Last time we looked at why the apparently boring genealogies and places that list names of people in the Bible are so important. We looked at the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 and how they were both accurate in spite of the fact they were different. One showed Jesus lineage through his mother Mary and the other His lineage through His step father Joseph.
We also looked at the first genealogy listed in the Bible in Genesis 5, and how when you put the meanings of all those names side by side, collectively, they tell in a simple statement, God’s plan of redemption for man from his sinful condition.
That’s a couple of reasons the genealogical lists in the Bible are so important, and while they’re exciting to discover, there are other really important reasons for the name lists.
For example, the Bible is filled with the accounts of events that took place throughout the history of the Jewish people. In a fictional story, it might begin with ‘Once upon a time’…but in the Bible it’s different because it’s not a book of fairy tales. It’s history!
Thinking about the meanings of the names in the Bible can bring new understanding to passages, or even as in Jeremiah 1, give a clue about the meta-narrative that God is telling. Moses, Joshua, David and others all have names which greatly enhance the significance of the story – and the wider story of redemption – when you know what they mean. We are so blessed to live in an age when anyone can easily look up these meanings in seconds, and find new insights in familiar Biblical passages.
Lists and genealogies are evidence that the Bible is no fairy tale and I want to read to you a passage from the Bible that demonstrates my point.
Jeremiah 1:1-3, ‘The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the exile of Jerusalem in the fifth month.’
So unlike in a fairy tale, or fictional story, the Bible provides the actual names of individuals, who their forefathers were, the regions in which they lived, the tribe from which they came, the time in which they lived, the kings who ruled at that time, and some start and stop dates for what is being spoken about. Sometimes, the Bible reveals what season of the year an event took place, sometimes it reveals the month and even the day that something happened. What this does is emphasise that the event or account being described or referred to, was a real historical event, not a myth or fable.
The Bible, while a spiritual accounting of God and His plans for humanity, is also a historical book that contains within it geographical information, dates and eyewitness accounts of said history. It’s a remarkable book that has been verified time and time and time again. When it comes to discovering Israelite history, they say all you really need is a shovel and a Bible! That’s how accurate the Bible is.
Another thing the apparently boring lists of names does is validate and show just how faithful and trustworthy God is. For example, why does God even want some people to be mentioned in the Bible, their names are so obscure, like Obed-Edom? He wasn’t a prophet, he wasn’t a king…why is it so important that he be mentioned at all?
1 Chronicles 26:4-8 mentions Obed-Edom and all his sons and grandsons and that they were all capable, strong men. Why do we need to know that?
Do you remember the story of David trying to bring the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem from Kiryat Jearim and they thought it would be a really good idea to bring it in on the back of a cart. The problem with that, is that God said that the Ark was only to be carried on the shoulders of the priests. The Ark was placed on the cart, there was lots of dancing and celebration as the cart made its way toward the Holy City and then the unthinkable happened…the cart wobbled because of the oxen stumbling or something, the Ark threatened to topple off so Uzzah put his hands out and grabbed the Ark. This resulted in God killing Uzzah instantly.
Sounds really, really harsh doesn’t it. But the Ark represented God in the midst of His people. You don’t reach out and grab God and you certainly don’t put God on the back of a cart! The presence of God was to be carried on the shoulders of the selected, appointed and anointed priesthood throughout the midst of His people and David and his team really messed up. They were totally disobedient and Uzzah paid the ultimate price. David however didn’t see it that way initially, he was angry and refused to bring the Ark into the city at all. Instead, there was a man named Obed-Edom who lived very nearby, and David asked him if the Ark of the Covenant could stay at his home and Obed-Edom was very happy to protect and house the Ark…the presence of God Himself!
Who was Obed-Edom? He was a Gittite. Who were the Gittites? They were from Gath. Who else do we know came from Gath? Goliath. The majority of Bible scholars believe Obed-Edom was a Philistine from the city of Gath! (1 Chron 13:13)
This particular Philistine was obviously a god-fearing man and had enormous respect for God and the Ark that represented His presence. I imagine that Obed-Edom knew the history of his own people, how they had captured the Ark of God many years before after defeating the Israelites when they were based in Shiloh, and how keeping the Ark resulted in great suffering and tumors among all 5 Philistine cities.
I tend to think that Obed-Edom came to believe in the One True God of Israel, which is why he lived peacefully among the Jews of Israel, and that he felt very honoured to house the Ark trusting that it wouldn’t bring him suffering. The Ark stayed with him in his home for 3 months and during that 3 months, God brought great blessing upon Obed-Edom and his entire household.
The blessing was such that it was reported to David and this motivated David to once again attempt to bring the Ark into Jerusalem, only the next time he did it the correct way.
1 Chronicles 26 lists Obed-Edom the Philistine and his descendants to honour and commemorate this man for his faithfulness to God. It also shows us that God is not a racist, God is for all men and He has revealed Himself to all men through His chosen people the Jews, the Hebrews, the Israelites…be it through their obedience or their disobedience.