The Scriptorium

Organizing for Progress

Genealogies were indispensable for God's people. Ezra 8.1-14; Nehemiah 7.5-7

Gleanealogy: Forward, Ever Forward (5)

Pray Psalm 84.1-4.
How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house;
They will still be praising You.

Sing joyfully and with thanksgiving Psalm 84.1-4.
(Holy Manna: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship)
Lord of hosts, how sweet Your dwelling; how my soul longs for Your courts!
Let my soul with joy keep telling of Your grace forever more.
Like a bird upon the altar, let my life to You belong.
Blessed are they who never falter as they praise Your grace with song!

Read Ezra 8.1-14; Nehemiah 7.5-7.

Prepare.
1. Why do you suppose it was important that this list be provided twice?

2. What two major projects did these returning people accomplish? Why was it important to record their names?

Meditate.

The genealogy/census listed in Ezra 8.1-14 is condensed. Just enough of the pedigree of each name was given so that officials in Jerusalem could check the credentials of those returning with Ezra against existing records. And where that was not possible (cf. Ez. 2.61-63), the returnees would have to wait for an adjudication of their claims by the priests.

Notice how Nehemiah begins his record of the returning exiles (Neh. 7.5), which is the same record as provided by Ezra 2. Let’s note two important things.

First, Nehemiah says “God put it into my heart” to record the census/genealogy that follows in this chapter. If there was ever any doubt in our minds about whether the genealogies of Scripture are inspired, this should dispel it once and for all. The genealogies are a bit like the superscriptions in the psalms – which almost nobody reads. In our English versions, those superscriptions don’t even merit a verse numbering! But we should follow the Hebrew Bible and include those superscriptions as inspired text (cf. the superscription of Psalm 18 with 2 Sam. 22.1), just as the genealogies are. And we should consider that, as inspired texts, they have something of God’s love to teach us – as we have seen throughout this study of the genealogies.

Second, Nehemiah assembled the whole population “to be registered by genealogy.” Here he is updating the existing genealogy by having every person enrolled (the Hebrew verb is actually reflexive: “enrolled themselves”). With the temple rebuilt, the wall finished, and the people disbursed to their various cities and villages, it was time to go forward. And to do so, it was essential that the existing census and genealogies should be accurate and up to date. Here is yet another indication of the importance these documents held for the people of ancient Israel.

The attention given in these two books to getting the lists of names and pedigrees right should speak to us about the role of the genealogies of Scripture. It was important to know who’s in and who’s not when it comes to laying hold on the promised blessings of God. Family records, church membership rolls, even theological and denominational traditions have some affinity to the making of genealogies that we see in Scripture. They can help us to know who we are and from whom we are descended, – which branch of God’s people – where we belong – God’s place for us – and how we fit into God’s project for knowing, loving, and serving Him, and making all the nations disciples.

Reflect.
1. How is the return from Babylon in some ways like the conquest of Canaan under Joshua? What role did censuses and genealogies play in each of these?

2. Why was it so important to keep these records current? How would these records serve future generations of Israelites?

3. How do you suppose these genealogies and censuses helped Ezra and Nehemiah in finishing the tasks God had assigned them?

When, therefore, not only the nobles and officials but also all the common people had assembled before him, he diligently endeavored to make a census of their number so that, having made a review of the total of all the people, he might be able to determine which ones should dwell in the city of Jerusalem and which in the other cities
The Venerable Bede (672-735), On Ezra and Nehemiah 3.25

Thank You, Lord, that my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Help me live as a citizen of Your Kingdom today as I…

Pray Psalm 84.5-12.
Rejoice to be the dwelling-place and temple of the Lord! Commit all your activities today as offerings for His glory.

Sing Psalm 84.5-12.
Psalm 84.5-12 (Holy Manna: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship)
Blessed are they whose strength is founded in Your strength, O Lord above.
All whose hearts in You are grounded journey in Your strength and love.
Though they weep with tears of sadness, grace shall all their way sustain.
In Your presence, filled with gladness, they shall conquer all their pain.

Lord of hosts, my prayer receiving, hear me, help me by Your grace!
In Your courts I stand believing; turn to me Your glorious face!
Lord, our sun, our shield, our glory, no good thing will You deny
to those who proclaim Your story, and who on Your grace rely.

T. M. Moore

The genealogies of Scripture reveal the heart of God in His covenant relationship with His people. To learn more about God’s covenant, order our book, I Will Be Your God, by clicking here. You can learn to sing all the psalms to familiar hymn tunes by ordering a copy of The Ailbe Psalter (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore