Now we continue the story. In the year 539 BC, the Persians took control of Babylon and began to allow the peoples whom the Babylonians exiled to return to their homelands. The following year, the Jews received permission to return to the Promised Land, and some accepted the opportunity, returned and began to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah will tell us more about these events and the difficulties they faced; for now, we simply want to note that the genealogies in 1 Chronicles 9 are from the first group of exiles to return to the Promised Land.
“Now the first to dwell again in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants. And some of the people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh lived in Jerusalem” (1 Chronicles 9:2-3). There is still a lot more to be done before the vision of the return of all the tribes to the
Promised Land would be fulfilled.
Most importantly, the chronicler concentrates on the genealogies of the priests and the division of temple responsibilities among the Levites. He wants his
readers to remember that the main purpose in returning to the Promised Land is to worship Yahweh in holiness and to put into practice the temple rituals in agreement with their historical antecedents.
He also retells the history of Israel, but in a way different from what we read in 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. For example, notice that the entire history of Saul that filled 1 Samuel 9 – 31 is summarized here in only 14 verses in 1 Chronicles 10. He focuses only on Saul’s death: “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the
LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). He doesn’t see the need to repeat the entire history of Saul; he only underlines one main lesson so that his readers can understand the consequences of unfaithfulness to Yahweh.
He also passes over David’s early history to go directly to the request that he become king over all Israel (what we read in 2 Samuel 5). He does not mention the civil war between Saul’s and David’s houses, Abner’s support of David before the former’s assassination, nor the murder of Ish-bosheth nor any of those conflicts; he only wants to point out the unity that existed among all of the tribes in declaring David king. He makes that unity among all Israel stand out even more when in 1 Chronicles 11 – 12 he indicates the impressive variety of places of origin and of tribes of David’s mighty men and his original followers even before Saul’s death. All of this historical narrative reaches its high point when he writes, “All of these, men of war, arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with full intent to make David king over all Israel. Likewise, all the rest of Israel were of a single mind to make David king” (1 Chronicles 12:38). According to the chronicler, peace in Israel would be attained only when all the tribes submit in unity to the support of David’s house.
In a similar way, we Christians long to see the unity of all nations under the authority of the most excellent descendant of the house of David, under the authority of Jesus Christ: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). The kingdom of Jesus Christ enjoys an incomparable peace when people of different nations, tribes and languages submit themselves in unity under his authority.