The books we know as 1 and 2 Chronicles were one book in early manuscripts. In these notes, the two books are treated as one for the sake of unity. In the notes below, I will refer to 1 and 2 Chronicles simply as "Chronicles".
Authorship and Audience
Jewish tradition holds that Ezra wrote this book. While some liberal scholars doubt this attribution, the similar themes throughout Chronicles and Ezra seem to indicate that one author/editor was involved.1 In the author's opinion, there is no compelling reason to assume that Ezra was not the author.Given that 1 and 2 Chronicles cover the history of Israel from Adam to exile, the direct audience is Israel.
Date and Historical Context
Chronicles ends with Cyrus allowing the first group of Israelites to return from exile. This occurred in 538 BC, so the book must have been written after that date. Assuming it was written by Ezra, it was probably written between 458 and 400 BC. When the author wrote the book, many Israelites had returned from exile to find their land and cities decimated. As they began the rebuilding process, this book would have served as a reminder that God wasn't done with His people yet.
Chronicles is fascinating as it starts with Adam and ends with the Babylonian exile. It encompasses the majority of Ancient Israelite history albeit with a very specific focus. Because it covers so much history, Chronicles ties in with many of the books before it and forms the background for most of the prophets who follow canonically. The last two verses in 2 Chronicles are used to start the book of Ezra. Chronicles is not quoted in the New Testament.
I. Selective Genealogy [1 Chronicles 1 - 9]2
II. Saul 
III. David [11 - 29:30]
IV. Solomon [2 Chronicles 1 - 9]
V. Kings of Judah [10 - 36:21]
VI. Return from Exile Proclaimed [36:22-23]
If you mention the book of Chronicles to those familiar with the Bible, there are often negative reactions; usually for two reasons. First, the genealogies in chapters 1 through 9 and in other places throughout the book are daunting. Second, the it is easy to get caught into the mindset that Chronicles is simply a reiteration of what was presented in Kings and Samuel. Before jumping into the themes, I'd like to address these two, common complaints about Chronicles.
Regarding the first complaint, it is true that genealogies don't make great devotional, sermon, or bible study material, but reading long genealogies should cause us to ask why they are there. You don't have to enjoy genealogies, but you should ask why God thinks it is important enough to inspire the authors of scripture to record them. As to the second complaint, when you are reading the book of Chronicles, don't read it looking for things that are the same; look for things that are different. Sure, some of the content is similar, but there are different perspectives and emphases in Chronicles that make a different point. If you pay attention to what is added to or missing from a story in Chronicles versus Kings, a picture of the author's underlying objective will start to emerge. In fact, I believe that the best way to understand the theme of this book is to look at the unique emphases present in this book and not in Kings/Samuel.
There are three, major emphases in Chronicles:
- Emphasis on David's Line. In the Chronicles, the author only follows the kings of Judah who are continuing David's line. Kings of Israel are largely ignored and only mentioned as much as they interact with the kings of Judah.
- Emphasis on Deuteronomic Fulfillment. In Deuteronomy , God promised blessings for those who follow the law and curses for those who do not (see Deuteronomy 27 and 28). Chronicles emphasizes the pattern of Godly kings being blessed and wicked kings being cursed. Note also that one of the curses promised for disobedience in Deuteronomy 28 is exile (see Deuteronomy 28:49-68 (be aware: this is an extremely graphic portion of scripture) and Deuteronomy 29:22-28).
- Emphasis on the Temple/Priesthood. There is a lot of detail given about the preparation and construction of the temple as well as the genealogy and duties of the priesthood.
Each of these emphases is pointing primarily at one, overarching theological theme:
- God has been, is, and will be Faithful. Chronicles is all about God's faithfulness. It holds in tension God's faithfulness to punish with His faithfulness to bring about His promises of a Messiah. In a strange way, the fact that God was faithful to punish Israel with exile provides hope that God will also be faithful to bring the Messiah. Chronicles is a record of God's faithfulness through Israel's history and an implicit call for Israel to trust in the faithful God.
- While Chronicles does repeat the history found in Samuel and Kings, "over 55 percent of the material in Chronicles is unique" (meaning it is not found in Samuel or Kings).3 This demonstrates that the author is trying to make a specific point and is not simply writing another historical record of Israel.
1. Pancratius C. Beentjes, Tradition and transformation in the Book of Chronicles (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 3.
2. The title for this section is taken from: "First Chronicles," Grace to You, August 18, 2016, accessed December 31, 2017, https://www.gty.org/library/bible-introductions/MSB13.