1 Chronicles 1-2

Good morning, and welcome to the month of May! Today we start reading a final “chunk” of historical texts (Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah) before the wisdom and later prophetic parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. The books of Chronicles trace and summarize the same biblical narratives we have been reading since January 1st. Chronicles begins with the first ancestors, traces the action of God in history of God through the call to Hebrew people, then to the founding of the united monarchy, its dissolution, and then the divinely-sanctioned lineage of King David in the kingdom of Judah. While we cover much of the same ground as the books of Samuel and Kings, “the Chronicler” focuses more on Judah rather than northern Israel. Until the stories of Saul, David and Solomon, Chronicles consists mainly of genealogical lists, which will challenge us to find meaning in dry texts. My Old Testament professor once said that Chronicles really should have been left on the cutting room floor when our versions of the Bible were assembled, but perhaps this repeat will remind us how many stories and people we have already encountered in the past four months. We may also give ourselves permission to do a bit more scanning than in-depth reading for a few days.

First Chronicles, chapter 1, begins with Adam and names clusters of the first descendants, listing genealogical highlights only and leaving out stories (compare all the chapters that Genesis gives to Noah, who is merely one name here). Some of these early names for people are also names of regions: Egypt, Canaan, Havilah, etc. Barely any women are mentioned in these genealogical lists, and when they are it’s only to identify which men they gave birth to. Ancestry.com would have a field day with all this data, and I’m sure somebody has drawn up a very detailed family tree placing all these names in their order according to Chronicles.

When the twelve sons of Jacob are listed at the beginning of chapter 2, note that Manasseh and Ephraim are not listed here; only Joseph is. (Remember that in Exodus Jacob “adopts” Joseph’s two boys Manasseh and Ephraim as his own sons, so that the list of Israel’s twelve tribes sometimes includes them but omits Joseph and Levi.) The genealogical drinking-from-a-fire-hydrant pace continues through the whole chapter, bringing us swiftly to and beyond the birth of King David. There seems scarcely time between the descendants of Jacob and the birth of David to account for all that happened in the time of the Judges. Where are heroes like Joshua, Deborah, Samson and others? Perhaps it’s the case that those stories are from a different storytelling tradition, and don’t sync up with this narrator’s telling of the story. The only other thing of note is how much fun it would be to try and speak all these names aloud! Happy reading!

Read 1 Chronicles 1-2.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 1 Chronicles 3-5. Thanks for reading!

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