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Bible Genealogies
Genealogies are the channel along which
some of God's special promises, commissions, and prophecies run –
such as the Israel's kingship, priesthood, and the destinies of its tribes.
Hence, the seemingly boring space given to genealogy in our Bible.
academics have stressed that ancient genealogies of the Bible, such as in Genesis, are really simply statements of political relationships between tribes and nations rather than of any genetic connection.
Many Christians, on the other hand, believe that they are as they appear, simply family trees. Both are right, but to deny the genetic basis of these statments deprives an understanding of the real situation being described.
is shaped by culture. Pre-exilic Biblical Hebrew, in common with similar languages in the Middle East at that time, is significantly different in its idiom and phrasing to modern Hebrew, which is Mishna based, simply because of significant cultural changes. Even within a short time frame there are discernible differences.
we must allow the Bible itself, within its own historical and literary context, to define our understanding of its statements, rather than impose our thought structures upon them.
Two statements illustrate how an individual person may often directly represent a group, tribe, or nation. This same use also occurs in family trees, sometimes as the end name in a genealogy listing.
For this reason both the family tree of Raamah (son of Cush, grandson of Noah), and the family tree of Jokshan (son of Abraham by Keturah), end with the same names: (the tribes of) Sheba and Dedan. The Jokshan and Raamah genetic lines merged in these south Arabian tribes. (See Genesis and 1 Chronicles).
look more directly at some biblical examples:
Example 1 The Sons of Isaac  
"And the LORD [Yahweh] said to her [Rebekah],
'Two nations are in your womb, and two kinds of people shall be separated from your bowels.
And the one people shall be stronger than the other people, the older shall serve the younger'.
" (Genesis 25:23).
The Jacob and Esau twins, before birth, are spoken of by God as nations. Their conflict over space in the womb is projected into their future, the descendants of each child, in their political relationship as Israel and Edom under the rule of king David many centuries later. The individual Esau the first-born (the "older") never served his brother Jacob personally, but his descendants, known as Edom, did pay tribute/tax to Israel (served Jacob) under both Israel's kings David and Solomon.
Example 2 The Sons of Jacob  
About four hundred and seventy five years after Jacob's sons settled in Egypt, they are spoken of as if they were alive in their descendants – the tribes of Simeon and Judah.
The time in Egypt 430 
(Ex.12:40-41; Gal.3:17)
The duration of the migration + 40 
(Ex.16:35; Num.14:33-34; 32:13; Deut.2:7;8:2,4;29:5; Jos.5:6)
The period of the conquest under Joshua +  5 
More than 475 
years later…
"And [the tribe] Judah said to [the tribe] Simeon his brother,
'Come up with me into my lot
[tribal allotment] so that we may fight against the Canaanites.
And I likewise will go with you into your lot.'
So Simeon went with him.
" (Judges 1:3).
Tribal Liaison
in the culture of the time, it was understood that the ancestor was represented in his descendants; hence groups, tribes and nations, may sometimes fit into the family tree structure as if they were individual persons.
Another example of this is the grandson of Noah, Mizraim (the Hebrew name for Egypt). This name and the names of Mizraim's four sons are all in the plural (Gen.10:13). We are still dealing with a family tree/genealogy, but this is a summary of the population growth and spread into north Africa of the descendants of Cush.
What is sad,
however, is the refusal of some academics to see any genealogy in the Bible's family trees, and to simply try and interpret these as nothing more than descriptions of tribal alliances and political groupings. This distorted half-truth is a symptom of a lack deeper than any academic exercise can satisfy.
To encounter God in His book is the only healing illumination that satisfies both mind and spirit.
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