There are many genealogies in the Old Testament. The first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles are composed of a series of genealogies. Most people who read the Bible regularly, generally skip these genealogies because they are boring to read.
It is true that a simple list of names may be irrelevant to many, but they display the complicated relationships between distant generations and provide important information about the facts and circumstances that are related to the members of a family.
Although bare names in a genealogy may be insignificant to a casual reader, to an attentive reader genealogies teach important historical lessons and other truths that may not have been intended by the original writer.
The genealogies that appear in the Old Testament, in general, are related to the ancestors of Israel. At times, the names may refer to father and son or they may refer to distant ancestors or different generations. The genealogies served to reinforce the sense of kinship among members of a clan. The genealogies also promoted nationalistic feelings that served to connect an individual with the traditions of the past.
In the genealogy of the kings of Judah that appears below, we learn a great lesson.
“Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham was the father of Ahaz, Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh was the father of Amon and Amon was the father of Josiah” (Matthew 1:9-10).
Uzziah was the father of Jotham: a good king is the father of a good king. This is not unexpected because, generally, a good father will become the father of a good son.
Jotham was the father of Ahaz: a good king becomes the father of an evil king. This is disappointing, for a good father expects his son to be a good son and follow his example.
Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah: an evil king becomes the father of one of the best kings of Judah. Now, that is a blessing because we learn that children do not have to follow the evil ways of their parents.
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh: one of the best kings of Judah becomes the father of the worst king of Judah. Now, that is a mystery, for how can the goodness of a good father not affect the life of his son? The fact is, that children make their own decisions and choose a life for themselves, even when that life is evil.
Manasseh was the father of Amon: an evil king becomes the father of an evil king. This also is not unexpected, because at times, sons follow the evil example of their fathers.
Amon was the father of Josiah: an evil king becomes the father of the best king of Judah. This clearly shows that children do not have to follow the evil example of their fathers.
There is a lesson that all of us must learn from this genealogy: It is tough being a parent.
As we look at this genealogy, we learn that a person’s relationship with another person in a genealogy may be complicated. For instance, a trait that appears in the life of a man may appear also in the life of his son or grandson. In the same way, the presence of a trait in a child may not be a characteristic that is found in the life of either parent.
One good example of this principle is found in the following quotation from Thomas Fuller, the 17th Century theologian:
“Lord, I find the genealogy of my Saviour strangely checkered with four remarkable changes in four immediate generations:
1. Rehoboam begat Abiam; that is, a bad father begat a bad son.
2. Abiam begat Asa; that is, a bad father a good son.
3. Asa begat Jehoshaphat; that is, a good father a good son.
4. Jehoshaphat begat Joram; a good father a bad son.
I see, Lord, from hence that my father’s piety cannot be entailed; that is bad news for me. But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary; that is good news for my son.”
Joy and happiness, disappointment and pain are some of the experiences parents have to face in the rearing of their children. As children grow up, parents take great satisfaction in the accomplishments of their children but they also experience the pains and disappointments that come as the children fail their parents’ expectations. Joy and disappointments come with the agony and the ecstasy of being parents.
Parents hurt when they believe they have failed in their God-given task of bringing their children to love and obey God. Parents hurt when their children reject the moral values or standards they worked hard to instill in the lives of their children.
When crises arrive, parents blame themselves for failing to providing a good education for their children. They judge themselves for their failure and feel guilty because they cannot understand what went wrong. But, in order for them to deal with their sense of failure, they must understand the lesson Ezekiel teaches: “A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own” (Ezekiel 18:20).
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Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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