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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Some nuggets from the "Begats"

Some time ago, as part of my regular Bible reading, I read from the "begats" from 1 Chronicles. These are not usually considered to be very inspiring, although some people think that the Prayer of Jabez, which is found in this part of the Bible, is inspiring.

Here is some of what I found.

The Israelites were occasionally commanded to preserve racial purity, but clearly there were exceptions. There were at least two Egyptians who were part of the Israelite congregation, both of them married to members of the tribe of Judah.
1Chronicles 2:34 Now Sheshan had no sons, but daughters. And Sheshan had a servant, an Egyptian, whose name was Jarha. 35 And Sheshan gave his daughter to Jarha his servant to wife; and she bare him Attai. (All scripture quotations in this post are from the King James Version.)

1Chronicles 4:17 And the sons of Ezra were, Jether, and Mered, and Epher, and Jalon: and she bare Miriam, and Shammai, and Ishbah the father of Eshtemoa. 18 And his wife Jehudijah bare Jered the father of Gedor, and Heber the father of Socho, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah. And these are the sons of Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh, which Mered took.
It is interesting that one of the two Egyptians was a servant, and the other was apparently from the Egyptian royalty.

1Chronicles 6:1 The sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 2 And the sons of Kohath; Amram, Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel. 3 And the children of Amram; Aaron, and Moses, and Miriam. The sons also of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
Some have tried to use genealogies in the Bible to establish dates, such as Ussher's chronology. These verses cast doubt on the validity of doing that. According to Exodus 12:40, the Jews were in Egypt 430 years. The only person in that list who could have spent his entire life in Egypt was Amram. By this time, people were not living much longer than they were today, so there aren't enough people to fill a 430 year time span. (Exodus 6:16-20 says that Levi lived 137 years, Kohath 133 years, and Amram lived 137 years.) Almost certainly, some people were left out. Francis Schaeffer, for one, did not believe that the genealogies were meant to be used to develop a chronology, or could be used to develop an accurate one. (Genesis in space and time: the flow of biblical history. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972, pp. 122-125. See also here.) He cites a number of other verses which indicate the unsuitability of the genealogies for developing a chronology.

In chapter 7, I discovered that a woman is given credit for building some towns:
1Ch 7:22 And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him. 23 And when he went in to his wife, she conceived, and bare a son, and he called his name Beriah, because it went evil with his house. 24 (And his daughter was Sherah, who built Bethhoron the nether, and the upper, and Uzzensherah.)
That was remarkable. Since two of these villages are mentioned in Joshua 10:10-11, which was before the division of the land among the tribes, it seems possible that Sherah rebuilt the two Bethhorons, after they were destroyed by Joshua and his army. The Bible doesn't say if she did the planning and the physical labor involved, if she financed the building, if she supervised the building, or some combination of these. Two of these villages are still in existence.

Do I have all the answers? Certainly not. Neither do you. But the Bible seems always capable of introducing us to new nuggets of truth. Thanks for reading. Read the Bible.


Keetha Denise Broyles said...

Tons of turkeys in Wisconsin - - - and even 2 more while we were there.

Martin LaBar said...

OK. I wonder it that's a new development. There seem to be a lot more in South Carolina than there used to be.


Weekend Fisher said...

You know, it seems like Ussher directly addressed the "stay in Egypt" question in his chronology. Did you check Ussher's chronology before you posted this? That's such a standard problem -- and has been a known one since ancient times -- that it would really amaze me if Ussher hadn't directly addressed the question you raise.

I'm not saying you should take Ussher's chronology as a literal timeline of the ancient world. I'm saying it's fairly standard these days that we underestimate the ancients. Was it Eusebius that commented how the Samaritan Pentateuch was superior on this point to the Masoretic, just because of the issue you name? Been too long since I read his chronological notes ...

At any rate, it's hardly a new question or an issue that escaped their notice.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Weekend Fisher.

See here for what Schaeffer had to say about using genealogies as chronological sources. He doesn't even list the reference I used, but uses several others to bolster his claim.

I have checked several on-line commentaries, and they don't mention this matter. I checked Ussher's book, which may be found here. His time for the captivity in Egypt is 213 years, if I understand him. I'm not sure why. The verse I cited above says 430 years, while Genesis 15:13 and Acts 7:6 both say 400.

Weekend Fisher said...

The copy I checked had an explicit comment on the 400 years, and the traditional arguments about it ... I think at the point he was still discussing patriarchs, though.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks again, Weekend Fisher.

As you said previously, it's an old problem.

Take care & God bless.