1 Chronicles 8
This chapter provides additional details on the tribe of Benjamin, which was already briefly reviewed in the previous chapter. This makes sense in light of these genealogies being collected from the families which had kept them at the time 1 Chronicles was written by Ezra as the Israelites returned to the land after exile.
The account in Chapter 7 is almost a military census, listing only the heads of families and the number of fighting men within their clan. Chapter 8 provides a more detailed genealogy. We glean a little more detail, learning that certain ones were deported and where they were sent to, or that others are those who drove out the pagan nations or fought valiantly.
Think about the ones for whom these genealogies were originally intended: Families who had spent seventy years in exile, separated from one another, perhaps losing older members who could share the stories of their ancestors. Think of your own family and the connection it has to a particular town, all the stories associated with your family having built the town or served the town over generations. Imagine everyone in the town being pulled apart and sent to different nations, unable to communicate with distant family members and living in captivity. Now imagine after seventy years the remnant being allowed to return home. Consider how few would still recall those stories. After seventy years, many of those returning were coming home to a place they had never known.
For many Americans, this may not resonate. We are a more transient society than most, with people moving from state to state regularly, or even to another country. There are few pockets of society here where generations are as connected to the land and one another as was ancient Israel. Growing up with my father in the military, the closest I can relate to this notion is that we always had a “permanent address” which was my maternal grandmother’s address, in addition to whatever our current address might be. I remember as an adult when she sold her home to move in with my aunt, it felt a bit like losing an anchor, a connection to my childhood. In the same way, I see my father and his brother struggling over the emotional toll of selling the farm which their father purchased from family nearly a hundred years ago when he was starting out with his new bride.
God created us to crave community and connections. In fact, we are all connected to one another if we were to trace our families back far enough. And this is what Ezra was showing the exiles as they returned to the land – their connections to one another through family.