THE FIRST BOOK OF THE CHRONICLES.
THE ancient Hebrews made but one book of the Chronicles, which they called דברי הימים, dibrei hajamim, the words of the days, that is, Diaries, or Journals; and, as the Hebrew word ימים, jamim, also signifies years, these books may be called Annals. The LXX. entitled them παραλειπομενων, the books of things left, or overlooked, by the preceding historians, hereby signifying that this work is a kind of supplement to the other historical books of the Old Testament: and, indeed, we find many particulars in it which are omitted in the other books. It appears, by 2 Chronicles 35:25, that these books were written after the time of the Prophet Jeremiah; and they must also have been written after the captivity, since mention is made in the latter of them of the restoration of the Jews by Cyrus the Great, king of Persia. Compare the last verses of the second book of Chronicles with the beginning of Ezra.
It is not certain who compiled these books. They are generally, says Mr. Locke, attributed to Ezra, assisted by the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The learned Huetius, in his Demonstratio Evangelica, has given it as his opinion, that Ezra not only digested these books, but added to them the first six chapters of the book that bears his name, and which he afterward continued. And he likewise thinks that Nehemiah had some hand in this work; and that it was collected not only out of the public journals, but from the writings of the Prophets Shimeah, Iddo, Jehu, Nathan, Abijah, Isaiah, and others. The design of the author of the books of Chronicles was certainly not to write a regular history, but, as we have observed, a kind of supplement to the other books. It is remarkable, that he sometimes conceals the dishonour of God’s saints. He does not mention the fact of David with Uriah, nor the idolatry of Solomon; reckons the four battles, mentioned 2 Samuel 21., but three, 1 Chronicles 20., omitting that wherein David did not come off with honour; namely, his encounter with Ishbibenob. Speaking of the difference of names, &c., found in these books, Calmet remarks, very judiciously, that it is not extraordinary that books, which have passed through so many hands, for so many ages, should have suffered some alterations in dates and numbers. In copies of books so ancient, and written in a language so little known, we may certainly wonder, rather that there are so few mistakes, than that there are any.
The author begins these books with a genealogy from Adam to his own time, which had not been exhibited in any book of Scripture before, but was now rendered necessary in order to preserve among their tribes and families that distinction which was in danger of being lost by their dispersion in the captivity; and to make it evident that the great Messiah sprang out of that tribe and family, from which he was to descend, according to the ancient predictions of the prophets; the fulfilling of predictions concerning him, being a confirmation of his divine mission and authority. And this genealogy now found in this book, (which was written after the Babylonish captivity,) is the only full and happy demonstration we have, that those calamities and confusions which befell the Jewish people at that time, did not end in the total loss of their family registers. But now HE is come, for whose sake these registers were preserved, the Jews have lost all their genealogies, even that of the priests, so that there is not any man in the world that can prove himself to be of the house of Aaron.
The books of Chronicles have been too much neglected by many readers, who are influenced by a false persuasion, that they contain few particulars but what had already been recorded, in the books of Samuel and the Kings. But it is very evident, as St. Jerome observes, that these books comprehend a large number of passages of great importance to the explication of the other scriptures. They seem, however, to have been especially designed for an abridgment of the history of the kingdom of Judah, as the books of the Kings were of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah together. The succession of David’s line is, in particular, the express subject of this history. This first book, on which we are now entering, contains, I. A collection of sacred genealogies, from Adam to David, with the several histories intermixed, chap. 1.-ix. II. An account of the translation of the kingdom from Saul to David, and of David’s reign, chap. 10.-21. III. An account of the settlement of ecclesiastical affairs by David, of his preparations for building the temple, and his death, chap. 22.-29.