Posts tagged genealogies
So, are you tired of reading genealogies yet? Well, it seems as though the writer of Chronicles was getting a little tired of his subject matter, too, or at least enough so to give us a few more details. I find it interesting that in these chapters, we’re given little snippets of information that, to us, mean very little. Why was GeHarashim called GeHarashim? Why was the birth order of Israel’s sons so messed up? It’s all in there. We’re told about the professions and misfortunes of some of these people. We’re given explanations as to why some tribes flourished and others didn’t. There is actually a lot of information packed inside of this written family tree, but none is more intriguing to me than the contrast between a guy named Jabez and the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh.
The Jabez snippet pops up in chapter 4, verses 9 & 10:
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10)
Two verses. That’s all we read about Jabez in the entire Bible. In fact, until several years ago when a book came out about him, Jabez was about as anonymous of a figure in the Bible as there could be. There was nothing special about Jabez – just another name in a long line of names. And yet, the author takes a moment to note something about this man and his life. And while much has been made of the specifics of Jabez’s prayer, it is his life that stands out to the author first and foremost.
The little note about Jabez begins by telling us that he was more honorable than his brothers. It ends by telling us that God granted his request. Whatever happened in between – the “Prayer of Jabez” – was a direct result of the former and honored in the latter. God seems to listen a little closer to those who are living for him.
A contrasting outcome is brought up in chapter 5. The Reubenites, Gadites and Half-Tribe of Manasseh were unlike Jabez in just about every way imaginable. They were famous, not anonymous. They were numerous and strong. They had everything going for them. God even came to their aid in battle against the Hagrites. But, unlike Jabez, they ultimately weren’t honorable – they weren’t faithful to God. And so, their outcome looked very different from that of Jabez. God didn’t expand their territory, he took it away from them. He didn’t keep them from harm and pain, he led them into it.
There is a direct link between the lives we live and the outcome that we experience. And, though God has a LOT of grace in his dealings with us, the Bible makes it very clear that if we are determined to be miserable, God will let us be. If we are hell-bent on our own destruction, God’s not going to get in our way. In fact, he may even help expedite the process a little. There is a stark contrast between the honor of Jabez that led to God’s blessing and the dishonorable people of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, whose actions led to their own defeat – a contrast that serves as a reminder that how we live our lives matters to God.
Perhaps, instead of focusing on the prayer of Jabez, we should focus on his life.
Some really fascinating reading today, huh? My question is: Did you read it all? I mean, let’s be honest, it’s pretty easy to skip through this big long list of names and not even bother reading it. In fact, we could probably get by with never reading this kind of genealogical list. And yet, I think there’s something in here for us to learn, even if we aren’t Biblical genealogists.
For me, this list highlights one of the main struggles of human beings – that we forget what we have in common. I have a friend, Dr. Rick Love, who is devoted to finding common ground among various people groups. It is Rick’s belief that peace and love (the God kind, not the hippie kind) can be found when we discover and focus on our commonalities rather than our differences. Rick leads a group called Peace Catalyst International. The stated goal of PCI is to “stimulate peacemaking between individuals and between peoples.” They do this by digging back through all the philosophical and cultural differences that have developed over time and finding one or more common guiding principles that all parties can agree on. In other words, they trove the cultural genealogies of people and look for common ancestry.
As we read these genealogies today, I’m reminded that all of the warring tribes and nations that we read about in the old testament (and indeed, those we see today) have a common ancestry – not just Adam and Eve, but Noah. Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japeth. From these sons came every person and nation that has ever existed. The great nation of Egypt was settled by one of Noah’s grandsons, as was the land of Canaan.
And so, this genealogy serves not only as a historical record of family line, which was very important in ancient culture, but also as a reminder that not so long ago, we were one people. I would imagine that someone reading these verses shortly after they were written would have hung his head and wondered how in the world things got so bad so quickly. How did things do south so rapidly?
It’s good to be reminded of our common ground. For the tribes of Israel and Judah, they didn’t even have to go back as far as Noah. They only had to go back to Israel – a man who had 12 sons. What would Israel have to say to his warring ancestors? What would Noah have to say to us?
As we stand in our modern context and declare ourselves “Pro” this people group and “Anti” this people group, have we lost site of our commonality? Particularly for Americans, as we place our stake in the ground of “Americanism,” have we forgotten that there is no such thing as a true, pure American? We are a mishmash, melting pot of cultures, identities and genealogies. We have, in our past, heroes and villains. And, the people that we seek to keep out of our country may have a lot more in common with us than we think. At the very least, they are more like our own ancestors than we realize.
Would you think twice about kicking somebody out of our country if they were your 2nd cousin? Commonality changes the equation a little bit, doesn’t it?
1 Chronicles 7; 1 Chronicles 8; Romans 13:1-14; Psalm 89:38-45 NIV
We’re almost through all these genealogies, I promise! Tomorrow, we should get into some good old stories. However, something did catch my eye today as I read through the list of “father of” people. Her name was Sheerah (no, not the Princess of Power from He-man).
Sheerah is one of those people, like Jabez, who only gets a brief mention in the Bible – in the midst of a long list of names (1 Chronicles 7:24). But Sheerah was obviously someone to be remembered. In fact, it almost seems like she is mentioned because people of the day were familiar with her and could make a connection between her and the family she came from.
It says that she “built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah.” Beth Horon would play a role in the story of some of Israel’s great leaders (Joshua, Saul & Solomon to name a few) and Solomon would actually rebuild and fortify these cities during his rule.
All that to say this: In a time when women were not very highly regarded, this ancient text tells us of a woman who built 3 cities – a woman who stood out and was remembered among her people. Today, we are seeing examples, yet again, of strong female leadership in the Middle East, where women, who are not highly regarded, are forging a new path in the country of Iran. Maybe some of their names will be written about in the “ancient texts” of the future.
1 Chronicles 4:9-43; 1 Chronicles 5; Romans 11:11-32; Psalm 89:19-29
More genealogies today! This time, though, it seems like the author was getting tired of simply running down the family tree. He starts interjecting random comments into the chronology. I mean, whole books have been written about Jabez and the prayer that pops up in 1 Chornicles 4.
The thing that is interesting to me, though, is that there was actually something memorable about these people – something that stood out enough to be written about generations later. Maybe they didn’t have a great story worth a whole chapter or a whole book, but they stood out.
Sometimes I think we try way too hard to be great. Would you be OK with a brief mention in the greatest book in history?
1 Chronicles 2:18-55; 1 Chronicles 3; 1 Chronicles 4:1-8; Romans 10:5-21; Romans 11:1-10; Proverbs 18:7-16 NIV
Today’s “Soul Feed” passages kind of caught me off-guard. Of course, I think there is significance in everything that’s written in the Bible, but early in the morning, the last thing I want to take a look at it a list of who “lay” with whom to give birth to whom. The genealogies presented in the Chronicles passages are more for historical reference than anything else. They are great to reference as you begin to read through the bible and connect the dots between the stories, the ancestry and the history of a nation. If they seem boring to you right now, don’t worry, just try to make note of a few of the names and look for them as they pop up in future readings.
The readings from Romans today are really refreshing. They talk a lot about how it’s really not up to us to get it right. No matter how disciplined I am about going to the gym, reading the bible, stimulating my mind, etc. it is grace that allows me to have a relationship with Jesus.
Some people take this as “permission” to do whatever they want. After all, grace covers a multitude of sins, right? Yeah, that’s true, but if you really love someone and/or are really trying to follow someone, is it OK to just wander off, knowing that they’ll always come back to get you?
We should take comfort in knowing that “[Jesus] was found by those who did not seek [him];
[He] revealed [himself] to those who did not ask for [him].” And he gives grace to those who are trying.
Go out and try today. If you try and fail, so what, there is grace for that!