Christopher R. Smith
Like Lord of the Rings and The Matrix, the books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah tell an extended story, divided into three parts. While they can be read together, ancient evidence tells us the works were originally one composition.
Some modern bibles recognize their unity and present them as a single book. The Modern Reader’s Bible 1 combines these books into “The Chronicles.” The Books of The Bible 2 treats them as one book, “Chronicles–Ezra–Nehemiah.”
These books have a single message: God must be worshipped on His own terms—He commands when, where and how. For example, people were commanded to worship Him in the Jerusalem temple, at least once a year, by offering sacrifices. For this reason, the work opposes the building (or rebuilding) of Jewish temples in places other than Jerusalem (e.g., down in Egypt, where Jewish refugees had built a temple on Elephantine Island in the Nile River).
Unlike Samuel–Kings, Chronicles reports that when David successfully brought the ark into Jerusalem, he explained that the first attempt failed because “we did not inquire of [the Lord our God] about how to do it in the prescribed way” (1 Chr 15:13 NIV).
The theme of worship on God’s own terms gives Chronicles–Ezra–Nehemiah a “gospel” flavor. If this is the most important thing about worship, then people from all nations are potential worshipers. Indeed, some who belong to the Jewish nation might actually offer unacceptable forms of worship (e.g., if they try to build a temple in Egypt), while those from other nations might offer acceptable forms of worship. In this context, part of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple takes on added significance. He asks God to listen favorably to the prayers of “the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel,” but who hears of God’s name and prays toward the temple (2 Chr 6:32–33 NIV; compare 1 Kgs 8:41–43). And it may help account for why the work begins with a genealogy that reaches back to Adam—describing the origins of many nations. All people are potential worshipers, if they come on God’s terms.