Why are Genealogies in the Bible?

Commonly, many overlook genealogies in the Bible. I must admit, I’ve fallen victim to skip over them, so you can freely admit that you have!

Some of the reasons why we tell ourselves to skip over extensive genealogies in the Bible are:

1)The numerous lines of each generation can be very exhausting at times to read over in their entirety.
2) Everyone mentioned in genealogy isn’t a pivotal person in the Scriptures.
3) You just want to get to the point of the text you came to read!

With that said, genealogies in relation to the Bible are very important to understand things such as the importance of establishing credibility for tracking claims to authenticate ties to Abraham and the promise to his descendants. Jews wanted to prove they were directly related to Abraham who was the father of the Hebrew people.

Moreover, genealogies play a huge role in establishing biblical historicity. Although some genealogies are condensed to get to the point about a specific office or individual, a lot of them contain important details about historical events. For example, in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, the inspired writer documents from David to Babylon and captivity in Babylon to the birth of the Messiah. Babylonian exile was a devastating and distressing period for the Israelites, so to document this emphasized how important it was to preserve cultural ties to their former nation and identity.

Furthermore, when we read the genealogy accounts in the gospels of Matthew 1: I-17 and Luke 3:23-38, it becomes evident that the inspired writer wants to give the reader a foundation for legitimizing the Messiah as Jesus Christ. The author demonstrates how Jesus is a descendant of Abraham, which he later would fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant. Also, in Luke’s account, the tracing down to Adam is important because it reveals the true meaning of Jesus’ name “The Lord saves.” Jesus would be the one to redeem the world from its sin introduced by Adam from The Fall.

Next time you encounter a genealogy, consider its importance for helping you understand the totality of the Bible.

Follow me on Twitter @Menny_Thoughts

4 comments

  1. That’s one reason I *like* footnotes. Provided they’re from a source I can trust. In this case, I figure the ‘official’ English translation of the Bible is trustworthy. 😉

    Today’s American, and I strongly suspect Western, culture doesn’t encourage nearly as much interest in genealogies as most. My opinion. The two Gospels, as you said, have different genealogies – because they’re making different points. I like your term, “condensed.” And that’s another topic.

    I’d have to check this to be sure, but I remember reading that the Bible’s genealogies were also edited to express ideas or associations through the number of names mentioned. Associating numbers and ideas is part of today’s Western culture, too: 13 as an unlucky number, for example.

    But, although some of our culture’s traditions are rooted in Hebrew and other Near Eastern ancient cultures; Western culture is very much a European tradition. And some of what we adopted from other cultures has been modified over the millennia. That helps explain, I think, the intense attention folks cooking up the latest ‘Bible prophecy’ paid to numbers and numeric relationships in the Bible. And that is yet another topic.

    Another reason I’ve developed for interest in the Bible – I still find those census reports dry reading – is seeing it as our Lord’s family history.

    Which brings me to one of my favorite folks in the old Testament, Rahab. She’s introduced as a prostitute in Joshua 2:1. ( http://www.usccb.org/bible/joshua/2#06002001 ) Josephus, the first-century historian, said she was an innkeeper; which doesn’t make the Joshua account wrong, just less than exhaustive.

    In any case, she provided lodging for the two spies: which wasn’t necessarily remarkable. Jericho’s authorities got wind of who she’d had under her roof, questioned her, and here’s where it gets interesting.

    She acknowledged that they’d arrived. But said that she didn’t know who they were or what they were doing, and hadn’t seen them since they left, just as the city gates were being closed: “…You will have to pursue them quickly to overtake them.” She’d hidden them on her roof. The rest reads like a war story’s sub-plot, which it is.

    Matthew’s genealogy. She’d married someone named Salmon, had a son named Boaz, and aside from the deep symbolic and other significances – – – I enjoy knowing that she ‘married a nice Jewish boy, settled down,’ – – – – and eventually became an ancestor of our Lord. That helps me keep the hope that there’s a place for me in our Lord’s kingdom.

    About the name “Rahab,” it’s used elsewhere as a term for Egypt. Wikipedia has a page of the person Rahab and the name’s use as a label for Egypt. Apparently it means “proud” or “quarrelsome.” Which she may or may not have been. She certainly had nerves of steel: and wasn’t the only ‘Biblical’ figure with that quality.

    There’s Judith, who walked through an Assyrian camp to negotiate with Holofernes – stayed for several days, and then walked back through the army camp *with the head of Holofernes,* carried in a bag by her maidservant, who must also have had considerable nerve. And that’s yet again another topic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Also, Rahab has the prefix “Ra” which would associate her with the Egyptian god Ra. I like the conversion of a gentile to believe in the God of Israel. I love the story of the Joshua conquest period! Boaz was great. He was a kinsman redeemer, a prefigured Christ. You make a good point regarding today’s culture and the interpretation of genealogies. I’m curious to know more about the transformation of how we discourage embracing an interest in genealogies. (You’re always giving me something to research which is great 😂).

      I read somewhere a while ago that genealogies were mostly memorization devices. A good example of this is in Matthew. The three generations of fourteen would be easier to transmit orally, not that it would’ve been difficult to memorize for jews with their strong memories of the Torah. Also, Genesis 5 has a mnemonic device for remembering crucial events from Adam to Noah. Although not exhaustive, the writer (many believe to be Moses) highlights these ten generations as very important.

      A good topic with much to consider!

      Liked by 1 person

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