Chronicles is perhaps the most misleading of the books of Tanach (the Bible) – not to mention the one who’s name is the hardest to spell. Opening the book at random will reveal a page full of nothing but names followed by more names: This person was the son of that father and in turn had these children of his own. Those passages which aren’t straight lists seem to be simply reruns of the stories from the rest of Tanach (the Bible).
But it is just this book of Chronicles – and a passage seemingly the least likely to hold any deep meaning – that our rabbis chose as an example of the iceberg-like relationship between the Written and the Oral Torah (see Pesachim 62b). While that which lies above the surface (the written passage itself) seems to tell the whole, simple story, the explanation that the oral Torah adds could fill ocean-depths.
If one could pick a single theme to cover Chronicles, it would be the idea repeated in the commentary of Rashi throughout the book: The purpose of the whole book, from beginning to end, is to honor the house of King David. So much of the narrative can be related to David’s origins (both their exalted and their humble, cloudy sides), the nation he led, and his career as the king. The book ends with a description of the destruction of the nation and the city that David had built. In a sense is was the partial undoing of much of his life’s work.
We know, of course, that the destruction of the first Temple was not the end of King David’s story – as we still await our redemption through his descendent. Chronicles, the great praise of his kingdom, is testimony to the huge role that this family played and still plays in Judaism.