Look, not to brag or anything, but I’ve managed to get through 3 entire Bible books in one month so far in 2013, which is like, beyond breakneck speed for me. And none of these books were short either. My pace in 2012 was absolutely pathetic, so my goal in 2013 is to keep a much better pace so that I can hopefully finish this freaking thing sometime before I die. Let’s hope I don’t get hit by a bus or have some other terrible twist of fate befall me tomorrow.
Anywho. 1st Chronicles is the book this time around. 29 chapters, a pretty decent length. I’ll just go ahead and get straight to my summary right here and now:
O.k. well, here is a slightly longer explanation of that: This book is a complete re-hash of events that already occurred in previous books. It focuses mainly on David’s life and a teeny bit of his son Solomon’s takeover of the throne when David is old and is about to die. So, the bulk of it is a re-hash of 2nd Samuel and 1st Kings, with a bit of material from other books as well. The main difference here is that 1st Chronicles gives some different details on these stories that were not given previously. The problem, however, is that for the most part, the additional details given here are boring ones.
1st Chronicles spends its first 9 chapters focusing on the lineages of the important familes/tribes of Israel, starting all the way back at Noah. It moves through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (a.k.a. “Israel”), and Jacob’s 12 sons after which all the 12 tribes of Israel are named. Then we get to David and then all the kings of Judah through its untimely demise at the hands of the Babylonians. It describes the royal line post-Judah’s defeat and exile too, which I guess is more info than we got in 2nd Kings. We also get further descriptions of the lineages of the other 11 tribes of Israel (besides Judah). Other familiar folks make appearances in these chapters as well, like Moses and Aaron (tribe of Levi), Saul (tribe Benjamin), etc.
We then get rehashes of Saul’s death, David’s ascent to king, and various events and battles that occurred during David’s reign. There are in depth lists of David’s army commanders and other army men. There’s a few chapters devoted to re-hashing the story of David bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. There’s a list of David’s victories, with in-depth re-tellings of a couple of them in particular. The story of David being “provoked” to do a census is re-told as well. Chapters 22 through 29 are particularly snooze-worthy, focusing on the minute details of David’s plans for Solomon to build the temple of the Lord, David’s divisions of the Levites into several groups, as well as detailed lists of singers for the Lord, gatekeepers, treasurers, army divisions, army officers, the king’s overseers, etc. Zzzz. You could drink 5 cups of coffee, do a few lines of coke, and smoke some crack or meth for good measure, and still be lulled into a coma by the time you reach the end of this book.
The book ends with David making Solomon king and then dying. Solomon prospers as king, has all the wealth in the world, and all Israel obeys him. The End.
I’ve got nothing for this section this time around. Out of the relatively small amount of info in 1st Chronicles that is actually new/unique from the previous books, there’s nothing “good”. Most of it is just facts, names, places, etc.
The good news is, the lack of unique content in 1st Chronicles means that not only is my “Good Stuff” section very short, my “Bad Stuff” section should be pretty short too. There’s only few things here that are of note:
- Chapter 14 tells the story of what happens when the Philistines realize that David has become king of Israel – they attack. David asks God, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” And God tells him, “Go, I will hand them over to you.” So David goes out and defeats them. The Phils later attack again, and this time God actually helps David strategize his plan of counterattack. Team David wins and “strikes them down” again, of course. There are honestly very
few bits of this story that are new as compared what we got in 2nd Samuel, but this one didn’t make the cut of what I called out in my 2nd Samuel review, so I’m putting it here instead. 1st Chronicles also contains this rather ominous last line of the story, that’s not there in 2nd Samuel: “So David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him.”
- Chapter 18 has a list of David’s victories, involving a lot of smiting, pillaging, and forcing into slavery of rival nations. It contains descriptions like,
- 18:5 “David slew of the Syrians two and twenty thousand men.”
- 18:6 “… and the Syrians became David’s servants, and brought gifts. Thus the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went.”
- 18:12 “Moreover Abishai the son of Zeruiah slew of the Edomites in the valley of salt eighteen thousand.”
- These are, of course, all listed as great accomplishments, rather than involving any sort of guidance that it might be best to attempt to avoid violence when solving your problems and disputes.
- There are a few more re-tellings in this book of other battles like the few I called out above, but it’s just more of the same, so I won’t detail them here.
Other Notable, Weird, or Funny Stuff
- One thing that tends to happen a lot in the Bible, but that I rarely call out in my reviews in the interest of time/length, is contradicting stories and details. It happens even more in 1st Chronicles, given that this book re-tells stories that have already been told before. Here are just a few examples of story details that don’t match up with other books:
- 1st Samuel says that David was the youngest of Jesse’s 8 sons. 1st Chronicles says he was the youngest of Jesse’s 7 sons.
- How did King Saul die? 1st Samuel says that he gets seriously injured in battle and “falls upon his sword” (i.e. commits suicide) to avoid a worse fate if captured by his enemies while incapacitated. 2nd Samuel says that he asks an Amalekite man to put him out of his misery rather than doing it himself (and the Amalekite complies with the request). 1st Chronicles says that Saul begs his armor-bearer to put him out of his misery, but that the armor-bearer is too afraid to go through with it, so Saul kills himself by falling upon his sword instead. This basically goes with 1st Samuel’s version of events, but with more detail.
- 2nd Samuel says that God was the one who tempted David to take a census of Israel, but 1st Chronicles says that Satan was the culprit who provoked him to do it. That’s actually pretty important distinction, don’t you think?
- Let’s talk a bit more about the above bulletpoint, shall we? To me it’s by far the most interesting passage in 1st Chronicles, because it’s the first time “Satan” is mentioned in the entire Bible so far. You may assume that his first mention is in Genesis, when the serpent tempts Eve to eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, but that is not the case. I’m pretty sure the way the Adam and Eve story was always told to me as a kid was that the serpent was Satan in animal form. But that’s not necessarily true, as Genesis never once says anything of the sort. It simply states that it’s a serpent, and that God then curses snakes to always slither on their bellies on the ground. So then who is this “Satan” character that suddenly pops up out of nowhere in 1st Chronicles, with no explanation or background? I have no clue. The internet tells me that the word “satan” in Hebrew literally just means “adversary.” Wikipedia says that the Hebrew Bible texts use the noun “satan” in 10 instances, but that for the King James version, it’s only translated as an actual name “Satan” in 2 of them: this 1st Chronicles passage and in Job. The other 8 times (including earlier books like Numbers, Samuel and Kings), it’s just translated as “adversary” (referring to specific people or angels). Interesting. In any event, I’ll be very curious to see if more explanation is given to Satan as an actual character in future books (Job?).
- Chapters 13 – 16 re-tell the story of David and team bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. In chapter 16, David then gives a psalm of thanks to the Lord. It contains questionable verses like “16:25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods,” and also this kinda funny one: “16:34 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” Really, has God been that merciful, so far?? If your answer is yes, then your definition of “mercy” is much different than mine.
So that’s the gist of 1st Chronicles. How do you rate a book that has very little unique content? I’ll go for the angle of rating it similar to the books that covered these stories originally, since nothing in this book altered my view of the content:
I brought it up slightly from 1.5 just because this book didn’t put a ton of focus on the terrible things like killing, rape, etc. Next up is 2nd Chronicles, which is 36 chapters long, uggh. :’-( Will it be less coma-inducing than part 1? We shall see.