April 30 Reading: I Chronicles 3-5 Commentary
“Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” (I Kings 4:10)
Family is important. And while you might like learning about your own family, reading through someone else’s family may not be that exciting to you.
However, it must be pointed out again that the biblical genealogies at the beginning of I Chronicles were meant to connect a new generation of Jews with their past. They needed to have this continuity with their past as they sought to develop their own heritage in the land after returning from exile.
So the chronicler (probably a priest or scribe) highlights all the important people in each family line, including in today’s reading those of David and Solomon. And he will begin to trace the family line of each of the 12 tribes of Israel, an obvious link back to the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
While it reads like a typical genealogy, there are some special nuggets to be found in some of the family lines, like the extended mention of a man named Jabez in the line of Judah (see 4:9-10). His prayer has become a model for many believers today.
I Chronicles 3 – David’s Family Line
David’s family line is outlined in I Chronicles 3. His adult life was divided into two timeframes. He reigned over Judah for seven years in Hebron (while Saul was still king). Then after Saul’s death, he reigned over all Israel from Jerusalem for 33 years (v. 1, 4).
While in Hebron, David had six sons by six different wives. Why was this? He’d fallen into the ancient custom of marrying the daughters of neighboring kings in order to form an alliance with that nation.
Among those born in Hebron include:
1. Amnon, his firstborn. Amnon’s story includes the rape of his half-sister Tamar (v. 9) (see II Sam. 13).
2. Absalom. Absalom killed Amnon for his rape of Tamar in II Sam. 13. This action led to great conflict with his father David, to the point where Absalom tried to overthrow David’s reign and steal the throne (II Sam. 15).
3. Adonijah. Adonijah tried to usurp the thone of Solomon to whom David had promised it after his death (I Kings 1).
In Jerusalem, David had 9 sons. The most notable is Solomon, who was born to Bathsheba. He reigned over Israel after David’s death.
After Solomon, the line of kings of Judah is listed in verses 10-16. It ended when Judah fell to King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians after the reign of Zedekiah (II Kings 24).
The line of King Jeconiah (v. 17) is noted in verses 17-24. He reigned around 598 BC. This section accounts for about seven generations. It ends with Anani (v. 24), the latest generation recorded in the book.
I Chronicles 4 – The Family of Judah and Simeon
The chronicler already recorded the line of Judah in Chap. 2. This listing includes other person and events related to the genealogy. Some notable people in Judah’s line include:
1. Perez (v. 1). He was Judah’s son.
2. Ephrathah (v. 4). She is the wife of the earlier noted Caleb (I Chron. 2:19) and mother of Hur (who was the “grandfather” of Bethlehem (I Chron. 2:50). In Micah 5:2, the birthplace of the Messiah is foretold and is called Bethlehem Ephrathah.
3. Jabez (v. 9). This man gets an extended mention in the genealogy because a) he was more honorable than his brothers (v. 9) and b) because of his special prayer to the Lord. It reads:
“Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” (v. 10)
God was so pleased with Jabez and his prayer that he granted his requests.
Simeon’s genealogy is listed next. His was small tribe (v. 27) that did not receive any land inheritance (Josh. 19). They settled in the land of Judah and were later essentially absorbed by that tribe. By the time of David’s reign (v. 31) they had lost their own tribal identity and were considered part of the tribe of Judah.
I Chronicles 5 – Families of Reuben
In ancient times, the firstborn son became the head of the family for the next generation. He also received a larger share of his father’s inheritance that the rest of his brothers or sisters. However, in the case of Reuben, that did not happen.
Why? Because of Reuben’s behavior. For some reason, Reuben chose to sleep with his father’s concubine (Gen. 35:22). So because of this act, (and the fact that Jacob was also upset with his second and third born sons Simeon and Levi – see Gen. 34), Jacob chose to blessed the sons of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), transmitting the birthright to them. And God chose the 4th born son Judah through which the Messianic promises would flow.
The tribe of Judah eventually disappeared from the Biblical record, although in Saul’s time there were some who still identified as Reubenites (v. 6). Part of the reason they are not heard of much in the Biblical narrative is that they settled east of the Jordan and continued to move to the east in search for pasture land (v. 7-9). So, in the end, they were one of the first people groups captured by the Assyrians (v. 6).
Gad and Manasseh East
The tribe Gad (along with Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh) petitioned Moses to live on the east side of the Jordan (Num. 32). They lived next to Reuben and, along with half the tribe of Manasseh, had “forty-four thousand seven hundred and sixty valiant men, men able to bear sheild and sword, to shoot with the bow, and skillful in war who went to war” (v. 18). God helped them defeat a people known as the Hagrites (vv. 19-22). “They cried out to God in the battle. He heeded their prayer, because they put their trust in Him…for many fell dead, because the war was God’s” (v. 20, 22).
As noted, half the tribe of Manasseh settled east of the Jordan. They increased in numbers (v. 23), but that is not what they are known for. The chronicler gives them this distinction:
“And they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He carried the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh into captivity” (v. 25-26).
Questions and Thoughts to Consider from I Chronicles 3-5:
What do you make of the prayer of Jabez? – “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.” (I Chron. 4:10)
Names mean something. Jabez’s name meant “he will cause pain.” He chose though not to have his life defined by others. He asked God to help him avoid causing pain and God granted his request. Are you falling victim to what others think you are or have said you will become?
The war is the Lords. When he steps in, victory is assured. What battles do you need to let him win for you?
What other points would you want to know about in our I Chronicles 3-5 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.