This chapter gives us a record of the family of Jacob, whom the Lord later named Israel. His twelve sons are here named, who are so often spoken of throughout almost the whole Bible! At every turn, we meet with the twelve tribes who descended from these twelve patriarchs. The personal character of several of them was none of the best (in fact, the first four were greatly blemished), and yet the covenant was entailed on their descendants; for it was of free grace alone that it was said, “Jacob have I loved!”
The family of the tribe of Judah was the most praised, the most enlarged, and the most dignified of the twelve tribes; and therefore, the genealogy of their tribe is the first and largest of them all. In the account that is here given of the first branches of that illustrious tree, of which Christ was to be the top branch, we meet with some persons who were very bad indeed; but there were also some who were very wise and good. The tribe of Judah was also endowed with some who were very great – such as Nahshon (verse 10), who was the prince of the tribe of Judah when the camp of Israel was formed in the wilderness, and who led the multitudes of Israel in their glorious marches through the desert. There was also Salma, also known as Salmon (verse 11), who was Nahshon’s son; he succeeded his father in that same post of honor when Israel entered Canaan. Salmon’s son was the man whom we know as Boaz, who married Ruth the Moabitess. Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed, and Obed’s son was Jesse.
A particular account is given of the family of Jesse, for the sake of David – and for the sake of the Son of David, Who is the “rod out of the stem of Jesse” (Isa. 11:1). David was Jesse’s youngest son and a shepherd, but he was anointed by Samuel the prophet to be the Lord’s chosen king over His people; and his three great commanders – Joab, Abishai, and Asahel – were the sons of one of his sisters, and Amasa was the son of his other sister. These persons are spoken of in more detail in other passages of Scripture; but very few of the people in the latter portion of this chapter are mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.
It seems that the tribe of Judah was more full and exact in their genealogies than any of the other tribes of Israel – in which we must acknowledge the Lord’s special hand of Providence; for these genealogical records detail the ancestry of Jesus, the promised Messiah Who was to be the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
Some of the notable names that we find in this chapter include Bezaleel, who was the head-workman in the building of the Tabernacle (Ex. 31:2). We also read of Hezron, who was the son of Judah’s son Pharez (verse 5). He was the father of three sons: Jerahmeel, Ram, and Chelubai – better known as Caleb, who spied out the land of Canaan with Joshua and the ten wicked spies. Ram’s descendants are described in verses 10-17. But the rest of the chapter speaks of the posterity of Caleb and Jerahmeel, who were very fruitful – and Hezron himself likewise, even in his old age; for he left his wife pregnant when he died (verse 24). This Hezron was one of the 70 persons who went down with Jacob into Egypt (Gen. 46:12). He left a large number of descendants to the family of Pharez – the line through which Jesus was born. But there is mention made of two men in this large family who died without children (verses 30 and 32), and of one who had only daughters and no sons (verse 34). The Lord’s perfect Providence arranges the building of families by His own incontestable sovereignty, as it pleases Him – either in giving children or withholding them, or in giving all of one gender.
The genealogical records of several of the persons mentioned in this chapter do not terminate in a person, but in a place or a country. For example, one is said to be the father of Kirjath-jearim (verse 50); and another of Bethlehem (verse 51), which later became known as David’s city. This was because these places fell to the allotment of land which was given to these men when the land of Canaan was divided among the twelve tribes.
We also read of some who were families of scribes (verse 55). They were those who kept up learning in their family, especially Scripture-learning; and they taught their families the good knowledge of God. Among all the great families recorded in this chapter, we are glad to find some who were families of scribes. O that all the Lord’s people were families of scribes – well-instructed for the kingdom of heaven, and able to bring out of their treasuries things both new and old!
Lord, we confess that we are truly no better than our forefathers; for we all partake of the same fallen sin-nature, by which we are worthy of death. But we thank You for preserving the family of the tribes of Judah; for in his descendants, all the families of the earth may find blessing in Christ the Messiah – Who brings life and salvation to us who deserve nothing but death! Amen.
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