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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 4:11-23 Even an Egyptian princess

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, October 16, 2023

11 Kelub, Shuhah’s brother, was the father of Mehir, who was the father of Eshton. 12 Eshton was the father of Beth Rapha, Paseah and Tehinnah the father of Ir Nahash. These were the men of Recah.  13 The sons of Kenaz: Othniel and Seraiah. The sons of Othniel: Hathath and Meonothai. 14 Meonothai was the father of Ophrah. Seraiah was the father of Joab, the father of Ge Harashim. It was called this because they were craftsmen.

Ir Nahash (verse 12) is not a person, but a city: the city of copper (south of the Dead Sea). Nahash was a royal name among the neighboring Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:1-2; 2 Samuel 17:27). We see the word “copper” (nahash) in other names, like Nehushta the wife of King Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:8) and the nickname given to the bronze snake Moses made, Nahushtan (2 Kings 18:4). Copper was valuable in its own right but also as one of the main metals that bronze was made from.

In verse 13, both Othniel and Seraiah are said to be sons of Kenaz. Othniel is also said to be the younger brother of Caleb (the famous Caleb). It seems as if Kenaz was probably the grandfather and not the father of these men. In Joshua 14:6, Caleb is called “Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite” or descendant of Kenaz.

Ge Harashim (verse 14) was the “valley of the craftsmen.” This is probably the same place that is mentioned in Nehemiah 11:35, although the spelling is slightly different there. Ge is a Hebrew term for valley (Joshua 15:8), although emeq (emek) is more common (Genesis 14:3; Joshua 7:24).

15 The sons of Caleb son of Jephunneh: Iru, Elah and Na’am. The son of Elah: Kenaz. 16 The sons of Jehallelel: Ziph, Ziphah, Tiria and Asarel. 17 The sons of Ezrah: Jether, Mered, Epher and Jalon. One of Mered’s wives gave birth to Miriam, Shammai and Ishbah the father of Eshtemoa. These were the children of Pharaoh’s daughter Bithiah, whom Mered had married. 18 His Judean wife gave birth to Jered the father of Gedor, Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah.

The line of families in these verses is related somehow to Judah through Caleb (the famous Caleb). Some elements of this section lead us to suspect that this is a genealogy from the time when Israel was in Egypt. First, from late in the sojourn in Egypt, Caleb’s family is listed. Second, Apart from Ziph, no place names from Canaan (later Israel) are mentioned as family names or places.

The third clue is earlier in the time of the sojourn, during the decades when Joseph still living and was second to Pharaoh. This is the marriage of a man of Judah to Bithiah, one of the daughters of a Pharaoh. This could be the daughter of one of three or four rulers of Egypt. Jacob and his family settled in Egypt in about 1875 BC, when Sesostris III was Pharaoh (1878-1839 BC). Since Judah’s sons were already grown men at the time of the move but Mered (the descendant of our text) is unknown, we’re not sure how long after the move this marriage took place. Since the clan of Judah’s son Shelah comes after this (verse 21) and since the clan of Judah’s son Perez was also given (4:1), it is possible that Mered is a descendant of Zerah, whose line is not distinguished apart from a mention in 2:6.

The Pharaoh who followed Sesostris III was Amenemhat III (1860-1814 BC?). Both men had multiple wives, so Bithiah could have been the daughter of a wife who was not actually queen but was a consort of the king. Amenemhat IV (1815-1806) was the Pharaoh of Joseph’s final years, when the Israelites would still have been treated with honor and respect. There is an easy-to-find conjecture in Wikipedia, the Jewish Encyclopedia and other sources, that the Bithiah here was perhaps the daughter of Pharaoh who had found Moses and drew him out of the water (Exodus 2:5-10), but that such a woman would have married an Israelite from Judah seems unlikely given the unpopularity of the Hebrews as slaves in the 15th century BC. On the other hand, for the daughter of a Pharaoh to marry a prince of a highly regarded family during the decades when Joseph was still living seems much more plausible.

19 The sons of Hodiah’s wife, the sister of Naham: the father of Keilah the Garmite, and Eshtemoa the Maacathite. 20 The sons of Shimon: Amnon, Rinnah, Ben-Hanan and Tilon. The descendants of Ishi: Zoheth and Ben-Zoheth. 21 The sons of Shelah son of Judah: Er the father of Lecah, Laadah the father of Mareshah and the clans of the linen workers at Beth Ashbea, 22 Jokim, the men of Cozeba, and Joash and Saraph, who ruled in Moab and returned to Lehem.  (These are from ancient records.) 23 They were the potters who lived at Netaim and Gederah; they stayed there and worked for the king.

In verse 19, a man’s name is missing. He is one of the sons of Hodiah and his wife, but he is only called “the father of Keilah,” and Keilah (“citadel”) became the name of a town in western Judah (1 Samuel 23:1-13; Nehemiah 3:17-18). A curiosity here is that the author or biographer of this family went out of his way to describe the wife of Hodiah as “the sister of Naham,” but he also fails to give the woman’s name. The other son is called a “Maacathite.” Two men are called Maacathites in the Bible (see also 2 Samuel 23:34) and one other man is known as a “son of the Maacathite,” always written with the definite article “the” (2 Kings 25:23; Jeremiah 40:8). This unusual detail is one of the many little items that makes Jeremiah seem a likely candidate for having written the book of Kings.

Verses 21 and 23 give us the titles “the linen workers” and “the potters who worked for the king” (royal potters). It is interesting that the phrase “These are from ancient records” is inserted into verse 22. It shows that the author of Chronicles collected research and many sources to put together this part of the book. This does not diminish the doctrine of divine inspiration, but supports it. There are several places where we are made aware that the human authors of the Scriptures checked their facts with other sources (the Book of Jashar, the Book of the Wars of the Lord, and others). But they were still men who spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

Craftsmen, copper miners, linen workers, potters, and even a princess of Egypt! All these people had these things in common. They needed a Savior from their sins, and God had so moved history and world society to bring them all into contact with the saving Gospel and the message of Jesus our Savior.

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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