Question 42 of the New City Catechism poses a question that is helpful for our discussion today. How is the word of God to be read and heard? We are to read and hear it with diligence, preparation and prayer; so that we may accept it with faith, store it in our hearts and practice it in our lives. This is taken from 2 Tim 3:16-17, and these verses will really be tested tonight as we read a passage that is basically a genealogy. Do we truly believe that every word breathed out by God is profitable?
(A) Genealogy emphasizes God’s charge to Moses – God’s commitment to deliver His people
Exo 6:14-25 is a genealogy, which is basically an origin document. It is, however, not the first genealogy in the Bible. In Gen, right after the creation account and the account of Cain and Abel, a genealogy appears in chapter 5 and many follow not long after. We might not be familiar with genealogies today, but what appears to be just a list of names is actually not a random document. It purposefully documents origins and peoples.
But, if we read this text closely, we might have some questions:
- What is this genealogy doing here?
- What is the structure and how is it designed?
- Who is in this and why are they important?
There are things about the position, design and the people in this genealogy. To begin, let's take a look at the context for this genealogy in the overall Exodus story. As we've seen in previous studies, in Exo 5:1-3, Moses and Aaron ask Pharaoh to release the people for a 3 days’ journey to hold a feast and sacrifice to God. They framed it as a temporary trip to worship their God, where Israel’s obedience is at stake. However, Pharaoh rejects their request.
In Exo 6:1-8, 13, God tells them again that He will make Pharaoh drive out Israel with a strong hand, and for His covenant’s sake, deliver Israel from slavery for Him to take them as His people and give them a land. God gives them a charge. How does this compare with chap 5? Here, there is more of an idea of permanent deliverance as a land is being spoken of (Exo 6:8). God also promises to take them to be a people (Exo 6:7) and also deliver and redeem them (Exo 6:6). This is no longer a 3 day journey. He is talking about setting them free here. This is all because of the covenant.
What follows the genealogy is God revealing that He will bring Israel out by acts of judgement and show Egypt who He is (Exo 7:1-5). God tells Moses that He will “make you like God to
Pharaoh”. There is no more mention of this temporary 3 day’s journey. Things are getting
more intense, and ratcheting up God’s intent for His people
This is the context, and if we take a closer look at the people in this genealogy, it will help us to understand the design. Exo 6 doesn’t give us all 12 sons of Abraham. It only details Reuben, Simeon and stops at Levi. Therefore, this is not meant to be an exhaustive genealogy. There are no exhaustive genealogies in the bible and they are all selective. This is because genealogies are purposeful and are meant to make a point.
So what can we learn from just a quick glance at this genealogy? This genealogy details family relationships, and most of the names here are males. There are some females and we will come to them later. But we must also realise that to include females at all is a surprise. A social order is being described here as it describes clans and families. The ages of particular men are also given, indicating when they die. It signifies the end of one generation and the beginning of another. The ages help us zoom in on specific people and traces a particular line — Moses and Aaron. This also includes other persons that are important because it will appear later on in the narrative.
Why is the genealogy here? This underscores the commitment and charge given to Moses and Aaron. This shows and reminds them of who God is and what He has promised to do. God commits to the rescue of his people through human beings of His choice. This God is incredibly committed to rescuing his people. Let that sink in. Sometimes we think that when God saves people, He is casual about it and that things happen easily. But this shows us that God is so committed to save His people from generation to generation. If you’re a Christian today, when the gospel first came to you, it wasn’t accidental, incidental but deliberate. God is committed to every single one of His children. If ever you doubt your own salvation, or whether God loves you, remember how He would charge a Savior to come and rescue you. If you doubt, run to passages like this and admit your sin, but also cling on to fact that God is committed to our salvation. If this is true of you, isn’t it also true of the person next to you? God is also committed to the salvation of each Christian in the church. Thus, you and I also ought to be
committed to one another. There are also many people not in this room, some of whom are not even born yet, that Jesus is also committed to! The words of the hymn "How sweet and aweful is the place" is a lovely piece that describes the grace, love and commitment of this God:
How sweet and aweful is the place
With Christ within the doors
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast
Each of us cry with thankful tongues
“Lord, why was I a guest?”
“Why was I made to hear Thy voice
And enter while there’s room
When thousands make a wretched choice
And rather starve than come?”
’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in
Else we had still refused to taste
And perished in our sin
Pity the nations, O our God
Constrain the earth to come
Send Thy victorious Word abroad
And bring the strangers home
We long to see Thy churches full
That all the chosen race
May with one voice and heart and soul
Sing Thy redeeming grace
(B) Genealogy affirms God’s choice – the man God will use
We've looked at the position and the people of the genealogy. Now we'll take a closer look at the design of it to understand its intent. From the overall structure of Ex 6:10-30, we notice that there is a repetition of almost the same information, with the genealogy in between. There is a bit of a chiastic structure present here.
Therefore, we are to see that the genealogy is meant to tell us that this Aaron and this Moses were the ones that God chose and spoke to. God is not just committed to the rescue of His people. He is committed to the rescue by being committed to Moses and Aaron. Stephen picks up in this in the New Testament in Acts 7:17-39. Does this fill you with confidence to know that He is committed to the shepherds of His people? Are you serving and weary? In any day you serve, there are a thousand disappointments even if you’ve tried to obey and sacrifice. Obstacles stand in the way but see how God is still committed to His people and His leaders. Years later, we know that our confidence lie not on our own efforts or striving. As the hymn "A mighty fortress is our God" aptly describes it:
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He
The Lord of hosts His name, from age to age the same
And He must win the battle
(C) Genealogy notices specific characters– the faithful and wicked
To us, the list of names are all foreign and seem random. However, Israel would recognise some of these names.
- 3 mothers of priests: Jochabed, Elisheba, one of the daughters of Putiel
We read of Jochabed, who is Moses' mother and saviour (Exo 6:20). The unnamed Hebrew woman who displayed great faith in Exo 1 is finally named. Elisheba we are told is the daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nashon (Exo 6:20), people who are mentioned in Genesis and are ancestors of David. This inclusion of women is also interesting because this would not be typical of their time. But what we also see is that each of these women have their own standing, ancestry and identity but notice that it is not entirely important to this story. Their function here is relative to the story of Moses and Aaron. In one sense this is all of us. We all have our story and identity, but the only significance in the larger narrative is our relationship to the Saviour!
- 2 faithful priests: Eleazar and Phinehas
Eleazar was the high priest (Num 4:16) and his son is Phinehas. In 1 Chron 9:20, we are told that the Lord was with Phinehas. Ps 106 is a national Psalm, and it also mentions how Phinehas saved Israel from a plague (Ps 106:28-31, Num 25:6-13). Phinehas in his generation was so concerned about idol worship that he took action for the sake of purifying and cleansing God’s people. The other priests were concerned only with setting up and taking down and doing their priestly job. But Phinehas understood that God is not pleased with their half-hearted worship. Phinehas took action for God’s name. Would we really take action if God’s people are idolatrous? Are we happy with just doing what we ought to, keeping up the routine of worship
without really seeing and checking our hearts?
These faithful men were included in the genealogy. Thus, we are meant to think about what it means to be a faithful priest, faithful in their ministry and in bringing the Word all the time.
- 3 wicked priests: Nadab and Abihu (Ex 24:1-9, Lev 10:1-3), and Korah (Ps 42, Num 16:1-3, 31-33, 1 Col 10:6, 10, Jud 11)
Nadab and Abihu were the sons of Aaron and were invited along with Moses and Aaron to experience God’s presence (Ex 24:1-9). They experienced God’s presence in real and powerful ways but still did not esteem God as holy, as we read of in Lev 10:1-3. Korah and the sons of Korah were known for writing songs such as Ps 42, but they also stirred up a rebellion (Num 16:1-3). In 1 Cor 10:6, 10, the great sin that Paul attributes to Korah is the sin of grumbling. It is a sin of discontent and dissatisfaction.
Exo 6 shows us the genealogy of the men God chose. These people in the genealogies were not ideas or fictional, but they were real people. Who are you? Are you discontent like Korah? Or maybe fired up like Phinehas? Or even like the other people, who just want to be quiet and faithful to minister to this that God has put in our path? The Bible shows us real people who had the same struggles as us. Genealogies and even narratives were not ultimately meant to be moral examples for us. The successes and failures of these people were to point to the great High Priest, one greater than Aaron, one that is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Only this great High Priest lives and pleads for you and me, and does all that He ought to faithfully, perfectly and completely.