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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

Reading the Book

The first book of Chronicles has a very simple arrangement. The first nine chapters ( 1, 1–9, 34 ) contain genealogical lists. The rest of the book narrates the story of David ( 9, 35–29, 30 ). The Chronicler's story of David idealizes the king and transforms him into the founder and sponsor of Jerusalem's Temple.

Genealogical Lists (1 Chr 1, 1–9, 34 )

The genealogies of Chronicles represent an extraordinary achievement by the author. The genealogical lists extend from Adam ( 1, 1 ) to the returnees from the Babylonian Exile ( 9, 2–34 ).

The author uses the genealogies from the book of Genesis in his own tables that begin with the descent from Adam to Abraham and his sons ( 1, 1–27 ; see Gn 5; 10; 11 ). From there the focus is on the twelve sons of Jacob ( 1, 28–2, 2 ). Once the genealogy reaches Judah, one of Jacob's twelve sons, the Chronicler arrives at the centerpiece of his presentation: David (see note to 2, 3–4, 23, p. 438 ). There is a genealogy of Judah down to David and his relatives ( 2, 3–17 ) along with lateral branches of the descendants of Judah ( 2, 18–55; 4, 1–23 ). Chapter 3 lists David's descendants, all the Davidic kings, and their descendants into the postexilic period.

The genealogies of the other tribes follow ( 4, 23–8, 40 ). These lists are not as extensive as the one for Judah except for the genealogy of the tribe of Levi ( 5, 27–6, 6; see note to 5, 27–6, 66, p. 442 ). Another interest of the Chronicler was the priestly tribe of Levi and the cult in which they ministered. Genealogies of Saul's descendants ( 8, 33–40; 9, 35–44 ) frame a list of those who returned from the Babylonian Exile ( 9, 1–34 ).

The impression left from reading these genealogies is that the true beginning of Israel was not at Sinai with the giving of the Torah, as the Priestly document would have it, but with the rise of David. The Chronicler's unique appreciation for David and his achievements becomes clear in the next section of the book.

The History of David's Reign: (1 Chr 10–29, 30 )

This section begins with a report on Saul's death and burial ( 10, 1–12 ), together with a short editorial comment on the dangers Saul's reign posed for Israel because Saul was not faithful to God (see note to 10, 13f, p. 449 ). For the Chronicler, Saul is little more than a foil for David, whose portrait the Chronicler painted with the strokes of piety and fidelity.

The Chronicler includes nothing from the books of Samuel that compromise his idealized portrait of David. For example, he omits David's conflicts with Saul, his service with the Philistines, David's career‐advancing marriages, and the political maneuvers that led to his acclamation as king of Israel. For example, 2 Samuel 2, 4 states that “the men of Judah” anointed David as the king of their tribe following Saul's death. David ruled over Judah for seven years before the elders of Israel chose him as king over the rest of the tribes (2 Sm 5, 1–5 ). The Chronicler, however, states that “all Israel” made David king immediately following Saul's death (1 Chr 11, 1–3 ). Among the notable additions to David's story as told in 2 Samuel is the story of the ark. While 2 Samuel portrays David's decision to bring the ark into Jerusalem as a decision made by David alone (2 Sm 6, 1f ), the Chronicler describes the same event as an act sanctioned by all the people (1 Chr 1–5, ,). The Chronicler's account of the ark's entrance into Jerusalem highlights the role of the Levites. David appoints them to carry the ark into the city (1 Chr 15, 11–15 ). Since David also commissioned them to be singers in the Temple (1 Chr 15, 16–22 ), they sing a psalm (1 Chr 16, 7–36 ).

For the Chronicler, David's significance for Israel does not lie in the political sphere but in the religious. This spin on the story of David leads the Chronicler to suppress anything that sullies David's reputation. For example, the Chronicler omits the entire story of how Solomon succeeded David as king (2 Sm 9–20; 1 kgs 1–2 ) from his narrative. The Chronicler says nothing about David's adultery with Bathsheba and the events that followed it, including Nathan's condemnation of David (2 Sm 12, 1–12 ). Similarly the Chronicler makes no mention of the two revolts against David (see 2 Sm 15–18; 20, 1–22 ).

The Chronicler devotes the bulk his story of David ( 17–29 ) to the plans for building the Temple, which Solomon will carry out. This, of course, makes Solomon a central figure in the Chronicler's story (see note to 22, 2ff, OT, p. 461 ) so the Chronicler also idealizes David's son, eliminating the stories from 1 Kings that highlight Solomon's religious and moral failings. The Chronicler's story of Solomon's succession to David appears to be a deliberate effort to imitate the account of the transition from Moses to Joshua in Deuteronomy 21 and Joshua 1. The Chronicler considered Solomon's succession to David's throne as important as Joshua's succession to the Mosaic office.

The Establishment of the Temple

The Chronicler paints the portraits of David and Solomon in order to underscore their respective roles in the establishment of the Temple and its liturgy. Worship, then, is one of the Chronicler's principal concerns. The God who is present in Judah's experience evokes a response in worship from the people whose destiny this God guides. The Chronicler tries to show that Judah's future is dependent upon its fidelity to the proper forms of worship that God has revealed through David. There is a reciprocal relationship between God and Judah. God blesses Judah, and Judah worships God.

For the Chronicler, the Temple and its liturgy were symbols of God's continuing presence among the people of Judah. As long as the priests offered the correct sacrifices at the appropriate times in the presence of a grateful people, the Lord will dwell in Judah's midst. For the Chronicler, the history of Israel was not a series of unrelated actions by kings and prophets. Its nucleus was the worship led by the priests appointed by Moses and David. The Chronicler recognized that there were times when Judah's sin led to serious failures to offer proper worship, but Judah's sin was never fatal. Judah was always able to recover, resume proper liturgical services, and thus be certain of God's abiding presence. The fall of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon formed an unfortunate interruption in an otherwise unbroken history of Judah as a community that offered legitimate worship to its ancestral deity. The only way to avoid a similar disaster in the future was to worship God in Jerusalem's Temple according to rituals that go back to those developed by David.

The Importance of the Temple

For proper worship of the Lord, a Temple is indispensable. Like the books of Kings, Chronicles recognizes the legitimacy of only one temple—the Temple at Jerusalem. At the time of the composition of the Chronicler's history, the worshippers of Israel's ancestral deity were not unanimous in recognizing Jerusalem's Temple as the only legitimate place of worship. There was a temple dedicated to the Lord in Samaria, and at Elephantine (a Jewish military colony located on an island near the modern city of Aswan in Egypt). In telling the story of the Northern Kingdom, the Chronicler does not even choose to mention the sanctuaries at Dan or Bethel that Jeroboam I built (see 1 Kgs 12, 26–29 ). For the Chronicler there could be only one Temple. David built this Temple under the same kind of divine guidance that led Moses to build the tabernacle in the wilderness. The Lord gave David the plans for the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Chr 28, 19 ). No other sanctuary could be a legitimate place to worship the God of Israel.

The Temple Personnel

Chapters 23 through 27 appear to be intrusive in the Chronicler's story about David and Solomon, but they are central to the Chronicler's concern to describe the contours of the proper worship of God. Chapter 23 deals with Levitical class; 24 with priestly classes; 25 with Levitical singers; 26 with the gatekeepers of the Temple, and 27 with army commanders, tribal leaders, and royal advisers. The passages that deal with the priests and Levites are important for the Chronicler's general purpose. Not only is the proper place for worshipping God crucial but so is having the proper personnel to officiate at the rites (see also 2 Chr 13, 9–11 ). The Chronicler provides quite a lot of detail about the people whom God chose to officiate at the liturgy in Jerusalem. At one time, any male Israelite could offer sacrificial worship. Gradually, however, members of the tribe of Levi became the preferred ministers of the ritual. Chronicles reflects a further development. Some members of the tribe of Levi were priests, who offered sacrifices, while the rest were temple singers and assistants to the priests.

The Priests

Although the Chronicler recognized the priests as the chief religious officials, there are clear indications that he did not regard them too highly (2 Chr 29, 34; 30, 3 ). Among the duties of the priests, there was the responsibility to blow the trumpets (1 Chr 16, 6 ), to minister in the inner sanctuary (2 Chr 5, 14 ), to offer sacrifice on the altar (2 Chr 29, 21 ), and to burn incense (2 Chr 26, 18 ). Though the Deuteronomist recognized that others besides the tribe of Levi could serve as priests, the Chronicler makes no exception other than David himself. For example, the Deuteronomist relates that David's sons were priests (2 Sm 8, 18 ), but in a parallel passage (1 Chr 18, 17 1 Chr ), the Chronicler calls them “chief assistants to the king” (see the note to 18, 17, OT, p. 458 ). The Chronicler does depict David as exercising priestly prerogatives: he wore priestly vestments (1 Chr 15, 27 ), he blessed the people ( 16, 2 ), and he offered sacrifice ( 16, 26 ). David, however, was the only exception.

The Levites

The Chronicler asserts that the Levites did more than a few menial chores connected with the liturgy of the Temple. They carried the ark (1 Chr 15, 15 ). They were singers ( 15, 16–22 ) and gatekeepers ( 15, 23 ). The Levites fulfilled all their responsibilities under the direction of priests (1 Chr 32, 27–32 ). The Levites were a type of “lower clergy.” They also had roles that were not directly related to worship. The Levites were judges (2 Chr 19, 8.11 ), prophets (2 Chr 20, 14f ), and fund raisers (2 Chr 24, 5; 34, 9 ).

Temple Slaves

The Chronicler also describes a third group of religious personnel: the “temple slaves” (Ezr 8, 20 ). The Chronicler mentions them only a few times in his history. They were the lowest class of liturgical functionaries (Neh 7, 72 ), and their task was to help the Levites (Ezr 8, 20 ).

Roman Catholic Priesthood

The sacrament of Orders in the Roman Catholic Church is largely a part of our heritage from ancient Israel. The rituals of ordination recognize this heritage. The division of orders in the Roman Catholic Church into the episcopacy, presbyterate, and diaconate mirrors to some extent the Chronicler's division of temple personnel into priests, Levites, and temple slaves. Of course the status, role, and interrelationships of the orders in the Church are different from those of the Old Testament's cultic personnel, yet the concern in the Church for a hierarchy among the people directly concerned with worship is similar to that of the Chronicler.

There is not a single instance in the New Testament of anyone called a “priest” presiding at Christian worship. It is the Chronicler (and even more the Priestly strand of the Pentateuch, especially Leviticus and Numbers) who tries to make the reader sensitive to the presence of God in the act of sacrificial worship led by “official” ministers. For the Chronicler the priests and Levites were those through whom God's abiding presence among the people was evident. The rituals that they conducted were a source of blessing for the people and an act of devotion to their God. The Chronicler's God was not a hidden God. The people experienced God in worship more than anywhere else. It should be clear that the value that the Church places on the liturgy and priesthood finds a strong support in the Chronicler's history.

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