Our reading today begins with the lineage of the remaining tribes of Israel. I know these can get tedious, but you would care greatly that these are all listed if you were of the tribe of Asher returning from captivity!
In the lines of Issachar, Benjamin and Asher, we are expressly told of the number of warriors of the tribe. We also saw this with the summary of the eastern tribes. But we do not with the other tribes in this chapter (or with Judah or Simeon in chapter 4). This is likely because the Chronicler is recording this information based on which records are available to him at the time of his writing. There are military records for some, and not for others. For Judah, there would have been ample records not only because of the line of the kings, but because these are the returning remnant of national Judah returning after only 70 years. For Naphtali, there may have been no records outside of the Torah. And remember, the northern kingdom was overtaken 200 years prior, so records for the ten tribes were probably scarce. All that to say – this is a real man in real history using real records to try to piece together as thorough a history as he can.
Note in the line of Manasseh (this would be the half-tribe on the western side of the Jordan) that Zelophehad’s daughters are mentioned (7:15 – see Num 27:1-7, Num 36, Josh 17:3-4). The line of Ephraim causes a few problems (vv. 20-29). First, the line is different from the genealogy of Numbers 26:35-36, where Ephraim has three sons, only one of whom (Shuthelah) appears to have had a single son, and it’s not the one mentioned here. Second, is the “and Ezer and Elead” referring to brothers of Shuthelah the son of Ephraim, or Shethulah the great-great-great-great-great grandson of Ephraim? Based on v. 22, it would appear that they are sons of Ephraim. But wait! Ephraim was not alive when they came into the land to mourn any sons that may have died at the hands of the men of Gath. Nor were his brothers to comfort him.
While there are any number of proposed solutions to these issues, the most reasonable is that the record has somehow gotten out of order, and Ephraim had sons names Ezer and Elead who died in a raid by the men of Gath while the sons of Israel were shepherds in Egypt. Then verse 25 picks up after Shuthelah, and the other names between the two mentions of Shuthelah (the same man) either pick up after Joshua (whose descendants are never discussed elsewhere), or they belong somewhere else entirely. This is likely a scribal error, or the culmination of a series of scribal errors.
What is important to notice is what is not here in these lists of descendants. There is no lineage of the tribe of Dan. There are three possible reasons for this. First, it may be that Dan is here, and that the “Hushim the son of Aher” is a reference to Dan. The word “aher” literally means “another” in Hebrew, so this may not be a proper name, but a reference to “another” and his son. And we know from Genesis 46:23 that Hushim (though spelled differently there than here in Chronicles) was the son of Dan. The reason usually given is that because of Dan’s heinous sin in Judges 18, Israel has all but “disowned” Dan as a tribe. I don’t buy this. First of all, the Chronicler in 2:2 lists Dan among the sons of Israel. Second of all, out of all the heinous things done by Israelites in the Bible, that is the worst thing ever done?
The second possible reason is that no records exist for the tribe of Dan. He has only one son listed in Genesis 46:23. Even in Numbers, there is only one single line of Dan recorded (Num 26:42), though Dan is a large tribe (second only to Judah!). The third possible reason is that there were no descendants of Dan left after the captivity. It may be that this was the reason there were no records available for the tribe (reasons two and three combined). Either way, Dan was forgotten among the remnant. Not all who physically descended from Israel belong to Israel (see Rom 9:6).*
See, genealogies can be interesting!
Chapter 8 details the line of Saul. We first get a more detailed line of Benjamin (see 7:6-12). In verse 33 we are told of Saul’s sons. We know Jonathan, Malchishua, and Abinadab died with Saul (1 Sam 31:2). But who is this Eshbaal? It is believed to be Ish-bosheth. “Eshbaal” means literally “man of Baal.” “Ish-bosheth” means “man of shame.” It would appear that time was not kind to this son of Saul who tried to take the kingdom from David. It is possible that this is the “Ishvi” named in 1 Sam 14:49, and the writers of Israel’s history have used later nicknames given to him that were based on his real name.
On the flip side, history may have been kind to Jonathan’s son Merib-baal. This is believed to be Mephibosheth. “Mephibosheth” literally means “from the mouth of shame.” But unlike Eshbaal – the man of Baal – history remembers Jonathan’s son as “Merib-baal,” literally “opponent of Baal” (from the same root as “Meribah” where Israel opposed God – see Ex 17:7).
See, genealogies can be interesting!
*I believe that the vision given to the writer of Revelation in Revelation 7:4-8, where he hears the roll call of the sealed Israelites, points back to the absence of Dan among the physical remnant to show how the elect of God in Christ are the true remnant – the true continuation of God’s people – which are represented by the 144,000.