1 Chronicles 3–5
What does it say?
Chapter 3 lists David’s children, then goes through the royal line of David from Solomon of Bathsheba. The second half of the the chapter lists the known postexilic descendants of David. “Most of these individuals are unknown outside of this list. Exceptions are Zerubbabel, of whom considerably more is known and Hattush (v. 22) who is known only as one who returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:2).” (IVP BBC OT) Chapters 4 and 5 list the descendants of Asher, Simeon and Reuben. Chapter 5 begins with a statement about birth rite and defilement and explaining who had the birth rite. Reuben had defiled the bed of Jacob; therefore, Jacob gave the birth rite of the first son to the first born of his second wife Rachel. Then the text speaks of how the tribe of Judah (meaning the Davidic royal line) prevailed over Joseph’s line but acknowledges that the birth rite of the first son was given to Joseph.
What does it mean?
These genealogies can be difficult to understand because the customs are so different than the customs of the world that I live in today. Birth rites and change of birth rites do not make a lot of since in the financial middle class of the United States of America that I grew up in. However, the meaning for these genealogies is the same as the previous 2 chapters. This text was originally written for a postexilic community that returned from exile to Babylon and was seeking an identity as the people chosen by God to occupy the land.
What should I do?
I have a list of descendants in an old family bible. The list dates back to 1715, 61 years before the Declaration of Independence. The list is nostalgic but I know nothing of those people except for their names. I do not need the list to say that I have rights as a citizen of the United States of America or the rights to a particular piece of property or to be identified with the people of God. If one of my descendants were a Christian, does that make me a Christian because he was baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and learned to observe all that Jesus commanded? The answer is no it does not. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) The family line that we must descend from comes from above, not from the people of the earth. “But as many as received Him (Jesus Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)