1 Chronicles 1
Historical Records from Adam to Abraham (1:1–27)
1–4 Many modern readers have difficulty understanding the importance of the genealogies listed in the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles; but to the post-exilic Israelites, they were very important. These genealogies were not merely lists of names; they provided continuity between the pre-exilic Israelites and those who had recently returned from exile. The new post-exilic community needed to know who they were and where they had come from.
These genealogies reveal how God chose certain individuals to be instruments in His ongoing plan to redeem4 sinful humanity: Seth, Noah, Shem, ABRAHAM, Isaac, JACOB (Israel), MOSES, David. In these first nine chapters, the writer traces a line from Adam to David, and then on to David’s descendants in the post-exilic period.5 This line, of course,eventually would lead to Jesus Christ, God’s final and perfect Redeemer of mankind.
Through these genealogies, therefore, the writer wanted to demonstrate to the post-exilic Israelites that they had a crucial role in God’s purposes for mankind. They were still God’s chosen people—and they therefore needed to act like it!
The genealogies served a second and more immediate purpose. The period of the Exile was one of great disruption for the Israelite community; thousands had been killed or displaced. Records of land ownership and inheritance rights had been lost. In reestablishing the priesthood, it was essential to know who were true Levites and who were not; according to God’s LAW, only Levites could serve in the temple. The writer of Chronicles, as far as he was able, set out to clarify these matters.
Finally, these genealogies provided a framework for maintaining the ethnic and religious purity of the post-exilic community. The Israelites would always be in danger of being absorbed into other nations and thereby losing their identity as God’s people. Before the Exile, it was mainly their kings who provided this identity. Now they would have no king, no nation; they would simply be a province of the Persian Empire. Therefore it was all the more important that they maintain their ethnic and religious distinctiveness as the people of God.
In this first chapter, the writer covers the period from Adam to Israel (Jacob).6 His primary source is the book of Genesis. In verses 1–4, the writer lists the names of the ten generations from Adam to Noah, ending with Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, from whom all the earth’s people are descended (Genesis 5:3–32).
5–7 These verses list the descendants of Japheth, Noah’s oldest son (Genesis 10:2–5).
8–16 These verses list the descendants of Ham, Noah’s youngest son (Genesis 10:6–20).
17–27 These verses list the descendants of Shem, the son of Noah through whom would come Abraham and the nation of Israel (Genesis 10:21–31). Here the writer names God’s chosen line—the line of Shem—last of all, a custom he will continue to follow in this chapter.
The Family of Abraham (1:28–34)
28–31 The writer again places Isaac’s line—the chosen line—last, after Abraham’s sons by other wives. In these verses, the writer lists the descendants of Hagar’s son Ishmael (Genesis 25:12–16).
32–33 These verses list the descendants of Abraham’s concubine Keturah (Genesis 25:1–4).
34 Here Sarah’s son Isaac is listed, together with his two sons, Esau and Israel (Jacob).
Esau’s Sons (1:35–54)
35–37 Again the secondary line of Esau comes before the chosen line of Israel (Genesis 36:9–14).
38–42 In these verses, the writer lists the descendants of Seir (Genesis 36:20–30). Seir was already living in Edom before Esau settled there.7
43–54 These verses list the rulers of Edom (Genesis 36:31–43).