Other Lessons from Genealogies

As I have made notes on the various tables in this document I have picked out lessons that I have noted from that section. However, as noted at the start, I have done this study to try and see if I could find a benefit from all the genealogies in the Biblical records; and to try and find out why God caused so much information of this type to be preserved.

As I have been working, from time to time I have met with ministers and other Bible students and asked why they think there is so much space devoted to genealogies. Usually the first reaction is that they were very important to the Jews. I have then usually countered by asking if they have any value to us today. After all Paul wrote in Romans 15:4 (NIV) "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." The answer is usually that they do have value today, but when I ask, "What value?" there is no answer.

The importance of genealogy to the Jews

There is no question that throughout both the Old and New Testaments there are many references to the ‘ancient fathers', Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Being able to look back to these heroes of faith as ancestors gave a lot of comfort to the people of God.

Both John the Baptist (Matt.3:9; Luke 3:8) and Jesus (John 8:39) pointed out to the people of their day that genealogy counted for nothing compared with belief as shown in actions. Paul writing in the ninth chapter of his letter to the Romans argues that it is the faith of Abraham that is more important than the blood-line of Abraham. Verse 8 sums it up, "In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring." (NIV)

However, we cannot say that they were wrong in recording their genealogical links for these were regarded as important by the servants of God who placed them in the Sacred Record. In Ezra 2:61-63 we have the record of some people who considered themselves as of the priestly families, and desired to serve the Lord after the return from Babylonian captivity. Though their ancestral links were known approximately they were unable to prove it from the record, so Ezra declared that they could not serve as priests for the time being. However, he believed that God would clarify the matter once the temple services were going and the Urim and Thummim were available to a priest.

Value of Genealogies today

While both Matthew and Luke appeal to the genealogy of Christ to show that he was the expected Messiah, there seems to be a different attitude to genealogies in the New Testament. The two for Christ are the only ones in this part of the Bible.

Paul in his letter to the Phillipians records his proud genealogical record as one of the things that he regards as worthless in comparison to knowing Christ (see Phil. 3:4-10), and in his letter to Titus he says "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain" Titus 3:9 (KJV). This cannot be regarded as a blanket condemnation, for we do not know how genealogies were being used (or mis-used) by the people Titus was dealing with, but it does place them in a low category as far as the important things of life are concerned.

I like the comment ascribed to the late radio evangelist H.M.S.Richards. "God has no grandchildren!" What he meant of course was that each of us stand on our own feet before God. We are either sons or daughters of God through our own faith in Jesus or we are none of his.

God's exactness

I liked very much a comment in the SDA Bible Commentary at the end of the lists of who should receive what in the division of the land of Canaan. The list in Numbers chapter 34, is what Moses said. The actual distribution of the land is recorded later under the leadership of Joshua. However the following comment is made:

"The exactness with which Inspiration has preserved a record of the boundaries of the allotments of land made to the various tribes emphasizes the orderly way in which provision is to be made for the work of God. Nothing is to be left to chance; everything is to be carefully planned and executed."
Sons of God

This term is very important in parts of the Bible record. As noted in the section of the genealogy of Christ, Luke in his record traces back to "Adam who was the son of God." The term is used in a similar way in Genesis 6:2,4 where the line of Seth are referred to as the sons of God in contrast to those who are the sons of men.

The book of Job uses the term for those who attended heaven, when Satan appears as the representative of this earth in Job 1:6; 2:1. In chapter 38 when God replies to Job, he talks of the days of creation when "all the sons of God shouted for joy." (Job 38:7).

When Jesus came to this earth his favourite name seems to have been the "son of man" but he was often referred to as the son of God. Jesus and his disciples used this title, but it was used also by the devil and his servants. In the wilderness temptation the phrase often appears, "If thou be the son of God." At the time of the crucifixion the priests use the phrase mockingly and the Roman soldier uses it reverently. John is the gospel writer who preferred this title for Christ, but it is interesting to note that in his first chapter he says "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:" (John 1:12 KJV). This thought that we can become and in fact may now be the sons of God is taken up by Paul as well as by John in his letters (see Rom 8:14,15, Gal 4:6,7, Phil. 2:15, 1 John 3:1,2 and Rev. 21:7).

The Jews tended to look back to father Abraham. How much better when we look back to God as our father.


What then can we say about the value of the genealogical lists in the Bible.

Some notes have been made in previous chapters of things that can be learned from the genealogical records. However I think it is a mistake to think that we can learn anything from individual parts of the scripture separate from the whole. The genealogies are only part of the whole Biblical record. They throw light on the other Bible stories.

Maybe we should remember that there are many places in the Bible where there is a record of a good or bad event. We are rarely told "This was a bad thing," or "This was a good thing." We have to look at the story in the light of what other texts in the Bible say about the law or will of God. We can often look at the result of a person's actions and see that a story is showing us by the results that it was a wise action or an unwise one.

Thus I am prepared to say that we cannot gain many special lessons from the genealogies "taken by themselves." But they have been preserved to add flavour and understanding to other parts of the Bible story. They must be included in to get a full picture.

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