1 Chronicles 1
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
It has pleased God that a large part of Old Testament Scripture should take the form of history. The sacred books of the Hebrews consist largely of a record of the national life. Here we read of the birth and growth of the chosen people, their prosperity, their conquests, their defeats and captivities, their lawgivers, priests, prophets, kings, and patriots. This Book of Chronicles contains the genealogies of Hebrew tribes and families, and the annals of the nation during the long and glorious reign of David. There must be reasons why the volume which contains the revelation of the Divine character and will should, in so many parts, assume the historical form.

I. There is A GENERAL RELIGIOUS PURPOSE answered by history. Man is social, and is appointed by Providence to live in families, tribes, and nations. Religion not only summons the individual to live a life of allegiance and submission to the unseen power of righteousness and grace, but requires men in their political relations to abide beneath the guiding eye of the Eternal.

1. Historical records promote national life.

2. They encourage a sense of national unity and responsibility. "Not only," says a great writer, "does the nobleness of a nation depend on the presence of this national consciousness, but also the nobleness of each individual citizen." The same writer adduces the Jews as an illustration of this principle.

3. They furnish us with practical political lessons. Bossuet has admirably shown of what service history must needs be to princes and rulers.

4. They represent good and evil principles in living instances.

5. To the devout mind they are full of indications of the presence and the energy of God, the moral Ruler and Lord of all.

II. There is a SPECIAL RELIGIOUS USE in Jewish history.

1. It is the history of a very remarkable and favoured - we should say chosen - people.

2. it records direct interpositions of the hand of God. In the obligation to obedience and service, in the chastisement of lawlessness and rebellion, the Christian can trace a Divine power, whatever race or nation he reviews in the pages of history or contemplates with an observant eye. The peculiarity of the Israelitish chronicles lies here - the Divine power is acknowledged from page to page.

3. The history of the Jews is an epitome of the history of mankind. Within that little territory of Palestine there lived a microcosm of humanity. The parallel is ever presenting itself to our vision.

4. The record of Israel is the story of the preparation for the advent of Christianity. The Old Testament points on to the New. This Book of Chronicles, in its biography of David, leads the mind on to him who was David's Son and David's Lord.


1. This book should be read with interest as presenting an especially Levitical view of Hebrew history.

2. The reader should be on the watch for gleams of light amidst the sombre catalogues of Israelitish names.

(3) Sympathy should be elicited by the presentation of the Divine side of both biography and history. - T.

Since "all Scripture is... profitable," etc. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17), we may inquire what is the purpose of the many genealogical records that are preserved for us, and how they stand related to the higher spiritual objects of the Divine revelation. It appears that genealogies have always possessed a peculiar attraction for Orientals; and still nothing so quickly seizes their attention, or pleases them so much, as a summary or review of their histories. The genealogies of Scripture, therefore, help to give naturalness and the sense of genuineness to it as entirely an Eastern composition. It would be made a plea against the authenticity if such genealogies were not found in it. Sufficient reason for the lists which commence the Books of Chronicles may be found in the date and circumstances of their composition. Whoever was the editor, we are sure that the work was prepared after the return from captivity and subsequent to the building of Zerubbabel's temple. The condition of the people called for such a review of the national history as would impress upon them their connection with a long and glorious past, and would freshen to their view the great principles on which the national prosperity had rested. "The people had not yet gathered up the threads of the old national life, broken by the Captivity. They required to be reminded, in the first place, of their entire history, of the whole past course of mundane events, and of the position which they themselves held among the nations of the earth. This was done, curtly and drily, but sufficiently, by means of genealogies." Such a picture of the past revived hope and encouraged high aspirations for the future. Such a summary became a virtual introduction to the Gospels, and these genealogies may be compared with those found in St. Matthew and St. Luke. But beyond the use of "genealogies" to Orientals generally, and to the returned captives of that age in particular, we inquire what comprehensive truths for the race, and so for us, they may be designed to impress. And we may fix attention on three:

(1) the unity of God;

(2) the unity of the race;

(3) the unity of the Divine dealings with the race.

I. THE UNITY OF GOD. This was the first and essential truth committed to the trust of the Abrahamic race. This they were to conserve for the world during the long ages of man's "free experiment." It was opposed by the dualism of Persia, and the more common polytheism, which associated "gods" with particular localities and countries. It is significant that after the Captivity the Israelites never relapsed into idolatry; but such a genealogy as this helped them to realize fully that the God of their restoration was the "one God" of their fathers, and the God of the whole earth, who could not be limited in thought to any locality, nation, or name. Illustrate and enforce the jealousy of the Divine unity, and the position of this truth, as the very foundation of the Christian doctrine. There may be no question on this point; we, and all the generations that have ever lived, have to do with one God, the same, the only Lord God Almighty. If we are at peace with him, then we have none else to fear. "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

II. THE UNITY OF THE RACE. All mankind, from the great first parent, Adam, are gathered together in the genealogy as one race. Thus is resisted the tendency of some nations to a pride of superiority over others, as though they were of another origin and kind; and the disposition of Israel to exclusiveness as a people specially favoured by God. God made all (Acts 17:26); God cares for all that he has made. And any apparently special dealings with one race are designed for the good of the whole. In these modern times attention is being freshly given to what is called the "solidarity" of the race, and that fact is assumed to explain much that seems mysterious. But this is precisely the impression which Scripture designs to produce by its genealogies: with this further moral aim, that thus it confirms the claims of the great human brotherhood.

III. THE UNITY OF THE DIVINE DEALINGS WITH THE RACE. This is the chief impression made by a review of the world's past history. It may be illustrated in relation to

(1) the orderings of Divine providence;

(2) the requirements of Divine Law;

(3) the judgments of Divine wrath;

(4) the signs of a Divine plan; and

(5) the fulfilment of Divine promise.

We may firmly stay our hearts upon the world's experience of the unity of God's dealings. He is the Lord; he changes not: "His years are throughout all generations." This conviction concerning God is the basis of social order, of earthly governments, of the redemptive scheme, and of man's ideal of righteousness. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" These genealogies also stand in special relation to the promise of Messiah, the Saviour. They show a Divine purpose being wrought through all the ages, and reveal it accomplished at last in the Child of the Virgin Mary. But they teach that the dominion of this Messiah is wide as the race, and long as the ages. It is to be universal and everlasting. As a practical conclusion, it may be shown that the depressing influence exerted on us by the brevity of human life, and by the uprising and falling of dynasties and nations, is corrected by this revelation - in the genealogies - of the "Faithful One," "whose years are throughout all generations;" and who so solemnly declares, "All souls are mine." - R.T.

It is a significant thing that Scripture so distinctly affirms a double beginning for the human race, and sets before us two great human fathers. It is usual to speak of our "father Adam," but it would be at least as truthful to speak of our "father Noah." The period from Adam to Noah is given us very briefly, and it is scarcely more than a record of names. The one fact that comes out so prominently is that the first descendants of Adam lived lives that were so prolonged as to be almost inconceivable to us. And it is equally evident that the new race born of Noah was a race of short-livers, their allotted time on earth not being greatly in excess of our own. Here are facts so important as to be a fitting subject for consideration.

I. THE HEAD OF THE LONG-LIVERS. Adam was himself a long-lived man. We know that physical death was not the judgment on his sin, though the embittering of death by a smiting conscience, and by the sufferings of disease engendered by sin, undoubtedly was. How long men's earthly lives might have been if they had preserved the purity of Eden, we may only imagine, but some hint of it is given in the experiment God made of permitting even the banished ones to live for a thousand years. Can we conceive the Divine thought in permitting for a time these prolonged lives?

1. The earth was to be won by the human race; its stores were to be discovered, and their uses shown. This beginning of the arts of civilized life would make more rapid progress if one man could carry his experience over several generations, getting full time for the outworking of his thoughts and plans. We know too often now how sadly invention and discovery are stopped by the early death of the workers.

2. It might be expected that man would have a fuller and fairer moral trial if his time on earth were thus prolonged, and it might reasonably be hoped that the continuous experience of God's goodness would lead him to repentance and restored relations with God. This expectation, however, was not fulfilled, but man's self-will took advantage of the security of life, and grew into an awful majesty and pride of power, that necessitated the Divine interference in an overwhelming judgment. And it became declared for all the ages that too prolonged life is not the best thing for sinful and self-willed human creatures. It is a trust too great. It is better for man's highest welfare that upon him should constantly rest the sense of the brevity of life. He only perverted to his uttermost ruin the longer trust. So Adam is the father of a race that is passed and done with. We are not his children in the sense of being placed under the same time-conditions.

II. THE HEAD OF THE SHORT-LIVERS. This is the first and chief distinction between the races before and after the Flood. Noah had a cleansed earth to possess, but he carried over into it some relics of the older evil in his family, and so commenced the new trial under disability. Before, the race had kept in one stream; under the new condition it divided into three great streams, represented by Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and it is found by scholars now that this is stilt the substantial division of the human race. But everywhere we find the condition of the shortened life. "Brief life is here our portion." And this is made one of the most important influences in the moral training of mankind. Show how it fills each day with importance; prevents any man reaching extreme degrees of crime; solemnizes with the shadow of coming judgment, etc. Now, he only "liveth long who liveth well;" and we need to pray with Moses, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Impress the duty of seeking at once salvation, and at once to be found faithful, in view of the brevity of our life. Compare Jacob's confession, "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been," etc. - R.T.

1 Chronicles 1
In the meaning of genealogical names as translated from the original, volumes of spiritual truth lie hid. In the present day names are arbitrarily given, generally because they belong to some member of the family; indeed, in most cases, for no other reason. With the Jews it was different. It was because of some feature in the parent's character or some of his family, or because of some future relation to prophecy, or because of some calling to which the child was to be trained. Jacob, Samuel, Solomon, and many others are instances of this fact; hence from these names much information may be gathered as to their spiritual and natural life. The inner history of families is recorded, revealing the spiritual and natural life of each which ordinary history could but imperfectly bring to light. The profession or calling of the individual or the family, or the Lord's special dealings with it, or some event in life with all its results, - these are the origin of most of these names, and bring to light a hidden history. A great writer has said that Shakespeare opens out to us much of the inner history and character of the day in which he lived - the manners and customs, the thoughts, habits, and feelings - which ordinary history never could write. This illustrates the great importance to the Christian student of studying these genealogies of the Old Testament, so generally, if not altogether, overlooked. And what is the spiritual lesson we may learn from this portion of our subject? That just as these names are the embodiment of spiritual truths and principles of life, and replete with eventful realities, so should it be in each of our lives. Nothing should be meaningless. Spiritual truth should permeate the smallest and meanest duties. There is a history in even the smallest action. There is no such thing as a trifle. Let us stamp everything with that which will survive us; with that which will speak, to generations yet unborn, of truth and righteousness and God; so that as they read our history they may gather from it what we gather from these names - great principles, which may animate and encourage them, and thus "make our lives sublime," thus live so as to be missed, that it may be said of us, "He being dead yet speaketh." But what was it made "the fathers" put Divine meanings into their names? It was that God was to them a reality; that everything connected with him had for them a deep and solemn meaning. This so impressed the mind and heart that it found its expression in their names and in the smallest events of their every-day life. Thus must God be to us if there is to be the impress of Divine and imperishable memorials in our history. Not only the language of a nation, but its spiritual life, is written in its names and words. Read in this light, what meaning is thrown into these dry genealogical trees of the Old Testament! How replete with spiritual instruction to the Bible student! - W.

1 Chronicles 1
It will be seen that many of the names in these genealogies have "El" or "Jah" as a prefix or termination - the former God as Creator, the latter God in covenant or as Redeemer. Thus each individual bearing this Divine name is seen in direct personal relation to God in these aspects of his character. But the most important consideration in these genealogies is that they contain that of the Lord Jesus Christ. We can trace the thread through all the names till we reach the holy family. It runs like a vein of silver through generations and families, many of whom, despite the holy meaning of their names, bring up a history of shame and sorrow. This doubtless is the reason why they are so faithfully recorded. They are all here to continue the genealogy of Christ - to lead up eventually to him. He is the fruit of every genealogical tree. We see the seed, the blade, the blossom, the flower, and at last we have the fruit - Jehovah Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, as he appeared among men. All that is repulsive or flagrant in the genealogical tree only serves to bring into more striking contrast the fruit that grows out of it. The summer fruit has sprung out of the corrupt ground, and has had to contend on every side with elements at war with its very existence. Sometimes these genealogies, in the very order of their record in the sacred volume, contain within themselves a prophecy pointing to him. An instance of this in illustration may be found in Genesis 5., the leading names in which, when translated in the order there recorded, contain the beautiful prophecy, "The blessed God shall come down teaching, and his light shall give life and consolation to men." Sometimes names of this kind foreshadow some special aspect of Christ's work. We have the names of El-kanah, Abi-jah, Mori-jah or Moriah. This last-named is the mount on which Isaac, the type of Christ, was offered, and on this mount Solomon's temple was built. "Mor" signifies "bitterness," "Jah" means "Jehovah. Thus the temple is built on the bitterness," or sufferings, of Jehovah. So also the spiritual temple is founded upon the cross of Christ. The genealogical tree of Christ runs through the names in these chapters. There are several truths forced upon our notice as we think of this. First, grace is not hereditary. In the lineal descent of the Lord Jesus we find idolaters and slaves. We see it every day. Manasseh is son to Hezekiah, Josiah is the son of Amen. It is still true, and will ever be so. They who are of the family of God are "born not of blood, nor of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Secondly, as Jesus Christ came through all sorts of people, so he came to save and bless all sorts of people - saints and sinners, bond and free, rich and poor. He took the humanity of each without sin, that he might bless them. "This man eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners." Though on his throne of glory, these he still calls and loves to gather round him. Lord Macaulay tells us of a celebrated artist who made a beautiful piece of statuary which was the admiration of Europe. But he had a poor boy who was his apprentice. He gathered up the broken fragments that fell from the master's hand, and with these he made a work which eclipsed his master's, so that the latter died of a broken heart. Jesus Christ, the despised and rejected carpenter's Son, has stooped down to our fallen world and gathered up the fragments of our fallen humanity, and is forming them into a kingdom which shall eclipse in grandeur and glory every other. - W.

1 Chronicles 1
Looking over these chapters, we find prominent mention of "families" and "sons." These are the two words which, constantly used, are replete with meaning. The sons form the families. How important to family life oat of which all that is great and good has issued, that the "sons" who bear the names of "El" and "Jah" should be nurtured and trained to a life worthy of those high and holy names! Where this is not the case, there is the real breach of the third commandment. The Name of the Lord God has been "taken in vain." Our "families" will be what the "sons" make them, and our Churches and the world will ever be what the "family" is. Family training in the fear of God will send forth messengers that will be the brightness of the Church and the blessing of the world. All real degeneracy in one and the other will ever be traceable to the "family," and ultimately to the" sons." Mothers, think of this! It all, under God, is in your hands. And as we saw in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus that he passed through all sorts of people, so we see it here in his people. Here we find Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, all honoured names, mingled with names worthless and infamous. It is for the same reason, to show that grace is not hereditary. In the first two verses of the second chapter we have the names of the family of Israel. The sons of Israel are mentioned in their order of natural birthright. But immediately in the same chapter, in the family enumeration, this order is set aside, and instead of beginning with Reuben, according to the natural order, the record begins with Judah. Thus grace is set in the forefront, and nature put into the background. The Bible is not the record of nature, but of grace. The history of one little tribe, occupying a strip of land not larger than Wales, fills the entire pages of the Old Testament, while huge empires are passed over in silence. This is in accordance with the character of the Book. The history of this little tribe fills its pages because it is the history of the kingdom of God. Its design was to manifest Christ. Apart from him the Word does not acknowledge history in any sense. Neither a nation nor an individual has any history before God, except as connected with him. Hence Assyria and Babylon are comparatively overlooked, and all record is centred in Jerusalem. Hence Sennacherib is barely mentioned, while whole chapters are filled with Abraham and Moses and Joseph. Hence Reuben is put into the background and Judah into the forefront. This prominence given to Judah over Reuben was because the right and privileges of primogeniture had been given to him, and because from his tribe Christ was to spring. Thus in the very foreground of this book Christ is placed. Judah is also shown to have pre-eminence simply because of Christ. It is so now. Christ must be first; he is the Alpha and Omega. The opening chapter of every history, every event, every duty, every pleasure, should be him. If he be not in the forefront of each one and the centre round which everything converges, there is no history there worthy of the name; there is no record there before God, however great it may be before men. There is no name in heaven without this, though it may be emblazoned on the marble tablets of the world for ever. But only Christ is true. There is a blot on every escutcheon but his. Scarcely is Judah's pre-eminence brought before us ere we see the dark picture of sin in it. Er and Achan stand out pre-eminently as blots on Judah's fair fame. Yes, on the very lineage of the Messiah himself there is written, as with a sunbeam, "Cease ye from man." Lust and murder are the dark lines drawn by the Holy Spirit on the beautiful picture. Only the Spirit of God can make a Christian. And the man may put on all the garments of a Christian - the knowledge of truth, the doctrines of truth, the zeal for truth, the profession of truth in its holiest and purest form, and yet carry through life an unchanged heart, the very light which he possesses so dazzling him with its brightness as to keep him from seeing his terrible depravity and feeling his need of a Saviour. Reader, are you one of these? - W.

There may not be much that is positively instructive in these genealogies; yet there may be found that which is suggestive in them. They invite us to think of -

I. THE ADAMIC, OR NATURAL, FATHERHOOD. (Ver. 1.) It is a high distinction to be the progenitor of an illustrious "family" or of a powerful tribe; still more so of a whole nation; and the highest of its kind to be the father of the human race. But the honour is not without its serious qualifications.

1. It is of an inferior order. It is "after the flesh;" it pertains to the lower kingdom; it does not stand in the first rank in the sight of Divine wisdom.

2. It involves shame as well as honour. If in his later days Adam could boast of the happiness and triumphs which his descendants enjoyed, he must have been covered with confusion as he witnessed the sorrow and the humiliation which they endured. By his fatherhood of our race be became the parent of guilt and shame as well as of virtue and honour. They who sigh for the honour and joy of parentage may well reflect that, if our first father could have foreseen the misery and degradation to which his sons and daughters would sink, he would (or might well) have shrunk from the high distinction he enjoyed.

II. THE ABRAHAMIC, OR SPIRITUAL, FATHERHOOD. (Ver. 28.) It is true that Abraham, as his name suggests, was the father of a multitude, and that it was of him, as concerning the flesh, the Messiah came. But it is also true that our Master taught us to think of the Hebrew patriarch as the father of all faithful souls rather than as the mere progenitor of a people. The true children of Abraham are those who "do his works" (John 8:39) - those who hear and heed the Word of God. Not they who are "the seed of Abraham" are the children of the promise (Romans 9:8), but they who have the spirit of the believing and obedient patriarch; they who are Jews, "not outwardly, but inwardly,... whose praise is not of men, but of God" (Romans 2:28, 29). This is the paternity to which we should aspire, and to which we may attain. By

(1) cultivating a Christian character and spirit;

(2) living a blameless and beautiful life;

(3) speaking, in love and wisdom, enlightening and redeeming truth; -

we may become parents of faithful souls: we may be the means of quickening to newness of life those who, in their turn, will lead others also into the way of life. We may thus generate sources of holy influence through which, in distant times, the erring shall be restored and the dead shall live. - C.

In the early history of the world and in the early history of most nations there arise, out of the dimness, great gigantic figures. We know little of such; but they impress the imagination, and their names suggest great qualities and memorable deeds. Such a figure is Nimrod, of whom we read that "he began to be mighty upon the earth."

I. Observe an instance of the NATURAL INEQUALITY OF MAN WITH MAN. Many are forgotten; one is remembered; and he who is remembered is, in some respects, superior to his fellows. This inequality is divinely ordered, and, on the whole, must be admitted to contribute to the welfare of society. The respects in which men are great and distinguished are very various. Some are admired for their bodily powers, their daring; others for their wisdom; others, again, for their sanctity.

II. Observe MEN'S NATURAL TENDENCY TO DO HOMAGE TO GREATNESS. This often takes the form of "hero-worship," to use the expression of one of our most influential thinkers and writers. The disposition to hero-worship is neither an unmixed good nor an unmixed evil.

III. Consider THE CONSEQUENT RESPONSIBILITY OF POWER AND GREATNESS, When used for an evil end, power is indeed a curse. The selfish, the ambitious, the cruel, are a scourge to humanity. On the other hand, a wide range of influence is the means of the usefulness of these who are alike good and great. The more the talents, the more serious the reckoning at last with the Lord and Judge. History largely consists of the records of the achievements of the mighty. What an account must some such have to render at the last!


1. See that the greatness you admire be true greatness, moral grandeur, spiritual dignity.

2. Whether your endowments be lavish or slender, seek to use aright what a wise Providence has entrusted to your care. - T.

Previous to this verse we find recorded only names. Nimrod is recalled to mind by a brief but suggestive description. "He began to be mighty upon the earth." It is further narrated in Genesis (Genesis 10:9) that "he was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord." From this it appears that proverbs and legends grew up round his name. "The Eastern traditions make him a man of violent, lawless habits, a rebel against God, and a usurper of boundless authority over his fellow-men." It may suffice, however, to recognize in him the first person to develop war as an agency for subjecting some portions of the human family to the dominion of others. He is the first warrior, the progenitor of the Alexanders and Napoleons, the great world-conquerors. Many men live to serve their generation, and then they die and pass away out of thought, and their very names are forgotten. But they leave their work and the influence of their characters behind them: these can never die. This must be the lot of the great majority of mankind; and yet even thus every man may gain a gracious immortality. "He may still be remembered by what he has done. Other men leave their names behind affixed to some principle or truth, and then, though the name is to us no more than a name, it serves to recall the principle. And this we have in the case of Nimrod. His name brings up to our minds the ruin and the sin of man's masterfulness over his fellow-men. The ruin and the sin are set forth in very impressive forms in the cases of such conquerors as Nimrod; but the mischief is wrought still, and has been wrought through all the ages, in the smaller spheres of the family, society, the nation, and the Church. There are stilt Nimrods, who are bent on self-aggrandizement, and think little of the claims or the sufferings of others, as they tread on to place and wealth and power. The essence of their masterfulness is that they win and hold for self, not for God. To win and hold for God always tones our relations with others, and makes them tender, considerate, and gracious.

I. MAN'S MASTERFULNESS IMPERILS THE LIBERTIES OF HIS FELLOW-MAN. Nimrod was a hunter. We only hunt to bring under subjection to us. Nimrod was a hunter of men that he might subject them as slaves to his authority. Illustrate in cases of other world-conquerors, and show how absorbing becomes the lust of power. All the nations of the earth have had to win the measures of liberty they enjoyed, by struggle and tears and blood, from those who held them in subjection. Eastern kings were always independent and tyrannical; and still, in the smaller spheres of associate life, the masterful men are always inconsiderate of others, and delight to make others subject to them. This masterfulness is sometimes the natural disposition; then it must be repressed and overcome, in the grace and help of God. At other times it is unduly fostered by the circumstances in which men are placed, and the deference that is paid to them; then we need to watch and pray lest we enter into temptation." The "golden rule" cuts it down at the very root. He will never show himself to be masterful who strives "to do unto others as he would have others do unto him." Godliness and masterfulness can never dwell together in peace, for the godly man obeys the Divine Law, and seeks to "love his neighbour as himself."

II. MAN'S MASTERFULNESS IMPERILS THE HONOUR AND THE CLAIMS OF HIS GOD. It sets the man in the world's eye as before God, able to control things, needing no Divine aids, sufficient in himself; and so puts God out of men's thoughts, more especially it the masterful man succeeds. Compare Nebuchadnezzar's boasting, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?" For multitudes Nimrod was the great hero, and men worshipped the masterful man. Surely it is a fatal thing for any one of us that, instead of standing on one side and showing God to our fellows, we stand before him, and only let men see ourselves. Yet this is still the temptation and the peril of the masterful man, in any and every sphere of life. - R.T.

Here a man's name is employed to fix an important historical fact. The word Peleg means "division," but it is uncertain whether allusion is intended to the dispersion of the people from Babel, or a later separation of the Shemitic race to which this Peleg belonged. "The two races which sprang from Eber soon separated very widely from each other - the one, Eber and his family, spreading north-westward towards Mesopotamia and Syria; the other, the Joktanides, southward into Arabia." We dwell on the general facts of the division, again and again, of the human race, and endeavour to understand how by this the Divine dealings with the race are illustrated. It is important that we should apprehend what may be called the experimental character of the Divine dealings with man. There is a true and reverent sense in which we may speak of God as experimenting. If it pleased him, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, to make men, and to entrust them with a measure of independence and free-will, then God designed to leave it to be seen how men would act under these conditions; and he must have intended to leave his relations with them open to modification, so that he might meet their varying requirements. God is said to "repent" when he thus graciously adapts his dealings to new circumstances which man, in his self-will, may have created. Such a view of God's dealings is quite consistent with his foreknowledge. Man, in his most wilful ways, can never" take God at unawares," for he "seeth the end from the beginning." But he may see and know all without active interference until his own good time.

I. MAN IS ALONE - A SINGLE PAIR. What, may we say, is the experiment here? It is this: given every surrounding condition helpful; no others to confuse the mind or the choice; sufficient knowledge of what their God will have them do and not do; - will man use his independence aright? Will he set his will on God? Alas! he failed, "serving the creature more than the Creator." Man's moral trial could never be set under greater advantages; and it becomes evident, in the very first instance, that free-willed man's only hope rests on his receiving into his will the grace and the strength of the Spirit of his God. And this lesson is further pressed home by every experiment, whether it be made by the race, any portion of the race, or the individual. The issue is to convince us that it is "not in man that walketh to direct his steps." He must learn to say, "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe." The next form of the experiment is -

II. MAN IS IN ONE GREAT SOCIETY. Virtually dwelling together, in large and ever-increasing masses. What comes of this experiment? Utter lawlessness, such wild riotings, such debasing vice, that mankind is utterly and hopelessly corrupt, and God can but cleanse the earth of their presence and their defilement. Man is no stronger for moral right when he is found in masses than when he is found alone. Nay, aggregation only gives man's will more terrible possibilities of evil - power to develop crimes that debase to the uttermost. The third experiment is the one which God has been pleased to continue through the long ages -

III. MAN IS IN A NUMBER OF SOCIETIES, VARIOUSLY LOCATED AND VARIOUSLY RELATED. God never lets these grow too large; famine, pestilence, war, and emigration are always putting limits on excessive populations. So humanity repeats its moral trial under all possible natural conditions, in plains, on mountain sides, at sea-beards. etc., ever proving again and again its absolute need of the Divine strengthening of the will for the attaining of all moral good. Impress these points.

1. God presides over the moral culture of not too large communities.

2. God works by the special genius with which he is pleased to endow particular nations. Illustrate by Rome, Greece, Judaea, etc.

3. God works by the mutual relations of the divided nations. Show how these are maintained in the interests of commerce.

4. God works to secure the permanent moral unity of the race in its dependence on him, and to this end he has graciously introduced his redemptive agency. - R.T.

In the midst of this genealogical table we have a statement that "the earth was divided." We are reminded of the same fact of the dispersion of mankind by the reference to different families and separate countries. But all are shown to spring from one source, to have a common origin in the first father whose name heads the list, and is the first word of the Book of Chronicles. We are thus admonished of that twofold fact which is daily confronting us.

I. THE DIVERSITY WHICH MANKIND PRESENTS. These are distinguished from one another by many features, and are separated from one another by many barriers. Distinguishing or dividing us, man from man, are

(1) physical obstacles (seas, mountains, varieties of climate);

(2) colour;

(3) creed;

(4) language;

(5) social habits, mental tastes, and moral dispositions.

II. THE ESSENTIAL ONENESS OF THE HUMAN WORLD. Notwithstanding all interposing obstacles and all separating divergences, man is everywhere the same. The blood of one human father is in his veins. One human nature, bodily and spiritual, he inherits; above it he cannot rise, and beneath it he cannot fall. He is the son of Adam, and he "was the son of God" (Luke 3:38). Sin has scattered and slain him, but he may rise and be revivified. In him still are those germs of good which, under heavenly culture, may spring into the most perfect flowers that can adorn the garden of the Lord. In mankind, under all conceivable diversities, are

(1) the same animal instincts,

(2) the same family attachments,

(3) the same capacity of mental culture,

(4) the same spiritual nature,

which is able to receive the truth and know the will and live the life of the eternal God himself. The unity and diversity of our kind suggest to us:

1. That there are variations and separations which are due to God's providence rather than to our sin. These are either to be cheerfully borne or bravely and intelligently overcome. They are given us either to try our faith and patience or to excite our enterprise and activity.

2. That there are separations and distinctions which are the penalty of sin; these should humble us.

3. That in the gospel of Christ we have resources which can raise the lowest and reunite the most spiritually distant. The hour will come when the" earth that was divided" so long ago will be united in one most blessed bond, worshipping one God, loving one Father, trusting one Saviour, living one life, travelling to one home. - C.

F.W. Robertson has some suggestive remarks on the significance of ancient names in his sermon on 'Jacob's Wrestling' (vol. 1. pp. 41, 42). He recognizes in the Hebrew history three periods in which names and words bore very different characters. We deal with the first of these periods, when "names meant truths, and words were the symbols of realities. The characteristics of the names given then were simplicity and sincerity. They were drawn from a few simple sources: either from some characteristic of the individual, as Jacob, the 'supplanter;' or from the idea of family, as Benjamin, 'son of my right hand;' or from the conception of the tribe or nation, then gradually consolidating itself; or, lastly, from the religious idea of God." Scripture attaches significance to names, and the precise name indicates the minuteness of the Divine knowledge and the tenderness of the Divine care: "I have called thee by name," "I will give him a new name," etc. So a change of a man's name may seal to him the fact of new, more important, and more tender Divine relations. Explain the precise force of the two names, Ab-ram and Ab-ra-ham, and give details of the occasion chosen for changing the names (Genesis 17.). Then illustrate and enforce these three points -

I. THE DIVINE INTEREST IN A MAN'S LIFE. This is so minutely detailed in such lives as these of Abraham and Jacob, that we may each gain the impression of its being the fact concerning ourselves. We are under the eye and in the hand.

II. THE DIVINE RECOGNITION OF A MAN'S VIRTUE. Illustrate by the reason given for God's telling Abraham of his proposed judgment on Sodom; by David's appeal, "Judge me according to my integrity;" and Christ's address to the Church at Ephesus, "I know thy works" (Revelation 2:2).

III. THE DIVINE COMMUNICATION OF DIVINE APPROBATiON. We indeed may not look to get a change of name, and yet we, too, may be quite sure that our progress in the Divine life has all its stages noticed and marked by God, and, it may be, sealed with a now "unknown name." We want to see the stages of our spiritual growth; it is enough that we learn from Abraham's double name how God watches them, and surely marks them down ready for the by-and-by. - R.T.

The historical and geographical relations of the two nations may be given. Those of Israel are familiar, those of Edom may be thus indicated: Mount Seir, where Esau settled, was a rugged tract, east of the great valley of the Arabah. It consisted of limestone hills, with red and variegated sandstone cliffs and ridges, marked by that peculiar ruddy tinge of colour so consonant with the name of Edom (red). Kings reigned in Edom long before any descendant of Jacob occupied a throne. Eight Edomitish monarchs are enumerated in the early records. The refusal of Edom to allow Israel to march through the country on the route to Canaan both expressed and intensified the family enmity which came as the fruitage of Jacob's deception. No friendly intercourse could be expected between the nations. The relations between the two peoples, descended from one parent, may be used to illustrate the way in which family and social wrong-doing will work out into practical evil in the succeeding generations. And, so treating the history of these two peoples, we may learn the valuable and impressive lesson that the sinner may be forgiven and personally accepted with God, but the natural and necessary fruitage of his wrong-doing cannot be stopped, and cannot always even be checked. Vindicate the Divine goodness and righteousness in thus permanently attaching penalties of suffering to sin, and letting these come upon others beside the wrong-doer. From the history the following topics may be fully detailed: -

I. THE ORIGINAL WRONG. It was a double wrong. Esau was meanly defrauded of his birthright by his brother taking unfair advantage of his fatigue and hunger. And he was, by a wicked scheme, dodged out of his paternal blessing. Because he was so manifestly the wronged party, we may fail to appraise aright Esau's personal character; but we cannot wonder that he went forth to life with the sense of the grievous wrong done to him rankling in his mind. It was a grievous and shameful wrong, which nothing can extenuate or excuse; an utterly selfish and unbrotherly act. Such an act as bears its natural penalty in hatred, and all the mischief that hatred can contrive to do.

II. THE DIVINE FORGIVENESS. Give the scene at Mananaim, and show how it bore relation to the sin as against God. Scripture urges that sin seemingly committed against our brother is really committed against God. "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." So Divine forgiveness has ever to be sought first.

III. THE BROTHERLY RECONCILIATION. This seems to have been complete and satisfactory, yet it was too much a matter of impulse. Jacob was afraid to presume on it. And too often such reconciliations only prove temporary, and the old enmities come back again; and the "last state is worse than the first."

IV. THE NATIONAL ENMITIES AND ENVIES. These had been started before the reconciliation of the brothers, and they could not be stopped. They grew in strength as the years rolled by. They formed a predisposition to judge each other unworthily, and see each other on the bad side only. And as time wore on the evil broke out into open war, and brother races shed each other's blood (see 1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Kings 11:15, 16; 1 Chronicles 18:19, 20, etc.). In some of these wars and sieges such cruelties were practised as can only be explained by the intensity of the national feud and hatred. So the early wrong worked out into misery for both parties. "He that soweth to the flesh ever reaps corruption." Earnestly warn against wrong-doing in family and in social relationships; they are often the secret cause of long feud, war, and woe. We need to "think, not on our own things, but on the things of others;" we should be found jealous of our brother's rights. In the way of righteousness and. brotherliness and charity ever flow life and peace and fellowship, all human blessedness, and the all-hallowing Divine favour. - R.T.

As we road these following verses and find one king mentioned and then another, with simply the record of his name, his reign, and his death, we feel how swiftly flows the current of human life, how many generations have come and gone, how slight attention posterity can spare for those who were once great and honoured. Three thoughts befit the theme -

I. TO EACH MAN IN HIS TIME HIS HERITAGE SEEMS LARGE AND LASTING. No doubt Samlah of Masrekah looked eagerly forward to the occupancy of his seat of power; rejoiced greatly as he took possession; said to himself, "Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong;" thought that many days of honour and wealth and joy were before him; was one more instance of the truth that "All men think all men mortal but themselves." His day of authority and enjoyment seemed bright enough to him in anticipation, and he rejoiced in his heritage. To every human eye a long and happy human life seems, at the outset and for some way on, a very possible and desirable thing. But to us, who look back on that which is over, it seems that -

II. THE BEST EARTHLY ESTATE IS A PAINFULLY TRANSIENT THING. What, to all these and to all other kings of all other countries, are their sceptres now? What have they been for many thousand years? Their grave is not more quiet, nor is it better known, than the last resting-place of their meanest subjects. Looking back, it seems as if their honour was but a brief flash that struck a sudden splendour and then went out into the darkness. A brief day is ours below, a little sunshine for a few fast-fleeting hours -

"And then night sweeps along the plain,
And all things fade away." But we have a third correcting thought, namely -

III. THAT OUR SHORT EARTHLY LIFE IS LONG ENOUGH TO HOLD AND TO WORK MUCH ENDURING GOOD. Though our human life is transient, and though its beauty and honour soon pass away, yet it is not lived in vain. Spent in the fear of God, devoted to the glory of Christ, and having regard to the well-being of the world, it has an excellency which true wisdom does not despise. It is not in vain

(1) that it contains pure and ennobling joy;

(2) that it illustrates Divine principles;

(3) that it diffuses bounty and blessedness on every hand;

(4) that it leaves behind it something better than it found - the harvest of its own thought and toil;

(5) that it has been a preparation for a wider sphere and a larger life beyond. - C.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by Biblesoft, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com

Bible Hub
2 Kings 25
Top of Page
Top of Page