It is the author’s purpose in the following pages to review briefly the histories of the kings of Judah and Israel, as recorded in the inspired books of the Kings and Chronicles. These histories are given us in more or less detail, and do not read exactly the same in each book. God has surely a purpose in this, and it is the glory of saints to search out these matters, and to discover, if possible, why these differences exist. Contradiction there cannot be, for “there is one Spirit,” and He who inspired the historian of the Kings controlled also and directed the pen of the chronicler.
These two historical books of the Old Testament bear a relation one toward another somewhat similar to that existing between the four Gospels of the New. In the latter we have a quartet of evangelical biographers, all giving glimpses of that manifested Life, no two in just the same way, or even recording harmoniously any single event of that marvelous life of God incarnate, or reporting verbatim any discourse of the divine “Master of assemblies.” The Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are somewhat like the four parts in some sublime musical composition. Each part differs, the one from the other, yet together they form a most perfect harmony, because arranged by one master musician. Each part is perfect in itself, yet requires the others to give the fulness intended. The one part expresses sweetness; the other, strength; another, pathos; and still another, profundity; and each several part is essential to the proper expression of the other three; and it is in the combination of the four that we have the full, grand harmony. So the four Gospels, though differing, are all the compositions of one Author—the Holy Spirit. Each, also, is in itself perfect, yet requires what the others contain to give to the fourfold record that surpassing beauty which every anointed eye beholds in the four Evangelists:each record being perfectly proportioned to the others, they together produce that sublime anthem of praise to “Heaven’s beloved One” of whom they speak.
And He was
the King. In the two books into which we are about to glance we have kings—some comparatively good, and others exceedingly bad; some who made fair beginnings, and foul endings; others, again, who commenced badly, but made a good finish. All, however, came short of God’s glory and the divine ideal of what a king should be. He that was, according to the expectation of the Gentile magi, “born King of the Jews,” and was to the Jew Nathanael “the King of Israel,” fulfilled that ideal perfectly. So He is called by Jehovah “
My King.” And in the fast-approaching day of His kingdom and power He shall be known and owned as “King of nations.” See Matt. 2:2; John 1:49; Ps. 2:6; Rev. 15:3, margin.
Let us now seek to discover, if we can, what are the real differences between the Kings and Chronicles, and their significance.
In the LXX, 1st and 2nd Kings are called “The third and fourth of the Kingdoms.” Originally, in the Hebrew, they were, like 1st and 2nd Samuel, but one book.1 Its opening word, “Now,” indicates that it is really a continuation of Samuel. Its history of the kingdoms is carried on past the middle of the captivity, and ends with Jehoiachin restored to liberty, and his throne set above that of the other kings that were in Babylon—a beautiful, though perhaps faint, shadow of Israel’s restoration and exaltation in the coming millennial day. This, as some one has said, is “in happy consonance with its design.” It is as “the first ray of God’s returning favor,” a slight pledge that David’s seed and kingdom should (as God said), in spite of past failure, endure forever. Fausset says, in reference to its relation to Chronicles, “The language of Kings bears traces of an earlier date. Chaldee forms are rare in Kings, numerous in Chronicles, which has also Persicisms not found in Kings.” The writer of the book is not known. The Talmud ascribes it to Jeremiah, which seems somewhat unlikely, as the thirty-seventh year of Jehoiachin (the last date in the book) would be sixty-six years after his call to the prophetic office; besides, the prophet probably died in Egypt, with God’s rebellious people, whom he so deeply loved, and with whose “sins” his devotion to them caused him to “serve”(Isa. 43:24). On the other hand, as the above-quoted author states, “The absence of mention of Jeremiah in Kings, though he was so prominent in the reigns of the last four kings, is just what we might expect if Jeremiah be the author of Kings.” He remarks further:”In favor of Jeremiah’s authorship is the fact that certain words are used
only in Kings and in Jeremiah:baqubuqu, cruse (1 Kings 14:3; Jer. 19:1, 10);
yagab, husbandman (2 Kings 25:12; Jer. 52:16);
chabah, hide (1 Kings 22:25; Jer. 49:10);
avar, to bind (2 Kings 25:7; Jer. 39:7).”
But whoever the inspired penman may have been, he evidently wrote with a different purpose in view from that of the author of the Chronicles, who was probably Ezra, the priest. Two names, Akkub and Talmon, found in 1 Chron. 9:17, 18, and mentioned in Neh. 12:25, 26, as being porters “in the days of Nehemiah, and of
Ezra the priest,” and Zerubbabel’s name, with that of others, in 1 Chron. 3:19, prove the writer lived and wrote after the restoration. The fact of the close of Chronicles and opening of Ezra overlapping, indicates one common author—as Luke and the Acts. Both 1 Chron. 29:7 and Ezra 2:69 mention the Persian coin
dark (as “dram” should be translated). “The high priest’s genealogy is given in the descending line, ending with the captivity, in 1 Chron. 6:1-15; in Ezra 7:1-5, in the ascending line from Ezra himself to Aaron, abridged by the omission of many links, as the writer had in Chronicles already given a complete register.”(Fausset.) So if a
prophet (Jeremiah) wrote the Kings, and a
priest (Ezra) the Chronicles, it would readily account for the ministry of the prophets being so prominent in the former book, and that of the priests and Levites in the latter. It might furnish the key, too, as to the meaning of the marked differences in many portions of the two records.
1st and 2nd Chronicles, like Samuel and Kings, were originally one book. They are called in the LXX
Paraleipomena, or “Supplements”; in Hebrew, “Words,” or “Acts of Days.” Its real history (after the genealogies) begins with the overthrow of Saul (1 Chron. 10), and reads, almost word for word, like the concluding chapter of 1 Samuel, with this marked difference:Saul’s body is mentioned in Samuel; in Chronicles his
head alone is spoken of. There is also, in Chronicles, a comment on the cause of his death, not found in Samuel, which would appear to indicate the author’s desire to point out moral lessons in his “supplements.” These practical reflections are frequent in Chronicles; in Kings they rarely occur.
There are other marked differences between the two books, and all, of course, in perfect keeping with the design of each—divergent, though not contradictory— historian. Let us note a few of the most prominent. 2 Sam. 24:24 says “David
bought the threshingfloor (of Araunah) and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver”; 1 Chron. 21:25 says, “David
gave to Oman for the place (not the threshing-floor and oxen merely) six hundred shekels of gold by weight.” The molten sea made by Solomon, 1 Kings 7:26 says, “contained
two thousand baths.” 2 Chron. 4:5 says “it received and held
three thousand baths” (its capacity). Frequently Chronicles has “God” where Kings has “Lord”(see 2 Sam. 5:19-25; 1 Chron. 14:10-16; 2 Sam. 7:3, 4; 1 Chron. 17:2, 3, etc.). “House of
God” is found seven times in Chronicles; in Kings, not once. In 1 Chron. 14:3 there is no mention of David’s concubines, as in 2 Sam. 5:13. Nor does Chronicles mention his sin with Bathsheba, nor his son Amnon’s crime against Tamar, nor Absalom’s rebellion, nor Sheba’s revolt. The idolatries of Solomon and some of the early kings of Judah are less detailed in Chronicles than in Kings; Chronicles, in fact, scarcely hints at Solomon’s sin. Nor does it mention his somewhat questionable act of offering incense “upon the altar that was before the Lord,” as 1 Kings 9:25 (see on Uzziah). Hezekiah’s failure, too, is only briefly touched upon in Chronicles. Yet we must not think that there was any attempt made on the part of the writer of Chronicles to pass over, or wink at, the sins of the house of David. He records Hanani’s reproof of Asa, on which Kings is silent; also, Jehoram’s murder of his brethren, and his idolatry. Nor does Kings mention Joash’s apostasy and murder of Zechariah, Amaziah’s sin of idolatry, nor Uzziah’s sin of sacrilege. On the other hand, the refreshing account of Manasseh’s repentance is peculiar to Chronicles; yet no mention is made in that book of the liberation of the captive Jehoiachin.
Kings gives only seven verses to Uzziah’s reign, and but five to righteous Jotham’s. Chronicles, on the other hand, summarizes Jehoiakim’s reign in four verses, and Jehoiachin’s in two. Israel is in the background in Chronicles; Judah and Jerusalem are (with the priests and Levites) its principal subject; while in Kings, Israel, with her prophets (as Ahijah, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, etc.), is prominent.
Another marked distinction between these two interesting books is the sources from which their writers obtained their material. In Kings it is always derived from state records, evidently, as “the book of the acts of Solomon” (1 Kings 11:41); “the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah” (1 Kings 14:29); “the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel” (1 Kings 14:19), etc. Chronicles embodies more the writings of (or selections from) individuals, as “Samuel the seer,” “Nathan the prophet,” “Gad the seer,” “the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite,” “the visions of Iddo the seer,” “the book of Shemaiah the prophet,” “the story of the prophet Iddo,” “the book of Jehu the son of Hanani,” “Isaiah the prophet,” etc. (1 Chron. 29:29; 2 Chron. 9:29; 12:15; 13:22; 20:34; 26:22).
The explanation of all this seems to be that the author of Kings wrote his book in Judah, where he would have access to the national archives; while the writer of Chronicles probably compiled his histories from the writings of the above-mentioned seers, prophets, etc., carried with the exiles to Babylon, or obtained after their restoration to the land. This would make the Chronicles peculiarly the
Remnant’s book; while the Kings would be more for the nation at large, particularly Israel. And if this be so, it would explain why the sins of the earlier kings are veiled in Chronicles, and those of some of the later ones detailed (see above). Being under Gentile domination, they were more or less in communication with them, and they would, in all probability, come in contact with these records of the Hebrew kings. Their later history would be better known to Gentiles, and it would be well for them to know just why they were permitted to destroy Jerusalem and hold the nation in bondage; hence the record of the sins of Josiah, Amaziah, Uzziah, and others. There was no need to record the sins of David, Solomon, and their immediate successors, as this did not in any way concern the Gentiles. It was probably in view of Gentile readers that “God” is so frequently used in Chronicles, instead of His covenant name Jehovah,2 that they might know that He is “not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also.” It is the branches of the blessing of Joseph beginning to hang over the wall (Gen. 49:22). Hence, too, perhaps, the genealogies of some not of Israel, and all extending back to Adam, common father of us all (1 Chron. 1). Note, too, in view of this, Asa’s crushing defeat of Zerah the Ethiopian, recorded
only in Chronicles, and his reproof by the prophet for relying on the king of Syria; Jehoshaphat’s triumph over the vast allied forces of Moab and Ammon;
God’s (not “Jehovah’s,” note) helping Uzziah against the Philistines, Arabians, and Mehunims, and the Ammonites giving him gifts; Jotham’s victory over the Ammonites, and their tribute of silver, and wheat, and barley, rendered to him; and Manasseh’s repentance (that the Gentiles might know God’s grace)—all peculiar to Chronicles. On the other hand, Hezekiah’s weakness in first yielding to, and afterward rebelling against, Sennacherib, as recorded in 2 Kings 18, is carefully excluded from Chronicles. God never needlessly exposes the faults of His servants to the stranger. “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon,” is His beautiful principle of action in such cases.
Then as to Kings, the sins of the house of David in its earlier history are faithfully and minutely recorded, that both Judah and Israel (for whose reading the book was primarily intended) might know the reason of their debased and divided condition. The book gives mainly the history of the northern kingdom, and it is delightful to see that though the terrible sins of its rulers are exposed, any acts of grace or goodness on the part of them or the people are carefully recorded (see 2 Kings 6:8-23, etc.). Prophets are prominent among them, because they had cut themselves off from the ministry of the priests and Levites (which naturally connected itself with the temple at Jerusalem), and God made merciful provision for their spiritual needs by the prophetic ministry of such men as Elijah, etc.
These, I believe, are the real differences between the Kings and Chronicles. They are by no means so easily defined as those existing between the four Evangelists, and I do not profess to explain all of the many and marked variations that have been pointed out. What has been offered in the foregoing as a solution of the question may not be entirely satisfactory to all, but if it affords the reader any real help or clue to further discoveries in this direction, the author’s main object will have been accomplished. What both writer and reader most need in these studies is to be more in touch with that blessed Master who of old, in the midst of His disciples, “opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.”
Ere closing this Introduction, it might be well to say a word as to the authenticity of these books of Kings and Chronicles. As to the first, our Lord stamped it with His divine authority by referring repeatedly to it, as in the cases of the widow of Sarepta and Naaman the Syrian. Paul refers to Elijah’s intercession against Israel; while his earnest prayer in connection with drought and rain is mentioned by James. Heb. 11:35 alludes to the raising of the Shunammite’s son; and Jezebel is mentioned by our Lord in Rev. 2:20. Christ stamped the book of Chronicles with the seal of inspiration by alluding to the queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon, and the martyrdom of Zechariah, “slain between the temple and the altar” (Matt. 23:35)—”altar and temple,” (Luke).
The histories as given in these books are likewise confirmed by both Egyptian and Assyrian monumental records; Rehoboam being represented on the former, and Omri, Jehu, Menahem, Hoshea and Hezekiah on the inscriptions of the Assyrian Tiglath-pileser, Sargon, Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon. But Scripture, like its great subject, Christ, neither receives nor requires “testimony from men.” The monuments do not prove Scripture to be true; it is only proved, when they agree with the Bible, that
they are true, and not lies. As we read God’s word, “we believe and are sure,” because “holy men of God,” who wrote these records, “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). True, it is called “prophecy” in the quotation given, but it has been aptly said that “
history as written by the prophets is retroverted
prophecy.” “Moses and the Prophets” means (like “the Law and the Prophets”), the Pentateuch, the Old Testament historical books, and the writings generally designated as “the Prophets.” And “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man.” So we unhesitatingly declare ourselves, like Paul of old, as “believing
all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets” (Acts 24:14). “And he that be-lieveth shall not be ashamed”—no, “neither in this world, nor in the world to come.” Amen and Amen!
1 “Samuel and Kings, as we name them, should be, however, as they were originally, but one book each.”—
Numerical Bible, Vol. II., page 287.
2 Israel being given up to Gentile dominion at the time that Chronicles was written, God’s covenant name with them could hardly be used.—