Our reading today begins with… okay, it’s more genealogies. But it is important to see what the Chronicler is doing. He started with a detailed lineage from Adam to Abraham, then from Abraham to Jacob/Israel, then from Israel to Judah, and then Judah to David. He followed the specific line of Judah that resulted in David. Here in chapters three and four, the writer is setting the point-of-view of the book. The history will be recounted from a very Davidic point of view, so now David’s progeny will be detailed. Realize, many of the returning remnant from Babylon had lost track of their genealogy. After a few generations away from the land and without centralized worship, genealogy was simply not that important anymore. But the Chronicler wants to show how important it is for God’s people to see the continuity between what He has done and what He is still doing.
Chapter 3 draws a line from David to Solomon. Many of David’s sons are spoken about. Note all the women David had as wife. Notice also that the sons of his many concubines aren’t even named (3:9). In verse 10, the focus turns to Solomon, the chosen heir to David. We do not get the lines of David’s other sons, nor more than one of Solomon’s. The writer is focusing on the line of kings of Judah, naming every one through Zedekiah (vv. 10-16). Zedekiah was the king of Judah when it fell to Babylon. So in verse 17, we are told that this lineage now continues into the captivity. If we trace the lineage, it ends around 425 B.C., about a hundred years after the captivity ended.* The writer is tying in the past with the present for the remnant of God’s people.
Starting in chapter 4, we return to the sons of Jacob. Judah is mentioned first, of course (4:1). Now the writer expands the lineage beyond just the line of David and the kings. The book is written from the perspective of the southern kingdom, so Judah is given prominence. Remember, we saw through the books of Samuel how Judah became prominent in the history of Israel even before David became king. In this line we see Jabez, who displays a faith similar to David (vv. 9-10). We see Othniel (v. 13), the first judge of Israel. We see Caleb (v. 15) the faithful spy who had extraordinary faith. We see how Jacob’s blessing on Judah was playing out in history (Gen 49:8-12).
Next, we see the line of Simeon. The lines of all the tribes will be traced, because people from every tribe lived in Judah before the captivity. Many wanted to stay where the Temple was when the kingdom divided. So people from every tribe would naturally be among the returning remnant.
But why start with Simeon? Because the allotment to the tribe of Simeon fell completely within Judah (Josh 19:9), and we will see when the kingdom splits that Simeon loses it’s identity as a distinct people. Here, after the captivity, Simeon had just been part of Judah for a few hundred years. Note that many of the Simeonites left Israel and lived in Edom (v. 42). We see how Jacob’s “blessing” on Simeon played out in history (Gen 49:5-7). But also notice that the Chronicler tells us that some of the settlements of Simeon exist “to this day” (v. 43 – see Neh 11:26-29). He is tying in the past with the present for the remnant of God’s people.
*This date would also be in line with the theory that Ezra authored the books of Chronicles.