Study Guide

1 Chronicles

1 Chronicles Introduction

Today, on Shmoop, we examine the phenomena of déjà vu, that strange feeling we sometimes get that we've read something before. That what we're reading now has already been read.

That's right. If you've been paying attention since Genesis (and we know you have), then you'll definitely be feeling a little déjà vu as you read over this section of the Bible. In 1 Chronicles, the author decides to retell the entire history of Israel from the first week of creation all the way to the people's return from exile in Babylon in 538 BCE. After all, those really long genealogies from Numbers were so fun, who wouldn't want to hear them again?

But seriously, why would anyone want to retell stories from the Bible? Those tales about the prophet Samuel and King David were pretty darn awesome the first time around. If the original's not broke, don't fix it, right? Not quite. See, the author of Chronicles lived about 500 years after the death of King David. A whole lot of distressing stuff had happened since then. Israel had a string of terrible kings, it fractured into two separate countries, and it was nearly annihilated by the big boys from Assyria and Babylon. It was a rough half-millennium.

1 Chronicles is written as the people return to Jerusalem after spending nearly 70 years in exile in Babylon. They're struggling to put their lives back together. Whether they're reestablishing the city, rebuilding the Temple, or renewing their relationship with God, these guys have got a lot on their plates. So what better time than now to retell a classic and inspiring story about Jerusalem's Golden Age when the Temple stood and God was best buds with everyone in town? Ah, those were the good old days.

It's the same reason we still love retelling stories to this day. Think about it. Some of our favorite books and movies are just rehashes of older tales. Easy A is The Scarlet LetterTen Things I Hate About You is The Taming of the ShrewMy Fair Lady is Pygmalion. Heck, even Twilight is loosely (very loosely) based on Pride and Prejudice. By telling a story again in a new and different way, you're saying that it's valuable, important, and still has something to teach. Trust us, being timelessly wise is no easy feat.

So take a trip down memory lane with Shmoop as we examine the phenomena of déjà vu, that strange feeling we sometimes get that we've read something before. That what we're reading now has already been read. Hey, wait a second…

What is 1 Chronicles About and Why Should I Care?

We all need a hero.

No, that's not just a line in a catchy 80's song. It's totally true. People do need heroes. We need them to give us hope, show us the way, and to fight for everything that's good in this crazy world.

And no one needed a hero more than the Chronicler and his friends in Jerusalem. They had really been through some stuff. Death. Destruction. War. Exile. But now they've come back to the city they once lost and they're looking to rebuild. Late at night they toss and they turn and they dream of what they need. They need a hero.

That's why the Chronicler decides to write about King David. In his eyes, this ancient king is the ultimate hero. Not only is he unbelievably handsome (he looks exactly like Richard Gere), he's also incredibly loyal, faithful, humble, and strong. The guy is a kick-butt warrior. A just and fair king. A devoted servant of God. He's the total package. Seriously, the Chronicler loves David so much we're guessing he drew little hearts around his name every time he wrote it.

Of course, this isn't the first time King David's heroic story has been told. The books of Samuel and Kings have the full 411. But their portrayal of him is a little more, um, complicated. Do you remember the time David's own son tried to usurp his throne? Or that other time when he slept with a married woman, got her pregnant, and then had her husband killed so he could marry her? Well, none of that is in 1 Chronicles.

It's not that the author is trying to hide all this stuff from us (he knows his readers already have all the dirt on David and Bathsheba). But he also knows his people need a story that will uplift them and give them hope for the hard work that's ahead. No one wants to read about an angsty, brooding Superman who's struggling to find his place in this world. They need a handsome, confident Christopher Reeve-style Superman who fights for truth, justice, and the Yahweh way.

We all long for strong leaders who'll protect us from our enemies, unify the country and really care about us. Every four years, a few people try to convince us that they're exactly what we're looking for and that God's on their side. We can read about King David and think, "if only…" OTOH, we realize that, as much as we'd like to worship our leaders, there's no perfect leader, that running a country is way more complicated than invading foreign countries, citing Scripture, and handing out free food. We can relate to the author of Chronicles because we're willing to overlook a lot of moral failings and personal shenanigans in a charismatic political leader who makes us feel good about our country. Could the David of 1 Chronicles get elected today? We report. You decide.

1 Chronicles Resources

Websites

The Brick Testament
David's life story retold in Lego form. Warning: with sections titled "God Demands War" and "God Kills a Man for Touching the Ark" this is not for the timid.

Movie or TV Productions

King David
Richard Gere as everyone's favorite King of Israel? Yes, please. Sigh.

"Kings"
This 2009 TV show was a modern retelling of David's story. Sadly, it only ran for a couple episodes before it was cancelled. Maybe God could put in a word with the execs at NBC?

The Kingdom of Solomon
This Iranian film is mostly told from a Muslim point of view; it follows the reign of King Solomon and his quest for wisdom and all things awesome.

"The Bible: Kingdom"
The fourth episode of this 2013 TV mini-series takes us through the madness of King Saul, the ups and downs during the reign of King David, and the start of a really nice temple.

Lost Kings of the Bible
The folks over at National Geographic search for evidence that David and Solomon actually existed.

The Conquerors: King David
A History Channel documentary about the military victories of King David. Hey, it wasn't all dancing in the streets and writing psalms.

"The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible"
You know, for the kids! This episode is all about King David's rise to power. Think of it as the cartoon-y prequel to 1 Chronicles.

Historical Documents

Archeological Finds
There's been scholarly disagreement about whether a historical David or Solomon ever actually existed. This clay tablet was unearthed in 1993 in Tel Dan, Israel. It has an inscription that includes the words "House of David."

Video

Smart Folks Talk Chronicles
A good breakdown of what's up with 1 Chronicles (and a couple other Bible books) from an Introduction to the Hebrew Bible course at Yale. You'll feel smarter after only a few minutes and you won't even have to move to Connecticut.

Uzzah Does Not Listen
King David talks up his plan to move to Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. But Uzzah's just a teeny bit obsessed with touching things. What could go wrong?

War—What is it Good For?
War looms large over 1 Chronicles (and in the story of just about every religion on the planet). This video describes the different ways the major world religions spread through warfare.

Audio

Le Roi David
Take a listen here for the full English version of Arthur Honegger's 1921 oratorio about the life of King David. It's just as dramatic as you'd imagine.

"Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen
The singer "heard there was a secret chord that David played, and it pleased the Lord." Here's Jeff Buckley doing Leonard Cohen's classic, "Hallelujah."

King David: the Musical
Back in 1997, Alan Menken and Tim Rice wrote a musical all about the life of King David. Sadly, it didn't really take off (kings and battles don't usually add up to tons of fun on Broadway). Thanks to the Internets, you can still listen to all the songs from the score here. We nominate Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris to co-star if it ever gets to B'way.

Images

Fun with Maps
Here's what Israel's territory might have looked like around the time that Saul and David were running the place.

The Very First Temple
One artist's rendering of what the Temple looked like. How did he know? Check out the blueprints in 2 Chronicles.