Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 2:50b-55 Bethlehem

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, October 5, 2023

The sons of Hur the firstborn of Ephrathah: Shobal father of Kiriath Jearim, 51 Salma father of Bethlehem, and Hareph father of Beth Gader.  52 Shobal father of Kiriath Jearim had other sons: Haroeh and half of the Manuhoth. 53 And the families of Kiriath Jearim: the Ithrites, the Puthites, the Shumathites, and the Mishraites. The Zorathites and the Eshtaolites came from them. 54 The sons of Salma: Bethlehem, the Netophathites, Atroth Beth Joab, half of the Manahathites, and the Zorites.

Some of these are place names, and so we have the inhabitants who are equivalent for the most part to descendants. Kiriath Jearim is a familiar name, a town that was a little more than an hour’s walk west from Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant spent twenty years there in the days of Samuel (1 Samuel 7:1-2).

The word “Ithrite” might be a family rather than a location. Two of David’s mighty men were Ithrites (Ira and Gareb, 2 Samuel 23:38; 1 Chronicles 11:40).

Eshtaol in verse 53 was a town in the western foothills of Judah near the Philistine border (Joshua 15:33). Some of the Danites had a camp there while they were looking for a place to live in the promised land (Judges 13:25, 18:1). They were a large enough group that they could assemble a whole brigade of six hundred from just two encampments (Judges 18:11). The judge Samson (from those same Danites) was buried there by his brothers after he died, in the tomb of their father (Judges 16:31).

Another question here is about the brothers, Salma and Shobal. The families of Salma and Shobal brought out families called “half of the Manuhoth” and “half of the Manahathites.” These two words are very similar. If one or the other were not written down, we might translate the remaining name either way. It seems that this later group, divided into two parts, found it necessary or preferable to remember that they were descended from two brothers. The “Shobalite” group were called “half of the Manuhoth” and the “Salmaite” group were called “half of the Manahathites.” We will learn in 1 Chronicles 8:6 that there was also a city in Edom, east and south of the Dead Sea, called Manahath. Part of the tribe of Benjamin was exiled to Manahath—those who were living in Geba. The circumstances of that exile are unknown; nor do we know how long it lasted or if they were ever permitted to return.

55 The families of the scribes that lived at Jabez were the Tirathites, the Shimeathites, and the Sukathites.
    These, then, are the Kenites who came from Hammath, father of the house of Rechab.

The scribes of Jabez present a curious question. Are the names in verse 55 tribes, or tasks? The ancient translator Jerome thought the names might represent three different jobs: “singers, scribes, and recorders.” Could there have been guilds of scribes? It’s an interesting thought, and the first readers of Chronicles may have been quite certain of the answer, but we just don’t know.

Like an old grandfather in his rocking chair spinning yarns for children about the olden days, the author brings his second chapter to a close. He has been tying up a few loose strands of the family of Judah before he comes to the part that most of his readers will be especially interested in: the line of David and the line of the kings of Judah. This will form most of the next chapter.

Here in chapter 2, we have been reminded of the sons of Israel (the fathers of the twelve tribes), and the line of the Savior from Judah down to David. We have been shown the difference between the families of the “not famous Caleb” and the “famous Caleb,” and we have seen some odd things and some exciting things, such as famous Caleb’s battle with not just one, and not just two, but three giant Philistines during the conquest of Canaan.

We’ve been reminded of the burial place of Samson (Eshtaol), and the burial place of Rachel (Ephrathah). But here at the very end of the chapter in verse 54 the author has mentioned a name that was taken up by the prophet Micah and trumpeted for all Israel to hear: It would be in Bethlehem in Ephrathah, in the tribe of Judah, that the Savior would be born.

  “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
  though you are small among the clans of Judah,
  out of you will come one for me,
  one who will be ruler over Israel,
  whose origins are from of old,
  from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

Eve thought the Savior might be her own firstborn son, but it would be someone else. Lamech, Noah’s father, thought it might be his son, and Shem thought it might be his son, but it would be someone else. Then, like an eye doctor adjusting lenses for someone to see more clearly, Abraham was told that the Savior would come from his own family. With Isaac, the prescription did not change. Then Jacob foresaw that the scepter of the Messiah would come from Judah’s line. And the line would be from David and from Solomon—but who? Micah showed that this Savior would not be a king born in Jerusalem (or Samaria, for that matter). Wouldn’t he be from the royal family? Isaiah answered this at the same time Micah foresaw the village: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1). So at this time:

1, Micah made it clear that the Savior would come at some time following the Babylonian captivity (Micah 4:11-5:1).

2, Micah foresaw that the Savior would be born in the village of Bethlehem in Judah (Micah 5:2)

3, Isaiah foresaw that the Savior would come from the royal line, but an obscure part of it when the royal line was all but dead; “the stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1).

Our author of Chronicles already knew all of these things, writing as he did following the end of the Babylonian captivity (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). Luther summarizes: “Here (in Micah) the prophet is describing the definite place, just as other prophets described the time when this King was going to come, namely, after the Babylonian captivity. The person, then, is Christ; the place, Bethlehem; the time, after the Babylonian captivity” (LW 18:247). And what would he do? “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4). He was killed for our sins, paying with his flesh and blood the terrible price of our rebellion and sin against God. This was the cry of the Old Testament believer: “Tear open your heavens, O Lord, and come down!” (Psalm 144:5).

And that is exactly what he did.

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.


Browse Devotion Archive