Q: #132. Why are there so many lists of genealogies in the Bible?
A: Genealogies in the Bible were mainly connected with Israel and the Jewish people, and held great importance for them. Let me give you two reasons why.
First, it was very important for them to trace their lineage back to Abraham, who was the father of all Israelites. Being able to do this gave them a connection with God and made them a part of the promises, blessings, and land that God first gave to Abraham when He made a covenant with him, and all of the descendants who would come from him (Gen 12:1-3)(Gen 15:18-21)(Gen 17:1-22). One could not be a Jew if they had not descended from Abraham.
Secondly, it was important to know one’s lineage because an Israelite could not serve as a priest or a king unless they had been descended from Levi (the man through whom God said all priests must come: Num 3:3,5-10, Jer 33:18) or David (through whom all kings, including Jesus, were to come: Jer 33:14-17, Ps 89:36-37, 2 Sam 7:16).
In the New Testament, the genealogy of Jesus is listed in both the gospels of Matthew and Luke. In the book of Matthew, the genealogy of Joseph, Jesus’ ADOPTIVE father (Jesus was the Son of God) is given, and in the book of Luke, the genealogy of Mary, Jesus’ mother is given. Because Jesus could trace His ancestry back, He could show He was truly a Jew, could legally claim to be a king, and that He was the Messiah who was prophesied would come through the line of David.
*** Note: For information on how Jesus could be a priest when He descended from the tribe of Judah, please see: Q: #15.
There are also two other things that are important concerning genealogies.
First, it is important to understand that the genealogies in the Bible are not TOTALLY complete. There are many people who are left out, but this was not a big thing back then like it might be today for one who traces their genealogy. Genealogies were kind of like what we would see with a highlight reel of a football game today. They often “highlighted” prominent people from the past, but left off those people who were not that well known. They gave accurate history, and a traceable record, but not complete history. In addition, writers of the Bible tended to “group” people according to significant numbers like 7 or multiples of it, and in doing so left off many names.
Finally, one other key thing about genealogies is that they point to a young Earth age instead of a millions or billions of years old Earth. If the genealogies in the Bible are literally calculated as given, they add up to an Earth that is about 6000 years old (assuming the Earth and man were literally created within days of each other as most creationists believe). As we have already stated though, many names were left off, and we don’t know how many were left off. However, even if we greatly exaggerate the number left off, let’s say only 1 in 10 were listed (10%), we STILL have an Earth that is only 60,000 years old. For those who hold to a literal 6 day creation, it would be IMPOSSIBLE for man to have been on the Earth for even a million years based on genealogical records unless one believes only about 1 in 200 people were listed in the genealogical records in the Bible.