We’ve all been there, slogging through Numbers or Kings or Chronicles. Lists of names and people you know nothing about (and couldn’t care less), interspersed with a few names that sound familiar, and a few terse explanations of who is who, who did what, and when, and where.
Genealogies are . . . boring. But if you’re committed to reading the ENTIRE Bible, you will come across lists of names.
So what can you do to keep your mind engaged, while skimming lightly over the Elkeshais and Remaliahs? Here are six things to think about and watch for as you read Biblical genealogies.
1. JESUS’ earthly heritage.
The books of Matthew and Luke record the family lines of Mary and Joseph (respectively). Old Testament genealogies confirm these two birthlines of Jesus as well as the Biblical prophecies concerning the Messiah’s family roots.
2. OUR spiritual heritage.
Those who are adopted sons of God, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, are grafted from the corrupted line of Adam into the faithful lines of Abraham, Isaac, Israel, Judah, and David. These are your spiritual ancestors now, for better or worse.
3. THEIR life.
Behind each name is a real person. They lived a real life on earth and had experiences worth recounting and preserving. While we may know little about them, God knows every intimate detail—to the number of hairs on their head—and He wrote their names in His Word to fulfill His own purposes.
Who is related to whom? You can find some interesting connections, just by paying attention. Did you know David’s general Joab was his nephew by his sister? Did you know Absalom lived with his maternal grandfather after killing his half-brother Amnon?
4. THEIR legacy.
Look up the meaning of each person’s name. (Here’s a list of over 2,500 biblical names and meanings: Download the PDF, 630 KB.) Perhaps Jahdiel loathed his name as much as you are loathe to read it. Consider how you (or they) would live up to (or try to live down) the name they were given.
5. SCRIPTURE’S veracity.
The genealogies help verify God’s true history of creation and the painful degradation of man after the fall. We read in these lists some of the pain and suffering, violence and death, of a broken creation. It certainly refutes Darwin’s theory of evolution regarding homo sapiens and their gradual rise to supremacy on the earth.
6. THE GOSPEL’s precondition.
The people God created fell into sin, and each successive generation was born in sin and died. The genealogies are a terrible record of people who have died because of sin, proving humanity’s need for a Savior.
Only the perfection of God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, was able to defeat sin and death. Because He suffered and died, we are justified before God and freed from sin and death by faith in the Lord Jesus. Because He rose from the dead and lives, we have the hope of resurrection, even if we die before He returns to judge the world.
If you still fall asleep reading genealogies, get an audio recording of the Bible and listen to someone else read the names. If your mind tends to wander, read along in your Bible while listening to the audio.
Reading the Bible is a discipline, not mere entertainment. It takes time. It takes effort. Sometimes it seems painfully difficult and unbearably dull. But the spiritual disciplines that lead to Godly wisdom yield eternal rewards that are worth any cost.
Wisdom speaks: “My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver” (Proverbs 8:19).