In three studies of 1Chronicles 1, we saw the Chronicler take us from Adam to Noah, then the distribution throughout the earth of the descendants of Noah's three sons, and finally to the descendants of Abraham. We saw that the son of Abraham who received God's covenant promise was Isaac. Isaac's two sons were Esau and Jacob, and we discovered that it was Jacob, whom God renamed Israel, was the inheritor of the Abrahamic covenant.
Tonight, we will examine the chapters of 1Chronicles which detail the descendants of Jacob, or Israel.
Jacob had twelve sons from four women Rachel, her sister Leah, and their two maids, Bil-HAW and Zil-PAW. Their strange family history is told in Genesis 29-30.
Jacob was on the run, for after stealing the blessing from his brother Esau, he became afraid for his life. Jacob traveled around until he got to his Uncle Laban's house. As it turned out, Uncle Laban was just as deceitful as his nephew Jacob was. Jacob worked for Laban to marry his daughter Rachel, but he ended up accidentally marrying her older and uglier sister Leah first. And so Jacob ended up with both of them as wives.
Leah was the first to have children by Jacob, giving birth to Reuben, Simon, Levi, and Judah.
Rachel couldn't have children, and so she gave her maid Bil-HAW to Jacob as a surrogate mother. Dan and Naphtali were born from Bil-HAW.
Leah then gave Jacob her maid Zil-PAW, who bore Gad and Asher.
Then Leah conceived again and bore Issachar and Zebulun.
Finally, Rachel had a son named Joseph. Years later, she died in childbirth, delivering Benjamin.
The vast majority of chapters two through four is dedicated to the details of the tribe of Judah. This tribe will be the Chronicler's main focus, especially as he gets into beyond chapter nine and begins to chronicle the Kings of Israel.
But although the line of Judah was to bear Israel's kings, it was far from glorious. As we read the beginnings of the tribe of Judah, we are innundated with its sinfulness:
1Chr. 2:3-4 The sons of Judah were Er, Onan and Shelah; these three were born to him by Bath-shua the Canaanitess. And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, so He put him to death. Tamar his daughter-in-law bore him Perez and Zerah. Judah had five sons in all.
In Genesis 38, Judah departs from his brothers and marries a Canaanite woman. She became the mother of Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er was so evil that God killed him (Gen. 38:6). Onan had certain obligations to his brother's wife which he didn't fulfill, and so the Lord took his life also (Gen. 38:10).
This woman, named Tamar, ultimately deceived her father-in-law Judah into having children with her by disguising herself as a prostitute (Gen. 38:15). The twins were named Perez and Zerah. Perez's lineage extended down through the generations to Boaz, down to Jesse, and to his son David.
The genealogy of the sons of Simeon is listed here. They are also noted as having destroyed the remnant of the Amalekites.
As we saw in Genesis 30, Reuben was the firstborn son. However, he did not receive the double portion of the birthright. That was given to the sons of Joseph.
In Genesis 48, we read that Joseph brought his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim to see their grandfather Jacob. Jacob told Joseph,
Gen. 48:5 "...your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are."
In this way, Jacob said,
Gen. 48:22 "I give you one portion more than your brothers..."
The leadership of the descendants of Israel was given to Judah, from whom would come King David, and ultimately the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
On his deathbed, Jacob had prophesied,
Gen. 49:10 "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples."
And King David also said,
1Chr. 28:4 "...He has chosen Judah to be a leader..."
After interjecting this information, the Chronicler returns to the genealogy of Reuben.
The descendants of Gad are detailed in these verses.
Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were the ones who told Moses that they were content to settle east of the Jordan, without crossing over into the Promised Land. While they trusted in God, they were successful, but as we're about to see, when they rebelled against the Lord, the result was the opposite.
The descendants of Manasseh who lived east of the Jordan are listed here.
Although the 2 1/2 tribes were victorious in times of faith, they ultimately were the first of the tribes to be carried off in the Assyrian Captivity.
All of chapter six gives us the details regarding the tribe of Levi. Let's just hit the main points:
1Chr. 6:1 The sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath and Merari.
These became the fathers of the three clans of the Levites, each of which had specific jobs in the tabernacle.
In Deuteronomy 18, we read that in great detail that basically the Merarites were in charge of the exterior, the Gershonites were in charge of the structure, and the Kohathites were in charge of the furniture.
1Chr. 6:48 Their kinsmen the Levites were appointed for all the service of the tabernacle of the house of God.
Some Kohathites were the singers and musicians:
1Chr. 6:31-32 Now these are those whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after the ark rested there. They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem; and they served in their office according to their order.
The Kohathites who were direct descendants of Aaron were the priests in the tabernacle:
1Chr. 6:49 But Aaron and his sons offered on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense, for all the work of the most holy place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.
Another aspect of being a Levite was that there was no portion of the Promised Land given to them. They merely received cities and fields within the territories of the other tribes. God had commanded,
Num. 35:2-3 "Command the sons of Israel that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their possession cities to live in; and you shall give to the Levites pasture lands around the cities. The cities shall be theirs to live in; and their pasture lands shall be for their cattle and for their herds and for all their beasts."
Among these cities were also to be six cities of refuge. These were places to which, if you accidentally killed someone, you could run and get a fair trial without the guy's brother killing you first.
The tribe of Issachar does not have much space devoted to it in this section, or in the entire Bible. As a matter of fact, the only individual of significance of which I am aware coming from that tribe is Tola the judge from the book of Judges. You may remember him as the son of Puah, the son of Dodo (Judges 10:1). Apparently, he was one of those descendants of Issachar's son of the same name who were described as...
1Chr. 7:2 ...mighty men of valor in their generations...
In these verses, the Chronicler briefly lists the descendants of Benjamin, although they will be given a much more thorough treatment in the entirety of chapter eight.
Like Issachar, Naphtali is one of the tribes which seems to have little coverage or significance in biblical history.
About the only person from Naphtali that I could find who was notable was Khee-RAWM - the man who did the bronze work in King Solomon's temple (1Kings 7).
Remember that Manasseh and Ephraim were actually grandsons of Israel who were adopted in as sons in Genesis 48.
One thing that I find very interesting is the concept of the twelve tribes of Israel. If you count the sons of Jacob, you indeed arrive at twelve. But Levi didn't have any inheritance in the Promised Land, and so that would seem to mess up the count.
But then we have to factor in these two adopted sons, which turns Joseph into two tribes.
And so although we could make the argument that Israel really had fourteen sons, the number always works out to twelve. Most often, it is because Joseph and Levi are in the list, or Levi is omitted and Joseph is listed as Ephraim and Manasseh.
What really messes with our minds is in Revelation 7, when twelve tribes are listed, including Levi, Joseph, and Manasseh, but excluding Dan and Ephraim. I'm sure there is some deep spiritual truth behind this, but I have not as yet discovered it.
These eleven verses give us the genealogy of the tribe of Asher.
The Chronicler had given us a brief list of the generations of Benjamin in chapter seven. But now, he expands it into greater detail. In this, we see that King Saul, the first king of Israel, is listed.
All of this detail of the genealogies was preserved through diligent record-keeping. Remember that the Jews' land had been given to them from God by tribe, clan, and family. Therefore, their property rights were based on being able to prove their lineage.
Also, the Levites who would be priests had to be able to produce documentation of their direct descendancy from Aaron. When the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity, the book of Ezra tells us in chapter two of men who...
Ezra 2:62 ...searched among their ancestral registration, but they could not be located; therefore they were considered unclean and excluded from the priesthood.
And so although this might seem like a huge chore to be reading through all of these names, for the Jews, this was vital for their inheritance, and even for their employment.
The author now makes mention of Judah being carried away into exile in Babylon. In the following verses, he makes it clear that he is speaking of Judah as being the region, not just the tribe.
You see, when the nation was split by civil war after the death of King Solomon, the northern kingdom of Israel fell into apostasy under the leadership of King Jeroboam.
Jeroboam didn't want the people in his kingdom going down south to Jerusalem three times a year. He knew that if they did, their hearts would return to the Lord and to the kingly line of David. And so his solution was to construct two golden calves, putting one in Bethel, and the other in Dan. He told the people
1Kings 12:28 "...It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt."
1Kings 12:30-31 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi.
This apostasy permeated the northern kingdom, which consisted of ten of the twelve tribes (1Kings 11:31). Those who desired to follow the Lord migrated down into the southern kingdom of Judah.
Years later, the Assyrians swept in and captured the entirety of the northern kingdom of Israel, wiping them out and carrying many of them off captive.
But all twelve tribes were still represented in the southern kingdom.
Finally, these verses list those Jews from each of the tribes who returned from the Babylonian Captivity during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Although the Chronicler has taken us all the way from the sons of Israel to Israel's return from the Babylonian captivity, he will begin chapter ten by jumping back in time to the days of King Saul, which we will see next week.