God’s Word for You – 1 Chronicles 1:17-18 The Savior’s line

1 CHRONICLES 1:17-18

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(The Semites)
17 The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram. The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Meshech.

The Elamite nation came and went a very long time ago. Their language was unique and distinct. The territory of Elam corresponded to a part of modern Iran, with at least one government center, whether it was the capital or not, located at the citadel of Susa (Nehemiah 1:1). An Elamite king named Kedorlaomer was involved in the coalition against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 14 in the time of Abraham. A judgment on Elam is found in Jeremiah 49:34-39, ending with a gospel promise: “I will restore the fortunes of Elam in days to come” (Jeremiah 49:39), and its fulfillment in the final mention of the Elamites in Scripture: Acts 2:9, where Luke indicates that Elamite was one of the languages represented in the miracle of Pentecost.

Asshur is virtually synonymous with the nation of Assyria, located between the upper Tigris and the Zab. The Assyrian crisis in Israel had its beginnings under Shalmaneser III in the mid-9th century BC and culminating in the renewed attacks against the northern tribes under Tiglath-Pileser III a century later and the siege and downfall of Samaria at the hands of Shalmaneser V (who died during the siege) and Sargon III (formerly known as Sargon II) in 721. This was the period of Isaiah and most of the earlier Minor Prophets (Hosea to Habakkuk).

Arphaxad was the ancestor of most modern Semitic tribes, especially the Hebrews and Arabs. The Hebrew Book of Jubilees says that his sons (not distant descendants, but sons) built the city of Ur in the Chaldees. Genesis 11:10 tells us that he was born two years after the Flood, when Shem was 100 years old– one of the first babies of the present, post-flood world.

Since his name seems to mean “healer,” I think that we see a third example of the ancient world’s hopes for Christ in their own time. We think that Eve felt that Cain would be the Savior promised by God, the seed of the woman who would crush Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15; 4:1). Then Lamech thought that comfort would come in his time at last, and named his son Noah (comfort), but Noah only preserved the line of mankind; he did not save men from their sins. Now, following the flood, the faithful Shem named his son “Healer” (Arphaxad), and I think it’s likely that he thought that now, before unbelief grew and spread and infected the world once again, the Savior would come at long last. But Arphaxad was only the next father in the line of the Savior, and not the Savior himself. Yet these men stand out in the Lord’s genealogy in Luke 3:36.

Lud seems to correspond to the nation of Lydia in Asia Minor. The Ludim are sometimes referred to in the Bible as archers (Isaiah 66:19). As a people, if all the locations refer to the same family, the Ludim became scattered, some settling in Africa and others in Asia Minor. Or else (and this seems likely), the Ludites of 1 Chronicles 1:11 were the ones who settled in Africa, and these sons of Lud were the ones who settled in Asia Minor, and they are only connected through Noah and no closer.

Aram was the ancestor of the people of Syria. The most ancient continuously inhabited city in the world was and still is its capital: Damascus. The language of the Arameans never drifted very far from the Hebrew language of their close cousins the Israelites. This was the people who produced the arch anti-prophet in the days of Moses, Balaam (Numbers 23:7).

These family relationships can be confusing, and it’s easy for someone in our culture to miss the point of what was being said, since we are no longer under the same kind of pressure to establish our lineage. Our relationship to Christ does not depend on our bloodline, but on the blood of Christ, who “as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:3-4). Whatever our heritage on earth, we have a certain heritage in heaven that will never be taken from us.

In the second part of the verse, Uz stands out because his name is also the name of Job’s country on the east side of the Dead Sea. Another Uz was born to Abraham’s brother Nahor (Genesis 22:20-21), but it seems likely that this Uz, the older of the two, gave his name to the region that was synonymous with “the daughter of Edom” (Lamentations 4:21) but may have extended as far north as Damascus: along Jordan’s highways 15 and 35 today, and Syria’s highway M5.

18 Arphaxed was the father of Shelah, and Shelah was the father of Eber.

There appears to be a name missing here. In Luke 3:35-36, Arphaxad’s son is called Cainan, and Shelah is Arphaxad’s grandson. There are several possible explanations for this. It is possible that Cainan had died (he is never mentioned in the Old Testament) and that Shelah was raised by his grandfather, or that there had been a Levirate marriage (see Deuteronomy 25:5-6). It is also possible that the author of Chronicles is interested in a symbolic grouping of the ancient patriarchs, since before the flood there are ten great patriarchs in the line of the Savior (Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, 1 Chronicles 1:1-3) and after the flood there are ten in the line of the Savior up to Abraham (Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abraham, 1 Chronicles 1:24-27). The omission of Cainan makes this symbolic number an even 10.

Arphaxad became the father of the Chaldeans. They settled in Ur, near modern Kuwait in Arabia. They fell into idolatry after a time, so that the Lord called out Abraham before the whole family forgot about the Lord. The Chaldeans quickly became brigands; in the days of Abraham or Isaac they raided the east bank of the Dead Sea, stealing Job’s camel herds and killing many of his servants (Job 1:17).

Shelah’s name appears in Jerusalem in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, when a man named Shallum repaired “the wall of the Pool of Shelah by the King’s Garden” (Nehemiah 3:15 EHV). The Hebrew word is the same as Shelah’s name, although many translations and of course the New Testament call this the Pool of Siloam (John 9:7,11). Was this perhaps a memorial to the faithfulness of this ancient patriarch?

Luther was fond of bringing up Shelah’s name again and again as one of the revered old patriarchs, since he was still alive in Abraham’s lifetime. When people consulted the Lord, they went to men like Shem and Shelah for godly advice and to lead them in prayer. On one such occasion, Rebekah the wife of Isaac went to consult the Lord and was told that two nations were in her womb: Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:23). By my count, both Shem and Shelah had died by the time Rebekah was pregnant with her twin boys, but both Abraham and Eber were still living– Eber was about 385 at the time.

These faithful men proclaimed the message of God. It was a simple and clear word before Moses came, caught by David in the Fourth Psalm: “Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call him. In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:3-5). There in three verses we have a whole catechism of doctrines. There is the church, the doctrines of election, preservation, salvation, sanctification, and prayer. There is comfort and the gospel, as well as the third use of the law, and obedience out of faith. By saying “right sacrifices,” David also divides right worship from wrong and touches on the doctrine of fellowship just as Jesus does at the well (John 4:22). Finally, there is also love for God and love for one’s neighbor, which is the whole summary of the moral law. A person can ponder and strive for these things alone and have a lifetime’s work of growing in faith and humble repentance.

Moses and the Chronicler don’t tell us very many stories about these ancient patriarchs, but we know enough about the mistakes made by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to fill the bulk of Genesis, and the errors of Saul, David, Solomon and their descendants to fill the rest of Chronicles. We don’t need every sad story of sin and forgiveness, but the Bible is so filled with them that we take them to heart and treasure them. Noah got drunk. Abraham let his wife’s anxiety over the promised baby get them so worked up that he took a mistress. Abraham and Isaac told lies to kings about their wives. Jacob did many things like the rascal that he was. His sons were all wild and rash– even pious Joseph spoke without considering their jealousy when he was young. We are told all of these things so that we will remember that God forgives our sins just as he forgave theirs. The phrase “As then, so now” should be the bookmark in our Old Testament. Don’t forget it as you read. And then take after the good ones when you read about them. The pattern of their lives helps us to make good, godly choices today– while our children are watching, and learning, from us.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

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Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota
God’s Word for You – 1 Chronicles 1:17-18 The Savior’s line

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