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Commentary On 1 Chronicles (1).

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons) DD


In the initial Hebrew text 1 & 2 Chronicles were all one book and must thus be seen as one. It was written to the returnees from Babylon, and from similar countries, who were able to return as a consequence of the edict of Cyrus (2 Chronicles 36.23), so as to:

  • Assure them of God’s purposes for them, and give them the certainty of His ability to fulfil them, by demonstrating what He has done in the past..
  • Confirm to them the validity of their religious practises, and the Temple in which they worshipped.
  • Underline to them the value of the Levitical ministry as appointed by God.
  • Encourage them to look forward to the coming of a greater David Who would establish a kingdom of peace and righteousness, something which David and Solomon had failed to do.
  • Call to those who had not yet done so to return to the land.

But at the same time it acted as a warning to them that such would only be true if they were faithful to God’s covenant with them. They had made a good start. It was necessary for them to finish what they had begun.

With all this in view, after an initial genealogical summary which confirmed their origins, and demonstrated how God had built up and extended the nation in the past, the Book first recounts the rise and triumph of their great kings David and Solomon, who were to some extent the pattern for the coming king who would bring in the everlasting kingdom, and yet who in a number of ways came short, and secondly it outlines the subsequent history of Israel/Judah down to the Exile, explaining the deterioration of the monarchy (with one or two bright spots) and why the Exile happened. He wants to make clear that it was not due to the failure of YHWH, but to the failure and disobedience of His people. It then ends with a brief note of Cyrus’ intention to restore the house of God in Jerusalem and to allow the Jews to return to their homeland. This would have given a huge boost to their confidence in God. It would suggest to them that the everlasting kingdom of the Davidic house might be in sight. To this extent the Book is parallel with 2 Samuel and Kings, but it has a wholly different perspective.

Two main strands that the Chronicler had in mind are as follows:

  • 1). To reveal God’s purpose in establishing David and his house with a view to their house finally reigning over an everlasting kingdom (this is made clear in 1 Chronicles 17.7-15).
  • 2). To describe the re-establishing of Israel’s religion under David, in accordance with the Mosaic pattern, something which is dealt with in some detail. He sees this as operating initially in the Tabernacle and a majestic Tent in Jerusalem, and finally in the Temple, the building of which was inaugurated by David and carried out by Solomon at David’s command, albeit in the Chronicler’s eyes somewhat unsatisfactorily. And he then describes its subsequent deterioration, in spite of efforts to stem the tide, preparatory to the building of a new, and more satisfactory, Temple after the Exile. One that was not as splendid, but was free from its worldly traits.

The central passage which illuminates the whole book is 1 Chronicles 17.1-15. These verses underline two things, firstly that God’s aim was to establish the house of David so as to finally bring blessing through a king who would be obedient to God’s covenant and would arise to establish the everlasting kingdom. And secondly, although at first seemingly at odds with what follows, that God Himself did not require a ‘house of cedar’, but preferred what He already had. His statement in this regard is crystal clear. ‘You shall not build Me a house to dwell in’. And if we ask ‘Why?’, the answer basically at this stage was that He did not need such a house, and it was not within His plan. The implication was that He already had everything that He required and needed nothing from man, even David, apart from their love and worship. All that He physically required of man, and that was for their benefit, was a Tent made according to His design, which would indicate His earthly presence among them as a Sojourner (a temporary dweller). For as His throne and His kingdom and His glory were already established and His real home was in the Heavens, He really had no need for help or home from anyone.

It is interesting that this was something that both David and Solomon to some extent recognised, even though it did not stop them from going ahead with their own plan to build a Temple. They were unable to conceive that the building of a Temple would diminish YHWH and cause problems for true Yahwism. As a consequence, out of His love for them God graciously guided David and gave him a pattern for the new Temple, even though it was not originally within His purpose. He did this partly because He saw the genuineness of David’s heart (we can compare how in the same way He had yielded to Israel’s desire to have a king), and partly because He recognised that they would go ahead anyway, so that it was better if they did so with guidance from Him. But His initial emphasis was not on what He wanted David and Solomon to do for Him, but on what He could do for David and mankind, and that was not to establish a Temple, but to establish the righteous rule of the coming scion of the house of David over His people.

1). God’s Purpose To Establish David And His House With A View To Their Finally Reigning Over An Everlasting Kingdom.

As we have already seen, God’s purpose was to establish the Davidic house as a dynasty who would do His will and finally establish His everlasting kingdom through the greater David yet to come. But we must remember in this regard that the Chronicler had to write sensitively. He was writing to his people as part of an Empire which had its spies everywhere and was very sensitive about any suggestion of rebellion. Thus to speak openly of a coming world-wide kingdom ruled over by a king of Israel would have been seen as treason. As a consequence he had to be careful that whilst he propagated the idea of the coming Kingdom of God ruled over by a scion of the Davidic house, and encouraged the people to look expectantly for it, he did so cautiously without arousing the suspicions of the Persian nation and its kings. It was something that had to be done without being too blatant about it. That he succeeded well comes out in that there are some, even today, who do not see it.

The way in which he went about this was to magnify the life and triumphs of David, and then of Solomon as the son of David, both in a somewhat idealistic manner, while portraying them as the ancestors of a great King yet to come. In achieving this he demonstrated how God had, on His own initiative, built up David’s powerful forces from the beginning; had defeated David’s enemies on every hand; and had established a nation built up on the two foundations of a powerful and successful army and a secure religion. Then, by interweaving with this a promise that one of David’s seed would one day rule over the everlasting kingdom he got over his point. His message was that what God had done for David in making him great, He would repeat with respect to the coming king. He too would be established in power and authority to rule the nations (see Psalm 2.7-9). That meant that all future kings were later judged in terms of David, and were found wanting. It was making clear that the future King had not yet come, but was nevertheless to be awaited with expectancy. This was something that their prophets had made clear.

Even the Temple itself, which was more David’s idea than God’s, was made to stand as a witness to the coming of this king, for God very specifically would not allow it to be built by a warring king ‘with blood on his hands’, (however much He, God, had aided him in his bloody enterprises), but demanded that it be established by a king chosen by God who ruled in peace, with the nation at rest, so that it would point forward to the coming Prince of Peace. Thus the command for the later rebuilding of the Temple at the end of the Book would arouse in the hearts of the returnees from Babylon the expectancy of the coming of the King.

In other words, we can conclude that underlying the whole book is the firm expectancy of the coming king who will bring in the everlasting kingdom of peace. This was something firmly promised in chapter 17 and later symbolised in the Temple. David and his leading men may well for a time have expected it to follow soon after the reign of Solomon, even though the common people in the time of Solomon were probably not so expectant (they suffered under Solomon’s rule, and his magnificence was at their cost). This serves to accentuate the failure of the kings who followed. And the Chronicler built up this expectancy of a coming King without it being made too blatantly obvious. It would only be those ‘in the know’, and who were familiar with the promise of Genesis 49.10-12, and the teaching of the prophets (including Haggai and Zechariah), who would recognise what the message was. As a consequence the mention of the edict for the rebuilding of the Temple at the end of the book, seen as unexpectedly brought about by God, would arouse in the Jews, not only a hope for the restoration of their land and worship, but also the hope that soon the expected king, and the kingdom of peace and prosperity, would be coming. It was also a call to the dispersion to return to their own land ready for that day.

It is noteworthy that, possibly partly because of his aim to present David as the model for the ‘ideal king’, he deliberately omits his personal sins. For example, he omits any reference to his adultery with Bathsheba, or to the arranged murder of Uriah the Hittite, and he omits mention of any of the consequences which followed, including his son Absalom’s rebellion (2 Samuel 11.1-21.14). On the other hand he also fails to mention good things about his personal dealings, so that it is clear that he is not simply expurgating him. Rather he is concentrating on David’s life as a king, and omitting personal details whether good or bad. For his aim is to present David the king, and the way in which he established his rule, and established His people’s religious ritual in accordance with the words of Moses.

A secondary theme that comes out is David’s intention to build God a Temple. But the Chronicler makes clear that he has deep reservations about what was achieved, even though acknowledging that it was accepted by God. He recognised that it was not part of God’s original plan for David and Solomon (as found in 1 Chronicles 17), and that it failed to come up to expectations. Indeed that it was not built with sufficient safeguards, and that already in its building the rot that would bring the kingdom down had begun to take effect.

He recognised, for example, that it resulted rather from a misunderstanding by David of the promises in 1 Chronicles 17, and was not initially a part of God’s original purpose for Israel, only being adopted because of David’s insistence on the project. The house that God wanted David and Solomon to build was the Davidic house through which would come a king who was pleasing to God in every way. So he recognised that the physical Temple was unsatisfactory from the beginning.

This again was something that had to be presented carefully, and especially so because once God had accepted David’s insistence on it being built He Himself had aided him in its planning. But the Chronicler makes quite clear his own view of the project when he not only makes it clear that building of the Temple was at the insistence of David, but also refers in a derogatory fashion to the way in which it was built. Writing to a people who had built their own Temple themselves, and had refused the assistance of foreigners and syncretists in its erection because they wanted to ensure the purity of their Temple (Ezra 4.1-3), he underlined the fact that Solomon’s Temple had been built by foreigners and syncretists, under the direct control of an idolater, and not in accordance with the principles laid down in the Mosaic writings. In other words it was built with ‘unclean’ hands. Even David revealed his religious insensitivity in this regard (22.2). No wonder then that the Chronicler saw that it must finally fail in its objective. To him this was a good explanation for its failure. It was doomed from the beginning. At some stage it would have to be replaced.

Furthermore he does not whitewash David completely, even in other matters, for he draws attention to his public failures. Thus he draws attention to David’s failure to arrange for the movement of the Ark in the religiously appropriate manner, resulting in the death of Uzziah (13.1-14), and to his seeking to number Israel, something which brought down on him and Israel the wrath of God (21.1-30). In other words he reveals David as continually misled on religious matters, and even as listening to the voice of Satan. And this was true, even though both instances eventually turned out well in that the Ark was finally brought in the correct manner to Jerusalem and established in the Jerusalem Tent, and in that as a result of God’s judgment on Israel because of David’s sin, the site of the prospective Temple was secured. These were two sins which revealed that there had to be a greater David Who would not suffer from these blemishes, and Who would walk in a closer relationship with God than David did.

The case of Solomon is somewhat similar. His reign is seemingly presented as one of continual outward triumph and magnificence, as he takes over the throne with ‘the world’ at peace. Indeed, there is no mention of the untidy beginning to his reign as a consequence of Adonijah’s attempted coup (1 Kings 1-2); nor of the executions that he carried out acting in accordance with the advice of David (1 Kings 2.5-9); nor of his sin of idolatry as a consequence of his foreign wives (1 Kings 11.1-13); nor of the later rebellions against him (1 Kings 14-40). So his reign is almost presented as though he was the precursor to the ideal expected king of peace. And central to that presentation is the building of the Temple which is seen as pointing to that kingdom. As a consequence of this presentation, the mention of the problems and stirrings, which we later learn occurred during his rule, is delayed until the commencement of the reign of Rehoboam, but even the Chronicler cannot hide the fact that it was the injustices of Solomon’s reign which caused the problems (2 Chronicles 10.4).

Nevertheless he does not completely vindicate Solomon. As we have seen, one thing that the returnees from Babylon had insisted on doing for themselves was to build their own new Temple and not allow it to be defiled at the hands of unbelievers (by their definition). Thus they had insisted on keeping separate from syncretistic builders. As a consequence, when others had come and offered to assist with the building of the Temple they had emphatically turned them down (Ezra 4.1-3), something which had brought on them continual persecution. Their view was that their Temple must be built with clean hands.

They therefore would not have failed to recognise that the Chronicler was bringing out the imperfections of the first Temple, when he pointed out specifically and emphatically that it was built by ‘strangers’ (2 Chronicles 2.17-18), under the supervision of one who was at best a syncretist (2 Chronicles 2.13-14). Whilst God had honoured it with His blessing because of His love for David, and initially for Solomon, nothing could hide this deep blemish. It had been erected by unclean hands, which, of course, in their view, helped to explain its subsequent failure. As a consequence better things could be expected of the second Temple, if only God’s people would remain faithful to Him. Interestingly this failure of Solomon is underlined by the words of Solomon himself when he refused to allow his presumably idolatrous wife, the daughter of Pharaoh, to live in the vicinity of a place once made holy by the presence of the Ark of YHWH (2 Chronicles 8.11), demonstrating his awareness that clean could not exist with unclean. Like us he was a bundle of inconsistencies.

The importance to the Chronicler of this was that it enabled him to encourage his people with a recognition that their second Temple, whilst outwardly inferior to the first, was actually superior in that it was built by clean hands, and it therefore made clear that they must prepare themselves for the coming of the Prince of Peace by living clean lives.

Another aspect of David’s failure, which is either consciously or unconsciously drawn attention to by the Chronicler, and also needs to be brought out, is his growing tendency to act independently of God, even whilst acknowledging Him. In his early days David is portrayed as regularly ‘enquiring of God’ before acting (14.10, 14), and this is placed in deliberate contrast with Saul in 10.14, and that in words which are the Chronicler’s own. Unlike Saul David is depicted as humbly needing the guidance of YHWH.

But it is noticeable that subsequent to this he appears regularly to cease ‘enquiring of YHWH’. For example it is of the leaders of the people that he enquires concerning the moving of the Ark (1 Chronicles 13.2-3), rather than enquiring of YHWH, with the consequence that he sought to move the Ark contrary to the teaching of the Law, something which resulted in Uzza being struck down (13.10). Furthermore he decided of his own volition to build God a house of cedar (17.1), and whilst he did consult Nathan, he did not ask him to enquire of God on the matter (God had to take that decision into His own hands). It turned out to be an offer which, though coming from a genuine desire to please YHWH, was rejected because God did not want such a house. He also numbered Israel on his own account as a consequence of listening to Satan (just as Saul had heeded familiar spirits - 10.13) resulting in pestilence coming on Israel (chapter 21). And finally, in spite of God’s previous ban, he set his heart to build the Temple (and admitted that it was because ‘it was in my heart’ (22.7)), doing it despite God’s clear indication that He did not require one. It is arguable that none of these things would have happened had he ‘enquired of YHWH’ before acting. It appears from this that he is depicted as having lost the habit of enquiring of YHWH.

The fact that God later gives him guidance concerning the building of the Temple does not negate the fact that God had stated that He did not want one. What it does indicate is that God recognised the genuineness of David’s desire and yielded to his fierce desire, as He had with the people when they demanded a king, even though it had been made clear that it went contrary to His previously revealed will. Note how it is David, not God, who says of the threshingfloor of Ornan, ‘this is the house of YHWH God, and this is the altar of burnt offering for Israel’. There is no hint that God intended that as the site of the Temple, any more than He did the threshingfloor of Chidon (14.9). And even Solomon would make clear that the true altar of burnt offering was still that at Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1.3-6). David’s words arose from David’s own enthusiasm and religious conviction, without consultation (as do so many of our own ‘spiritual’ ideas).

The Chronicler also brings out the failure of Solomon to be the perfect prince of peace, for unlike in Kings, it is specifically indicated that he went forth to war because he was greedy of gain (2 Chronicles 8.3), in spite of the fact that God Himself had promised him great wealth which was to be his by peaceful means through trade and tolls. And this on top of the fact that he disaffected his own people (2 Chronicles 10.4) by his harsh demands. He thus failed to live up to his reputation as the king who brought rest and peace to his people.

2). A Description Of The Establishing Of Israel’s Religious Practises In Some Detail, Of The Introduction Into Jerusalem Of The Ark Of The Covenant Of YHWH, And Of The Building, And Later Deterioration, Of The Temple.

The Chronicler also goes into some detail over the arrangements for worship and service in God’s house, as initiated by David, all of which were initially to be carried into practise in the Tabernacle at Gibeon and the Tent at Jerusalem (23.32). They were not specifically arranged with the Temple in view. Indeed, David actually divided the singers into two groups because of the two Tents (16.37-42), although no doubt even at that stage his hope was one day to unite the Tabernacle and the Jerusalem Tent as one Sanctuary, (until he got what he saw as a better idea). These arrangements were seen as the pattern for the future, and no doubt as preparatory to the coming kingdom, the twin pillars of which would be glorious triumph and true religion. To the Chronicler they presented a pattern for his people.

When it comes to the Temple, God’s declaration in 17.4 that ‘You shall not build me a house to dwell in’, the reason for the statement then being represented as that He had never once required it throughout the whole of their past history, is a warning to us not to lay too much emphasis on it. Important though it might become, and dazzling as it might appear to men, it is made apparent that it was to be seen as secondary to God’s purpose, and built on imperfection. It was not a part of His final purpose which was to establish a living, ruling king over an everlasting kingdom (17.11-14). It was that which was the hope of Israel, not the Temple.

It is indeed apparent from the text that the idea of the building of a Temple was very much David’s idea and not God’s. If words mean anything God said that He did not want one, and was satisfied with the Tabernacle (17.4-6). But it is then made clear that once David had seized hold of the idea he would not let it go, (as in the case of his determination to number Israel), so that in the end God, out of love for His servant, submitted to the idea (as He had to the idea of Saul’s kingship) and even gave him instructions concerning its building, and later commanded the building of a second Temple, because the people had grown careless in their worship without a central meeting place. Whilst recognising the great dangers involved of the Temple producing a distorted religion, (when men began to put their hopes in it rather than in the living God), He adopted it into His plan for David’s sake, and transformed it into a beacon of His intentions for an everlasting kingdom of peace. But it is stressed that it was not within His original plans (17.4-6). It is perhaps significant that, whilst there were sometimes irregularities in Tabernacle worship, it never became a home for idolatry like the Temple would. (It is possibly not without significance that the promulgation of the Temple (chapter 22) commences after we learn of Satan’s activity in deceiving David (chapter 21)).

Teaching Concerning Retribution.

An undoubted dark side of the Chronicler’s emphases lay in his necessary emphasis on retribution. In the genealogies of the tribes of Israel the very first references to specific acts are the wicked behaviour of Er which caused him to be struck down (2.3), and the wickedness of Achar (Achan) as the ‘trouble of Israel who committed a trespass in the devoted thing’ (2.7). These preceded the mention of the birth of David the son of Jesse, God’s chosen king (2.15), and of Bezalel the son of Uri, the Spirit inspired architect of the Tabernacle and its furniture (2.20), and of Jabez the man who was more honourable than his brothers because he asked God that His hand be with him and that He keep him from evil (4.9-10). So even whilst the fruitfulness and blessing on the house of Judah is being described, the warning was already there, that wickedness and rebellion brought death whilst walking with God brought life.

The next warning is found in the consequence of the wicked and idolatrous behaviour of the Transjordanian tribes. God had made them fruitful and successful, but because they went ‘a-whoring’ after the gods of the land, He sent against them the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser who carried them away into exile (5.25-26), and that after God had given them victory in their previous battles.

Once we reach the narratives following the genealogies, it commences, prior to the description of the rise of David, with the slaying of king Saul, and the warning that this was because he committed transgression against YHWH and did not keep His word, and enquired of evil spirits rather than of YHWH (10.13-14).

Even the reign of David is tinged by retribution, the first time in the striking down of Uzza for touching the sacred Ark (13.10; 15.13), and the second time in God’s retribution on Israel because David had self-conceitedly and high-handedly set about the numbering of Israel, YHWH’s people (chapter 21).

It will be noted that all these sins were directed directly against YHWH. Whilst we have no information about Er’s sin we do know that his mother was a Canaanitess, which is suggestive that his sin was idolatry. It had to be serious to deserve death (2.3; Genesis 38.2-3, 7). Achan withheld from YHWH what was sacred and belonged to Him (2.7). The Transjordanian tribes engaged in idolatrous practises. Uzza blasphemously touched the sacred Ark (13.10; 15.13). David’s sin was a highhanded sin against YHWH concerning His people who were sacred to Him (in this he too had heeded the invisible world of spirits, as Saul had. But his case was less heinous because he had not deliberately sought it). Thus even Solomon is warned, ‘if you seek Him He will be found of you, if you forsake Him He will cast you off for ever’ (28.9). It is therefore all the more significant that nothing is said of Solomon’s idolatrous behaviour as a consequence of his foreign wives (1 Kings 11), possibly because he was the model for the everlasting kingdom of peace and rest. This is accentuated by the fact that subsequent to Solomon there is continual reference to retribution, for Judah’s continuing downfall is a consequence of such retribution.

For the returnees from Exile, to whom the book was first written, all this would give them a solid basis for their future hopes, and for their own religious practises. It would give them a new vision of the Temple and its necessary purity, and would give them a confidence that they were pleasing to God, whilst at the same time it would act as a warning to stay loyal to God. And it gave them the certainty that, though they might seem long delayed, the good days of the kingdom were coming.

What Was God’s Relationship With The Temple Of Solomon?

That this question is a complicate one comes out in the fact that many commentators see the main aim of the books of Chronicles as being to present the Temple as God’s ideal for Israel. To them the Chronicler makes every effort to present it as a genuine continuation of the Tabernacle and as wholly acceptable to God. They point to Solomon’s prayers, and YHWH’s response, and to the fact that the glory of God came down on the Temple, as evidence of God’s complete acceptance of it. But as we have drawn attention to above, this is not how we read the Chronicler.

Let us then see how he builds up to his view of the Temple:

  • 1). In 1 Chronicles 17, in response to David’s earnest desire to build Him a house of cedar, God makes clear that He is satisfied with the Tabernacle and does not want a House made of cedar. What He wants is a human house, a dynasty, which will produce righteous kings over His people and will result in the establishment of the everlasting kingdom. And He wants Solomon to build Him this house. There is no clear mention of the building of the Temple.
  • 2). To some extent David and Solomon both recognised this, but they misinterpreted His metaphor as indicating that they could build Him a house of cedar, in spite of God’s clear indication that it was otherwise.
  • 3). David became enthused with the idea and determined to build such a house, something that was confirmed to him in his own mind when the pestilence ravaging Israel stopped short at the threshingfloor of Ornan, when David and his priests built an altar there because of a theophany (Exodus 20.24), and offered sacrifices on it which were apparently successful in assuaging God’s anger. He determined that this would become the place for the altar of God and for his subsequent Temple (1 Chronicles 21.1-22.1) He did not at this stage ‘enquire of YHWH’ (as he had not in 1 Chronicles 17), but determined it on his own volition.
  • 4). God in His compassion agreed to let the House that David wanted be built, and provided him by His Spirit with guidance as to the pattern that it must follow (1 Chronicles 28.11 ff.). Thus, says David, he was ‘made to understand in writing from the hand of YHWH, even all the works of this pattern’ (1 Chronicles 28.19). The reference here was probably to the descriptions in Exodus, ‘written by the hand of YHWH’ (divinely inspired), which he has interpreted and expanded on by the Spirit. Up to this point all was well, apart from the fact that David’s enthusiasm for the project had made YHWH fall in line with his desires. The Tabernacle was after all to be replaced by a building.
  • 5). However, at this point God entered a caveat. He would permit the building of the Temple as long as it was not by David, a man of war, but by a man of peace and rest (1 Chronicles 22.8-10; 28.3), so that it would be a symbol of the coming age of peace and rest. He did not want the Temple to encourage war. Up to this point all was well, and had the Temple simply gone ahead on that basis all would have been well. In accordance with the pattern in Exodus the planning and building of it should be by men of the Spirit who were true-born believers, and it should be built with willing and believing hands. And to this we can hear the returnees from Exile saying ‘Amen’, for that is how they built their Temple. And the writer of 1 Kings to some extent agrees, for whilst he had to admit to the use of forced labour in the enterprise, which could not be pleasing to God, he sought to present that forced labour as being that of believing Israelites (1 Kings 5.13-14). He was non-committal about the rest.
  • 6). But now came the first deviation from the plan. David, who had previously been guided by the Spirit, now succumbed to the flesh (was he once again being tempted by Satan as he was in the previous chapter?). Acting as a royal despot rather than as a man of God he ‘commanded that there be gathered together the strangers who were in the land of Israel’ (1 Chronicles 22.2, 15). The aim was that they be conscripted for forced labour in preparing for and building the Temple. Nothing could have been further from God’s pattern in Exodus.

    The term ‘strangers’ indicates all who were not believing Israelites. Of these God had said that His people must not do them wrong but that they must be loved by believing Israelites as they remembered that once they too had been strangers (and forced labourers) in the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19.34). This was thus not only to deviate from God’s plan, it was also directly to break God’s covenant. By his act David had begun the path that would lead to Solomon’s downfall. Instead of the building of the Temple being the spiritual act of all Israel, it was becoming the physical act of men who were idolaters, encouraged by a king who lacked spiritual discernment. And the returnees from Exile, had demonstrated in the building of their own Temple, that this was contrary to all that they believed in (Ezra 4.1-3). It would defile the Temple. How often we see a similar thing today. Men who have started out led by the Spirit, and who have carried on in the flesh, and have hindered the work that God had wanted to do. And yet God does not desert them completely but seeks to restore them to a proper state.

  • 7). Solomon, following the lead of his father David, and acting in the same despotic manner, gathered together all non-Israelites to work as forced labourers on his enterprises, including the Temple (2 Chronicles 2.17-18) The man to whom God had given wisdom to rule his subjects had failed to follow God’s Law and had revealed his folly. It will be noted that the Chronicler has deliberately deviated from what was said by the writer of 1 Kings 5.13-14, ignoring the use of Israelite labour and concentrating on the use of ‘strangers’. (No doubt both were used). In his eyes the Temple of Solomon was built by strangers and idolaters, and he wants his readers to see that.
  • 8). But worse was to follow. Instead of using men who were true believers endued by the Spirit of God, Solomon, feeling somewhat inadequate for the task (where now was the Spirit of God?), turned to a foreign idolatrous king, and called on him to provide him with an architect for the Temple (2 Chronicles 2.7). After all the Tyrians were expert at Temple building. They had built many idolatrous Temples. (We can see the returnees from Babylon visibly cringing). And the Chronicler brings out that he was spiritually a fake. Instead of being a true believing Israelite of the tribe of Dan, who had been given understanding by YHWH, as Oholiab, one of the two skilled architects of the Tabernacle, had been (Exodus 35.34; 36.1, 2), he was a man seen as having understanding in terms of the idolatrous king of Tyre (2 Chronicles 2.13), and was half Tyrian, half Danite (2 Chronicles 2.14), and almost certainly an idolater (the returnees would certainly have seen him like that). His name was Huram-abi. It is noticeable that the writer in 1 Kings deliberately restricts his work to work on bronze artefacts, which would not be found in the Sanctuary itself (1 Kings 7.13 ff.), and does not mention Solomon’s request for a worker in silver and gold (2 Chronicles 2.7). He tries his best to make the best of the situation. But the Chronicler, although partly hiding the fact (which probably made him shudder) by seeing all as the work of Solomon, implies that he worked on all the Temple artefacts, including those in the Sanctuary (2 Chronicles 3.1-5.1 and note 4.11), for, as it will be noted, Huram-abi was sent to him as a ‘worker in gold, and silver, and bronze, and iron, and purple, and crimson, and blue, and with the skill to engrave’ (2 Chronicles 2.7), which implies that he would be involved in all the work throughout the Sanctuary and the Temple courts.
  • 9). Furthermore the Chronicler brings out Solomon’s failure in spiritual discernment by point to another occasion when Solomon uses such spiritual discernment. That was in the case of his idolatrous Egyptian wife whom he removed from his palace in Jerusalem because he felts that her presence was inconsistent with the holy Ark of God having been there (2 Chronicles 8.11). By now the Chronicler has got over his point, that Solomon’s Temple was not built on a solid spiritual foundation.
  • 10). Why then did God reveal His acceptance of the Temple as the place of worship for all Israel? Almost certainly because He recognised Solomon’s youth and lack of experience in spiritual things, and recognised that his aim, if not his judgment, had been good, and because He accepted the genuineness of his prayer for its acceptance. And in a sense also because with the Ark of God being there His Name was there. After all the Temple was no less legitimate than David’s Tent in Jerusalem which He had also seemingly accepted for the same reason. Thus YHWH ‘chose the place for Himself as a house of sacrifice’ (2 Chronicles 7.12). But that did not signify that He approved of its manner of building. Rather He accepted it for what it was, an imperfect place in which Israel would worship. It was God adopted, not God ordained, and that even though His pattern had not been fully carried out.

Thus the Chronicler makes clear to the returnees from Exile that the Temple which had been destroyed had been tainted, and that their own Temple was based on better foundations. He also makes clear that although Solomon had been given wisdom to judge and rule his people (2 Chronicles 1.11-12), he had not been given wisdom with regard to the building of the Temple (contrary to some commentators).

The Sources From Which The Chronicler Obtained His Information.

The Chronicler makes clear that he had a number of written sources from which he obtained his information, which would include what we know of as Samuel and Kings. They are described as follows:

  • For the life of David, ‘The words of Samuel the Seer, of Nathan the Prophet and of Gad the Seer’ (1 Chronicles 29.29).
  • For the life of Solomon, ‘the words of Nathan the prophet, the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and the visions of Iddo the Seer against Jeroboam the son of Nebat’ (2 Chronicles 9.29).
  • For the subsequent kingdom of Judah, ‘the Book of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel’ (2 Chronicles 16.11); ‘The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel’ (2 Chronicles 25.26; 28.26; 32.32); ‘The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah’ (2 Chronicles 27.7; 35.27; 36.8); ‘The Book of the Kings of Israel’ (1 Chronicles 9.1; 2 Chronicles 20.34); ‘The Words of the Kings of Israel’ (2 Chronicles 33.18). How far these were different books, and how far they were the same Book under slightly differing titles, we cannot be sure. At least one of these Books may well have been what we call the Book of Kings. There was also ‘the Midrash of the Book of the Kings’ (2 Chronicles 24.27); the words of ‘Isaiah, the son of Amos, the Prophet’ (2 Chronicles 26.22); ‘The Words of Shemaiah the Prophet and Iddo the Seer’ (2 Chronicles 12.15); ‘the Midrash of the prophet Iddo’ (2 Chronicles 13.22); ‘The Words of Jehu the son of Hanani’, which were later included into ‘The Book of the Kings of Israel’ (2 Chronicles 20.34); and ‘The Words of Huzai’ (2 Chronicles 33.19).

So the Chronicler had no shortage of written works from which to obtain his material.

Introduction To The Genealogies.

In reading Chronicles we must not overlook to whom it was written. It was written to a group of people who had returned from Exile, mainly, at least initially, from Babylon. They had returned as a small remnant with new hopes of what God would do. But they had become bogged down with the problems of daily life (Haggai 1.6). They found themselves surrounded by peoples who had little sympathy with them, who wanted them to compromise their religion (Ezra 4.2, 4-5). They were finding survival a hard struggle. They dwelt among people who belittled their hopes (Nehemiah 4.1-3). They had built a Temple, but in their eyes it just did not compare with the one that they had once had (Ezra 3.12). They were at a low ebb.

Initially they had been stirred up by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, but now things had settled down, and they needed reminding again of the greatness of their God, and of how He had established the world and the nations. They needed reminding of how God had chosen out Israel as His people, and how He had established them in their tribes and had been with them, and had raised up David as king over them. And they needed reminding that God had not forgotten His promises to the Davidic house. All this is reflected in the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1.1-9.1. To us they are repetitive and to be skimmed over quickly. To the returned Exiles they were not just genealogies. They were a record of the history of the world and of God’s people, and they demonstrated how God had provided in the past, had watched over His people through the generations, and could do so again. Through his genealogies the Chronicler gave a great boost to the returnees from Babylon.

The Genealogies (1.1-9.1).

This whole section of Chronicles from 1.1 to 9.1 contains prominently, among other things, genealogies and it ends with the words, ‘so all Israel were reckoned by genealogies, and behold they are written in the book of the kings of Israel’ (9.1). This sets a seal on the historical nature of the genealogies, and confirms that they were intended to represent ‘all Israel’. They were pictures of Israel. The reference to ‘the book of the kings of Israel’ may, however, only refer specifically to chapter 2 onwards, for the preceding genealogies have been taken from the Book of Genesis. But we should certainly note the specific claim that they are taken from genuine records.

The Israelites took genealogies very seriously and maintained careful records. When the priests returned from Babylon certain of them were not allowed to serve as priests because they could not demonstrate their genealogies (Ezra 2.62), which, of course, demonstrates that the others had the means by which they themselves could do so. Israelites were proud of their tribal origins (even if it was often by adoption).

But in this case the writer has a purpose in presenting these genealogies. He wants his people to remember their whole background. Thus they divide into three parts:

  • Descent from Adam, the first man, created by God (1.1-4).
  • Descent from Noah and his three sons, from whom were derived all nations (1.5-27).
  • Descent from Abraham and all his sons (1.28-2.2) and especially from the sons of Israel (Jacob) (2.3 onwards), in accordance with the promises. Note that Jacob is called by his later name Israel so as to make the clear connection between him and the returnees from Exile.

This purpose may be expanded as follows:

Adam, Noah And Abraham (1.1-2.2).

  • First he wants to make clear that all nations, including Israel, descend from the first man, Adam (1.1-27), whom God created, and that He accomplished this through Noah and his sons who survived the Flood. Each of Noah’s sons and their descendants are outlined and seen as fathering all known nations. Thus the first word in 1 Chronicles is ADAM, and following his name is a list of the patriarchs (taken from Genesis 5) down to Noah. To a Jew of those days this would come alive. It would be underlining the fact that all mankind came from God leading on to demonstrating their place in God’s purposes. Then he gives details of the descendants of Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, of which come all known nations. Thus Noah is seen as a high point in God’s purposes which were universal. At this point ‘the whole world’ worshipped YHWH (Noah, his sons and their families). But as the nations developed, so they turned from YHWH to idols until the whole world had turned from YHWH, and God again decided to act in the call of Abraham.
  • After this he demonstrates the line of descent of Abraham through Shem, leading up to the birth of Abraham (Abram), as given in Genesis 11, and again each of Abraham’s sons and those descended from them, are mentioned and outlined. Abraham is a further high point in God’s purposes.

    In this regard he first outlines the descendants of the sons of Abraham, other than Isaac, that is, his descendants through Ishmael (1.29-31) and the sons of Keturah (1.32-33), together with the descendants and related tribes connected with Isaac’s son, Esau (1.34-54), in other words all the descendants of Abraham not of the line of promise. All this genealogical material is based on Genesis and indicates God’s concern for all Noah’s seed, and for all Abraham’s seed, which in the end will have their part in the covenant through the Davidic kingship.

  • Finally he outlines the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (Israel), and does this in greater detail. Now he has come to the nation who are central in God’s purposes from whom are ‘descended’ the returnees from Exile .

So his emphasis is on Adam, Noah and Abraham, from all of whom Israel could (to some extent in the last case) claim their descent. These were the three with whom He had entered into special covenants, something which finally resulted in the birth of the twelve patriarchs, the sons of Israel (Jacob). These genealogies would give the returned Exiles an identity with the past.

The Establishment Of Israel And Of The Davidic King And The Tabernacle And Its Worship (2.1-9.1).

Then from 2.1 onwards the writer concentrates on Abraham’s ‘descendants’ through Isaac, Israel (Jacob) and his twelve sons (2.1-2), and chapters 2-9 deal with these in some detail, although the genealogies make no pretence of being complete for:

  • They are selective concerning which names they include.
  • They exclude details in respect of Dan and Zebulun.
  • They make only cursory reference to Naphtali.

There is, however, a special emphasis on Judah and King David, and then on the Levites and Aaron. The descendants of Benjamin are dealt with twice, partly because of their importance to the returnees from Babylon, and partly as a specific introduction to what follows. It may also be in order to demonstrate how Benjamin separated themselves off to Judah, having originally been with the other tribes, and how all the tribes then included themselves within them. The whole of Israel is seen as included within the Judah/Benjamin sandwich (2 Chronicles 11.13-17; 15.9; 30.1; 34.6-7).

The lesson that he clearly intends the remnant of Israel, who are back in the land after their exile, to learn, is firstly, that all the nations are under God’s control and have been brought into being by His sovereign action through Adam and Noah, and secondly that out of those nations He has chosen Israel to be His people, and has built up Israel into sub-tribes and clans under strong leadership, so that under the coming Davidic king and His chosen priests, supported by all Israel, they may lead the world in worship (compare Ezekiel 40-47). It would be a great boost to the returnees to know that God was working His continuing purpose out through them, and had a detailed interest in them. It is also an encouragement to us to remember that God is in control of both world affairs and family affairs, which are fully known to Him.

We might summarise chapters 2-9 as follows:

  • The sons of Israel (2.1).
  • Details concerning the tribe of Judah which God built up into clans and sub-clans, and through whom He produced David as king, and Bezalel as architect of the Tabernacle (2.2-4.23).
  • Details concerning the tribes of Simeon, Reuben, Gad and Asher and how He expanded the borders of Israel through them (4.24-5.26).
  • Details concerning the tribes of Levi from whom came the High Priests, priests and Levite servants of YHWH (6.1-81).
  • Details concerning the northern tribes, including Benjamin, and how God provided men for the hosts of Israel from them (7.1-40).
  • Details concerning the tribe of Benjamin from whom came Saul the king (8.1-40).
  • So all Israel were enrolled in genealogies (9.1).

It should be noted that the information is illustrative, not comprehensive, for in fact, all the tribes contributed men to the host of Israel, and in consequence all helped to expand and consolidate Israel. All built up clans and sub-clans. But the genealogies of Judah, Benjamin and Levi were better preserved because they lasted in Palestine as identifiable tribes until 587 BC. They were thus useful for his purpose. Furthermore the reason why Simeon and the Transjordanian tribes were able to expand more easily was because they faced the southern and eastern deserts and unsettled desert tribes, and thus provided an example of expansion. The point of the whole is to stress to the returnees from Babylon and elsewhere what God was able to do if they were faithful to Him, and how He could build up Israel.

It is a reminder to us too of how God builds up His church, operating in different tribes (Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Anglican, United Reformed, Congregational, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Other Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Church of Christ, etc.), which are in their turn split up into sub-clans, and is able to expand them, raise up leaders among them, and provide through them soldiers of Christ, with the aim of them all being one in heart and spirit. It is also a reminder that some sadly go astray and come under God’s retribution.

The naming of these people one by one is also a reminder that He knows His own people by name one by one, and that they are never forgotten before Him. It makes clear that He has remembered them continually through the past. To us they are a possibly boring list of names. To God they were His servants, remembered and treasured. As Jesus reminded us, He knows the number of the hairs of our head. And the emphasis on the begetting of their leaders was a reminder to the returnees that God could continually raise up men to carry out His purposes when they were needed Thus the people could resettle in the land with the confidence that God was with them. It was no coincidence that when they settled again in the land, details of their genealogies were also provided in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 revealing God’s detailed concern for them.

From Adam To Abraham (1.1-28).

We now consider the section from Adam to Abraham. Note the pattern;

  • The descent from Adam to Noah and his sons, extracted from Genesis 5 (1.1-4).
  • Details of the descendants of each of the sons of Noah, extracted from Genesis 10, commencing with Japheth and ending in Shem. From these the nations are descended. The chosen line is then shown last in greater detail. (1.5-23).
  • The descent from Shem to Abraham and his sons, extracted from Genesis 11 (1.24-28).
  • Details of the descendants of each of Abraham’s other sons, drawn from Genesis 25.1-4, with the chosen line of Israel being shown last in greater detail.

Thus Adam, Noah and Abraham are highlighted, the three men with whom God established covenants, covenants which now belong to ‘all Israel’, and on which Israel could rely as they built up their new covenant community. It should be noted that it was a community which excluded many former Jews. Only those Jews who wanted to worship ‘YHWH only’ at the new Temple in Jerusalem were welcomed (Ezra 6.21). There would have been many polytheistic Jews in Palestine at the time, the remnants of the old nation who had remained there to farm the land (2 Kings 25.12), but they were excluded because of their polytheism. (Not all would have gone to Egypt, especially from southern Judah, and refugees would meanwhile have returned to their land from the refuges to which they had fled as a consequence of the Babylonian invasion). Even at this stage they were ‘not all Israel who were Israel’ (Romans 9.6).


The Initial Genealogy: From Adam To Noah (1.1-4).

Commencing with Adam we are given the names of the patriarchs from Adam to Noah. It as these who indicated the advancement of God’s purposes, 1.1-4 ‘Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.’

It will be noted that these names are the names of the ten patriarchs extracted straight from Genesis 5, and that the writer clearly assumes that his readers will be aware of the details of Genesis 5. This last comes out in the fact that here the writer neither draws attention to the fact that, apart from Shem, Ham and Japheth, the names are to be seen as in succession, nor distinguishes the fact that Shem, Ham and Japheth are all three contemporaries and sons of Noah. He assumes that all this will be known to his readers Thus the line from Adam leads up to Noah and his three sons from whom ‘the whole world’ was populated. All history is presented as being in God’s hands from the beginning.

It also makes clear that he considers it important to indicate that the names which follow, through which the world was populated, were directly descended from the first man through Noah. All go back to Adam whom God created, and who was made in the image of God, and to Noah and his sons whom He redeemed. They are the products of Israel’s God, not of the gods of the nations. And their ancestors once worshipped Him.

Following this the resulting Shem, Ham and Japheth will now be presented as the fathers of the nations. This will be outlined in some detail. Thus all the nations are seen as being products of Israel’s God.

Genealogies Extracted From Genesis 10 (1.5-23).

The genealogies that follow in 1.5-23 are extracted almost word for word, although with the omission of some details, from Genesis 10.2-29. Commencing with the descendants of Japheth, they convey the information that all known nations were descended from the sons of Noah, that is, from Shem, Ham and Japheth.

It will be noted that (excluding mention of Nimrod) the names cited come to seventy, a deliberate portrayal of the divine perfection of God’s handywork. Compare how seventy sons of Jacob are (artificially for they include sons not yet born) portrayed as entering Egypt in the time of Joseph. Seventy expresses ten times seven, seven intensified, divine appointed totality. The descendants of Japheth are seen to be the peoples in the far off north, and the peoples across the seas. The descendants of Ham comprise the people of North Africa, Southern Arabia, Egypt, Canaan and Phoenicia. The descendants of Shem are seen to be those of the ‘near north’ (Assyria, Babylon, Elam, etc) and include the descendants of Eber, and, of course, Abraham, on whom, with his descendants, all then concentrates.

It must, of course, be recognised that this presents an idealistic picture. Nations were never all descended from one man (Adam excepted) for there was much intermingling of peoples, intermarriage, etc. which meant that nations were made up of a variety of peoples (compare how later ‘Israel’ is a conglomeration of peoples who joined themselves with Israel. ‘All Israel’ are not directly descended from Jacob). But they had blended themselves into one.

The Descendants Of Japheth (1.5-7).

The descendants of Japheth are seen to have populated the ‘extreme north’, and the islands and coastlands across the Great Sea (the Mediterranean Sea).

1.5 ‘The sons of Japheth: Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.’

First mentioned we have the names of the ‘sons’ of Japheth (the order follows Genesis 10). Discerning readers will recognise that these names are in most cases the names of well known nations, but they may well initially have been actual names of the direct natural sons of Japheth, who built up their own family tribes (compare Terah, Nahor and Abraham) and gave them their names. Or the term ‘the sons of’ could refer to the nations descended from each one, or united with each family tribe by adoption (a legitimate use of the term ‘sons of’). The one may well have led on to the other. So these people may well have existed in person and as well have established family tribes like Terah, Abram and Nahor did, gradually building up into nations by reproduction, amalgamation, inter-marriage and adoption. By the time of the Exile such nations were very numerous.

‘Gomer.’ For Gomer as a personal name compare Ezekiel 38.6. Gomer was also the name of the faithless wife of Hosea (Hosea 1.3), demonstrating that it could be very distinctively a personal name. Gomer may have been the ancestor of the Gimirrai (Cimmerians). an Aryan group which, coming from Ukraine, subdued Urartu (Armenia) before 8th century BC.

‘Magog.’ In Ezekiel 38.2; 39.6 Magog is the name of a land and people. If we associate Gog of Magog, with Gugu (Gyges) of Lydia, this would place the land and people of Magog in Asia Minor. But the identification is not certain.

‘Madai.’ Possibly an ancestor of the Medes (Madai) who settled a powerful kingdom in NW Iran (now Azerbaijan with a part of Kurdistan). Their Aryan lineage is confirmed by Herodotus. Along with the Scythians (see Ashkenaz) and the Cimmerians (see Gomer) they helped to bring down Assyria (by whom they had been overrun), and later Babylon, eventually establishing, along with Persia, the Medo-Persian empire.

‘Javan (yawan).’ Probably an ancestor of the Ionians (Iaones). Isaiah 66.19 mentions them (along with Tubal), as occupying distant coastlands, and as those who would one day see YHWH’s glory, as they did on the coming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The name is later identified with the Greeks (Daniel 8.21; 10.20; 11.2; Zechariah 9.13). In Ezekiel 27.13, 19, along with Meshech and Tubal, they are associated with those who traded with Tyre.

‘Tubal, and Meshech.’ (association with Tobolsk and Moscow is not philologically possible and must be discounted). Their descendants are regularly mentioned together in Scripture (Ezekiel 27.13; 32.26; 38.2, 3; 39.1) and are most probably the Tibarenoi, and Moschoi, first mentioned in Herodotus iii.94 as belonging to the 19th satrapy of Darius, and again, in vii.78, as furnishing a contingent to the host of Xerxes. Equally probable is their identity with the Tabali and Muski of the Assyrian monuments, where the latter is mentioned as early as Tiglath-pileser I, and the former under Shalmaneser II; both are described as powerful military states. They appear together in Sargon's inscriptions, at which point their territory must have extended much farther South and West than in Greek-Roman times. They are held by some to have been remnants of the old Hittite population which were gradually driven (probably by the Cimmerian invasion) to the mountainous district Southeast of the Black Sea.

‘Tiras.’ It has been suggested that his descendants were the Tursenioi, who left many traces of their ancient power in the islands and coasts of the Aegean, and who were possibly identical with the Etruscans of Italy. This may be seen as partly confirmed by the discovery of the name Turusa (Trs.w) among the seafaring peoples who invaded Egypt in the reign of Merenptah

1.6 ‘And the sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, and Diphath (in Genesis - Riphath), and Togarmah.’

These are the descendants of Gomer, the ‘son’ of Japheth. Whilst the names here could be personal names the same is unlikely of Kittim and Rodanim in verse 7 which have a plural ending and indicate (at least) the people of Cyprus and Rhodes. The nations bearing these names here were probably located around the Black Sea area.

‘Ashkenaz.’ Ascanius was also later the name of a Mysian and Phrygian prince and could thus be a personal name, from whom sprang a family tribe which bore his name. The name occurs in Jeremiah 51.27 where the kingdoms of Urartu and Minni are seen as natural allies to ‘the kingdom of Ashkenaz’, which suggests a people located in and around Armenia. They may be identifiable with a people testified to elsewhere as living in the district of Ascania. Assyrian texts bear witness to the Askuzai as being to their North East from 720 BC onwards. They are possibly to be identified with the Skythai (Scythians) mentioned by Herodotus.

‘Diphath (in Genesis - Riphath).’ Josephus (Ant., I, vi, 1) identifies Riphath with the Ripheans (the Paphlagonians) near the Black Sea, who were associated with the river "Rhebas" (Pliny, NH, vi.4). The ‘D’ and ‘R’ of Diphath/Rephath may have been interchangeable (compare the Rodanim/Dodanim in verse 7). But the Hebrew letters D and R are almost identical so that it may indicate a scribal error in copying. We must, however, remember that the copyists probably knew the text by heart and would not be so likely to make such a mistake as we might be.

‘Togarmah.’ Along with Tubal, Javan and Meshech the people of Togarmah supplied horses and mules to Tyre (Ezekiel 27.14) and soldiers to the army of Gugu of Lydia (Ezekiel 38.6), or to Babylon if Magog is seen as a cypher for Babel (BBL represented by going up one letter and reversing (in Hebrew) as MGG - see our commentary on Ezekiel). In Ezekiel’s day they were a distant and fierce people who would one day threaten God’s people. During the second millennium BC Old Assyrian and Hittite texts refer to a Tegaramah which was near Carchemish and Haran. It may represent the Til-Garimmu mentioned in the annals of Sargon and Sennacherib which was the capital of Kammana on the border of Tabal (Tubal) and was destroyed in 695 BC.

1.7 ‘And the sons of Javan: Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim (Genesis - Dodanim).’

We are now given the names of the ‘sons of’ (descendants from) Javan. Identification of the first two of these is speculative, but the last two can be identified, at least partially, with the inhabitants of Cyprus and Rhodes. These ‘sons’ represent the peoples of the far off islands and mainland across the sea. See Javan above.

‘Elishah.’ In Ezekiel 27.7 the people of Elishah are described as the source from which the Tyrians obtained their purple dyes. Partly on the grounds of this statement they have been associated with the people of Alasia mentioned in the Amarna letter and in various cuneiform inscriptions. They were the source of eight of the Amarna letters mainly as A-la-si-ia. They were exporters of copper and possibly connected with Cyprus where there were important trading centres, or with the Italian mainland. They may also have had outposts in Phoenicia.

‘Tarshish.’ The name Tarshish is always difficult to identify as the name was applied to a number of places with which the ‘ships of Tarshish’ (ore-bearing ships) plied their trade. It is usually identified with Sardinia (where inscriptions bearing the name have been found) or with Spain, although Solomon appears to have traded with a Tarshish in East Africa (1 Kings 10.22). ‘Tarshish’ may well therefore have been a name used of a number of different far off places with which the ships of Tarshish traded. The one in East Africa must, however probably be discounted here. The association with the Kittim and the Rodanim suggests that we must not look too far afield from that direction.

‘Kittim.’ In its narrower sense the Kittim were Cypriots. Their name was given to the town of Kitium in Cyprus, referred to in Phoenician inscriptions as kt or kty. Numbers 24.24 speaks of ‘the coast of Kittim’ in respect of invaders from overseas, and in Isaiah 23.12 it was to be a bolt-hole for the Tyrians. In its wider sense it probably refers to the peoples of the islands of the Great Sea (see Jeremiah 2.10; Ezekiel 27.6) and overseas coastlands (Daniel 11.30 uses it of the Romans, compare its use in the Dead Sea Scrolls) many of whom were related. An ostraca from Arad (c 600 BC) refers to ktym who were probably Greek and related mercenaries. With its limited sea trading Israel often saw people overseas under one umbrella. They were ‘the people from far off shores’.

‘Rodanim (Genesis 10 - Dodanim)’. Closely associated with the Kittim are the Rodanim, who are probably the people from the island of Rhodes. D and R are easily confused in Hebrew letters, and indeed may have been interchangeable.

The Descendants of Ham (1.8-16).

As we have seen, from Japheth were descended the people to the far north, and the peoples across the sea. Now we come to the descendants of Ham who were originally found mainly South of Canaan, and to the South East, or in Canaan itself.

It will be noted that whilst further detail will be given of the sons of Cush, Mizraim and Canaan, no further details are given of the sons of Put, as also in Genesis 10. Perhaps this was because Israel had dealings with the descendants of Cush, Mizraim and Canaan, but not with the sons of Put.

1.8 ‘The sons of Ham: Cush, and Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.’

Descended from Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan. In the last analysis Cush probably referred to Northern Sudan/Nubia, Mizraim to Egypt, Put probably to Libya whilst Canaan represented the Canaanites who occupied Canaan and the land north of Canaan. But Canaan certainly also appears to be the name of a real son of Ham (Genesis 9.24-27), so that the others may well be also. Most doubtful from this viewpoint is the name Mizraim which appears to be a plural (Egypt was divided into two parts, Upper and Lower Egypt), whilst the ‘sons of’ Mizraim (verse 11) are themselves in the plural. However, the source of the name Mizraim is not clear (it may not be a plural), and besides, Mizraim might be the Hebrew rendering of a name which in its original language was not plural (Noah and Ham would not have spoken Hebrew).

‘Cush.’ This term was used of Northern Sudan/Nubia (rather than Ethiopia), but it was also used of the Cassites in Mesopotamia, who may well originally have come from Northern Sudan (Genesis 10.8-12). In this regard we know from Genesis 10.10-11 that Cush’s ‘son’ Nimrod founded an empire in Mesopotamia. The name Cush is based on the Egyptian term Ks. In the time of Isaiah Egypt was ruled by Cushite rulers.

‘Mizraim.’ This is the regular Semitic term for Egypt. It first occurs in external sources at Ugarit (as msrm) and in the Amarna letters (as misri), thus around 14th century BC. Later Assyrian/Babylonian texts refer to Musur or Musri, sometimes of Egypt and sometimes of Northern Syria/Asia Minor.

‘Put.’ Put is certainly North African and is probably an ancient name for a Libyan tribe, as is Lubim (2 Chronicles 12.3; 16.8; Daniel 11.43; Nahum 3.9). The prophets refer to Put mainly in connection with the forces of Egypt. They appear as shield-bearers in Jeremiah 46.9, ("Cush and Put, who handle the shield, and the Ludim, who handle and bend the bow"). See also Ezekiel 30.5, where the order in the Hebrew is Cush, Put and Lud. In Nahum 3:9 Put is the helper of No-amon (Thebes in Egypt), and in Ezekiel 27.10 Put appears with Persia and Lydia (Lud) as being in the army of Tyre. Put can be equated with the old Persian putiya and the Babylonian puta, both of which transcribe into Egyptian Tmhw which equals Libya.

‘Canaan.’ Used of both a person and a nationality. The Canaanites occupied both parts of Canaan and parts of Phoenicia, from Sidon to Gaza (see ‘the sons of Canaan’ below). The name is found on Phoenician coins.

The Sons Of Cush (1.9).

As we saw above Cush was one of the ‘sons’ of Ham. Below we discover that those descended from Cush inhabited Southern Arabia. This would suggest a movement of many Cushites from north Africa to Arabia. His ‘sons’ included Seba, Havilah, Sheba and Dedan, all of which are connected with Arabia. Many Arabs are therefore descendants of Cush rather than Ishmael.

1.9 ‘And the sons of Cush: Seba, and Havilah, and Sabta, and Raama, and Sabteca. And the sons of Raama: Sheba, and Dedan.’

‘Seba.’ It will be noted that a distinction is made between Seba and Sheba, although many identify the two. They are also distinguished in Psalm 72.10. Seba is elsewhere mentioned in Isaiah 43.3 in relation to Cush and Egypt. It is to be placed in Southern Arabia, but may well at one time have migrated there from North Africa. It may possibly originally have had connections with the Sabi River, which stretched from the Red Sea Coast to the Zambesi and the Limpopo.

‘Havilah.’ Havilah means ‘circle’ or ‘district’. There may well thus have been a number of Havilahs (see e.g. Genesis 2.11-12; 10.7, 29) or there may have been a widespread distribution of the tribe, or, indeed, a later intermingling of tribes through accumulation or marriage. We must remember that all these relationships are more complicated than they appear at first sight, and many were roving tribes. Compare the references in Genesis 25.18; 1 Samuel 15.7 which link it with the Ishmaelites and the Amalekites having in mind the area of Sinai and North West Arabia.

‘Sabta.’ Nothing is certainly known about Sabta except its clear connections from this verse with the other tribes in Arabia.

‘Raama.’ Along with Sheba, Raama sold spices, precious stones and gold to Tyre (Ezekiel 27.22). Inscriptions found in Sheba suggest a location for Raama north of Marib in Yemen.

‘Sabteca.’ Location unknown, but its connections suggest Southern Arabia.

‘The sons of Raama: Sheba, and Dedan.’ The names together indicate a clear Arabian connection (see on Dedan), and point to the tribes of those names. How Sheba relates to Seba above it is difficult to say, but the two tribes, descended from different but related ancestors, may well later have amalgamated. The Sabeans (or people of Saba or Sheba), are referred to elsewhere as traders in gold and spices, and as inhabiting a country remote from Palestine (1 Kings 10.1 ff; Isaiah 60.6; Jeremiah 6.20; Ezekiel 27.22; Psalm 72.15; Matthew 12.42), and also as slave-traders (Joel 3.8) and desert-raiders (Job 1.15; 6:19). They are best know for the visit of their queen to Solomon (1 Kings 10.1-10), probably on a trade negotiation expedition. In Isaiah 60.6 they are linked with Midian, Ephah and Kedar, which are all tribes connected with Arabia. In Ezekiel 27.22 the traders of Sheba and Raama are mentioned together. They were probably connected with the area around Saba in Yemen. The Arabian links are clear.

In this verse Sheba is a ‘son’ of Ham and also of Raama, and therefore clearly Arabian. An identification problem arises elsewhere in that Sheba, a ‘son’ of Shem, (but generations later - 1.22), and ‘Sheba and Dedan’, ‘sons’ of Keturah (1.32) are also mentioned in this chapter. This may simply indicate the taking of the same names by later generations, although it may also indicate tribal inter-marriage and amalgamation, or at least two separate tribes called Sheba. We should note that Ezekiel 27.22-23 may reflect two Shebas, one centred in Mesopotamia, the other in Arabia.

‘Dedan.’ In Ezekiel 27.20-22 Dedan, Arabia, Kedar, Sheba and Raamah are all mentioned in close connection as traders with Tyre. This would place Dedan firmly in Arabia. In Ezekiel 25.13 Edom was to be devastated ‘from Teman (in north Edom) even unto Dedan’. This last may therefore refer to a town in south Edom (compare Jeremiah 49.8, a warning to us against being too dogmatic). But it may refer to Edom’s border as reflected by the tribal area of Dedan at that time. Over the centuries such tribes could move their location from oasis to oasis, especially for trading purposes or to avoid invaders. In Ezekiel 13.18 Sheba and Dedan are linked with the merchants of Tarshish. These may well be the merchants of Tarshish with whom Solomon traded from Ezion Geber via the Red Sea (1 Kings 9.26-28; 10.22), in other words south Arabian or east African merchants. In Jeremiah 25.23 Dedan is linked with Tema and Buz, and in the following verse mention is made of the ‘kings of Arabia’. In verse 30 (which see) Tema are linked with the Ishmaelite tribes, thus confirming an Arabian connection. Some Arabian inscriptions found in Taima‘ mention Dedan, and the site of the city of Dedan at that time is thought to be Al-‘Ula, 110 kilometres (68 miles) south west of Taima‘.A number of Dedanite inscriptions are known which give the name of a king and several gods. There are thus firm connections with Arabia.

1.10 ‘And Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one in the earth.’

It will be noted that the writer retains this comment from Genesis 10.8 but omits the further detail (such side comments were regular in genealogies and are found elsewhere). In view of this lack of further detail we may ask why he retains the comment at all. Possibly it is as an indication that God produces ‘mighty ones’, of whom the greatest is David (1 Chronicles 11-12).

On the other hand it may be that his purpose was to indicate that all kings of Babylon (something made clear in the omitted part), including Nimrod, and including Cyrus and his descendants (who took the title king of Babylon, e.g. Nehemiah 13.6), grew mighty within God’s purposes. It could be saying that such things were not new, but they could not frustrate God’s purposes for His people.

The fact that Nimrod is not listed as one of Cush’s sons in verse 9 suggests that he was seen as ‘begotten’ later as a descendant, which would explain why his name was not seen as one of the seventy.

It would appear from this that the Cushites developed in north Africa, but that groups of them moved from there to Mesopotamia.

The Sons Of Mizraim (1.11-12).

We are now introduced to the nations most nearly related to Egypt (note that the names are all plural names ending in the Hebrew plural -im).

1.11-12 ‘And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim, and Pathrusim, and Casluhim (from whence came the Philistines), and Caphtorim.’

‘Ludim.’ Here the Ludim are the firstborn of Mizraim, whilst in verse 17 Lud is the fourth son of Shem. We have therefore two different nationalities of similar name (compare as with Cush). The same is true in Genesis 10.13, 22.

In Jeremiah 46.9 the Ludim are spoken of, along with Cush and Put (for which see above), as the allies of Egypt. They were experts with the bow. They are again spoken of in Ezekiel 27.10, where Lud is referred to, along with Persia and Put as mercenaries employed by Tyre. Compare also Ezekiel 30.5 where they are again mentioned along with Cush and Put. The association of these Ludim with North Africa is clear.

‘Anamim.’ Nothing is known of the Anamim who may have been a grouping within Egypt.

‘Lehabim.’ Possibly to be connected with the Lubim (2 Chronicles 12.3, where they are associated with Cush) who are connected with Put in Nahum 3.9, as referring to a branch of Libyans.

‘Naphtuhim.’ The whereabouts of Naphtuhim is uncertain, but in view of the fact that it is followed by Pathrusim (upper Egypt) it may well be a name for lower Egypt. In Egyptian it may have been n’(-n)/n’(yw-)p’idhw (‘those of the marshland’ i.e. the Delta) or something similar.

‘Pathrusim.’ Compare ‘the country of Pathros’ which contrasts with Migdol, Tahpanhes and Noph in the north as a part of Egypt (Jeremiah 44.1 compare verse 15). In Egyptian it is p’t’-rs(y) which means ‘the southland’, that is, upper Egypt. Isaiah lists it with Mizraim and Cush (Isaiah 11.11), as does Esarhaddon in a later inscription, as ‘the king of Musur, Paturisi and Cush’.

‘Casluhim.’ Their whereabouts is uncertain. The link with the Philistines ties them in closely with the Caphtorim who are elsewhere paralleled with the Philistines (Jeremiah 47.4; Amos 9.7).

‘Caphtorim.’ See Deuteronomy 2.23; Jeremiah 47.4; Amos 9.7. Mentioned at Ugarit as kptr and in a school text from Assur as kap-ta-ra, both probably referring to Crete. Consider also the Egyptian kftyw. In second millennium BC Crete controlled most of the Aegean. Their descent from Mizraim suggests an original Egyptian connection, from whence they perhaps sailed to Crete.

The Sons Of Canaan (1.13-16).

That Canaan was the actual name of a son of Ham is apparent from Genesis 9.20-27. That it became the name of a land is apparent as early as Genesis 11.31; 12.5; etc.; Exodus 15.15. ‘The Canaanite was then in the land’ (Genesis 12.6b) suggests that they had not been there much earlier than Abraham, and this accords with external evidence. The first external reference to Canaan is in an inscription of Idrimi, King of Alalah, in 15th century BC. How far ‘the land of Canaan’ stretched in Abraham’s day we do not know (we must not think of ancient lands as having strict boundaries). But see Genesis 10.19 where Canaan was defined as from Sidon to Gaza, and eastwards ‘as you go towards Sodom and Gomorrah’, (thus excluding them, as Genesis 13.12 confirms). Certainly the Phoenicians in and around Tyre and Sidon were seen as Canaanites, as verse 13 indicates. See also Matthew 15.22. Ugarit, some distance north of Sidon, did not see itself as Canaanite, but it was an exception, as what follows makes clear.

1.13-16 ‘And Canaan begat Sidon his first-born, and Heth, and the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgashite, and the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, and the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite.’

Whilst Canaan may have had a firstborn named Sidon and another son named Heth (from whom the Sidonians and Hethites were descended), it is clear that he did not have sons with the names that follow, which are the names of tribes and nations. We thus have here a series of tribes and nations which loosely define the extent of Canaan. The Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites and the Hivites regularly appear in lists of Canaanite tribes (see Genesis 15.18-21; Exodus 3.8; Deuteronomy 7.1). The remainder are more from Northern Phoenicia.

‘Arkites.’ Inhabitants of the town of Arka, situated some ten or twelve miles Northeast of Tripolis, Syria, and about four miles from the seashore. They were undoubtedly of Phoenician descent. The place was not of much importance, but it is mentioned in Egyptian records, including the Amarna letters, and in Assyrian inscriptions, under the name Irkatah. It was captured by Tiglathpileser III in 738 BC. Not being on the sea its trade was small. Its site is marked by a high tel near the foothills of Lebanon.

‘The Sinites.’ Their identification is unknown although Jerome mentions a ruined city, named Sin, near Arka, at the foot of Lebanon. But this was 800 years after the Chronicler and even longer after Genesis 10.

‘The Arvadites.’ In Ezekiel 27.8 Arvad is mentioned along with Sidon as providing rowers for Tyre. See also verse 11. Arvad is modern Ruad, a small island 3 kilometres (2 miles) off the coast of Syria (Phoenicia) and 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Byblos. It was the northernmost of the four great Phoenician cities, and was noted in Assyrian inscriptions for its seafaring prowess. It was a barren rock covered with fortifications and houses several storeys in height.

The island was about 250 metres (800 feet) long by 160 metres (500 feet) wide, and was surrounded by a massive wall. An artificial harbour had been constructed on the East facing the mainland. It had a powerful navy, and its ships are mentioned in the inscriptions both of Egypt and of Assyria. It seems to have had a kind of hegemony over the northern Phoenician cities, from Mt. Cassius to the northern limits of Lebanon, something like that of Sidon in the South. It had its own local dynasty and coinage, and some of the names of its kings have been recovered. Included under its authority were some of the neighbouring cities on the mainland, such as Marathus and Simyra, the former nearly opposite the island and the latter some miles to the South. Thothmes III, of Egypt, captured it in his campaign in north Syria in c. 1472 BC, and it is mentioned in the campaigns of Rameses II in the early part of the 13th century BC. It is also mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna Letters as being in league with the Amorites in their attacks upon the Egyptian possessions in Syria. About the year 1200 BC, or later, it was sacked by invaders, either from Asia Minor or the islands, as were most of the cities on the coast but it subsequently recovered. Its later maritime importance is indicated by Assyrian inscriptions.

King Asshur-nazir-pal (c. 876 BC) of Assyria made it tributary, but it rebelled and 200 men of Arvad are mentioned among the allies of Benhadad, of Damascus, at the great battle of Quarqar, when the whole of Syria and Palestine seems to have been in league against Shalmaneser II (circa 854). At this time its king was Mattan Baal.

‘The Zemarite.’ This tribe’s home was the Sumur of the Amarna letters, and the Simirra of Assyrian texts. Its modern name is Sumra. It lies on the Mediterranean coast north of Tripolis.

‘The Hamathite.’ Hamath was a seemingly Canaanite city on the east bank of the Orontes, and was on one of the main trade routes from Asia Minor. In David’s time its king Toi was friendly towards Israel (2 Samuel 8.9-10; 1 Chronicles 18.9-10). Solomon continued to control it (2 Chronicles 8.4), and it was later again conquered by Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14.28). Inscriptions in Hittite hieroglyphics, Cuneiform and Aramaic have been found there. Hamathites were later settled in Northern Israel by Sargon II (2 Kings 17.24 ff). In fact the ideal northern boundary of Israel was said to be at Lebo (modern Lebweh; Assyrian Laba’u) of Hamath (Numbers 34.8; Joshua 13.5).

From all this we note that ‘Canaanites’ not only monopolised Canaan, but also heavily populated most of Phoenicia, whilst Hamites populated not only Canaanite territory, but also Egypt, North Africa and Arabia.

The Sons Of Shem (1.17-23).

Having dealt with the descendants of Japheth and Ham, the writer, utilising the order in his source (Genesis), now moves on to the descendants of Shem who are placed last because they are of primary importance in that Abraham, the chosen of God, was descended from Shem.

As we will note the descendants of Shem are mainly based around the Mediterranean region north of the Euphrates at its southernmost point. The non-mention of Persia, and the precedence of Elam over Asshur, indicates the considerable age of the original narrative.

The only son of Shem whose descent is outlined in detail is Arpachshad. This was because he was the forebear of Eber and Abraham. The importance of Eber is brought out in Genesis 10 by the way in which ‘all the children of Eber’ as ‘descended from Shem’ are emphasised (Genesis 10.21), although that reference is omitted here. Thus Eber and his descendants were being emphasised. Abraham’s lineage is then depicted as resulting through Eber’s ‘son’ Peleg. But prior to that we have a list of others descended from Peleg’s brother Joktan, another son of Eber (who bore ‘sons and daughters’ - Genesis 11.17). Eber is thus given a special wider importance. It is, however, questionable how far his name can be related to the word ‘Hebrew’. There is no suggestion of it in Scripture, and it is doubtful if Israel ever saw themselves as Hebrews (as distinct from them being seen as such by foreigners who probably saw them as Habiru).

‘Hebrew’ (‘those who have come’ i.e. foreigners) was a title used of Israel by foreigners (Genesis 14.13; Exodus 1.15, 19; 2.6 etc.) and is more probably to be connected, although with admitted philological difficulties, with a landless nomadic class known as the Habiru, many of whom operated on seven year contracts. See Exodus 21.1-6. If the descendants of Eber were to be seen as Hebrews that would have meant that there would have been a wider application of the term Hebrew than just to Israel. Eber had many other descendants. On the other hand it may be argued that Eber may be being used as a synonym for Israel in Numbers 24.24. But this is questionable and may only indicate that Eber had been of such importance that all his descendants were remembered under that name. In Numbers 24.24 Eber is paralleled with Asshur as being afflicted by the ships of Kittim, presumably because together they had wasted the Kenites. This might suggest a time when Assyria and the Eberites were in association long before Israel came into being, and that Balaam recognised Israel as Eberites. A connection between ‘Eber’ and ‘Hebrew’ is never made in Scripture.

The Sons Of Shem And Of Eber Through Joktan (1.17-23).

1.17 ‘The sons of Shem: Elam, and Asshur, and Arpachshad, and Lud, and Aram, and Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Meshech (Genesis - Mash).’

Attempts have been made to connect the name Shem with Sumer. If this was accepted it would explain the apparent absence of Sumer from the table of nations. There is no reason why, in spite of their distinctiveness, the Sumerians may not have descended from Shem, establishing control over Elam, Asshur, etc. Certainly many recognisable Semites were resident in Sumer, and they may well have spread in the way described.

‘Elam.’ The first son of Shem is named Elam, the eponymous ancestor of the Elamites. Their being mentioned first may suggest a time when Elam were in the ascendancy. It was indeed they who destroyed the Sumerian Ur of the Chaldees around the time of Abraham, and an Elamite king was prominent in the raid on Palestine in Abraham’s days (Genesis 14.1, 5). As with the Sumerians, the origin of the Elamites is not known to us, but there is no reason to doubt their descent from Shem, and what we know of as Semites may well have settled among them. Elam would later be subject to Assyria (Asshur), then Babylon, then Medo-Persia. It was west of Babylon, between Babylon and Persia.

‘Asshur.’ Known to us as the Assyrians, who controlled most of the Fertile Crescent from about 840 BC to 612 BC. The descendants of Asshur were situated to the north west of Babylon (north east of Israel). They established a widespread empire, including Babylon, and are known to us as the first permanent conquerors of Israel.

‘Arpa-chshad.’ Some have connected Arpa with the Arrapu of the inscriptions, possibly modern Kirkuk. Others have seen in chshad a reference to the Chaldeans (kesed, kasdim). Both identifications are uncertain although possibly in the right area (Mesopotamia). The name is not Hebrew, but that is what we might expect from an ancient ancestor. That it is a personal name is made clear by the following genealogy (verse 18). Arpachshad is of outstanding importance as the ancestor of Eber and Abraham.

‘Lud (Assyrian - Ludu).’ Josephus refers this name to the Lydians in Asia Minor, at the extreme of Israel’s known world. In Isaiah 66.19 they are characterised by their use of the bow. Their powerful king Gyges (Assyrian - Gugu) was probably the model for Ezekiel’s description of Gog.

‘Aram.’ Aram was later the name for the kingdom of Syria, with Damascus as its capital. It could also be a personal name (Genesis 22.21; 1 Chronicles 7.34). But its association here with Elam, Asshur and Lud suggests an earlier recognition of the Arameans as those who had come from the Arabian deserts and had widely infiltrated Mesopotamia. Compare Genesis 26.5 where the ancestors of Israel are said to be Arameans. Abraham’s family came from Ur. See also Amos 9.7 where the Arameans are later said to have come from Kir (unidentified but paralleled with Elam in Isaiah 22.6).

It is not made clear here but in Genesis 10.23 Uz, Hul, Gether and Mash (Meshech) are said to be ‘sons of Aram’. Compare how earlier in this passage Shem, Ham and Japheth were listed and not specifically shown to be sons of Noah (1.4).

‘Uz.’ Often a personal name, it here possibly also refers to an early tribe/nation in Mesopotamia. It is unlikely that it connects with the Uz of Job.

‘Hul, and Gether.’ Both are unidentified. Future discoveries may well identify them and their connection with Mesopotamia.

‘Meshech.’ Compare the Meshech who was a ‘son of’ Japheth (1.3). The two names are not synonymous. These four names indicate the widespread nature of the Arameans.

The Sons Of Arpachshad Through Joktan (1.18-23).

Up to this point the emphasis has been on the birth of nations known to Israel, although that is not to deny that many of the names are also the personal names of those from whom those nations sprang. The idea has been to indicate that all the nations known to Israel are under God’s surveillance and control (they are ‘named’ by Him and their descent has been noted by Him). As we have seen this included the Japhethites (the people of the far north and those of the isles and coastlands across the sea), the Hamites (the North Africans, Egyptians, Arabians and Canaanites), and the Semites in Mesopotamia. This would remind the returnees from Babylon that they and their future were safe in his hands, for He is God over all. Now as we approach the birth of Abraham, we begin to get detailed genealogies.

The name Arpachshad is not a Hebrew name and would not have been given to Abraham’s ancestor had it not been genuine. It is, of course, pre-Hebrew, and we note that no attempt was made to Hebraise it. Eber also may be a hebraising of a non-Hebrew name, or it may be proto-Hebrew. A language which is to some extent similar to later Hebrew was witnessed at Ebla in 3rd millennium BC. Initially the importance of Eber comes out in that we are given the detailed genealogies of both his sons, indicating that, like Noah, he was seen as an important stepping stone between Adam and Abraham. Indeed there are grounds for thinking that he was powerful in his own day. He was remembered by Balaam as having associated with Assyria in their depredations (Numbers 24.24). If we see him as the one who caused Israel to be given the title ‘Hebrew’ (descendant of Eber) we should note that there were therefore many ‘Hebrews’ (Eberites) who were not Israelites, for example the descendants of Joktan, and it should make us ask, ‘why are Israelites the only ones to be called Hebrews?’. And this is especially so as they did not tend to use the name of themselves. The answer may be that they were seen as Eberites along with many of their related peoples. Many of the Eberites may well have been seen as Habiru, the two names being linked, for it is far more likely that ‘Hebrew’ meant ‘one who has come’ (a sojourner) and was related in some way to Habiru (Israel may well have revocalised Habiru as Hebrew because of the descent of the core of the tribes from Eber).

1.18 ‘And Arpachshad begat Shelah, and Shelah begat Eber.’

The use of ‘begat’ may simply indicate descent and we do not know whether Eber was actually Arpachshad’s grandson, or whether he came later in the line of descent. But he was clearly seen as of great importance (both aspects of his lineage are given as with Noah and Abraham). Nothing further is known about Shelah.

1.19 ‘And 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.’

Eber had two sons, one named Peleg, (which means ‘water-course, divided) and the other named Joktan. It will be Joktan’s descent that will be given first, leaving the way clear for emphasis on the descendants of Peleg. (Modern pure Arabs claim descent from Joktan). The ‘division’ does not refer to the scattering of Genesis 11.1-9 (the word ‘divide’ is not used in Genesis 11). It is a word used in relation to making irrigation canals, and probably refers to Peleg’s activity (along with others) in building irrigation channels, possibly sourced by the Euphrates and Tigris and their branches, and was something so important that it was ever remembered. It would result in increased fruitfulness, more in depth settlement (men settled where there were abundant water supplies), and the establishment of nations. They did for Mesopotamia what the Nile did for Egypt.

1.20-23 ‘And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah(ch), and Hadoram, and Uzal, and Diklah, and Ebal (Genesis - Obal), and Abimael, and Sheba, and Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab. All these were the sons of Joktan.’

The names of Joktan’s descendants are now given. Some are unidentifiable, but others can be related to tribes in Southern Arabia.

‘Almodad.’ The name means ‘God is beloved’ and may indicate Joktan’s deep faith.

‘Sheleph.’ Sheleph is the name of a Yemenite tribe or district named on Sabean inscriptions. It is also mentioned by Arabian geographers and located in Southern Arabia.

‘Hazarmaveth.’ Probably to be related to the kingdom of Hadramaut in Southern Arabia (hzrmwth becoming hdrmwth, the change from z to d being common in transition from Hebrew to some Arabian dialects).

‘Jerach.’ In Hebrew the word means ‘moon’, and moon worship was common in Southern Arabia. It was also, however, prominent in Haran, and Terah, Abraham’s father, was probably a moon worshipper. Haran was a centre for moon worship. Yurakh in Yemen and Yarach in Hijaz are places named by ancient Arabic geographers as suggested identities.

‘Hadoram.’ Identity otherwise unknown. Hadoram was also the name of a prince of Hamath (1 Chronicles 18.10). The latter’s taking of the name of Joram (Yah is exalted) in 2 Samuel 8.9-10 was probably an astute political move (replacing his own god’s name with YHWH).

‘Uzal.’ Perhaps connected with ‘Azal, said by Arab historians to be the ancient name for San‘a in Yemen.

‘Diklah.’ ‘Place of palms’. Otherwise unknown.

‘Ebal (or Obal).’ Identity unknown. Also the name of a descendant of Esau (Genesis 36.23). There is probably no connection with Mount Ebal.

‘Abimael.’ Meaning ‘God is my Father’, once more hinting at Joktan’s godliness.

‘Sheba.’ Meaning ‘seven’ the name was in fairly common usage (compare Beer-sheba). The name is previously referred to in verse 9 as a son of Raamah, of Cush, of Ham. There it was paralleled with Dedan referring to Arabian peoples. It thus has an Arabian ring, and here may indicate intermarriage or fusion between Semites and Hamites. Compare Saba in Yemen. The Sabeans (or people of Saba or Sheba), are referred to as traders in gold and spices, and as inhabiting a country remote from Palestine (1 Kings 10.1 ff; Isaiah 60.6; Jeremiah 6.20; Ezekiel 27.22; Psalm 72.15; Matthew 12.42), and also as slave-traders (Joel 3.8) and desert-raiders (Job 1.15; 6:19). On the other hand we should note that Ezekiel 27.22-23 may reflect two Shebas, one centred in Mesopotamia and Syria, associated with Haran, Canneh, Edom and Asshur, and the other in Arabia associated with Dedan, Arabia, Kedar and Raamah.

‘Ophir.’ An Arabian tribe called this is known from pre-Islamic inscriptions, lying between Saba in Yemen, and Hawilah (as it is here).

‘Hawilah.’ Hawilah means ‘circle’ or ‘district’. It was thus a popular name for an area. A Hawilah is mentioned in verse 9 as a descendant of Ham and Cush. There also it is connected with Seba. This suggests the combining of two tribes either by marriage or absorption or amalgamation. In both cases it suggests an area in Southern Arabia. It may be the same Hawilah which is mentioned in the phrase ‘from Hawilah to Shur’ which indicates the ‘boundaries’ connected with Amalekites and Ishmaelites, both of which were connected with Sinai and both of which roved from one place to another and were connected with Arabia.

‘Jobab.’ Jobab was also the name of an Edomite king (Genesis 36.33-34; 1 Chronicles 1.44-45). This name is unidentified, but may complete what appears to be a group of Southern Arabian tribes, indicating a distant relationship between certain Arabs and the Israelites. It parallels the similar indication in the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac. On the other hand we should also note in the list, hints of association of some of the names with Haran (e.g. Jerach, Hadoram and Sheba, which see).

So we come to an end of the table of nations which were descended from the sons of Noah, revealing them all as named by God and as therefore God controlled (a similar idea to that in Genesis 1). All has led up to what now follows, the descent from Shem, Arpachshad and Eber of Abram. Abram, God’s chosen servant, the man of God (Isaiah 41.2-8; 51.1-2), the progenitor of Israel, is now to be brought to the forefront.

The Descent Of Abram From Shem (1.24-27).

Having commenced the chapter with the line from Adam to Noah (from Genesis 5), the writer now outlines the line from Noah through Shem to Abram (from Genesis 11). All that has been detailed in between has had in mind the coming of Abram, the one through whom God would reach out to the nations. He is by this represented as God’s chosen one, and it is through his ‘descendants’ (those literally descended from him, together with the much larger number who have attached themselves to his family) that He will reach out to the world. The thought that what was happening to them was within God’s purposes would give great strength and faith to the people who had returned from Exile.

1.24-27 ‘Shem, Arpachshad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abram (the same is Abraham).’

For the first five names compare verses 17-19. The list is extracted from Genesis 11. To those who were familiar with Genesis nothing more needed to be said. The line led down to Abraham. Apart from the descendants of Joktan, the son of Eber, (1.20-23; Genesis 10.25-29) no mention is made of other sons of these patriarchs.

The Two Sons Of Abraham (1.28).

Note that for this purpose the sons of concubines are ignored. They are seen as ‘descendants’ of the two true sons. Abraham had two true born sons, Ishmael and Isaac, for although Ishmael was the son of a freed slave wife, he was technically the son of Sarah as adopted by her and was circumcised within the covenant (Genesis 17). These were the legitimate heirs, and their ‘family histories’ will now be given. As usual the one of secondary importance will be dealt with first, and included in this will be the sons of Abraham’s concubine Keturah, because they are the blood line of Abraham. After they have been dealt with by utilising information in Genesis, and after the descendants of Esau have been dealt with in the same way (as descended from Abraham through Isaac), all concentration will be on the chosen line of descent through Isaac and Jacob (Israel). Abraham was far too important to God for Him to miss out any of his descendants. Each one was known to Him.

1.28-29a ‘The sons of Abraham: Isaac, and Ishmael. These are their family histories.’

What is to follow are the family histories of Isaac and Ishmael, along with those of the sons of Keturah, and of Esau. Isaac and Ishmael are seen as the heads of the families descended from Abraham (compare Genesis 25.9 where again only the two are mentioned).

The Descendants Of Ishmael (1.29b-31).

The descendants of Ishmael were important to God because they were Abraham’s seed with whom He had made a special covenant (Genesis 17.20). He had promised him that twelve princes would be descended from him, and these are now outlined as an indication that God always fulfils His covenant. Some of their tribes became connected with Arabia, but it is a gross error to see the Arabs as a whole as descended from Ishmael. Ishmael's seed intermingled and intermarried with Arabians, some of whom were descended fom Ham (1.9).

1.29-31 ‘The first-born of Ishmael, Nebaioth; then Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, Mishma, and Dumah, Massa, Hadad, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael.’

For these names compare Genesis 25.13-15. It is clear that the writer is presenting the essence of Genesis in genealogies. He expects his readers to know the background. Here he makes clear how God fulfilled His promise to Ishmael. This first chapter of 1 Chronicles is thus a massive underpinning of the faith of Israel. It will be noted that the names of the descendants of Ishmael are also, at least to some extent, the names of prominent Arabian tribes who ‘descended’ from them.

‘Nebaioth.’ Mentioned as a shepherd tribe in conjunction with Kedar in Isaiah 60.7, and also in Assyrian records. The -oth may indicate a feminine plural (in both Hebrew and Arabic), and if so it probably rules out the suggested identification with the later Nabataeans.

‘Kedar.’ See on Nebaioth. From Jeremiah 2.10 it is clear that Kedar were well enough known to be taken as a suitable representative of eastern nations in the same way as ‘the isles of Kittim’ were of western nations (Jeremiah 2.10). Evidence of their nomadic way of living appears in Jeremiah 49.28-29, where they are classed among the Bene-Qedem (children of the east), and mention is made of their flocks, camels, tents, curtains and furniture. The ‘villages’ that they dwelt in (Isaiah 42.11) would be tent encampments (compare Psalm 120.5). They were not, however, pure nomads, although Ezekiel 27.21 gives another indication of their pastoral nature when, in his detailed picture of the wealth of Tyre, he sees Kedar and Arabia as providing the Tyrians with lambs, rams and goats. Isaiah 21.16-17 reveals them as mighty warriors in Arabia.

‘Adbeel.’ The name appears in the Assyrian records as that of a north Arabian tribe residing somewhere Southwest of the Dead Sea.

‘Mibsam, Mishma.’ Otherwise unknown. The personal names are used also of a Simeonite father and son in 4.25. The assumption must be that they were also north Arabian tribes.

‘Dumah.’ Dumah was later the name of the capital city of a district known as Jawf, about halfway across northern Arabia. The Assyrian and Babylonian royal inscriptions speak of them as the Adummatu.

‘Massa.’ Probably to be identified with the Mas’a who paid tribute along with Tema (see below) to Tiglath-pileser III, and with the Masenoi stated by Ptolemy to be located north east of Duma. The Wisdom teachers Agur and Lemuel were possibly from Massa (Proverbs 30.1; 31.1 in some modern versions).

‘Hadad.’ Nothing further is known of this Hadad (in Genesis Hadar). It was also a name used by later Edomite rulers (1.46, 50).

‘Tema.’ Tema was linked with Massa in paying tribute to Tiglath-pileser III (see above). It is linked with Sheba in Job 6.19 which refers to their trading caravans. It is linked with Dedan (a later Arabian tribe) and Buz in Jeremiah 25.23.

On the whole then Ishmael’s descendants can be seen as princes of Arabian tribes. They probably intermingled and inter-married with other Arabian tribes as mentioned in verse 9.

The Sons Of Keturah By Abraham (1.32-33).

This information is taken from Genesis 25.1-4. It may be that we are now to cease looking for connections with known tribes, as the interest to the Chronicler here is probably in the personal descendants of Abraham. The Chronicler omits the names of Dedan’s ‘sons’ which did clearly represent tribes. However, it will be noted that the names of Midian, Sheba and Dedan are all associated with semi-nomadic tribes in Arabia and Sinai, and that Medan is closely associated with Midianites and Ishmaelites in their purchasing of Joseph from his brothers (Genesis 37.27-28, 36 literally). Thus it may be that each name also represents a sub-tribe. But it should be noted that Sheba and Dedan were also grandsons of Cush, descended from Ham (1.9). Thus Jokshan may have named them after the tribes descended from Ham, possibly having himself become a member of a tribe descended from them.

1.32a ‘And the sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine: she bare Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.’

‘Zimran.’ Attempts have been made to connect the name with Ptolemy’s Zabran, west of Mecca. Others have connected it with the Zamareni in the interior of Arabia mentioned by Pliny. Even others with the kings of Zimri in Jeremiah 25.23-25, where there is a link with Dedan and Tema and the kings of Arabia. None have gained general approval, but all connect him with Arabia.

‘Jokshan.’ All we know of him is that his sons were named Sheba and Dedan. Later both were the names of prominent Arabian tribes already mentioned in 1.9 as descended from Ham through Cush.

‘Medan.’ Unknown in Scripture apart from the fact that the Ishmaelite/Midianite traders (compare Judges 8.24 for the identifying of the two) who purchased Joseph (Genesis 37.27-28) sold him in Egypt as Medanites (Genesis 37.36). This suggests that these sub-tribes were closely related.

‘Midian.’ Midian is the only one of Keturah’s sons specifically identified with the name of a later group of tribes. Midian are regularly seen as unconsciously carrying out God’s purposes. They carried Joseph into Egypt (Genesis 37.27 ff.). When Moses fled Egypt he dwelt among the Midianites and inter-married with them and found protection with them from Pharaoh (Exodus 2.15-22). When God wanted to judge Israel He brought Midianites against them (Judges 6.1). But they are also seen as opposing God’s purposes, for they combined with Moab to bring Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22.4 ff.).

‘Ishbak and Shuah.’ Nothing is known about them apart from their names.

1.32b ‘And the sons of Jokshan: Sheba, and Dedan.’

Sheba and Dedan have already been named as Hamites, and as fathers of tribes (1.9). The family tribes of the sons of Joksham might well have united themselves with those tribes from whom their father took their names. Alternately Joksham may simply have known of Sheba and Dedan and have used their names for his sons. (In parallel with Job's daughters, my son’s daughters are named Jemimah and Keziah, but we are not connected with Job).

1.33 ‘And the sons of Midian: Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the sons of Keturah.’

‘Ephah.’ Ephah is mentioned along with Midian as coming on dromedaries from Sheba (Isaiah 60.6). Some see Ephah as an abbreviation of `Ayappa, signifying the Kha-yappa Arabs of the time of Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon.

‘Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida and Eldaah.’ Nothing is known of these apart from their names.

The Descendants Of Abraham Through Isaac (1.34-9.1).

All that has gone before has been leading up to this, the begetting of Isaac, for it is through him that the promises will be fulfilled. Once more his importance is brought out by the fact that the descendants of both his sons are detailed. Firstly his descendants through Esau, with information drawn from Genesis 36.9 ff, and then his descendants through Jacob/Israel, the information for which is obtained from ‘the books of the kings of Israel’ (9.1) (a different book to what we know as Kings). Also given is the descent of those who united with Esau in Edom, that is:

  • The sons of Seir the Horite (Genesis 36.20 ff.).
  • The line of descent of the kings of Edom (Genesis 36.31-39).
  • A list of the Chieftains of Edom who ‘came from Esau’ (Genesis 36.40-43). They are all previously mentioned as descendants of Esau.

The purpose of giving all this information about Esau was in order to demonstrate how God had blessed him as a son of Abraham. The purposes of the God of Abraham were going forward, and none of Abraham’s connections were overlooked. In joining with him in Edom they would also be seen as ‘begotten’ by Esau, for ‘Esau is Edom’ (Genesis 36.8). They were thus his ‘sons’. This in the same way as nations mentioned above were ‘begotten’, even though they came together by amalgamation, by inter-marriage and by co-opting those who wished to join them.

Abraham Begats Isaac Who Has Two Sons, Esau And Israel (Jacob) 1.34).

1.34 ‘And Abraham begat Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau, and Israel.

Abraham, whose lineage has already been given, was descended from Adam, through Noah and Eber, and now begat Isaac. And Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob/Israel. In the usual way in what follows we first have the ‘descendants’ of Esau, and this will later be followed by the descendants of Jacob/Israel. Given the foundation above it was the latter which were of most interest to the returning exiles. But it mattered that God had been faithful to the other descendants of Abraham and Isaac.

The Descendants of Esau (1.35-37).

As with previous genealogies the descendants of Esau commence with sons and continue with ensuing tribes. But here it is made clear that the ensuing tribes are not all directly descended from Esau. They include those who amalgamated with the Esau family tribes.

1.35 ‘The sons of Esau: Eliphaz, Reuel, and Jeush, and Jalam, and Korah.’

The sons of Esau are now detailed. This will be followed by the sons of their sons, who, as we shall see are possibly family tribes. There is no good reason for seeing the names in this verse as representing other than genuine sons. Compare here Genesis 36.10, 14 where it tells us that Eliphaz was the son of Esau’s wife Adah (also named Judith - Genesis 26.34. One was possibly a married name. A new name was regularly taken on marriage). Reuel was the son of Esau’s wife Basemath (formerly named Mahalath - Genesis 28.9). Jeush, Jalam and Korah were the sons of Esau’s wife Ohalibamah (formerly named Basemath. See Genesis 28.34; 35.2). She was ‘the daughter of Anah, the (grand-)daughter of Zibeon’ (the mention of Anah suggests that he/she was a person of some importance. See Genesis 36.24-25). None of these names are recognised as tribal names.

Korah is not to be confused with the later Korah of the Levites. Indeed, the name, meaning ‘baldness’, was probably fairly common. Babies are often bald at birth. It may be that Korah was adopted by Eliphaz and his wife (Genesis 36.16) because Oholibamah died in childbirth bearing him, leaving Eliphaz’ wife to suckle him. Apart from Korah her sons might have died relatively young (although old enough to be chieftains of Edom), which would explain why there were no grandsons. No other detail is given of grandsons of Oholibamah in contrast with those of Adah and Basemath, which is why she is mentioned last. If Korah was seen as Eliphaz’ offspring by adoption, it explains why his descendants were not named. The descendants of offspring are not named. Such an explanation ties up all the references to Korah.

1.36a ‘The sons of Eliphaz: Teman, and Omar, Zephi, and Gatam, Kenaz.’

The five sons of Eliphax by his full wife are named first. They may also represent family tribes. It will be noted that Korah is not mentioned as a son of Eliphaz here in contrast with Genesis 36.15-16. He was thus clearly adopted by Eliphaz. He is, however, listed among the ‘sons’ as a ‘chieftain of the sons of Esau’ in Genesis 36.15-16.

‘Teman.’ Teman is mentioned in Genesis 36.15, 42 as an Edomite chieftain. Teman is later the name of what was clearly an important district, town or tribe in north Edom (Jeremiah 49.20; Ezekiel 25.13; Amos 1.12; Obadiah 1.9). Its inhabitants were renowned for their wisdom (Jeremiah 49.7). Eliphaz the Temanite was one of Job’s comforters (Job 2.11), not, of course, the same Eliphaz as here. Husham who later reigned in Edom was from ‘the land of the Temanites’ (Genesis 36.34). YHWH visited the nations from Teman in splendour and glory, relating it with Mount Paran in the Sinai peninsula (Habakkuk 3.3).

‘Kenaz.’ In the time of Moses Caleb was a Kenizzite. But the Kenizzites preceded Kenaz, being already existent in the time of Abraham (Genesis 15.19). Thus they were not ‘descended’ from Kenaz.

The names of the other sons are nowhere else connected with tribes/cities. This lack of evidence may suggest that the brothers stayed within the family tribe which became the Temanites. On the other hand they may have been chiefs over tribes unknown to us. All were ‘chieftains’ of Edom.

1.36b ‘And Timna, and Amalek. Timna was Eliphaz’s concubine and bore him Amalek.’

Timna is mentioned here as though she was a son of Eliphaz until we are abruptly corrected. For we are informed that she was Eliphaz’ concubine, and produced for him a son named Amalek. This is typical of the Chronicler’s tendency to abbreviate. Compare the clearer situation revealed in Genesis 36.12.

It may well be this Amalek who established the family tribe which became the Amalekites (4.43; Exodus 17.8; Numbers 24.20; Judges 3.13; etc.). A son who was not seen as part of the family may well have founded a roving people.

1.37 ‘The sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah.’

We have here delineated the sons of Reuel, and therefore grandsons of Esau. Again none of them represents a known tribe. (The Zerahites were ‘descended’ from Zerah the son of Judah (Genesis 38.30)). All were chieftains of Edom (Genesis 36.17).

The Descendants Of Seir The Horite (1.38-42).

There was clearly an interconnection between Esau and the family of Seir the Horite. The Horites were in Seir before Esau was born (Genesis 14.6), but Esau established himself there with a small army (Genesis 32.3, 6; 33.16; 36.8), and married one of the granddaughters of Seir (Genesis 36.25). It would appear that the two groups amalgamated, for the land became known as Edom, and ‘Esau was Edom’ (36.1, 8) and ‘the father of the Edomites’ (Genesis 36.43). Thus the descendants of Seir were seen as Esau’s ‘sons’. God had made Esau a great nation out of deference to Abraham.

The Seven Sons of Seir.

1.38 ‘And the sons of Seir: Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah, and Dishon, and Ezer, and Dishan.’

We are now informed concerning the names of the seven sons of Seir. The names are not identifiable with known sub-tribes, although they may well have represented sub-tribes in the same way as Abraham represented his family tribe, with the future representing them as his descendants. In Genesis 36.21, 29-30 the sons of Seir are called ‘chieftains’ (’alluph). Details of their sons are now given. Note the prominence of the name Anah (here and in 1.40b. Compare Genesis 36.14). The names Shobal (2.50, 52; 4.1-2) and Ezer (4.4) also occur elsewhere

The Sons Of The Seven Sons Of Seir.

The descendants of the seven sons of Seir are now supplied. The mention of Timna, a daughter of Seir, indicates that they are personal names, not just the names of clans, although they may also be the latter as well (just as the name Abraham also represented his family tribe). Note that Seir had a son called Dishon, and a grandson called Dishon, also a son called Anah and a grandson called Anah. They were clearly cherished family names.

1.39 ‘And the sons of Lotan: Hori, and Homam; and Timna was Lotan’s sister.’

Lotan was probably the firstborn of Seir. The names of Lotan’s two sons are now given, and also the name of (one of) his sister(s). Timna was clearly a prominent woman especially remembered. A later chieftain who ‘came of Esau’ bore the same name (Genesis 36.40). Neither of the names of the sons are of special importance, although Hori means ‘cave-dweller’ and Homam means ‘destruction’, which may indicate their primitive background. But they may have been names that had come down from the past and had lost their significance.

1.40a ‘The sons of Shobal: Alian, and Manahath, and Ebal, Shephi, and Onam.’

These are the five sons (and sub-tribes?) of Shobal. Note the name Ebal which was also borne by a son of Joktan, Eber’s son (1.22).

1.40b ‘And the sons of Zibeon: Aiah, and Anah.’

Zibeon had two sons. Genesis 36.24 tells us that the second son, Anah, ‘found the hot springs in the wilderness and fed the asses of Zibeon his father’. This would appear to contain the memory of a discovery by Anah that saved Zibeon’s asses from dying of thirst, thus saving the tribe from impoverishment. He thus made his mark on history.

1.41a ‘The sons of Anah: Dishon.’

This is not the Anah of verse 40b, but the Anah of verse 38. He had one son called Dishon (named after Anah’s brother). We learn in Genesis 36.25 that Oholibamah was his daughter, and that she married Esau (Genesis 36.14), cementing the connection between the two groups. In the end all merged into Edom, and ‘Esau was Edom’ (Genesis 36.1, 8, 19) and the ‘father of the Edomites’ (Genesis 36.43).

1.41b ‘And the sons of Dishon: Hamran, and Eshban, and Ithran, and Cheran.

This is not the Dishon of verse 41a but the Dishon of verse 38. He was a son of Seir. He had four sons (and sub-tribes?). The name Ithran occurs later in 7.37.

1.42a ‘The sons of Ezer: Bilhan, and Zaavan, Jaakan.’

Ezer, son of Seir, had three sons. The name Bilhan occurs also in 7.10.

1.42b ‘The sons of Dishan: Uz, and Aran.’

Dishan had two sons. The name Uz connects with areas in and around Edom (Job 1.1; Jeremiah 25.20). It was also the name of a son of Nahor, Abraham’s brother (Genesis 22.21) and of a grandson of Shem (1.17; Genesis 10.23).

The Descent Of The Kings Of Edom (1.43-51).

We are now given the names of the first eight successive kings of Edom. While not necessarily descended from Esau they were seen as ‘sons’ of Esau. These details are taken from Genesis 36.31-39. They are stated to have succeeded one another but came from different cities and areas. It is clear therefore that when a king died the next king/paramount warleader was chosen on the strength of his military prowess and leadership capabilities. In some way, therefore, they were similar to the Judges of Israel.

To ‘bear kings’ was seen among the ancients as enhancing a person’s greatness so that God promised to both Abraham and Jacob that one day they would do so (Genesis 17.6, 16; 35.11). Esau, of course, knew of this promise, and we learn here that his descendants prided themselves on the fact that although no kings had yet appeared in Israel, Esau had already ‘borne kings’ in Edom. For Israel it was still future. For Esau and Edom it was present reality.

The list that follows was completed in the days of Hadad, the final king named, for while the Chronicler includes the fact that he died (he was long dead in the Chronicler’s day), the writer in Genesis 36 seemingly wrote while he was still living (alone among the kings his death was not mentioned). This ‘bearing of kings’ was thus another indication of the way in which God had blessed Esau. It would be a great encouragement to the returned Exiles in the Chronicler’s day to recognise God’s power to establish nationhood among those whom He blessed as they looked forward to the coming, one day, of God’s promised king, the greater David..

1.43a Now these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king over the children of Israel reigned.’

This statement does not require that when it was first made there were already kings in Israel. It simply indicates the expectancy that one day there would be. It had after all been promised to Abraham and Sarah. Esau and Edom may well have seen it as a triumph that they had achieved kingship before Israel did.

1.43b ‘Bela the son of Beor, and the name of his city was Dinhabah.’

We have no indication when Bela was set up as the first king apart from the fact that it was well before any king reigned over Israel. Interestingly Beor, the name of his father, was also the name of the father of Balaam the false prophet (Numbers 22.5), but there is no good reason to identify them. The city of Dinhabah is otherwise unknown. It may have been a small fortress city. It was clearly memorable. Some of these kings may have had short lives, dying while attacking caravans or in warfare.

1.44 ‘And Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his stead.’

Bela died and was followed by Jobab, the son of Zerah of Bozrah. These kings would appear to have been chosen out from their fellows because of their prowess in warfare. They formed no dynasty. The name Jobab was also borne by a son of Joktan, son of Eber (1.23); by a king of Madon in Canaan (Joshua 11.1); and by Benjamite descendants (8.9, 18).

This Zerah may well be the grandson of Esau mentioned in 1.37. If so Bela came not long after Esau, and may indeed have known him. Zerah was associated with Bozrah, depicted elsewhere as the place where God inflicted judgment on Edom Isaiah 34.6; 63.1; Amos 1.12). It may well now be modern Buseira, a fortified city situated on a crag and overlooking the King’s Highway, 40 kilometres (30 miles) SSE of the Dead Sea, from which no doubt raids were made on caravans. It may have been this city which blocked the progress of Israel on the way to Canaan (Numbers 20.17).

1.45 ‘And Jobab died, and Husham of the land of the Temanites reigned in his stead.’

On the death of Jobab the next Edomite king/paramount warleader chosen was Husham ‘of the land of the Temanites’ (compare Amos 1.12). ‘The land of the Temanites’ may represent a large part of North Edom. He is connected with no city. Like Esau he may have been leader of a band of warriors, seen as a suitable successor to Jobab. It will be noted that his father is not named. He was clearly not of ‘noble birth’.

1.46 ‘And Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who smote Midian in the field of Moab, reigned in his stead; and the name of his city was Avith.’

On Husham’s death Hadad the son of Bedad succeeded him. It may well have been his smiting of the Midianites in the ‘field of Moab’ which sealed his kingship. He may have been repelling a large raiding party (compare Judges 6.3). He came from the city of Avith. Hadad was a popular Edomite royal name (1.30, 50; 1 Kings 11.14-22, 25).

1.47 ‘And Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his stead.’

Samlah of Masrekah succeeded Hadad. Again his father is not mentioned. He was seemingly of common stock. He came from Masrekah, of which nothing is known.

1.48 ‘And Samlah died, and Shaul of Rehoboth by the River reigned in his stead.’

Samlah was succeeded by Shaul of ‘Rehoboth by the River’. Again no father is mentioned. Warring capability was seen as more important than noble birth. ‘By the River’ probably indicates that there was another Rehoboth (meaning ‘broad places’), possibly that mentioned in Genesis 26.22. The ‘river’ mentioned is probably that between Edom and Moab (the Wadi el-Hesli). Rehoboth may have guarded the border.

1.49 ‘And Shaul died, and Baal-hanan the son of Achbor reigned in his stead.’

When Shaul died he was succeeded by a man from a more important family. This was Baal-hanan the son of Achbor. Baal-hanan means ‘the Lord (or Baal) is gracious’. But he is the only one of the eight associated with no city or area, perhaps because his family was so well known.

1.50 ‘And Baal-hanan died, and Hadad reigned in his stead; and the name of his city was Pai: and his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-zahab.’

On Baal-hanan’s death he was succeeded by Hadad II (Genesis Hadar), who came from the city of Pai (or Pau). He was not of noble family, but he clearly married well. His wife’s name was Mehetabel. She was of noble birth. Matred may have been her father or her mother, with Me-zahab her grandfather or grandmother (compare Genesis 36.14). In Genesis 36 his death is not mentioned. This suggests that he was alive when the information was first recorded.

1.51a ‘And Hadad died.’

This was an addition of the Chronicler, completing the life-death cycle. In Genesis 36 his name is given as Hadar. The names may have been inter-changeable, or there may be a copying error (‘r’ and ‘d’ are very similar in Hebrew)..

The Chieftains Of Edom Who Came Of Esau (1.51b-54).

In Genesis 36.40-43 these are described as ‘the chieftains (of Edom) who came of Esau’. They are also described as being ‘according to their habitations in the land of their possessions’. Thus the names of the chieftains would appear to be the names of the city/area that they represented, e.g. ‘the chief of Timna, the chief of Aliah, the chief of Jetheth, the chief of Oholibamah, etc.’ Indeed they may have taken the name of their city when appointed as chieftain. We have already come across Timna and Oholibamah (‘tent of the high places’) as names of women (Genesis 36.12, 14). But if the cities were so named, their male chieftains could reasonably take their names. On the other hand the names might have been in ‘common use’ with gender ignored.

The aim here may have been, having named the kings of Edom, to lay out the chieftainships under that king.

1.51b-54 ‘And the chiefs of Edom were: chief Timna, chief Aliah, chief Jetheth, chief Oholibamah, chief Elah, chief Pinon, chief Kenaz, chief Teman, chief Mibzar, chief Magdiel, chief Iram. These are the chiefs of Edom.’

This might be seen as a division of Edom into eleven districts, each with its chieftain. Along with the king that would then make twelve.

So the God-given glory of Esau is revealed to us, stressing that he had become a mighty nation. And it revealed that what God had done before, He could do again, for this proves His faithfulness towards those who look to Him.

The Twelve Sons Of Israel (Jacob) And Their Descendants (2.1-9.1).

What has gone before has established that mankind were all descended from Adam through Noah, and that God chose Abraham and especially blessed all his descendants. Having then outlined the descendants and nations which were borne by Ishmael, the sons of Keturah and Esau, he now comes to those whom God has especially chosen, the ‘sons’ of Israel/Jacob. It will be noted that he has previously limited his words to the genuine information that he has available in the book of Genesis, and has not fantasised in any way. It is reasonable to assume therefore that what follows is similarly so treated.

To a people newly returned from Exile and seeking to populate the promised land all this was of great importance. It established from God-given records that God had maintained His people through the centuries, had raised up chosen men to fulfil His purposes, and that what God had once done He could do again. It also underlined the fact that Israel were His chosen people.

The twelve true-born sons of Israel are listed in 2.1, but in what follows in 2.2-9.1 the number of tribes as twelve was maintained by dividing Joseph into Ephraim, East Manasseh and West Manasseh whilst leaving Zebulun and Dan unmentioned. Naphtali are only mentioned briefly, whilst Benjamin are detailed twice. The omissions may partly have been due to lack of records, but there was also clearly an attempt to maintain the number as twelve..

We may analyse 2.2-9.1 as follows:

The Descendants Of The Twelve ‘Sons’ Of Israel (2.2-7.40).

As we have noted the number of tribes as twelve is maintained by including Joseph in terms of Ephraim, East Manasseh and West Manasseh, and omitting Dan and Zebulun. It may be that material concerning these latter had been lost (compare how little there was of Naphtali). But there are also indications that Dan at least was deliberately omitted, possibly because of the idolatrous sanctuary in Dan (Judges 18.30-31; 1 Kings 12.29). As such it is a reminder to all that if men turn from God to false religion their names will be blotted out.

The ‘twelve’ are dealt with as follows:

  • 1). The Sons of Judah, including the descent of David (2.2-4.23).
  • 2). The Sons of Simeon and their expansion into Mount Seir (4.24-43).
  • 3). The Sons of Reuben and their expansion into Hagrite territory (5.1-10).
  • 4). The Sons of Gad who established themselves in Bashan (5.11-17).
  • An Interlude Concerning Reuben, Gad and East Manasseh in which they expand their territory (5.18-22).
  • 5). The Sons of East Manasseh, and how they expanded (5.23-24)
  • An Interlude Concerning Reuben, Gad and East Manasseh and how they lost everything (5.25-26).
  • 6). The Sons of Levi (Including the Aaronides) (6.1-81).
  • 7). The Sons of Issachar, and their contribution to the host of Israel (7.1-5).
  • 8). (The Sons of) Benjamin, and their contribution to the host of Israel (7.6-12)
  • 9). The Sons of Naphtali (7.13).
  • 10). The Sons of West Manasseh (7.14-19).
  • 11). The Sons of Ephraim, and the descent of Joshua (7.20-29).
  • 12). The Sons of Asher, and their contribution to the host of Israel (7.30-40).

These are then followed by:

  • 13). A Further Listing of Benjamin, including the descent of Saul (8.1-40).
  • Information Concerning The Source Of The Genealogical Material (9.1).

What will be noted about the order of the tribes is that in 1) to 5) Judah and Simeon, who were allotted land in the south, are listed along with the East Bank tribes of Reuben Gad and East Manasseh. In 7) to 12) the remainder of the tribes, the northern tribes, are then listed together. The two groups are separated in 6) by the tribe of Levi which dwelt in all parts of Israel. Dan and Zebulun are omitted, possibly because Dan was noted for idolatry and separatism (Genesis 49.16-18; Judges 18; 1 Kings 12.29), and Zebulun was seen as represented by Issachar. The special interest in Benjamin links in with the large number of Benjamites who returned from Exile, and prepares for the brief mention of Saul.

The further pattern on which these chapters are built should be noticed, especially the David-Saul envelope (1 and 13), and the central plank of the house of Levi (6). The opening chapters, (chapters 2.2-4.23), demonstrate how the tribe of Judah was built up, and its consequence in the great king whom God raised up, resulting in his descendants enduring beyond the Exile to await the coming day. In contrast chapter 8 deals with the building up of the tribe of Benjamin, and its consequence in the raising up of Israel’s first king, the initial royal house of Israel, only for it to falter, resulting in his descendants failing even to reach the Exile. It suggests that there may still have been those of the tribe of Benjamin who, having observed the failure of the house of David, hankered after a return to the house of Saul. This would act as a warning to them to desist. We might sum up the situation in the words of 2 Samuel, ‘David grew stronger and stronger but the house of Saul Israel grew weaker and weaker’ (2 Samuel 3.1).

Chapters 4.24-5.26 then lay an emphasis on the way in which the tribes of Israel expanded their territory as they did battle with desert raiders. It was an indication of how God could once again expand Israel. But it was only for it all to end up in disaster as they were taken into exile. It did, however, indicate what God could do for His people.

Chapters 7.1-40 then lay an emphasis on the build up of warrior chiefs and their military units, who were available to deliver Israel from their enemies. This too was a promise that once again God could increase their numbers, give them military chiefs, and make them strong.

Central to it all in chapter 6 were the sons of Levi and the establishment of a valid High Priesthood and of a body of Temple servants, who would move forward God’s purposes as they were established in Israel.

The Sons Of Israel/Jacob (2.1).

It will be noted that the emphasis in 2.1 is on Jacob as ‘Israel’. It was as ‘Israel’ that the returning exiles saw themselves (Ezra 2.2; Nehemiah 7.7). And they also saw themselves as sons of Abraham. This emphasis on Jacob as ‘Israel’ comes out later in 29.10. 18. It was not, of course, literally true that all were descended from Abraham. Many were not of direct descent. Many were descended from Abraham’s many servants (Genesis 14.14), from the mixed multitude that had left Egypt with Israel when they fled (Exodus 12.38), and from numerous proselytes who had joined themselves to the worship of YHWH through the centuries, or had been forcibly joined. But they all saw themselves as sons of Israel, and had long forgotten that they were adopted sons, having united themselves with one of the tribes of Israel.

The twelve sons of Israel (Jacob) are now listed.

2.1-2 ‘These are the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, and Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.’

As with the previous people listed the individual names represented both the actual sons of Israel, and the tribes which descended from them (although Joseph later divided up into Ephraim and Manasseh). The reason for the order of the names is uncertain. The first six were sons of Leah, and these are followed by Dan (son of Bilhah) and the two natural sons of Rachel. It would appear from this that Dan is being treated as a ‘natural’ son of Rachel. This may well be because Rachel declared him to be such (Genesis 30.6), speaking of him as her son. The writer may have been responding to Rachel’s wish.

Thus Naphtali, whom we might have been expected to be listed with Dan (being also a son of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid), is listed with the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid, following after the sons of Rachel.

We regularly find in Scripture lists of the twelve tribes of Israel, but the order of the names is not consistent from one reference to another, and in order to incorporate both Ephraim and Manasseh (the two sons of Joseph), other sons are sometimes dropped out, although again not in a consistent pattern. Zebulun and Dan are omitted in the extended genealogy in chapters 2-8, (possibly because there were no reliable records of their genealogies), with Manasseh mentioned twice; Gad and Asher are omitted in 27.16-24 (where both East and West Manasseh are again included) possibly because they were under the same chieftains as Reuben and Naphtali; Dan and Ephraim are omitted in Revelation 7.5-8 where both Manasseh and Joseph are named, the name Joseph standing in for that of Ephraim, whilst Dan is omitted completely (possibly because the names Dan and Ephraim were constantly linked with idolatry). Simeon is pointedly omitted in Deuteronomy 33 where only eleven sons are named, possibly because of the sin of Moab (Numbers 25.14). Levi is omitted in Numbers 1 and 26 as being uniquely sanctified to God.

The Sons Of Judah (2.3-4.23).

As befitted the royal tribe from whom the expected king was to come (Genesis 49.10-11), and the tribe who were the mainstay of the southern kingdom (so much so that the southern kingdom was called Judah), and were prominent among the returning exiles, Judah’s details are given first. Judah first gained the pre-eminence in the time of Joseph (Genesis 44.14), and along with Ephraim, his was one of the two strongest tribes.

Judah was apparently initially divided into five clans. These were headed by his three productive sons Shelah, Perez and Zerah (Er and Onan produced no children, having offended God - Genesis 38.3-10), and by his equally productive grandsons Hezron and Hamul (see Numbers 26.20-21 compare Genesis 46.12).

This whole section divides up into:

  • The Sons And Descendants Of Judah (2.1-35).
  • The Sons of David (3.1-25).
  • Further Information Concerning The Sons And Descendants Of Judah 4.1-23).

The Sons And Descendants Of Judah (2.1-35).

The importance of these descriptive genealogies to the new Israel after the Exile cannot be overstressed. They demonstrated how God had expanded the tribes, in this case of Judah, and had fashioned sub-tribes and clans, and had produced over them men of faith and power as required, men who had settled the land and maintained Yahwism. The message was that they should take heart, because what He had done once He could do again. The prominence of David and Levi in the genealogies surely has in mind the promise given to Jeremiah of the fruitfulness of their houses (Jeremiah 33.22). It also prepares for what is to follow in the glorious reign of David and the establishment of the service of the Levites.

In considering these genealogies we must not assume that the chains are unbroken. It was a regular practise for a genealogy to omit a number of names as concentration was placed on source (the tribe), sub-source (the clan), wider family, close family and person. The five names listed would not necessarily indicate five generations, for many names may have been omitted as irrelevant for the task in hand. It is thus difficult to ‘date’ the different generations revealed.

The section from 2.3-55 divides up into the following parts:


As mentioned above the tribe of Judah consisted of five sub-tribes, the Shelanites, the Perezites, the Zerahites, the Hezronites and the Hamulites (Numbers 26.20-21). These were descended from three of Judah’s sons, Shelah, Perez and Zerah, and from two of his grandsons, Hezron and Hamul. The details are now given of:

  • The sons of Judah including Perez and Zerah and Shelah (2.3-4; compare Genesis 38.3-5, 28-30), each of whom produced sub-tribes (Numbers 26.20-21).
  • The sons of Perez and Zerah (two of the sons of Judah, Shelah is unmentioned), which include among them Ethan, Hamul and Hezron (2.5-6). Hamul and Hezron produced sub-tribes.
  • The son of Carmi, Carmi being descended from Zerah (Joshua 7.1) (2.7).
  • The son of Ethan, Ethan also being Judah’s grandson descended from Zerah, but seemingly not forming a sub-tribe (2.8).


All these were descended from Hezron.

  • The ‘sons’ of Hezron, Judah’s grandson, which include Ram and Celubai (Caleb) and Jerahmeel (at this stage Segub - verses 21-22 - and Ashhur - verse 24 - are unmentioned) (2.9).
  • The ‘sons’ and descendants of Hezron’s son Ram whose descendant was David (2.10-17).
  • The sons and descendants of Hezron’s son Celubai (Caleb) whose descendant was Bezalel the Spirit-filled architect of the original Tabernacle and its furniture (2.18-20).
  • The sons of Hezron’s previously unmentioned son Segub who was born as a result of his intermarriage with the daughter of clan-leader Machir, the son of Manasseh, who ruled in East Manasseh. These sons clearly left Judah and established themselves authoritatively in Gilead, in the territory of Machir. The passage ends with ‘all these were the sons of Machir, the father of Gilead’ (2.21-23).
  • A further son of Hezron, born after his death who was called Ashhur and was the father of Tekoa (2.24). See further on this 4.5-7.
  • The sons and descendants of Hezron’s son Jerahmeel, which end with ‘these are the sons of Jerahmeel’ (2.26-33).
  • The son and descendants of Jarha the Egyptian who married the daughter of Sheshan, a descendant of Jerahmeel (2.34-41).
  • The sons and descendants of Caleb, the brother of Jerahmeel, son of Hezron (2.42-50a).
  • The son of Hur (2.19) who is Shobal the father of Kiriath-jearim, whose descendants are named in terms of sub-clans. Compare 4.4 (2.50b-54).
  • The families of scribes who dwelt at Jabez (2.55).


The information that follows is clearly a bringing together of a series of genealogical records so as to describe the growth and expansion of Judah. Their main source appears to have been The Book Of The Kings Of Israel (9.1). (Not the same as 1 and 2 Kings). Confusion can sometimes arise because it is apparent that an uncle and nephew regularly have the same name (e.g. Ram 2.9, 25; Gazez 2.46; Er 4.21).

The Sons of Judah Including Perez and Zerah and Shelah (2.3-4; Compare Genesis 38.3-5, 28-30).

Judah had five sons. Two (Er and Onan) perished as a consequence of God’s judgments. This left him with three through whom he could produce heirs, Shelah, Perez and Zerah.

Er, Onan and Shelah were his first three sons, born through his Canaanite wife Shua (Genesis 38.3-5). Er’s wife was named Tamar, and he died leaving her childless. As a consequence Judah unwittingly acted as Er’s substitute in order to bear children in Er’s stead under the law of Levirate marriage (something which should have been Shelah’s responsibility). The sons born as a result were Perez and Zerah (see Genesis 38.11-30).

But in what follows Shelah’s descendants are ignored, Zerah’s descendants are only mentioned very briefly, and of Perez’ descendants only Hezron’s descendants are given in detail.


  • Shelah was the father of ‘the family of the Shelanites’ (Numbers 26.20), but no mention is made here of his sons, who possibly did not form separate sub-tribes but merged into the family of the Shelanites (Number 26.20-21). They are, however, mentioned in 4.21. But they clearly had no vital lesson to give to the returned Exiles.
  • The sons who are mentioned are those of Perez and Zerah, who were the fathers of ‘the families of the Perezites and Zerahites’ (Numbers 26.20). However, the sons of Zerah are only mentioned briefly in this narrative, and also disappear into obscurity from the Chronicler’s viewpoint. They are seemingly mentioned because from one of them was descended Achan, ‘the troubler of Israel, who committed a trespass in the devoted thing’ (2.7. See Joshua 7). He was seemingly seen as important to the Chronicler, being cited as an example of those Israelites who had chosen the way of idolatry and were spurned by the returned Exiles. Such would also disappear from history.
  • The sons of Hanul, the second son of Perez, are also ignored by the Chronicler.

So from this point on all the stress will be on the descendants of Hezron, the firstborn of Perez, because of their importance to the Chronicler. From Hezron were descended:

  • Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, who was prince of the tribe of Judah in the second year after the Exodus from Egypt (verse 10, compare Numbers 1.7) and who failed to follow God’s command and consequently perished in the wilderness (Numbers 14.29-30).
  • David who became Israel’s anointed king (verse 15) along with his generals (verse 16), whose kingdom (long after his death) fell into idolatry and came under God’s judgment, the story of which will be told in Chronicles.
  • Bezalel the son of Uri who was chosen by God to have overall responsibility for the making of the Tabernacles and its furnishings (2.20; compare Exodus 35.30-31) which were all lost to Israel through God’s judgments.
  • Jair who ruled over 26 cities in Gilead (verse 22) but who lost them to the Aramean Geshurites (verse 23).
  • Elishama, the descendant of Jerahmeel (verse 41), whose cause for fame is unknown.
  • Maon who possibly founded/established Beth-Zur (verse 45).
  • The sons of Hur who established and ruled over areas of Judah (verses 50-55).

All revealed great promise, but in the end their work failed. They were both an encouragement, indicating how God prepared the way for success, and sustained His people, and a warning, indicating the folly of unbelief, to the returned Exiles.


Having sought to summarise the situation detailed exegesis will now be given verse by verse.

2.3-4 ‘The sons of Judah: Er, and Onan, and Shelah; which three were born to him of Shua’s daughter the Canaanitess. And Er, Judah’s first-born, was wicked in the sight of YHWH, and he slew him. And Tamar his daughter-in-law bore him Perez and Zerah. All the sons of Judah were five.’

Here we have mentioned the five sons of Judah who reminded the returned Exiles of what God was like. Those born of a Canaanite mother (presumably an idolatress) came under God’s judgment or are totally ignored by the Chronicler. Those born of a woman of Judah, however questionably, have their part in the following genealogies, with the descendants of Hezron, the son of Perez, being outstanding. They are an assurance of God’s continual working on those whom He has chosen, and a guarantee that He will fulfil His purposes.

The Sons of Perez and Zerah (two of the sons of Judah, the third, Shelah, is unmentioned), Which Sons Include Among Them Ethan and Hezron (2.5-6).

The sons of Perez and Zerah are now detailed. The side-lining of Shelah (see 4.21) is a warning that God will sideline those who are not true to Him.

2.5 ‘The sons of Perez: Hezron, and Hamul.’

The first to be named are the two sons of Perez. These are Hezron and Hamul. However, although both formed sub-tribes (Numbers 26.21), only the descendants of Hezron will enter into consideration. It was from him that the leaders of most importance were descended.

2.6 ‘And the sons of Zerah: Zimri, and Ethan, and Heman, and Calcol, and Dara; five of them in all.’

The next mentioned are the five 'sons' (descendants) of Zerah. But of these 'sons' only the descendants of Zimri (indirectly) and Ethan will be take into consideration, and then only briefly. They were, however, famous in their day. Four of these five 'sons' are described in 1 Kings 4.31 as famed wisdom teachers, although being inferior to Solomon in wisdom. There is little reason to doubt that this Ethan and Heman are those cited as the authors of Psalm 89 and 88 where they are called Ezrahites (of the sub-tribe of Zerah). They would appear to have been contemporary with Solomon..

The Son of Carmi, Carmi Being Descended from Zerah (Joshua 7.1) (2.7).

The Chronicler assumes that his readers will be aware that Carmi was descended from Zerah through one of his sons, for Achan was ‘the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah’ (Joshua 7.1). The only question is how this connects with verse 6. It may simply be because Achan’s ancestry is abbreviated (something regularly done), with Zabdi being the grandson of Zerah through one of his sons, probably Zimri. It has, however, been plausibly suggested that Zimri, the eldest son of Zerah, and Zabdi, are one and the same person (zmr becoming zbd). Zimri means a wild goat, whilst Zabdi means ‘my gift’ or, if lengthened as Zabdiyahu, ‘YHWH is my gift’. The Chronicler, knowing that his readers would understand the change, may well have altered Zabdi to Zimri in order to bring out that the gift of YHWH had proved to be a wild goat in producing Achan. Or the writer in Joshua might have altered Zimri to Zabdi as a sarcastic reference to the fact that Achan had treated YHWH’s gift as his own, like a wild goat chewing anything he found. The change reflects the fact that in Hebrew ‘m’ and ‘b’ sound very similar, and ‘r’ and ‘d’ are often interchangeable. Either way Carmi was known to be a ‘son’ of Zerah.

2.7 ‘And the sons of Carmi: Achar, the troubler of Israel, who committed a trespass in the devoted thing.’

‘Achar’ equals ‘Achan’ (Joshua 7.1). ‘Achar’ means ‘troubler’. The meaning of ‘Achan’ is unknown. ‘Achar’ may well be the Chronicler’s rendering of Achan in order to bring out that he was a troubler of Israel. It would tie in with altering Zabdi to Zimri. (Compare how Meribaal (9.40) becomes Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9.6), and Eshbaal (9.29) becomes Ishbosheth (2 Samuel. 2.8). ‘Bosheth’ means ‘shame’). The reference is to what we know as the sin of Achan, who nearly destroyed Israel by his retention of what had been devoted to YHWH. The story is told in Joshua 7. In Joshua 7.24 Achan is called ‘the son of (the descendant of) Zerah’. In Joshua 7.1 we read of ‘Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah’. Achan’s relationship to Zerah is thus clearly stated, as is his descent from Carmi. The reader would immediately recognise who Carmi was as a ‘son of Zerah’. The expression used here (the plural ‘sons of’) was simply a stereotyped expression (which occurs often) being used by the Chronicler, ignoring the grammar. Or it may have in mind that ‘Achan’ includes all his family and can be seen as a composite.

The ignoring of the name of Zimri (unless Zimi = Zabdi), and its substitution by the name of his descendant, deliberately draws attention to the lesson being drawn, but the final point is that from Zerah had come the troubler of Israel. Let all beware lest the same happen to them.

‘Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah’. As previously stressed we must recognise that there were gaps in this genealogy. Achan was not the fifth from Judah. Had he been so it would mean that he had lived approximately one hundred years after Judah which simply could not be true. The gap between Judah and Achan must have been far wider. Thus Carmi may have been born many generations after Zabdi, with generations being omitted.

The Son of Ethan, Ethan Possibly Being Judah’s Grandson (2.8).

Brief reference is made to Azariah, the son of Ethan, the son of Zerah, the son of Judah. This may be in order to soften the reference to Achan which may otherwise have been seen as pointedly reflecting badly on Zerah. It was a reminder that, like all families, Zerah produced both good and bad.

2.8 ‘And the sons of Ethan: Azariah.’

Note again the stereotyped ‘sons of’ already explained in verse 7. Azariah may in fact have lived many generations after Ethan. Nothing either good or bad is known about this Azariah. It was such a common name in Israel that no identification can even be posited.


The Sons of Hezron, Judah’s grandson, Who Include Ram and Celubai (Caleb) and Jerahmeel (at this stage Segub - verses 21-22 - and Ashhur - verse 24 - are unmentioned) (2.8-9).

We now come to the meat of the chapter with the mention of three prominent sons of Hezron, Ram, Caleb (Celubai) And Jerahmeel. The descendants of each will be provided in some detail.

2.9 ‘The sons also of Hezron, who were born to him: Jerahmeel, and Ram, and Celubai.’

The names of three of the sons of Hezron are now given. From Ram are descended Nahshon and David and his generals. From Caleb are descended Bezalel the son of Uri; Jair a prominent chieftain of Israel; Maon the founder of Beth-Zur, and lords over areas of Judah. From Jerahmeel is descended Elishama, whose fame is lost to us but who was probably well known to the Chronicler’s first readers. It will be noted that the names of the three sons will be dealt with in reverse order, with Ram coming first, possibly because he was the ancestor of the great king David, through whom was promised the Coming King. Caleb comes second as the ancestor of the architect of the Tabernacle, something huge in Israelite eyes. Jerahmeel takes up the rear as last but not least. We must remember in this regard the emphasis to be placed by the Chronicler on the life of David, and on the activities of the Tabernacle/Temple.


The Sons and Descendants of Hezron’s Son Ram Whose Descendant Was King David (2.10-17).

Ram was the son of Hezron, who was the son of Perez, who was the son of Judah. From him were descended Nahshon, the prince of Judah at the time of the Exodus (Numbers 1.7); King David, the model of Israelite kingship; and David’s generals who helped to ensure his victories. This emphasises the centrality of David in the Chronicler’s eyes. It would encourage the returned Exiles with the thought of the David yet to come as promised by the prophets.

2.10 ‘And Ram begat Amminadab, and Amminadab begat Nahshon, prince of the children of Judah.’

Amminadab is known to us because Aaron married his daughter, Elisheba, the sister of Nahshon (Exodus 6.23). Unless there is an unusual coincidence of names this would indicate that there are gaps in the genealogy here, for the genealogy would indicate five generations from Judah to Amminadab, which is not enough to cover the time span (the time in Egypt). And while a similar situation appears to apply to Aaron and Moses (Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses - 6.1-3; Exodus 6.16-20), it clearly does not apply to Joshua in 7.20-27 where there are at least ten generations from Joseph to Joshua). Thus in the case of Moses we are probably given the tribal founder, the sub-tribe, the clan and Moses himself. In the case of Amminadab we probably have the tribal founder, the sub-tribe, the clan, the family and Amminadab. Amminadab may have come many generations after Ram, and Nahshon may have been many generations after him. The genealogy merely expresses the main stages.

Note the emphasis on the fact that David was descended from a prince of Judah, Nahshon the general/warleader of Judah at the time of the Exodus as they prepared to march on Canaan (Numbers 1.7; 2.3; 7.12; 10.14). David was thus of an aristocratic military background. That he shepherded the sheep, as Moses had before him, does not distract from this. Important men had the responsibility of watching over sheep, assisted by servants. Sheep were their livelihood, and at the time kingship was new in Israel. Israel was a pastoral nation.

2.11-12 ‘And Nahshon begat Salma, and Salma begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse.’

Here is the line of David. Note the disinterest in any but the line that led down to David. There can be no doubt where the interest is centred. Again the genealogy only contains the main steps of descent. Jesse was not born four generations after Nahshon, but many generations after.

In Ruth ‘Salma’ is ‘Salmon’ (as in Matthew 1.4-5). Adding an ‘n’ to the ending of a name was not unusual. Boaz was famous as the man who welcomed and married Ruth, the Moabitess. Even though he was wealthy he too watched over the agricultural work, supervising his servants. The book of Ruth ends with a similar genealogy leading down to David (Ruth 4.18-22). Jesse was, of course, David’s father. The coming King was to be of the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11.1).

2.13-15 ‘And Jesse begat his first-born Eliab, and Abinadab the second, and Shimea the third, Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozem the sixth, David the seventh.’

As regularly in the genealogies a list of successive names leads down to a family of brothers (compare Adam to Noah leading down to Shem, Ham and Japheth - 1.1-4). Here we have the names of seven sons of Jesse, the youngest of whom was David. We are familiar with Eliab, Abinadab and Shimea (Shammah) from the story of David (1 Samuel 17.13; compare 1 Samuel 16.6-9). 1 Samuel 16.10 mentions seven sons all older than David (compare 1 Samuel 17.12). The assumption must be made that one had died childless prior to the point when this list was made.

2.16a ‘And their sisters were Zeruiah and Abigail.’

Mention is now made of David’s two sisters, Zeruiah and Abigail, partly because Zeruiah was the mother of three of David’s warleaders.

2.16b ‘And the sons of Zeruiah: Abishai, and Joab, and Asahel, three.’

The sons of Zeruiah were Joab, David’s commander-in-chief, and Abishai and Asahel, two of his warleaders. Asahel was slain by Abner, Ishbosheth’s general (2 Samuel 2.22-23), who was in turn slain by Joab in revenge (2 Samuel 3.30). Joab and Abishai were part of David’s strength (e.g. 2 Samuel 18.2).

2.17 ‘And Abigail bore Amasa; and the father of Amasa was Jether the Ishmaelite.’

Amasa was also one of David’s warleaders, but allowed himself to be appointed as commander-in-chief to Absalom during the rebellion (2 Samuel 17.25). He was thus a traitor to his uncle. There his father is called ‘Ithra the Israelite’. That was probably a new name taken by Jether, deliberately made similar, in order to acclimatise himself with Israel once he had married Abigail.



The Sons and Descendants of Hezron’s Son Celubai (Caleb) Whose Most Important Descendant Was Bezalel the Spirit-filled Architect of the Original Tabernacle and Its Furniture (2.18-20).

As with Amminadab we have here a fore-shortened genealogy, Judah (tribal founder), Perez (sub-tribe), Hezron (clan), Caleb (wider family), Hur (family), Uri (father), Bezalel. Caleb’s descendants are important because they resulted in the birth of the Spirit-filled Architect of the original Tabernacle and its furniture. To the people who were establishing the new Temple in Jerusalem this would have demonstrated that they too were in the line of God’s purposes and in accordance with the Spirit of God.

2.18 ‘ And Caleb the son of Hezron begat by Azubah his wife, and by Jerioth; and these were her sons: Jesher, and Shobab, and Ardon.’

We have here an unusual phrase which has resulted in a number of alternative renderings. Our translation as it stands tells us that Caleb begat children by Azubah his wife, and also by Jerioth. This was possibly because Jerioth was a slave-wife acting on Azubah’s behalf as a surrogate, as with Rachel and Bilhah. ‘Her sons’ may refer to either Azubah or Jerioth, but in either case in such circumstances all the children would be seen from one point of view as Azubah’s, and also (if Jerioth bore all three) as Jerioth’s. This view would appear to be supported by the Targum which claims that Azubah (which means ‘desolation’) was so called because she was barren and despised.

Alternative renderings are:

  • ‘Caleb -- became father of Azubah, Ishshah and Jerioth’ (so JB). But this is unlikely as eth stands before Azubah and Jerioth, but not before Ishshah, thus suggesting that ishshah is not a name but rather means ‘a wife’.
  • ‘Caleb -- was the father of Jerioth by Azubah a wife’. This takes the eth standing before Azubah as meaning ‘by’ and the eth standing before Jerioth as co-ordinate, introducing a direct object. Following this the children are Jerioth’s. Such a change of use of eth in such a context seems unlikely.

2.19-20 ‘And Azubah died, and Caleb took to himself Ephrath, who bore him Hur, and Hur begat Uri, and Uri begat Bezalel.’

We now come to the crunch point. Caleb’s wife Azubah died and Caleb married Ephrath (in verse 50 Ephrathah). Ephrath then ‘bore him’ a descendant, Hur. And Hur ‘begat’ his descendant Uri, and Uri begat Bezalel. We do not know how large the generation gaps were between the names. There were many more than four generations. The importance of Bezalel to the Chronicler cannot be overstated. The Chronicler’s two major interests, revealed later, were the crowning and triumph of David (prepared for in verse 15), and the establishment and progress of the Tabernacle/Temple. And Bezalel was the commencing point of the latter. To Israelites these names would stand out without needing to be expanded on. David was exceptional, however, because he formed a dynasty. And he is expanded on in chapter 3.

The ‘sons of Hur’ will be taken up again in verse 50b, but meanwhile the writer does not wish to divert attention from Bezalel. There may have been many generations between Hur and Bezalel.

The Sons of Hezron’s Previously Unmentioned Son Segub Who Was Born As A Consequence of His Intermarriage With the Daughter of Sub-tribe-leader Machir, the Son of Manasseh, Who Ruled in East Manasseh. These Sons Clearly Left Judah and Eventually Established Themselves Authoritatively in Gilead, in the Territory of Machir. The Passage Ends With ‘All These Were the Sons of Machir, the Father of Gilead’ (2.21-23).

We now learn of another ‘son’ of Hezron unmentioned in verse 9. This son was a consequence of his intermarriage (as an aristocrat of Judah) with the aristocracy of East Manasseh. It appears that the ‘sons’ (descendants) of this marriage were at some stage established in East Manasseh (Manasseh East of Jordan) rather than in the sub-tribe of Hezron in Judah, for Jair ruled over part of East Manasseh. They are seen as an example of both success and failure, something which the returned Exiles knew something about. The returnees were to learn from it that God was in both success and failure.

2.21 ‘And afterward Hezron went in to the daughter of Machir the father of Gilead, whom he took to wife when he was threescore years old; and she bore him Segub.’

The daughter of Machir was the wife of Hezron’s old age, and it may have been a condition of the marriage that any sons lived and ruled among the Manassites, consolidating the tribe and later ending up in Manasseh east of Jordan. Strong and capable leaders were always needed, whether in Egypt, or on arrival in Canaan. In view of the dangers on their northern border, once settled in Canaan, Machir’s successors would have needed warleaders who would lead the clans. As a consequence of the marriage Segub was born, and from him was descended Jair.

2.22 ‘And Segub begat Jair, who had three and twenty cities in the land of Gilead.’

Descended at some distance from Segub was Jair, who ruled over twenty three cities in the land of Gilead. In Numbers 32.41 this Jair was jointly responsible for the conquest of Gilead, calling the towns he took Havvoth-jair (the ‘towns’ or ‘lives’ of Jair). This Jair was probably not the same as the Judge in Judges 10.3-5 who ruled over thirty cities and who may later have been responsible for restoring the cities to Gilead after the disaster in verse 23a. In those days fortunes fluctuated widely, and Gilead would sometimes be in the ascendant and sometime crushed down by invaders from the north. Jair was thus clearly a family name.

2.23a ‘And Geshur and Aram took the towns of Jair from them, with Kenath, and its villages, even sixty cities.’

In Numbers 32.41-2 Jair had captured ‘the towns of Jair’, whilst Nobah took Kenath and its towns. All in all there were sixty cities in the area (Deuteronomy 3.4). But at some stage Geshurrites and Arameans (or Gesshurite Arameans?) swept down from the north and took over all the towns, both the twenty three of Jair and the thirty seven of Nobah. It was a turbulent period. (As we have suggested they would later be restored by a later Jair). So a career that had looked promising suffered a decline. The returnees from Exile would remember back, as they read this, to Judah’s own experiences before the Exile when Israel also had seemed to flourish, and had then suffered disaster. They would see that history was repeating itself, and that they must learn their lesson from it, but that God was nevertheless in it and would restore the situation (they knew that a later Jair had ruled over the cities again - Judges 10.3-5). After all God had now once again brought them into Israel. On the other hand they also hopefully heeded the warning that their future was only certain whilst they were obedient to YHWH. Otherwise they too would once again be destroyed.

Geshur indicates the inhabitants of a district of Aram (Syria), on the north-western frontier of Bashan, in the neighbourhood of Hermon, on the east side of the upper Jordan. It still had its own kings in the time of David (2 Samuel 3.3; 13.37; 14.23; 15.8. It had been assigned to the Manassites by Moses but they had been unable to take it (see Joshua 13.13).

2.23b ‘All these were the sons of Machir the father of Gilead.’

This verse sums up verses 22-23a. ‘All these’ might denote not only Segub and Jair, but also the peoples in the cities over which they ruled with their families. This whole episode underlines the fact of the tribes working together, a reminder to the returned Exiles of the importance of unity.

A Further Son of Hezron, Born After His Death Who Was called Ashhur And Was The Father of Tekoa (2.24).

Here we have the account of a further son of Hezron, born after his death who was called Ashhur and became the father of the family of Tekoa, the Tekoites (2.24). The positioning of his genealogy here, and the reference to Caleb-ephrathah, suggests that he was associated with the clan of Caleb. See further in respect of him 4.5-7.

It should be noted here that we were specifically told in Genesis 46.12 that Hezron went up to Egypt with Jacob, something that the Chronicler knew well. Thus it is clear that Caleb-ephrathah, named after Caleb and his wife, was in Egypt.

2.24 ‘And after Hezron was dead in Caleb-ephrathah, then Abijah Hezron’s wife bore him Ashhur the father of Tekoa.’

So Hezron died in Caleb-ephrathah, that is the ‘Ephrathah associated with Caleb’, in Egypt. This Ephrathah was clearly named after Caleb’s wife Ephrath (Ephrathah in verse 50) (verse 19). But Ephrathah was also the early name for Bethlehem (Ephrath was clearly its ancient name, Genesis 35.19, Micah 5.2) which Ephrath in turn may have been named after, the memory of the name lingering among them while they were in Egypt. Hezron’s wife Abijah was already pregnant when he died and she bore him ‘a son’ whom she named Ashhur. Ashhur was then the ‘father’ (‘ancestor’) of Tekoa, and seemingly Tekoa became lord or founder of the Tekoites, the family of Tekoa, which later settled in a town south of Bethlehem. From their positioning here Abijah and Ashhur had clearly become part of the Calebite clan. It seems probable that Ashhur, being placed at the end of the section, was a man of renown whose name would be known to the returned Exiles, and would be an encouragement to them.

The Targum generally supports this interpretation, for it reads, ‘and after Hezron died in the house of Caleb his son in Ephrath, the wife of Hezron, the daughter of Machir, was left with child, and she bore to him after his death Ashhur the prince of the Tekoites’.

After the Exodus from Egypt it is probable that Ashhur’s family the Tekoites settled in Tekoa, possibly giving it its name. This was a town 10 kilometres south of Bethlehem, well known as the home of Amos. It was probably where the wise woman lived whose services Joab called on (2 Samuel 14.1 ff.). Rehoboam fortified it (2 Chronicles 11.6). Jeremiah called for a trumpet to be sounded in Tekoa in the face of the advancing enemy (Jeremiah 6.1). It was reinhabited after the Exile (Nehemiah 3.5, 27).



The Sons And Descendants of Hezron’s Son Jerahmeel (2.26-33).

Having learned of the sons of Ram and Caleb, the sons and descendants of Hezron’s son Jerahmeel (see verse 9) are now described, of whom only a few are mentioned. Of Jerahmeel’s sons only the sons of Ram (for one generation) and the sons of Onam (for a number of generations) are given. They were probably chosen as having a special significance to the returned Exiles, although we do not know what it was. This subsection ends with the words ‘these are the sons of Jerahmeel’ (2.26-33).

The Sons Of Jerahmeel (2.25-26).

2.25 And the sons of Jerahmeel the first-born of Hezron were Ram the first-born, and Bunah, and Oren, and Ozem, Ahijah.’

Jerahmeel’s first wife bore him five sons. His firstborn was named after his brother Ram. The names of all five are given. Ozem was also the name of the sixth son of David (verse 15). Ahijah (Yah is my brother) was a common name in Israel. Only the sons of Ram and Onam are listed below (verse 27-28). Perhaps only he and Onam (verse 26) formed sub-clans.

2.26 ‘And Jerahmeel had another wife, whose name was Atarah; she was the mother of Onam.’

Jerahmeel’s second wife was named Atarah and she bore a son called Onam. His sons too are listed (verse 28a).

The Grandsons Of Jerahmeel Through Ram And Onam (2.27-28a).

2.27 ‘ And the sons of Ram the first-born of Jerahmeel were Maaz, and Jamin, and Eker.’

The names of the grandsons of Jerahmeel through Ram, his firstborn, are now given. The name Jamin is found elsewhere of an important descendant of Simeon in 4.24; Genesis 46.10; Exodus 6.15; Numbers 26.12, and of a Levite in Nehemiah 8.7.

2.28a ‘And the sons of Onam were Shammai, and Jada.’

The names of the grandsons of Jerahmeel through Onam his son, are now given. The name Shammai is also found in 2.44 as a son of Rekem and in 4.17, which see.

Further Descendants Of Jerahmeel (2.28b-33a).

The line of Onam, the son of Jerahmeel, now continues through his sons Shammai and Jada. Shammai had two sons, Nadab and Abishur. The line of Nadab continues for four generations, the line of Abishur for only one. The descendants of Nadab were clearly important.

The Sons And Descendants Of Shammai, the Son of Onam (2.28b-31).

2.28b ‘And the sons of Shammai: Nadab, and Abishur.’

Shammai was the son of Onam, who was the son of Jerahmeel, who was the son of Hezron, who was the son of Perez, who was the son of Judah. Shammai had two sons, Nadab and Abishur. Nadab was a fairly common name. It was the name of one of Aaron’s sons who was destroyed for offering ‘strange fire’ before YHWH (Leviticus 10.1). It was also the name of the son of Jeroboam I whose death ended the dynasty (1 Kings 14.20; 15.25). Neither were connected with this Nadab. There are no parallels for the name Abishur although it is clearly a Hebrew name.

2.29 ‘And the name of the wife of Abishur was Abihail; and she bore him Ahban, and Molid.’

In the usual fashion the name of the least important is dealt with first. Abishur had a wife named Abihail, who bore him two sons, Ahban and Molid. And with that his genealogy ends, although it is possible (but unlikely) that both died childless..

2.30 And the sons of Nadab: Seled, and Appaim; but Seled died without children.’

Nadab, the son of Shammai, had two sons, one of whom, Seled, died childless. The other, Appaim, produced a dynasty for three generations, Ishi, followed by Sheshan, followed by Ahlai, a daughter.

2.31 ‘And the sons of Appaim: Ishi. And the sons of Ishi: Sheshan. And the descendants of Sheshan: Ahlai.’

Appaim begat Ishi who begat Sheshan, who begat Ahlai. ‘Sons of --’ is a general expression which could be translated ‘descendant of, whether son or daughter’. It is because Ahlai was a woman (for in verse 34 we learn that Sheshan had no son) that the genealogy comes to an abrupt end, only to be continued in verse 31. This explains why the genealogy ends with Ahlai. Verses 34-41 then describe her descendants.

Two sons childless, and then no son at all but only a daughter, would underline to the returnees from Exile how God could surmount all obstacles in bringing about His purposes. God did not give up on Nadab’s line in spite of the difficulties. But it could also be seen as an indication of God’s chastisements, with God’s purposes progressing despite them.

The Sons And Descendants Of Jada, the son of Onam (2.32-33a).

Jada was Shammai’s brother, and thus also the son of Onam. He produced two children, one of whom died childless. The other, Jonathan, had a further two children named Peleth and Zaza.

2.32 ‘And the sons of Jada the brother of Shammai: Jether, and Jonathan; and Jether died without children.’

Jada was a brother of Shammai and a son of Onam, who was the son of Jerahmeel. He had two sons, Jether and Jonathan. Jether died childless. The new stress on sons dying childless may be intended to convey a warning to the returned Exiles of the necessity of obedience to YHWH. It would be seen as a punishment.

2.33a ‘And the sons of Jonathan: Peleth, and Zaza.’

Meanwhile Jonathan had two sons, Peleth and Zaza. It may be that one at least was noteworthy, although this is not the end of the line for it continues in an unusual way in the next verses.

2.33b ‘These were the sons of Jerahmeel.’

The subsection ends with a stereotyped phrase, ‘these were the sons of Jerahmeel’ a phrase which, however, also introduces what follows.



The Descendants of Sheshan Through His Egyptian Servant (2.34-41).

The genealogy of Nadab continues. Sheshan was the son of Ishi, who was the son of Appaim, who was the son of Nadab, who was the son of Shammai, who was the son of Onam, who was the son of Jerahmeel, who was the son of Hezron, who was the son of Perez, who was the son of Judah. We are told here that he had no sons, only daughters. See on this, verse 31.

2.34 ‘Now Sheshan had no sons, but daughters. And Sheshan had a servant, an Egyptian, whose name was Jarha.’

Sheshan failed to produce a son and only begat daughters, thus he had to resort to time honoured custom in order to continue the line of Nadab. As a consequence he turned to an Egyptian slave named Jarha, in order that Jarha might produce sons on Sheshan’s behalf. He probably did this by adopting Jarha as his ‘son’. Whilst it is not conclusive this is a possible hint that Israel were still in Egypt.

2.35 ‘And Sheshan gave his daughter to Jarha his slave to wife; and she bore him Attai.’

He gave his daughter (probably Ahlai - verse 31 - for, with one so selective, why else would we have the genealogy of Ahlai?) to be married to Jarha his slave, and the consequence of the marriage was the birth of Attai, through whom the line could continue.

The Descendants of Jarha And Ahlai (2.36-41).

The descendants of Nadab, through Jarha and Ahlai are now listed for thirteen generations, ending in the birth of Elishama. It follows from this that Elishama must have been a man of huge importance. The returnees from Exile would probably have known why, but sadly we do not. Enough that God’s purposes were being fulfilled.

2.36-41 ‘And Attai begat Nathan, and Nathan begat Zabad,
2.37 and Zabad begat Ephlal, and Ephlal begat Obed,
2.38 and Obed begat Jehu, and Jehu begat Azariah,
2.39 and Azariah begat Helez, and Helez begat Eleasah,
2.40 and Eleasah begat Sismai, and Sismai begat Shallum,
2.41 and Shallum begat Jekamiah, and Jekamiah begat Elishama.

Nothing is known about any of these descendants, although some bear names, (given to different people) which appear elsewhere, e.g. Obed, Jehu, Azariah, Shallum. But the main aim is clearly to highlight Elishama. Compare the same tactic with Bezalel in verse 20.



The Sons Of Caleb, the Brother of Jerahmeel (2.42-49b).

In 2.18-20 we were supplied with details concerning two of Caleb’s wives. One bore to him Jesher, Shobah and Ardon. Shobah was also the name of a son of David (3.5). The other bore to him Hur, leading down to the birth of Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur. It was that birth which was the reason for the giving of those details at that stage. Now we are introduced to Caleb’s main family.

It will be noted that there has been a chiastic pattern in that the two portions referring to Caleb’s descendants have enclosed within them two references to Jerahmeel’s descendants.

2.42 ‘And the sons of Caleb the brother of Jerahmeel were Mesha his first-born, who was the father of Ziph; and the sons of Mareshah the father of Hebron.’

We are left in no doubt that this is the same Caleb as was mentioned earlier in that he is specifically stated to be the brother of Jerahmeel. This emphasis might be seen as supporting the view that the Caleb mentioned in verse 50 was a different Caleb, the son of Hur. Among other sons, Caleb the brother of Jerahmeel had two sons named Mesha and Mareshah. The quaint way of introducing Mareshah telescopes his descendants down to the birth of Hebron. We might have expanded it as ‘the sons of Caleb -- were Mesha -- and Mareshah, and Mareshah had descendants the last of whom was the father of Hebron’. (As we will have noticed, the writer constantly changed the formula with which he presented his information).

Mesha was Caleb’s firstborn, and was the father of Ziph. As with earlier references, especially in chapter 1, Ziph was probably intended to refer firstly to the name of his genuine son, and then to be applied as resulting in the Ziphites. Thus Mesha was both the father of Ziph and the father of the resulting Ziphites. Its position within a large number of personal names excludes us from seeing it simply as referring to the Ziphites. The personal name Ziph is also mentioned in 4.16.

The Ziphites were later found in the hill country of Judah in the wilderness of Ziph (1 Samuel 23.14, 15, 19, 24; 26.1). The city of Ziph was fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11.8). It is now known as Tel Zif, seven kilometres (four miles) SE of Hebron. Cisterns were discovered there together with some ruins, and its name was found on jar handles discovered at Lachish and dedicated to the king, which probably indicates that at that time it was an important administrative centre. There was also a town called Ziph in the Negeb (Joshua 15.24).

Mareshah was also both the personal name of Caleb’s son, and the name of a town and area in the lower Judean hills (the Shephelah). The distance of the town from Hebron would prevent us from seeing here a reference to the town of Mareshah having control over the city of Hebron, even if the context did not demand a personal name. No such control was ever known to be exercised. Mareshah was also the personal name of a descendant of Judah’s son Shelah (4.21)

Caleb’s son Mareshah may well have given his name to the town of Mareshah, which was listed alongside Keilah and Achzib (Joshua 15.44), through his descendants. Its important defensive position encouraged Rehoboam to fortify it in order to protect Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 11.8). It was there that Asa defeated a large raiding party led by Zerah the Sudanian/Ethiopian (2 Chronicles 14.9). It was the home of Eliezer the prophet of YHWH (2 Chronicles 20.37). It was much later in foreign hands and burned by Judas Maccabeus, being even later seized and forcibly proselytised by John Hyrcanus. It was finally demolished by the Parthians in league with Antigonus.

‘Hebron.’ Whilst this was the name of an important city it is unquestionably here to be seen as a personal name. Hebron was an important area in their history (Genesis 13.18; 14.13), and it was the personal name also of a son of Kohath (Exodus 6.18; Numbers 3.19). Thus it could be used of either. Here it is made clear that it is a personal name by the context which is one of personal names. Had it appeared in the documents from which verses 50-54 were extracted it might have been seen differently. What connection there was, if any, between the son Hebron and the city Hebron we do not know. What we do know is that the city of Hebron was much later taken by Caleb the son of Jephunneh (Joshua 15.13-14; Judges 1.10).

2.43 ‘And the sons of Hebron: Korah, and Tappuah, and Rekem, and Shema.’

This makes it clear that the name Hebron was referring to a person. Hebron was descended from Mareshah, ‘son’ of Caleb, and his four sons were named Korah, Tappuah, Rekem, and Shema. The emphasis will now be on his descendants through Shema. There is no reason for seeing Korah as any other than a personal name, and it is clear from what follows that Shema is also a personal name, and that in spite of Shema being the name also of a town (for we must remember that men were often named after their towns, and vice versa). But although a man could be known as ‘father’ of a town, towns were never described as ‘sons of’ another town. In such relationships they were spoken of as ‘daughters’. Thus the fact that Tappuah (Joshua 15.34, 53; 16.8; 17.8), Rekem (Joshua 18.27) and Shema (Joshua 15.26) were also the names of towns is probably irrelevant, apart from the fact that the towns may have been named after these individuals, which would accentuate the importance of the individuals in question.

2.44a And Shema begat Raham, the father of Jorkeam.’

Note that Shema is then said to beget Raham. Both names are clearly the names of individuals, and neither Raham nor Jorkeam are known as the names of towns. We must not incorporate here, in an inconsistent way, the ideas of the documents behind verses 50-54, where there is consistency. Thus Jorkeam is Raham’s son, and the change of expression may well underline his importance. We must remember that part of the aim of the genealogies is to bring out the important men.

The only argument for seeing Jorkeam as a town (a town not known to us) is that Rekem’s descendant is called the father of Beth-zur which would appear to be the name of a town (verse 45). Jorkeam being a town would be consistent with that. On the other hand it is not impossible that Bethzur could be the name of an individual named after the town of Beth-zur.

2.44b ‘And Rekem begat Shammai.’

Shema’s brother Rekem also bore a son, and he was named Shammai. This was similarly the name given to Onam’s son, a Jerahmeelite (verse 28), whose brother was named Jada (verse 32), underlining the fact that it is a personal name.

2.45 And the son of Shammai was Maon; and Maon was the father of Beth-zur.

The fact that Maon is said to be the son of Shammai precludes us from seeing Maon as representing the town of that name (Joshua 15.55). Towns were called the ‘daughters’ of other towns. It is more possible that Beth-zur is to be seen as representing the town of that name (Joshua 15.58; Nehemiah 3.16), with Maon being its founder and father figure, for ‘father of’ is undoubtedly used of individuals who founded towns and tribes (see verses 51-54). But this would mean large gaps in the genealogy (which is possible) with Maon living around the time of the conquest. But one town is never certainly spoken of as being the father of another, so we cannot see the town of Maon being the father of Beth-zur. Indeed, it is equally possible that Bethzur, having become a familiar name, was given to the child of Maon, although he may well have become the founder of Beth-zur, which may account for why he is in the hall of fame.

The city of Beth-zur (Khirbet et Tubeiqah 6 kilometres/4 miles north of Hebron) is not mentioned in the Conquest narratives, for by then it had been largely abandoned, but it had been powerfully fortified during the 17th to 16th centuries BC before being destroyed by the Egyptians, and it is just possible that Maon was alive at the end of that period (if there were no gaps he was the seventh generation from Judah). In which case what is he doing out of Egypt? On the other hand it is probable that there were gaps (omitting generations) in the genealogies, and he may therefore have been involved in the resettlement in 12th century BC or even in the refortification of the city under Rehoboam (11.7).

Caleb’s Concubines (2.46-48).

We now have described the progeny of Caleb’s three concubines, Ephah, Jahdai and Maacah.

2.46 ‘And Ephah, Caleb’s concubine, bore Haran, and Moza, and Gazez; and Haran begat Gazez.’

Being an aristocrat Caleb had a number of concubines. Three are mentioned here. The first was Ephah, she bore four sons, and one of them, Haran, begat Gazez.

Once again we find here a man named after his uncle. One Gazez was Haran’s brother, the other was his son. It should be noted that no one ever suggests that Haran here is connected with the city of Haran to which Terah took his family (Genesis 11.31), and from which Abraham went on to Canaan. It is seen as a personal name like the others. It was even more likely that there would be a coincidence of names in Judah itself.

2.47 ‘And the sons of Jahdai: Regem, and Jotham, and Geshan, and Pelet, and Ephah, and Shaaph.’

Set in between details of two of Caleb’s concubines it is quite clear that Jahdai was also one of his concubines. That is far more likely than the idea that something has fallen out of the text.

The name Jotham is found as one of the kings of Judah, following Uzziah (2 Kings 15.32-38; 2 Chronicles 26.23 - 27.9). It is also found of one of the sons of Gideon (Judges 9.5 ff.). The name Pelet, son of Azmaveth, is found as one of David’s supporters (12.3). The name Ephah was that of Caleb’s first concubine (verse 46). It was also found of a son of Midian who was descended from Abraham through his wife Keturah (1.33; Genesis 25.4). Shaaph is used also of a son of Caleb’s third concubine (verse 49). The mixture of well known names and unknown names indicates that we are not dealing with mere inventions.

2.48-49a ‘Maacah, Caleb’s concubine, bore Sheber and Tirhanah. She bore also Shaaph the father of Madmannah, Sheva the father of Machbena, and the father of Gibea.’

Caleb’s third concubine Maacah also bore him sons. Two of them were named Sheber and Tirhanah. No mention is made of their sons. The other two, Shaaph and Sheva, were ‘the fathers’ of Madmannah, Machbena and Gibea. These may simply be the names of their sons, bearing a similarity to the names of well known towns, or they may indicate that Shaaph and Sheva established or settled well known towns, e.g. Madmannah, Machbena and Gibea. If so it appears to suggest that Sheva established both Machbena and Gibea. This would indicate that having borne her first two sons, Sheba and Tirhanah, she also ‘bore’ as later descendants, Shaaph and Sheva. In verse 17 ‘the father of’ indicates literal fatherhood of a person. In verses 21, 24, 25 it is an open question as to whether a natural son or a place is in mind, but the contexts favour the former, especially as Numbers 27.1 makes clear that the Gilead who was the son of Machir was a person. The same applies in verse 42. However, there is certainly a case for seeing the names as referring both to the natural sons, and the cities over which their descendants eventually ruled, and it would be in line with the Chronicler’s purpose.

We should note that in verses 50-55, probably extracted from a different record, ‘father of’ does unquestionably refer to rulership over towns and peoples. But there the use is consistent. We should not read it back.

Madmannah was a town that lay in the Negeb of Judah, and in Joshua 15.31 it is mentioned along with Hormah and Ziklag. It may later have passed to the tribe of Simeon and have been named Beth Marcaboth (Joshua 19.5). Machbena may be the same as "Cabbon" (Josh 15.40), probably to be identified with el-Kubeibeh, about 5 kilometres (3 miles) South of Beit Jibrin. Gibea is mentioned only here, but may relate to Gibeah.

2.49b ‘And the daughter of Caleb was Achsah.’

This subsection closes with the mention of the name of Caleb’s daughter, Achsah. It is interesting that Caleb the son of Jephunneh (4.15) also named his daughter Achsah. See Joshua 15.17. But that may well have been because the latter Caleb, aware of these genealogies, deliberately borrowed the name of the daughter of the revered former Caleb for his own daughter.

The Sons Of Caleb, the Son of Hur (2.50-55).

2.50 ‘These were the sons of Caleb, the son of Hur, the first-born of Ephrathah.’

Note that a third Caleb, Caleb the son of Hur, is now distinguished from the two already mentioned. This Caleb was the son of Hur, who was the firstborn of Ephrathah (2.19), and was named after his grandfather. As we have already seen Hur also begat Uri the father of Bezalel (verses 19-20).

That this is another Caleb explains why it was previously stressed that the previously mentioned Caleb was the brother of Jerahmeel, so as to distinguish the two (verse 42).

Some, however, see ‘these were the sons of Caleb’ as a phrase finalising the previous subsection, as with ‘these were the sons of Jerahmeel’ in verse 33, thus referring to Caleb the brother of Jerahmeel. But this would mean an awkward opening to this subsection ‘The son of Hur, the firstborn of Ephrathah, Shobal the father of Kiriath-jearim’, which is unparalleled. It is far better to see Caleb here as the descendant of Hur, with Shobal being one of his sons.

2.50b -51 ‘Shobal the father of Kiriath-jearim, Salma the father of Beth-lehem, Hareph the father of Beth-gader.’

Three descendants of Caleb the son of Hur are now named. All appear to have established, or been lord over, towns, presumably during the conquest. Shobal in some way established/was lord over Kiriath-jearim, Salma established/was lord over Bethlehem, and Hareph established/was lord over Beth-gader.

Kiriath-jearim was a former Gibeonite city (Joshua 9.17), but Shobal was clearly given charge over it and may well have fortified it, thus becoming ‘father’ to its inhabitants. Bethlehem was also called Ephrath (Genesis 35.19) and Rachel was buried ‘on the road to it’. Salma was given lordship over it. But verse 54 suggests that he also had a son called Bethlehem (towns are always ‘daughters of --’ not ‘sons of --’). As men were regularly named after their towns there is nothing unlikely in that. Beth-gader was possibly identical with Geder of Joshua 12.13. Hareph became its lord.

2.52-53 ‘And Shobal the father of Kiriath-jearim had sons. Haroeh, half of the Manahathites, and the families of Kiriath-jearim: the Ithrites, and the Puthites, and the Shumathites, and the Mishraites; of them came the Zorathites and the Eshtaolites.’

The position of Shobal is expanded on. He had other sons, both real and adopted. Haroeh (‘the seer’) would appear to have been a real son, but the Manahathites and the families of Kiriath-jearim would be partly of his family and partly adopted. The ‘families of Kiriath-jearim’ are expanded on as including the Ithrites, and the Puthites, and the Shumathites, and the Mishraites. Of them came the Zorathites and the Eshtaolites. They were thus a conglomerate people adopted by Shobal.

2.54-55 ‘The sons of Salma. Beth-lehem, and the Netophathites; Atroth-beth-joab, and half of the Manahathites; the Zorites and the families of scribes who dwelt at Jabez, the Tirathites, the Shimeathites, the Sucathites. These are the Kenites that came of Hammath, the father of the house of Rechab.’

Salma (verse 51) also had wide authority. He had a son whom he named Bethlehem after his town, or vice versa (towns alone are never spoken of as ‘son of’), and he was lord over the Netophathites (from the town of Netophath or from a group of villages near Bethlehem) who were seen as his adopted ‘sons’, and who would later include among them loyal men ( 2 Samuel 23.28-29; 2 Kings 25.23; Ezra 2.22; Nehemiah 7.26).

He was also lord over Atroth-beth-joab (literally ‘the crowns of the house of Joab’). This may be a town, with the name distinguishing it from the other Atroths (e.g. Numbers 32.34; Joshua 16.2, 5, 7; 18.13), or it may be a name for its inhabitants, as all the other names refer to peoples, not towns. They may well have been called ‘the crowns of the house of Joab’. He was also lord over half the Manahathites (Shobal was over the other half). Furthermore he was lord over the Zorites (the inhabitants of Zorah) and over the families of scribes who dwelt at Jabez.

Along with Eshtaol Zorah was allotted to Judah but later occupied by Danites (including Samson - Judges 13.2, 25; 18.2, 11). It was one of the cities fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11.10) and was reinhabited by men of Judah after the Exile (Nehemiah 11.29). Note that lordship over the Zorites, or the Zorathites, was shared between Salma and Shobal. This appears to have been a tendency in Israel (compare some mentioned in Nehemiah 3).

The families of the scribes who dwelt at Jabez (a town otherwise unknown) included the Tirathites, the Shimeathites, and the Sucathites. They appear to have been Kenites, tent dwellers who were involved in various trades. A number of Kenites joined with Israel during its advance on Canaan after the Exodus. Moses’ brother in law, who helped to guide Israel through the wilderness, was a Kenite. The Kenites, therefore, clearly had links with the Midianites among whom Moses lived during his exile from Egypt. These Kenites are said to be associated with the Rechabites, a group who rejected sophisticated living and lived in tents.

These closing references to powerful aristocrats would encourage the returnees from Exile as they considered how God had built up His people in the past, and had established powerful men among them. It would give them hope of what He was going to do in the future.

The Sons Of David (3.1-24).

Having dealt with the descendants of Judah, and of the clans of Ram, Caleb and Jerahmeel, and having demonstrated their successes and failures, and their lines of descent, attention suddenly turns to the Davidic house. The change appears abrupt and clear, and no doubt introduces a different record. But the recording of it here between two subsections dealing with the house of Judah, highlights it in the eyes of the readers, and reminds them that the triumphs of the conquest led on to the Davidic house. By this it is made clear that David is of central importance. It is not something that any Israelite would have doubted. In the coming of a future ‘David’ lay all their hopes (Jeremiah 23.5; 30.9; 33.15; Ezekiel 34.23-24; 37.24-25; Amos 9.11; Zechariah 12.7-8). He would be the one who would establish the everlasting kingdom (28.7; 2 Samuel 7.13, 16; Psalm 2.7 ff.; Isaiah 9.5-6; 11.1-4; 16.5). This is inherent in the emphasis the Chronicler lays on David, and in the carrying forward of David’s genealogy to his own time, indicating that God’s purpose for the house of David was yet to be fulfilled. God was preserving his house as He had promised ready for that day (17.14; 2 Samuel 7.16). Indeed, constantly throughout Chronicles, emphasis is laid on times when kings conform to the Davidic ideal. Intrinsic in this is the hope of the coming of the final David, the one who will fulfil the Davidic ideal.

The Direct Sons Of David (3.1-9).

This series of genealogies follows on from 2.17 where the ancestry of David had been made plain. It will be noted that when David’s genealogies are mentioned full details are given. Thus earlier we were given details of all his brothers. Now we are given details of all his true born sons. This underlines the favour in which he was viewed by both man and God. Nothing about him was to be lost.

In what follows we have listed by the Chronicler all the sons of David, divided into the Hebron period and the Jerusalem period. They number nineteen in all. Notice that whilst the Chronicler in the later text ignores the Hebron period (but see 29.27) he was honest enough not to manipulate the facts here.

David’s Sons of the Hebron Period (3.1-4a).

A similar list to this is found in 2 Samuel 3.2-5. The only major difference is that there his second son was named Chilea instead of Daniel. This would simply arise because the son did have two names. This difference serves to demonstrate that 2 Samuel 5 was not the Chronicler’s source for his genealogies. These too may have been obtained from the Book of the Kings of Israel (9.1) or some similar record.

3.1-4a ‘Now these were the sons of David, who were born to him in Hebron:

  • The first-born, Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess;
  • The second, Daniel, of Abigail the Carmelitess;
  • The third, Absalom, the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;
  • The fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith;
  • The fifth, Shephatiah of Abital;
  • The sixth, Ithream by Eglah his wife.

Six were born to him in Hebron; and there he reigned seven years and six months.’

Six sons were born to David in Hebron. This was in the period when he was king of Judah only. These six require no explanation. Note that they were born of six wives, and that each of the wives is credited with only one son. This was probably because once they had become pregnant they ceased to fulfil the king’s needs and lived out their lives in the security of the harem without being called on until a later time. He would also have had many concubines (some of whom are mentioned in 2 Samuel 16.21-22). However, some of the later sons mentioned (3.6-8) may well have been born of some of them.

David’s first wife was Michal, the daughter of Saul (1 Samuel 18.27), but for a while she was taken from him. Abigail appears to have been his second, followed by Ahinoam, although the order is uncertain (1 Samuel 25.43). Both had to be delivered from the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30.5, 18), and both went up with David to Hebron (2 Samuel 2.2). Maacah, Haggith, Abital and Eglah presumably married him during his seven years in Hebron. Later in Jerusalem he married more wives and had many sons and daughters (14.3; 2 Samuel 5.13).

As we note Amnon was his firstborn son. He was slain by Absalom for ravaging Tamar (2 Samuel 13). Absalom later rebelled against his father and was slain at the command of Joab (2 Samuel 15-18). Adonijah sought to take the throne instead of Solomon, and, whilst being initially pardoned, was in the end executed as a consequence of his continued attempts at a coup (1 Kings 1-2). Of Daniel (Chilea), Shephatiah and Ithream we know nothing more.

David’s Sons of the Jerusalem Period (3.4b-9).

These sons are divided into two parts. Four are named as the sons of Bathshua (Bathsheba). Nine are then named as the sons of other wives, some possibly as mentioned above.

The change of name from Bathsheba to Bathshua may have been the Chronicler’s method of showing his disfavour of Bathsheba as an adulteress, by replacing sheba with shua, the name of Judah’s Canaanite wife (Genesis 38.2). Bathshua mean ‘daughter of Shua’ and is in fact applied to Judah’s Canaanite wife in 2.3. Bathsheba was thus the real name of David’s wife, with Bathshua a derogatory name which stressed her Canaanite propensities (sexual misbehaviour). Here she is called the daughter of Ammiel (El is my kinsman), in 2 Samuel 11.3 she is called the daughter of Eliam (my El is a kinsman). In the latter case the ’el has been transferred to the front of the name. This may also have been with a derogatory purpose.

3.4b-5a ‘And in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years, and these were born to him in Jerusalem:’

After his arrival in Jerusalem David reigned for thirty three years. Thirty three is three amplified and suggests the perfection and completeness of his reign. Compare how in Genesis 46.15, 26 the seventy who go to Egypt are divided up into two thirty threes, plus four.

3.5b ‘Shimea, and Shobab, and Nathan, and Solomon, four, of Bath-shua the daughter of Ammiel.’

David had four sons by Bathsheba. The first died in childbirth. They are named in 2 Samuel 5.14 as Shammua (similar consonants to Shimea), Shobab, Nathan and Solomon. In Jesus’ genealogy in Luke 3.31 Jesus is said to have descended from Nathan. In Matthew 1.7 His descent is from Solomon. This was probably because Matthew’s genealogy lists the successors to the throne in order to demonstrate Jesus’ kingship, with the lines of Solomon and Nathan at some stage converging due to a lack of direct heir. Luke’s is the direct blood line from Nathan. (Alternately some see Matthew 1 as Joseph’s genealogy, and Luke 3 as Mary’s). 3.6-8 ‘And Ibhar, and Elishama, and Eliphelet, and Nogah, and Nepheg, and Japhia, and Elishama, and Eliada, and Eliphelet, nine.’

These are nine other sons of David born from full wives, making nineteen sons in all. These latter wives may have included the six mentioned above, but we also know that David was married to Michal, Saul’s daughter, (who, however, had no children - 2 Samuel 6.23) as well as others whom he married in Jerusalem (14.3; 2 Samuel 5.13). It will be noted that the names of Elishama and Eliphelet are repeated. This was probably because the first bearers of the name died in childbirth or in infancy, a common occurrence in those days. Nogah appears also to have been called Elishua. This would all appear to be confirmed by the list in 2 Samuel 5.15-16.

3.9 ‘ All these were the sons of David, besides the sons of the concubines; and Tamar was their sister.’

As well as the above David had many sons born of concubines (secondary wives). And his sons had many sisters (14.3; 2 Samuel 5.13). One of them was named Tamar, known to us, and probably to the Chronicler, from the tragic story of her relationship with Amnon (2 Samuel 13).

The Genealogy Of The King’s Of Israel/Judah, the Sons of David Who Succeeded David (3.10-16).

We now have details of the kings of Judah who succeeded to the throne following David and Solomon. Their abbreviated history is depicted for us in the books of Kings and 2 Chronicles. Each of them is a name with a history which would be well known to the original readers of Chronicles.

3.10-12 ‘And Solomon’s son was Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son.’

This is the line of descent from Solomon to Jotham. The only name missing is that of Athaliah who was a usurper, and not of the house of David. Another name for Azariah was Uzziah. The names are full of history as found in the books of Kings and the books of Chronicles. We can compare this with the genealogy of the royal house in Matthew 1, but it will be noted that Matthew excludes Ahaziah, Joash and Amaziah, all of whom were tainted by their association with the house of Ahab.

3.13-14 ‘Ahaz his son, Hezekiah his son, Manasseh his son, Amon his son, Josiah his son.’

This is the line of descent from Jotham to Josiah, the king who was seen as most like David. After his untimely death first Egypt and then Babylon gained ascendancy over Judah. Josiah was succeeded by Jehoahaz (also named Shallum - Jeremiah 22.11), who was then replaced by the Egyptians with Jehoiakim (also named Eliakim). Jehoiakim died at the siege of Jerusalem, having rebelled against Babylon (although the circumstances of his death are not known) and he was replaced by his son Jehoiachin (Jeconiah). Within three months Jehoiachin was transported to Babylon and replaced by Zedekiah. It is not certain whether this Zedekiah was the son of Josiah (verse 15), and therefore Jehoiachin’s uncle, or whether this Zedekiah who succeeded was Jehoiachin’s son (verse 16)

3.15 ‘And the sons of Josiah: the first-born Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum.’

These are the sons of Josiah. Shallum (Jehoahaz) and Jehoiakim certainly reigned over Judah, the second replacing the first who was taken hostage to Egypt, and Zedekiah also reigned (following Jehoiachin), unless there were two Zedekiahs (see on verse 16). Johanan presumably died before his father.

3.16 And the sons of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son.’

Jehoiakim was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin (Jeconiah), who reigned for three months and was replaced by Assyria with Zedekiah, stated here to be Jehoiachin’s son. But the term ‘son’ may be being used loosely to mean successor. As Zedekiah was twenty one years old when he began to reign (2 Kings 24.18; 2 Chronicles 36.11), and at that stage Jehoiachin was eight (2 Chronicles 36.9) or eighteen (2 Kings 24.8), Zedekiah could hardly be Jehoiachin’s son if the ages are correct. It would appear that he was therefore literally his uncle.

The Descendants Of David After The Fall Of Jerusalem To The Babylonians (3.17-24).

3.17a ‘And the sons of Jeconiah, the captive (assir):’

This rather plaintive description of Jeconiah as ‘the captive’ or ‘prisoner’ hides the fact that he was not treated badly by Nebuchadnezzar. He was treated as a royal prisoner and had his sons with him in his quarters. In Babylonian tablets he is called Ya-ukin and is depicted as receiving court rations along with his then five sons. He was later removed from his ‘prison’ by Amel-marduk (Evil-merodach) and transferred to the royal palace where he was treated with honour. But he seemingly died in exile.

3.17b-18 ‘Shealtiel his son, and Malchiram, and Pedaiah, and Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah.’

The sons of Jehoiachin (Jeconiah/Coniah) are now named. In the end they numbered seven. All presumably died in Babylon. It was Pedaiah’s son Zerubbabel who returned to Judah with the returning exiles. The identification of Shenazzar with Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1.8) is unlikely.

3.19a ‘And the sons of Pedaiah: Zerubbabel, and Shimei.’

Zerubbabel led a group of returnees from Babylon (Ezra 2.1-2), and helped to lay the foundations of the new Temple (Ezra 3.8; 5.2), a work which he finally completed. He resisted the attempts to persuade him to water down Yahwism (Ezra 4.1-2), and stood firm for the true faith, along with Joshua the High Priest, in the face of all such attempts. It was thus that Yahwism was kept pure and free from idolatry.

Elsewhere Zerubbabel is called the son of Shealtiel (Ezra 3.2, 8 5.2; Haggai 1.1, 12), but this may have been as his hoped for successor to the throne of Judah, with him being the natural son of Pedaiah. More likely, however, Pedaiah may have produced children for his brother under the law of levirate marriage. In that case Zerubbabel would be seen as the son of both. In both Matthew 1 and Luke 3 Zerubbabel is portrayed as the son of Shealtiel (Greek Salathiel).

Shimei was a popular Hebrew name, but nothing further is known about this son.

3.19b ‘And the sons of Zerubbabel: Meshullam, and Hananiah; and Shelomith was their sister.’

The first two sons of Zerubbabel were Meshullam and Hananiah, both popular names in post-exilic times. Their sister was named Shelomith. She must have been very influential to be mentioned here. She may well be the Shelomith mentioned in a seal bearing the inscription, ‘Judah, to Shelomoth the mother of Elnathan’. Elnathan may well have been the then governor of Judah, and in Judah royal mother’s always had great influence (thus their mention in the book of Kings). The mention of these sons separately from the sons in verse 20 (they are even excluded from the enumeration of ‘five’) was probably because these were born in Babylon prior to Zerubbabel’s return to Judah.

3.20 ‘And Hashubah, and Ohel, and Berechiah, and Hasadiah, Jushab-hesed, five.’

On reaching Judah Zerubbabel had a further five sons whose names are given here. Five is the number of covenant and there may be a deliberate hint here that they were born within the covenant, for the numbering of sons only begins here.

It is all too easy to build extravagant theories on the basis of a loose interpretation of names but in this case the names are probably indicative of the great joy that the return from exile had produced. Hashubah means ‘YHWH has considered’; Ohel means ‘tent’ (of YHWH) (YHWH’s house is restored); Berechiah means ‘YHWH has blessed’: Hasadiah means ‘YHWH has shown covenant love’; and Jushab-hesed means ‘covenant love has returned’.

It will be noted that in Matthew 1 Abiud is shown as descended from Zerubbabel. But Matthew’s genealogy is foreshortened, and Abiud may simply have been a descendant. In Luke his descendant is Rhesa, but the same may apply. Alternatively Rhesa may be based on the Aramaic for ‘prince’ so that the reference is to Prince Zerubbabel.

3.21a ‘And the sons of Hananiah: Pelatiah, and Jeshaiah.’

Of the sons of Zerubbabel only the descent of Hananiah is given. Initially his sons are named as Pelatiah and Jeshaiah, and after that an indication of relatives or descendants is given. It may be that Pelatiah and Jeshaiah were alive when Chronicles was written. The Chronicler thus moved on to giving wider details concerning the Davidic line. It was important that the members of the Davidic household were recognised, for who knew from which member the Coming King might come?

3.21b ‘The sons of Rephaiah, the sons of Arnan, the sons of Obadiah, the sons of Shecaniah.’

As so often the Chronicler suddenly introduces new names without making clear their relationship to those who have gone before, although it may have been well known to his first readers. Thus Rephaiah, Arnan, Obadiah and Shecaniah may have been relatives of Zerubbabel, and as such would have been well known to the returnees. Part of the reason for mentioning them was presumably in order to prepare for a listing of the descendants of Shecaniah.

Rephaiah (‘YHWH is healing’), Arnan (‘joyous’), Obadiah (‘servant of YHWH’) and Shecaniah. These could have been further sons of Hananiah, or more probably relatives who produced more family for Zerubbabel’s (and therefore David’s) household, indicating the widespread nature of the Davidides. Alternatively they could be wives who bore sons to Hananiah too numerous to mention in detail, but this is unlikely. Against this latter suggestion is the fact that some of the names are well known as male names (although names were interchangeable), and it may be that the Shecaniah is the same as the one mentioned in Ezra 8.3.

3.22a ‘And the sons of Shecaniah: Shemaiah.’

The ‘sons’ (descendants) of Shecaniah are now to be detailed, and they commence with his (her) one son, Shemaiah. Shemaiah was an exceedingly popular Hebrew name mentioned many times in the Old Testament.

3.22b ‘And the sons of Shemaiah: Hattush, and Igal, and Bariah, and Neariah, and Shaphat, six.’

Shemaiah then had five sons, who together with Shemaiah made six. Thus there were ‘six sons of Shecaniah’, showing divine completeness. (Six is three intensified).

3.23 ‘And the sons of Neariah: Elioenai, and Hizkiah, and Azrikam, three.’

Neariah, one of Shemaiah’s sons now had three sons, indicating further completeness. The numbers are drawing attention to the completeness of the Davidic family, whilst the continuing expansion of the family is clearly apparent in that the sons of the brothers are not named. It is not surprising that by the time of Jesus many Jews claimed descent from David, although not a right to the throne.

3.24 ‘And the sons of Elioenai: Hodaviah, and Eliashib, and Pelaiah, and Akkub, and Johanan, and Delaiah, and Anani, seven.’

A list of the sons of Elioenai, the son of Neariah, now completes the genealogy. This may have been because these sons were still alive and young at the time the Chronicler was writing. But it may also be because they number seven, depicting the divine completeness of the Davidic house. This may have been seen as preparing for the ideal ‘David’ yet to come. The continuation of David’s genealogy to this point indicates the hopes that there still were for the Davidic house.

Anani may be the one mentioned in an Aramaic letter dated 407 BC along with the High Priest Johanan and other Jewish aristocrats. This would date Chronicles to the late fifth century BC.

Further Information Concerning The Sons And Descendants Of Judah (4.1-23).

The Chronicler now expands on information given in chapter 2, with further details supplied of, among others, Hur (2.19-20, 50) and Shobal (2.50-53). His choice might well have been limited by the material available to him, but it was sufficient for him to be able to demonstrate how the tribe of Judah had been built up and established by God, an assurance to the returnees that God could do the same again. We occasionally have difficulties with it because some of it was written as ‘notes’ rather than as a continuous narrative to be read, and the Chronicler did not want to alter up his material.

4.1 ‘The sons of Judah: Perez, Hezron, and Carmi, and Hur, and Shobal.’

The Chronicler explains that he is about to provide genealogies concerning a number of descendants of Judah. The word ‘son’ is here used in its regular meaning of ‘descendants’. The Chronicler expects us to recognise this, because he has previously provided details of all these in chapter 2. As he has already informed us, Perez was Judah’s natural son, Hezron was Judah’s grandson, and greatly productive, Carmi was descended from Perez’ brother Zerah, and begat Achan the destroyer of Israel, Hur was the grandson of Hezron and begat Bezalelel, the Spirit-filled architect of the Tabernacle and its furnishings, and Shobal was descended at some distance from Hur and produced influential offspring. The last two were from the clan of Caleb. In view of chapter 2 we have no grounds for trying to explain Carmi as a son of Hezron. His position is made quite clear in 2.7.

At first it might appear strange that Carmi, who was not prominent, should be mentioned in this way, but when we think about it we realise that it is in order to convey a message. The Chronicler got over his message by the use of names well known to Israel. Five names together are symbolic of the covenant. But within the covenant men can behave well or badly (compare Judas). As he has already made plain, Carmi was the progenitor of Achan, the one who brought destruction on Israel by appropriating for himself what belonged to God, Hur on the other hand was the progenitor of Bezalel, the one who though the Spirit constructed the Tabernacle and its furnishings. From Shobal Israel grew and spread and established itself. Thus they are warnings and encouragements. Each chose the way that he would go, the first to bring cursing, the second to bring blessing, the third to establish Israel, and the Chronicler saw Israel as once again having the same choice before them. Let them therefore beware. They were descended from all three, Carmi, Hur and Shobal. Let them choose whom they will imitate.

Furthermore the lines of Shobal and Hur will now appear in the following verses. But there is no mention of Carmi. This too emphasises that his name is included in order to get over an important message.

Further Calebites. The Sons of Shobal, And Families of the Zorathites (4.2).

Shobal continues to be productive and details of ‘the families of the Zorathites’ who were descended from Shobal are now provided. The Zorathites were the inhabitants of Zorah and as we have seen were said to be descended from Kiriath-jearim families (2.53), for Shobal was ‘the father of Kiriath-jearim’ (2.52). Zorah was a town in the lowlands of Judah (Joshua 15.33), and was the birthplace of Samson (Judges 13.2, 25). Its site is Sar‘a, which is on a lofty hill on the north side of the Wadi al-Sarat. In the Amarna letters it was referred to as Zarkha. It was refortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11.10) and later reinhabited by the returned exiles (Nehemiah 11.29).

4.2 ‘And Reaiah the son of Shobal begat Jahath; and Jahath begat Ahumai and Lahad. These are the families of the Zorathites.’

Shobal had a son named Reaiah, who begat Jahath. Jahath in turn begat Ahumai and Lahad. From their families were established the families of the Zorathites who lived in and around Zorah.

Reaiah may be an alternative name for Haroeh of 2.53, who was also stated to be a son of Shobal, and here we are now provided with the names of his descendants. Jahath was a regular name among the Levites (6.20, 43; 23.10-11; etc.).

Further Calebites. The Sons Of Hur And Rulers In The Hill Country Of Judea (4.3)

4.3-4a ‘And these were the father of Etam: Jezreel, and Ishma, and Idbash; and the name of their sister was Hazzelelponi, and Penuel the father of Gedor, and Ezer the father of Hushah.’

This abbreviated note with reference to the sons of Hur establishes who were lords over Etam, Gedor and Hushah. We are informed that Jezreel, Ishma and Idbash were jointly in overall control of (‘father of’) Etam. Penuel was in overall control of Gedor. Ezer was in overall control of Hushah. They were, as verse 3b tells us, the sons of Hur. Hazzelelponi was their sister/half-sister. The name of their father is not given. Thus the family of Hur established for themselves a small fiefdom in the Judean Hills.

Etam was in the hill country of Judah, and refortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11.6). Its site is usually identified with modern Khirbet el-Hoh, 10 kilometres (seven miles) SSW of Jerusalem. Gedor was also in the hill country of Judah (Joshua 15.58), sited at Khirbet Jedur just off the central ridge, 10 kilometres (7 miles) north of Hebron. It was possibly the Beth-gader of 2.51. Hushah is not mentioned elsewhere, but we do learn of Mebunnai the Hushathite (2 Samuel 23.27) and Sibbecai the Hushathite (11.29) who were mighty men of David, demonstrating the existence of such a place.

Various emendation have been suggested because of what is felt to be the curtness of the words ‘these were the father of Etam’ without introduction, (e.g. by adding ‘the sons of’), but they are unnecessary.

4.4b ‘These are the sons of Hur, the first-born of Ephrathah, the father of Bethlehem.’

These are all then stated to be descendants (at some distance) of Hur, the firstborn of Ephrathah, mentioned earlier in 2.19, 50, whose descendants ruled over Bethlehem through Salma (2.51). Hur clearly produced men who had great authority and he had numerous influential descendants. He was a prime example of what God could achieve.

Further Calebites. The Sons of Ashhur, Who Was The Son of Hezron And The Father Of Tekoa (4.5-7).

Ashhur, the son of Hezron, son of Perez, was previously mentioned in 2.24. The expansion of his family is now described. He was the father of Tekoa, who in turn was the lord, and establisher, of the Tekoites, who would eventually settle in Tekoa.

4.5 ‘And Ashhur the father of Tekoa had two wives, Helah and Naarah.’

Previously our knowledge of Ashhur was limited to the fact that he begat Tekoa (2.24). Now we learn more about his family. He had two wives, Helah and Naarah, and they bore him further sons.

4.6-7 ‘And Naarah bore him Ahuzzam, and Hepher, and Temeni, and Haahashtari. These were the sons of Naarah. And the sons of Helah were Zereth, Izhar, and Ethnan.’

As well as Tekoa his wives bore to him seven sons, whose names are given. This was an indication of divine completeness. He had a full quiverfull.

Other Descendants Of Judah (4.8-

Having just had reference to the descendants of Shobal and Hur it is tempting to see these as descendants of Carmi. But there is nothing in the text to support this. What follows appears to refer to a miscellany of the tribe of Judah, with no real identification with the past. The purpose of these extracts would appear to be in order to illustrate how in the past God had raised great men to fulfil His purposes.


4.8 ‘And Coz begat Anub, and Zobebah, and the families of Aharhel the son of Harum.’

Coz is unknown to us. He was seemingly a man of sufficient importance to justify informing us of his progeny, although it may have been in order to introduce Jabez. He had two sons, Anub and Zobebah. The families of Aharhel the son of Harum were also descended from him. So did Judah grow and establish itself. It demonstrated how God could take the comparatively few, and make them many.

Anub may have become the developer and lord of Anab, a city near Debir (Joshua 15.50).


The fact that Jabez (y‘bz) is said to have been ‘more honourable than his brothers (relatives)’ persuades us to look for an introduction to him in the previous verse, possibly with a mention of his relatives. That is why some have seen in Zobebah (zbbh) a possible alternative name for Jabez (y‘bz). This would appear to be supported by the play on words in verse 9 where there is a stated play between y‘bz and ‘zb (sorrow), which somewhat ties in with zbbh. But there is no certainty. Alternately Jabez may have been intended to be seen as a member of one of the families of Aharhel.

On the other hand we might see the writer as comparing Jabez with all who have gone before, as a uniquely outstanding man. But it is difficult to think that the Chronicler would place him above David and Bezalel. To this we could reply that it simply means his relations past and present in general. ‘More honourable’ is really a superlative, meaning ‘a very honourable man’, given to him because he was uniquely a man of prayer. To be ‘more honourable’ in this way is something to which we should all seek to attain.

4.9 ‘And Jabez (y‘bz) was more honourable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him with sorrow (‘zb).’

Jabez may well have been the head of his family, and possibly connected with the Jabez in 2.53 where ‘the scribes’ dwelt. He was prominent enough to be mentioned here, even though his genealogy was not given (this is unique to these chapters)..

Jabez means ‘he makes sorrowful’, a name given to him by his mother probably because of the difficulty of bearing him. She presumably had a ‘difficult pregnancy and birth’. Alternatively she might have been going through a particularly sorrowful time when she bore him. Righteousness is often the product of facing difficulties and overcoming them.

The explanation about her sorrow was necessary as we would not ordinarily expect a ‘more honourable man’ to be the cause of sorrow.

4.10 ‘And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that it be not to my sorrow! (‘zb)” And God granted him what he requested.’

Jabez proved his honourable nature by the fact that he committed his life to God in prayer in real faith, looking to Him to watch over him. He called on God to bless him and prosper him, to be with him in his life, and to keep him from the evils of the world so that he would not endure grief. And his genuine faith was demonstrated in that God granted his request. Note the emphasis on ‘the God of Israel’. The whole point was that the God of Israel would look after Israel if only they were faithful to Him.

We too may pray this prayer, but we should remember that Jesus emphasised that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses, and that those who were His would endure persecution. Being a Christian is not a guarantee of wealth and security, apart from the wealth that we find in knowing God and His people and the security that results from it. But these last are guaranteed.

We should note how this prayer reflected what the prayers of the returnees from Exile would be. They too sought blessing, desired enlarged borders, and wanted to be kept from the evils of the world. And to a large extent God responded to their prayers as well. They were not to be of those who asked wrongly so that God ‘granted their request but sent leanness to their lives’ (Psalm 106.15) but of those who endured to the saving of their souls.

Chelub And His Descendants. The Men Of Recah (4.11-12).

We should not mix this Chelub (possibly Caleb), the brother of Shuchah, with Caleb the brother of Jerahmeel, or Caleb the son of Hur, or Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He was rather identified as being the brother of Shuchah. (Caleb and related names were relatively popular). Like all whom God blessed he was fruitful.

4.11 ‘And Chelub the brother of Shuchah begat Mehir, who was the father of Eshton.’

This Chelub begat a son called Mehir, and he in turn begat Eshton. That Eshton was a personal name is immediately brought out in that he begat others, but none of these people can be identified now

4.12 ‘And Eshton begat Beth-rapha, and Paseah, and Tehinnah the father of Ir-nahash. These are the men of Recah.’

Eshton in turn begat Beth-rapha (house of rapha) and Paseah and Tehinnah. And Tehinnah begat Ir-nahash (city of Nahash). Note how individuals bore what appear to be the names of towns (Beth-rapha; Ir-nahash). Compare Bethlehem in chapter 2. In some cases this may have been because they were born there, and they may even have been lords over them as well. In other cases their individual names might have preceded the names being given to towns. We can understand a man being called ‘house of bread’ (beth-lehem) when harvests have been particularly fruitful. This is what often makes it tricky to know whether a person or a town is being spoken of. But we are probably to see in some cases that the towns were later ruled over by the persons whose families lived and developed there, descended from those named.

On the other hand ‘father of Ir-nahash’ may simply mean that Tehinnah was the lord of the city of Nahash (the city of the serpent).

‘These are the men of Recah.’ This probably indicates that Recah was a town or area to which they belonged, but it is not identifiable.

The Sons Of Kenaz (4.13-14).

We are now introduced to Othniel, the son of Kenaz (Joshua 15.17; Judges 1.13; 3.9-11), the general who acted in response to the plea of Caleb of Jephunneh, and captured Kiriath-sepher (Joshua 15.17; Judges 1.13), thereby earning the right to marry the daughter of Celeb the son of Jephunneh, the Kennizite. Othniel later delivered Israel from the invasion of Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia ( Judges 3.9-11).

4.13-14 ‘And the sons of Kenaz: Othniel, and Seraiah. And the sons of Othniel: Hathath and Meonothai. He begat Ophrah: and Seraiah begat Joab the father of Ge-harashim; for they were craftsmen.’

Kenaz was the father of Othniel, and the younger brother of Caleb, the son of Jephunneh (Joshua 15.17; Judges 1.13; 3.9, 11). As often the least important one comes first. He had two sons, Othniel and Seraiah. Othniel had two sons, Hathath and Meonothai, and Meonothai in turn begat Ophrah. Meanwhile Seraiah begat Joab, the father of Ge-harashim (the valley of Harashim; in Nehemiah 11.35 ‘the valley of craftsmen’).

‘For they were craftsmen.’ This was why they lived in, and were lords over, the valley of craftsmen.

That Caleb is called ‘the Kennizite’ in Joshua 14.6 does not affect this situation, for this Kenaz in verse 13 was not necessarily the founder of the Kennizites, but rather named after his ancestor. Alternately some see Othniel as Caleb’s younger brother with an ancestor called Kenaz.

The Sons Of Caleb the Son of Jephunneh (4.15).

Caleb the son of Jephunneh was one of the two spies who were faithful to God after spying out Canaan (the other was Joshua). He also led the Judean onslaught on the southern hill country (afterwards known as the hill country of Judah), driving out the sons of Anak from Hebron (Kiriath-arba), and encouraging Othniel to capture Debir (Kiriath-sepher). He was another example to the returned Exiles that God could raise up men when needed.

4.15 ‘And the sons of Caleb the son of Jephunneh: Iru, Elah, and Naam; and the sons of Elah; and Kenaz.’

The descendants of Caleb are listed. His sons Iru, Elah and Naam, the sons of Elah, and a later descendant also called Kenaz. (Some see this Kenaz as a son of Elah, translating ‘the sons of Elah, even Kenaz’).

The Sons Of Jehallelel (4.16).

Jehallelel means ‘him who praises God’. Like Jabez earlier he was true to God when others were not so, an encouragement to the worshippers in the new Temple..

4.16 ‘And the sons (children) of Jehallelel: Ziph, and Ziphah, Tiria, and Asarel.’

Jehallelel had four children, Ziph, and Ziphah, Tiria and Asarel. It is probable that Ziphah was a daughter. Ziph and Ziphah were probably twins. They were probably not connected with the region of Ziph (see 2.42).

The Sons Of Ezrah (4.17-18).

We do not know who Ezrah (not Ezra) was, but he was clearly very important, for his son Mered married a daughter of Pharaoh named Bithiah, a privilege only granted to a few. This may have happened whilst they were living in Egypt, and still important in Pharaoh’s eyes, or it may have been an attempt by a lesser Pharaoh to consolidate his position in Judah by marrying a daughter to a Judean aristocrat. Pharaoh would have had many daughters, born in the harems and used as political tools. But he would certainly not have married them to a nobody.

4.17-18 ‘And the children of Ezrah: Jether, and Mered, and Epher, and Jalon; and she bore Miriam, and Shammai, and Ishbah the father of Eshtemoa. And his wife the Judean woman (or Jehudijah) bore Jered the father of Gedor, and Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah. And these are the sons of Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh, whom Mered took.’

One possible interpretation of these words is that the Judean wife (who is nameless) bore Bethiah’s three sons acting as a surrogate mother for the Egyptian princess who was barren. Then we would translate as ‘And the children of Ezrah: Jether, and Mered, and Epher, and Jalon; and she (Jalon) bore Miriam, and Shammai, and Ishbah the father of Eshtemoa. And his (Mered’s) wife the Judean woman (or Jehudijah) bore Jered the father of Gedor, and Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah. And these are the sons of Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh, whom Mered took (borne on her behalf by the Judean woman).’ This preserves the order of the text in intelligible form and makes excellent sense.

Alternately we have to rearrange the text in translation, recognising that the wording in the Hebrew text does not necessarily translate into the order we would expect in English (this caused much confusion to later translators). On this view ‘and his wife the Judean woman (or Jehudijah) bore Jered the father of Gedor, and Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah’ are to be seen as in parenthesis, with ‘these are the sons of Bithiah’ being attached to ‘she bore Miriam --- Eshtemoa’.

Thus we can present it as follows: ‘And the sons of Ezrah, Jether and Mered and Epher and Jalon, and she (Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh whom Mered took) bore Miriam and Shammai and Ishbah. And his wife the Judean woman bore Jered --- and Heber --- and Jekuthiel’.

On this view the sons of Ezrah were Jether and Mered and Epher and Jalon. And Mered married an Egyptian princess, who bore to him Miriam and Shammai and Ishbah, the father of Eshtemoa. Meanwhile Mered’s Judean wife bore to him Jered, Heber and Jekuthiel.

The names of two of Ezrah’s sons, Jether and Epher, were popular Israelite names, but nothing further is known about the two in mind here. Mered and Jalon were more unique as names. The main importance of the family lay in their connection with the Egyptian Pharaoh through his daughter Bithiah, no doubt a daughter of the harem. But for this to take place demonstrated Ezrah’s prior importance. He must have held a very high position in Judah.

Meanwhile through Bithiah, Mered begat three sons, Miriam (here a man’s name), Shammai and Ishbah, the latter bearing a son named Eshtemoa, who may well have established the town of Eshtemoa and been its lord. Eshtemoa was important enough for David to send messengers there when he was currying the favour of the men of Judah (1 Samuel 30.28). It was in the hill country of Judah and became a Levitical city (Joshua 21.14).

Mered also had a Judean wife (or possibly a wife named Jehudijah) who bore him three important sons, Jered, the father of Gedor, Heber, the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel, the father of Zanoah. Gedor, Soco and Zanoah may have been natural grandsons, or they may represent towns over whom Mered’s sons exercised lordship, or in fact both. Gedor was a town in the mountains of Judah, named with Halhul and Beth-zur (Josh 15:58), possibly Khirbet Jedur, about 10 kilometres (7 miles) North of Hebron. Soco was a city of Judah in the South, associated (Joshua 15.48) with Shamir and Jattir. This is now probably Khirbet Shuweikeh, a large ruin occupying a low hill, 14 kilometres (10 miles) Southwest of Hebron, where there are many caves and rock-cut cisterns as well as drafted stones. Zanoah was a town in the mountains of Judah near Juttah (Joshua 15.56). .

The Sons Of Hodiah (4.19).

The idea would appear to be that Hodiah had a wife (who was the sister of Naham), who bore him sons, who begat Keilah and Eshtemoa. This might be seen as suggesting that Hodiah and his sons were not themselves of great importance, but that he married a wife who was the sister of a very important man (Naham) with the consequence that his grandsons became equally important.

4.19 And the sons of the wife of Hodiah, the sister of Naham, were the father of Keilah the Garmite, and Eshtemoa the Maacathite.’

There appears to be a stress on the importance of Naham in that his sister’s name is not mentioned. His importance then seems to have been passed on to his grand-nephews. Hodiah and his sons are very much in the background.

There is some difficulty in seeing why Keilah and Eshtemoa should be described as they are, unless there is some time distance between Hodiah and them, sufficient for them to have become important in their separate spheres. They appear to hold important positions among the Garmites and the Maacathites. The former are unknown, but it is unlikely that the Maacathites has in mind the Maacathites who were regularly opposed to Israel, over whom Absalom’s father was king. Both Garmites and Maacathites were presumably clans in Judah. Compare how Maacah was the name of a concubine of Caleb the son of Hezron (2.48), and of the wife of Machir (7.16), whilst in 27.16 the Simeonite ruler in the time of David, whose name was Shephatiah, was the son of Maacah. Thus there would probably be Israelite Maacathites.

The Sons Of Shimon (4.20a).

4.20a ‘And the sons of Shimon: Amnon, and Rinnah, Ben-hanan, and Tilon.’

Nothing is known about Shimon or his sons. The name Amnon was also borne by David’s eldest son.

The Sons Of Ishi (4.20b).

4.20b ‘And the sons of Ishi: Zoheth, and Ben-zoheth.’

Whilst Ishi was a common name in Israel, nothing is known about this Ishi, apart from the fact that he had a son named Zoheth. Ben-zoheth means ‘son of Zoheth’ and was presumably Ishi’s grandson.

The Sons Of Shelah, the Son Of Judah (4.21-23).

In chapter 2 the descendants of Shelah the son of Judah were ignored. Now we are briefly given information about them.

4.21-22 ‘The sons of Shelah the son of Judah: Er the father of Lecah, and Laadah the father of Mareshah, and the families of the house of those who wrought fine linen, of the house of Ashbea; and Jokim, and the men of Cozeba, and Joash, and Saraph, who had dominion in Moab, and Jashubilehem. And the records are ancient.’

Shelah seemingly named his firstborn after his brother Er. And Er had a son named Lecah. Shelah’s second son was named Laadah. Laadah had a son named Mareshah. Mareshah was also the name of a son of Caleb the brother of Jerahmeel (2.42). Both well predated the conquest. Thus unless they are seen as distant descendants these Mareshahs can have had nothing to do with the city of Mareshah in later Israel, except through their tribal descendants.

Shelah’s son Laadah was also the ‘father’ of the families of the house of those who wrought fine linen. This suggests that trades were family oriented, and mainly restricted to those families. The production of fine linen was seemingly the monopoly of the Shelanites.

Laadah was also the father of the house of Ashbea. Or it may be that the house of Ashbea was the ‘home’ of the linen workers, and included in the previous description.

He was also the ‘father’ (ancestor) of Jokim (otherwise unknown), and of the men of Cozeba, also known as Achzib. This was a town in the lowlands in western Judah and is mentioned alongside Keilah and Mareshah (Joshua 15.44). In Genesis 38.5 it is called Chezib and was the place where Judah was when Shelah was born. The house of Judah clearly gained ascendancy over it.

‘And Joash, and Saraph, who had dominion in Moab, and Jashubilehem.’ Laadah was also father of Joash, and of ‘Saraph who had dominion in Moab’. This latter may have been in the time of David or Solomon. Here we are speaking of distant descendants, unless Saraph was someone appointed by Pharaoh to exercise authority in Moab. Judah’s connection with Moab comes out in that one Judean family was named Pahath-moab (Ezra 2.6). Nothing is known about Jashubilehem, although some commentators transform it into ‘Jashubi-bethlehem’, ‘returned to Bethlehem’. It is, however, without sufficient warrant.

‘.And the records are ancient.’ This confirms the antiquity of the records from which this information is taken.

4. 23 ‘These were the potters, and the inhabitants of Netaim and Gederah: there they dwelt with the king for his work.’

Not all Shelanites would be potters, so that this statement must be limited to a section of them. But clearly there were a good number of potters among them, dwelling largely in Netaim and Gederah, where they serviced the king, working on his behalf. Thus their pottery would be of the exquisite kind, paralleling the makers of fine linen. Once more we note the limitation of a trade to one family. The Shelanites majored in magnificent pottery and fine linen. Netaim is unknown, but Gederah was in the Judean Shephelah, where we should also, no doubt, seek for Netaim.


We may finish off this section about Judah by bringing out its message. It has demonstrated how the tribe of Judah, with its sub-tribes and clans, was built up and established with adequate leadership, under the hand of God. It has shown how God prospered it and prepared it for the kingship of His chosen king (David), ensured the success and beauty of the Tabernacle/Temple (through Bezalel), and how it established its own chieftains and trades under God’s hand. It would give to the returnees from Exile the heart to move on and wait for God to complete His work, in the confidence that what He had done He could do again. They had only to wait obediently on Him.

The Sons Of Simeon (4.24-43).

Initially Simeon and Judah worked together in the conquest of southern Canaan (Judges 1.3), and the areas occupied by Simeon were within the bounds of Judah (Joshua 19.1, 9). This is probably one reason why the genealogies of Simeon come next. The other reason is that the Chronicler was dividing the tribes into south and north, with the Transjordanian tribes being counted with the south.

4.24 ‘The sons of Simeon: Nemuel, and Jamin, Jarib, Zerah, Shaul.’

According to the Chronicler Simeon had five sons, Nemuel, Jamin, Jarib, Zerah and Shaul. In contrast, in Genesis 46.10; Exodus 6.15 the number of his sons was six, and they are named as Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar and Shaul. This serves to demonstrate that he was not just getting his information from Genesis. However, in Numbers 26.12 the sub-tribes of which the tribe of Simeon consisted were the Nemuelites, the Jaminites, the Jachinites, the Zerahites and the Shaulites (Numbers 26.12). Ohad clearly dropped out, probably because he died young, or perhaps because his family dwindled, uniting with a brother sub-tribe. It will be noted that apart from Jarib/Jachin the list in Chronicles agrees with Numbers 26.12. Jarib means ‘one who contends, acts as an advocate’, Jachin means ‘one who establishes’. It may well be therefore that both names were applied to him in his daily activities. (There is no need to resort to careless copyists). Nemuel and Jemuel are merely variants of the same name. The difference between Zohar (zhr) and Zerah (zrh) is simply a switching of consonants, a regular practice in a society where names were seen as indicating so much. Zerah means ‘rise, shine forth’, Zohar is of uncertain meaning related to ‘whiteness’, often translated as ‘openness, candour’. As will be observed, the meanings of the names are similar. His forthrightness may have resulted in people switching the consonants so as better to describe his personality.

It will be noted that Shaul was the son of a Canaanite woman (Genesis 46.10; Exodus 6.15), something that would be well known to the Chronicler, and yet it is seemingly his descendants who are outlined here. This brings out that whilst the new Israel after the Exile may have been exclusive (and necessarily so), they were so on the grounds of true doctrine (the uniqueness of YHWH), not on the grounds of race. They rejected those who would compromise with idols and accepted all true worshippers of YHWH (Ezra 6.21). The Sons Of Shaul (4.25).

4.25 Shallum his son, Mibsam his son, Mishma his son.

Shaul’s son was named Shallum, and Shallum begat Mibsam, who begat Mishma. Mibsam and Mishma are known as names belonging to descendants of Ishmael (1.29-30; Genesis 25.13-14), which may indicate the close relationship between the Shaulites on the southern borders in the Negeb and the Ishmaelites. who roamed the wilderness. It will be noted that the names of three descendants are given before the account is divided by the statement, ‘and the sons of Mishma’. The statement is then followed by another three names. This would suggest an attempt to emphasise ‘completeness’ all through.

The Sons Of Mishma (4.26).

4.26 ‘And the sons of Mishma: Hammuel his son, Zaccur his son, Shimei his son.’

The line of Shaul continues with Mishma begetting Hammuel, Hammuel begetting Zaccur, and Zaccur begetting Shimei. Once again the threeness expresses completeness. Nothing is missing from God’s purpose. Zaccur and Shimei were popular names.

The Sons And Daughters Of Shimei (4.27).

4.27 ‘And Shimei had sixteen sons and six daughters; but his brothers did not have many children, nor did all their family multiply in the same way as the children of Judah.’

The Chronicler’s purpose was to lead down to this prolific child begetter. Shimei produced sixteen sons and six daughters. This was in contrast with his relatives and fellow Simeonites who were clearly not very productive. This explains why Simeon remained short in numbers. This is corroborated by Numbers 26 where the sons of Simeon numbered a mere 22,200 compared with Judah’s 76,500. So Shimei wrought mightily on behalf of Simeon.

It may be intended to be significant that Shimei was the seventh in line (Shaul, Shallum, Mibsam,Mishma, Hammad, Zaccur, Shimei), an indication of his divine completeness.

The Dwellingplaces Of the Family Of Shaul (4.28-33).

For the first time the dwellingplaces of some of the Israelites are brought to our attention. It will be noted that among other places, the tribe of Simeon occupied cities on the southern border, that is, Beer-sheba and its accompanying towns. These are cited as belonging to Simeon in Joshua 19.2-6, and some to Judah in Joshua 15.26-32a. Cities would be in short supply in the Negeb, and they were presumably shared. They would be closely connected with oases.

4.28-31a ‘And they dwelt at Beer-sheba, and Moladah, and Hazarshual, and at Bilhah (Balah), and at Ezem, and at Tolad (El-tolad), and at Bethuel, and at Hormah, and at Ziklag, and at Beth-marcaboth, and Hazar-susim (Hazar-susa), and at Beth-biri (Beth-lebaoth), and at Shaaraim (Sharuhen).’

The differences in name found in Joshua 19.2-6 are given in brackets. Seven out of the thirteen are as stated there. The differences are mainly minimal and may have arisen because of their shared nature, with the locals of Simeon and Judah describing them differently (the Israelites were fond of nameplay). Or they may have been an updating by the Chronicler. Joshua adds the comment, ‘thirteen cities with their villages’. These were the main centres of Simeon, hemmed in on both sides by Judah. Note that in Joshua 15.26, 28, 31-32 Moladah, Beersheba, Hazarshual, Baalah, Ezem, El-tolad, Hormah, with Ziklag and Lebaoth and Shaaraim, are also allocated to Judah. They were shared cities. Simeon dwelt ‘in the midst of Judah’ (Joshua 19.1, 9). They were probably mainly shepherds and herdsmen, although by the careful preservation and use of water, crops would also be grown. Those who lived in the Negeb had learned to make use of the rains that did fall, and had systems in place to garner them.

Moladah, Beersheba, Hazar-shual, Ziklag were re-occupied by the returning Exiles (Nehemiah 11.26-28. Moladah was a city which was close to Beersheba in the Negeb and would have been established beside one of the wells, which were fed by the water table. It was re-occupied by the returning Exiles and later became an Idumaean fortress. It is possibly Khereibet el-Waten, east of Beersheba. The other cities would have been fairly similar.

‘Beersheba.’ The name means ‘the well of seven’. It was a prolific well in the Negeb, dating back to Abraham, excavated through solid rock, beside which the town of Beersheba had grown up. Beersheba was surrounded by several such wells, which was why towns and tent encampments grew up around it. All towns needed a water supply, especially in the Negeb. Its importance lay in the fact that it was on the trade route to Egypt.

4.31b ‘These were their cities unto the reign of David.’

We are now informed that these were Simeonite cities until the reign of David. Under David they would become more cosmopolitan. 2 Chronicles 34.6 seems to suggest that by the time of Josiah Simeon was situated among the northern tribes. Compare 2 Chronicles 15.9. Note the indication that David would change things. In the Chronicler’s eyes from David onwards things could never be the same again. But if David transformed things, what then would happen when the new and greater David came?

4.32-33a ‘And their towns were Etam, and Ain, Rimmon, and Tochen (Ether), and Ashan, five cities, and all their villages which were round about the same cities, as far as Baal (Baalath-beer, Ramah of the Negeb).’

We now have a list of five further towns with their villages (tent-encampments?) inhabited by Simeon. Compare for these Joshua 19.7, although the Chronicler adds another town (Etam) from his source. This was probably possessed or built up by Simeon later, and may be the Etam mentioned in Judges 15.8, 11. Ain and Rimmon (and Ashan?) were also shared with Judah (Joshua 15.32). Ain and Rimmon were seemingly close together and often designated as En-rimmon.

The Baal mentioned is explicitly a shortened form of ‘Baalath-beer, Ramah (height) of the Negeb’ (Joshua 19.8). This was probably a well known height in the south of the Negeb near a spring or well.

Note the reduction from ‘city’ to ‘town’. These were presumably smaller, a mixture of buildings and tents. The same word for ‘town’ is also translated as ‘village’ later in the sentence, where the initial towns are also called cities. The use of such terms tended to be loose.

4.33b ‘These were their habitations, and they have their family register.’

The Simeonites were not absorbed into Judah, but were careful to maintain their own family registers. The places mentioned above were where they dwelt and they maintained their own ‘family register’. They were together with Judah and yet apart, and in the days of Hezekiah they proved their worth (4.41-43).

The important lesson for us from this is that God, Who had promised to Israel towns and cities in their own land, had now fulfilled that promise. They were safely settled in their own land. In the same way the inference was that He would safely settle in their own land the returnees from Exile in Babylon, and from other countries around Israel.

The Family Rulers Of Simeon (4.34-38).

The names of the rulers over families in the tribe of Simeon were no doubt recorded in the family register, and they are now supplied. Note how Jehu and Ziza were able to cite their ancestors back for three and five generations respectively. The citing of their ancestors probably indicates their superior status.

4.34-37 ‘And Meshobab, and Jamlech, and Joshah the son of Amaziah, and Joel, and Jehu the son of Joshibiah, the son of Seraiah, the son of Asiel, and Elioenai, and Jaakobah, and Jeshohaiah, and Asaiah, and Adiel, and Jesimiel, and Benaiah, and Ziza the son of Shiphi, the son of Allon, the son of Jedaiah, the son of Shimri, the son of Shemaiah.’

The names of exalted men in the families of Simeon are now given. From what follows it would appear that they were all ‘rulers of families’ at the same time, that is, in the days of Hezekiah.

4.38 ‘These mentioned by name were rulers in their families: and their fathers’ houses increased greatly.’

Under these rulers over families things appear to have improved so that the families became more productive childwise. ‘Their houses increased greatly’. The barren spell was over.

Simeonite Tribesmen Seize Pasturage And Gain Victory Over The Amalekites (4.39-43).

Those who lived in the Negeb had constantly to be on the move seeking pasture for their flocks because it was a relatively dry climate with little rain. Thus to find good pasture was a God-send, and men would fight over it in order to gain the ascendancy so that they could feed their flocks there.

4.39 ‘And they went to the entrance of Gedor, even to the east side of the valley, to seek pasture for their flocks.’

It is difficult to know whether ‘they’ is a general ‘they’ and simply means some Simeonites, or whether it means the persons named above. But whoever they were they went to ‘the entrance of Gedor’, which was on the east side of the valley, looking for good pasturage. The whereabouts of Gedor and of the valley is unknown to us at present, but the surmise that it should read Gerar is unlikely to be correct. Gerar was so well known that no scribe would have misread it as Gedor, and he would probably know the text by heart (a warning to be careful of all claims concerning poor copying). The Negeb would be a very competitive place with Israelites vying with wandering tribesmen for adequate pasturage. When it was found, therefore, it would be taken over and guarded carefully.

4.40 ‘And they found fat pasture and good, and the land was wide, and quiet, and peaceable, for those who dwelt there previously were of Ham.’

The search proved successful and the Simeonites found pasturage that was fruitful and good. It was in a place where there was plenty of space, and which was not bothered by marauders. It was occupied by peace loving Hamites who caused no trouble to anyone and enjoyed their pasturage securely. These Hamites were like the people of Laish prior to the arrival of the Danites (Judges 18.27), and probably had the same disregard of the need for alliances. They had come over the border from Egypt, or had arrived from Canaan, and had been left alone by their fellow Hamites. They were not expecting the arrival of Semites. The impression we gain is that the Simeonites despised them for not being more warlike, and considered that they therefore got what they deserved. They lived in violent times.

4.41 ‘And these written by name came in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and smote their tents, and the Meunim who were found there, and destroyed them utterly to this day, and dwelt in their stead; because there was pasture there for their flocks.’

The Hamites soon came to realise their error, for in the days of King Hezekiah the Simeonites swept down on them and smote their encampment, and utterly annihilated them. (This was necessary in order to prevent repercussions). The Simeonites also destroyed some Meunim who were presumably also feeding their flocks there. And at the day the record was written, the Simeonites were still there, pasturing their flocks and herds.

The Me‘unim were seemingly temporarily pasturing their flocks there as nomads with the full agreement of the Hamites. They were possibly connected with the city Maan in the neighbourhood of Petra, to the east of Wady Musa (see 2 Chronicles 26.7). They were also probably connected with the Maonites (Ma‘on) who had previously oppressed Israel in conjunction with the Amalekites (Judges 10.12; note verse 43 below), and even with the ‘immahem in 2 Chronicles 20.1 who had done the same along with the Moabites and Ammonites. They were not like the peace loving Hamites.

We naturally recoil at such behaviour by the Simeonites, but they were probably being driven to seek new pasturage by the Assyrian invasion in the time of Hezekiah (only Jerusalem escaped from it) and considered their behaviour reasonable in the circumstances. They probably felt that they had little choice. They had to find pasturage somewhere for the preservation of their tribe. There is a warning here that we always need to ensure that the foundations of our security are sound. No nation can afford not to be able to defend itself, otherwise it is seen as fair game..

‘These written by name.’ Presumably those named in verses 34-37.

4.42 ‘And some of them, even of the sons of Simeon, five hundred men, went to mount Seir, having for their captains Pelatiah, and Neariah, and Rephaiah, and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi.’

Having secured their new pasturage in a place where they felt safe, the Simeonites then sent 500 of their warriors to take possession of Mount Seir where the Amalekites were in possession. These Amalekites may well earlier have come to the assistance of their Meunim allies. They were thus fair game (see also below).

4.43 ‘ And they smote the remnant of the Amalekites who escaped, and have dwelt there to this day.’

At Mount Seir the Simeonites routed the Amalekites, and themselves took possession of Mount Seir as a dwellingplace, another indication that they themselves were seeking refuge. They were still there at the date of writing. The impression we have gained is of a large-scale movement of Simeonites seeking refuge. They may well have escaped the Exile, and been there to welcome back the returnees, combining with them in the true worship of YHWH. If so they may have been a great encouragement to the returnees as they considered what God had done.

‘The Amalekites who escaped.’ This probably refers back to previous attempts to destroy the Amalekites. The Amalekites attacked the people of Israel as they sought to travel peacefully through the wilderness and had to be beaten off by Joshua. It had been a close thing, only successful because of Moses’ intercession (Exodus 17.8-16). This marked them down as bitter enemies of Israel. They no doubt also carried out raids on Israelite territory over a long period, so that Israelites near the border could never feel secure. But in the end they had been sought out because of the trouble they were causing and routed by Saul (1 Samuel 15.4-9). The remnant that was left continued to cause trouble to Israel, raiding Ziklag and taking much spoil. But David sought them out and destroyed all but 400 who escaped on camels (1 Samuel 30.1-19). It is possibly those who were being described as ‘the Amalekites who escaped’.

Alternately it may mean that the Amalekites had previously come to the aid of the Meunim, and had been driven off and escaped, only to be sought out and slaughtered.

The Sons Of Reuben, Gad and Eastern Manasseh (5.1-26).

These three sections are clearly connected by phrases which join them together (‘the sons of Gad dwelt over against them’ (the Reubenites) - verse 11, and ‘the children of the half tribe of Manasseh dwelt in the land’ (the same land as the Reubenites and the Gadites) - verse 23). They are also united by the way in which certain verses refer to all three tribes at once (verses 18, 26). Furthermore the war with the Hagrites is mentioned twice, the second mention expanding on the first (verses 10, 19) as is their being taken into exile by Tiglath Pileser (verses 6, 22, 26), something which is not mentioned with regard to the other tribes.

The Sons of Reuben.

Introduction (5.1-2).

This passage commences by allocating the tribe of Reuben to its rightful place in God’s hierarchy. It points out that whilst Reuben was the natural firstborn of Jacob/Israel (Genesis 35.23), and should have come first in the genealogies, ad should have received a double portion of the inheritance, he had forfeited that birthright by defiling his father’s bed and having sexual relations with his father’s concubine (Genesis 35.22; 49.4). As a consequence his priority as the firstborn passed to Joseph and his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 48.9-20), (not be it noted to Judah), whilst the priority of oversight passed to Judah, who was to produce the Prince (Genesis 49.10). As a consequence the genealogy was not to be reckoned in accordance with the birthright (which would have put Reuben first).

5.1-2 ‘And the sons of Reuben the first-born of Israel (for he was the first-born; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s couch, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the prince; but the birthright was Joseph’s).’

As described above Reuben was seen as having lost his priority and his birthright by his usurpation of his father’s concubine. Such an act was seen as causing him to forfeit the pre-eminence. Joseph was then later stated as receiving a double portion which was the right of the firstborn (Genesis 48.22). This is here interpreted as signifying that Reuben’s birthright passed to Joseph, the recipient of a double portion (Genesis 48.22). The double portion was given to his sons, in accordance with the rights of the firstborn, for none of the tribes ever disputed the idea that both Ephraim and Manasseh received their own portions (giving the Joseph tribes a double portion). However, Reuben’s oversight over the tribes passed to Judah, from whose tribe, God had promised, would come THE PRINCE (Genesis 49.10), the final fulfilment of the promises given to David.

This idea that the sons of Joseph received the birthright is nowhere else stated, but is presumably an assumption from the fact that Joseph received ‘a double portion’, (one portion each to Manasseh and Ephraim, and indeed a third portion in Transjordan), whilst Manasseh and Ephraim each received a special deathbed blessing, over and above that given to Joseph. (Joseph also received an extra portion described in Genesis 48.22).

The importance of this to the returnees from Exile was that it warned them against over-exalting the house of Judah. Rather they were to see themselves as descendants of both Judah and Joseph, who made up the whole Israel. This was the vision of the Chronicler. And unquestionably returnees would come to Palestine from all the tribes as a consequence of Cyrus’ edict (2 Chronicles 36.23).

The position of Reuben here does not lie in his being the firstborn (he had forfeited that, and comes after both Judah and Simeon), but in his being united with Gad and Asher in Transjordan, and thus being seen together with the southern tribes of Judah and Simeon. His position depended on geography, not pre-eminence. Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh chose to occupy land outside the promised land on the far side of Jordan and were permitted by God and Moses to do so. Thus they are treated together here.

The Natural Sons Of Reuben

5.3 ‘The sons of Reuben the first-born of Israel: Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi.’

The names of the four sons given here correspond to those given in Genesis 46.9; Exodus 6.14; Numbers 26.5-7. From them were descended the four sub-tribes of the Reubenites; the Hanochites, the Palluities, the Hezronites, and the Carmites (Number 26.5-6). It is interesting to note that Reuben also bore a Hezron (2.5) and a Carmi (2.7), names given to descendants of Judah. Names clearly tended to be repeated within the family. From one of these sons Joel in verse 4 was descended. We do not know from which one. (Descendants of Pallu are briefly given in Numbers 26.8-9 primarily to note that his descendants were Dathan and Abiram who rebelled against Moses).

The Sons Of Joel.

5.4-6 ‘The sons of Joel: Shemaiah his son, Gog his son, Shimei his son, Micah his son, Reaiah his son, Baal his son, Beerah his son, whom Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria carried away captive. He was a prince of the Reubenites.’

The descendants of Reuben are now listed, clearly with large gaps, down to the exile of the peoples of the old Northern kingdom at the hands of Tiglath-pilneser (Tiglath-pileser. See for this 2 Kings 17.4-6. Tiglath-pilneser was the way in which he was described in many inscriptions). We do not know why Joel was selected out to head these descendants. It may have been because he was the prominent forefather of Beerah and Bela, the first of whom helped to lose the land, and the second of whom prospered greatly in the land and expanded. But it does suggest that there was a gap in the genealogies available. The listing of seven descendants of Joel (otherwise unknown to us) indicated the divine completeness of the descent. The names are mainly well known Israelite names. Note how, as so often, the last named man is important. Beerah is declared to have been a Reubenite prince, (but not THE prince of Reuben), indicating that God had continually ensured proper leadership in Reuben.

Other Kinsmen Of Beerah Who Were Descended From Joel.

It is emphasised that the kinship to Beerah of the persons now spoken of was proved from the genealogical records. We are then introduced to three men, the first of whom was Chief over Reuben, a second who must have been renowned, and a third who prospered in the land and grew very powerful. It is being emphasised how God continually raised up leaders of the tribes, and how He caused them to prosper. Let the returnees from Exile take note.

5.7a ‘And his brothers (kinsmen), according to their families in the registration, according to their family histories (were);’

Note the emphasis on the fact that genealogies and records of families were fully maintained. Thus could Beerah be linked with those about to be mentioned, being described as ‘a kinsman’. This does not necessarily indicate that they were kinsmen at the same time that Beerah lived. Indeed, the impression given is that they lived some considerable time before. But they were linked with Beerah by blood.

5.7b-9 ‘The chief, Jeiel, and Zechariah, and Bela the son of Azaz, the son of Shema, the son of Joel, who dwelt in Aroer, even to Nebo and Baal-meon, and eastward he dwelt even to the entrance of the wilderness which reaches to (from) the river Euphrates, because their cattle were multiplied in the land of Gilead.’

Three kinsmen are particularly drawn attention to, Chief Jeiel, Zechariah, and Bela who was directly descended from the Joel mentioned in verse 4. The threeness suggests a complete leadership. Jeiel might well have been THE prince of Reuben in his day. We know nothing of this Zechariah. But both were presumably well known to the returnees from Babylon. Bela was clearly influential and successful. He controlled widespread lands in Reuben, from Aroer (on the northern bank of the Arnon, the natural boundary between Moab and Reuben), to Nebo and Baal-meon, over 20 miles to the north, and eastwards up to the entrance into the wilderness which reached to the River Euphrates. And all was needed because of the multitude of their cattle in ‘the land of Gilead’ (a rather vague description indicating land east of the Jordan). He was clearly a very powerful and wealthy man but apparently lived some generations before Beerah (Joel was Bela’s great grandfather, thus separated from Joel by two generations).

5.10 ‘And in the days of Saul, they made war with the Hagrites, who fell by their hand, and they dwelt in their tents throughout all the land east of Gilead.’

The ‘they’ here might refer to the three named men, which would explain why they were mentioned, or may be a simple reference to the Reubenites in general. It harks back to the days of Saul when they were suffering from incursions by the Hagrites, a desert tribespeople (compare Psalm 83.6), and had to fight back, subsequently defeating them and possessing their land to the east of Gilead. Compare how the Simeonites had defeated the Meunim and the Amalekites, and had expanded in a similar way into Mount Seir. To those who had the desert on their border such incursions by Arab tribesmen were a way of life, and in the end they had to be severely dealt with. This gaining of additional land to add to their inheritance appears to have been an important emphasis of the Chronicler, giving great encouragement to his readers that they too would be enabled to expand in the same way because God purposed it.

The Sons Of Gad (5.11-17).

The information concerning Gad is limited and general which may suggest that the ancient genealogical records of the Gadites had as a whole been lost. Thus the Chronicler uses the material that he has available. He is concerned to be accurate. This was based on genealogies put together in the days of Jotham and Jeroboam II. He does, however, ignore the information concerning the sons of Gad in Genesis 46.16; Numbers 26.15-17, perhaps because there was no way of tracing back to them.

5.11 ‘And the sons of Gad dwelt over against them, in the land of Bashan as far as Salecah:’

‘Over against’ the sons of Reuben lived the sons of Gad. They lived in the southern part of the land of Bashan as far as Salecah. This is using Bashan in its widest significance current in the time of the writer, indicating the land north of Heshbon (Joshua 13.26). It included parts of Gilead (verse 16). Salecah marked its eastern boundary (Deuteronomy 3.10). Its whereabouts is uncertain. The terms Gilead and Bashan were both very fluid.

5.12 ‘Joel the chief, and Shapham the second, and Janai, and Shaphat in Bashan (or ‘and Janai, even a judge in Bashan).’

Three or four leading men who lived in Bashan are listed. Chief over them was Joel (not the Reubenite Joel), with Shapham second. ‘Shaphat’ meaning judge could be the name of a fourth, or could refer to Janai as shown above. The previous emphasis on threeness may suggest the latter, so that once again completeness of leadership is shown.

5.13-14 ‘And their kinsmen of their fathers’ houses: Michael, and Meshullam, and Sheba, and Jorai, and Jacan, and Zia, and Eber, seven. These were the sons of Abihail, the son of Huri, the son of Jaroah, the son of Gilead, the son of Michael, the son of Jeshishai, the son of Jahdo, the son of Buz.’

We now have the names of seven of their kinsmen (i.e. Gadites). Seven is an indication of divine completeness, and these thus represent the whole of Gad, under the three/four leaders. They were the sons of Abihail who could trace their descent back many generations to Buz (who is unknown to us but was clearly a prominent Gadite). The genealogies were seemingly fairly limited.

5.15 ‘Ahi the son of Abdiel, the son of Guni, chief of their fathers’ houses.’

Chief over the houses of the seven named was Ahi, the son of Abdiel, the son of Guni. He was the clan chieftain. Many of these names may have been very familiar to the returnees.

5.16 ‘And they dwelt in Gilead in Bashan, and in its towns, and in all the suburbs of Sharon, as far as their borders.’

These Gadites dwelt in Bashan and Sharon, within its towns and encampments. This is mentioned in order to emphasise that God had provided land and cities for His people, as He had promised. This brings out that those mentioned are intended to represent the whole of Gad for whom God had made provision. Sharon may be the name of a town, or of a plain on which they built their encampments and pastured their herds and flocks. The impression given is that they dwelt in safety with secure borders.

5.17 ‘All these were reckoned by genealogies in the days of Jotham king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel.’

These limited details were the result of an attempt to record their genealogies in the days of Jotham of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel (i.e. around 750 BC). But there were seemingly gaps in them which could not be filled in. With Jotham being mentioned first this may indicate a combined reckoning of genealogies in both kingdoms, Judah and Israel, at around the same time, or it may be that there were two separate registrations, that of Jeroboam II (782/1-753 BC?) coming first. If the former is the case ‘in the days of Jotham’ cannot signify his period of sole rulership for that did not overlap with that of Jeroboam. His sole reign (740-732 BC?) began about thirteen or so years after the death of Jeroboam. On the other hand he was twenty five years old when he began to reign so that he might have ordered the registration while acting as a young prince on behalf of his father Uzziah. The prosperous days of Jeroboam II and Uzziah were the ones most likely to encourage ‘reckoning by genealogies’.

The Joint Activities Of The Reubenites, The Gadites And The Eastern Manassites (5.18-22).

These five verses appear to be an insertion of a separate record of joint activities in which the three ‘tribes’ engaged. They add to what has already been said about war with the Hagrites (verse 10), but it was now on an extended scale. Thus they provide details of an even larger incursion by Arab tribesmen and stress how the three tribes worked together as brothers to deal with it. They also give an indication of their fighting strength. Thus they fit aptly into the context of illustrating the triumph of God in the midst of their circumstances. By being placed here it emphasises the oneness of these three tribal groups, making the half tribe of Manasseh one with the Reubenites and Gadites.

This record is placed here, instead of after the details of the three tribal groups, in order to separate this triumph and conquest wrought through prayer, a microcosm of the full Conquest, from the final failure and disobedience of the three tribal groups which led to their Exile. It is a picture of what might have been, and what could be.

5.18 ‘The sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, of valiant men, men able to bear buckler and sword, and to shoot with bow, and skilful in war, were forty four thousand (eleph), seven hundred (meoth) and sixty (shishim), who were able to go forth to war.’

We are informed that together the three groups were able to put together a fighting force of 44 large military units (eleph), seven smaller units (meoth), and six extra platoons of ten men. These smaller units may have been specially trained for special tasks. All these described were men skilled in the use of weapons, whether shield, sword or bow, trained in the art of war, and ready for battle. And they would need to be because they would face over 100 military units of the enemy.

5.19 ‘And they made war with the Hagrites, with Jetur, and Naphish, and Nodab.’

With their powerful forces they were able to make war with the marauders who would continually sweep in from the desert, the Hagrites (see verse 10), the Jetur (later the Itureans), the Naphish and the Nodah. Jetur and Naphish were the names of two of the sons of Ishmael and of their tribes (Genesis 25.15). Nodah is unidentified but was no doubt also a desert tribe. For an example of such a large band of marauders from the desert compare Judges 6.3.

Such wars were inevitable. The Reubenites, Gadites and Manassites had large herds and flocks which were jealously eyed by the desert tribesmen who wanted to supplement their own herd and flocks. Sometimes their incursions would be limited, as with the Hagrites in verse 10, but at other times, as here, the Arab tribes would gather together for a large scale incursion. The war was probably not of Israel’s making, but, once it began, the three tribal groups fought it to the end. They had little alternative.

5.20 ‘And they were helped against them, and the Hagrites were delivered into their hand, and all who were with them; for they cried to God in the battle, and he was entreated of them, because they put their trust in him.’

The Chronicler stresses that the Israelite alliance ‘were helped’ (by God) against their enemies, for they cried to Him in the battle (compare Exodus 17.11 of Israel and the Amalekites), and He responded to their prayers because their trust was in Him. As a consequence the Hagrites and their allies, who outnumbered the Israelites in military units, were delivered into their hand. Note the emphasis on looking to God and trusting Him. The thought is that that was the way of success. Verses 25-26 will warn of what would be the way of failure.

5.21 ‘And they took away their cattle; of their camels fifty thousand, and of sheep two hundred and fifty thousand, and of asses two thousand, and of men a hundred thousand.’

As a result of their defeating the enemy they took much booty. Fifty herds (eleph) of camels, two hundred and fifty flocks (eleph) of sheep, and two large herds (eleph) of asses. They also captured, presumably as slaves, a hundred military units of men.

5.22 ‘For there fell many slain, because the war was of God. And they dwelt in their stead until the captivity.’

The amount of booty appears huge (but compare Numbers 31.32-35), and the Chronicler therefore points out that because God was on their side the number of slain had been many, over and above the military units left alive. Thus the Arabs had invaded in immense force and had thus had immense resources with them.

As a consequence of the defeat of the Arab tribesmen the three tribes of Israel had been able to extend their borders so as to possess the land which they had taken from the Arabs, a situation that continued on until ‘the captivity’, that is, until as a consequence of their own disobedience they lost all that they possessed to the Assyrians who carried them away captive. This note is preparing for verses 25-26, and is at the same time hammering home the lesson that when they had been faithful to God they had prospered, whereas once that faithfulness ceased they were doomed.

The Sons Of The Half-tribe Of Manasseh (Eastern Manasseh) (5.23-24).

Verse 23 probably connects back to what has just been described, their expansion of their territory into lands previously occupied by Arab tribesmen. Like Reuben and Gad they ‘dwelt in the land’ which God had allotted to them at their request, and they increased their allotment because God was with them. And they lost it when God was no longer with them because of their idolatry and breach of covenant.

5.23 ‘And the sons of the half-tribe of Manasseh dwelt in the land. They increased from Bashan to Baal-hermon and Senir and mount Hermon.’

The sons of the half tribe of Manasseh who are about to be described, dwelt in the land which God had given them. And because God was with them they extended their territory in the northern part of Bashan as far as Baal-hermon, Senir and Mount Hermon. Baal-hermon was a mountain near mount Hermon in the Hermon range, probably famous for Baal worship. It may possibly have been contact with Baal-hermon that hastened on the Manassites in their going astray after false gods. Senir was probably another mountain in the Hermon range. These may have been opened up to them by their defeat of the Hagrites and their allies.

5.24 ‘And these were the heads of their fathers’ houses: even Epher, and Ishi, and Eliel, and Azriel, and Jeremiah, and Hodaviah, and Jahdiel, mighty men of valor, famous men, heads of their fathers’ houses.’

As with the Gadites there is no connection back to their tribal ancestor, in their case Manasseh. Instead we are given a list of the names of the heads of their fathers’ houses, thus: Epher, and Ishi, and Eliel, and Azriel, and Jeremiah, and Hodaviah, and Jahdiel. All these were mighty warriors, renowned for their exploits, and heads over their fathers’ houses. We have no indication of when this was, but it was clearly recorded. They are the only information that we have about the East Manassites (apart from 2.21-23), for the next two verses deal with the Reubenites, Gadites and Manassites as a whole.

As A Consequence Of Idolatry And Covenant Disobedience The Three Tribal Groups of Reuben, Gad and East Manasseh Were Carried Into Exile By Tiglath-pileser (5.25-26).

5.25 ‘And they trespassed against the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God destroyed before them.’

The ‘they’ here are the three tribal units of Reuben, Gad and East Manasseh. They openly rebelled against ‘the God of their fathers’, and broke His covenant, and they chased after other gods and indulged in sexual perversions in the worship of the gods of the peoples of the lands which God had enabled them to destroy and take over their lands. The story of this will be revealed in 2 Chronicles. \

5.26 ‘And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, even the spirit of Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river of Gozan, unto this day.’

As a consequence of their apostasy ‘the God of Israel’ (the returnees own God) had stirred up the spirit of a foreign conqueror, Pul, the king of Assyria, who was also called Tiglathpilneser, so that he carried them away into exile, ‘to Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river of Gozan’. And that was where they still were when the record was made. Halah is almost certainly the Assyrian city and district of Halahhu, a city to the north east of Nineveh. It is referred to in 2 Kings 17.6; 18.11. ‘Habor’ was the name of a river, and the district around that river (modern Habur), which drained the waters of the Mardin area into the middle Euphrates. It ran through the Assyrian province of Gozan, to which also the exiles were taken. Hara is unknown.

Thus ends the first section of 1 Chronicles 2.1-9.1 with a stark warning of what would happen to all who broke the covenant and ceased the true worship of YHWH, a warning which contrasts with the benefits and provision which would be made available to all who trusted in Him. This balance of encouragement and warning has continued throughout the section, having commenced with the warning in 2.7, which came in the midst of encouragement.

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