17 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. And the sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Meshech. 18 Arpachshad fathered Shelah, and Shelah fathered Eber. 19 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg (for in his days the earth was divided), and his brother’s name was Joktan. 20 Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 21 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 22 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 23 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.
24 Shem, Arpachshad, Shelah; 25 Eber, Peleg, Reu; 26 Serug, Nahor, Terah; 27 Abram, that is, Abraham.
With that, you are ready to consider the following observations and meditations:
Shem was the son of promise through Noah (Genesis 9:26–27). Here is the line of our Messiah, our Savior, Jesus Christ (Luke 3:36). For my salvation (and yours), God sovereignly preserved the line of promise to fulfill the earliest gospel declaration (Genesis 3:15). Oh, what a God and what a Savior! Shem produced offspring so that the line might be preserved for our Savior. As from the beginning, God does not choose all to be His people nor to be those through whom He will display His grace. None of us has been unaffected by the line of Shem after the Flood of Noah’s day, because all of us have been impacted by the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Out of the sons of Shem, God chose a man with a very unusual and strange name: Arpachshad. Arpachshad was born just two years after the Flood (Genesis 11:10). God had just destroyed the entire world except for the animals and people preserved inside the ark that Noah and his sons built. Arpachshad appears to have been either the first child born after the Flood, or one of the first. He was evidence of God’s continued blessing (Genesis 9:1) and a witness of the rainbow as God’s promise never to destroy the world again by means of a flood. Mystery surrounds his name and the biblical text exhibits some irregularities when he and his descendant Shelah appear—perhaps indicating his great significance (Genesis 11:12, 14). Perhaps Arpachshad headed the line of the ancient Chaldeans (also known as Chasdim).
From a descendant of Arpachshad came Eber and out of Eber came Peleg, whose lifetime witnessed God’s judgment on the tower of Babel (Genesis 10:25; 11:1–9). The depravity of mankind and their fallen condition continued even after the Flood, because Noah and his sons sired fallen sinners like themselves. We likewise father sinners like ourselves, even though God has saved us through the gospel of His dear Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Descendants of Adam
All of these names are so strange and many of them fall outside the line of descendants leading to the Messiah. However, all are still descendants of Adam and bear God’s image. All are human and all are under obligation to worship their Creator. We know that some of these probably never worshipped God the way they should have. Their names are here, because God cares for each one and also desires to attest to the historicity of the events that surrounded their lives after the Flood.
Pre-Flood Names Related to Places
Some names hearken back all the way to pre-Flood places and peoples like the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:11, Havilah, and 2:14, Asshur). Like us, people carry with them the memories of those who preceded them—their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents—and the places where they resided. We pass on memories from “the old country” and we recount our family history. We even name geographical features after those from our previous land of residence—sometimes even choosing to live where the surrounding terrain reminds us of our prior home far away.
This particular genealogical section in 1 Chronicles 1 concludes with Abraham. God chose him to be one of the most significant figures in the line of Messiah (Matthew 1:1). Through his offspring all nations will be blessed (Genesis 12:1–3). Abraham was not a perfect man, but he was called “a friend of God” (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). If you and I hold fast to our faith, like Abraham, perhaps we, too, might be remembered as having a very close relationship to our God.
We Who Now Live
All of these names in a small section of biblical genealogies are from the past. All of these men died. One day we, too, shall die. We will not be recorded in the pages of Scripture in any genealogy like these individuals, but we know that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. They are recorded in order to teach us about the doctrine of God, the doctrine of man, the doctrine of sin, and the doctrine of salvation. Sometimes, their stories or their sins will convict us of sin in our lives. Often, by reading the greater context, we can be corrected by seeing how God displays His holiness, His justice, and His mercies. By reading their stories, we receive instruction in righteousness. By their genealogies God equips us for every good work. All of these things (including the genealogies) were “written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Yes, the narratives occasionally inserted into and accompanying the biblical genealogies report what “happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Read the biblical genealogies as though they record our own families and the people we know. God recorded each name intentionally and with purpose. Let’s not ignore them nor eliminate them from our reading or our meditation.