Why does 1st and 2nd Samuel/Kings read so differently than 1st and 2nd Chronicles?

The Author of Samuel/Kings

The first thing you need to know when you read Chronicles and Kings is that each author of these diverse books had dissimilar agendas because they were answering different questions. The writer of Samuel/Kings doesn’t hesitate to show the political ruin and personal failings of King Saul, David, and Solomon. The books of Chronicles do not do this. For the creator of Samuel/Kings, these kings (and their successors) are deeply flawed. This source tells the story of all of the northern and southern kings, and finds something very bad to say about nearly every single one of them.

scribesFor the author of Samuel/Kings, horrible leadership is the reason why the nation split into competing northern and southern kingdoms and why both groups were eventually taken captive by powerful nations, Israel by Assyria in 721 and Judah by Babylon in 586. Much, if not all, of Samuel and Kings was already written before the exile. Nephi mentions that an account of the kings down to Zedekiah was on the Brass Plates (1 Nephi 5:12-13) that he possessed. Samuel and Kings were edited while the Israelites were in exile in Babylon (sixth century B.C.) and probably amended and updated to reflect what we have in our Bible sometime after they came back to Jerusalem (late sixth to fifth century B.C.). The pressing question for this writer was, “How did we wind up in Babylon, in exile from our home country, when we really thought God would stay with us and defend us no matter what? What have we done as a people to justify this sort of treatment?” The author explains to the reader why these peoples wound up as captives in a foreign land: They rejected Jehovah, and since God is just, they deserved what they exactly what they received.

Chronicles

scribes-2The author of Chronicles covers the same time period as covered in Kings, yet this author does not include the northern kings in the story. Was this author lazy? Did this author not have access to this material? No, rather, the author of this text focused solely on the southern kingdom, the kingdom that went into exile in Babylon, survived, and came back. By the time this version of the story of the kings is written, the kingdom to the north was a distant memory. The 10 tribes of Israel were lost, scattered by Assyrian might. Judah is all that was left, and to this writer, this is all that matters.

This source asks the question, “Since the exile into Babylon, are we still God’s people? Do we have a future?” The answer to the chronicler is a resounding yes! The throne of God will survive (1 Chronicles 17:14), this dynasty isn’t David’s dynasty (as recorded in Samuel/Kings), it is God’s! We don’t have a man on the throne right now (5th century B.C.), but in God’s time, things will work out. Chronicles is a book molding a vision for the future – a future that is bright because the people this text was written to are God’s people, and he has not forgotten them!

Notes

Marc Zvi Brettler, How to read the Bible, The Jewish Publication Society, 2005, p. 129-136

Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the problem of the Old Testament, Baker Academic, 2005, p. 82-84

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About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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