We belong to a movement with the primary distinctive of teaching through the Bible book-by-book, chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse. Running the risk of sounding critical, one cannot help but wonder why when we approach many of these passages our teaches say to the effect, “see that list of names? Good, now let’s move on to where the action is.” Either we should change our distinctive, or do what we say and find what God would have us know concerning these elusive individuals.
One distinctive passage stands out that is worth investigating: 1 Chronicles 1 is a nice list, so go find your Bible and let’s make a few observations. The passage opens with no explanation, just names. So what? What is the author saying? What does he want us to know? In order to find out, one must slog through to Chapter 9 verse 1. This shows we have not asked the right question, but we did not know we were to ask this and now we can’t help but wonder about this “exile” business, can we? Let’s return to the Chapter 1.
What strikes you about verses 1-4? Who is mentioned and what do they mean historically? We have the history of all men, starting with the first man (Adam) and ending with Noah and his sons, the patriarchs of all nations. There’s our first clue on what to expect from the next verses. Notice: Japheth is mentioned last. I find it helpful to get out my pencil and start marking . . .
The last-mentioned son (Japhet) gets first treatment in verses 5-7. The reason why the last is first will become clear shortly (almost sound like a biblical principle, doesn’t it?). Here we find a list of everyone who settled (generally speaking) in the furthest reaches, as far North and West as Asia Minor, Cyprus, Turkey and as far East on the opposite side of the Persian Gulf. The genealogy goes no further because their mention only sets the world stage. The rest of their history does not fit the direction of the writer.
The descendents of the second-born son (Ham) are described in verses 8-12 describing those who settled in the general regions of Babylon, Canaan and Egypt (the Hebrew word is “Mizraim”). Speaking of Canaan, look who becomes the focus of verses 13-15. Sort of like zooming in through a microscope. As before, these are other characters on the world stage and their mention only helps to establish national relationships (no pun intended).
The first-born son of Noah (Shem) is the basis of everyone else that follows, so he gets the greatest treatment, through Chapter 8 as a matter of fact. This why he is mentioned last, not first. Verse 17 lists nine of Shem’s sons, one of whom is Arpachshad. One of his descendants (Eber) is serves as an eyewitness to the “days the earth was divided.” His brother was Joktan, now listed with his descendants.
Verse 24-27 reiterates the direction of the genealogy being recounted (in case the reader gets lost) going back to Shem, focusing on Eber and carrying us forward without incident to Abraham.
Verse 28 tells us Abraham had two sons. As before, the second-mentioned (who we also know is the eldest) receives first-treatment through verse 33. Verse 34 now focuses on the first-mentioned (the younger son, Isaac) and his two sons: Esau and Israel. Verse 35 is the head of the rabbit trail where we chase the descendants of only two sons of the five who are mentioned.
Are you paying attention? I hope so because if you are, coming to verse 28 we find a person who suddenly appears on the scene with no introduction--where did Seir come from? The descendants of only five of his seven sons are mentioned--what’s going on?
Please consider this:
verses 1-7 describe the genealogy of all mankind, verses 8-16 detail the genealogy of the nations, verses 17-27 explain the descendants of 1st-born of the nations verses 28-42 introduce the sons of Abraham among whom we find the Edomites, sons of Saul, the inhabitants of the land as described in Genesis 36:20-21.
Now that we understand this, we understand that this final section describes the Kings of Edom “before the sons of Israel reigned” (verses 43-51a) and their tribal chiefs (verses 51b-54). This is only the first chapter.
Every person is important and God keeps a record in books of His own. So much is packed into a list of names and the intrigue only grows! Don’t think for a moment that any person is insignificant. One need not be Abraham or Abraham Lincoln to make history. We each have a role in God’s plan.