defiled his father’s couch, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, so that he could not be enrolled as the oldest son; though Judah became strong among his brothers and a chief came from among him, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph)… (1 Chronicles 5:1-2).
We read about Reuben’s sin in Genesis 35:22 and how Jacob / Israel declared that he had lost primogeniture in Genesis 49:3-4. We also read how Jacob / Israel gave Joseph the double portion, the inheritance of the eldest son, when he received Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own (Genesis 48:5-20). What the genealogy of 1 Chronicles 5 confirms is that even though their ancestor sinned in this way and was punished, the descendants of Reuben still are an integral part of
Israel. Besides, they are worthy of honor because they are from the physical eldest son of Israel (Richard L. Pratt, 1 and 2 Chronicles: A Mentor Commentary; 2006, Christian Focus Publications, pg. 105).
In the rest of 1 Chronicles 5 the chronicler details the genealogies of the two and a half tribes that settled the lands east of the Jordan River, outside the Promised Land. We read about their settlement of this land in Numbers 32; Deuteronomy 3:8-20; Joshua 1:12-18; 12:1-6; 13:8-33 and all of Joshua 22. Now in 1 Chronicles 5 we learn about battles that they had against their neighbors that were not mentioned in any other part of the Bible: “They waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. And when they prevailed over them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him” (1 Chronicles 5:19-20). And although they lost their land because of their idolatry and were sent into exile by Assyria, the chronicler wants them to be included also in his vision for the restoration of Israel (Pratt, 111).
In 1 Chronicles 6 the chronicler concentrates on the genealogy of the Levites. In particular he wants to indicate clearly the lineage of the high priest from Aaron to Zadok and his descendants until the exile. He also shows that descendants from all of Levi’s principal lineages participated in the temple music.
He also encourages his readers to provide for the Levites who would rebuild Jerusalem and the rest of Israel by reminding them of the lands they had held before the exile.
First Chronicles 7 – 8 identifies the genealogies of the other tribes (except for Dan and Zebulon). It underlines Benjamin, probably because of the closeness and
faithfulness of part of its tribe to Judah, Levi and the temple in Jerusalem in the centuries running up to the exile (Pratt, 128-29). In these genealogies, the interest in men of war is notable; the chronicler probably wants to underline that the new Israel will have to consider organizing an army for self-protection and to fight Yahweh’s battles (Pratt, 118).
To summarize, through the first 8 chapters of 1 Chronicles, we can see some of the chronicler’s priorities. He wants to present a vision for the resettlement of Israel by the descendants of the exiles in agreement with the best moments in Israelite history, the times when Israel showed its greatest faithfulness to its God and enjoyed a living relationship with Him. Therefore, in the genealogies and his retelling of Israel’s history, the chronicler inspired by Yahweh’s Spirit notes the
Faithfulness to the house of David,
Devotion to Yahweh directed by the high priest and the Levites in the temple,
The support of the Levites in agreement with the Mosaic Law,
Crying out to Yahweh in prayer in the midst of weakness and need.
As a result of putting these into practice, Yahweh’s people who return to the Promised Land from exile to rebuild Jerusalem can hope for the following:
Yahweh’s response to their need,
The recovery of the geographic extent of the Promised Land,
The reintegration of more descendants of the exile into the Promised Land,
The multiplication of descendants as a blessing of Yahweh,
Military success against their enemies.
Therefore, through these genealogies, the chronicler has a message to communicate to Yahweh’s people, a message based on His eternal faithfulness.