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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Genealogy in Scripture

Many theologians have speculated about the relative importance of so many genealogies being recorded in the Judeo-Christian Bible. Many more lay folks have labored through those same genealogies or have simply skipped over them altogether. Why so many genealogies? What is their significance?

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, genealogies were important to the Hebrews because: they had to prove their tribal and familial descent to own land, kinship carried certain legal rights and obligations, priest and Levites were entitled to their positions or status based on their descent, and the messiah was prophesied to spring from the tribe of Judah and the house of David. The folks at Compelling Truth, on the other hand, inform us that these genealogies: "confirm the historical reliability of the Bible," "reveal the importance of family to God," were useful "in determining who could serve in certain roles," "prove many Bible prophecies," and they demonstrate "how God has used a wide diversity of individuals throughout history."

Now, while serious students of the Bible will be able to discern some validity in these various reasons that have been advanced for the importance of these genealogies, if we take just a moment to think about how these genealogies are employed in Scripture (and how we use them today), a number of common-sense reasons for their inclusion in the Bible come to mind. First, they demonstrate descent from a particular ancestor and kinship with other individuals. Second, they demonstrate a person's right to exist within the community, their place within that community, and the individual's right to inherit their ancestor's estate. Third, they provide continuity and context to the larger narrative. Fourth, they demonstrate the messianic line of descent. Fifth, they demonstrate that God is our Creator and ultimate ancestor - that all humans are God's children (Adam was the son of God).

Thus, while some of us may have regarded these genealogies as distractions/intrusions in times past, we can see that their presence in Scripture makes a great deal of sense. Hence, in the future, perhaps you will take the time to appreciate all of those instances where this one begat that one, and so-and-so was the son of so-and-so!

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