“I love reading the Bible until I get to all those begats!”
I hear this quote–or something like it–all the time as a pastor. I completely understand where folks are coming from. Sometimes Biblical genealogies seem a little tedious–and can make Bible reading quite difficult. However, I want you to know that those genealogies matter!
In the book of Genesis, Moses uses a certain phrase ten times: “These are the generations of…” Each time a new section of the story begins, Moses uses this genealogical phrase to begin. Then, as the rest of the Torah unfolds, genealogies continue to figure into the story prominently.
Why do the generations matter? Why do the offspring and families in this storyline matter? I believe the answer lies in Genesis 3:15. In the middle of the Fall narrative, as God is cursing Satan in serpentine form, God says this, ” I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” As the story progresses it seems as if many believe that their offspring is the one who will crush the serpent’s head and deliver the people from the curse of sin (i.e., Eve and Noah’s father Lamech). “These are the generations” is conveying, “Is this the offspring, is this the seed?” Could this be the one who will deliver the Lord’s people? When the Lord covenants with Abraham later in Genesis, he uses the same word for offspring as He uses in 3:15. God is further promising that one will come who will deliver man from the curse of sin.
The Spirit is moving the Biblical authors to care about genealogies because Jesus Christ is the result of a long line of offspring through Adam and Eve, Abraham, David, and eventually Mary. You’ll note that after the Gospels the genealogies of the Bible end. That’s because when Jesus comes the promise of Genesis 3:15 is fulfilled. He is the seed to whom the promises of Abraham were made, and in whom they are fulfilled (Galatians 3:15-18).
Next time you come across a genealogy in the Bible think about each of those names that represent people with lives. Think about how God was faithful even to the names that are known only because they are written on that page. Think of how God made promises to their ancestors and how He was faithful for generation after generation to bring that promise about. When you read those lists of names remember that the lists eventually end. Remember the last name on that list: Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, and savior of the world, the promised offspring and the one who crushes the head of Satan once and for all.