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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 2:34-41 My God Hears

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, October 3, 2023

34 Now Sheshan had no sons, only daughters; but Sheshan had an Egyptian slave named Jarha. 35 So Sheshan gave his daughter in marriage to his slave Jarha; and she bore him Attai. 36 Attai was the father of Nathan; Nathan was the father of Zabad. 37 Zabad was the father of Ephlal; Ephlal was the father of Obed. 38 Obed was the father of Jehu; Jehu was the father of Azariah. 39 Azariah was the father of Helez; Helez was the of Eleasah. 40 Eleasah was the father of Sismai; Sismai was the father of Shallum. 41 Shallum was the father of Jekamiah, and Jekamiah was the father of Elishama.

This is a list of familiar names, but none of these are familiar men. There is a Nathan, but he is not Nathan the prophet. There is an Obed, but he is not Obed the father of Jesse. There is a Jehu, but he is not King Jehu. There is an Azariah, but he is not the priest of Solomon’s time. There is a Shallum, but he is not the king who ruled in Samaria for just one month.

Why do we have such a list? By the end of the genealogy (verse 41), we have seen Judah’s line progress from Judah himself (1 Chronicles 2:1) to the line of Judah at the time of King David through more than one branch—Elishama here was of course not the Elishama who was a younger son of King David (1 Chronicles 3:8), but is thought to be a contemporary.

Let’s return to the top of the paragraph. In verse 31, we were told that “The son of Sheshan was Ahlai.” Now in verse 34, we are told that the very same Sheshan “had no sons, only daughters.” A critic might wag his or her unbelieving tongue at this point and dare to ask, “Wasn’t the Holy Spirit paying attention? Did even the Holy Spirit find the list so boring that he drifted off to sleep for a little while?” No, I haven’t actually read or heard of any critics that said this. I suspect that even the critics missed this. But they can bite their tongues anyway, because we will answer them before they can open their mouths, since the breath of unbelievers stinks like the grave, anyway (Ecclesiastes 10:1).

All through the genealogy, the Hebrew word ben “son” has been used for “son,” “descendant,” and “descended nation.” So is the Ahlai of verse 31 a nation, a descendant, or a son? I think that Ahlai is something different. It is possible and even probable that Ahlai here is a girl, not a boy at all, and I think that she is not just the descendant of Sheshan, but his daughter. The Chronicler counts her as a “ben” (son) because she gives him the son of her body as his grandson.

Sheshan is the tenth generation from Judah through Perez, and it’s possible, even likely, that this marriage happened while they were still in Egypt or not long after the tribes left, so that this Egyptian slave called Jarha was there in the wilderness with Israel and with Moses at Sinai. He was given to the daughter of Sheshan, who I think was this Ahlai (Delitzsch says “without a doubt the Ahlai mentioned in verse 31), and their son was the Attai of verse 35.

The final name in verse 41 is this Elishama, and I think that commentator Williamson (New Century Bible Commentary) is correct in supposing that these verses (2:34-41) were composed for Elishama himself to produce his pedigree during his lifetime to explain the presence of an Egyptian in his ancestry. The same might be true of the book of Ruth, which may have been composed to identify the Moabite element in David’s ancestry.

Elishama’s name means either “My God hears,” or “Hear, O my God.” Since names generally do not disguise unbelief, and more especially in ancient times, we take this to be a confession of faith on the part of Elishama’s mother and his father Jekamiah (whose name means “Rise up, O LORD”). Here was the true church, with true believers. They were believers just as we are, a part of the true and holy church, which has been planted and has flourished since the days of Adam and Eve, and will continue to grow and branch out until the end of time. Jesus said: “The gates of hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18), and since Christ is the builder of the church, we know that his church will continue to the end of time.

The church of God is also a holy church. Paul says: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). And this same church of God is the one and only church of God. “God placed all things under the feet of Jesus and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body” (Ephesians 1:22-23).

As we see all throughout the Bible, the church in this world (the visible church) is also mixed; there are weeds among the wheat, as Jesus explained in his parables (Matthew 13:26). And in the same way that the visible church that is correct in its beliefs will still have unbelievers in its midst, it is also true that those visible parts of the church that have fallen for the most part into error are still called “church” because of the believers hidden in them. Paul spends six chapters rebuking and correcting the churches of Galatia for their errors and calling them to return to correct doctrine, but he still calls them “the churches in Galatia” (Galatians 1:2).

Luther was writing about the elements of right worship: baptism, the reading of the gospel lessons, the absolution (forgiveness) given in the church service, the Psalms, the Lord’s Prayer, and good hymns being sung. He said: “Wherever such things have remained, the church and some saints certainly have remained. For all of them are the ordinances and fruits of Christ, apart from the robbery of the one kind [withholding the wine in the Lord’s Supper]. Therefore Christ has certainly been here with his Holy Spirit and has preserved the Christian faith in them.”

We must not become so content or complacent that we are led to believe that individual churches or entire church bodies cannot fall completely from the truth, for there are cases in every generation where this has happened. And it could even happen to the entire visible church. Jesus warns against a great seduction: “False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time” (Matthew 24:24-25). And Paul says: “That day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). And again: “In later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). But believers will remain, for the invisible church cannot perish (fall from the truth). But the day could well come when scattered believers around the world, here and there, would be alone in their true faith, and there could be nothing left to indicate the existence of the church to outside eyes at all.

So while some churches claim that the visible church is infallible and incapable of error, they do so only by ignoring the words of Christ and his apostles. And while other churches claim that the community of all believers could completely disappear from the earth altogether, they, too, do this by ignoring the words and promises of Christ (“On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it” Matthew 16:18). Therefore we must be vigilant, and guard ours lives and our doctrine closely, for churches can crumble and fall, and their members disappear, but there will always be a little faithful flock, and Christ knows them all by name. Jesus said (John 10:29): “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

Have no fear, little flock.

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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