A record of one's ancestors, either the line of natural descent from father to son, or the line in which, by the laws, the inheritance descended, or that preserved in the public records. Never was a nation more careful to preserve their genealogies than the Hebrews, for on them rested the distinction of tribes, the ownership of lands, and the right to the highest offices and privileges, 1Ch 5:1,17; 9:1; 2Ch 12:15; Ezr 2:62. Hence their public tables of genealogies were kept secure amid all vicissitudes. We find in the Bible a record carried on for more than 3,500 years, 1Ch 1; 3; 6; and thus were guarded the proofs that Christ was born according to prophecy of the seed of Abraham, and heir to the throne of his father David, Lu 1:32; 2Ti 2:8; Heb 7:14. In the evangelists we have the genealogy of Christ for 4,000 years. The two accounts in Mt 1.1-25 and Lu 3, differ from each other; one giving probably the genealogy of Christ's reputed father Joseph, and the other that of his mother Mary. The two lines descend from Solomon and Nathan, David's sons; they unite in Salathiel, and again in Christ. Joseph was the legal father of Christ, and of the same family connections with Mary; so that the Messiah was a descendant of David both by law and "according to the flesh." The discrepancies between the various genealogies may be reconciled in accordance with peculiar Jewish laws. The public records, which Josephus says were scrupulously kept down to his day, perished with the ruin of the Jews as a nation. It is now, therefore, impossible for any pretended Messiah to prove his descent from David.
Melchizedek was "without descent," Heb 7:3, as regards the Jewish race. No sacred records proved his right to be numbered among that people of God. His priesthood was of a different kind from that of Aaron and his sons. Compare Ezr 2:62.
Hebrew "the book of the GENERATIONS," ceepher toledowt (See ADOPTION; GENERATION). Fuller (Pisgah Sight of Palestine, 1650) says on Ac 17:26; "we may see Divinity, the queen, Waited on by three of her principal ladies of honor, namely:
(1) skill in GENEALOGIES, 'of one blood all nations,'
(2) CHRONOLOGY, in the exact computation of 'the times appointed,'
(3) GEOGRAPHY, measuring out to the nations 'the bounds of their habitation.'" History, in ancient times, being based on genealogies, the phrase became a title for a history; so Ge 2:4, "these are the generations of the heavens and of the earth"; as the history of a man's family is "the book of his generations," so that of the world's productions is "the generations (not the creation, which had been previously described) of the heavens and the earth." "Generations" is the heading of every chief section of Genesis (probably they were original family memoirs preserved and used by Moses under inspiration in writing Genesis).
So Ge 5:1, "the book of the generations of Adam," wherein his descendants are traced down to Noah; Ge 6:9, "the generations of Noah," the history of Noah and his sons; Ge 10:1, "the generations of the sons of Noah," Shem, Ham, and Japhet, the oldest and most precious existing ethnological record; Ge 11:10-26 "the generations of Shem," Ge 11:27 "the generations of Terah," Abram's father; Ge 25:12 "the generations of Ishmael," Ge 25:19 "the generations of Isaac"; Ge 36:1, "the generations of Esau"; Ge 37:2, "the generations of Jacob"; Ge 35:22-26, "the sons of Jacob," etc., repeated Ex 1:1-5; also Ex 40:38, a genealogical census of Israel when Jacob came down to Egypt; repeated in Ex 6:16, etc., probably transcribed from a document, for the first part concerning Reuben and Simeon is quoted though Levi is the only tribe in question.
The promise of Canaan, Israel's separation from the Gentiles, the prophecy of Messiah's descent from Judah, the hereditary priesthood in Aaron's family, and the limitation of ministerial offices to Levi, the promises to David's seed, and the division of Canaan by tribes and families, all combined to make Israel more careful of genealogies than: any other nation. Israel's census was taken early in the wilderness 40 years sojourn, the second month of the second year, "by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers" (Nu 1:2,20, etc., Numbers 2-3). Again, 38 years later, in the plains of Moab, the names of the families being added (Numbers 26). According to their genealogical divisions they encamped, marched, made offerings, and selected the spies; hereby Achan was detected, and Saul chosen as king; hereby Canaan was allotted.
At the same time we must remember many became incorporated in a tribe or family by marriage, service, or friendship, besides those belonging to it by birth. See BECHER; CALEB, and 1Ch 3:21, for instances. The genealogies refer often to political and territorial divisions, and not strictly to natural descent, so that "sons" of a patriarch are not necessarily restricted to those so by birth. So Manasseh and Ephraim were numbered among Jacob's "sons," though only grandsons (Ge 48:5). Bela (whose two sons Naaman and Ard are called "sons of Benjamin," Nu 26:40-41) and Benjamin respecting Genesis 46; Numbers 26; Ex 6:24 enumerates Assir's son and grandson as heads, with their father, of the Korhites. (See BENJAMIN; BELA.)
In the list (Genesis 46) grandsons (e.g. all Benjamin's ten sons) and great grandson's of Jacob (Hezron and Hamul, grandsons of Judah) are named, born afterward in Egypt and who came into that country in the loins of their fathers, and who there became founders of mishpachowt, i.e. independent families, and were therefore counted grandsons of Jacob as regards the national organization. By comprising Jacob himself with all the founders of tribes and families, the significant number 70 results; seven (expressing God's covenant relation to Israel, made up of three the divine number and four the worldwide extension number) multiplied by ten the seal of completeness; implying that these 70 comprised the whole nation of God (Ex 1:5; De 10:22). Levi alone was free front foreign admixture. Iddo the seer wrote a book "concerning genealogies" (2Ch 12:15).
Hezekiah took a census of priests and Levites according to genealogies, and apparently from 1Ch 4:41; 9:1, a census also of the nation by genealogies; he had a staff of scribes for such purposes (Pr 25:1). Genealogies were need in reckoning Reuben and Gad, "in the days of Jotham king of: Judah (perhaps in connection with his wars against Ammon, 2Ch 27:5), and of Jeroboam king of Israel" (1Ch 5:17). Zerubbabel, on the return from Babylon, made it a first care to settle the people according to genealogy. Nehemiah did the same as an essential to his great work, the restoration of the national polity (9/type/nheb'>1Ch 3:19,21-24,9; compare Ne 7:5,11; 12:1-26), which shows that the genealogical system was continued afterward.
Ezra 2 contains an abstract of the post-captivity census. In New Testament times, when Augustus ordered the registration for taxing, the Jews went severally to the town of their tribe, family, and father; and so Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, the town of their forefather David (Luke 2). Further traces of genealogies being preserved still appear in the mention of Zacharias as of "the course of Abra," Elizabeth as "of the daughters of Aaron," Anna, daughter of Phanuel, as "of the tribe of Aser." Josephus traces his own descent to the first of the 24 courses of priests, adding "as I have found it recorded in the public tables." He says (c. Apion, 1:7) the priests had to verify the descent of their intended wives from the archives at Jerusalem, and to make new genealogical tables after every war, in order to ascertain what women had been made captives, as such were excluded from marrying priests; the list of high priests for 2,000 years backward was preserved in the archives in his day.
The destruction of Jerusalem by Rome must have involved the loss of these registers, except such partial records of genealogy as remained in a few of the priestly families after the last dispersion. Benjamin of Tudela says that the princes still professed to trace their descent up to David. The present impossibility of verifying the genealogies of the Jews' tribes and families is a divine indication that Christ the antitypical High Priest and the Heir of David's throne having come supersedes the polity of typical priests and kings, which, in ancient times, required the careful preservation of pedigrees. Paul therefore condemns the study of "endless genealogies" (1Ti 1:4), though probably he aims also at Gnostic genealogies of spirits.
In interpreting a genealogy it is to be remembered that the list may represent the succession to an inheritance or headship of tribe or family, rather than natural descent. In an Assyrian inscription similarly "Jehu," successor of Omri's race, is called "son of Omri." Again pedigrees are abbreviated so as to specify the generations alone which show from what leading houses the person sprang. The register of Levi in Ex 6:16-20 gives only two links between Levi and Moses, namely, Kohath and Amram; which has been made an argument for Israel's sojourn in Egypt only half the 430 years specified (Ex 12:40). But the Kohathites (Nu 3:27) in Moses' time were divided into four families, Amramites, Jehezarites, Hebronites, and Ussielites, 8,600 men and boys independent of women; the fourth would be Amramites.
Now Moses had only two sons; therefore if Amram his father were the Amram Kohath's father, Moses must have had 2,147 brothers and brothers' sons, which is impossible; therefore between the two Amrams a number of generations must have dropped out. So in Ezra's genealogy (Ezr 7:1-5, compare 1Ch 6:4-15) five descents are omitted between Azariah Meraloth's son and Azariah Johanan's son; and several between Ezra himself and Seraiah, put to death 150 years before Ezra by Nebuchadnezzar. In Exodus 6 the sons of three of Kohath's sons are given, but not of Hebron (though in 2 Chronicles 23 four sons are assigned to him), probably because no family sprang from him
The genealogies of the OT fall into two classes, national and individual, though the two are sometimes combined, the genealogy of the Individual passing into that of the nation.
1. National genealogies.
In Hebrew the term for genealogy or pedigree is "the book of the generations;" and because the oldest histories were usually drawn up on a genealogical basis, the expression often extended to the whole history, as is the case with the Gospel of St. Matthew, where "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ" includes the whole history contained in that Gospel. The promise of the land of Canaan to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob successively, and the separation of the Israelites from the Gentile world; the expectation of Messiah as to spring from the tribe of Judah; the exclusively hereditary priesthood of Aaron with its dignity and emoluments; the long succession of kings in the line of David; and the whole division and occupations of the land upon genealogical principles by the tribes, occupation of the land upon genealogical principles by the tribes, families and houses of fathers, gave a deeper importance to the science of genealogy among the Jews than perhaps any other nation. When Zerubbabel brought back the captivity from Babylon, one of his first cares seems to have been to take a census of those that returned, and to settle them according to their genealogies. Passing on to the time of the birth of Christ, we have a striking incidental proof of the continuance of the Jewish genealogical economy in the fact that when Augustus ordered the census of the empire to be taken, the Jews in the province of Syria immediately went each one to his own city. The Jewish genealogical records continued to be kept till near the destruction of Jerusalem. But there can be little doubt that the registers of the Jewish tribes and families perished at the destruction of Jerusalem, and not before. It remains to be said that just notions of the nature of the Jewish genealogical records are of great importance with a view to the right interpretation of Scripture. Let it only be remembered that these records have respect to political and territorial divisions as much as to strictly genealogical descent, and it will at once be seen how erroneous a conclusion it may be that all who are called "sons" of such or such a patriarch or chief father must necessarily be his very children. Of any one family or house became extinct, some other would succeed to its place, called after its own chief father. Hence of course a census of any tribe drawn up at a later period would exhibit different divisions from one drawn up at an earlier. The same principle must be borne in mind in interpreting any particular genealogy Again, when a pedigree was abbreviated, it would naturally specify such generations as would indicates from what chief houses the person descended. Females are named in genealogies when there is anything remarkable about them, or when any right or property is transmitted through them. See
GENEALOGY, ??????????, signifies a list of a person's ancestors. The common Hebrew expression for it is Sepher-Toledoth, "the Book of Generations." No nation was ever more careful to preserve their genealogies than the Jews. The sacred writings contain genealogies extended three thousand five hundred years backward. The genealogy of our Saviour is deduced by the evangelists from Adam to Joseph and Mary, through a space of four thousand years and upward. The Jewish priests were obliged to produce an exact genealogy of their families, before they were admitted to exercise their function. Wherever placed, the Jews were particularly careful not to marry below themselves; and to prevent this, they kept tables of genealogy in their several families, the originals of which were lodged at Jerusalem, to be occasionally consulted. These authentic monuments, during all their wars and persecutions, were taken great care of, and from time to time renewed. But, since the last destruction of their city, and the dispersion of the people, their ancient genealogies are lost. But to this the Jews reply, that either Elias, or some other inspired priest or prophet, shall come, and restore their genealogical tables before the Messiah's appearance; a tradition, which they ground on a passage in Ne 7:64-65, to this effect: the genealogical register of the families of certain priests being lost, they were not able to make out their lineal descent from Aaron; and therefore, "as polluted, were put from the priesthood;" the "Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim." From hence the Jews conclude, that such a priest will stand up, and restore and complete the genealogies of their families: though others suppose these words to import, that they should never exercise their priesthood any more; and that, "till there shall stand up a priest with Urim and Thummim," amounts to the same as the Roman proverb, ad Graecas calendas, [never,] since the Urim and Thummim were now absolutely and for ever lost.