This post provides further evidence supporting the points made in the last one on Chronicles. I have made several of my own suggestions below for how to understand the outline of this material covering the tribes of Simeon, the trans-Jordan tribes, Levi, Isaachar, and the tribes that begin and end with Benjamin. I think that these suggestions are helpful to support those arguments as well. Namely, the main point here is that the Chronicler sees a role for ”all Israel” in God’s plan for the future. The apostles, like Paul, lived in the world created by the Chronicler and also felt there was a role for ”all Israel” in God’s plan for the future for their future was tied up in the future of Judah and the line of David — i.e. in Jesus the Messiah. The only argument against this understanding of the Chronicler’s view of all Israel might be the exclusion of Zebulun and Dan from the genealogies in this section. However, I think that my suggestions for outlining 1 Chronicles 2-8 help explain the absence of those two tribes among the genealogies while still emphasizing all Israel.
Simeon: 1 Chron 4:24-43
There is much packed into this short genealogy of Simeon. Strictly speaking Braun notes three parts: 1. the genealogy (sons of Simeon and line through Shaul), 2. their settlements, and 3. ”princes and conquests of Simeon.” He notes that this 3-fold format is common for several of the tribes that follow.
There are a couple interesting comments concerning the tribe of Judah or Kings David and Hezekiah in this passage. First, in the genealogy portion we are told, ”Shimei had sixteen sons and six daughters; but his brothers did not have many children, nor did all their clan multiply like the men of Judah” (1 Chron 4:27). Second in the settlements portion we are told, ”These were their cities until David reigned” (1 Chron 4:31). Third in the princes and conquests portion we are told, ”These, registered by name, came in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah, and destroyed their tents…” (1 Chron 4:41). It is not surprising that the tribe of Simeon is so intertwined with the fate of Judah since their tribe was basically absorbed into the tribe of Judah. The text wants to emphasize that Simeon’s future is bound to that of Judah’s and to that of the Davidic heir and Messiah.
Other sources for the sons of Simeon are Genesis 46:10, Exodus 6:15, and Numbers 26:12-13. In Genesis and Exodus it is observed that Shaul was the son of a Canaanite woman, which is not mentioned here in Chronicles. Nevertheless, it is that line which is taken out for more generations in Chronicles. The list in Chronicles appears to be much closer to the names found in Numbers. The 1 Chronicles 4:28-33 place names resemble those in Joshua 19:1-9 (cf. Joshua 15 concerning Judah). As Joshua 19 stresses the inheritance of Simeon ”formed part of the territory of the people of Judah” (Josh 19:9).
There are no other Scripture parallels for the information found in 1 Chron 4:34-43. The text appears to trace where some Simeonites moved within Judah. For example, ”They journeyed to the entrance of Gedor, to the east side of the valley, to seek pasture for their flocks, where they found rich, good pasture, and the land was very broad, quiet, and peaceful, for the former inhabitants there belonged to Ham” (1 Chron 4:39-40). The passage is also concerned to bring this to his own day as the Chronicler twice mentions ”to this day” (1 Chron 4:41, 43).
Of particular interest is the way the text tells us that some of them, 500 men, went to Mount Seir (Edom) and defeated the Amalekites who had escaped – the remnant of the Amalekites. This is part of the ongoing battle with the Amalekites begun in Exodus 17 that we have discussed at some length before (most recently with the book of Esther). Remember that YHWH said He would have war with Amalek from generation to generation and this story reminds us of the way that promise continues in the Chronicler’s day (like the people also wondered in Esther’s day).
The Trans-Jordan Tribes: 1 Chron 5
For several reasons explained Braun’s commentary it appears that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and east Manasseh are a literary unit. The Chronicler is not treating them separately like Simeon or Levi before and after these three. It is instructive that the Chronicler still sees a place for these tribes in God’s plan. Indeed, I would note that the way Simeon ends talking about taking territory in Edom (Mount Seir) and then treating the trans-Jordan tribes next shows that the Chronicler hopes for a much larger Israel in the future.
It is also interesting that the Chronicler felt the need to retell the reason Reuben lost his birthright and how he lost it not to Judah but to Joseph’s sons (Ephraim and Manasseh). Perhaps this is in part to anticipate the third part of this unit with the half-tribe of east Manasseh. It also reminds us though of the Chronicler’s concern not only for Judah but for ”all Israel.” Here too it is important to note that the Chronicler is interpreting Genesis – for there is not an explicit mention of the birthright going to Joseph’s sons in Genesis 48.
Also intriguing in this genealogy is the information concerning holy war. First, we have the notice in the lineage of Reuben of the one ”whom Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria carried away into exile; he was a chief of the Reubenites” (1 Chron 5:6). Last we have the conclusion, ”But they broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day” (1 Chron 5:25-26). This is clearly the conclusion to the unit on these Trans-Jordan tribes. Note especially the ”to this day” reference. Also note that these are references to holy war where the object of God’s wrath was these tribes.
Contrast that then with the holy war references within the unit. First, is 1 Chron 5:10, ”And in the days of Saul they waged war against the Hagrites, who fell into their hand.” This is mentioned again in the holy war story in 1 Chron 5:18-22. There we are told, ”The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant men who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war, 44,760, able to go to war. They waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. And when they prevailed over them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and He granted their urgent plea because they trusted in Him. They carried off their livestock: 50,000 of their camels, 250,000 sheep, 2,000 donkeys, and 100,000 men alive. For many fell, because the war was of God. And they lived in their place until the exile.” Thus the stories in the middle were of the trans-Jordan tribes trusting God and they won the holy war and the stories opening and closing the unit are of the trans-Jordan tribes breaking faith with God and becoming the targets of God’s holy war.
So then there is the following pattern:
Notice that the second time these holy wars are mentioned it is in much more detail. Also notice that it is only Reuben in view in the first half but the whole of the trans-Jordan tribes are in view in the second half. I’m not suggesting this chiasm is a key to the structure of the passage but it does show us that 1 Chronicles 5 is one large unit rather than 3 smaller ones.
Levi: 1 Chron 6
1 Chronicles 6 then moves to the Levites with 81 verses on the tribe in our English Bibles. Like the tribe of Judah, the Levites get much more attention than the Simeonites, Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh. Braun’s commentary divides this chapter into four parts – one showing the Levitical line from Levi to Aaron and a linear genealogy from Aaron to the exile (1 Chron 6:1-15); a list of three groups of Levites tracing their genealogies back to Gershom, Kohath, and Merari (1 Chron 6:16-30); a list of Levitical musicians installed by David (1 Chron 6:31-53); and a list of places (1 Chron 6:54-81).
This, as we might expect, is the ”most extensive [genealogy] of the priestly line found in the OT and is effectively the latest as well” as Braun notes. The list does omit some of the high priests, one even mentioned later in Chronicles (Jehoiada, cf. 2 Chron 22:11, 23:1, 24:2). Yet Chronicles is much more interested in the genealogies of the gatekeepers and especially the musicians than one can find anywhere else. One of the biggest challenges is relating the various genealogies repeated with differences within this chapter.
While the references to Judah in the trans-Jordan tribe unit function this way too, the function of the mention of King David in this chapter most clearly resembles that in the Simeonite genealogy. That is the following statement: ”These are the men whom David put in charge of the service of song in the house of YHWH after the ark rested there. They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting until Solomon built the house of YHWH in Jerusalem, and they performed their service according to their order” (1 Chron 6:31-32).
The text of 1 Chronicles 6 then goes on to mention musicians that we remember from 1 Chronicles 2 concerning Judah: Heman the singer and Ethan. Also mentioned between these two in the lists is Asaph. The ministry of music was led by these three groups – Heman at the center with Asaph on his right and Ethan on his left. These groups needed Levitical legitimacy in order to perform such a duty in the temple of YHWH. I think that the Chronicler includes some of the names in both genealogies to serve as a further way of linking the purpose of the Levites to that of the tribe of Judah.
The last section of 1 Chronicles 6 resembles Joshua 21 although in a very different order. Braun’s commentary summarizes what happened in this part by saying that Judah, Benjamin (and Simeon) are the main source of Levitical cities for Aaron and his sons, yet the inclusion of other tribes among those that gave cities to the rest of the Levites shows the author’s interest in ”all Israel,” and only Dan is omitted entirely (which he thinks may be the result of later editorializing).
Isaachar: 1 Chron 7:1-5
Issachar gets a scant five verses of text. The genealogy is not very extensive perhaps due to the Chronicler not having the necessary sources to say more. As Braun puts it, ”Isaachar seems to be included for the sake of completeness. All Israel, including Isaachar, was to be included within the scope of the divine plan.” This would explain why the author included something about Isaachar instead of ignoring the tribe completely. Basically the format of this genealogy is to include four generations from Isaachar and then attach numbers from a census in King David’s day. The mention of King David is no doubt intentional.
1 Chronicles 2-8
We would expect Isaachar to be followed by Zebulun. As it turns out, however, 1 Chronicles leaves out of the genealogies in these chapters both Zebulun and Dan. Thus instead we have descendants of Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Asher, and Benjamin (King Saul) again. Perhaps the following might make sense of these genealogies as two groups of three: David, Simeon, trans-Jordan tribes; Levi, Isaachar, Saulide tribes. After all, both Simeon and Isaachar are shorter and stand-alone genealogies. Moreover, both the trans-Jordan tribes and Saulide tribes are designed to be a unit.
And so my proposal is that we understand the genealogies as an alternating pattern of 3:
1 Chronicles 7:6-8:40
My primary reason for thinking that 1 Chronicles 7:6-8:40 is a unit is that it begins and ends with the Benjaminites. Yet think of it this way, there is ”all Israel” and there is Judah (cf. 1 Sam 18:16, also 1 Sam 11:8). Remember that when David became king he at first was only king of Judah (2 Sam 2:4-7) and Saul’s son Ish-boseth was made king of Israel (2 Sam 2:8-11). Saul’s son was king over Gilead (the name mentioned in the trans-Jordan genealogy) and the Ashurites and Jezreel (Isaachar), and Ephraim, and Benjamin and all Israel but the house of Judah followed David.
Thus I’m thinking that the Chronicler wanted to include the northern tribes of Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Asher, together with Benjamin to reflect this period of Israelite history rather than to reflect the later division of the nation into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Thus there is a place in God’s plan for these tribes that had followed Saul’s son. Isaachar could have been included under the Saulide tribes just as easily as the tribe of Simeon could have been included under Judah. Instead, we have this 3 part alternating pattern.
At the time of the census used in this unit, the tribe of Benjamin was three major families: one tracing their lineage to Bela, one to Becher, and one to Jediael. This list corresponds to no other such list of Benjamin’s sons. Gen 46:21 mentions Bela and Becher and others but not Jediael. Numbers 26:38 and 1 Chron 8:1-2 mention Bela but not Becher and Jediael. Only in 1 Chron 7:6 do we find these three names together. The best way to understand the discrepancies between the lists is to say that these are the three major Benjaminite families in the day of the military census used.
1 Chronicles 7:13 then gives us a list of Naphtali’s sons. Presumably this is for the sake of completeness – to include all Israel. In fact, there may be a subtle allusion to the tribe of Dan when the verse says, ”the descendants of Bilhah” or ”the sons of Bilhah.” Dan also was a son of this concubine.
May I then also suggest that the four named tribes in this unit form a chiasm with Manasseh and Ephraim, the sons of Joseph at the center. It would seem then that the reason that Zebulun (often included in the same breath with Isaachar) and Dan are omitted is structural rather than to omit any part of Israel. The omission of Zebulun being explained by the need for Isaachar to answer Simeon in the alternating pattern of 1 Chron 2-8 and the omission of Dan being explained by the need for Naphtali to answer Asher in the chiasm of 1 Chron 7:6-8:40.
Here then is my proposed chiasm:
Now regarding Manasseh, remember that there was part of the Manasseh genealogy back in the parallel trans-Jordan tribe section since half of the tribe lived across the Jordan with Reuben and Gad. Presumably then the information here regards the half of the tribe in Israel proper. However, it is difficult to say much regarding Manasseh’s genealogy here with very much certainty. We do know Zelophehad’s daughters, who are mentioned in general here in Chronicles, as heroes of faith in Numbers 27. The name Maacah is also the name of an Aramean kingdom (cf. Deut 3:14, Josh 12:5, 13:11ff, 1 Chron 19:6-9).
Ephraim’s genealogy does not really stand alone from that of Manasseh as the two are a subunit together. What links these two together are the list of the possessions and settlements of ”the sons of Joseph the son of Israel” (cf. 1 Chron 7:28-29).
The genealogy of Ephraim covers the line of Ephraim to Joshua. In the middle is a notice about the birth of Beriah, so named because ”disaster had befallen his house” (1 Chron 7:23).
No matter what else is said the fact that Manasseh and Ephraim form the center of this chiasm supports the idea that the northern kingdom is an essential part of the divine plan for the future in the mind of the Chronicler.
It is intriguing then that the genealogy of Asher appeals to a military census like that for Benjamin at its conclusion. In any case, the first part on Asher resembles Gen 46:17 and the second part has no parallel.
1 Chronicles 8 then returns us to Benjamin. There will be another Saulide genealogy in 1 Chronicles 9, which we will examine that chapter next time. For now we will focus on 1 Chronicles 8. Braun says that this passage is often divided into four parts: v.1-7, the sons of Benjamin and Ehud at Geba; v.8-12, the sons of Shaharaim in Moab, Ono, and Lod; v.13-28, the Benjaminites at Aijalon, Gath, and Jerusalem; and v.29-40, the Benjaminites in Gibeon, and the genealogy of Saul.
The chapter takes the genealogy of Saul out 14 more generations after him bringing it to the exilic or perhaps even the post-exilic period. Also Braun says that at a minimum the situation post-exile determined what elements were included in this genealogy. The tribe of Benjamin then continued to have a prominent role in God’s plan for the future. Indeed, the apostle Paul (aka Saul) no doubt had his pride in being from the tribe of Benjamin in light of the world created by Chronicles.