The Genealogies of the Bible

“The Bible is boring.” Let’s be honest. We all feel that way sometimes.

More than anything in the Bible, people get bored reading the long list of names in its genealogies.

I believe that all of the Bible is profitable (see 2 Tim. 3:16), but it’s sometimes hard to see the profit in some passages like the genealogies. A long list of names? Profitable? How?

My view of genealogies in general has recently changed. It’s changed because I’ve begun doing some genealogical research (you can read about it here and here), and I’ve really enjoyed it.

I didn’t really connect this with the Bible until I began reading the book of Matthew with my family and doing a small group study on this book. And how does the Gospel according to Matthew start out? With a genealogy.

In the past, I might have slogged through it.

But now, having studied and thought about genealogy, this genealogy actually really piqued my interest.

Here are a few of the things I thought about as I contemplated Matthew’s genealogy.

First, the Bible genealogies demonstrate that family is important. In our nation in particular, we tend to downplay the importance of the family. However, family shapes us. We carry it with us wherever we go whether we think so or not. Genealogies are one perspective on what has shaped us.

Second, we are family people. We are human beings, but we are not “abstract human beings.” We are all particular human beings with particular ancestors from particular places speaking particular languages shaped by particular cultures. We all have our limits and unique perspective.

Third, our family connects us to the world story. Our family is a significant part of what makes us unique human beings, but the story of our family connects us with the world story.

I have always loved history, but genealogical research has made me feel more a part of it. I feel much more connected to the Revolutionary War knowing that one of my ancestors died at Valley Forge. I’ll never hear the name Mohammed Ali the same way again knowing that a second cousin was in a boxing match with him when my cousin was 14 years old (the cousin lost and never boxed again, by the way).

Our family connects us to the rest of humanity. Trace it back far enough, and all our family trees intersect.

Fourth, our family matters to God. The fact that God put genealogies in the Bible shows that He cares about our families.

I have had quite a few conversations with people about my genealogical research. It’s an easy topic of conversation because everyone has some sort of genealogical understanding, but sometimes their eyes glaze over when I talk about my 3rd great grandfather or 1st cousin twice removed. But God’s eyes don’t glaze over. God is interested in our genealogy. He cares who our cousins are and who are 3rd great grandfathers are (you have 16 of them by the way!).

Fifth, our families connect us to the brokenness and fallenness of the world. In Jesus’ genealogy, there was a prostitute, a murderer, the wife of the man who was murdered, and other unsavory characters. Sometimes in studying genealogy (or your own immediate family!), you may say, “I wish I hadn’t learned that!” But like it or not, fallenness and brokenness are part of who we are. We can’t change that fact by running away from it.

Sixth, there is hope for our families. At the end of the genealogy in Matthew is Jesus. He comes right into the middle of the mess. He’s literally born into it. He comes into the middle of it to save it. Our families don’t have to follow the same old patterns. There is One who comes who brings new hope, restoration, forgiveness, and renewal for all the families of the human race.

For me, genealogies are no longer boring.

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