Biblical History And The Chronicles

Biblical history is quite fascinating.  Non-religious people seem to think that the Bible is entirely made up.  However, it is not.  It is a historical document of people, times, and events of that era.  It is well known that the Jews were very meticulous about documenting their geneaology, and it is a source of pride for them.  The books of Chronicles in the Bible are examples of this:

What does this tell us about the Chronicler himself? We agree with the assumption that he lived in Yehud, probably in the mid-fourth century B.C.E. He was also quite obviously somehow connected with the temple, as is evident both from his interest in its cult and from his extensive knowledge of that cult, of the Priestly and Levitic genealogies and so on. This kind of information seems to imply that the Chronicler had access to the temple and its archives. Those archives may also have been a source for some of the additional preexilic information he seems to have had, such as old census reports, building records, and “prophetic” materials. (63) Adam C. Welch seems to have been the first to suggest that the Chronicler was a descendant of “the community which had never been in exile.” (64) Weinberg suggested that rather than one of the “repatriant” priests who ran the “citizen-temple community,” the Chronicler was part of a preexilic “scribal clan” whose descendants were among those who remained in the land. (65) This is not a tenable option, since there is no evidence of such preexilic clans in places outside of Jerusalem that would not have been among those who were exiled. Further, with all his access to temple archives and records, the Chronicler must have been part of the Jerusalem priestly elite. R. Zadok has suggested that he was one of the temple musicians rather than a member of the ruling priesthood. (66) This is certainly possible, though there does not seem to be much evidence for it. In any case, the Chronicler would still have been part of the “elite.” Dyck sees the Chronicler as a part of “the ruling and priestly classes in Jerusalem” who used “the (imminent or actual) demise of the Persians … to think big.” (67) We have already seen that the Chronicler’s outlook was different in many ways from that of the Priestly writer of Ezra-Nehemiah. In two recent articles, Gary N. Knoppers stresses the fact that the Chronicler’s genealogy of Judah includes many disparate and seemingly unrelated elements, some of them non-Israelite in origin. (68) We have further pointed out the inclusion of Mesopotamian elements in the Manassite list, and Dyck has called this “a lateral ethnic ideology,” as opposed to Ezra-Nehemiah’s “vertical” ideology. (69) Such an ideology would have been impossible in the EzraNehemiah circles; the Chronicler was clearly of a different “school.” So while the Chronicler was obviously a member of the Jerusalem elite, that elite in the late fourth century seems to have been very different from the “Golahreturnee” elite of the mid-fifth century, as represented by the author of Ezra-Nehemiah.

Despite the claim made several years ago by Kent H. Richards that the Persian period “has gone from being described as the dark ages to being acclaimed as the most generative time for the formation of the library of books that we call the Hebrew Bible,” (70) we actually know relatively little of the social or political history of the Judean province during the fourth century B.C.E. and in the period of frequent revolts and wars that characterized the latter half of Persian rule in the Levant. A few coins, some unclear archaeological evidence, and perhaps a few undatable biblical texts are all we have to work with. (71) The same is true for the early Hellenistic period, the first years of Ptolemaic rule. In the Judaism that emerged from that obscure period into the relative clarity of the Seleucid and Hasmonean eras, however, there is no evidence that a division remained between the descendants of the Golah and those of the “remnants.” In the Judaism of the Hellenistic period and later, the division was once more between the urban, easily hellenized “elite” and the agrarian populace, who continued to practice their “traditional” way of life.

These “people of the land,” within and without the political boundaries of the Judean province, were both the object and the audience of the Chronicler. (72) This audience, living in a society that was still to a large extent “tribal,” could easily understand the Chronicler’s message of the basic unity of all Israel in all of its land, in the past and in the present. The Chronicler, as opposed to the separatist, maybe anti-Samaritan, Priestly author of Ezra-Nehemiah, is not telling his “history” from the perspective of the urban elite of Jerusalem. When the Chronicler, in his genealogical “introduction,” lays out the ethnic and geographical framework of his “Israel,” his perspective is that of the tribal, village society, which was very much alive and functioning in his day. The villagers of the hill country of Judah and Benjamin, but also those of Ephraim and Manasseh, were both the Chronicler’s source of information and his audience.

Levin, Yigal. “Who was the chronicler’s audience? A hint from his genealogies.” Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 122, no. 2, 2003, p. 229+.

That is an excerpt from a very in-depth article on the Chronicles that looks at several different points of information.  It’s extremely easy to read.