You’ve heard it and maybe even said it yourself, “When I get to a genealogy in my Bible reading, I just skip it.” Genealogies (lists of names telling who is related to whom) can be boring and intimidating—especially if you have to read all those hard-to-pronounce names aloud for someone else to hear. However, Paul did not exclude the biblical genealogies when he wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17 esv). So let’s consider God’s design for biblical genealogies.
Genealogies: People for Whom God Cares
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, calls His sheep by name (John 10:3). In addition, the Bible reveals that the names of God’s people are written in heaven (Daniel 12:1; Malachi 3:16; Luke 10:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27). God cares for individuals—He cares for you. The biblical genealogies contain names of the righteous (Genesis 5) and names of the unrighteous (Genesis 4:17–22). Through the genealogies God demonstrates that He is omniscient and just. Narrative vignettes accompany many bibliographies. Those biographical vignettes help the reader to understand how God deals with the righteous (Genesis 5:22–24; 1 Chronicles 4:9–10) and the unrighteous (Genesis 10:8–14; 1 Chronicles 5:25–26). By naming individual people, the Bible displays its authenticity, integrity, and historical accuracy. How I praise You, Lord, for knowing who people are and what they have done—You record their names. Thank You for writing my name in the Lamb’s book of life.
Genealogies: Affirmation of Man Made in the Image of God
Genesis 5:1 opens the first genealogical list by identifying the image of God in Adam—and, the text reveals that the offspring of Adam also possess the image of God. Later, in Genesis 9:6, God explains why murder must be a capital crime: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” The universal focus of the earliest genealogies in Genesis demonstrates that all humanity differ from the animals and from angels. The genealogies prove that God places a very high value on human lives. Father, help me to live a life that reflects who You are. Help me to value all human life the way You do.
Genealogies: Reminders of the Fall’s Awful Effects
Over and over again in Genesis 5 the words “and he died” hammer home the fact that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death reigned over mankind due to Adam’s disobedience (Romans 5:14). But, in the midst of what might seem a discouraging and depressing fact of living in a fallen world as fallen beings, God also reveals His ability to intervene and to give life far more abundantly than sinners deserve. Enoch stands as the sole exception of the death knell in Genesis 5:21–24. God offers hope in the midst of our mortality—He can negate the effects of the Fall. O God, thank You for intervening in this death-filled, fallen world to give life. You, O Lord, reign over all mankind with regard to both death and life.
Genealogies: God Keeps His Promises
God desires a covenant people who will serve Him in this world. He promised that a descendant of Abraham will bring blessing upon all peoples (Genesis 12:1–3). Biblical genealogies trace the history of the unbroken line of the Messiah who will bring redemption and establish His kingdom. Some genealogies, especially in 1 Chronicles, Matthew 1, and Luke 3, focus on the descent of Messiah through the ongoing offspring of the tribe of Judah. Lord, I stand amazed at Your faithfulness to fulfill Your promises to bring the Messiah into this world through Seth-Shem-Abraham-Jacob-Judah. Thank You for my Redeemer, my Savior, my Lord.
Genealogies: A Look to the Future
Biblical genealogies do not comprise a search for our ancestors, as in our own pursuit of our family line back as far as we can go into the past. Rather, biblical genealogies develop a forward, a future look. They prove that God has always been a God of the future, and not just of the past. That’s part of what the Lamb’s book of life exhibits—those whom God has recorded by name will enter into a future state of blessedness in heaven, removed from this fallen world. Father, I long to be in Your presence for all the remainder of eternity, to enter into the blessings which You have promised me through my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Genealogies: A Focus on Corporate Worship
In 1 Chronicles 6 the chronicler records the genealogy of the tribe of Levi, the priests whom God appointed to lead the people of Israel in worship. They not only led worship through the offering of the sacrifices (1 Chronicles 6:49), they conducted worship services filled with songs sung in praise to the Lord (1 Chronicles 6:31–32). The emphasis upon the tribes of Judah and Levi in Chronicles reveals the Lord’s promise for an ultimate King-Priest to fulfill the prophecies. As God’s people await the progressive unfolding and fulfilling of messianic prophecies, they must gather together with their fellow believers to join in corporate worship. O God, how I praise You for placing me among Your people. Help me to know the names and the lives of those with whom I faithfully gather for worshipping You.
NOTE: A follow-up blog later this month will provide a sample devotional (or meditation) from a section of one of the more than thirty biblical genealogies.