Table of Contents
Vol.7: Hidden Things of God's Revelation
THE GENEALOGIES OF THE BIBLE:
Table of Contents
A NEGLECTED SUBJECT
Chapter 1. Old Testament
Chapter 2. New Testament
1 of 5
1967: Doorway Paper No. 24, published privately by Arthur
1977: Part V in Hidden Things of God's Revelation,
vol.7 in The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing
1997: Arthur Custance Online Library (html)
2001: 2nd Online Edition (design revisions)
are the seeming barren places of Scripture. Wheresoever the surface
of God's Word doth not laugh and sing with corn, there the heart
thereof within is merry with mines, affording, where not plain
matter, hidden mysteries.
Lord, I find the genealogy of my
Saviour strangely chequered with four remarkable changes
in four immediate generations (Matthew 1:7,8) .
1. Roboam begat
that is, a bad father begat a bad son.
2. Abia begat Asa;
that is, a bad father, a good son.
3. Asa begat Josaphat;
that is, a good father, a good son.
4. Josaphat begat Joram;
that is, a good father, a bad son.
I see, Lord, from hence, that my
father's piety cannot be entailed; that is bad news for me.
But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary;
that is good news for my son.
quaintest of English divines,
in his Scripture Observations)
ON MY DESK I
have a little snuff box. When we were children we used to use
snuff and I still recall how remarkably refreshing it was. It
was somewhat like opening a window and getting a sudden, exhilarating
breath of completely fresh air blowing away all the mental cobwebs.
I don't know quite why it went out of fashion: perhaps it came
under some Drug Act. This little snuffbox is made of whale bone,
and on the lid it has a small silver plaque with my initial and
name on it: "A. Custance". But it is not really my
name, because underneath that is the date: 1766.
I often used to wonder who this
forebear was and, not unnaturally, assumed that his first name
was, like mine, Arthur. But then a few years ago, as a result
of an odd circumstance, some of us Custances began to try to
re-establish the lines of relationship between different members
of the family in England and Canada and the United States. In
due time the genealogy was completed without any breaks backward
some five hundred years. In this genealogy there appeared the
original owner of my little snuff box. But unfortunately his
name was not Arthur! His name was Adam (1713 -1782).
Anyway, it was a bit of fun. And
even when they are not our own, genealogies can greatly stimulate
the imagination and provide a framework for historical events
for which there is really no substitute. For anyone who has roamed
widely and deeply in history, they serve somewhat the same purpose
that maps do for those who have roamed widely and deeply over
a country. The historian pores over the genealogy as the traveller
pores over his map. Both provide insights into relationships
and a kind of skeleton about which to hang much else that has
stirred the imagination. Unlike the very ancient maps, however,
which have a tendency to be
grossly distorted, many
of the most ancient genealogies are quite precise. Kalisch has
observed, "The earliest historiography consists almost entirely
of genealogies: they are most frequently the medium explaining
the connection and descent of tribes and nations." (1) And they quite often insert,
where appropriate, brief historical notes, such as those relating
to Nimrod and Peleg in Genesis 10. The little notes have their
counterpart in maps which often contain little inset pictures
of local events such as where battles took place, and so forth.
The "value" of these
biblical genealogies depends to some extent on one's specific
interests, but each one of them can be shown to contribute its
own particular kind of light. In this Paper we explore them,
not merely as a guide to lines of relationship, but also for
the light they shed in some cases on the world's spiritual history,
its social customs, its contemporary value systems, on mythology,
the bearing they have on chronology, and from several other points
While it is perfectly true that
they may not serve as appropriate passages to be read for the
edification of the public as most of the rest of the Scriptures
may do, they can form the basis of a very profitable private
study. And of course, they provide fundamental links in the thread
of historical narrative as well as valuable clues for the establishment
of an overall chronology. This Paper contains one or two "interpretations"
which will not appeal perhaps to many readers because they are
based on certain assumptions which may not be justified. Yet
these one or two sections have been included because they may
stimulate thought which in due course will lead to a more precise
understanding of why the genealogy in question contains the peculiarities
which gave rise to my surmisings. For the most part my conclusions
will not be seriously challenged except in the matter of chronology,
in which it will be observed that I still hold to the very old-fashioned
position that it is possible on the basis of these genealogies
to establish a time interval from the First Adam to the Last
Adam which is quite unacceptable to the anthropologists in general,
not excepting some of the Lord's people among them.
In earlier times and among primitive
people today, genealogical information was one of the most valuable
parts of the inheritance which a man received from his forebears.
Until quite recently, an Arab youth was
1. Kalisch, M.M., A Historical and
Critical Commentary on the Old Testament, Longmans, Brown
and Green, London, 1858, p.235.
required to know his
own genealogy in the main line for seventy generations; it was
his passport in society. Only a few years ago, a New Zealand
Maori chief, explaining his claims to certain lands, engaged
the government Land Commission three whole days with a recitation
of descent from an ancestor twenty-four generations back, comprising
very many collaterals and marriages and over fourteen hundred
names in all (Chambers Encyclopedia, 1956 edition under
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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