The Genealogies (1 Chronicles 1) February 1-2
Our readings now concentrate on the third division of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Ketuvim or "Writings" (often referred to by the Greek name Hagiographa, meaning "Sacred Writings"). Jesus referred to this section as the Psalms (Luke 24:44), as the book of Psalms opens the section in the traditional Hebrew arrangement. We have already read a number of books and passages from the Writings in chronological harmony with the books of the Prophets. We now pick up those we have not yet covered.
We turn first to the first nine chapters of Chronicles, which contain genealogies from Adam to the post-Exilic period. The story flow of Chronicles, which we have already covered, begins in chapter 10 with the end of Saul's reign and the commencement of David's rule. Yet there is much information preceding the story flow in the book.
Recall that Ezra is the likely compiler of the book of Chronicles and that, in arrangement order, the book appears last in the Hebrew canon. Halley's Bible Handbook states in its notes on chapters 1-9: "These genealogies seem to have had for their immediate object the resettling of the land according to public records. Those who had returned from the captivity were entitled to lands formerly held in their own families…. [Just] so, the priesthood was hereditary in families…[And it was the same] with the kingly line of David. The most important and precious of all promises was that the world's Savior would come in David's family. The central interest of these genealogies is their tracing the descent of David's line…Most of the genealogies are incomplete, with many breaks in the lists. But the main line is there. They were probably compiled from many records which had been written on tablets, papyrus or vellum, partly copied from preceding Old Testament books."
Indeed, the information in chapter 1 can be found earlier in different parts of the book of Genesis: Adam to Noah (1 Chronicles 1:1-4; see also Genesis 5); the descendants of Noah (1 Chronicles 1:5-23; see also Genesis 10); Shem to Abraham (1 Chronicles 1:24-27; see also Genesis 11:10-26); the family of Ishmael (1 Chronicles 1:28-31; see also Genesis 25:12-16); Abraham's descendants through Keturah (1 Chronicles 1:32-33; see also Genesis 25:1-4); and the family of Esau (1 Chronicles 1:35-54; see also Genesis 36).
Beyond the reasons mentioned above, is there more to the scriptural incorporation of these incessant lists that go on for nine chapters at the beginning of the book of Chronicles? The Bible Reader's Companion states in its notes on 1 Chronicles 1-3: "At least eight different purposes of O[ld] T[estament] genealogies have been suggested. (1) To show relationships between Israel and neighboring peoples. (2) To show relationships between elements in the story of Israel's origins. (3) To link periods of time not covered by other material. (4) As a means of organizing Israel's men for warfare, by tribe and family. (5) To demonstrate the legitimacy of a person or family's claim to a particular role or rank. (6) To preserve the purity of the chosen people and/or its priesthood. (7) To affirm the continuity of the people of God despite expulsion from the Promised Land. (8) To demonstrate progress toward achieving God's revealed purposes; to show that the Lord is sovereignly shaping history in accord with His own plan. The genealogies of the O[ld] T[estament] play a vital role in maintaining the integrity, and showing the continuity, of Scripture's story of salvation" (Lawrence Richards, 1991).
Halley's Bible Handbook concludes in its notes on 1 Chronicles 1-9: "These 9 chapters of genealogies form the generation-to-generation tie up of all preceding Biblical history. They need not be read, for devotional purposes, as often as some other parts of Scripture. But in reality these, and similar genealogies, are the skeleton framework of the Old Testament, the thing that binds the whole Bible together, and gives it unity, and makes it look like real history, not legend."