[6] And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. [7] Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever. - 2 Chronicles 21:6–7 (ESV)

2 Chronicles picks up with Solomon's kingdom where 1 Chronicles had left off. The book tells the story of the Kingdom of Judah from the reign of Solomon to the end of the exile in Babylon. As the book is a continuation of 1 Chronicles, the original audience was the returned exiles who were seeking to understand how to connect the threads of their story from the past to the present. In many ways, 2 Chronicles answers the exiles' question, "How did we get here and what do we do now?"

Readers learn about the reigns of the kings of Judah, chronicling their highs and lows along with the people as a whole. The text makes a point of describing which kings and times were marked by faithfulness to God and which were not. The text also makes clear that the good times in Judah were due to obedience to God and his blessings and protection of them. Disobedience, however, is marked by defeat and affliction.

The Big Idea of 2 Chronicles

I have taught that the Big Idea of 2 Chronicles is the following: "Yahweh keeps his covenant to David despite their disobedience." The passage at the head of this article is a good representative text for 2 Chronicles because it demonstrates the tension between Yahweh's faithfulness and his people's faithlessness and how Yahweh chooses to navigate it.

The passage above is crucial to understanding the events of Chronicles. In some ways, it is crucial to have a proper understanding of the overall trajectory of the Old Testament. The reason Israel is destroyed but Judah is not is because of the unconditional promise that Yahweh made to David. It is not because Judah was more faithful or deserving of being preserved than Israel. It is only because Yahweh had made a promise to Judah that he had not made to Israel.

An Outline of 2 Chronicles

We see Israel's Golden Age in 2 Chronicles 1-10. We read about the beginning of Solomon's reign and the incredible wisdom and prosperity that the people enjoyed during it. Key to this section is Yahweh's interaction with Solomon in which he promises to bless Solomon if he is faithful but curse him if he is not.

It is important to note that Yahweh is not making a unilateral covenant with Solomon as he did with David. Yahweh promised David in 2 Samuel 7 that his kingly line would never end. Yahweh makes an offer of a covenant to Solomon, but it depends on his faithfulness.

The Chronicles record of this fact is of particular importance to understanding 2 Chronicles because of the contrast that it sets up between the incredible wealth of the people at this point in Solomon's reign and the utter devastation that they experience by the end of the book. The hinge upon which everything turns is this conversation between Yahweh and Solomon, which may be read as a recapitulation of the blessings and curses promised in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.

In chapters 11-28, we read about Judah's ups and downs. Israel's fate at the hands of the Assyrians is notably absent. While 2 Kings 17 records the events and reasons for the destruction of the northern kingdom, 2 Chronicles mostly passes it by, mostly mentioning the northern kingdom only to tell the story of the southern kingdom.

We read in chapters 29-35 about Judah's unsteady reforms. These chapters feature the reigns of Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah. While each king has his ups and downs, the overall trend of his life and leadership is positive except for Amon. Manasseh's is the most difficult to classify as positive since most of his reign involved promoting evil and idolatry. However, he finally repents and Yahweh holds a favorable view of him at the end of his reign (2 Chron. 33:18-20).

2 Chronicles finishes in chapter 36 with rebellion and exile. A series of evil kings reigns. Verse 16 notes that at the end there was "no remedy" because Yahweh had sent so many prophets and no one listened. The Babylonians take Judah into exile for a span of time equal to the number of Sabbath rests that had been ignored (2 Chron. 36:20-21).

The Benefits of 2 Chronicles

As we read 2 Chronicles, it may be natural for a certain kind of heartache to set in. There are positive signs in Solomon's reign where things seem so good, but the result of his reign and the overall trajectory following it are difficult to read. There may be generated in us a longing for things to be different, a sense of hopelessness in our own endeavors to achieve the kind of holiness that God requires. We read 2 Chronicles and conclude that hope in ourselves is futile.

2 Chronicles reminds us that a people is only ever one generation away from apostasy, from falling away from God. There are kings who follow God, but they cannot control who comes after (cf. Eccl. 2:18-23). And those who follow God in 2 Chronicles are most often succeeded by those who do not. The same is true today. In our families, our churches, and our denominations, each generation must bear its own load of faithfulness. The generation that comes after us can stand on our shoulders, but it cannot use the previous generation's faithfulness as an excuse to ignore its own.

We are also reminded of the goodness and faithfulness of God in keeping his covenant with David. Salvation happens not because we live up to it but despite the fact that we do not. None of us deserves to be saved any more than Judah deserved to be preserved. The credit and glory for our salvation belong to God exclusively and not to us.

We can also be encouraged that God's promises and purposes are not overwhelmed by our sin. Despite how the nations may rage and the succeeding generations may seem hopeless, God's purposes are not at the mercy of the world. The world is at the mercy of God's purposes. And that is a very comforting thing. God demonstrates his absolute sovereignty over kings and nations by orchestrating the exile of Judah to last only as long as needed to pay for the missing Sabbath rests. For all the apparent chaos in the world from our perspective, we know that God is working all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11). In that sense, we live in just the same kind of world as the one described in 2 Chronicles, one in which God is moving everything toward its appointed end, guiding his people and keeping his promises along the way.

On 2 Chronicles and Living for God Through Christ