Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

1 Chronicles 2

Verses 1-55

The Sons of Israel: Their Genealogy—Typical Sinners

1 Chronicles 2

All this elaborate tracing of family lines shows that the historian is about to conduct his enquiries upon a complete and exact basis. We acquire confidence in the man by the minuteness of the very details, which at first taxes both our patience and our memory. The names may be so read as to constitute only an elaborate catalogue, in which case the spirit of unity would be lost, and the whole process would end in nothingness and disappointment; on the other hand, the list may be so read as to impress the mind with the mystery of unity, suggesting not only a compactness of an individual family or race, but the solidarity of human nature itself.

With the sons of Esau, Edom, and the sons of Israel, in their mere personality we have nothing to do, but if it can be shown that they are part and parcel of a great continuity ending in our own existence and action, they become important in that degree. As a point of immediate criticism it is interesting to note, that the chronicler so far confirms the records which are given in Genesis, as to quote them without doubt or question. It is something to know that by so much the most ancient history of the Bible is confirmed. We have seen that the list given in the former chapter, and occupying something like eighteen verses, is an abridgment of the tenth chapter of Genesis. The importance of this may be seen from the fact that the old Jewish interpreters make out of this very list a total of seventy nations. The list has been well described as a classified summary of the ethnical and geographical knowledge of Hebrew antiquity. With a zeal which cannot but excite admiration, we observe that the chronicler is seized with the determination to write a history which shall begin at the first Prayer of Manasseh, Adam, and go through, as it were, every family and tribe descendant from the head of the race. It is interesting to see that what may be called the spirit of universality, is already beginning to disclose itself in the very structure of the Bible.

We may compare the chronicler to an economist, who is determined that nothing human shall be lost, but that every Prayer of Manasseh, woman, and child shall be scheduled and accounted for, the meanest having a line as well as the greatest.

Animated by this determination, the historian passes from Adam to the sons of Japheth the Fair, on to the sons of Ham, the dark-skinned or swarthy men of Ethiopia, then on to the ten races of Canaan, including Heth or the hittite race, the Amorite or the hill-men of trans-Jordan, the Hivite dwelling on the slopes of Lebanon, the Arkite, and the Sinite dwelling to the west of northern Lebanon, and the rest of the ten races; then he passes to the sons of Shem inhabiting Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, Aram, and other places; then he sketches the ten generations from Shem to Abraham, with a particularity that would give a human family register of all who came and went in that marvellous period, and so he passes on, showing familiar acquaintance with all the names and places which constituted the foundations and earliest courses of patriarchal and Jewish history.

In this chapter the narrative takes up the lines connected with the sons of Israel, naming them in order, and forming an introduction to their genealogies, which occupy chapters2-8. All we can attempt to do with a mass of names so strange and bewildering is to fasten upon a point here and there, which may set forth certain definite aspects of human character. Mark, for example, the inevitable line upon which we come, so early as the third verse of this chapter (2). Whatever infirmities or sins may have marked the history of all the men and tribes given in the first verse, they are passed over by this chronicler in significant silence. It must not be forgotten, however, that all their infirmities and iniquities are written with most graphic vividness in the Book of Genesis. But in the third verse we have this line—"and Er, the firstborn of Judah, was evil in the sight of the Lord."—This character is taken word for word from Genesis 38:7. It would seem as if a certain ineradicable stigma specially attached to certain sins, rendering necessary that they should be recalled from time to time, to illustrate the most modern phases of wickedness. There have been, so to say, many typical sinners in the history of the world; for example, no name can take the place of Cain, when the sin of fratricide shocks the sentiment of society; Achan will always be a leading name in connection with religious felonies; Joab will always be associated with the vilest forms of treachery and cruelty; and Judas Iscariot can have no rival so long as the world endureth. Take, as another instance, the happy references made to the Calebite stock in 1 Chronicles 2:18-24. It is needful to remember that not only are these names particularly associated with evil, there are also names which God has been pleased to set on high, as marking his encouragement and reward of virtue. This manifestation of justice is to be carefully noted throughout the whole development of biblical history. We cannot think of the wickedness of Cain without being reminded of the purity of Abel; if we are shocked by the felony of Achan, we cannot but be profoundly impressed with the virtue and conduct of Joshua, and so on throughout the whole of the impartial and fearless record. The instances of both kinds which we find in Holy Scripture are mere examples or specimens of the records which are kept on high. It is impossible for any human historian to put down all the iniquities of his race, but here, we may say, with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Other parts of the list remind us of how possible it is to exist in useful and happy relations without the family history being marked by any characteristic which invests it with peculiar fame. We read in verse thirty-four, "Now Sheshan had no sons, but daughters." It has been pointed out that the line of Sheshan-Jarha is pursued for thirteen generations of direct descent, but nothing is known of any of its members from any other source. The last-named member of the family, Elishama, is the twenty-fourth generation specified from Judah. Sometimes all that can be found of a family, is but the reappearance of the family name. Even in the case of princes, this has been illustrated. Several of the names which occur in this line recur in the house of David, as for example, Nathan, Obed, Azariah (a by-name of King Uzziah), Shallum, Jehamiah, and Elishama. We see how one nation may become actually absorbed in another, and thus all original characteristics may be relatively lost. Deuteronomy rules ( Deuteronomy 23:7-8) that, in the third generation, persons of Egyptian blood are to be treated as full Israelites. [Compare Exodus 12:38 with Numbers 11:4.] We shall see that the Egyptian element was recognised in Judah. Even the name Jarha has an Egyptian cast, some commentators suppose that it is derived from a root which signifies "great river," and that river has been identified as the Nile. But all this is simply illustrative of the great and glorious truth disclosed by the personality and ministry of the Son of man. All Song of Solomon -called absorptions of one nation by another, were but relative and suggestive. It is not until we come to Jesus Christ the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven, that we come to the glorious truth that God hath made of one blood all nations of men, and that in Christ Jesus there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek. If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature, old things have passed away, and all things have become new. The reconciliation of race, the unification of the world, is the miracle of the cross of Christ. The careful reading of all such histories, as are given in the Old Testament, cannot but prepare the mind to receive the doctrine that Jesus Christ was more than a man: more than a mere Jew. Account for it as we may, he stretched himself across the whole human race, and at last offered himself to redeem every living soul. He made no ethnic difficulties. Language was never accounted a stumblingblock. He looked beneath all superficial, local, and personal differences and divisions, and saw the common heart beating in the human breast. He puzzled the world with no metaphysics that could be understood by one type of men only; he preached a gospel of which even little children could comprehend somewhat, and made an appeal to sentiments acknowledged the world over. Had he been a pedant, he would have prided himself upon special knowledge of out-of-the-way peoples and kindreds and tongues; had he been a self-seeker, he would have received honour by whomsoever it was offered; had he been a Jew only, he would have flattered the people over whom he claimed supremacy, and have poured contempt upon all alien lands, but because he was the Son of God, the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, Alpha and Omega, he made himself of no reputation, but took upon him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, that he might work out for the whole human race a Redemption, simple, beneficent, infinite in meaning, before which reason bows down in homage, and conscience stands at once in consent and adoration.

Verse 34

"Handfuls of Purpose,"

For All Gleaners

"Now Sheshan had no sons, but daughters."1 Chronicles 2:34.

Everything therefore would depend upon Sheshan"s point of view as to the estimate he placed upon his social position.—If he fixed his attention upon the fact that he had no sons, he might be depressed, he might wonder as to the future, he might be perplexed as to the continuance of his memorial and his name in the tribe to which he belonged.—On the other hand, if he were a man of more cheerful and grateful disposition, he would proceed not to the lamentation of his deficiencies, but to the recognition of his blessings: he would magnify the excellence of his daughters, he would dwell with thankful delight upon their meekness, modesty, gentleness, helpfulness, domesticity.—The principle is larger than the local instance.—Men should always put down after a statement of their deficiencies a statement of their possessions; thus: had no money, but had mental power;—had no external fame, but had great home repute;— had no genius, but had great common-sense;—had no high connections of a social kind, but enjoyed easy access to heaven in prayer;—had no earthly property, but was rich in ideas and impulses:—was not at the head of a great circle of admirers, but was truly respected and trusted wherever known;—had no health, but had great cheerfulness;—thus we must keep the two sides, so to say, parallel; if we have not one thing, we have another; if we have not feet, we have wings; if we have not wings, we have feet; if we cannot run quickly, we can think rapidly; in a moment our thoughts can be at the ends of the earth, the eagle can outfly us in space, or the lion outrun us, but in mind we are round the earth before they have begun their motion.—Men will act constitutionally in this whole matter. Some men have a great gift for seeing shadows and outlines of foes and beginnings of oppositions; some men bankrupt themselves every month in the year, and live a life of inward toil and anxiety: others are perhaps too hopeful, allowing their imagination and their ambition to make fools of them under some circumstances.—On all these matters we must think seriously, and pray humbly for divine direction.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 2". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.