2. Biblical References
3. Importance of Genealogies
4. Their Historical Value
5. Principles of Interpretation
6. Principles of Compilation
8. Principal Genealogies and Lists
The Old Testament translates (once, Nehemiah 7:5) the noun yachas; cepher ha-yachas, "book of the genealogy"; also translates a denominate verb in Hithpael, yachas, "sprout" "grow" (compare family "tree"); hithyaches, "genealogy"; the idea is conveyed in other phrases, as cepher toledhoth, "book of the generations," or simply toledhoth, "generations." In the New Testament it transliterates genealogia, "account of descent," 1 Timothy 1:4; Titus 3:9. In Matthew 1:1, biblos geneseos, "book of the generation" of Jesus Christ, is rendered in the American Revised Version, margin "the genealogy of Jesus Christ"; a family register, or register of families, as 1 Chronicles 4:33, etc.; the tracing backward or forward of the line of ancestry of individual, family, tribe, or nation; pedigree. In Timothy and Titus refers probably to the Gnostic (or similar) lists of successive emanations from Deity in the development of created existence.
2. Biblical References:
According to the Old Testament, the genealogical interest dates back to the beginnings of sacred history. It appears in the early genealogical tables of Ge 5; 10; 46, etc.; in Exodus 6:14-27, where the sons of Reuben, Simeon and especially Levi, are given; in Numbers 1:2; 26:2-51, where the poll of fighting men is made on genealogical principles; in Numbers 2:2, where the positions on the march and in camp are determined by tribes and families; in David's division of priests and Levites into courses and companies (1 Chronicles 6-9); is referred to in the account of Jeroboam's reign (2 Chronicles 12:15 margin, "the words of Iddo, after the manner of genealogies"); is made prominent in Hezekiah's reforms when he reckoned the whole nation by genealogies (1 Chronicles 4:41; 2 Chronicles 31:16-19); is seen in Jotham's reign when the Reubenites and Gadites are reckoned genealogically (1 Chronicles 5:17). Zerubbabel took a census, and settled the returning exiles according to their genealogies (1 Chronicles 3:19-24; 1 Chronicles 9; Ezra 2; Nehemiah 7; 11; 12). With the rigid exclusion of all foreign intermixtures by the leaders of the Restoration (Ezra 10; Nehemiah 10:30; 13:23-31), the genealogical interest naturally deepened until it reached its climax, perhaps in the time of Christ and up to the destruction of Jerusalem. Josephus, in the opening of his Life, states that his own pedigree was registered in the public records. Many families in Christ's time clearly possessed such lists (Luke 1:5, etc.). The affirmed, reiterated and unquestioned Davidic descent of Christ in the New Testament, with His explicit genealogies (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38); Paul's statement of his own descent; Barnabas' Levitical descent, are cases in point. Davididae, descendants of David, are found as late as the Roman period. There is a tradition that Herod I destroyed the genealogical lists at Jerusalem to strengthen his own seat, but more probably they persisted until the destruction of Jerusalem.
3. Importance of Genealogies:
Genealogical accuracy, always of interest both to primitive and more highly civilized peoples, was made especially important by the facts that the land was promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, that the priesthood was exclusively hereditary, that the royal succession of Judah lay in the Davidic house, that the division and occupation of the land was according to tribes, families and fathers' houses; and for the Davididae, at least, that the Messiah was to be of the house of David. The exile and return, which fixed indelibly in the Jewish mind the ideas of monotheism, and of the selection and sacred mission of Israel, also fixed and deepened the genealogical idea, prominently so in the various assignments by families, and in the rejection in various ways of those who could not prove their genealogies. But it seems extreme to date, as with many modern critics, its real cultivation from this time. In the importance attached to genealogies the Hebrew resembles many other ancient literatures, notably the Egyptian Greek, and Arabic, but also including Romans, Kelts, Saxons, the earliest history naturally being drawn upon genealogical as well as on annalie lines. A modern tendency to overestimate the likeness and underestimate the unlikeness of the Scripture to its undoubtedly cognate literatures finds in the voluminous artificial genealogical material, which grew up in Arabia after the time of the caliph Omar, an almost exact analogue to the genealogical interest at the time of the return. This, however, is on the assumption of the late date of most of the genealogical material in the older New Testament books, and rests in turn on the assumption that the progress of religious thought and life in Israel was essentially the same as in all other countries; an evolutionary development, practically, if not theoretically, purely naturalistic in its genesis and progress.
4. Their Historical Value:
The direct historical value of the Scripture genealogies is variously estimated. The critically reconstructive school finds them chiefly in the late (priestly) strata of the early books, and dates Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah (our fullest sources) about 300 BC, holding it to be a priestly reconstruction of the national history wrought with great freedom by the "Chronicler." Upon this hypothesis the chief value of the genealogies is as a mirror of the mind and ideas of their authors or recorders, a treasury of reflections on the geographical, ethnological and genealogical status as believed in at their time, and a study of the effect of naive and exaggerated patriotism dealing with the supposed facts of national life, or else, in the extreme instance, a highly interesting example of bold and inventive juggling with facts by men with a theory, in this particular case a priestly one, as with the "Chronicler." To more conservative scholars who accept the Old Testament at its face value, the genealogies are a rich mine of historical, personal and ethnographic, as well as religious, information, whose working, however, is much hindered by the inevitable corruption of the text, and by our lack of correlative explanatory information. Much interesting illustrative matter may be looked for from such archaeological explorations as those at Gezer and elsewhere under the Palestine Exploration Society, the names on the pottery throwing light on the name- lists in Chronicles, and the similar discoveries on the supposed site of Ahab's palace in Samaria, which also illustrate the conflict between Baal and Yahweh worship by the proportion of the proper names compounded by "Baal" or "Jah" (see Macalister, Bible Sidelights from Gezer, 150; PEF, 1905, 243, 328; Harvard Theological Review, 1911). In spite of all such illustrative data, however, the genealogies must necessarily continue to present many insoluble problems. A great desideratum is a careful and systematic study of the whole question by some modern conservative scholar endowed with the patience and insight of the late Lord A.C. Hervey, and equipped with the fruits of the latest discoveries. While much curious and suggestive information may be derived from an intensive study of the names and relationships in the genealogies (although here the student needs to watch his theories), their greatest present value lies in the picture they present of the large-hearted cosmopolitanism, or international brotherliness, in the older ones, notably Genesis 10, recognizing so clearly that God hath made of one all nations to dwell on the earth; and, as they progress, in the successive selection and narrowing as their lines converge upon the Messiah.
5. Principles of Interpretation:
In the evaluation and interpretation of the genealogies, certain facts and principles must be held in mind.
(1) Lists of names necessarily suffer more in transmission than other literature, since there is almost no connectional suggestion as to their real form. Divergences in different versions, or in different stages, of the same genealogy are therefore to be looked for, with many tangles hard to unravel, and it is precisely at this point that analytic and constructive criticism needs to proceed most modestly and restrain any possible tendency unduly to theorize.
(2) Frequently in the Scriptural lists names of nations, countries, cities, districts or clans are found mingled with the names of individuals. This is natural, either as the personification of the clan or nation under the name of its chief, or chief progenitor, or as the designation of the individual clan, family or nation, from its location, so common among many nations. Many of the cases where this occurs are so obvious that the rule may not be unsafe to consider all names as probably standing for individuals where the larger geographical or other reference is not unmistakably clear. This is undoubtedly the intent and understanding of those who transmitted and received them.
(3) It is not necessary to assume that the ancestors of various tribes or families are eponymous, even though otherwise unknown. The Scriptural explanation of the formation of tribes by the expansion and division of families is not improbable, and is entitled to a certain presumption of correctness. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to establish a stopping-point for the application of the eponymous theory; under its spell the sons of Jacob disappear, and Jacob, Isaac and even Abraham become questionable.
(4) The present quite popular similar assumption that personal details in the genealogy stand for details of tribal history, as, for instance, the taking of a concubine means rather an alliance with, or absorption of, an inferior tribe or clan, is a fascinating and far-reaching generalization, but it lacks confirmation, and would make of the Scripture an allegorical enigma in which historical personages and events, personified peoples or countries, and imaginary ancestors are mingled in inextricable confusion.
(5) Scriptural genealogies are often given a regular number of generations by omitting various intermediate steps. The genealogies of Jesus, for instance, cover 42 generations, in 3 subdivisions of 14 each. Other instances are found in the Old Testament, where the regularity or symmetry is clearly intentional. Instance Jacob's 70 descendants, and the 70 nations of Genesis 10. This has in modern eyes an artificial look, but by no means necessarily involves violence done to the facts under the genealogist's purview, and is readily and creditably accounted for by his conceptions and purposes. The theory that in some cases the requisite number has been built up by the insertion of imaginary names(see Curtis, ICC, "Chronicles," 135) has another aspect, and does not seem necessary to account for the facts, or to have sufficient facts to sustain it. See 21:5, (6) below. It involves a view of the mental and moral equipment and point of view of the Chronicler in particular, which would not seem to leave him many shreds of either historical, or "religious" value, and which a sounder criticism will surely very materially modify.
(6) Much perplexity and confusion is avoided by remembering that other modes of entrance into the family, clan, tribe or nation obtained than that by birth:
capture, adoption, the substitution of one clan for another just become extinct, marriage. Hence, "son of," "father of," "begat," have broader technical meanings, indicating adoptive or official connection or "descent," as well as actual consanguinity, nearer or remote, "son" also meaning "grandson," "great-grandson," etc. Instance Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, of the tribe of Judah, styled (1 Chronicles 2:18) a descendant of Hezron and son of Hur, but also, in token of his original descent, called the Kenizzite or "son of Kenaz" (Joshua 15:17), etc. Similarly, where in an earlier genealogy a clan or individual is assigned to a certain tribe, and in a later to another, it has been "grafted in." But while these methods of accretion clearly obtained, the nations freely absorbing neighboring or surrounding peoples, families, or persons, families likewise absorbing individuals, as in American Indian, and many other tribes; yet, as in them, the descent and connection by birth constituted the main line, and in any given case has the presumption unless clear facts to the contrary exist.
(7) The repetition of the same name in the same genealogy, as in that of the high priests (1 Chronicles 6:1-15), rouses "suspicion" in some minds, but unnecessarily. It is very natural, and not uncommon, to find grandfathers and grandsons, especially among the Hebrews, receiving the same name (Luke 1:59). This would be especially to be expected in a hereditary caste or office like the priesthood.
(8) The existence of the same name in different genealogies is not uncommon, and neither implies nor should cause confusion.
(9) The omission of one or many links in the succession, often clearly caused by the desire for symmetry, is frequent where the cause is unknown, the writers being careful only to indicate the connection more or less generally, without feeling bound to follow every step. Tribes were divided into families, and families into fathers' houses; tribe, family and fathers' house regularly constituting links in a formal genealogy, while between them and the person to be identified any or all links may be omitted. In similar fashion, there is an absence of any care to keep the successive generations absolutely distinct in a formal fashion, son and grandson being designated as alike "son" of the same ancestor. Genesis 46:21, for instance, contains grandsons as well as sons of Benjamin, Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Nanman, Ehi, etc. This would be especially true where the son as well as the father became founder of a house. Some confusion is occasionally caused by the lack of rigid attention to precise terminology, a characteristic of the Hebrew mind. Strictly the tribe, shebheT (in the Priestly Code (P), maTTeh), is the larger subdivision, then the clan, mishpachah, "family," and then the "house" or "fathers' house," bayith, or beth 'abh, beth 'abhoth; but sometimes a "fathers' house" is a tribe (Numbers 17:6), or a clan (1 Chronicles 24:6). In this connection it is to be remembered again that sequence of generations often has to do with families rather than with individuals, and represents the succession to the inheritance or headship, rather than the actual relationship of father and son.
(10) Genealogies are of two forms, the descending, as Genesis 10:
"The sons of Japheth: Gomer," etc.; "The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz," etc.; and the ascending, Ezra 7:1: "Ezra, the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah," etc. The descending are the usual.
(11) Feminine names are occasionally found, where there is anything remarkable about them, as Sarai and Milcah (Genesis 11:29), Rebekah (Genesis 22:23), etc.; or where any right or property is transmitted through them, as the daughters of Zelophehad, who claimed and were accorded "a possession among the brethren of (their) father" (Numbers 26:33; 27:1-11 ), etc. In such cases as Azubah and Ephrath, successive wives of Caleb (1 Chronicles 2:18-20), many modern critics find tribal history enshrined in this case, "Caleb" or "dog" tribe having removed from Azubah, "deserted" to Ephrathah, Bethlehem, in Northern Judah. But the principle is not, and cannot be, carried Out consistently.
(12) The state of the text is such, especially in Chronicles, that it is not easy, or rather not possible, to construct a complete genealogical table after the modern form. Names and words have dropped out, and other names have been changed, so that the connection is often difficult and sometimes impossible to trace. The different genealogies also represent different stages in the history and, at many places, cannot with any knowledge now at our command be completely adjusted to each other, just as geographical notices at different periods must necessarily be inconsistent.
(13) In the present state of our knowledge, and of the text, and also considering the large and vague chronological methods of the Hebrews, the genealogies can give us comparatively little chronological assistance. The uncertainty as to the actual length of a generation, and the custom of frequently omitting links in the descent, increases the difficulty; so that unless they possess special marks of completeness, or have outstanding historical relationships which determine or corroborate them, or several parallel genealogies confirm each other, they must be used with great caution. Their interest is historical, biographical, successional or hereditary, rather than chronological.
6. Principles of Compilation:
The principal genealogical material of the Old Testament is found in Ge 5; 10; 11; 22; 25; 29; 30; 35; 36; 46; Ex 6; Nu 1; 2; 7; 10; 13; 26; 34; scattered notices in Josh, Ruth, 1 Sam; 2Sa 3; 5; 23; 1Ki 4; 1Ch 1-9; 11; 12; 15; 23-27; 2Ch 23; 29; Ezr 2; 7; 10; Ne 3; 7; 10; 11; 12. The genealogies of our Lord (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38) are the only New Testament material. The Old Testament and New Testament genealogies bring the record down from the creation to the birth of Christ. After tracing the descent from Adam to Jacob, incidentally (Genesis 10) giving the pedigree of the various nations within their purview, the Hebrew genealogists give the pedigree of the twelve tribes. As was to be expected, those tribes, which in the developing history assumed greater prominence, received the chief attention. Da is carried down but 1 generation, and credited with but 1 descendant; Zebulun 1 generation, 3 sons; Naphtali 1 generation, 4 sons; Issachar 4 generations, 15 descendants; Manasseh 4 generations, 39 descendants; Asher 7 generations, 40 descendants; Reuben 8 (?) generations, 22 descendants; Gad 10 generations, 28 descendants; Ephraim 14 (?) generations, 25 descendants. Levi, perhaps first as the priestly tribe, Judah next as the royal, Benjamin as most closely associated with the others, and all three as the survivors of the exile (although representatives of other tribes shared in the return) are treated with the greatest fullness.
Chronicles furnishes us the largest amount of genealogical information, where coincident with the older genealogies, clearly deriving its data from them. Its extra-canonical sources are a matter of considerable difference among critics, many holding that the books cited by the Chronicler as his sources ("The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah," "The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel," "The History of Samuel the Seer," "The History of Nathan the Prophet," etc., to the number of perhaps 16) are our canonical books, with the addition of a "Midrashic History of Israel," from which he quotes the most freely. But the citations are made with such fullness, vividness, and particularity of reference, that it is hard to believe that he did not have before him extensive extra-canonical documents. This is the impression he clearly seeks to convey. Torrey (AJSL, XXV, 195) considers that he cit, es this array of authority purely "out of his head," for impressiveness' sake, a theory which leaves the Chronicler no historical value whatever. It is extremely likely that he had before him also oral and written sources that he has not cited, records, private or public lists, pedigrees, etc., freely using them for his later lists and descents. For the post-exilic names and lists, Ezra-Nehemiah also furnish us much material. In this article no attempt is made at an exhaustive treatment, the aim being rather by a number of characteristic examples to give an idea of the quality, methods and problems of the Bible genealogies.
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