Gershon, Kohath and Merari.
1 Chronicles 6
Biblical names can be a mouthful. Whole chapters of names boggle the brain. So I can't help but think about why these tedious, meticulous chapters of names appear in the Bible - God's word to his people - to me. Somehow, God wants to speak to us through these names... through this long genealogy.
I love technology. Computers and the internet amaze me. There is more information at my fingertips - through my keyboard - sifting through cyberspace than has been available in the whole of mankind's history. If I have a question about something - anything - I google it. Yes, I have to sift through the results. Yes, some of the information out there is not very reliable. But, goodness, information is out there!
So, imagine first, a world without technology. A hierarchic world of the twelve tribes of Israel - God's chosen people - given God's promise and blessing. This world of haves and have nots - shepherds, farmers, builders, craftsmen, musicians, priests and their attendent assistants. Like in medieval times - families passed down their occupations, fathers to sons, to sons, to sons. In this world, wouldn't it be paramount to know your father, grandfather, and great-grandfather? Wouldn't a certain amount of pride be taken by those haves - knowing that they were descended from national heroes (not that they would think of Aaron or Moses in those terms).
And we are the same. Just look around. People are searching for their roots. Here in the US, they get excited to know they are descended from George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson, or some other famous statesman, inventor, or military hero. There are entire computer programs and websites dedicated to helping us research our past generations. Companies are dedicated to tracing the ethnicities present in our DNA. We want to know where we came from.
So did the Israelites. Chronicles does just that. It tells them. But it tells them in a way that they can remember, pre-technology. With repetition and rhythm. I read first Chronicles, Chapter 6 today. The twelve tribes of Israel were actually sons of a man named Israel, who was a son of Esau, who was a son of Isaac, who was a son of Abraham. I remember hearing stories about Israel, Esau, Isaac, and Abraham as a child in Sunday school. I'll bet there were family stories about most of the names written in Chronicles. I'll bet they were funny, or sad, or told to teach a lesson - just like family stories today.
Chapter 6 is all about the priesthood - descendants of Levi were set apart to serve God in the tabernacle. Once I got past the names, I realized that this chapter listed from the back to the front, and then again, from the front to the back. It was like the writer had to show the whole picture first, the progression from Levi to the time of the writer. And then he had to prove that the people who were in the appointed positions were actually justified to be there - so listed their genealogy back to Levi. I like the purposeful-ness of that kind of thinking. I like the symmetry and order. I bet it was comforting in those times to feel that kind of fit, that kind of belonging.
Too often, today, I feel the disconnectedness and the live-in-the-now, live-for-the-moment of our broken society. We are broken. Across families. Across communities. Across nations. We live in separation from our parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters. We live in communities of strangers, behind privacy fences and locked gates. Where is our fit, our belonging?
So here's my take on Chronicles. It's all about God's order and perfect plan. These names represent a pedigree for occupation, they represent family connection - linearly to the base of the family tree as well as horizontally across the branches, and they remind us that we, in the present day, are not so different from the people in biblical times. We are not so different from each other. We are children of God - our fit and our belonging is with Him.
Thank you, God, for showing me again, that my place is with You.