What makes 2 Chronicles special?
The book of 2 Chronicles continues the story told in 1 Chronicles, and before that, in the books of Samuel and Kings. But 2 Chronicles introduces a new point of view. The writer of 2 Chronicles is more concerned with the ways of proper worship than with political matters.
In telling the story of Solomon, the writer concentrates on Solomon’s building of the temple, leaving out the less appealing details of how Solomon came to the throne (1 Kgs 1,2) and his later fall from faith (1 Kgs 11). In dealing with the kings who came after Solomon, the writer pays particular attention to Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah, four kings who were especially faithful and dedicated to bringing the people back to God.
Why was 2 Chronicles written?
Like 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles was written to give encouragement to the people who had returned from exile in Babylon. The writer of 2 Chronicles makes the point that God’s plan for them was not affected by the fall of Judah or by their long stay in a foreign land. Though they might feel that their hopes as God’s people had perished with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the writer intends to show them that this was just another stage in the accomplishment of God’s purpose. The writer wants to encourage them to reestablish their religious practices and institutions in the tradition of those who had gone before them.
What’s the story behind the scene?
The book of 2 Chronicles repeats many stories that are found in 1 and 2 Kings, but from the point of view of devotion to faith. The stories needed to be retold, because the situation of their audience was quite different from that of the people who had first read the books of Samuel and Kings. The original readers of those earlier books had lived during the exile and had experienced the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the rule by David’s ancestors. Their lives were filled with questions, such as “Why did this happen to us?” and “Did God’s plan fail?” The books of Samuel and Kings answer these questions by showing that God did not fail. God fulfilled his warning that the people would be punished for their failure to live up to their agreement to obey God’s word.
But the books of Chronicles are addressed to people who have returned from exile in Babylon. Their questions are different and require a different telling of the story. Instead of asking “Why did this happen to us?” the people want to ask about their relationship to the past: “Are we still the people of God?” and “What do God’s promises to David mean for us?” The books of Chronicles retell the story of Israel’s past in ways that speak to these questions.
How is 2 Chronicles constructed?
The book of 2 Chronicles is told in three major sections. The first section (2 Chr 1–9) tells the story of Solomon, the builder of the temple. The second section (2 Chr 10–28) retells the story of the divided monarchy following the rebellion of the northern tribes, but it records only the history of the southern kingdom, Judah. The third section (2 Chr 29–36) presents the story of the monarchy from the conquest of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians until the exile of the people of Judah to Babylon. At the close of 2 Chronicles, King Cyrus of Persia declares the end of the exile, and the people are allowed to return to Judah.
Solomon, builder of the temple (1.1—9.31)
Solomon’s wisdom and wealth (1.1-17)
Solomon builds the temple (2.1—5.1)
Solomon dedicates the temple (5.2—7.22)
Solomon’s long rule (8.1—9.31)
The divided monarchy (10.1—28.27)
Introduction: The North revolts (10.1—11.4)
Kings of Judah (11.5—28.27)
The end of the divided monarchy (29.1—36.23)
Hezekiah’s reform (29.1—32.33)
Manasseh and Amon (33.1-25)
Josiah’s reform (34.1—35.27)
Judah’s defeat, exile, and return (36.1-23)
Solomon, Builder of the Temple
The story of Solomon, as told by the writer of 2 Chronicles, is concerned only with the building of the temple. This construction project is seen to be the result of the combined efforts of David, who planned and provided for its construction, and Solomon, the one chosen by God to do the actual building.
Solomon’s Wisdom and Wealth
Solomon Builds the Temple
Besides emphasizing Solomon’s role as its builder, this section describes the temple’s location, interior, and furnishings.
Solomon Dedicates the Temple
After Solomon moves the sacred chest to the completed temple, God promises to forgive Israel whenever the people humbly pray, turn back to God, and stop sinning.
Solomon’s Long Rule
Solomon’s successes in politics (8.1-11), religion (8.12-16), and trade (8.17-18) increase his wealth and fame.
The Divided Monarchy
After Solomon’s death, the people who had been united under a Davidic king in Jerusalem split into two kingdoms, shattering the ideal vision of Israel held by the writer of 2 Chronicles. The chapters that follow are almost entirely devoted to the kings of Judah and their acts of faith. Unlike 1 and 2 Kings, the kings of the north are mentioned only when they have some relationship to the south.
Introduction: the North Revolts
Rehoboam continues the harsher policies of his father, Solomon. The northern tribes rebel and set up a rival kingdom.
Kings of Judah
“Good” kings are rewarded with wealth, wisdom, peace, building projects, and large families. “Bad” kings suffer illness or defeat in war.
The End of the Divided Monarchy
The period of the divided monarchy comes to a close with the fall of the north to Assyria in 722 B.C. Hezekiah, as a king in the tradition of his ancestors David and Solomon, restores Judah and unites the people around the temple in Jerusalem. Josiah will also contribute to this restoration.
The book of 2 Kings stressed Hezekiah’s revolt against Assyria. The writer of 2 Chronicles stresses his religious reforms.
Manasseh and Amon
Manasseh and Amon do much evil, despite Manasseh’s late return to God. Much of Hezekiah’s work is undone, and Josiah is left with a nation desperately in need of reform.
Josiah is a hero in 2 Kings because of his path of reform. Here, he serves to restore the good that Hezekiah had done before.
Judah’s Defeat, Exile, and Return
The story of Judah’s last four kings, who are all led away by conquerors, provides an explanation for the Babylonian exile that finally came to Judah. But King Cyrus’ words of hope, also found at the beginning of Ezra, remind the people that their story does not end in exile in Babylon.
Questions about 2 Chronicles 1.1—9.31
1. Solomon is best known for his wisdom, wealth, and worship. Find two examples of each.
2. David’s bringing of the sacred chest to Jerusalem made the city the central place for both the political and religious lives of the people. How did Solomon’s building of the temple complete this process and make it permanent? (6.1—7.22)
3. Compare the Israelites’ understanding of the connection between the temple and God to your own understanding of the connection that exists between places of worship and God.
4. Read 2 Chronicles 7.1-3 (see also Lev 9.1-24; and 1 Kgs 18.20-40.) What characteristics of fire make it an effective symbol of God’s presence and acceptance?
5. How did the people celebrate the dedication of the temple? (7.4-10) Why was the completion of the temple such an important event in the lives of the people of Israel?
6. Name two or three big events that you have been a part of celebrating. Why do we mark important life events with celebrations?
Questions about 2 Chronicles 10.1—28.27
1. Why did the northern tribes rebel? (10.1—19.11) Name something Judah gained and something Judah lost as a result of this.
2. Why do you think the writer of 2 Chronicles seems to judge the kings only on the basis of their religious faithfulness and not on their political achievements? In your opinion, what would the writer say about our leaders today?
3. Jehoshaphat’s prayer (20.6-12) has been described as a “model” prayer. Why do you think this is? Compare this prayer to your own prayers and those you hear offered in worship.
4. Read the introduction to the section at 11.5. Which kings provide examples of how God rewards faithful kings and punishes the unfaithful? Is this concept of reward and punishment true in your experience? Why or why not?
5. What might the words of 2 Chronicles 20.20 have meant to those living at the time this history was written? What do these words mean to you?
Questions about 2 Chronicles 29.1—36.23
1. Compare Hezekiah and Josiah (see chapters 29–32 and 34,35). Which one do you think was more important and why?
2. A number of the Old Testament prayers are found in 1 and 2 Chronicles. They tend to be group prayers for worship, rather than private or devotional prayers. What is the place of private prayer in the life of faith?
3. What aspect of a king’s life is most important for the writer of 2 Chronicles?
4. Manasseh was one of Israel’s most wicked kings, yet unlike the authors of the books of Kings, the writer of 2 Chronicles takes the trouble to stress Manasseh’s repentance late in life. What reasons might there be for this? (2 Kgs 21; 2 Chr 33)
5. The Israelites had lost a great deal. What did they still have to help them rebuild?
6. What new thing(s) did you learn by reading 2 Chronicles?
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