1 and 2 Chronicles were originally a single work that was separated into two books when it was translated into the Greek Septuagint. The Chronicles was written to the Jewish people after they returned from Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC. Jewish tradition holds that Ezra was the author of Chronicles, but scholars are divided on the issue.
The book starts with genealogies stretching from Adam to the twelve sons of Jacob, to David, all the way to the exiles of Judah. It then records the accomplishments of King David and King Solomon, and lastly records the deeds of the kings of Judah after Solomon’s death. The book ends with Judah’s capture by the Babylonians and her subsequent exile, but the last couple paragraphs of 2 Chronicles skip ahead 70 years to the decree of Cyrus the Persian to allow the Jews to return to their homeland, and there the book ends. The most likely date for the book’s creation was some time after 400 BC, 150 years or so after the return from exile.
The author of the Chronicles used some non-biblical sources to compose his sweeping history, but it seems clear that he also had the following biblical books in front of him when he wrote Chronicles: the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations.
The purposes of the author are at least three-fold. First, the exilic community needed to be reminded of its national origins, going all the way back to the dawn of mankind. Second, the Israelites needed to be reminded of their national unity under the great kings David and Solomon. Third, the Israelites needed to be reminded of the primacy of the Torah, received by Moses, and along with the Torah, the importance of proper temple worship mediated by the Levite priests.
Chapters 28-29 of 1 Chronicles record three important events: 1) David’s instructions to Solomon to build the temple, 2) Solomon’s anointing as king, and 3) David’s death. Verses 1-11 in chapter 28 get us started.
David, an old man now, summons all of the leadership of Israel to hear his final commands. We are immediately reminded of both Moses and Joshua speaking before their deaths to the leaders of Israel. David first explains that he wanted to build the temple for God, but God would not allow him because David was a warrior and had shed blood. Instead of David, God chose Solomon to build His house. Of all of David’s sons, Solomon would be the next king and he would have the honor of building the temple.
David then charges the leaders of Israel to “follow all the commands of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.” He turns to Solomon and instructs him to “acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind.” There are consequences for Solomon’s actions toward God. “If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.”
God will bless Solomon and Israel if they obey his commands (especially building the temple), but He will curse them if they do not follow His commands. This has been the consistent message from God to the people of Israel ever since they left the slavery of Egypt, and it is still His consistent message to us today.
Note also that David warns Solomon, “The LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.” God is omniscient, or all-knowing. Neither Solomon nor anyone else can hide what they are thinking from God, as he sees everything with perfect clarity.
In verse 11, David gives Solomon detailed plans on how to build the temple, plans that are described more fully in verses 12-19. David tells the assembled crowd that these plans were inspired by God, so that there is no doubt that they should be followed to the letter. The temple is to be a continuation of the tabernacle, and so we see many parallels between David’s plans and the plans given to Moses in the Book of Exodus.
In chapter 29, verses 1-9, David announces the treasure he has donated to the temple building campaign and implores the leaders of Israel to likewise donate, so that Solomon has everything he needs to finish the divinely appointed construction project. The leadership responded with an outpouring of generosity and all Israel rejoiced.
In verses 10-13, David spontaneously praises God with a beautiful prayer. In this prayer he refers to God’s timelessness, omnipotence, beauty and majesty, sovereignty, and generosity. David thanks God, essentially, for being God! David realizes that literally nothing good is given to him or Israel without it coming from God. Of special note is that verse 11 was appropriated by the early Christian church as a doxology appended to the Lord’s Prayer: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory.”
David’s prayer continues in verses 14-19. He acknowledges that everything donated to build the temple comes from God in the first place. David knows that God can see the sincerity that accompanied the donations of the people of Israel. Their motives were pure. David then asks that God “keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” Regarding Solomon, David asks God to “give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.”
The next day David hosts a tremendous festival for the Lord, including sacrifices, eating and drinking, and the coronation of Solomon. It is likely that David and Solomon were co-regents for a time, until David eventually died. This was a common move by kings who wanted to ensure that their chosen successors were firmly established before the king’s death. Solomon’s rule begins with rich blessings from God and the full allegiance of the leaders of Israel.
Finally, in verses 26-30, the death of the greatest king of Israel, David, is reported. The writer informs us that David “ruled over Israel forty years—seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor.”
J. A. Thompson, in 1, 2 Chronicles: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary) concludes:
The Chronicler presents not one but two great kings as the ideal for Israel. The one was David, the warrior-king, who subdued the enemies of the people of God and established a secure domain. He was now passing, and the other, Solomon, was taking his place. Solomon was a man of peace who would build up the prosperity of the nation. These two things together—victory over enemies and a reign of peace—are both essential. For Christian readers these two ideals are fulfilled in the one man, Jesus Christ. He conquers all his foes but at the same time establishes a reign of peace for his own people. In this the tandem of David and Solomon are a type of Christ.