1 Chronicles 10
It’s always important to consider the audience for which a book is written. The audience tells us a great deal about the intended message. In this case, both first and second Chronicles were written originally to the exiles returning to Israel.
The genealogies we’ve just made it through were written to remind them who they were as a people since they had been scattered during the exile, stripped of their national identity, and separated from their families. Chapter ten serves to remind them of why they were exiled. If the first nine chapters told them who they were, chapter ten reminds them whose they are.
It reminds them that they are a holy people, set apart to worship God alone. It reminds them of a very dark moment early in the nation’s history and the grave consequences of being unfaithful to the God who is now bringing them back into the Promised Land. The story of Saul’s death is intended as a sort of morality play, warning the reader of the severe consequences of a life of rebellion.
It’s also the sort of history that is often glossed over and forgotten in the zeal of nationalism. It is often said that history is written by the victors, and typically the sins of the victors are omitted or repainted to make us look better. That certainly has been the case for our nation, where the genocide of native peoples is reframed as the “wild west” and hundreds of years of slavery of people because of the color of their skin is pictured through the distorted lenses of paternalism, evolution, and economic advancement.
So it’s interesting, and points to the authenticity of scripture, when the Bible reveals the most unsavory, unflattering, and unattractive aspects of Israel’s history. God’s purpose for His Word is not to paint an image of Israel as a people who’ve proven themselves holy, but as an unholy people, unable to keep His commandments for even a generation. A people prone to wander, easily drawn to sin. A people in desperate need of something the law only hints at — a new heart. A heart that is engraved with His law. A heart that is capable of holiness and godliness. A heart that is given to us by Jesus in exchange for our sin being laid on His back with every stripe He bore.