Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 7:1-73, Exodus 28:29-30, Psalm 34:19-22
YES! Genealogies!! Who needs stories when you can just cozy up with a good list of who begat whom, am I right? I bet you love them just a little bit too. I mean, who hasn’t gotten the chills from the genealogy at the end of Ruth, when you realize she fits right into the line of Judah and became the great grandmother of King David? That list prompts the realization that God had a plan for our sweet Ruth all along. Genealogies show us God’s sovereign plan for our salvation and His intimate love for individual people.
When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he needed to do more than stack bricks and hang gates; he needed to rebuild a people. These people were born into exile. They had never actually seen Jerusalem. They’d only heard stories about it. All they knew was life without a home, without traditions, and without community. They had nothing. So as Nehemiah began to rebuild Jerusalem, he also had to learn how to rebuild a people. And each one of those people mattered.
This genealogy in Nehemiah chapter 7 is a list of the Israelites released by Cyrus from exile in 538 BC. It’s a wonderfully meticulous list that even includes the number of mules that moved back to the city (there were 245). More importantly, it tells us a lot about who these people were, and how much people matter to God. In verse 7, twelve leaders are listed, and those twelve are representatives of the twelve tribes—showing us that they’re not just a part of the covenant, but are once again whole and entitled to the full blessings of God’s covenant promises.
Each family’s descendants are also counted. Some families were massive (Senaah had 3,930 descendants!), and some families’ reunions were more modest (Beth Azmaveth had only 42). Regardless of how large or small, they were counted as families and not all heaped together, because individuals and families matter to God.
Priests, Levites, musicians, and gatekeepers were also counted, indicating that our callings matter to God. Temple servants are listed using their foreign names because they were not Hebrew-born, having joined with Israel through conversion to their God. Because God redeems the lives of His servants (Psalm 34:22), He makes them equal inheritors of the covenant with those who could trace their lineage all the way back to Abraham.
And finally, there were some who searched the records but were unable to discover their heritage because their families had been so torn apart by the exile. These, too, are listed, and their value is not diminished. Children born into captivity are valued just the same, regardless of their parentage.
From there, the people settled back into their towns and began to knit their lives together. That’s as close as we get to “happily every after” in the book of Nehemiah. But in reading this book, we see that God’s eye is always on His people, restoring not just a broken city, but a broken people as well. He cares about each one of us, our families, our homes, and our lives. And if we are in Christ, we are co-inheritors of His covenant blessings just as much as any son of Abraham.