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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 1:46-54 Government

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, September 22, 2023

  46 When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad who defeated Midian in the territory of Moab, reigned as king after him. The name of his city was Avith.
  47 When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah reigned as king after him.
  48 When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth by the River reigned as king after him.
  49 When Shaul died, Baal Hanan son of Akbor reigned as king after him.
  50 When Baal Hanan died, Hadad reigned as king after him. The name of his city was Pai, and the name of his wife was Mehetabel, the daughter of Metred, the daughter of Me-Zahab. 51 And then Hadad also died.

Moses has the same list with almost the same language in Genesis 36. The interesting difference is that Moses does not say that Hadad also died (verse 51). In Moses’ day, Hadad would still have been living.

In older English versions (KJV), these men were called “dukes,” from the idea that a duke was historically a leader of a thousand men, and the Hebrew term eleph can mean both “thousand” and “tribe.” Here, alluph means “chief.”

The cities of Avith and Pai receive special attention. Pai is spelled a little differently by Moses (Pau, Genesis 36:39). The difference is easily explained by the linguistic discoveries of the brothers Grimm (the shift of language over many centuries). The village my great-great-grandfathers knew as Pauquette (or even Poquette) in Wisconsin is called Poynette today, a hundred and fifty years later—not on account of consonantal drift, but for the more mundane reason of a certain man’s penmanship.

Notice the little stories embedded into this list. A war with Midian and a settlement called Avith in verse 46. A man from Babylon (Mesopotamia) becomes king in verse 48. The false god Baal appears in a king’s name in verse 49, showing a growing apostasy and a falling away from the true faith. Then Hadad’s reign is set in the city of Pai (or Pau), and we see that his wife’s lineage was noble, and importance is given both to her mother and grandmother (compare 2 Timothy 1:5).

  The chiefs of Edom were the chief of Timna, the chief of Aliah, the chief of Jetheth, 52 the chief of Oholibamah, the chief of Elah, the chief of Pinon, 53 the chief of Kenaz, the chief of Teman, the chief of Mibzar, 54 the chief of Magdiel, and the chief of Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom.

This list of eleven chiefs might seem to be a list of proper names of men. Each is preceded by the term alluph, just as Moses has them in Genesis 36. Why then, do we step aside from calling them all chief this and chief that? Because not all of these words are names. Some are regions (Teman, Mibzar, Pinon), and some are even named for prominent noble women such as Timna and Oholibamah. It becomes too sticky a translation problem to assign a few like Jetheth and perhaps Iram as “chief Jetheth” and “chief Iram,” so I have made them all chiefs of the regions or places listed. The translator is at fault, not the text of the Holy Spirit.

All of these chiefs and kings call to mind the place of our obedience to the government. The idea of government was not part of God’s original creation, but it came later after the fall. Between Adam and Eve there was leadership, the headship of Adam which was damaged by sin. God’s curse included these words to Eve: “Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). But God gives us his commandments, and what a privilege it is to know that we are serving and pleasing him when we keep his commandments! “You should rejoice heartily and thank God that he has chosen you and fitted you to perform a task so precious and pleasing to him. Even though it seems very trivial and contemptible, make sure that you regard it as great and precious, not on account of your worthiness but because it has its place within that jewel and holy treasure, the Word and commandment of God” (Large Catechism).

Even if someone wants to be so crude and argumentative as to say that in the Fourth Commandment God says “father and mother” and not “king and chief,” we can see from the rest of the Scripture that obedience to all kinds of fathers is commanded. There are fathers by blood, which includes grandfathers and great-grandfathers when they are still living. And there are fathers of households, which include step-fathers and other guardians. For the elderly and those who are in need of special nursing care, this includes the administrators of the homes where they live; following their rules, which are there for the well-being and safety of the people who live there and those who work there. And there are fathers of nations and regions, governors, kings, prefects, presidents, and officials of the law and of public safety. In the Bible there are corrupt men and women like Laban, Ahab, Jezebel, Herod’s wife Herodias, and others, who abuse their authority and even kill godly people. But they are still in authority, and must be obeyed so long as they do not command believers to break God’s commandments (Acts 5:29). In the Table of Duties, the Small Catechism quotes this passage from Romans:

“Everyone must submit to the governing authorities. For no authority exists except by God, and the authorities that do exist have been established by God. Therefore the one who rebels against the authority is opposing God’s institution, and those who oppose will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to evil. Would you like to have no fear of the one in authority? Do what is good, and you will receive praise from him, because he is God’s servant for your benefit. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because he does not carry the sword without reason. He is God’s servant, a punisher to bring wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:1-4).

Beyond these three fathers (of blood, of the household, and of the state) there are also spiritual fathers who are worthy of “double honor” (1 Timothy 5:17), those who watch over our souls.

All of these fathers and mothers watch over us in many ways. God uses them to provide for us, and to provide us with everything that we need. So “do your duty, and leave it to God how he will support you and provide for all your wants. Since he has promised it, and he has never yet lied, he will not lie to you either.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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