April 29 Reading: I Chronicles 1-2 Commentary
“And Abraham begot Isaac. The sons of Isaac were Esau and Israel.” (I Chron. 1:34)
Many people would like to forget what happened to them in the past. They’ve had too much pain, too many sins, and too many failures. But it would be a mistake to completely neglect your past.
Remembering your history is important for many reasons. Chief among them is this idea: “You can’t know where you are going until you understand where you have been.” That is essentially why the books of I and II Chronicles are so important.
These two books were written after the Jews returned from their exile. In II Kings 22, the final remnants of the nation of Judah were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and relocated to Babylon. Later in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra, after many years in captivity, God orchestrated the release of his people. This prompted them to return to their homeland.
The writer of I and II Chronicles wanted this new generation of Jews to remember their heritage, to show how God established David’s kingdom and how he fulfilled his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So these books are a synopsis of the events written about in the books of Samuel and Kings, with heavy emphasis in I Chronicles on the reign of King David. II Chronicles recounts the reign of Solomon and the kings of Judah. No focus is given to the reigns of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Not all the details in the books are identical though. The author does not mention David’s failures with Bathsheba (II Sam. 11) or the conflict with his son Absalom (II Sam. 15). For the writer, (who many believe to be Ezra) the goal is to highlight the spiritual and moral issues of the day and point the new generation of people to live in the godly path of David.
I Chronicles 1 – The Patriarchal Genealogies
To make the connection for the returning Jews to their past, I Chronicles begins with a genealogical record covering nine chapters. These genealogies can be cross-referenced in the books of Genesis, Luke, Matthew, Ruth and Joshua. For our purposes in this commentary, we will point out notable characters in each section.
The genealogy begins with the names of pre-flood Biblical characters – Adam, Seth and Enosh. These names are clearly ones the Jewish people would have been familiar with and not questioned their authenticity (v. 1). Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth are mentioned as well (v. 4).
Nimrod is mentioned as a mighty one on the earth (v. 10). From Gen. 10:8-12, we learned that he was a mighty hunter and built kingdoms which included the cities of Babel and Nineveh among others.
An unfamiliar name found in verse 24 is Eber. He was the ancestor of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The name Hebrew that was given to the Jewish nation is a derivative or byproduct of Eber’s name. So some scholars conclude that the name Hebrew may simply mean “Eberite.”
The Division of Peleg
One of Eber’s sons was Peleg (v. 25). The verse says that “in his days the earth was divided.” Some suggest this division was a separating of the land masses, where the continents split apart due to repercussions of the flood.
However, more than likely this references the division of the earth’s population as a result of the tower of Babel incident (Gen. 11). At Babel where the people settled after the flood, everyone spoke one language. They became prideful in their accomplishments and built a tower “that reaches to the heavens” so that “we may make a name for ourselves” (Gen. 11:3).
God was displeased with their action. So he confused their languages so that they could not understand one another. Groups of people who did speak the same language then separated and spread out over the face of the earth.
The placement of Peleg here fits chronologically with the events at Babel. It puts his life about half way between Noah’s son Shem and Abraham.
The Line of Abraham
Abraham’s line begins in verse 27. His two sons Isaac (born to Sarah) and Ishmael (born to a concubine) are listed. Additionally, the sons born to Keturah, another concubine are listed in verses 32-33. From them came the Midianites, a people group that lived in the Arabian desert.
Seir is listed verse 38. He was the patriarch of the people of Edom. Through marriage, Seir and Esau are connected. So the people of Seir and the descendants of Esau were related by marriage and their descendants became the people of Edom (v. 43). That explains why the kings of Edom are listed in vv. 43-53.
I Chronicles 2 – The Genealogy of Judah
The sons of Israel (i.e. Jacob) are listed at the beginning of I Chronicles 2. They are: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad and Asher (vv. 1-2). These sons are listed also in Gen. 35:23-26 by order of their birth mother.
Even though he was the fourth son by birth order, Judah come first in the genealogy because it is through him that the Messianic promise would flow (Gen. 49:10).
Someone named Achar is mentioned as the “troubler of Israel” in verse 7. That is a reference to Achan, the man who took the accursed items from Jericho (see Joshua 7).
We also see the linkage from Boaz (husband of Ruth), to Obed who became the father of Jesse, the father of David (v. 12).
One other note in the remaining genealogy in this chapter is seen in the family of Caleb (vv. 18-19, 42-55). This is not the same Caleb of the time of Joshua (see Num. 13 and Josh. 15). His genealogy is given special attention because one of his descendants, Salma, was the found of the town of Bethlehem (v. 51), Jesus’ birthplace (Luke 2).
Questions and Thoughts to Consider from I Chronicles 1-2:
You can’t move forward into the future unless you understand and accept where you have been.
Your past is important. You may not like it but in many ways, it has shaped who you are. But it doesn’t have to be the determining factor in where you are headed. Learn from your past and let it guide you into a better future. What from your past do you need to let go of today?
How has your family history shaped your present circumstances? Has it been a positive or negative influence on your life?
What other points would you want to know about in our I Chronicles 1-2 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.