There is a commonly known Biblical that God is a God of order. He exercises His wisdom and righteousness to make good decisions concerning His providential plans. God always has a plan and His plans are always fulfilled to perfection. His plans are intended to benefit His people through the praises they offer unto Him in recognition of His wonderful works. It is usually not until AFTER God’s purposes are completed in us that we are able to marvel and rejoice over the impeccable timing and execution of works that we see God did to achieve His purpose. It is usually then that we are able to see how God had things in line all along, even though there might have been moments or seasons where things seemed chaotic. Consider God’s work of creation in Genesis. God saw the original condition of “the earth” and was displeased with it. He described the world as dark, formless, and void. Today, the world does not resemble that condition anymore. While there is darkness or sorts that God will ultimately overcome for good, the sun shines brightly. The world’s systems and processes that enable life continue to function properly according to God’s ordination. Science is merely the observation of God’s wisdom and order (when science examines life honestly). Those who follow the Lord according to His commands clearly understand His purposes so that the world is no longer vain and void. This all goes to show that when we trust in the Lord’s superior wisdom and righteousness, and submit to His ordinances by faith, things work out well as God intends.
This principle is broadly demonstrated through the genealogies of the people who repopulated the region of Judah after the Babylonian exile. The testimony of 1 Chronicles 9:1-44 reviews the names of many men and families that God specially called and motivated to depart from Babylon and reenter Judah in order to rebuild and restore the land according to His purposes and promises. The genealogy is not only helpful to mention the names of these families to honor their response to God’s calling, but also is helpful to mention the duties that they undertook once they arrived in the land. Recall that when the Babylonians entered into Judah seventy years before that they made the land an utter desolation according to God’s judgment. In fact, the genealogy begins by making mention of God’s judgment through the deportation of God’s people. This way, upon remembering the men and women that lived in Israel, it was also well noted that many were kicked out of the Promised Land for disciplinary reasons. Upon remembering this tragedy, God’s people had the opportunity to continually remember and reflect upon the reality of God’s judgments when His people oppose Him. The curses of Deuteronomy Chapter 28 originally warned the people of God that unfaithfulness and wickedness would result in terrible consequences. The documentation of God’s judgment through Babylon that was listed in the beginning of the genealogy shows that God is faithful to fulfill those judgments when His people provoke Him to.
The genealogy explains that there were not many that were called to depart from Babylon and restore Judah. There were families from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, as well as some of the families from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh that were dwelling around Jerusalem before their ancestors were deported. The Bible is also helpful to show that many of the Levites, specifically the priests, were in attendance with that group that went back into the land. Here, the Bible shows the importance of God’s appointed ministers being a part of the work that is done in the name of the Lord. The scriptures show that the Levites were a critical part of His plans for the children of Israel. How could the people go back into the land in order to reestablish their cultural and spiritual identity in the Lord without the people that God appointed to head up that work? If the people were commanded to rebuild the temple, who would administrate the temple if not the priests? Who would perform the sacrifices? Who would prepare the offerings? Who would administrate entrance and the ordinances and statues of the rest of God’s law? The presence of the Levites and the priests was a critical part of God’s work to restore. He not only commanded the people to perform certain tasks when getting back to Judah, but also equipped them with the right team to ensure they were able to fulfill the task to completion.
The genealogy explains that the priests that went back into Judah had ancestors that previously worked in the tabernacle before Solomon’s temple was built. This is an important detail to include because the people that left Babylon to go back to Judah would find that Babylon had destroyed the temple. There was no temple for this generation either. Knowing that their ancestors once served the Lord in the absence of a temple is encouraging to the work of those who are called to serve the Lord. The service of the Lord doesn’t require a building; and even when certain duties do require a building, the tabernacle served as a temporary solution to engage the people of God. The history of Israel past Levites and priests shows that God always provided a means to serve Him according to His commands, even when the location of that service was not the ultimate place of desire. God’s plans always enable God’s people to do that which is called of them, even if the means by which they do that work don’t resemble the completed vision for God’s plans. Those who serve in lesser means end up providing a good example that God’s glory is not limited to the location or scope of work that service is performed.
The genealogy then goes on to explain the various types of work that the people did as the temple was being built and when it was finished. The scriptures show that some were appointed as guards of the gate at the entrances of the temple complex. Some were porters that were charged to carry and transport things around. Some were called to prepare sacrifices, some were called to slaughter sacrifices, some were called to prepare the environment. The scriptures list the names of men that were called to do these various types of work and show that God was well pleased with them because they did the work they were called to do faithfully. The Bible shows that each man’s duty was not intrusive to another man’s duty. Each man had his own responsibility to do a simple task in a specialized way. Each job was detailed for a specific purpose. Some of the jobs were simple in nature while others had complex jobs. Some men had two jobs to do since some of the responsibilities were part-time, and the rest of their day was spent singing praises unto the Lord. The Bible explains that the service of the temple was a 24/7 job, including the signing of praises unto the Lord. When each man was humble and trusting of the Lord to do their job to the best of their ability, the functionality of the temple was a well-oiled machine that glorified the Lord greatly by exalting His holiness and righteousness.
When the people left Babylon and went back to Judah, they experienced great hardships; some were self-inflicted while others came in the form of opposition from jealous men. The hardships were so intense and crippling to God’s plans that the Lord sent two prophets within just a few months’ time to stir up hearts of His people to engage in the work that He ordained for them. History shows that the work wasn’t easy. Though God’s plans were perfect and the work was well distributed, the people had a hard time executing. Nevertheless, the scriptures show that when God’s people responded by faith to the simple commands that God gave – each doing the individual job God gave to the best of their ability with focused determination and a humble appreciation for the privilege to serve God – things flowed in a way that was encouraging and edifying. The people were pleased with the results of seeing how God’s plans fitted together when the people endeavored to follow them according to God’s Word without question or amendment. Should God’s people look at the simple commands of His Word and each submit to the position that God has ordained to glorify Him a certain way, history shows that the people of God are satisfied as individuals and collectively.
The Bible teaches that God is merciful and gracious to offer His power to those who desire it so that they can be redeemed from the bondage of sin, death, and hell. The scriptures teach that all people fall short of the glory of God and cannot inherit the glory of His kingdom without a supernatural change that comes as a result of forgiveness of sins. The Bible teaches that none are righteous and all are in need of God’s forgiveness in order to escape the judgment that He swore to administer against darkness and all of the children of darkness. Those who do not receive God’s offer of forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ remain as children of darkness (since God is light and there is no darkness in Him) and by extension, enemies of God. The scriptures candidly proclaim that God will destroy all of His enemies. However, God is not willing that any should perish, but instead that all would come to repentance. God offers forgiveness because He would rather His creation live rather than die. God extends mercy and grace because He wants people to enjoy the benefits of His goodness, not suffer His wrath in rebellion against Him through self-righteousness.
For this reason, the Bible shows that the Lord continually reveals Himself to those who are poor in spirit, weak, base, and worthless in the world’s eyes. It is the people who are rejected by the world that God seeks to restore unto His glory. It is those who are not prideful in their worldly identity, accomplishments, and self-righteousness that God loves to restore. This is not to say that God doesn’t offer His forgiveness to everyone, but instead that God recognizes that it is the meek of the world that have little of the world that are the ones who actually respond to His revelation.
An example of this truth is illustrated through the second part of the genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin. In 1 Chronicles 8:1-40 the Bible documents much more of the descendants of Benjamin in much greater detail. The challenge is that most of the names that are mentioned are people that we have little historical knowledge of. There aren’t many people in this genealogy that are found in other places of scripture. For this reason, it becomes difficult to understand the significance of each individual. Yet, it is the absence of those details that explains God’s purpose for this genealogy. The specific individuals of the tribe of Benjamin were not God’s focal point in this genealogy. Recall that scripture is intended to reveal the character, nature, and purposes of God, not the people He uses. The people He uses are merely tools in the hand that is supposed to be the focal point of all scripture. Therefore, when we look at the genealogy of Benjamin, we can examine the big picture of God’s work from the first name mentioned until the last, consider the greater context of their history, and see that this genealogy provides compelling evidence that God loves to redeem, rebuild, and restore those who are diminished and debased.
The genealogy begins following the descendants of Benjamin up to a man named Ehud. This man Ehud is believed to be the same Ehud that served as a judge during the time of the judges before Israel had a king ruling over them. Ehud was the second judge in the kingdom of Israel. The testimony of Judges Chapter 3 explains that God enabled the Moabites to harass and oppress the children of Israel on account of their sin. The children of Israel had begun to rebel against the Lord and so the Lord sent the Moabites to dominate the children of Israel as discipline. This oppression took place over the time span of eighteen years. It wasn’t until after eighteen years that the children of Israel called upon the Lord for help. The Lord responded according to His mercy and grace and sent Ehud to be their deliverer.
The testimony of Judges Chapter 3 explains that Ehud became a representative of Israel to Moab since Moab was taxing the Israelites. One day when Ehud was delivering their taxes to the king of Moab, Ehud assassinated the king of Moab and then led the children of Israel in a great victory over the rest of the Moabites. The children of Israel were saved from the oppression of the Moabites that day and enjoyed eighty years of peace and prosperity in the land on account of the leadership of Ehud. The Lord used this mighty man of the tribe of Benjamin as His vessel of deliverance and salvation. The Lord used this mighty man from the small tribe of Benjamin to restore peace to His people and equip them with affluence.
The genealogy of Benjamin then goes on to list several of the descendants of Ehud that lived during the time of the judges. Unfortunately, these generations were part of a wicked and rebellious generation that nearly caused the extinction of the tribe of Benjamin altogether. Though God used the people of the tribe of Benjamin in a powerful way as His tool of salvation and restoration, the tribe of Benjamin quickly went back to the wickedness that caused them to be oppressed in the first place. In fact, the tribe of Benjamin excelled in their sin so that their transgressions against God were far worse than the first time. The testimony of Judges Chapter 19 explains that the people of Benjamin were accepting of various forms of idolatry, sexual immorality, and murder. Some men from the region of Gibeah had taken the concubine of a Levite and raped her to death. When the rest of the tribes of Israel confronted the elders of the tribe of Benjamin to turn the criminals over for discipline, the elders of Benjamin refused. They harbored the evil men and sought to justify their actions. This resulted in a civil war in which the tribe of Benjamin assembled tens of thousands of soldiers to fight on behalf of lawbreakers, rapists, and murderers.
This civil war cost Israel the lives of tens of thousands of men over the course of three major battles. Eventually the Lord enabled the rest of the tribes of Israel to have victory over the tribe of Benjamin so that the whole tribe was slaughtered with the sword and burned except for a mere six hundred people that fled the region. The tool that God used to destroy the king of Moab that brought peace to Israel for eighty years turned against God so that they were struck down to only six hundred people on account of their wickedness. This just goes to show that the manner in which God uses certain people is not an indication that such people are righteous and just in the eyes of God. Truly all fall short of the glory of God being prone to sin against Him in order to indulge in the desires of the flesh in various ways.
The genealogy of Benjamin goes on to include the family of King Saul – the first king of Israel. Here it is important to recognize the magnitude of God’s grace and persistence to provide His people chances to do right. Though the tribe of Benjamin was judged in such a severe manner in Judges Chapters 19-21, God selected the first king of Israel from this very tribe. Saul was even from the least of the families in the tribes of Israel. Clearly Saul didn’t do anything to warrant such a promotion. Clearly the tribe of Benjamin was not qualified for such a position of stature and prestige. Nevertheless, God selected an obscure man from the smallest family among the smallest tribe in Israel that had just been discipline for a miserable sin. A tribe that was equal in number to any other tribe in Israel was chopped down to almost nothing. Then upon God’s gracious movement, their tribe was able to boast of providing the first of Israel’s kings!
This was God’s determined plan. The Lord did this to show that He is able to make something out of nothing. God did this to prove that, though His people wrestle with Him and rebel against Him, He is faithful, patient, merciful, and gracious to work with His people to exalt them according to His purposes anyway. God is not dependent on the performance of people since history shows the performances of people to be so evil. God’s promises are fulfilled by the grace of God and grace alone. In that God desires to deal with the most pitiful of people to exalt them by His hand of grace shows that no one is able to boast before the Lord concerning their position in life.
The genealogy of Benjamin then goes on to document several generations from Saul’s son named Jonathan. Jonathan was a noble man of faith that served as a great help to King David before he was able to assume the position of king. God used Jonathan in great ways to preserve the life of David and to encourage David according to the Lord’s purposes. The end of the genealogy of Benjamin focuses on the descendants of Jonathan, not any of the other kings or famous men that came from Benjamin since many of them did evil. The genealogy ends by showing that the tribe of Benjamin still put forth “mighty men of valor” and that their population numbers were relatively normal compared to the other tribes of Israel. They remained in proportion with the other tribes even though they were cut down so low at the end of the Book of Judges. This shows that God rebuilt the tribe. God not only exalted a pitiful individual into a position of honor, but also extended honor from that man to his son and other generations. The tribe that fought against their own brothers later was restored to fight with their brothers, providing many “mighty men of valor” to protect their country and Godly heritage.
Though God brought severe discipline against these people, the big picture of the genealogy shows that God made it a point to forgive these people, redeem them back to Himself, restore them according to His purposes, and rebuild them unto the fulfillment of His promises. In that God did such a great work of renewal through such a corrupted and diminished people shows that God excels in this work and even prefers it. Thus, those who resemble the weak and pitiful nature of the tribe of Benjamin are not disqualified from the Lord’s favor. Rather, if we are to confess that we are indeed unwise, weak, and shameful, we then declare ourselves as prime candidates for God’s miraculous work of restoration unto His glory!
Sometimes God takes a LONG time to fulfill His promises. Many times, the pace of God’s work can discourage His people. Though it is not God’s intent to discourage His people, God’s intent is to instill patience through the administration of various trials in order to refine our faith. In other words, God makes us wait so that we can show our resolve to stick with Him no matter what. That is not only glorifying to Him and strengthening to us, but also a powerful witness to onlookers. God doesn’t take a long time to do His work because He’s tired or forgetful. He has good reasons to do the things He does. One of the main purposes for God’s gradual workflow is that it proves God’s transcendence. God will often times make a promise to one generation and fulfill it through another generation. This doesn’t mean that God is angry with or neglecting one generation in favor of another. Instead, this proves that God is able to outlast generations and still get the job done. People will come and go, but the Word of God remains and is continually fulfilling itself. Where people seek to match God’s righteousness and power, God will speak certain promises and intentionally wait to fulfill them to purposefully show that His faithfulness, righteousness, wisdom, and power outlast everyone because He alone is the Lord God Almighty.
An example of this truth is clearly seen in the genealogies of Ephraim and Asher. In 1 Chronicles 7:20-40 the Bible documents the genealogies of Ephraim (the younger son of Joseph) and Asher the son of Jacob. The reason Ephraim is mentioned instead of Joseph is because Joseph’s inheritance was split between Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh. The tribe of Manasseh dwelt in two areas, one half on the east side of the Jordan River and one half on the west side of the Jordan River. Ephraim dwelt just south of the West Manasseh, just above the region of Benjamin in central Israel. In order to understand the purpose of the genealogy and God’s transcendence in the genealogy, it is important to consider the context of Ephraim’s inheritance. In Genesis 48:18-20 the Bible testifies of the circumstances where Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons. Jacob was supposed to bless Manasseh first with double portion because he was the oldest. However, Jacob instead blessed Ephraim in the same manner that he was blessed. In that blessing, he proclaimed that the older should serve the younger much in the same way that Esau was to serve Jacob. There, Jacob gave a prophetic proclamation stating that Ephraim would be greater than his older brother and that their descendants would be more in number.
The beginning of Ephraim’s genealogy does not suggest that God was willing to fulfill that promise. It is not until the Bible gets towards the end of the genealogy that we can see God’s transcendence, wisdom, and power. The genealogy begins by stating that Ephraim’s sons were killed by some selfish men from Gath. The region of Gath was inhabited by Philistines, many of which were described as large men that excelled in combat, and many were even giants. At the time of Ephraim, the children of Israel were not warriors or trained soldiers. The children of Israel were farmers, shepherds, and land workers. The genealogy of Ephraim states that men of Gath came and sought to take the cattle that the sons of Ephraim tended. When they took their cattle, they killed the sons of Ephraim. Ephraim had nine sons and that the men of Gath likely killed all nine.
The details of the genealogy explain that Ephraim went into great mourning and likely wondered how God’s prophecy could be fulfilled since all of his sons were killed. How could the descendants of Ephraim be a great tribe if they were unable to defend themselves against the wicked men of Gath? How could the tribe of Ephraim be great if Ephraim’s sons couldn’t even protect some cattle? How could the tribe of Ephraim be great if they were all dead? The Bible states that after some time, Ephraim had another son and named him Beriah, which translates into “Tragedy.” Beriah essentially became a memorial to the murder that took place. Beriah became a reminder of the grief and heartache that Ephraim would have felt having lost all of his sons. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, Ephraim was able to have this “tragedy” and build something great out of it.
The Bible says that Beriah had a daughter named Sheerah. The scriptures explain that she built several major cities. Recall that the genealogies highlight the exploits of many men that served as “mighty men of valor.” The genealogies used this phrase and context to describe the excellence of the people in the different families. Here, the Bible equates the accomplishments of Sheerah to the same excellence as the mighty men. This shows that God’s perspective is fair to uphold women in just as high of esteem of men when they are used as tools of His righteousness to accomplish His will. The virtue of Sheerah was revered as the strength of “mighty men of valor” because Sheerah was an instrument that God used to complete the fulfillment of His promise.
Just a few generations after Beriah and his daughter Sheerah, a man named Joshua was born from a man named Nun. This is “Joshua the son of Nun” that led the children of Israel across the Jordan River, into the Promised Land, and across the region to conquer the Canaanites according to God’s will. This was the same Joshua who said:
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." – Joshua 24:15
The tribe of Ephraim indeed became great in number. The successes and victories of Joshua alone were far greater than that of most families and generations. When compared to the genealogy of the tribe of Asher, there is no such person that matches the excellence of Joshua the son of Nun. Yet, Joshua came from the tribe of Ephraim. The tribe that was initially leveled into nearly nothing because the leading vessel that God used to put the people into the Land and purge the Land from corruption and evil. The naming of Beriah shows that Ephraim himself was deeply distraught and discouraged. We don’t know if Ephraim had completely lost hope in the promise God made when he was a child in Genesis 48:18-20, but the circumstances of his family did not make it seem as if God would do what He said. The murder of nine sons doesn’t seem like a good start when trying to build something great. Nevertheless, God was able to take that “tragedy” and manifest a virtuous woman to build up dwelling places of His people, and a leader whose testimony resembled that of Jesus Himself! Though God may take His time to do what He says, and though things may look like they’re moving in the opposite direction of God’s promises, God’s transcendent wisdom and power is able to see His promises fulfilled no matter what!
The purposes of the Lord can be hard to understand sometimes. Since God is sovereign and the Creator of all things, He is superior to all living things in this life and in eternity. He is not obligated to report to anyone. He is not bound to any other authority. God doesn’t have to tell anyone what He’s doing or why He’s doing it. The fact that we as people have any revelation of God and His doings is an extension of His grace. In fact, when Jesus taught the disciples on the night of the Last Supper, He said that He no longer considered the disciples “servants,” but instead “friends” based on the extent of revelation He provided to them. The privilege of being the Lord’s “friend” was based on the privilege that the disciples had to receive God’s revelation of salvation, glory, and eternal life through Jesus. This means that any insight that is provided to mankind concerning the things of God should be cherished. Still, God’s purposes are hard to understand, especially since He doesn’t divulge all of the details of His work. We are simply supposed to cherish the opportunity to be used by Him in any capacity so long as we are considered His children.
This truth is especially important to understand when the scriptures deal with genealogies that are difficult to understand. The genealogies of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, and half of the tribe of Manasseh that is documented in 1 Chronicles 7:1-19 is difficult to understand. The Bible begins this section of genealogies by reviewing the descendants of Issachar. The tribe of Issachar eventually settled in the Promised Land in central Israel. Issachar was a small tribe in terms of the size of their land inheritance. Compared to most of the other tribes, it was one of the smallest portions. Yet the Bible focuses on documenting the amount of men that served as “mighty men of valor.” The genealogy boasts on behalf of the tribe of Issachar to show that over time, they put forth 144,000 mighty men of valor. For such a small portion of land inheritance and for such a small tribe, this is a great number. The prophecy of Issachar in Genesis Chapter 49 explained that the descendants of Issachar would be like strong donkeys, bred to bear great burdens. The military strength of this tribe shows that, despite their size in numbers, they were indeed a great beast of burden, able to lend valued assistance to their neighboring brothers in times of battle to protect the integrity of Israel on occasion. The prophecy of Genesis Chapter 49 shows that God had this use for Issachar in mind long before He used them this way. The size of the tribe was not a reflection of the extent of usage and power that God would demonstrate through them. Their might was due to the ordination of God, not the strength of their numbers.
The documentation of the tribe of Benjamin fits the same type of mold. The Bible explains that Benjamin was also one of the smallest tribes of the descendants of Jacob. They were located just north of Judah along the banks of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Though they were small in number, their military strength is also well documented. The genealogy of Benjamin emphasizes the amount of “mighty men of valor” in the same manner of Issachar. Despite their size, they were able to put forth over sixty thousand men of valor. The Bible states that many of these men were helpful to serve the needs of the kingdom of Israel during the days of King David. This is especially noble since Israel’s first king was from the tribe of Benjamin – King Saul. When King Saul died there was a civil war due to God’s appointment of King David as the succeeding king (he resided from the tribe of Judah). However, after the civil war was distilled, the men of Benjamin became some of David’s most loyal supporters that were helpful to his cause when David experienced more hardships later in his rule. No matter their size, God also used the tribe of Benjamin in mighty ways that were helpful to the establishment of the whole nation of Israel.
The next genealogies are more difficult to understand. The genealogy of Naphtali only mentions the first generations of sons from Naphtali. It is unknown why this is the only generation listed. It is possible that some of the records were lost, or that God simply didn’t feel it necessary to list these men. It is also worth noting that the tribes of Zebulun and Dan aren’t mentioned at all. Once again, the Bible is not clear as to why God omitted so much of Israel’s history and the men of God’s nation. This shows that to be mentioned in the Word of God is a great privilege when considered a child of God. This is not to suggest that the names that aren’t mentioned are not heirs of God’s promises. At the same time however, when a person is mentioned in the context of being identified as God’s child, it is a beautiful thing of assurance. God’s specific purpose for these individuals is not clear, but their names are mentioned to show that God used them in some way. Not every person’s purpose is made specifically clear to other people when used in the complex plans of the Almighty God. Nevertheless, God knows and understands the manner in which He uses each person, and we can rest assured of that truth when the names of His people are documented in His book.
The same could be said of the half tribe of Manasseh that is listed in this genealogy. This genealogy documents the half of the tribe that dwelt on the west side of the Jordan River since the other half dwelt on the east side of the Jordan River. Neither this genealogy or the genealogy of Naphtali make mention of “mighty men of valor.” This isn’t to say that they didn’t have any, but that God did not emphasize that of these tribes. God had different purposes for these tribes. God had different focuses for these tribes. God used these men in different ways, and whether their specific usage is detailed or not is of no concern to God. In the same manner, our particular usage by God might not be clearly stated and documented in plain sight, but that is not an excuse for us to wallow in depression or walk in bitterness. The Bible instructs God’s people to walk by faith and not by sight, meaning that if we are possessors of God’s Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ, we are tools in the Lord’s arsenal of purpose for good. The particular manner in which God uses us should not be our chief concern. Instead, we can rejoice in the simple fact that we were selected for good since the alternative is condemnation. Rather than complain or wallow about it, we can walk in gratitude knowing that our names too have been written in God’s Book of Life. It can be comforting to know if we would be used in particular ways, especially as people of might and valor; but the truth is, to endure the walk of Jesus Christ would identify any child of God as being “more than a conqueror.” Regardless of how this victory might manifest itself in daily life and through God’s utilization, this is a great position to be in!
The Bible teaches that God will be totally blameless when He judges the world of sin and righteousness. Those who receive the benefits of God’s blessings will be entitled to them because they did what God said – received His grace by faith. Those who are denied God’s benefits and are instead condemned unto eternal separation from God in darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth will receive their just due. According to the scriptures, these people will be condemned because they denied and rejected the goodness and grace of God in order to live according to their own flawed standards. The Bible teaches that God gives every single living person ample opportunity to know Him and receive His grace through a variety of mechanisms. God reveals His righteousness through the testimony of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah; but for those who are not afforded the opportunity to hear the true Gospel, God has revealed His eternal power and Godhead through creation and implanted His righteousness into the human conscience in order to make Himself known. The scriptures explain that each person will be judged fairly based on the extent of revelation that God provides to each person, but at the same time, the Bible shows that God provides A LOT of revelation to make Himself known so that no one will have an excuse when standing before the Lord.
This truth is made evident in the genealogies of the Levites. In 1 Chronicles 6:54-81 the Bible describes how each of the families of the Levites were spread out throughout the territory of Israel. This portion of scripture lists all of the cities that the Levites dwelt in that were given to them as “common-lands” in order that the Levites could perform their services unto the Lord. First, it is important to recall that the dispersed nature of the tribe of Levi was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. In Genesis 49:5-6 the Bible explains that God proclaimed judgment against two of the sons of Jacob – Simeon and Levi. God spoke prophecy through Jacob to pronounce judgment against Simeon, Levi, and their descendants based on the evil they previously committed in the land of Shechem. The Bible explains that both Simeon and Levi responded unjustly and wickedly against the men of Shechem because one man raped their younger sister Dinah. Rather than seek justice against the one man that was guilty, Simeon and Levi deceived the whole town and ended up killing all of them. Thus, when Jacob gave blessings to his sons before he died, the Lord used that moment to proclaim that the tribes of Simeon and Levi would be dispersed throughout the land of Israel as a consequence for their evil. When examining the testimony of 1 Chronicles 6:54-81 it is clear to see that this prophecy was fulfilled. The tribe of Levi was indeed spread out all over the Promised Land.
God made good use of this dispersion. Though God judged the tribe of Levi for transgressions, He was able to use His judgment for good purpose. Recall that the tribe of Levi was not given a land inheritance from the Lord because the Lord was to be their inheritance. The rest of the tribes of Israel received portions of land that were given as gifts for their descendants to pass down from generation to generation. The tribe of Levi did not receive a land inheritance from the Lord when they conquered the region. Instead, the Lord told the tribe of Levi that He would be their inheritance. Though the rest of the tribes were given land to own, the tribe of Levi was exclusively privileged to serve the Lord in unique capacities. They were the sole tribe that God appointed as servants of His tabernacle, of His sacrifices, offerings, as priests, and as facilitators of praise and worship on the feast days. No other tribe was permitted to do such things. Therefore, it was helpful to the children of Israel that God spread them out throughout the land.
Since the tribe of Levi was spread out all over, the rest of the tribes had access to the spiritual services that the Levites were committed to offering. In this way, the children of Israel were without excuse. Each tribe gave up certain areas known as “common lands” that the Levites dwelt in. These regions were not owned by the Levites but were used by them in order to offer up sacrifices, sing songs of praise, and administrate certain cities of refuge. The cities of refuge were cities that were designated by God to serve as sanctuary cities for those who had killed someone else accidentally. Those who were guilty of transgressing the Law by accident could dwell in cities of refuge and be protected from others that might seek to carry out vengeance or some other injustice. Since these areas were spread out all over, none of the children of Israel had an excuse to know the Lord, give their sacrifices, celebrate the feast days, and so forth. No one could say that they didn’t have access to a priest to offer sacrifices. No one could say they didn’t know the Lord’s grace and mercy through the cities of refuge. No one could say that they were ignorant of the Law since Levites were scattered throughout the land to administrate it to the people. So long as the Levites were doing their jobs as the Lord’s inheritance, the rest of the people had no excuse.
Here it is important to recognize the greatness of God. Notice how He was able to judge a certain group of people and then use that judgment to provide a helpful result for His people at the same time. The judgment of the people was actually profitable to God’ greater cause. It is subtle details like this that lend to add substance to certain promises like, “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” It might not have appeared to be good when Levi was judged in Genesis 49:5-6; but the outcome of God’s judgment was helpful to the rest of Israel since the administrators of God’s law were spread out all over. The people that God appointed as intercessors were easily accessible to all the people so that no one could claim ignorance or blame God for inconvenience. Additionally, when examining some of the cities that are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:54-81 it is important to recognize that some of these cities were quite large! God provided adequate workspace for the Levites to do their jobs all over, but also enough space to work at the convenience of the people. The Levites didn’t have a valid complaint against God because God provided the proper space to perform their duties. Likewise, the people could not complain against God because He made His servants accessible all over so that anyone could receive the benefits promised through His law with simplicity.
When God created the heavens and the earth He had specific intentions for every living thing that He created. God created the sea creatures and birds and told them to be fruitful and multiply in the domains that He appointed to them. God created land creatures of all kinds with unique character traits in order to accomplish specific purposes according to His will. God created man and woman with specific intentions as well. God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Adam and Eve were to be co-dependent on one another in order to accomplish the work God set out for them that could only be fulfilled by a team. God created Adam and Eve with the purpose to “multiply” that which He declared as “good” to the extent that the earth would be filled with God’s goodness. This was God’s purpose in the beginning and nothing has changed since.
This means that human beings do not have the liberty to decide what to do with our own lives. God breathes His essence into every living thing with the objective to achieve a specific purpose with them. The Bible teaches that when a person seeks to know God and His purposes and then submits to them, God is pleased and that person is blessed. When a person takes it upon themselves to neglect the Lord and His purposes, those people are rebels against God. According to the Bible, life is not about achieving various fleshly pursuits and affections. This life is about service unto the Lord in order that He would be glorified. Since He is the Creator of all things, He is worthy of this extent of attention, focus, and worship. The Bible goes so far to say of the believer, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [who is] in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)”.
One’s chief responsibility in life is to know God and then understand His purpose for our position in life. Sometimes our callings and areas of service are clear and simple. Sometimes our callings may seem ambiguous and difficult to understand. How are we supposed to know what God expects of us and has called us to do? The truth is, this question cannot be answered unless we first understand who God is and what His chief aim is. When we understand His chief purpose, we can understand how He might go about using us to achieve that objective based on the patterns of work He reveals in the scriptures. This is made clear in the genealogies of the Levites in 1 Chronicles 6:16-53. This genealogy mentions many names that were descendants of Levi, the third son of Jacob. Here, it is important to understand that the Lord called the Levites to live in a unique way compared to the other eleven tribes of Israel. Since the tribe of Levi was punished for the murderous sins that Levi committed with his brother Simeon (Genesis 49:5-7), the tribe of Levi was spread out throughout the territory of Israel. They were not given a land inheritance like the other eleven tribes. Instead, God told the descendants of Levi that He would be their portion and inheritance. The Lord did not say anything like this to any of the other tribes, showing that the Levites were going to be used to accomplish a particular purpose in God’s plan.
The genealogy begins by naming the three main sons that were direct descendants of Levi – Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The rest of the genealogy shows the various things that the descendants of these men accomplished. The scriptures first show that these men were appointed a special position through the Law of Moses. This tribe was specially selected to tend to the duties concerning the tabernacle. Recall that the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness for forty years before entering into the Promised Land by the leadership of Joshua. During that time, the Lord commanded that the children of Israel should build a tabernacle in order that they could have a centralized place of worship and sacrifice unto God, and also where God’s presence would reside to lead and protect the people. The tabernacle of God would be the focal point of the children of Israel as the place where sacrifices took place, where the Ark of the Covenant dwelt (the vessel that housed the symbols of God’s promises to Israel), and where God’s own presence dwelt. This structure was designed by God and was intended to be mobile since the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, not having reached the destination God had intended for them. Thus, the Levites were the men that were appointed to set up, maintain, tear down, and transport the tabernacles, its construction facets, the utensils for service, and the Ark of the Covenant.
The genealogy of the Levites explains that the roles and duties of the Levites changed when the children of Israel settled in the Promised Land. The genealogy of 1 Chronicles 6:16-53 explains that when David became king, he appointed many of the Levites to serve as musicians. However, David did not appoint these men as soon as he became king. The Bible testifies that David appointed certain men as musicians “when the ark came to rest.” When the children of Israel settled in the Promised Land, the Lord appointed the Levites to be scattered out all over Israel to dwell in certain cities of refuge to serve the people local to their area. At the same time, the tabernacle was no longer transported so many of the Levites were left with less (or nothing) to do. Those whose responsibilities were to set up or tear down the tabernacle were left without work since the tabernacle was no longer mobile. David recognized this and sought to put the men specially selected to serve the Lord in unique ways to a different task. They were appointed as musicians, but not as musicians alone. The men that served as musicians were still men that served in other capacities pertaining to the functioning of the tabernacle. However, having less to do, David ensured their time was focused on things that were profitable to facilitate a healthy spiritual relationship for the people of God.
David did not appoint these men to this work until the ark was recovered from the Philistines and then properly transported to its appropriate resting place (the Holy of Holies). David appointed certain men to sing and play music so that the tabernacle would be a place founded on the praises of God. David wanted to ensure that there was constant well-speaking of the Lord and music centered on rejoicing over His goodness at all hours. Yet, that rejoicing could not be authentic and true unless the vessel that contained the symbols of God’s promises to Israel was where it was supposed to be. How could the people of God rejoice when God’s purposes and promises for His people were out of place? David did not have rest because the promises of God were not where they were supposed to be. God’s will was not in order and so David did not think it wise to rejoice over such matters. When the Ark of the Covenant and the presence of God was restored to the place that God desired, and things were set according to His righteous commands, David was compelled to rejoice and appoint certain men that had the skill and time to lead others in the same.
The genealogy of the Levites then explains that there were three chief musicians. Each of these chiefs was from one of the sons of Levi himself. This shows that David did not appoint one group exclusively according to a certain skillset, but instead spread the work out to those who would fulfill a good purpose. The three chief musicians and singers were named Heman, Asaph, and Ethan. Each of these men are mentioned in the psalms as authors and chief musicians. The scriptures explain that the sons of these three men served in similar capacities to form a sort of “musicians guild,” but still, these men served in normal tabernacle/temple worship capacities as well. These men did not simply sing and play instruments all day. They were assistants in the slaughtering of animals; in the boiling of sacrifices; in the cleaning of utensils; in the organization of people bringing their offerings; in the preparations of feast day rituals, and so forth. These men were indeed privileged to serve the Lord through the ministry of song, but that duty was secondary to the main objective.
This is the main point concerning the genealogy of Levi. The Lord states His ultimate purpose for the sons of Levi, and thus, all of God’s people that desire the Lord as their personal inheritance. The scriptures show that certain men of the tribe of Levi were appointed as priests and certain ones as high priests. Certain men of the tribe of Levi were appointed as musicians, and some just helped keep the tabernacle clean or assisted in the butchering of animals. Regardless of the duty performed, the tribe of Levi was a prophetic illustration of the church – especially since the New Testament clearly teaches that believers in Jesus Christ as made “kings and priests.” The tribe of Levi was appointed to take the Lord as their inheritance – not a physical domain with affections centered in this material life. The Levites were called to work together in various capacities, each of which was supposed to lead to one simple conclusion – atonement. While the genealogy of Levi documents many generations of men that served in differing ways, the scriptures are specific to state that “the Levites were appointed to every kind of service of the tabernacle of the house of God.”
The lives of the Levites were not their own. Their lives were supposed to be committed to God based on the privilege they had to serve in His own house! Their duties were so privileged that God excluded any other person besides a Levite from participating in these particular duties. They were able to assist in sacrifices. They were able to lead people to presence of God. They were all fixed together “to make atonement for Israel.” The duties of the Levites were simple: lead the children of Israel to the altar of God in order that they could be forgiven of their sins, transgressions, and lawlessness. God’s focus has ALWAYS been about atonement. It is through His grace to forgive sins that God’s people are able to be one with Him. Without forgiveness of sins the people of God cannot be connected to Him. The Levites were specially tasked with doing the work to facilitate atonement and forgiveness so that the children of Israel could enjoy the benefits that came with God’s eternally unconditional promises. Each man served in a different capacity. Some were even appointed to sing and play instruments throughout the day when other more important duties were completed. All of this was to be service unto praise and worship of God – with or without singing. Those who have received God as a personal inheritance should know and understand the magnitude of privilege that comes with receiving forgiveness of sin from God and being made an heir of His promises. Thus, all of God’s people should find ways to make life all about rejoicing over the forgiveness we’ve received while leading others to the same opportunity to be forgiven through faith in the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The bible teaches that the people of God are allowed to dwell in the kingdom of God on account of His grace, not by our works, lest anyone should boast. This is a simple concept to read, but a tremendously difficult concept to fully understand. The issue of “justification by faith” is one that has been thoroughly discussed among theologians over the years, but seldom understood by the average “believer.” The Book of Romans candidly and painstakingly explains how people are preserved from God’s promise to judge sin by the work that God does in spite of the people who receive the benefits of His work. The reason that this concept is so hard to understand is because as people, we have a tendency to compare ourselves to others based on standards of self-righteousness rather than God’s righteousness. People have a tendency of seeing themselves as less wicked than others. People have a tendency of seeing themselves as generally good people. These might be true statements compared to other people based on worldly standards, but God judges by His righteous and holy standard. So this truth is a flawed truth…
The Biblical truth is that humanity has been condemned since the days of Adam and Eve. It is not possible to please God by one’s own efforts. The extent of effort that one gives does not translate to better results in the eyes of God. There have been plenty of men and women that genuinely “tried” (and suffered greatly in those efforts) to please God by “doing right.” The problem is that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. No matter how hard we “try,” our motives are seldom pure. Our attitudes are seldom righteous. Our hearts are seldom fueled by the quality of love that stems from God as seen in Jesus Christ. Thus, no matter the structure of one’s life or the position that one holds, history proves that the only one qualified to please the Father is the Son – Jesus Christ. It has always been this way, and God has mercifully, graciously, and successfully used many generations of real people to illustrate these complex spiritual truths.
For example, the testimony of the genealogy of Levi in 1 Chronicles 6:1-15 documents some of the names of men that served as high priest for the children of Israel. The role of high priest was an incredible position of privilege that was exclusively tied to bloodline. Only the son of a high priest could serve as high priest, which is why the genealogies were so well preserved. The Jews understood the extent privilege that came with the position of high priest and so they guarded the position carefully. The children of Israel highly respected the high priest and his duties since he alone was the one appointed to atone for the sins of the people. The Book of Exodus explains that God selected Aaron to serve as the first high priest. His role was set so that he would be responsible for interceding on behalf of the children of Israel concerning critical spiritual matters. The high priest was called to offer certain sacrifices and was afforded certain privileges based on his position. They alone were allowed in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle where the presence of God resided. The duty of high priest was serious business, and yet the genealogies of these men show that regardless of God’s appointment and the importance of their duties, the high priest was never a position intended to be fulfilled by mere men from the tribe of Levi. The true duties of an “intercessor” and one who could truly atone for sins had to be fulfilled by someone greater than a Levite.
The genealogy begins by providing the names of Levi’s sons. Levi was the third son of Jacob from his wife Leah. Within just a few generations, the genealogy mentions Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. These three individuals were used mightily in the work that God did to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt. Moses and Aaron were brothers. God selected Moses to fulfill the role of a prophet while Aaron was the first high priest that God appointed according to the Law. It was Moses and Aaron – prophet and priest – that were used to lead God’s people out of bondage. However, their start to their new jobs did not resolve well. Aaron was rebuked for leading the children of Israel in idolatry through the construction of the golden calf while Moses received the declaration of God’s righteousness in the Law. Aaron’s sons are listed in the genealogy but two of them, Nadab and Abihu, were smitten by the Lord for offering “strange fire” to the Lord. They tried to perform duties that God had not called them to do being motivated by the wicked desires of their hearts to do so. God punished them quickly and severely by destroying them on the spot.
The genealogy then becomes incomplete to a certain extent due to the transition that took place in the Book of Judges. There, the role of high priest was not as highly as revered so that the descendants of Aaron were not the men that were appointed to the position until the days of David. There, the genealogies get back on track to document the men that served as the spiritual leaders of the children of Israel. The genealogies mention a man named Zadok, which was the high priest when David became king and ruled from Jerusalem over both the northern and the southern territories. Zadok was the father of a man named Ahimaaz who also served as high priest, and then he begot a man named Azariah. Azariah was the high priest and “prince” that Solomon appointed when he underwent construction of the first temple in Jerusalem.
While it seems as if the children of Israel were able to make the proper corrections to maintain the integrity of the most holy position for a man to hold on this earth, the genealogies show that the position was corrupted by men that could not help but live corruptly. The days of Solomon ended in idolatry and the high priest was not exempt from participation. The genealogy mentions another man named Azariah. Of him it is stated that he “ministered as priest in the temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem.” This is not the same Azariah that served as high priest during the days of Solomon. Rather, this was the grandson of the man who had the same name. It is said of his service in the temple because it was he who had to rebuke King Uzziah when he sought to perform duties of the high priest. It is good that Azariah cherished his job and the holy nature of his ordination to rebuke the king. Yet, the desire of the king to perform duties that were exclusive to the priest shows the wicked intents of God’s people.
Eventually, the wicked nature of the hearts of God’s people overcame the position of high priest. God sent many prophets such as Amos to warn the people about their corruption – especially in the position of the high priest. These men began to offer sacrifices to God according to the commands of the Law while also offering sacrifices to false gods and idols. The high priests became puppets of the kings of Judah rather than servants of the King of kings. The genealogy of 1 Chronicles 6:1-15 ends with the brief testimony of the high priest named Jehozadak. Jehozadak was the high priest at the time that Babylon carried the children of Israel away into captivity. Here it is critical to see how the genealogy begins compared to its end. The genealogy began with God’s appointment of a man that was used to take God’s people out of bondage. The genealogy ends with the testimony of a man that served in the same position while God’s people were taken back into bondage. Though there were men in the genealogy that served nobly, clearly their efforts were futile in the big-picture perspective. Their leadership was not sufficient to genuinely connect the people to God in a lasting manner. The genealogy documents twelve generations of high priests. That was all the time that it took for the children of Israel to end up in the same captivity that they started in.
This shows that no man is qualified to do the job that needs to be done concerning sin. The Bible teaches that there are none righteous. The Bible teaches that there are none who even seek after God. The Bible teaches that together, we have all become unprofitable to God. Though the position of high priest was well respected and most cherished, it was corrupted by the hearts of the men who served the position. Even those who did well didn’t do well enough. This proves that indeed, all fall short of the glory of God. What person is there that can forge a lasting connection to the One True Living God? What person is there that can offer a sacrifice without any spot or blemish that God will actually value? What person is there that can stand as blameless before God on behalf of another person? Twelve generations of high priests prove that, no matter how many sacrifices are given; no matter how many “good works of the Law” are practiced; no matter how devout one might seem, no descendant of man can connect another to the holy and righteous God. Eventually, all people lead other people back into bondage just like the genealogy shows.
This is why God ordained Jesus as our Great High Priest, but not from the tribe of Levi, instead from the order of Melchizedek. Long before Isaac, Jacob, Levi, and Aaron, Abraham met a man named Melchizedek. The Bible explains that Melchizedek was the King of peace and was a high priest of the Most High God. Again, this was long before Moses was born and the Law was given to him. The Book of Hebrews explains that this Melchizedek was an Old Testament appearance of none other than Jesus Christ! God knew the weaknesses of His people. Jesus was never “Plan B.” Jesus was ALWAYS the means by which mankind would connect to the God Most High. Jesus was ALWAYS the means by which the sins of mankind would be atoned for. Jesus was ALWAYS the intercessor for God’s people. Jesus is the only One qualified to do this work because He is God in flesh as the Son of God; the Messiah King of Israel and Great High Priest sent to fulfill the Father’s eternally unconditional promises. The genealogy of Levi and the sinful high priests that came from him proves that if not for Jesus, we’d all still be in bondage.
There is a commonly understood principle in life that is rooted in the Bible but has become well known even outside of the church: You reap what you sow. The principle is actually quite simple. If you sow apple seeds, you should expect to harvest apples when the time is right. No one planting apple seeds expects to harvest strawberries. If you want strawberries, you need to plant strawberry seeds. Where this concept is especially important is in the area of righteousness. If a person seeks righteousness where true righteousness can be found (in the Lord), then a person can expect to find righteousness. The Lord promised that if we seek Him we will find Him. In the same manner, if a person seeks unrighteousness, they will find it. Those who neglect the Lord can’t expect to find righteousness since He is the exclusive means by which righteousness can be found. According to the Bible, those who deny the Lord will only find darkness and bondage in sin because everything reproduces of its own kind. By default, when a person separates from the Lord by pursuing the desires of the flesh, they will eventually find what they’ve truly been pursuing and reap that which they’ve actually been sowing.
This principle is illustrated through the testimony and genealogy of the half tribe of Manasseh that lived on the east side of the Jordan River. In 1 Chronicles 5:23-26 the Bible documents just a few of the descendants of the half tribe of Manasseh. Though this section is considered to be a genealogy, there are few names listed. Instead, the testimony focuses on documenting the general conduct of the men and women that made up the half tribe of Manasseh. Like the genealogies of Reuben and Gad, the Bible explains that God increased the half tribe of Manasseh as well. The two and a half tribes unified to accomplish God’s purposes in conquering the land that God appointed to them. The scriptures explain that the two and a half tribes enjoyed tremendous victories because the Lord fought on their behalf. These tribes increased greatly in resources and riches. The number of their families grew, and it appeared that all was good according to the promises that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
There is a challenge with human nature however. The history of the Bible shows that God’s people have a hard time understanding how to properly handle the success that God brings. When God brings a victory, it is not uncommon for the people of God to grow prideful and self-righteous. It is common for people to think that the success and growth that God enables is on account of the “good things” that His people do. This is not true since the Bible explains that “none are righteous, no not one.” Since none are righteous, then there is no “good” that a person can do to please God. The victories that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half tribe of Manasseh enjoyed were on account of the promises that God made to Abraham long before. God made these promises well before the people who enjoyed God’s victory were born, so there was nothing they could have done to “earn” God’s favor. The favor that God provided these tribes was by the extension of God’s grace. Nevertheless, the genealogy of the half tribe of Manasseh explains that the people started to live with inflated valuations of themselves.
The Bible explains that the victories that God provided were so great that the generations that are listed in the genealogy were mighty men of valor that became famous in the land. The manner in which God used this particular generation was so great that their exploits were recorded and documented as highlights of Israel’s history. Yet the very next verses in the genealogy state that these very men became unfaithful to the Lord. While they called upon the Lord before and during the battle, they neglected the Lord after He brought the victory. This is a common human habit as well. It is normal for the people of God to call upon Him when the circumstances seem dire or intense; but feel qualified to manage on our own so that we neglect the Lord when circumstances seem peaceful. The circumstances of the half tribe of Manasseh only appeared to be peaceful. The truth is, the Bible reveals that there was another war that raged on – a spiritual war.
The famous mighty men from the half tribe of Manasseh denied the Lord and began to pursue and worship the gods of the people that the One True Living God had destroyed. God made these men renown through the victory He provided while He purged the land of the defilement the native inhabitants of the land lived in. Yet the children of Israel chased after that very defilement at the expense of their relationship with the Lord. Though they were used as tools of God’s righteousness to purge idols and false gods from the land, they also desired the same gods and idols that God despised. The scriptures explain that the half tribe of Manasseh “played the harlot.” In other words, God was like the husband of His people, but the children of Israel desired to be with others and “cheated” on God with idols and pagan philosophies.
Here it is important to notice how the dynamics of spiritual warfare work. Notice that it was when the children of Israel were high on their victory that they fell victim to the vilest of sins that God mentions. This shows that the enemy might prefer God’s people to have certain victories in order that they grow comfortable in the perception of “peace” so that they can start to tickle the urges of the flesh to pursue desires that are contrary to God. It is in the time of “peace” where men and women have a tendency to abuse the grace of God, figuring that the perception of “peacetime” and “victory” is a sign of God’s approval of personal conduct. Many feel that if God approves of personal conduct, then God would not mind certain indulgences of the flesh to enjoy “His blessings.” Meanwhile, what is really happening is that the hearts of God’s people are being pulled away from Him and towards material and fleshly desires that are contrary to His purposes. This is what happened to the half tribe of Manasseh.
This genealogy does not end well. The Bible explains that God responded to the pride, self-righteousness, and idolatry of the people. History confirms that the Assyrians invaded Israel and began massive waves of deportations in 722 BC. According to the genealogy of 1 Chronicles 5:23-26 this happened because God caused it. The Bible explains that God saw the sinful hearts of His people, so He “stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria.” Pul is Tiglath-Pileser, the wicked pagan king that destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. According to the genealogy of the half tribe of Manasseh, Tiglath-Pileser began his conquest with the tribes that dwelt on the east side of the Jordan River. Though God provided victory before, it is clear to see that God can also cause defeat to discipline His people. That is exactly what took place.
The Assyrian captivity that the children of Israel endured was on account of the unbelief and unfaithfulness that they expressed towards God. God did everything well and right to satisfy the hearts of His people according to the promises He made long before. Certain generations of the children of Israel were able to enjoy tremendous benefits on account of work that God Himself did. However, the children of Israel were not satisfied with God’s provision and benefits. They craved more. They wanted to be like the wicked people that surrounded them. They adopted their gods and ways of thinking. They lived like the very people that God was destroying even though they were being used as instruments of God’s judgments. Clearly this shows the fickle nature of human faith. No matter how much good God does, there is always a tendency to desire evil. The Israelites that dwelt on the east side of the Jordan River did not sow seeds of righteousness by seeking God’s righteousness. Though they were able to taste and see how good the Lord was, they craved the wicked desires of their flesh more, and sowed seeds of corruption by neglecting God. Thus, when they were attacked by the Assyrians and taken captive, it was only because they pursued captivity. Those who deny the freedom that God brings according to His goodness end up sowing seeds of captivity to sin by default.
When God created mankind, He created them with the purpose to work as a team. God created Adam and Eve to function as one through the context of their marriage. Later in the Book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul explained that God did this in order to provide an illustration that manifests God’s desire for Him to be one with His people. The husband is a picture of Christ that must die to himself for the benefit of his bride. The wife is a picture of the church that must submit to the spiritual leadership of the husband. This was the way that Adam and Eve were supposed to live in their marriage. They were co-dependent on one another since one could not do the job that God ordained without the other. They were to live as a team, helping one another achieve the spiritual purpose that God ordained through practical obedience, keeping each other focused on the Lord and His purposes.
God’s desires don’t change. When the Lord increased the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He proclaimed the same desire to illustrate the same principle of oneness. The children of Israel were twelve tribes, but they were to function as one people. They were to live individually accountable to the One True Living God. With each individual humbly focused on living according to God’s purposes, the children of Israel were supposed to look like one special treasure in the hands of the Lord God Almighty. The children of Israel are God’s unique tool that He desires to use in order to share His blessing (salvation) with all the families of the earth. In this way, the children of Israel are to live as one conduit or channel of God’s greatness, holiness, and righteousness in order that the rest of the world can be connected to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
When the church was “born” on the Day of Pentecost nearly two thousand years ago, God taught the same lesson. On that day, there were one hundred twenty men and women meeting in a house, seeking the wisdom of God “in one accord” in order to understand how they could practically fulfill the command of Jesus to “make disciples of all nations” by distributing the Gospel. The early church was made up of many individuals that came from a variety of backgrounds, socio-economic levels, cultural cliques and such. Yet all of them had the commands of Jesus as the chief motivator for their lives. They were all filled with the Spirit and did the work that needed to be done in order to assist the distribution of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. They functioned as “one body” with Christ being “the head.” The Bible explains that when the church was at its best, the people did not seek selfish ambitions, but instead sought the Lord to be used by His Spirit to fulfill His eternal purposes.
These three examples show that God does not change the means by which He desires to use individuals. While He works within the hearts of individuals, He does so with the objective to integrate them into a larger group that works together to fulfill His purposes according to His declarations, depending on His provision, wisdom and righteousness to get the job done. This pattern of God’s work is also highlighted in the genealogies of Gad to show how God is pleased when His people work together in this way. Like the genealogy of Reuben, the genealogy of Gad does not cover a full family tree that documents the existence of this tribe from the time of Gad until the time of the Babylonian captivity. This genealogy is incomplete like many of the others but the names that are listed are documented in order to reveal certain things about the Lord – not necessarily the individuals that are mentioned.
In 1 Chronicles 5:11-22 the Bible lists only a few generations of the children of Gad, the son of Jacob. The genealogy confirms that the tribe of Gad lived on the east side of the Jordan River with the tribe of Reuben and with the half tribe of Manasseh based on the promise that God made to them in Numbers 32:29. When the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh first requested to have this land, referred to as Gilead, Moses first objected to the idea. There was concern that the natural divider of the Jordan River would cause these two and a half tribes to be separated from the rest and susceptible to isolation socially, backsliding spiritual, and easy targets militarily. Nevertheless, God honored the desire of these two and a half tribes, and the genealogy of Gad shows that God increased these people anyway when their hearts were committed to Him. The geographic location of the people would not hinder the Lord. The challenges and barriers of separation from the rest of Israel would not handicap God. The genealogy shows that when these three tribes worked together in an effort to seek the Lord and depend on Him, the Lord fulfilled His promises to increase them and make them a great nation – regardless of what side of the river they were on.
The genealogy of 1 Chronicles 5:11-22 explains that the victory that the tribe of Reuben had over the Hagrites was not just because of the strength of Reuben. The genealogy of Gad explains that the two and a half tribes on the east side of the Jordan River were able to amass 44,760 valiant men for battle. Reuben on its own was a small tribe. Gad on its own was larger, but still not powerful enough to fight against the Hagrites. The half tribe of Manasseh was only a half of the tribe. Therefore, they worked together as brethren in order to do the work that God appointed them to do. The Bible specifically states that the two and half tribes fought together and were able to have victory because “they cried out to God in battle.” These men sought the Lord and put their trust in Him in order to receive victory over their enemies. The Bible says that these men prayed and God heard their prayers. God responded to their prayers by providing victory according to the commands He first gave to purge the land of the native residents. The Bible says that many of the enemy fell dead “because the war was God’s.”
Though the Hagrites resided on the boarder of the territory of Reuben, the two and half tribes fought as one. The fight of Reuben was also the fight of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. Then, each of them ultimately agreed to give the fight over to the Lord. These individuals made up tribes, and each of these tribes fought together by crying out to the Lord. They were unified in humility and dependency on the Lord God Almighty. As a result, the Lord increased these two and a half tribes greatly. The genealogy of Gad spends less time mentioning the names of descendants and more time documenting this great victory that allowed the people to grow exponentially in resources, strength, and funding. The men that fought in this war were put into the genealogy during the days of King Jotham (the son of King Uzziah that did well), which was around 740 BC. The legacy that God wanted to highlight of this genealogy was tied to this one victory in which God was willing to do a mighty work because the people lived according to His will and obeyed the commands of His Word with humility and meekness.
The workings of God’s grace are hard to understand from the perspective by which God’s people are able to see it on a personal basis. We can identify with the grace we’ve received in salvation, but even still, can’t comprehend the amount of sin that we’ve committed that we’ve also been forgiven for. We know that Jesus’ blood was sufficient to pay the price of all the sins of the world, from Adam until the last, but just how much sin is that? In Proverbs 24:16, the Bible teaches that even a righteous man falls seven times. The best day any person can have is committing only seven sins. Yet could we identify each of those sins even as so few? The point is, God has forgiven us for much more than most people can really understand. God has provided way more favor than we can really comprehend. This is why the history of the Bible is so helpful. If we know that the magnitude of God’s grace is immeasurable, we should desire to understand all that we can of His grace out of gratitude if we have indeed received it. The history of the Bible provides a hindsight perspective of God’s grace. The scriptures are helpful to provide a synopsis of the history of generations so that we can look at the broad strokes of God’s work over these eras of time, and see the bigger picture of favor that God provides.
The genealogies of the Bible are extremely helpful to see God’s grace in this manner. The details of the people listed in the Bible – especially concerning the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – provide enough candid information to show the folly of large people groups and how God responds to that folly over time to work towards the fulfillment of His eternally unconditional promises. When we go through the highs and lows of life as individuals, we never get to see the outcome of how our experience fits into the grand scheme of God’s plans. The genealogies of the Bible show how God uses individuals to progress towards goodness. The genealogies also show how God responds to the natural sins and wickedness of people to move them towards the fulfillment of His promises despite their mistakes.
The genealogy of Reuben, the first born of Jacob, provides a great example of how God’s grace is so difficult to understand without looking at the big picture of God’s work. Reuben’s genealogy is documented in 1 Chronicles 5:1-10. Reuben’s genealogy is unique to a normal genealogy because it does not list many of his descendants. Reuben’s genealogy focuses more on the circumstances of a few people (some of which aren’t even descendants of Reuben) rather than listing the families that branched out from Reuben. The genealogy of Reuben begins by explaining that Reuben was indeed the first born of Jacob but is not listed first among the sons of Jacob because of his past sin.
The Bible does not list many of Reuben’s descendants but is also helpful to explain why. The Bible explains that Reuben did not maintain his place of dominion as the first-born son because he forfeited his birthright when he slept with his father’s concubine. In Genesis Chapter 35 God commanded Jacob to leave the place of Shechem where he and his family were dwelling. There they encountered a terrible family tragedy because Jacob was not in the place where he promised God he would dwell. Genesis Chapter 35 begins with God’s command to go back to the place of Bethel, which was the place Jacob swore to God that he would dwell in order to worship God there. While in Bethel, the Bible testifies that Jacob’s wife Rachael died giving birth to their youngest son named Benjamin. Rachael was buried there and then Jacob set out to leave that place again. Sometime after leaving Bethel, Reuben had an adulterous relationship with his father’s concubine named Bilhah. Bilhah was also the mother of Reuben’s brothers named Dan and Naphtali. Jacob eventually found out about the relationship but did not do anything about it at the time.
Later when Jacob addressed his twelve sons before he died to give them each a blessing, the Lord used that occasion to speak profound prophecies concerning the future of each son and their descendants. This event is documented in Genesis Chapter 49. There, Jacob rebuked Reuben for his wicked actions and prophesied that he and his descendants would be as “unstable as water” and that they would not excel. Though Reuben was the first born, he would not receive the birthright that the first born traditionally received. Traditionally, the birthright consisted of supreme dominion over any siblings as well as a double portion of the inheritance upon the death of the father. That birthright was not given to Reuben. Reuben forfeited this privilege by his sin, and because of his sin he would “not excel.”
The genealogy of Reuben explains all of these circumstances. The genealogy of Reuben in 1 Chronicles 5:1-10 explains why Reuben was not the first son mentioned among the others. The genealogy of Reuben explains why the portion that Reuben received was so small compared to that of Joseph and Judah. The genealogy explains that the birthright that Reuben was supposed to get was actually given to the sons of Joseph – Ephraim and Manasseh. The territories of Ephraim and Manasseh were much larger than that of Reuben. The Bible also shows that Judah’s portion was much bigger as well. Reuben forfeited his opportunity to have a family of renown dignity. That privilege was actually given to Judah. The Bible explains that the birthright was taken from Reuben and given to Joseph, and the full extent of “the blessing” was given to Judah. The kings of Israel did not come from Reuben though he was the first born. The kings of Israel came from Judah, beginning with David and resolving in the King of kings – Jesus Christ. These details show the effects of sin upon the rewards, opportunities, and treasures that God desires to give. Though Reuben remained an heir of God’s eternally unconditional promises (as did his descendants that lived faithfully), his position of privilege as an heir was severely restricted. Sin has consequence and Reuben’s testimony shows that God is able to punish without condemn.
The remainder of Reuben’s genealogy shows the magnitude of grace that God is able to show over long stretches of time. Though Reuben’s inheritance was cut in half and given to a lesser brother, he was not totally removed from God’s plans and purposes. Reuben would not excel, but he would live and thrive according to God’s grace. The genealogy goes on to list a few names that span over the course roughly eleven hundred years! It should be understood that there were many generations that lived during that 1,100-year period, but only a few were mentioned. The genealogies lead up to a man named Beerah who was one of the many that were carried away by Tiglath-Pileser to Assyria. The Assyrians deported the Jews from the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. Jacob lived around 1914 BC. This is a long stretch of time that the Bible does not document through the genealogy of Reuben. The details that are provided show that Reuben’s descendants continued to suffer consequences of sin and unbelief.
Nevertheless, the end of Reuben’s genealogy shows that there were some families during the time of King Saul that were able to thrive more than their surrounding neighbors. During those days, God enabled some of the descendants of Reuben to conquer the Hagrites, which were some of the people that were dwelling near the boarders of Moab on the east side of the Jordan River. When the children of Israel crossed over the Jordan River with Joshua, the tribe of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh received permission to inhabit the land on the east side of the Jordan River. When Reuben took possession of their settlement, the Bible shows that they were able to take the regions that God promised to them. Though the testimony of Reuben begins in sin and ends in disobedience, the middle portion of their heritage shows that God provided favor to His “special treasure” anyway. God did not excuse their sin, but He did not strip away their position as His eternal inheritance. God remained patient and faithful to the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Though Reuben was disobedient again, the descendants of Reuben are mentioned again in Revelation Chapter 7 as being tools that God will use to proclaim His judgment and salvation. God will call twelve thousand descendants of Reuben to be a part of “the 144,000” that proclaim the revelation of God’s coming kingdom during the time of the Great Tribulation. The prophecy of Ezekiel Chapter 48 shows that one of the gates of Jesus’ temple during the 1,000-year reign will be named after Reuben, which matches the same construction details as the New Jerusalem that Jesus will create in the end as documented in Revelation 21:12-13. Clearly God is not done with these people though the historical documentation of their conduct shows that they are undeserving of being in such position of favor.