Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Helpful Genealogies

Reading through the biblical genealogies has become a fascinating experience for me over the last few years. What had been (and still can be) a difficult read through "the begats" has become a helpful tool. Here's why. Genealogies often reveal something that you would otherwise not have picked up elsewhere. The information contained in them gives details that make Bible stories more understandable. Take for instance the following paragraph.
Boaz begot Obed, and Obed begot Jesse; Jesse begot Eliab his firstborn, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozem the sixth, and David the seventh. Now their sisters were Zeruiah and Abigail. And the sons of Zeruiah were Abishai, Joab, and Asahel—three. Abigail bore Amasa; and the father of Amasa was Jether the Ishmaelite.

1 Chronicles 2:12-17
This passage provides not only the lineage of David, but also a closer look at some of his siblings and nephews. This puts into perspective Eliab's consternation with young David for visiting him during the war (1 Sam. 17:28). As Eliab was the firstborn son and David the seventh, there were at least seven years (probably more) between the two. And when you include the two sisters listed at the end, there is the possibility of even more of an age difference.

Take for instance my own family. I am one of five children. Between my older brother and youngest sister there are a little more than thirteen years. If this schematic was applied to David's family, David could have been twenty years younger than his eldest brother. If you were in Eliab's shoes, you may have responded in the same way. Imagine being a thirty-five year old soldier and finding your teen-aged brother rebuking the troops for cowardice. Despite David's good intentions, Eliab couldn't see past his youth.

Another item of interest involves Joab. As our family has been reading through the books of Samuel and Kings, we have repeatedly heard David using the phrase "sons of Zeruiah." Just who was this guy? After reading this section of the genealogy, you quickly realize that Zeruiah was not a man at all; "he" was David's sister. That would make Joab David's nephew. But from the way David and Joab got along, it almost seems that they were of similar ages. It could be that Zeruiah was an older sister who had children while David was still growing up, making David a young uncle to Abishai, Joab, Asahel, and Amasa. That would explain why David and Joab had such an interesting relationship.

The next time you are tempted to skip past the genealogies, take a moment to remember what has been learned here today. Genealogies might not cause you to shout, "Hallelujah!," but they just might help you to understand the biblical narratives a little better.

1 comment:

EggsnGrits said...

That Joab was one bad dude. Don't cross him!

You're right about that age difference thing -- underscored by the part of the story where Saul offers young David his armor and it doesn't fit. Saul was a big man, but the implication is that David was still not fully grown. Add that to the fact that the Bible records David as "ruddy and handsome" and you've got a lot of contempt wrapped up in this story.

You can bet that David's older brothers weren't very happy with the visit from Samuel, either. Forced to wait with their father and the high priest while their punk little brother was fetched to be annointed.

Another great study of geneologies -- look up the meanings of the Hebrew names. Jesse, for instance, means "gift", which he certainly had. Saul means "one who was asked for" and you remember how he became king, right? David means "beloved", which he certainly was.

Sometimes the names are an insight to the circumstances.