Bible Commentary: 1 Chronicles 2

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1 Chronicles 2

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Discrepancies in Judah's Family Record?

Chapters 2-4 concentrate on the descendants of Judah, particularly the descendants of Judah's son Perez. Yet some descendants of Judah's son Shelah are given (see 1 Chronicles 4:21-23). And a few descendants of Perez's twin brother Zerah are mentioned. Verse 6 of chapter 2 lists Zerah's sons as Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Dara and says that there were five of them in all. Compare this with 1 Kings 4:31: "For [Solomon] was wiser than all men—than Ethan the Ezrahite [i.e., Zerahite or Zarhite], and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations." The parallel names here would seem to identify Ethan the Ezrahite or Zerahite with Ethan the son of Zerah. Yet Ethan the Ezrahite, composer of Psalm 89, lived after the time of David since his psalm mentions God's covenant with David and even later transgressions by David's descendants. So it seems that the "sons" of Zerah in 1 Chronicles 2:6 must refer to descendants—so that the total of "five" probably refers to those noted for greatness still remembered when Chronicles was recorded. Carmi in verse 7 was another descendant of Zerah noted only for being the father of Achar—the Achan of Joshua 7. (Carmi, named also in 2 Chronicles 4:1, was, according to Joshua 7:26-18, the son of a descendant of Zerah named Zabdi.)

Moving down to 1 Chronicles 2:15, note that David is referred to as the seventh son of Jesse while 1 Samuel 16:10-11 and 1 Samuel 17:12 clearly state that Jesse had eight sons. Various suggestions have been offered, including one son not surviving much beyond 1 Samuel 17 to have children or receive an inheritance. Another that some have postulated is that the missing son may have had a different mother than the seven mentioned in 1 Chronicles. Whatever the case, the matter is not irresolvable. As usual, such apparent discrepancies actually give the text a more legitimate feel, as the author of a falsified record would likely have been careful to avoid introducing such problems.

This brings us to another matter in 1 Chronicles 2. In its note on verse 18, The Nelson Study Bible states: "This Caleb [the son of Hezron and brother of Jerahmeel] was not the famous companion of Joshua (Numbers 13:6, Joshua 14:6-7), who lived several centuries later, during the conquest of Canaan. In fact, one of this Caleb's descendants, Bezalel (v. 20), was a craftsman charged with constructing the wilderness tabernacle (Exodus 31:2)." The later Caleb, son of Jephunneh, is mentioned a few chapters later in 1 Chronicles 4:15. Yet the earlier Caleb, referred to again in 1 Chronicles 2:42, is said to have had a daughter named Achsah (verse 49)—who was evidently the daughter of the later Caleb.

What are we to make of this? In its note on verse 49, the same study Bible states: "The Caleb of Joshua's time had a daughter named Achsah, who became the wife of Israel's first judge, Othniel (Judges 1:12-13). It might appear that the Caleb here in Chronicles must be the same as the later Caleb, but this is ruled out by the consistent use of Caleb throughout the chronicler's genealogy [here] to refer to an earlier individual by that name. The meaning probably is that Achsah is the 'daughter' of the earlier Caleb in the sense that she is his descendant. The later Caleb was doubtless a descendant of the early one, a conclusion supported by the record that both were from the tribe of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:4-5; 1 Chronicles 2:9; 1 Chronicles 2:18; 1 Chronicles 2:42; Numbers 13:6). But is there more to the explanation?

Consider the following lengthy quote regarding 1 Chronicles 2 from Swiss commentator Henri Rossier in his Meditations on the First Book of Chronicles. The matter is a bit complex and involved but helps to counter the idea that Scripture is in error here:

"Caleb's genealogy offers a striking example of this disorder [that in some cases existed among the Jews' genealogical records after the Babylonian Exile] and of how fragmentarily the genealogical registers were preserved. Caleb (who is not without purpose, I think, called Chelubai in v. 9) is the son of Hezron and the great-grandson of Judah. We find his genealogy in verses 18-20, and the descendants of his two wives, Azubah and Ephrath. In verses 42-49 we again find descendants of this same Caleb by his concubines. He is called the brother of Jerahmeel (the son of Hezron, v. 9). But at the very end of this enumeration we are suddenly brought into the presence of Achsah the daughter, as we know, of Caleb the son of Jephunneh (Joshua 15:16). In verses 50-55, for the third time in this chapter, we meet the descendants of Caleb, the son of Hezron, through Hur, the first-born of Ephratah, a part of whose genealogy has already been given us in verse 20. [The King James Version makes the Caleb of verse 50 the son of Hur, who was son of the original Caleb of verse 18 (son of Hezron). However, most translations show the Caleb of verse 50 to be the same as the original Caleb of verse 18—the sons of Hur (rather than singular son in the KJV) being his descendants.] Finally, in 1 Chronicles 4:13-15 we find the descendants of Caleb the son of Jephunneh and of his brother Kenaz. But here now, in this portion, this genealogy is truncated.

"Must we conclude from all this that the text of Chronicles is a human and capricious compilation and that thus the historical value of this book is nil? This is what the rationalists assert, but thank God, their reason is always at fault when it attacks His Word. No enlightened Christian will deny that the genealogies of Chronicles are composed of fragments gathered up in the midst of general confusion, yet documents upon which God sets His seal of approval. So it is true that a number of passages in these genealogies are of very ancient origin, not mentioned in the other books of the Old Testament.

"Caleb's fragmentary genealogy, which we have cited above, is very instructive in this regard. We know from a number of Scripture passages (Numbers 13:6; Numbers 14:30; Numbers 14:38; Numbers 32:12; Numbers 34:19; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:13) what favour Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, won from God by his perseverance, moral courage, faithfulness, and zeal to conquer a portion in the land of Canaan. The Lord's approval was upon him, whereas Caleb, the son of Hezron and of Judah, despite his numerous descendants, is not mentioned as the object of God's special favor. But if the fragmentary genealogies of Caleb the son of Judah are proof of the existing disorder, God puts these fragments together for a special purpose, and we find a deeper thought in them. Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, is the one whom God has particularly in view, as the Word teaches us; he is the one whom He introduces in so extraordinary a way into the genealogy of the son of Hezron (1 Chronicles 2:49). It is in view of him that this genealogy is inscribed next to that of David, as forming part of the tribe of Judah, from whence the royal race comes.

"But what connection does Caleb the son of Jephunneh, whose daughter was Achsah, have with Caleb the son of Hezron? Here we find a most interesting fact which has perhaps not been given sufficient attention. Caleb the son of Jephunneh was not originally of the people of Judah. In Numbers 32:12 and Joshua 14:6, 14 he is called Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite. Likewise, Caleb's younger brother Othniel, to whom Caleb gave his daughter Achsah as wife, is called 'the son of Kenaz' (Joshua 15:17; Judges 1:13; Judges 3:9; Judges 3:11). Now in Genesis 36:11 we learn that Kenaz is an Edomite name. Hence the conclusion that at some point of time the family of Kenaz, and therefore the family of Caleb the son of Jephunneh, was incorporated into the tribes of Israel just as so many other foreigners, such as Jethro, Rahab, and Ruth, who in virtue of their faith became members of the people of God. This explains a characteristic phrase in Joshua 15:13: 'And to Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a portion among the children of Judah according to the commandment of Jehovah to Joshua...that is, Hebron.' And in Joshua 14:14: 'Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed Jehovah the God of Israel."

"Thus Caleb, who by his origin really had no right of citizenship in Israel, received this right amidst Judah by virtue of his faith and was incorporated into the family of Caleb the son of Hezron, as it appears in 1 Chronicles 2:49 and in the passages already cited in Joshua. The fragments preserved of the genealogy of Caleb the son of Hezron confirm the place that God assigned to Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and this substitution is one of the important points the Spirit of God calls our attention to here."