11 Azariah fathered Amariah, Amariah fathered Ahitub, 12 Ahitub fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Shallum, 13 Shallum fathered Hilkiah, Hilkiah fathered Azariah, 14 Azariah fathered Seraiah, Seraiah fathered Jehozadak; 15 and Jehozadak went into exile when the Lord sent Judah and Jerusalem into exile by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. (1 Chronicles 6:11-15
Another day in Chronicles, another list of names. If possible, this one is even more confusing than the one from 1 Chronicles 1-2. The list doubles back on itself, repeating itself for no clear reason. Names are repeated across generations (five different Elkanahs!). And through it all, the modern Christian is going, “What’s the point?”
Well, as we talked about a couple of days ago, the key to understanding all this is to remember that 1 Chronicles was written around the time the first settlers were returning to the Promised Land from exile. These chapters of genealogies were crucial for re-establishing the culture that had nearly been wiped out. The two pillars of Jewish society, the priesthood and the monarchy, were on the verge of being forgotten. Without these genealogies, the Jews might have gone the way of so many other forgotten people groups of the day. Anyone ever met a Hivvite? Didn’t think so. The Jews are the only one of the ancient people groups that have maintained their distinct identity since Bible times. And part of it because they were such obsessive makers of lists.
This year, 2022, our reading of 1 Chronicles falls on Yom Ha’Shoah, the Jewish Day of Remembrance for victims of the Holocaust (Shoah is the Hebrew word for “whirlwind,” and it is how the Jews refer to the Holocaust). So beginning with sunset on April 27 and continuing to sunset on the 28th, entertainment venues and restaurants in Israel will be closed. Flags will be lowered to half-mast. And at 10am on the 28th, sirens will sound all over Israel for two minutes. Israelis will stop what they are doing and pause in silence. They will remember the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.
On my most recent trip to Israel, our tour guide was an Israeli from Haifa named Yair. Yair is a larger than life personality. He is joyful, energetic, and gregarious. He is apparently famous (or infamous, depending on who you talk to) as the “trumpet playing tour guide.” Whenever our group needed to be gathered together, Yair would play his trumpet. We walked the path of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry accompanied by “When the Saints Go Marching In”!
But on the day we visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Yair was much more subdued. (I wrote about this visit a couple of days ago, so I’m sorry-not-sorry about two similar posts this week). As we stood by the tree honoring Oskar Schindler, Yair told the story of his family. With his permission, I’m copying his Facebook post from today:
On the eve of the Holocaust Memorial Day, I’m posting the old picture of my grandparents in Jadove, Poland just before the Nazi’s invasion..Esther and Mordecai Zilberman escaped to Siberia, USSR. They survived but most of their families were murdered by the Nazi’s on Yom Kippur,1942, outside the ghetto of Jadove.
They came to Haifa in 1948 with their twin daughters, one of whom was my mother.
May their memories be a blessing..
Some say I resemble my grandfather a bit..
Our eyes can glaze over when we read chapters like 1 Chronicles 6, because to us, they are just names. But to a Jewish exile, seeking to reassemble the pieces of a shattered culture, it was more than a list of names.
For the grandson of Esther and Mordecai Zilberman, the sole survivors from two families, these names aren’t a genealogy. They are a memorial.