The 13th book in the English Bible, 1st Chronicles, begins with a list of thirteen names. I think that’s just a coincidence. The list begins at the very beginning. It says, “Adam, Seth, Enosh; Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared; Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech; Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” It doesn’t need an explanation. When you see the first two names, you know exactly what the list of names represents. It uses up the first four verses of the book. Verses 1, 2, and 3 each have three names and verse 4 has the last four names. That might be to aid in memorization. But why begin a new account of the history of Israel with a list of names? “Perhaps the best answer is provided by M. Wilcock, who observes that the generations after the exile needed a sense of history and legitimacy. In other words, they needed roots. Using the analogy of a tree, Wilcock observes that the genealogies reach from the very deepest root—Adam—to the very topmost branches of the tree—people who were living in the Chronicler’s lifetime. With these roots, God’s people knew who they were and how they were to live. They may have felt like the most insignificant of peoples (a small, backwater country in the great Persian Empire), but the genealogies served to remind them that they were not only a people with a rich history but that their history was God’s history.”[1]

We all need roots. I’ve spent some significant time looking up my roots. I can’t go very far back on my mother’s side because everything is lost regarding her mother and my mother never knew who her real father was. I can trace my father’s history back to Denmark though but all I’ve been able to learn about the Denmark Larsens who are my ancestors is that one of them was a Danish Lutheran Pastor. He had three wives and three children from each wife. My connection is with the second or third son of the first wife. The first two wives both died in childbirth if I remember correctly. I have no idea what went on before that and because I can’t read Danish, it’s been impossible for me to find out. One day they will translate the statistics from Denmark into English, and I’ll do research again, or one of my descendants will. From Adam to my Danish Lutheran Pastor is just a big void. I have no idea. But the Bible picks up for me and gives me roots back to Adam.

It’s interesting that Cain and Able, Adam’s first two sons, are not mentioned in this list at all. We do know from Genesis that Cain had a genealogy similar to that of Seth, but the names of those are not important because they were all lost in the flood. No one alive today descends from them. We all come from one of the three sons of Noah mentioned in verse 4. “The descendants of Shem are the peoples of Mesopotamia and Arabia. The descendants of Ham, whose name in Hebrew means ‘warmth’ or ‘heat,’ are the peoples in northeastern Africa, Syria, and Palestine. The descendants of Japheth are the peoples of Europe and Asia.”[2] One web article describes the importance of our genealogies, “As we dive into our own family histories, we see events unfold on both a large scale and a personal scale. Contemplating the enormity of mankind while reading about the hand of the Lord in our ancestors’ lives bears record to us of His concern and immense love for each of us personally. Our worth and value is great in His sight. We are loved and known by Him. Our family history goes beyond the names and dates we find in our tree. It’s about what makes us who we are. It’s about people with whom we can form deep connections. It’s about people who lived and breathed and suffered and triumphed. It’s about roots and branches and leaves and entire forests. It’s about all of us.”[3]

[1] Thompson, J. A. 1994. 1, 2 Chronicles. Vol. 9. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Omanson, Roger L., and John E. Ellington. 2014. A Handbook on 1-2 Chronicles. Edited by Paul Clarke, Schuyler Brown, Louis Dorn, and Donald Slager. Vol. 1 & 2. United Bible Societies’ Handbooks. Miami, FL: United Bible Societies.