the state of affairs in the Assyrian empire at the time (Schrader, Keilinschriften und A. T., p. 238, sqq.).
In general, then, it seems safe to conclude with Ewakl, Bertheau, and other cautious critics that there is no foundation for the accusation that the Chronicler invented history in the interest of his parenetic and practical purposes. But on the other hand it is not to be doubted that in shaping his narrative he allowed himself the same freedoms as wer

taken by other ancient historians, and even by early copyists, and it is the business of historical criticism to form a clear conception of the nature and limits of these freedoms, with a view to distinguish in individual passages between the facts derived by the Chronicler from his written sources and the literary additions, explanations, and influences which are his own. In particular :—
1. His explanations of verbal or material difficulties must be critically considered. Thus even Keil admits an error in 2 Chron. xx. 36, 37, where the Tharshish-ships, that is ships fit for a long voyage, which Jehoshaphat built on the Red Sea (1 Kings xxii. 48), are explained as ships voyaging to Tartessus in Spain. Such criticism is especially necessary where remarks are introduced tending to explain away the differences in religious observances between early times and the period of the Chronicler. Thus in 1 Chron. xxi. 28, sqq., an explanation is given of the reasons which led David to sacrifice on the threshing-floor of Oman instead of going to the brazen altar at Gibeon. But it is certain that at the time of David the principle of a single altar was not acknowledged, and therefore no explanation was required. In 1 Kings iii. 3, 4, Gibeon appears only as the chief of many high-places, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Chronicler has simply inferred from the importance of this sanctuary that it must have possessed a special legitimation, which could only consist in the presence of the old brazen altar.
2. A certain freedom of literary form was always allowed to ancient historians, and need not perplex anyone who does not apply a false standard to the narrative. To this head belongs especially the introduction of speeches like that of Abijah in 2 Chron. xiii. This speech is no doubt a free composition, and would be so understood by the author's contemporaries. By such literary devices the author is enabled to point a lesson without interrupting the thread of his narrative by reflections of his own. Similar remarks apply to the Psalm in 1 Chron. xvi., which is made up of extracts from Psalms cv., xcvi., cvi.
3. A usage not peculiar to the Chronicler among Old Testament writers, and which must be carefully taken into account by the historical critic, is that of giving statistical information in a narrative form. This is the principle which underlies many genealogical lists of the Bible, and which alone explains the variations between different accounts of the genealogy proceeding from a single ancestor. Information as to the subdivisions of clans, the intermingling of populations, and the like, is thrown into a genealogical form. Thus the different sons of a father often stand merely for the branches of a family as they existed at some one time. Of course lists made out at different times when the divisions of clans had varied produce an apparent discrepancy in the names of the sons. The union of two clans is expressed as marriage, or the territory is the wife, and her several husbands are succes-sive populations, and so forth. A different application of the same principle seems to lie in the account of the institutions of Levitical service which is introduced in connection with the transference of the ark to Jerusalem by David. The author is not concerned to distinguish the gradual steps by which the Levitical organization attained its full development. But he wishes to describe the system in its complete form, especially as regards the service of the singers, and he does this under the reign of David, who was the father of Hebrew psalmody, and the restorer of the sanctuary of the ark.
This account of some of the leading points of view which criticism of the Chronicles has to take up makes no pretence at completeness, but may suffice to indicate the nature of the problems which arise in a detailed study of the narrative, and to show that much is to be learned from the book not only in the way of supplement to the earlier history, but for the better understanding of the religious spirit and ordinances of the theocracy as it was after Ezra.
Literature.—Many parts of the Chronicles offer a very hard task
to the expositor, especially the genealogies, where to other troubles
is added the extreme corruption and many variations of the proper
names in the versions. Jerome already complains of this difficulty
in the Greek and Old Latin, and tells us what pains he himself
took to secure right readings with the aid of a learned Jew. Com-
mentators have rather shrunk from approaching the book. The
best exposition is the very careful work of Bertheau (1st ed. 1854,
Eng. Trans. 1857, 2d ed. 1860). There are also commentaries by
Keil (Leipsic, 1870, Eng. Trans. 1872) and Zockler (in Lange's
Bibelwerk, 1874). Bertheau is cautiously critical, Keil conserva-
tive and apologetic, Zockler not quite so conservative. Valuable
contributions to the exegesis of the book are to be found in Ewald's
History of Israel. Rawlinson's notes in the Speaker's Commentary
are not very important. There is a large literature on isagogic
questions, and especially upon the credibility of the narratives
peculiar to Chronicles. Besides the full discussions in books of
0. T. introduction (especially De Wette - Schroder, and Keil), the
student must refer to the very valuable discussion in the introduc-
tory part of Ewald's history, and to the separate treatises of Movers,
Kritische Untersuchungen iiber die Biblisehe Chronik, Bonn, 1834,
(in answer to the assaults of De "Wette and Gramberg), and Graf,
Die Geschichtlichen Bileher des A. T., Leipsic, 1866. Graf con-
cludes that the Chronicles have almost no value as a documentary
source for the ancient history ; but in private correspondence with
Bertheau he subsequently admitted that this statement is too strong
(see the preface to Bertheau's 2d edition). The older works are
enumerated by Carpzov, and in other books of introduction.
Lagarde's edition of the Targum, which is not in the Rabbinical
Bibles, deserves special mention (Hagiographa Chaldaice, Leipsic,
1873). (W. R. S.)


Others, following the Massoretie text, find in verse 19 an unknown prophet Ghozai. So E.V. margin has Hosai.
;: Zcckler and Keil still dissent fi -om the current view.

On the application of this style of expression to the genealogies of Chronicles, the reader may consult Wellhausen, De Gentibus ei Familiis Judaiis qua 1 Chr. ii. iv. enumerantur, Gottinsen, 1870.

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