Question: "What is the purpose of First and Second Chronicles?"
Answer: Likely written between 450 and 425 BC, 1 and 2 Chronicles includes many lists of genealogies. Further, much of the content covers the same events found in the books of Samuel and Kings. Surely, God had a purpose for inspiring the writing of the Chronicles, even with its similar content.
First of all, not all of the content of the Chronicles is found in Samuel and Kings. In fact, over half of the content of Chronicles is unique. The scope of 1 and 2 Chronicles is very broad, tracing the history of Israel from Adam and Eve until the end of the Babylonian Captivity. Emphasis is given to the tribe of Judah, to whom the books were written, as well as the Levitical priests, who were important in re-establishing worship in Jerusalem. The Davidic Covenant and temple worship are common themes running through the Chronicles.
Ezra the priest and scribe is generally considered the author of 1 and 2 Chronicles. The Babylonian Talmud identifies Ezra by name as the author of these writings. Further, the events of 1 and 2 Chronicles lead up to the events of Ezra and Nehemiah (originally one book in the Hebrew Bible).
Also interesting is the name of 1 and 2 Chronicles in the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament produced around 300 BC). The title translates as “The Books of Things Left Out,” referring to additional details surrounding the historical events recorded in the books of Samuel and Kings. Due to the Judean emphasis of the Chronicles, we learn much more about the southern kingdom of Judah and its kings; the books of Kings contain more detail about the northern kingdom of Israel.
The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles were invaluable in the restoration of Judah after their time in Babylon. The remnant returned to a ruined Jerusalem, a destroyed temple, and many other obstacles to their success. They must have felt overwhelmed and forsaken by God. By tracing the history of God’s people, the author of the Chronicles reminded the new generation that God had been their help in ages past. By emphasizing the unconditional Davidic Covenant, he gave them hope for the future. By including the genealogies, he showed them that they were the ones to continue the legacy. In short, the author of the Chronicles showed a despairing people that they had a powerful, faithful God who would strengthen them to rebuild the temple and the city.