Today we begin the book of 1 Chronicles. Before diving in, let me just point out that with today’s reading, we are 1/3 of the way through our plan. Congratulations! I have also made the reading plan through 1 Chronicles a little slower. We will not have more than three chapters to read at any given point. I did this because 1 Chronicles is one of those books that Christians tend to either skip altogether, or to skim through. I don’t want us to do that, so I lightened the load a little. I encourage you to read every word. It is, after all, God’s Word.
But why is it important to read all of those boring genealogies? Well, 1 Chronicles was written after the Babylonian captivity. Centralized worship in the Temple had been stopped for over 70 years. The Ark was gone, never to be recovered. The promise of the land seemed to many to have been revoked by God. The promise to Abraham seemed to be unfulfillable at this point (see Gen 12:1-3, 15:17-21). The monarchy was gone, so the promise to David was believed by many to be abrogated (see 2 Sam 7:10-16). God had brought to pass all the curses on Israel that He promised would result from disobedience (see Deut 28:15-68). Some may have returned to Israel, but they were still under foreign control (Persia). The land was divided among the returning captives and the mixed-breed Samaritans, Jews whose pure lineage was diluted by the Assyrians during the northern kingdom’s captivity. Everything was different!
But not everything was. And that is why 1 and 2 Chronicles was written. It was a reminder to the returning captives of who they are – because of Who God is. The writer (possibly Ezra?) recounts the story of God’s faithfulness to the southern kingdom. He recounts the history of the books of Samuel and Kings, but tells it from a priestly perspective, and from the southern kingdom’s point of view. He wanted to assure the returning Jews that God is faithful to His people, and God has not changed. And all of the genealogies provide historical context for the story of God’s faithfulness, which was going to continue. This is nothing less than what Matthew does to begin his Gospel account (Matt 1:1-17). God is a God that works in history, and He will continue to be.
So with that understanding, we begin!
The book begins at the beginning, with Adam (1:1). We see a recounting of the lineage of our first father. Here, we have the genealogies of Genesis chapters 5-11 condensed into 24 verses, ending with Abraham. Then we have Abraham’s sons, Isaac and Ishmael. We are given a detailed lineage of Isaac’s son Esau, as the Edomites (Idumeans in the New Testament) continued to live side by side with Israel for well over a thousand years. Again, historical context.
In chapter 2, we have the lineage of Jacob/Israel. Note that the focus is on Judah. Thus, the lineage follows what Matthew provides (Matt 1:2-6) from Judah to David (2:3-15). The lineage that is being highlighted here is Adam to Abraham to Judah to David. This is why many sons are listed out of age order: the lineage of David is highlighted. My, how God’s sovereign hand worked all things out for the greatest (up until then, of course) king of Israel! What follows is the lineage of the non-royal line of Judah (v. 16-55 – the royal line picks up in chapter 3). The writer is trying to establish that God’s design was all about the southern kingdom.
Note that David is said here to be the seventh son of Jesse (v. 15). We know from 1 Samuel 16 that David is the youngest of eight brothers. Here, Elihu is not mentioned. It is believed that this is because he had no children. This omissions shows us that though the ancestry is carefully delineated here, the focus is really on the generation alive at the writing of the book. This isn’t about Abraham or Jacob or even David. It is about all the people God has sovereignly chosen in all generations – especially the returned remnant!
I agree. It is all about the people that God has sovereignly chosen to work through in history. Every generation of His chosen people from Adam to Seth to Noah to Shem to Abraham to Judah to Moses to Joshua to Samuel to David to Ezra to Mary the mother of Jesus…
…to Jesus if Nazareth…
…to the apostles…to our brethren of the early church…to the faithful saints of the first few centuries of Christendom…to St. Augustine…to the faithful Roman Catholics of the next milennium…to John Wycliffe…to Jan Hus…to Martin Luther…to John Calvin…to Jonathan Edwards…to John Wesley…to Charles Spurgeon…to Hudson Taylor…to John Stott…to R.C. Sproul…
…to us. What the Chronicler wanted his readers to know, we need to know. The God Who acted on behalf of – and through! – His saints throughout history; this God is the same now and forever. He is still working no less than He was when He called Abraham or anointed David or called the captives home. He is working no less, and no differently. He is working through His people!