The Genealogies of the Northern and Central Tribes
Open Your Bible
1 Chronicles 7:1-40, 1 Chronicles 8:1-40, Deuteronomy 33:12
Overlooked, sidelined, unfaithful, forgotten. As I typed out that list, I caught myself saying “check, check, check, and check.” I’m certainly no stranger to unfaithfulness, and feeling overlooked has been my long-term insecurity. I have a feeling I’m not alone in relating to any of these themes, right alongside you. And for the tribes in today’s reading, they were all too familiar.
In our reading over the past few days, the Chronicler brought us through creation to the return of the exiles from Babylonian captivity. We read the genealogies of those who will take center stage in the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles—the tribe of Judah and the Levitical priests. But today we are given the history of several other tribes.
The nation of Israel, twelve tribes united under David, split into two during a civil war in 931 BC. The tribes in today’s reading comprise a portion of northern Israel—Issachar, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Asher. These were the tribes first exiled, taken into captivity in Assyria 148 years before the southern kingdom was defeated by Babylon. These northern tribes continually rejected the Lord as the God of their nation—in both word and practice.
But there’s one other tribe mentioned here who wasn’t a part of the northern kingdom—the tribe of Benjamin. Together, Benjamin and Judah, the tribe we read about on Day 2, comprised the southern kingdom. In this expanded history of the tribe of Benjamin, the Chronicler established Benjamin not only as a tribe with a physical claim to Israel’s history, but also a royal one. The first king of Israel, Saul, was from the tribe of Benjamin.
When the Chronicler told Israel’s history, he wrote about these tribes—the northern tribes who were the first to be exiled and a southern tribe where the first unfaithful king of Israel descended.
From the beginning of creation, God preserved a people as His own possession despite rebellion and unfaithfulness. And here, beyond the exile, God was still working. These small, often overlooked tribes had not been erased. The Chronicler had not forgotten these sons of Israel, and neither had their Creator. The story was not over.
While physical exiles and returns may be far removed from our daily lives, the feeling of being overlooked, sidelined, unfaithful, or forgotten is not. The Chronicler maintained that these tribes of Israel had a place in the people’s history. During the season of Lent, we too remember and rejoice that God has invited us into His story.