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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 2:5-9 Law and Gospel

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, September 26, 2023

5 The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul.  6 The sons of Zerah: Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Dara, five in all.  7 The sons of Carmi: Achar, the one who brought trouble to Israel when he treacherously stole things devoted to destruction.

Here the list of Chronicles departs from Genesis, crosses the generations that left Egypt with Moses, and entered the Promised Land. The names show the confident joy of the wanderers as they approached the land of Canaan. Zimri means melody, or song of praise. Ethan means permanent or reliable (like a spring-fed stream or river as opposed to a temporary rain-fed stream or gulch). Heman means faithful. Calcol means either to understand or to maintain. Dara means a pearl of wisdom.

Achar is the same as Achan, the man who sinned after the walls of Jericho fell. His name is misspelled on purpose to make a play on words, since Achar means “troubler.” He had taken a Babylonian robe from the plunder of Jericho along with five pounds of silver and a small wedge of gold. He was stoned to death along with his family to purge the nation of his wicked act, and their gravesite near Jericho became known as the Valley of Achor (trouble) for almost a thousand years (Isaiah 65:10; Hosea 2:15).

8 Ethan’s son was Azariah. 9 The sons of Hezron, who were born to him: Jerahmeel, Ram, and Celubai.

What does verse 9 mean when the author says, “the sons… who were born to him”? There can be no reason for using this turn of phrase unless Hezron had at least one other son who was not born to him, but whom he got some other way such as through adoption or through the Levirate law. In either case, Hezron’s natural son Ram was the one who carried the line of the Savior according to Ruth 4:19; Matthew 1:4 and Luke 3:33.

Here again in the reminder of Achan’s sin and the quieter lesson of Hezron’s children who were born to him and the one (or ones) who were not born to him, we have a proclamation of the Bible’s two great teachings: law and gospel. When we say that law and gospel are these two parts of the word, we don’t mean that we have made this division ourselves arbitrarily, as if it is ours to make. Rather, we say this because this division has been placed into Scripture by God for us to use by discernment and with care. All individual portions of Christian doctrine fall beneath this division, and every single passage of Scripture can be discerned by careful study to be either law or gospel, although some passages show themselves to be both (especially under the so-called third use of the law as a guide for Christian living). Paul encouraged Timothy to present himself as an approved workman “who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). So although much of this part of the genealogy of Israel is gospel, showing God’s grace and his divine providence generation by generation, we must slow down at each little story when they appear and consider: is this an example of sin to call us to repentance (as with Achan / Achar in verse 7) or a hint to remember the gospel of God’s grace and adoption of each of us as his special children, each one redeemed from under the law, “that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:5)?

Notice the name Hezron gave to his sons: Jerahmeel means May God Have Compassion. Ram (as in Abram) means exalted or high (he will be an ancestor of David and of Jesus, Matthew 1:3-4). Celubai is a form of Caleb, which means faithful or devoted, and his name is spelled differently here so that we won’t mistake this Caleb son of Hezron for the more famous Caleb, “son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite,” one of the two spies who were faithful to the Lord (Numbers 14:6; Joshua 14:6). That more famous Caleb has a family line we will encounter soon enough (1 Chronicles 2:42-55). This (less famous) Caleb’s line will be explained in this chapter, 2:18-20). The names in this family show a continuing devotion to the true God as they passed down the gospel message of the Savior from one generation to the next.

May God’s holy law continue to show us our own sins and our personal need for a Savior. May God’s holy gospel continue to show us our Savior in all his glory, so that even as we feel terror and shame for our sins, we also know that we have been forgiven by Jesus our Lord, and that God does not look on our sins for his sake, but looks upon our faith and counts that faith as righteousness. This is not “a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:3).

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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