The Great Chronicler
The Chronicler is doing something else. He is using all of the best moments in David’s story and creating a “literary portrait” of a “greater than David.” The Chronicler had also read and pondered the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, who pointed towards a “new David,” that is, a future king from David’s line who would be the kind of king that Israel’s kings never quite lived up to. Even historical David was not the ideal king, but he was a good start. Good enough that the Chronicler adapts the past portrait of David to become an image of the future, hoped-for David that Israel was still waiting for after the exile.
In this way, the Chronicler is acting as the first commentary on the Old Testament. He’s offering us a prophetic interpretation of Israel’s history that is meant to guide the reader’s attention forward to the hope of a coming king who will restore order and pursue the Lord as David once did, at least mostly. In other words, 1-2 Chronicles are a “prophetic work.” That is, they represent God’s point of view on Israel’s past, and announce that exile and disappointment is not the end of the story. This author is offering the same prophetic hope we find in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and in the rest of the prophets.
However, the Chronicler is not only in the business of omitting material from the earlier stories of David and his descendants. He also adds to them. He had access to all kinds of traditions and archival materials that told stories about David and Israel’s kings that you do not find in 2 Samuel through 2 Kings. In David’s story alone, there are seven chapters of new material in Chronicles that work to further paint the portrait of David as an ideal king (1 Chronicles 15-16, 22-29). For example, we discover that although David did not oversee the building of the temple, he did begin the planning and resource building processes. He’s even portrayed as a “new Moses.” The Chronicler tells us that he received the blueprints for the Jerusalem temple as a “pattern” shown him by God (see 1 Chronicles 28:11-12), just as Moses was shown the “pattern” for building the tabernacle in the wilderness (see Ex. 25:9, 25:40).
This use of David as an image of the future hope extends to the portrait of Solomon presented in Chronicles (see 2 Chronicles 1-9). The Chronicler includes more stories about Solomon’s failures than he did for David. However, he also added new material to Solomon’s story to make him a figure of future hope for those living centuries after the return from exile. Take for example this completely new portion of Solomon’s temple blessing presented in Chronicles:
If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now, I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. – 2 Chronicles 7:13-16
The Chronicler is making a new presentation of old material in a way that speaks greater volumes to the audience during the post-exilic period. These words from Solomon, therefore, are reaching across the boundaries of time to pull readers back to the covenant and create expectant hope in the Day of the Lord’s mercy.
Chronicles is, therefore, functioning as both a commentary upon the Hebrew Scriptures and as a theological statement in its own right. So what does that mean for us?
The book of Chronicles is a journey through the entire Old Testament that makes crystal clear that the story isn’t over. We’ve looked at just a few examples and details. Every page is brimming with more evidence of the future prophetic angle of 1-2 Chronicles.
And this wasn’t just cool theology for the Chronicler. The book’s message has a pastoral purpose: to bring comfort and hope to generations of God’s people who were tempted towards despair, or apathy. During a time when many wondered if God was ever going to fulfill his promises, the Chronicler retold the story of their collective past in order to rekindle hope for the future. As you read and ponder these retold stories, may you find your own faith and hope reignited as we still await the return of the world’s true king.