I. The Genealogies (1 Chronicles 1:1–9:44)


I. The Genealogies (1:1–9:44)

The first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles can be pretty tough sledding. These genealogical lists of hard-to-pronounce names can bog down even the most faithful Bible readers. But, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture [yes, even the genealogies] is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

God does not list names because he ran out of material. He always has purposes in mind. For example, the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 are not mere lists. Matthew’s genealogy traces Jesus’s lineage through Joseph, his legal father. This established the fact that Jesus Christ had legal right to the throne because his lineage could be traced back to David. Luke’s genealogy traces Jesus’s line through his mother Mary, while being careful to note that Joseph was not Jesus’s birth father (see Luke 3:23). So, even though the purpose of a biblical genealogy may not be immediately obvious, God had a reason for including it. There is a rhyme and reason to even the most seemingly insignificant statements in Scripture.

A. The Genealogies from Adam to Israel (1:1–2:2)

1:1-4 The genealogies of 1 Chronicles, the most extensive in the Scriptures, show the development of Israel’s theocracy, focusing on the messianic line of David in the tribe of Judah, from which God’s promises and Savior would come, and the priestly line of Levi, which was crucial to the ministry of the temple. In this sense, then, the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1–9 are like a compressed history of Israel. Chapter 1 begins at the dawn of creation with the mention of Adam and his descendants (1:1). This served to connect the history of Israel with the very beginning of God’s creative work.

1:5-27 There is a valuable lesson for us in this long list of names. God had given Adam what is called the cultural mandate in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.” He repeated this command to Noah after the flood (1:4; Gen 9:1) in almost identical language: “God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’” This mandate, by the way, has never been rescinded, and in 1 Chronicles 1:19 we can see the influence of a later generation’s disobedience to this command. The writer says that during the lifetime of a man named Peleg, the earth was divided. This phrase refers to God confusing the people’s language at Babel (Gen 11:7-9) to thwart their plan of huddling together in defiance of his orders and building a man-centered kingdom for themselves.

The lesson behind the repetition of the mandate is that we, as Bible readers, should watch out when God says something twice; we must sit up and listen! After all, Jesus always spoke the truth, but when he wanted his hearers to really focus on what he had to say, he would preface it with “Truly I tell you” (see, for example, John 3:5-6, 11). That’s a translation of a repeated word in the original Greek text. It’s roughly equivalent to what we say to our kids, “Now, you listen here, young man (or young woman),” when we want to make sure they don’t miss what we’re about to say. When God repeats himself, we had better take notice. The people of Babel paid for their failure to obey: “The Lord scattered them . . . over the face of the whole earth” (Gen 11:9).

In verse 17, Noah’s son Shem’s offspring are listed after those of the other sons of this patriarch because Shem’s was the godly line through which the Messiah (that is, Jesus) would come. By listing Shem third, the writer was able to end this section of his genealogy with Abram (that is, Abraham) (1:27). This set the stage for the introduction of Abraham’s line.

1:28-34 Much as he did by listing Shem last in the genealogy of Noah, the writer set the stage for the genealogies of Isaac (1:34) and his descendants, including Esau’s offspring (1:35-54), by focusing on the son of Hagar (Ishmael; 1:29-30) and those of Abraham’s concubine Keturah first (1:32-33).

1:38-54 Even though Esau’s line did not figure prominently in either messianic or Levitical history, he was a grandson of Abraham and the brother of Jacob (also called Israel). Their descendants had a long and often stormy history.

2:1-2 Israel was crucial to the Jewish nation’s history; he was the father of Israel’s twelve tribes. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel after his smack down with the angel that’s described in Genesis 32:24-28. It’s significant when God changes a person’s name; it means he has a new purpose and direction for that person’s life.

B. The Genealogies of Israel’s Twelve Tribes (2:3–8:40)

2:3-55 The offspring of Jacob’s twelve sons eventually formed Israel’s tribes. Judah (2:4) was not the first son in birth order, but he became prominent because God promised that Israel’s rulers would come from his line; this promise included the Messiah (see Gen 49:10). This is why Judah and his descendants are discussed first and at length from 2:3 all the way through 4:23.

Because Judah is the tribe of King David, we are introduced to Jesse and his sons, the last of whom was David, in 2:13-15.

3:1-24 David was the nation’s most impor-tant king, which is why his progeny receive so much attention here (3:1). God made a covenant with David to give him a kingly dynasty—culminating in the Messiah (see 1 Chr 17). Thus, David was not just the head of Judah’s royal line, but also the ancestor of Jesus. Chapter 3 especially lists the Davidic kings of Judah (3:10-16) before following the Davidic line after the Babylonian exile (3:17-24).

4:1-23 The writer completes the list of Judah’s descendants here. Included is the interesting account of Jabez. According to the Chronicler, Jabez was more honored than his brothers (4:9). In other words, Jabez was special; he stood out from the crowd. Importantly, he was not singled out because of some great feat he did for God or because he had overcome great obstacles. Rather, he was lifted above his brothers because of his simple, powerful prayer of faith that moved God to respond. Jabez said, If only you would bless me, extend my border, let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm, so that I will not experience pain (4:10).

Much about Jabez is left to speculation, but we know a few things. First, his name means “pain,” so something happened surrounding his birth that caused his mother to give Jabez this unusual name (4:9). Now, a name like that is quite a burden to overcome. I believe God wanted us to read about this man in part as a reminder that pain doesn’t have to be the last word in our lives.

Second, Jabez realized that he didn’t just need someone to bless him; he needed the impartation of spiritual favor that comes from God alone. It’s interesting that Jabez’s request is open-ended instead of specific. Jabez did not try to make a deal with God; after all, when you do that, you are limited to the terms of your deal. The beautiful thing about just throwing yourself on the mercy of God is that he decides what’s in your best interest. Jabez brought God an empty cup and asked him to fill it as he saw fit. That’s a prayer of faith. Let God decide what to fill your cup with and how high to fill it.

Third, Jabez wanted God to expand his borders. In essence, he prayed, “God, broaden my frontier.” The problem with too many of us is that we are too easily satisfied where we are. We have become complacent with our little plots of land in the kingdom when God wants to use us to expand the influence of his kingdom in history. People who are complacent aren’t motivated to ask God for anything, so they don’t receive anything from God. Jabez wanted his kingdom influence to grow, and he knew the Lord could deliver.

Fourth, Jabez knew that God was capable of keeping him from harm, from pain. Why did he pray that? I suspect Jabez did not want the blessings he anticipated to become a source of pain by allowing them to disconnect him from God. So he asked God to put a restraining order on the devil, as it were. The more God blesses you, the more Satan sets his sights on you. Success, then, is a great opportunity for failure if we are not alert. After all, the higher you go, the farther you can fall. When received, blessings like those Jabez requested can dull our sense of dependency on God. This man knew Satan would try to use coming blessings as an opportunity to tempt him to become independent from God.

Don’t miss that God granted his request (4:10). Jabez got what he desired from God because he asked for it. He was like Jacob who said as he wrestled with God: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen 32:26). Do you pursue God until you see a transformation in your situation?

4:24-43 Simeon was another son of Jacob by his wife Leah (4:24). The most interesting and important historical detail regarding his descendants that’s recorded here appears in 42-43: Five hundred men from these sons of Simeon went and struck down the remnant of the Amalekites.

The Amalekites had been the bitter enemies of God’s people since the days of Moses. They attacked Israel without provocation, leading to the famous incident in which Aaron and Hur held up Moses’s hands so Israel could prevail against them (see Exod 17:8-13). After the battle, God said, “I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek under heaven” (Exod 17:14). But, when given the chance to blot out the Amalekites when they entered the promised land as the Lord had decreed, King Saul failed in the mission (see 1 Sam 15). Rather than eradicating the Amalekites and everything they owned, Saul kept back the best of the livestock for sacrifice and spared their king, Agag.

About five hundred years after Saul, Queen Esther, a Jewish exile living in Persia, had to take her life in her hands to beg King Xerxes not to allow Haman the Agagite to annihilate her people (Esth 3:1). Haman was likely a descendent of King Agag of Saul’s day and, thus, a descendant of the Amalek-ites whom Israel evidently did not destroy as God commanded. If so, that disobedience almost led to an Old Testament holocaust at the hands of Haman. It appears that Simeon’s descendants had attempted to finish the job left incomplete in Saul’s day. (Even partial disobedience can have consequences not only for us, but also for those who come after us.)

An interesting insight is provided in 4:40: rich, good pasture was found for some Hamites had lived [in a particular area] previously. This passage suggests that Hamitic (that is, dark-skinned) people living in Canaan had positively contributed to community life, productivity, and social well-being. This verse refutes the so-called “curse of Ham” (which is really a misunderstanding of Noah’s curse of Ham’s son Canaan) as applying to an entire race or sub-set of humanity (see commentary on Gen 9:24-29).

5:1-26 Chapter 5 begins with a historical reference. It explains why Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn son, fell out of God’s favor and was replaced by Judah, whose tribe would be given the honor of becoming the messianic line leading to Jesus. Reuben defiled his father’s bed (5:1), which is a way of saying he committed adultery with his father’s concubine Bilhah (see Gen 35:22; 30:4). Reuben’s sin was detestable to God, so Reuben forfeited his birthright to Joseph (5:2) for the same reason Esau did earlier: both men cared more about their physical appetites than their spiritual heritage (see Gen 25:32).

The accounts of Esau and Reuben teach an important principle at work in God’s kingdom. Through his sovereign power, God can do more with the lesser creatures (in theses cases, Esau’s younger brother Jacob and Reuben’s younger brother Joseph) than the devil can do with the greater creatures when the lesser are devoted to him.

6:1-81 The line of the priestly tribe of Levi was so important to Israel that the chronicler devoted all of chapter 6 to it. To the original readers, this was a vital record of the priestly descent so the Israelites who’d returned from the Babylonian exile could be assured that the priests serving them were legitimate.

There are some familiar names in this list. Aaron was the founder of the priestly line (6:3). Nadab and Abihu (6:3) were put to death for failing to treat God as holy (see Lev 10:1-3). Zadok (6:8) was the high priest who remained loyal to David during the rebellion of Absalom (see 2 Sam 15:24-29).

The chapter also includes a list of the musicians that David put in charge of the music (6:31-46) and identifies the settlements that were given to the Levites (6:54-81).

7:1-40 Chapter 7 lists the descendants of tribal forefathers Issachar (7:1-5), Benjamin (7:6-12), Naphtali (7:13), Manasseh (7:14-19), Ephraim (7:20-29), and Asher (7:30-40).

Of particular interest here is the note about Asher’s sons, who had four outstanding qualities: They were the heads of their ancestral families, chosen men, valiant warriors, and chiefs among the leaders (7:40). A desperate need in our country and in the church today is for godly, committed men to take up these roles of leadership. A summary of these qualities reveals character traits that seem to be in short supply in this era of weakened manhood.

First, Asher’s sons were “heads” of their families. That suggests Asher raised his sons to be leaders. They weren’t just hanging around the house, eating and taking up space. Every man, without exception, has been created to be a leader because every man has been created to be the head of a household. A leader knows where he’s going and shows others how to join him along the way.

Second, they were “chosen men.” That phrase suggests Asher raised his boys to be the cream of the crop. They were the kind of men a father would choose for his daughter to marry, men of high character and strong ethical standards who accepted responsibility.

Third, they were “valiant warriors”—that is, they were men of valor, like those who fought alongside David in his many battles. These guys had a sense of boldness and conviction and were ready to take a stand when a stand needed to be taken. A warrior is a man of courage and conviction who will take risks for a good cause.

Fourth, Asher’s sons are described as “chiefs among the leaders.” Another word for leader is “prince,” and a prince is just a king waiting to happen. Asher’s sons were outstanding even among the literal princes of Israel.

8:1-40 Here Benjamin’s descendants are spoken of at more length than they received in 7:6-12. This tribe was small, but important, because it was the tribe of Saul, Israel’s first king. Benjamin was also closely identified with Judah, so much so that Benjamin was absorbed into Judah and, at times, both tribes were referred to by the latter’s name.

The family and tribal connections made in chapters like this one may seem strange to us, but, to the original readers, they were received as part of the rich history of God’s sovereign provision for and blessing of his people Israel.

C. The Genealogies of the Returning Exiles and King Saul (9:1-44)

9:1 Here the chronicler reminds the readers of what they were painfully aware: Judah [had been] exiled to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness. At the end of the seventy-year period of exile, however, God had graciously brought them back to the land.

Mentioning the Babylonian captivity in passing as the chronicler did would serve to remind the people of Judah of the gross sin, idolatry, and apostasy that had led to the exile and destruction of the Jerusalem temple and the land of Judah. It was far more than a history lesson, then. It was a powerful reminder that the current generation must live faithfully before their Lord.

9:2-34 Here the chronicler lists those who had returned from Babylonian exile. Now, before the final invasion by Nebuchadnezzar’s army and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, false prophets in Judah had said the captivity would never happen. But, God had insisted through his faithful prophets that it would. And, when it had, the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon to say this: “Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters. . . . Multiply there; do not decrease. Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive” (Jer 29:4-7). In other words, God was saying to his people, “I have placed you among the Gentiles for a long time. Show them what kingdom people look like when they work and worship and have families and interact with unbelievers. You may not be in my land right now, but you still carry my name.” That message sounds very similar to what the church, as God’s people bearing witness to him in a pagan culture, should do before God leads us to our own heavenly homeland.

Don’t miss that this passage emphasizes the priests (9:10-13), Levites (9:14-16), gatekeepers (9:17-26), and other servants of God who officiated in and cared for the temple (9:2). The chronicler is greatly concerned with God’s law, his holiness, and the purity of worship that he demands, along with the priesthood and its proper functioning. This, then, is one of the places where we know that the chronicler had a definite theological or spiritual purpose for his work and wasn’t merely compiling historical facts. The temple is central to the story in 1–2 Chronicles.

Later, in his treatment of Solomon’s reign in 2 Chronicles 1–9, he spends one chapter on Solomon’s wisdom, and eight chapters on his preparations, building, and dedication of the temple. A lot of the historical details of Solomon’s reign found in 1 Kings are omitted there. Why? Because they did not fit into the author’s purpose of focusing on the main achievement of Solomon’s reign: the building of the temple.

The tabernacle of Moses’s day, a collapsible and moveable tent that Israel carried and set up through the nation’s wilderness wanderings, and later the temple itself, were often called God’s house. The temple was the representative abode of the presence of God among his people. Of course, no building can house God because God is greater than the sum total of his creations. A reference to the temple stood as a symbol of the presence and power of its occupant. We see something similar today when reporters use expressions such as, “The White House said,” to note that a comment is either from the President directly or carries his authority.

The chronicler wanted the people to read their history from the divine perspective so they could bring all of life under the lordship of their great Creator God. This is what I call an overarching kingdom agenda. Similarly, God’s kingdom agenda for the church is to comprehensively bring every area of life under the lordship of Jesus Christ so that his people live all of life the way God intended.

9:35-44 The final verses of chapter 9 list Saul’s descendants and serve as an introduction to chapter 10, which tells the story of Saul’s demise and death as the unfaithful and disobedient king who lost his throne and life under God’s judgment. Instead of fulfilling the agenda God gave him as king of his people, Saul chose the path of compromise and sinfulness.