Our reading today begins with the tribes whose inheritance was on the eastern side of the Jordan. It starts with the line of Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob (5:1). Because of his sin against Jacob (Gen 35:22), Reuben lost both his birthright (physical heir) and the promise (spiritual heir) (see Gen 49:3-4). Joseph’s sons were given the birthright (Gen 48:16). The promise, however, passed through Judah (v. 2 – see Gen 49:8-12). Note that Reuben’s line is traced into the Assyrian captivity (v. 6 – see 2 Kings 15:29), and then beyond. The Chronicler is again tying in the past with the present for the remnant of God’s people.
In the line of Gad, the writer establishes the historicity of his writing by referring back to the genealogies that were recorded before either Israel or Judah went into exile (v. 17). The writer then speaks of the military might of the two-and-a-half tribes from the east, and ascribes their military victories to God, and speaks of their faith (vv. 20-22). The writer is reminding the remnant that they are a people of faith. Note that they “lived in their place until the exile” (v. 22). After the captivity, Israel did not regain their land on the eastern side of the Jordan. Note that the reason for the Assyrian exile is given (v. 26), and it is idolatry (v. 25). The writer is reminding the people that there is no other God.
Chapter 6 records the lineage of Levi. Levi is given special attention because contained therein is the line of the priesthood (beginning in 6:3). The line of priests ends with the captivity (v. 15) with Jehozadak, whose son Jeshua took part in rebuilding the altar when the remnant returned to the land (Ezra 3:2). Beginning in verse 31, the writer records the names of the Levites that David put in charge of worship music in the Tabernacle, descendants from each of the three sons of Levi. Then, the Aaronic priesthood is (again) detailed (vv. 50-52 – see vv. 3-6). In verse 49 the Chronicler reminds Israel of their religious heritage, centered around the offerings in the house of God. The writer then details the distribution of Levites throughout Israel in their cities (vv. 54-81). He is setting this in historical and geographic context – this happened in real time in real places.