From 1 Chronicles 3-5
Today we continue looking at the genealogies which begin the book of 1 Chronicles. Through the Old Testament there are several instances where the firstborn does not receive the birthright.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
The genealogies continue.
5 The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s couch, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, so that he could not be enrolled as the oldest son; (1 Chr 5.1)
Reuben had sex with his father’s concubine (Gen 35.33). The terminology is interesting. He defiled his father couch. He made it unclean. In the Old Testament sexual emissions made one unclean. I suspect as well, because he was having sex with his father’s concubine contributed as well. He could not have done so to attain the right of the firstborn, because he already was the firstborn. It must have had more to do with Jacob’s right over the concubine. Lots of sexual ethics in the Old Testament have to do with property rights. As punishment he lost preeminence as firstborn (Gen 49.4).
2 though Judah became strong among his brothers and a chief came from him, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph, (1 Chr 5.2)
I suspect, Jacob must have blessed Joseph with the birthright when he saw him again. Still the LORD blessed Judah’s line and a chief came from him. We know that to be David.
3 the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. 4 The sons of Joel: Shemaiah his son, Gog his son, Shimei his son, 5 Micah his son, Reaiah his son, Baal his son, 6 Beerah his son, whom Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria carried away into exile; he was a chief of the Reubenites. (1 Chr 5.3-6)
Gog is an interesting name. Sounds a bit like ‘dog’. 🙂 It is easy to spell and it’s a palindrome.
The tribes Judah and Benjamin formed Judah. The remaining tribes formed Israel. Reuben is in Israel. When Israel persisted in idolatry, she was judged by the LORD and assimilated by the Assyrians. It interesting it took the time to note who was in charge of the Reubenites when they were carried away.
7 And his kinsmen by their clans, when the genealogy of their generations was recorded: the chief, Jeiel, and Zechariah, 8 and Bela the son of Azaz, son of Shema, son of Joel, who lived in Aroer, as far as Nebo and Baal-meon. 9 He also lived to the east as far as the entrance of the desert this side of the Euphrates, because their livestock had multiplied in the land of Gilead. 10 And in the days of Saul they waged war against the Hagrites, who fell into their hand. And they lived in their tents throughout all the region east of Gilead. (1 Chr 5.7-10)
Hagrites is another interesting name. Sounds like Hagrid. Maybe they were descended from someone with that name. It would seem they didn’t get along all that well and perhaps the Hagrites didn’t survive long. Saul did win a few campaigns.
Story of Israel
Through the Old Testament there are several instances where the firstborn does not receive the birthright. The instance with Reuben and Judah is not the best known either. Perhaps Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau is the best known example. When Rebekah (Isaac’s wife) was expecting the two babies struggled within her. When she asked the LORD about it, he gave her a prophecy;
23 And the LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.” (Gen 25:23)
When Jacob was about to die he prophesied the line of kings would come from Judah and not from Reuben as well.
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
because you went up to your father’s bed;
then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!
8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
9 Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Ge 49:3–4,8–10)
Story of Jesus
If we jump forward to Jesus I can note, he was the firstborn. Mary was a virgin. But after he died and rose again, being declared the Christ the apostles made even bigger claims for him as firstborn.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col 1:15–20)
Jesus is the firstborn of all creation for by him all things were created. Firstborn here refers to the legal rights of the firstborn (Ps 89.27) over creation. Jesus has authority over all creation because he is the creator.
A key word Paul uses in this passage to remember is ‘all’. Paul says Jesus is the ‘firstborn of all (Gk. πάσης, Trans. pasēs) creation’ and ‘by him all things (Gk. τὰ πάντα, Trans. ta panta) were created’. If all things were created by him one cannot say he created himself! Nor could we say Jesus was created and then all things were created by him. Here is where Paul’s use of ‘all’ is interesting. It shows that Jesus has not been created. Rather he is the creator of all things. He was God in the beginning.
Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. He wasn’t the first to be resurrection. He was the first to receive the intended resurrection body. His body is now heavenly, imperishable, powerful, spiritual (1 Cor 15.42-46) and indestructible (Heb 7.16). He cannot die again.
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