Old Testament

Are Kings and Chronicles the Same?

Many an English Bible reader has read the book of kings (also known as 1 & 2 Kings) only to feel they are reading a repeat of the same stories in the very next book, Chronicles (1 & 2 Chronicles). I remember the first time I read through the Bible, I was somewhat frustrated by all the repetition. I did not agree with the Greek translator of Chronicles, who calls Chronicles παραλειπομένων (“of the things left out”). It certainly doesn’t feel like Chronicles is talking about the things left out of Kings. What is the difference between Kings and Chronicles? Are they repeated histories that just both happened to make it into the Canon?

Photo of Kings and Chronicles

Big Picture Differences between Kings and Chronicles

The book of Kings covers a period of approximately four centuries, from the death of King David (ca. 970 BC) to the Babylonian exile of 587/6 BC. It is a straightforward historical account that focuses on the succession of Israel’s kings, the division of the kingdom into Israel and Judah, and the actions of the prophets who challenged the political and religious leadership of the nation. Kings acts as the continuation of the book of Samuel (1 & 2 Samuel) and tracks a broad range of historical events during that time.

In contrast, the book of Chronicles covers a similar period of time, but it presents a more selective rendition of Israel’s history. It is important to note that making a selective history is not wrong or inappropriate. Rather, it is simply a way to highlight something important that the author wishes to draw attention to. We do this with documentaries, biographies, and many of our own histories. We too are often selective in focusing on specific elements within history. Similarly, Chronicles emphasizes the religious aspects of the monarchy, the importance of the Davidic dynasty, and the central role of the Temple and the priesthood in Jewish life.

Notably, Chronicles is written several centuries after Kings, probably during the fifth century BC. Chronicles functions as a history of God’s faithfulness to Israel in the past for their obedience, as well as a history of God’s punishment because of their disobedience. This composition is during the post exilic time period, when Israel had already returned to their land under Cyrus the Great. It was thus an encouragement and a warning—an encouragement of what might be possible if they obeyed, and a warning of what sin had brought upon the people.

Specific Differences between Kings and Chronicles

One of the most noticeable differences between the two books is the way Chronicles emphasizes the Temple building. Although Kings does not shy away from talking about the building of the Temple (1 Kgs 6:1), and Kings talks in considerable detail about the dedication of the Temple (1 Kgs 8), this shies in comparison to even the eight chapters which talks about the logistics of building the Temple and preparing those who would serve in it (cf. 1 Chron 22-29). Clearly Chronicles wants to emphasize the Temple being a key part of Israel’s existence. The existence and health of the Temple is a reflection of the health of the nation of Israel (cf. 2 Chron 7:19-21).

Another notable difference is Chronicles’ emphasis on the blessings given to the Davidic kings. Often the book of Chronicles highlights the best of the Davidic line and passes over certain sins. For example, Samuel reveals that David had Uriah the Hittite killed during an adulterous affair with Bathseba, Uriah’s wife (2 Sam 11). Chronicles only mentions Uriah as one of David’s mighty men (1 Chron 11:41). The affair with Bathsheba is unmentioned by the Chronicler. Similarly, the attempted coup by David’s son, Adonijah (1 Kgs 1–2) is unmentioned by in Chronicles, though it is a significant part of the story in Kings.

Not only does Chronicles often neglect to mention negative details of the Davidic kings (although this is not always the case), the book also often highlights positive aspects of the Davidic line which Kings neglects to mention. The greatest example of this is the king of Manasseh. Manasseh is by far and away the worst king in Israel’s history. Kings tells us, “Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of the Lord” (2 Kgs 21:9). Kings talks about Manasseh living, sinning, and dying. Chronicles, however, gives the important detail that Manasseh repented before the LORD and God answered his prayer (2 Chron 33:10–20).

Another difference that some scholars have mentioned is the way Kings and Chronicles depict the prophets and their role in the kingdom. In Kings, the prophets are portrayed as critical voices who challenge the political and religious leadership of the nation, often at great personal risk. They are depicted as heroes who defended the people and the faith of Israel against the corruption and idolatry of the monarchs. Indeed, the very centerpiece of the Kings is focused on the ministry of Elijah and Elisha (1 Kgs 17–2 Kgs 9). In Chronicles, the prophets play a less prominent role and are often mentioned only in passing. Instead, Chronicles emphasizes the role of the priests and Levites as the religious leaders of the community.

Although there are other differences between Kings and Chronicles, you get the point. The books of Kings and Chronicles differ in their tone and style. Kings is written in a straightforward and critical manner, while Chronicles is written with a clear intention to highlight the Davidic kings and the Temple. These differences highlight the distinct purposes of the books. With its emphasis on prophecy and God’s Word, Kings highlights God’s supreme authority and sovereign governance over the surrounding nations. In brief, Kings shows that God is the True King. On the other hand, by emphasizing the Davidic monarchy and the Temple building, Chronicles highlights God’s sovereign election and preservation of His people in faithfulness to His covenant. Chronicles is written to rekindle the hope in God’s good promises, as well as provide a warning for the post-exilic community.

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs the Bible Sojourner podcast.

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