The ‘Genealogical Forecourt’ (1 Chr 1:1–9:44 )

Genealogies have different functions: legal (e.g. inheritance), political (e.g. legitimizing rule), sociological (necessary preconditions for positions of rank and profession), and psychological (personal identity and self-justification). Some of these aspects are relevant to Chronicles' genealogies and can perhaps be proved by interpreting individual cases in chs. 1–9 . Another factor relevant to these nine chapters as a whole is that genealogies form an important part of historical literature. Ephoros of Kyme (4th cent. BCE), the first universal historian, used them, along with geographical data, when relating early history. The Chronicler used a similar method for his period, but writing a national history, focused upon Israel from 1 Chr 2 onwards. The people of Israel formed the core of the world's population, whilst Jerusalem (and its temple) formed its geographical centre. Within this people, Judah, Benjamin, and Levi stand at its heart. The Davidic genealogies extend beyond their exile, revealing a continued interest in them. In contrast with Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 2:59–63; Neh 7:61–5 ), narrow individual interests do not appear. The Chronicler's reluctance to extend the genealogies to his own period might have been a method of concealing his own situation. As well as genealogies, chs. 1–9 also contain a number of references to areas where groups settled, struggles between groups and professions, etc. Where the author did not use biblical source material, he mainly used contemporary knowledge and attitudes. His documentation forms an important source of the history of his time, although the inclusion of invented material is also possible.

Strictly theological matters also unfold in the ‘genealogical forecourt’.

From Adam to Israel (1 Chr 1–2:2 )

Taking material exclusively from Genesis and reducing it to a skeletal framework, the Chronicler portrayed the regularly changing family trees and genealogical lists of human history. He omitted only a few names, those of people whose lines ended with their deaths, such as Cain and the brothers of Abraham. A comparison of names with the source (Genesis) shows that some were incorrectly copied.

The structure of this section is: vv. 1–4 : Adam to Noah; Noah's three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth; vv. 5–7 : Japhethites; vv. 8–23 : Hamites; vv. 24–7 : Semites; vv. 28–34a : the sons of Abraham; 34b2:2 the sons of Isaac and Israel. The descendants of Noah's three sons were listed in inverse order so that the (major) line of Israel could be continued directly. This system of recording the major line last was repeated in subsequent passages.

Apparent contradictions and imbalances, which have often been used as evidence for certain critical approaches, can be readily explained by the Chronicler's intentions. The chapter primarily portrays the human world (areas of settlement are not mentioned), thus inviting the reader to read horizontally. Historical elements, however (see v. 43 ), are not entirely lacking. The chapter underlines the unity of mankind, whilst Genesis emphasizes individual differences. According to Tarn (1941: 74), the idea of universal humanity was only possible after the reign of Alexander the Great. Did the Chronicler apply such Hellenistic ideas to his text, influenced by the mood of the time, or did he develop them himself? Such a question can hardly be answered. Similarly, is the unquestionable universalism of ch. 1 an autonomous idea or does it serve as a background against which Israel's central position can be highlighted? The list comprises seventy-one names and almost exactly forms a world of seventy peoples (if we omit Nimrod).

v. 4 , the reader can know that Shem, Ham, and Japhet are sons of Noah, and not successive generations only if he has read Gen 5 . Chronicles frequently assumes knowledge of the reworked source models and is incomprehensible without it. vv. 32–4a , believed by many to be secondary since the source model seems to have been more extensively reworked than usual and given a different order. Going by the source, these verses belong to v. 28 . vv. 43–54 , Edom and Judah were neighbours and had the closest ties through the best and worst of times. This explains the disproportionately extensive reworking of the source material in Gen 36 . 2:1 , the third founding father in Chronicles is exclusively called Israel (not Jacob), except for the citation of Ps 105 at 1 Chr 16:17 . He was the father of the people of Israel, which was still significant (if physically changed) during the Chronicler's lifetime.