Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of First Chronicles
SOME 77 years have passed since the Jews returned to their homeland from Babylonian exile. The temple that was rebuilt by Governor Zerubbabel has now stood for 55 years. The prime reason for the Jews’ return was the restoration of true worship in Jerusalem. However, the people lack zeal for Jehovah’s worship. There is an urgent need for encouragement, and that is exactly what the Bible book of First Chronicles provides.
Aside from the genealogical records, First Chronicles covers a period of some 40 years, from the death of King Saul to the death of King David. The priest Ezra is credited with the writing of this book in the year 460 B.C.E. First Chronicles is of interest to us because it gives insight into worship at the temple and provides details about the lineage of the Messiah. As a part of the inspired Word of God, its message strengthens our faith and enhances our understanding of the Bible.—Hebrews 4:12.
A MEANINGFUL RECORD OF NAMES
The detailed genealogical listing that Ezra compiles is necessary for at least three reasons: to ensure that only authorized men serve in the priesthood, to help determine tribal inheritance, and to preserve the record of the lineage leading up to the Messiah. The record links the Jews with their past all the way back to the first man. Ten generations take us from Adam to Noah, and another ten take us to Abraham. After listing the sons of Ishmael, the sons of Abraham’s concubine Keturah, and the sons of Esau, the account focuses on the line of descent of the 12 sons of Israel.—1 Chronicles 2:1.
The descendants of Judah are given extensive coverage because they provide the royal line of King David. There are 14 generations from Abraham to David and another 14 to the deportation to Babylon. (1 Chronicles 1:27, 34; 2:1-15; 3:1-17; Matthew 1:17) Ezra then lists descendants of the tribes on the east side of the Jordan, followed by the genealogy of the sons of Levi. (1 Chronicles 5:1-24; 6:1) Then comes a summary of some of the other tribes to the west of the Jordan River and of the line of Benjamin in detail. (1 Chronicles 8:1) The names of the first inhabitants of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity are also listed.—1 Chronicles 9:1-16.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:18—Who was Shelah’s father—Cainan or Arpachshad? (Luke 3:35, 36) Arpachshad was the father of Shelah. (Genesis 10:24; 11:12) The term “Cainan” at Luke 3:36 may well be a corruption of the term “Chaldeans.” If this is so, the original text may have read, “the son of Chaldean Arpachshad.” Or it may be that the names Cainan and Arpachshad refer to one and the same person. Not to be overlooked is the fact that the expression “son of Cainan” is not found in some manuscripts.—Luke 3:36, footnote.
2:15—Was David the seventh son of Jesse? No. Jesse had eight sons, and David was the youngest. (1 Samuel 16:10, 11; 17:12) One of the sons of Jesse evidently died without having any children. Since that son would have no bearing on genealogical records, Ezra omitted his name.
3:17—Why does Luke 3:27 refer to Jeconiah’s son Shealtiel as the son of Neri? Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel. However, Neri apparently gave his daughter to Shealtiel as a wife. Luke referred to Neri’s son-in-law as Neri’s son just as he did in the case of Joseph, calling him the son of Mary’s father, Heli.—Luke 3:23.
3:17-19—How were Zerubbabel, Pedaiah, and Shealtiel related? Zerubbabel was a son of Pedaiah, who was a brother of Shealtiel. Yet, the Bible at times calls Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel. (Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27) This could be because Pedaiah died and Shealtiel raised Zerubbabel. Or perhaps since Shealtiel died without having a child, Pedaiah performed brother-in-law marriage, and Zerubbabel was the firstborn of that union.—Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
5:1, 2—What did receiving the right of the firstborn mean for Joseph? It meant that Joseph received a double portion of the inheritance. (Deuteronomy 21:17) He thus became the father of two tribes—Ephraim and Manasseh. The other sons of Israel fathered only one tribe each.
Lessons for Us:
1:1–9:44. The genealogies of real people prove that the entire arrangement of true worship is based, not on myth, but on fact.
4:9, 10. Jehovah answered the fervent prayer of Jabez for a peaceful enlargement of his territory so that it might accommodate more God-fearing people. We too need to offer heartfelt prayers for an increase as we zealously share in the disciple-making work.
5:10, 18-22. In the days of King Saul, the tribes east of the Jordan defeated the Hagrites even though these tribes were outnumbered more than 2 to 1. This was because the valiant men of these tribes trusted in Jehovah and looked to him for help. Let us have complete confidence in Jehovah as we carry on our spiritual warfare against formidable odds.—Ephesians 6:10-17.
9:26, 27. The Levite gatekeepers occupied an office of great trust. They were given the key to the entrance to the holy areas of the temple. They proved to be reliable in opening the gates each day. We have been entrusted with the responsibility of reaching out to the people in our territory and helping them to come to worship Jehovah. Should we not prove to be just as dependable and trustworthy as the Levite gatekeepers?
DAVID RULES AS KING
The narrative opens with the account of King Saul and his three sons dying in battle against the Philistines at Mount Gilboa. David, the son of Jesse, is made king over the tribe of Judah. Men from all tribes come to Hebron and make him king over all Israel. (1 Chronicles 11:1-3) Soon thereafter, he captures Jerusalem. Later, the Israelites bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem “with joyful shouting and with the sounding of the horn and with . . . playing aloud on stringed instruments and harps.”—1 Chronicles 15:28.
David expresses a desire to build a house for the true God. Reserving that privilege for Solomon, Jehovah makes a covenant with David for a Kingdom. As David carries on his campaign against Israel’s enemies, Jehovah gives him one victory after another. An illegal census results in 70,000 deaths. After receiving angelic direction to erect an altar to Jehovah, David purchases a place from Ornan the Jebusite. David begins making “preparation in great quantities” for building a “surpassingly magnificent” house to Jehovah at that site. (1 Chronicles 22:5) David organizes Levitical services, described here in greater detail than anywhere else in the Scriptures. The king and the people make generous contributions for the temple. After a 40-year reign, David dies “satisfied with days, riches and glory; and Solomon his son [begins] to reign in place of him.”—1 Chronicles 29:28.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
11:11—Why is the number of slain 300 and not 800 as in the parallel account at 2 Samuel 23:8? The head of David’s three most valiant men was Jashobeam, or Josheb-basshebeth. The other two mighty men were Eleazar and Shammah. (2 Samuel 23:8-11) The reason for the difference in the two accounts may well be that they refer to different deeds performed by the same man.
11:20, 21—What was Abishai’s standing with respect to the three principal mighty men of David? Abishai was not one of the three mightiest men who served David. However, as stated at 2 Samuel 23:18, 19, he was the head of 30 warriors and was more distinguished than any of them. Abishai’s reputation rivaled that of the three principal mighty ones because he performed a mighty act similar to that of Jashobeam.
12:8—In what way were the faces of the Gadite warriors like “the faces of lions”? These valiant men were at David’s side in the wilderness. Their hair had grown long. Having a hairy mane gave them a fierce, lionlike appearance.
13:5—What is “the river of Egypt”? Some have thought that this expression refers to a branch of the Nile River. However, it is generally understood that the reference is to “the torrent valley of Egypt”—a long ravine marking the southwest boundary of the Promised Land.—Numbers 34:2, 5; Genesis 15:18.
16:30—What is the meaning of “severe pains” on account of Jehovah? The expression “pains” is here used figuratively to denote reverential fear of and high regard for Jehovah.
16:1, 37-40; 21:29, 30; 22:19—What arrangement for worship remained operative in Israel from the time the Ark was brought to Jerusalem until the temple was built? When David brought the Ark to Jerusalem and placed it inside the tent he had made, the Ark had not been in the tabernacle for many years. After the move, the Ark remained in that tent in Jerusalem. The tabernacle was in Gibeon, where High Priest Zadok and his brothers carried out sacrifices prescribed in the Law. This arrangement continued until the completion of the temple in Jerusalem. When the temple was ready, the tabernacle was brought from Gibeon to Jerusalem, and the Ark was housed in the Most Holy of the temple.—1 Kings 8:4, 6.
Lessons for Us:
13:11. Rather than becoming angry and blaming Jehovah when our efforts fail, we must analyze the situation and try to see what caused the failure. Undoubtedly, David did that. He learned from his mistake and later successfully brought the Ark to Jerusalem, using the proper method.a
14:10, 13-16; 22:17-19. We should always approach Jehovah in prayer and seek his direction before undertaking any endeavor that will affect us spiritually.
16:23-29. Jehovah’s worship should be our first concern in life.
18:3. Jehovah is the Fulfiller of his promises. Through David, he carried out his promise to give Abraham’s seed the entire land of Canaan, extending “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.”—Genesis 15:18; 1 Chronicles 13:5.
21:13-15. Jehovah commanded the angel to halt the plague because He is sensitive to the suffering of His people. Indeed, “very many are his mercies.”b
22:5, 9; 29:3-5, 14-16. Although he was not commissioned to build Jehovah’s temple, David exhibited a generous spirit. Why? Because he appreciated that all he had acquired was due to Jehovah’s goodness. Similar feelings of gratitude should move us to have a spirit of generosity.
24:7-18. The arrangement of 24 priestly divisions that David instituted was in effect when Jehovah’s angel appeared to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptizer, and announced the coming birth of John. As a member of “the division of Abijah,” Zechariah was then serving his turn at the temple. (Luke 1:5, 8, 9) True worship revolves around historical—not mythological—figures. Blessings result from our loyal cooperation with “the faithful and discreet slave” in connection with the well-organized worship of Jehovah today.—Matthew 24:45.
Serve Jehovah “With a Delightful Soul”
First Chronicles is not all about genealogies. It is also a narrative of David’s bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, of his great victories, of the preparation for building the temple, and of the setting up of the Levitical priestly divisions of service. All that Ezra relates in First Chronicles must surely have benefited the Israelites, helping them to renew their zeal for Jehovah’s worship at the temple.
What an example David set in keeping Jehovah’s worship foremost in his life! Instead of seeking special privileges for himself, David sought to do God’s will. We are encouraged to apply his advice to serve Jehovah “with a complete heart and with a delightful soul.”—1 Chronicles 28:9.
a For other lessons from David’s attempt to transport the Ark to Jerusalem, see The Watchtower, May 15, 2005, pages 16-19.
b For other lessons related to David’s illegal census, see The Watchtower, May 15, 2005, pages 16-19.
[Chart/Pictures on page 8-11]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
The generations from Adam to Noah (1,056 years)
4026 B.C.E. Adam
130 years ⇩
2970 B.C.E. NOAH born
The generations from Noah to Abraham (952 years)
2970 B.C.E. Noah
502 years ⇩
THE FLOOD 2370 B.C.E.
2018 B.C.E. ABRAHAM born
From Abraham to David: 14 generations (911 years)
2018 B.C.E. Abraham
1107 B.C.E. DAVID born