1 CHRONICLES 1 and 2
In today’s readings the unsuspecting reader finds himself/herself whizzed back to the beginning of creation (did you blink!). 1 Chronicles starts with a raft of genealogies that begin at Adam. The purpose of the Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles is not to duplicate the Books of Samuel and of Kings – although there is a lot of historical overlap – but to provide a complementary perspective; this is in the same way that there are four gospels in the New Testament, telling the same life of Jesus in four different ways to four different readerships. The purpose of the Chronicles books is to emphasis to Jews who have returned from exile that they are still part of the Lord’s purpose and covenant, and that he has not forgotten them. The emphasis is on the ‘spiritual’ aspects of Israel, rather than the kings and rulers, and so the temple, the priesthood, the prophets, holiness, and covenant feature strongly. The unbroken line from Adam to Abraham, and through to David and his descendants is written down, as well as the lines of those ‘dead-end’ branches of the family who failed to keep the faith. Chronicles was most probably written by Ezra after the initial return from exile to rebuild the temple and the city.
Beginning a best-selling book with nine chapters of genealogies is perhaps not the racy way to boost pre-launch sales! But God was giving this one away free, in any case. The big question that Chronicles aims to answers those returning exiles is: “Is God still interest in us?” And the implicit answer is ‘yes’! By demonstrating a covenant connection of the exiles to the main ‘artery’ of God’s chosen line, stretching all the way back to Adam, the message is that these newcomers, born and educated in an alien land and transported rapidly back to the land of their forefathers, are as much part of God’s purposes and his promises as was Abraham himself. “I AM the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, and of you and your children too”, the Lord affirms.
Did you ever visit your grandparents and watch while they opened up some old photo album with pictures and hand-written family trees of their own ancestors? To just read it is rather dull, from the child’s perspective. But then your grandfather points out the photos and tells the stories of their lives and traces the family tree out for you; suddenly it becomes interesting and relevant and a meaningful part of your life. Well, I am not your grandfather, but I am willing to have a go with 1 Chronicles over the next few days!
The first of today’s two chapters starts with the genealogy from Creation to the Flood. I have mentioned before (see notes on Genesis 5) the truly amazing redemption message imprinted by God within the sequence of names from Adam to Noah, but it bears repeating. The meaning of these Hebrews names, in chronological order, reads: Adam (‘Man’), Seth (‘Appointed’), Enosh (‘Mortal’), Kenan (‘Sorrow’), Mahalaleel (‘The Blessed God’), Jared (‘Will Come Down’), Enoch (‘Preaching’), Methuselah (‘His Death Will Bring’), Lamech (‘Sorrowing’), Noah (‘Comfort’). Read the genealogy from beginning to end and you get: “Man is appointed mortal sorrow, but the Blessed God will come down preaching that His death will bring the sorrowing comfort”. An entire gospel in just ten names! See also 1 Peter 3:19-20. We have another name for ‘the Blessed God’ who came down, and that is ‘Jesus’. If you haven’t yet done so, stop and ask him to rescue your life, to forgive you, to come into your heart and to direct your paths from now on. That is how to find true fulfilment and acceptance by God the Father.
Then follows the genealogies of the Japhethites, the Hamites, and the Shemites, of which only the last are the chosen covenant line of the Lord. Canaan was the son of Ham – who had disgraced himself by drawing attention to his father Noah’s nakedness, and whom Noah had subsequently cursed in Genesis 9:26: “May Canaan be the slave of Shem”. Thousands of years later, it reached fulfilment when Israel, under Joshua, conquered the land of Canaan and enslaved (or killed) some of the Canaanite peoples.
Then we have Abraham and the lines of Esau and Isaac. The Chronicler usually dispenses with the non-covenant branch of the family first (Esau and Edom mean the same thing) with a list of Edom’s kings and moves to focus on the more important continuing line of Isaac. Then come the sons of Jacob/Israel, with a particular focus that Chronicles has on the tribe of Judah – again, because it is the line of David and, ultimately, the Messiah.
If you are part of the New Covenant, it is comforting to know that you are an important and integral part of the spiritual line from Abraham and Isaac, through Christ, and that your inheritance in God is equally secure and assured. Now start to claim it for your children!