The genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1-9 serve to tie the people of Israel in the Chronicler’s own day to the past. Indeed, these genealogies serve to connect the people of Israel in the Chronicler’s own day all the way back to Adam. Since Genesis is the first book of the Hebrew Scriptures and Chronicles is the last book of the Hebrew Scriptures (in the Hebrew order), the genealogy in chapter one, based on Genesis, serves to make these two books an inclusio around the whole of the Old Testament. This also reminds us just how important Chronicles is to the Hebrew Scriptures. These genealogies serve in Chronicles as a way of summing up the story from the beginning to the Chronicler’s own day.
1 Chronicles 1
1 Chronicles 1:1-4 summarizes Genesis 5. 1 Chronicles 1:5-23 summarizes Genesis 10. The text from 1 Chronicles 1:5-23 is more extensive than 1 Chron 1:1-4 or 1 Chron 1:24-27. 1 Chron 1:1-4 and 1:24-27 each simply list the royal line of the seed of the woman – although the former list ends with Shem, Ham and Japheth and the latter list does not end with Abram, Nahor, and Haran (as expected, see Gen 10:26) but just ”Abram, that is, Abraham” (1 Chron 1:27).
1 Chronicles 1:1-23 then focuses on the nations with the first four verses indicating the royal lineage. Lists of royal lineage tend to focus attention on the end of that particular list. Thus the first list gives way to a more extensive elaboration on Shem, Ham, and Japheth and the second list (1 Chron 1:24-27) will be followed with the descendants of Abraham. Already we can sense this genealogy is encouraging the reader to move in the direction of Israel as the goal or it would not be so quick to abandon the parallelism of 3 sons and 3 sons (although more in a moment).
The function of this genealogy linking Israel back to Adam serves to remind us that Adam was created from the ground by God. Therefore, it is a genealogy that serves to encourage the reader to reflect on God’s purpose for Israel. The segmented genealogy of 1 Chron 1:5-23 (as opposed to the linear ones before and after it) serves to highlight that Israel is among the nations but has a unique place in God’s plan based on the purpose of His will.
Of course it is worth noting that we would not know how to read 1 Chronicles 1:1-4 if we did not have Genesis intact. Perhaps the reader might guess that Shem, Ham and Japheth are brothers since the rest of the passage elaborates on them in reverse order building up to the eldest (following the outline of Genesis 10). But apart from knowing Genesis, this genealogy would be confusing to say the least. Perhaps it is also important to note what Chronicles left out – there is no genealogy of Cain. That lineage has no bearing on the present.
Moving along, 1 Chronicles 1:24-27 summarizes Genesis 11:10-26 but then immediately explains that Abram is Abraham, which we did not discover until Genesis 17:5. This royal lineage list is then followed by a genealogy of three! Thus here the parallelism reasserts itself in a different way than in Genesis. Remember Genesis discussed the three sons of Noah and then Abram and his two brothers. But in Chronicles it is the three sons of Noah and then the three ”sons” of Abraham. These three sons of Abraham: Ishmael, Keturah’s sons, and Isaac. Remember the last son discussed is where the genealogy is going.
1 Chron 1:28 serves as the title of this second segmented genealogy: ”The sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ishmael.” 1 Chron 1:29-31 tells us Ishmael’s sons summarizing Genesis 25:13-16. 1 Chron 1:32-33 unexpectedly turns to Abraham’s wife Keturah and tells us her children summarizing Genesis 25:1-4. However, notice the difference in terminology – Genesis says that Abraham took another wife (this was after Sarah’s death) but Chronicles calls Keturah not a wife but a concubine. Here Chronicles is interpreting the different treatment of Keturah’s sons from the treatment of Isaac described in Genesis 25 as meaning that Keturah was more of a concubine than a wife. The placement of Keturah’s sons between Ishmael and Isaac can only be explained in terms of preserving the pattern of three. After all, the birth order would be Ishmael, Isaac, and then Keturah’s sons. But throughout 1 Chronicles 1 the less significant lines are dealt with before the most significant line. Nevertheless, the order is still strange since Keturah’s sons are listed earlier in Genesis 25 than Ishmael’s sons are.
1 Chron 1:34 picks back up then with ”Abraham fathered Isaac” (cf. Gen 25:19). This verse summarizes Genesis 25:19-35:29 with the words ”Abraham fathered Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau and Israel.” Of course, we know that the younger twin son Jacob was renamed Israel in Genesis 35 but the whole story is recalled for us in these few words. 1 Chronicles 1:35-54 then summarizes Genesis 36. Again apart from Genesis 36 we would not know how to understand some of this genealogy. For example, the way it reads in Hebrew the name Timna appears to be another son of Esau rather than mom of Amalek. The only indication potentially saving us from this assumption in 1 Chronicles would be the later mention that Lotan’s sister was Timna (1 Chron 1:39). The other women in Genesis 36 are omitted. The only other major difference is that Chronicles tells us ”Hadad died” whereas Genesis had left out this notice.
It is worth noting that only the genealogy of Lot is neglected when speaking of Abraham’s family in 1 Chronicles.
One question that we should consider is why include the information about the kings of Edom and descendants of a place named Seir as is found in Genesis. The answer it would appear to be is that the author wants to further note that Israel exists among the nations and to introduce the thought of a Davidic king. I say the latter because of the phrase taken from Genesis, ”before any king reigned over the people of Israel” in 1 Chron 1:43.
1 Chronicles 2
1 Chronicles 2 begins the way we would expect since we have just finished the descendants of Esau: ”These are the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad and Asher” (1 Chron. 2:1-2). This is a curious order for the tribes. The list would agree with Genesis 35:22b-26 if Dan were moved to the place before Naphtali. It is possible that Dan has been moved to the seventh position because he is omitted, along with Zebulun (immediately before it in the list), from the genealogies that follow in 1 Chron 2-8. In any case, those genealogies that follow begin with Judah.
1 Chronicles 2-4
In Braun’s commentary on 1 Chronicles we find the following explanation of the structure of 1 Chron 2-4
1 Chronicles 2-8
Thus for 1 Chronicles 2-8 we are no longer following the pattern of treating the less important lines first and ending with the most important. Nevertheless, the order for 1 Chron 2-8 is interesting: Judah, Simeon, Reuben, Gad, E. Manasseh, Levi, Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, W. Manasseh, Ephraim, Asher, Benjamin. Other than that this lists Benjamin twice, there are twelve ”tribes” listed. Remember that Zebulun and Dan are omitted to make it twelve. Very early on Simeon, whose territory is surrounded by Judah, was absorbed into the tribe of Judah. Thus it makes sense for Simeon to follow Judah.
Braun’s commentary suggests this: ”The order here seems to be in part one of preeminence, in part geographical, in part unknown. Hence Judah is listed first in view of its importance in the book, with Simeon, Reuben, Gad, and E. Manasseh attached to it by reason of geography. The placement of Levi next is also commonly associated with its significance in the book; after that point, however, there is less certainty.”
These genealogies show the Chronicler’s concern with ”all Israel.” That phrase is a common theme as the Dillard-Longman introduction notes the following examples of its usage in Chronicles: 1 Chron 9:1; 11:1, 10; 12:38; 14:8; 15:3, 28; 18:14; 2 Chron. 1:2; 7:8; 9:30; 10:3, 16; 12:1; 13:4, 15; 18:16; 24:5. This is striking when we remember how so many of these tribes had been in exile much longer than the southern kingdom. But the Chronicler wants to associate God’s purposes with a larger Israel than Judah (Simeon), Benjamin, and the Levites. (In the NT the apostle Paul was also concerned with the salvation of ”all Israel” — see Romans).
Thus these genealogies show that God is not done with the tribes that were in the northern kingdom nor even with the tribes that were beyond the Jordan. Indeed, the Chronicler is arguing that the past division of the people into two should not continue. And the Chronicler is probably hoping that there will one day be a much larger Israel.
Of course the genealogies also had a very practical usage for the Chronicler’s own day, as we found in Ezra-Nehemiah, because one needed to know who was in and who was out – particularly because one needed to know who could be king and who could be a priest.
1 Chronicles 2, Further observations
Now then we turn to some interesting observations in these genealogies. First, in 1 Chronicle 2:1-8 we find Ethan the Ezrahite associated with the tribe of Judah. We know Ethan the Ezrahite from the Psalms, suggesting some connection to the temple and music. It could be, as Braun’s commentary suggests, that Ezrahite is a reference to someone who descends from the people of the land before Israel arrived. It is possible that sons of Mahol is meant to be ”sons of the orchestral guild” rather than a proper name.
Braun also notes that the name Zimri means ”to make music.” This name was chosen instead of Zabdi the son of Zerah according to Joshua 7:1, 18. In other words, Chronicles does not always strive to have the name be strictly correct if he wants to associate a particular meaning with the name. This is also found in the next verse where Achan is called the Achor of Israel, which was the name of the place in Joshua. This will be an important observation for us later in Chronicles.
Also notice just how selective the Chronicler is at retelling the story of Genesis. For example, the Chronicler tells us that Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of YHWH and He put him to death, but there is no similar notice for Judah’s second son. It is possible that this was accidentally skipped in later copying of Chronicles or of the particular source that Chronicles was using if not strictly using Genesis. But nevertheless the issue is that many of the details of the sordid story we know from Genesis are skipped. Also, we are not told how Judah’s ”daughter-in-law Tamar also bore him Perez and Zerah” (1 Chron. 2:4). This is simply reported as a matter of fact as was the truth that Judah’s previous children were born to a Canaanite woman.
Also, it is worth noting that when we turn to Judah now the most important line is dealt with first – Perez before Zerah – just as Judah is dealt with before the rest of ”all Israel.” Thus the Chronicler is interested in the place of the tribe of Judah within Israel in the divine plan according to the purpose of God’s will.
Braun’s commentary notes as well that there are a number of names listed under the tribe of Judah that were not strictly speaking biological descendants but instead were ”adopted” into the tribe. This suggests to the reader in the Chronciler’s own day that there is room for people to be included among all Israel who are not biological descendants – especially since this was the case for the most important tribe and the only one with a Persian decree encouraging them to return to their homeland.
For those who have heard or read my teaching on Genesis it is important to note one major difference between the genealogies in Genesis and those in Chronicles – there appears to be no significance to numbers in Chronicles (not seven nor ten) at least not consistently. Thus if we are going to find the genealogies in Chronicles interesting it will have to be for a different reason. I say this despite the way that earlier Scripture says that David was the eighth son of his father and Chronicles lists him as the seventh son. This may or may not be because of the number seven.
Like Genesis, however, the genealogies are clearly telescoped. That is, there are not enough people to cover all the generations. For example, in the lineage leading up to David there are not enough names to cover that period of time and hence it is obvious that the Chronicler’s genealogy skips generations. This does not mean that the Chronicler necessarily chose to do so himself, for we do not know what his sources say. Ruth’s genealogy is most likely based on the genealogy here in Chronicles rather than the other way around – although that all depends on when one dates the books.
Of the foremost importance for us is the emphasis that this genealogy of Judah has on the lineage of David. Indeed, the text gives us names that were otherwise not mentioned in earlier Scripture to tie David to his ancestor Judah. The only other place Ram is mentioned in Scripture, for example, is the genealogy at the conclusion of Ruth. The same is true for Salma (Salmon in Ruth 4:20-21). Perhaps here I can also mention that Chronicles often has different spellings of names although the English translations will use the commonly used English spellings of the names of the people meant.
1 Chronicles 3-4
The interest of the book of Chronicles in David is apparent in 1 Chronicles 3 also. Here we find a much longer accounting of David’s children than we find later in 1 Chronicles 14:4-7. The descendants of David from Solomon through the rest of the kings is not much more than a list. This changes, however, once the list reaches Josiah through the Chronicler’s own day. Thus there is a great interest in the rest of the descendants of Judah in 1 Chronicles 4 in the Chronicler’s own day.
But again the big take away for us is the interest of the Chronicler on the family from which will come the Messiah.