When the Sacred books began to be organized, the Mosaic books were followed by a history of Israel that went from the Book of Joshua to the Book of Kings. Their authors shared the prophets’ views that were also those of Deuteronomy: God made a covenant with Israel, gave it the land, provided that Israel would remain faithful to the covenant. In the course of the centuries, there were more and more infidelities and this is why the two kingdoms, Israel and then Judah, lost their land. Yet, after the disaster, there was still hope. God did not go back on his promise: the land of Palestine and the Temple of Jerusalem remain at the center of God’s plan and the conversion of the people will usher in a new age.
In the fifth century, this hope encouraged those who were returning from the Exile, as well as the last prophets. Then, with Zerubbabel, Nehemiah and Ezra, the Temple and the city were rebuilt and the cult was reorganized. Time was passing by and the Jewish community was getting used to being just a province of the Persian Empire: it was satisfied with having imposed its own identity under the leadership of its priests. This is when the books of the royal period seem dated.
People no longer expected anything from the kings and priests had full authority… There was no interest in the history of the kingdom but rather, in the roles that priests had in it. The Mosaic books were rewritten to put the laws dealing with worship in the first place and this type of work continued until the contemporary period, that is to say, Ezra’s reform. The history of Israel will take its readers from Moses, who foresaw everything, to Ezra, who reformed everything, by way of holy King David who established the liturgy.
The Book of Chronicles was written in this setting. The book is full of genealogies since the religious status of priests depended on their family of origin. Therefore, we should not be surprised by the fabulous genealogies at the beginning of the book. It is full of extraordinary numbers (this was also the case of Numbers with the 600,000 men of Exodus). This history is only interested in the Kingdom of Judah as it ignores or condemns a priori everything the others tribes of Israel had experienced.
Did the authors want Chronicles to replace the previous books that we have mentioned? God did not allow that to happen and Chronicles simply completed Samuel and Kings. They even preserved strange traditions that the latter ignored. At times, they show the narrow-mindedness that characterizes people who live for one or two principles. But they also offer us a grandiose vision of the worship of God, a people’s prayer and the conviction that this chosen people can and must have its own identity. Among other things, we will notice this conviction: unity constitutes both the richness and the first obligation of the people of God, that is to say, the condition for our obedience to God to be authentic. This assertion is still valid for the Church of Christ.
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