Sefer Divrei Hayamim, is the final book of Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. Like the books of Shmuel and Melachim, Sefer Divrei Hayamim is divided into two sections which together form a single book. It is traditionally attributed to Ezra the scribe, a leader of the Jews who returned to the land of Israel from the Babylonian exile after Cyrus granted permission for the Jews to return to the land and rebuild the Beit Hamikdash. The first nine chapters of the book contain a series of genealogies, tracing the lineage, all the way back from the time of creation, of the Jews who returned from Babylon. The second part of the book, starting with Sefer Divrei Hayamim I chapter 10, is mainly a review of events previously detailed in the books of Shmuel and Melachim, starting with the death of Shaul and continuing until the Babylonian exile, focusing primarily on the kingdom of Yehuda. The book ends with a brief epilogue mentioning the proclamation of Cyrus allowing the Jews to return to Eretz Yisrael and rebuild the Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalayim, as described in the books of Ezra and Nechemya.
When studying Sefer Divrei Hayamim, several questions arise, such as: What is the connection between the genealogies and the rest of the book, and what is the purpose of the book which is, to a large extent, a repetition of other books of Tanach?
Perhaps part of the reason Ezra chose to include the genealogies in Sefer Divrei Hayamim is to demonstrate the legitimacy of Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael during the return from Babylonian exile. By enumerating the genealogies of so many people involved in the resettlement of the land and the re-construction of the Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalayim, Ezra sought to emphasize that the people who had come to Israel were not interlopers trying to seize the Holy Land and its trade routes. Rather, they were natives who had returned to their homeland as a matter of right. Additionally, these lists legitimized the status of the priests and Levites of that time, as these roles are hereditary, by showing that they were descendants of the original Kohanim and Leviim of the first Temple period.
Even though the return to the land of Israel took place only several decades after the final exiles had left the land with the destruction of the first Temple, their claim to the land had already come under question. As described in Sefer Ezra chapter 4, the new inhabitants of the land were angry that the Jews were returning to reclaim some of their territory and rebuild the Beit Hamikdash, and they repeatedly tried to prevent that from occurring. As such, we can see why Ezra felt the need to prove the legitimacy of their claim to the land. This might also be the reason that Sefer Divrei Hayamim ends with the permission granted by Cyrus, king of Persia, for the Jews to return to Israel. This provided additional confirmation to the new residents of the land, and to the returning Jews, that Eretz Yisrael is indeed the property of the Jewish people.
Since the purpose of the book is to justify the Jewish claim to Israel, Ezra felt it necessary to repeat much of the history of the kingdom of Yehuda. In doing so, he sometimes repeats verbatim what it says in Shmuel and Melachim, and other times writes about the events differently than the other books of Tanakh, in a way that reflects the purpose and messages of Sefer Divrei Hayamim On the one hand, this historical account further strengthens the Jews’ claim to the land. Additionally, the first leader of the return from exile, Zerubavel, was himself descended from the Davidic dynasty (see I Chronicles 3:19). This fact further bolsters the legitimacy of the Jewish resettlement and sovereignty, as Sefer Divrei Hayamim continuously stresses that the Davidic line has an eternal claim to kingship in the land of Israel. Finally, the accounts of the repeated sins of the Davidic monarchs, their repentance and Hashem’s forgiveness, shows that God did not give up on the Jewish people when he exiled them from Eretz Yisrael. Rather, He intended for the Jewish claim over the land to be everlasting.
Today, as in the time of Ezra, there are those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish people’s claim to Eretz Yisrael. Like the “adversaries of Yehuda and Binyamin” in Sefer Ezra (Ezra 4:1), they contend that the Jews are no longer the rightful inhabitants of the land, that others have an equal or superior claim and that the Jews should be prevented from building and expanding Israel. The message of Sefer Divrei Hayamim, justifying the eternal Jewish claim to the land of Israel, is therefore as relevant today as it was at the time it was written. Concluding Tanakh with Sefer Divrei Hayamim, which strongly supports the Jewish people’s connection to their ancient homeland, confirms the centrality of the land of Israel, which appears prominently in so many chapters of the Hebrew Bible, in the history and destiny of the Jewish people.