Old Testament | Hebrew-Bible | Study Guide


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Old Testament | Hebrew-Bible | 1 Chronicles | Summary



Chapters 1–9

1 Chronicles begins with a series of genealogies, detailing the ancestral history of Israel.

  • The first section moves from Adam, the first human in Genesis, through Noah and his descendants, to Abraham and his sons Ishmael and Isaac.
  • A brief section details the lineage of Isaac's first son, Esau, in the nation of Edom.
  • The descendants of Isaac's second son, Jacob/Israel, namely, the 12 tribes of Israel, are then listed. The tribe of Judah is treated first and in greatest detail, including the royal line of King David down to c. 400 BCE.
  • The final lists name the leading families in Jerusalem after the exile, including priests, Levites, and temple staff.

Chapters 10–29

The majority of 1 Chronicles focuses on the reign of King David.

  • The downfall of David's predecessor, Saul, is only briefly narrated, and the complex politics between David and Saul described in 1 Samuel are omitted.
  • After Saul's death, David is promptly endorsed as king by all Israel. He immediately proceeds to conquer Jerusalem and establish his capital there.
  • David relocates of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and organizes the guild of sacred musicians to play music and sing before it.
  • A dynastic promise to David is delivered by the prophet Nathan: although David will not build Yahweh a "house" (a temple), Yahweh will build David a "house" (a royal dynasty).
  • 1 Chronicles 20:1 repeats the introduction to the story of David's affair with Bathsheba and murder of her husband from 2 Samuel 11, but the story itself is omitted.
  • David incurs God's wrath by taking a census of Israel in 1 Chronicles 21. This story follows the episode as it is also told in 2 Samuel 24, except that in Chronicles Satan incites David to do this, not Yahweh as in Samuel.
  • David acquires the site of a threshing floor in Jerusalem that would become the location of the temple. He amasses large quantities of raw materials for the temple before charging his son Solomon with the task of building it when he becomes king.
  • In old age, David prepares for the transfer of power to his son Solomon by appointing temple administrators, guards, sacred musicians, priests, judges, regional administrators, and military commanders. He also gives Solomon detailed plans for the design of the temple and gathers large sums of gold and silver to support its construction.
  • All Israel ratifies Solomon's succession in an assembly at Jerusalem, in contrast to 1 Kings, where the succession is contested. David offers a final public prayer of thanksgiving and farewell, Solomon is enthroned, and David dies after a prosperous 40-year reign.


1 Chronicles is the first half of the Chronicler's version of Israel's history. The Chronicler frequently draws on earlier biblical books for source material. What he includes, omits, and adds compared to these sources show his priorities. The first distinctive feature of 1 Chronicles is the long collection of genealogies in Chapters 1–9, which cover the biblical story from Adam to the last surviving heirs of the Davidic royal line c. 400 BCE. These lists show a keen interest during the Chronicler's time in tracing the family history of Judeans into the distant past.

1 Chronicles presents David as the ideal king and true founder of the temple in Jerusalem. Many events and details of David's rise to power in 1 and 2 Samuel are omitted in 1 Chronicles. Stories that reflect badly on David are left out. Nothing is said about the complex politics between David and Saul that led to David's rise to power. The most vivid story of David's moral failing, his affair with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, is absent from 1 Chronicles. When 1 Chronicles 17 repeats the promise of an eternal dynasty spoken to David by Nathan, it leaves out a statement that God will still punish David when he sins. Solomon's reign also lacks the political intrigue and bloody conflict described in 1 Kings. The Chronicler apparently felt that unpleasant details about David and Solomon either should be suppressed or were just not relevant to the story he wanted to tell.

1 Chronicles also adds new material. The Chronicler describes David preparing to establish the temple in Jerusalem. David organizes every aspect of the temple and its personnel, from its physical design and raw materials to its priests, guards, and professional musicians. Only then does he hand things over to his son Solomon. These details are not found in earlier biblical books. They reflect the significance ascribed to both David and temple institutions in the Chronicler's day.

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