How to Read Chronicles

The Book of Chronicles

Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application.  

First and Second Chronicles is a story in search of an ending. It is a look at the history of Israel, using reshaped stories about the past to provide hope for the future. This video from The Bible Project provides an overview of the book. The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the story of Chronicles, discover what it teaches, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use the questions below as a guide as you watch this video. 

Now that you have an overview of Chronicles in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in Chronicles. Read about the Lord’s covenant with David in 1 Chronicles 17:1–15. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions about 1 Chronicles 17:1–15. 

1 Chronicles 17:1-15 (ESV)

The Lord’s Covenant with David

1 Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, “Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent.”2And Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.”

3But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan,4“Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in.5For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling.6In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’7Now, therefore, thus shall you say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be prince over my people Israel,8and I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.9And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall waste them no more, as formerly,10from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I declare to you that the Lord will build you a house.11When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom.12He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.13 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you,14but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’”15In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: God promises that a son from David’s line will be on a throne forever.

Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about 1 Chronicles 17:1–15? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
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Where an observation determines what the passage says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the passage means. We’ve asked what the passage says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) God promises that a son from David’s line will be on the throne forever. (Interpretation) God will send a Messianic King, one of David’s descendants, who will usher in a new kind of Kingdom, of which He will be King forever. 

Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of 1 Chronicles 17:1–15? How does its message connect with the main message of all of Chronicles? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
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Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 

Example: When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God gave the hints of a man, one of their offspring, who would one day come and defeat evil. The Israelites want a King. God sets David as King of Israel. God makes a covenant with David that one of his descendants will rule on a throne forever. Jesus is born into a family of David’s line. Jesus is the promised Messiah who has come to defeat evil forever. Jesus is raised to life and sits forever on a throne. The Kingdom of God will endure forever.

Contextualize: What themes does 1 Chronicles 17:1–15 seem to establish? How do those themes connect with the rest of the story of Chronicles? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the earlier books of the Bible?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: God has been faithful to his covenants for generations, since the beginning of time. He has installed Jesus as King, and He will reign forever over all creation. Even though sin has not been completely removed, and I still live in a broken world, I can live with hope for the future and joy at the promise of the one-day full arrival of the Kingdom. When I am discouraged, fearful, grieving, or feeling hopeless this week, I can look to the promises God has made to David, fulfilled through Christ, and will one day bring to completion for all eternity.

Apply: How does the truth from 1 Chronicles 17:1–15 affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in this book this week? If you're having trouble coming up with an application of this particular passage, how could you apply the main message of Chronicles to your life this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps us wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video.  

Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Chronicles, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Chronicles this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice. 

To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.