Three (Practical) Reasons to Read Those (Boring) Genealogies
Let’s be honest. The genealogies, chronologies, and geographies recorded in the Bible are less than practical and worse than boring for most people. Yes, all Scripture may be “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” but the lists of the sons of Reuben hardly seem fitted to make the man of God “complete, equipped for every good work!”
Over the years, I’ve heard various ideas for how to tackle those challenging and miry passages of the Bible that sound like pronunciations lessons. Some people advocate skimming over these sections; others simply skip them, while some brave souls settle into a long but often fruitless effort to read straight through them.
Surely the Almighty does not reveal any information to us earthlings without some heavenly purpose, right? Still, it seems confusing that our all-knowing God would bulk up His Holy Book with so much information that seems downright useless. Why did God not fill those Scriptures instead with fascinating scientific information, or at least further explanation of His great theological mysteries?
Here are three practical reasons why those long lists may actually be part of God’s Divine Will, and profitable to inform us of His Character.
Long Lists Reveal God’s Care
God cares for all His people; the whole Bible supports this premise. He cared enough to send His only-Begotten Son to earth, and He cares enough to raise the godly from the dead at the end of the world. We are confident that we will spend eternity with Him.
Even in the detailed chronologies of the Bible, God demonstrates His care for people. The names of men and women are meticulously recorded, often with a phrase or two that tells us of their characters. If these names are recorded for us, how much more are they recorded for God? Ahi, Abdiel, and Guni may only be names for us, but they represent entire lives that God saw fit to record in Holy Scripture.
The genealogies become a guarantee for us that, if God is willing to preserve these names for thousands of years, how much more capable is He to preserve all his servants (yes, even Christians like you and me) from eternal death!
Long Lists Illustrate God’s Accuracy
What if, in Genesis five, God only recorded that “Seth lived a long time, and fathered Enosh, and had other sons and daughters, and died”? I’m sure that many people would think of that as easier to read, but the loss would be ours. The genealogies, chronologies, and geographical information recorded in Scripture provides us with amazing accuracy to reconstruct the Biblical world. For example, many of the maps in the back of your Bible use information that is directly obtained from Scripture.
These lists illustrate God’s accuracy. God is a detail-oriented God, and He preserves details that we may not value. The accuracy of Biblical information is both beneficial for us to reconstruct the world of the Bible, and it is a test of God’s faithfulness – is he able to accurately preserve detailed information? Anyone who has read these lists can answer with a resounding ‘yes!’
You might benefit more from these complicated sections of Scripture if you make charts and lists. Read about the family of David and create a family tree. Review the borders in Joshua and find the locations on a map. This will help you to interpret and organize the information that God has provided in His Word.
Long Lists Demonstrate God’s Faithfulness
The most compelling reason to keep those long lists in the Bible is because they declare the faithfulness of God. After reading Genesis 13:17, where God says to Abraham, “Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you,” we are not left to wonder if he actually did so. All the meticulous details of the division of Canaan latter in the Bible declare the faithfulness of God.
Again, in John 7:42 the people wondered whether Jesus was the Christ; they asked, “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” Because they did not have detailed information on the genealogy of Jesus, they were unsatisfied, but the lists of names in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 provide us satisfactory evidence that Jesus really is eligible to take the title of ‘Christ.’
God’s ways are not man’s ways, and the long lists of the Bible have probably kept many people from reading the book that could save their souls. Unfortunately, it is not because this information is irrelevant or useless. It provides us practical information to understand God better, and it allows us to reconstruct the ancient world of the Bible. Next time you come to a challenging list in the Bible, take the opportunity to read it, analyze it, and wonder at the caring, accurate, and faithful character of your God.