Thirty-three times in 1 & 2 Kings1 you will find the phrase “the book of the chronicles of the kings of” Israel/Judah.2 Ten times in 1 & 2 Chronicles3 you will discover the phrase “the book of the kings of” Israel/Judah.4 Many Bible readers assume that “the book of the chronicles” mentioned in 1 & 2 Kings is a reference to 1 & 2 Chronicles, while “the book of the kings” mentioned in 1 & 2 Chronicles is a reference to 1 & 2 Kings.5 Is such an assessment correct? Is “chronicles” in Kings a reference to 1 & 2 Chronicles, and is “kings” in Chronicles a reference to 1 & 2 Kings?
First, consider the matter from purely a common-sense perspective. How could each book be a reference to the other book? It makes sense that one of the books could possibly refer to the other or could prophesy about the future existence of the other, but how could both be referring to each other as already being in existence? If one book was written before the other, then the other book obviously was not yet written, and therefore the reference to it already being in existence would be impossible and nonsensical. (Imagine the original recipients reading over 30 times about a book that was not yet in existence. If such a thing happened with a written record today, we would call it “fiction,” not history.) Thus, on the surface alone, it should be evident that at least one of these books is not referring to the other.
Second, the evidence favors Chronicles being written a century or so after Kings. The final event recorded in Kings is Jehoiachin’s release from prison in the 37th year of Babylonian captivity (2 Kings 25:27-30), which would have been in 560 B.C.6—the earliest date of the writing of Kings. On the other hand, Chronicles concludes in the first year of the Persian King Cyrus (in 538 B.C.),7 when he wrote his public proclamation allowing all Jews in his kingdom to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). Also, some of the Jewish descendants listed in the genealogies in Chronicles8 push the earliest date of the writing of Chronicles easily back to about 500 B.C. What’s more, if Ezra, “the skilled scribe in the law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6), wrote Chronicles (as Jewish tradition reasonably contends),9 the earliest date of Chronicles is moved back even further—to approximately 450 B.C.10 Thus, given the likely general time periods of the writing of Kings and Chronicles, it seems quite safe (and rational) to conclude that “the book of the chronicles of the kings” mentioned more than 30 times in Kings does not refer to Chronicles—a history written perhaps 100 years later.
Third, Kings appeals to “the book of the chronicles of the kings” for further details about various matters that are not recorded in 1 & 2 Chronicles. For example, regarding Nadab, the second king of Israel, 1 Kings 15:31 states: “Now the rest of the acts of Nadab, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?” However, none of Nadab’s acts are recorded in 1 & 2 Chronicles. (In fact, the inspired chronicler records very little activity of the kings of the northern kingdom.) What’s more, 1 Chronicles 9:1 refers to a vast amount of genealogical information (cf. 1 Chronicles 1:1-8:40) in “the book of the kings of Israel,” which quite clearly is not from 1 & 2 Kings. (There simply is very little genealogical information in 1 & 2 Kings other than the overall, general succession of the kings of Israel and Judah. And there certainly is nothing like what the chronicler records in 1 Chronicles 1:1-8:40.)
Finally, consider the fact that Kings and Chronicles mention a number of different books about which the inspired writers (a) were aware and (b) used (by inspiration) as reference books. Kings documents the existence of “the book of the acts of Solomon” (1 Kings 11:41), while Chronicles mentions “the book of Nathan the prophet,” “the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite,” “the visions of Iddo the seer” (1 Chronicles 9:29), “the chronicles of King David” (1 Chronicles 27:24), “the book of Jehu the son of Hanani” (2 Chronicles 20:34), etc.11 Thus, it was quite natural for the inspired writers of Kings and Chronicles to reference non-canonical records in their historical writings. After all, if the inspired apostle Paul could occasionally quote from pagan poets (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12), couldn’t the inspired prophets who penned Kings and Chronicles refer to any number of relevant sources in their histories? To ask is to answer.
Rather than go through life assuming the Bible teaches “this” or “that,” let’s resolve to reason through God’s inspired revelation and draw only those conclusions warranted by the evidence. In the case at hand, we learn that in addition to God’s inspired books of Kings and Chronicles, there were various relevant, historical, non-canonical writings to which the penmen of Kings and Chronicles alluded (which were not each other). Taking special note of these facts not only helps us in properly understanding the text, but it can also aid us in responding to Bible critics who may assume contradiction on the part of the writers of Kings and Chronicles.
1 First and Second Kings were originally one book in the Hebrew Bible.
2 This phrase is found 18 times in reference to the book of the kings of Israel and 15 times in reference to the book of the kings of Judah.
3 First and Second Chronicles were originally one book in the Hebrew Bible.
4 This phrase is found seven times in reference to both Israel and Judah and three times in reference to Israel alone. In addition, the phrase “the book of the kings” is found once without any particular kingdom specified.
5 In fact, just recently I heard an otherwise great Bible lesson where a preacher misidentified these books in this manner.
6 If Jehoiachin was carried away into captivity in 597 B.C. (1 Kings 24:8-16), and he was in captivity for 37 years (1 Kings 25:27), then his release (and the closing of the book of Kings) would have taken place in 560 B.C.
7 See J. Barton Payne (1988), “1 & 2 Chronicles,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), 4:304.
8 Including two grandsons of Zerubbabel (1 Chronicles 3:17-21).
9 Cf. the language at the end of 2 Chronicles (36:22-23) and the beginning of Ezra (1:1-4).
10 See Payne, 4:304-306.
11 For more information on various non-canonical writings referenced in the Bible, see AP’s article “Are There Lost Books of the Bible?” (2003), www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=66.