Avraham ben Yaakov


DIVREY HAYAMIM - literally, "The Words, or Matters of the Days" - known in English as the Book of Chronicles, may be seen as the royal archive of the records of the House of David, tracing the genealogy of King David and his seed from Adam and the Patriarchs, and following their history until the destruction of Solomon's Temple, the exile to Babylon, and the return of the Jews to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubavel, who as grandson of King Yeho-yachin was himself heir to the Davidic kingship.

DIVREY HAYAMIM was written by Ezra the Priest at the time of the return of the exiles in order to establish the pedigree of Zerubavel and the House of David and also that of the Levites and Priests who would minister in the rebuilt Temple , the foundations of which had already been laid. Thus DIVREY HAYAMIM seals the unbreakable bond between the House of David and the Temple Priesthood , embodied in the marriage of Aaron the Priest to Eli-sheva, daughter of Aminadav, Prince of the House of Judah.

In Rashi's opening comment on the Book of Chronicles (I, 1:1) he explains: "Ezra wrote this book of genealogies with the help of the prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi during the eighteen years from when Zerubavel and Yehoshua the Priest came to Jerusalem in the time of Cyrus I [the "first aliyah" shortly after the collapse of Babylon, when the first foundations of the Second Temple were laid] until the reign of Cyrus son of Esther [who authorized the completion of the Second Temple, which had been held up for eighteen years through the machinations of Haman and his sons until after the death of Ahasuerus, Cyrus' father.] And the entire purpose is to provide the genealogy of King David and that of the Levite Temple gate-keepers, guards and singers and the Cohen-Priests in accordance with the order that David laid down for them."

Rashi continues: "Accordingly he traces their lineage from Adam until Abraham. And because he had to trace the line of Abraham, he also mentions the other peoples - his [other] sons and their sons. And on account of Abraham's sons, he had to trace the other peoples - the children of Canaan - to show how Abraham inherited their land. And since he had to trace the line of Canaan , he also traces that of the other peoples. He mentions them little by little and casts them aside until he reaches the main subject of interest. This can be compared to a king who was traveling from one place to another when he lost a precious jewel. The king stopped and took a sieve to sift the dust. until he found the jewel. Likewise the Holy One blessed be He said, Why do I need to trace the line of Shem, Arpachshad. Terach? Only in order to find Abraham, of whom it is said '.and You FOUND his heart faithful before You' (Nehemiah 9:8). And for the sake of the honor of Isaac, he traces the sons of Esau and Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, casting them aside little by little and leaving them behind."

For many students, the opening chapters of DIVREY HAYAMIM, which consist entirely of detailed genealogies, can often seem a formidable barrier to entry into the study of the book. Those who find it difficult to assimilate long lists of names may find comfort in the fact that the continuous, dense genealogies run only until the end of chapter 9 (only four and a half days of study at the rate of two chapters a day!) after which the narrative sections begin with the account of the death of King Saul (ch 10) and the beginning of David's kingship (chs 11-12, which give the names of his warriors). From chapter 13 on, the entire remainder of I Chronicles & the whole of II Chronicles consist of almost continuous narrative tracing the history of David, Solomon and their successors until the destruction of the First Temple . The historical narrative in Chronicles runs parallel to and supplements the narrative in the "historical" books of the NaCh - II Samuel and Kings I & II - but Chronicles is more focused on the kingdom of Judah , while Kings traces the history of Judah pari passu with that of the Ten Tribes.

As we stand at the beginning of nine chapters consisting mainly of names and lineages, let us remember that these records of the names of the primary souls of the progeny of Adam and of the house of the messianic King David are an integral part of the precious treasure-house of the King of kings. The very names and Hebrew letters, with all the Midrashim that arise out of them, possess the same intrinsic holiness as all of the writings of the Prophets, and even their mere recital brings holiness into the soul, even if it seems difficult to assimilate or remember every detail.


"The text does not mention Cain and Abel because they had no surviving offspring, whereas from Seth came the line that led to Noah and Abraham and from Abraham to David" (Rashi on v 1). The focus is not on history but on genealogy.

Commenting on the genealogy of Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, starting in v 4, Rashi (ad loc.) clarifies the organizational "method" underlying the arrangement of the genealogies in Divrey HaYomim, which can be highly confusing to beginning students since they often go back and forth. A line is taken up but then apparently dropped while another line is traced, and then the first is picked up again. Rashi writes: "He should have traced the children of Shem immediately in order to find the jewel, Abraham, and likewise then traced the line immediately down to David. But instead he briefly picks up and quickly throws aside the subsidiary lines and only then takes hold of the main line. This is the way of this entire genealogy in Divrey HaYamim. Likewise when he speaks of the children of Abraham - Isaac and Ishmael - he recounts the children of Ishmael before those of Isaac, and similarly, he traces the generations of Esau - the subsidiary - before focusing on Israel (Jacob), the essence."

Vv 1-4: The generations from Adam down to the children of Noah.

Vv 5-7: The children of Japheth.

Vv 8-12: The children of Ham.

Vv 13-16: The children of Canaan .

Vv 17-27: The names of the descendants of Shem down to Abraham.

Vv 28-33: The children of Abraham down to Israel .

Vv 34: The children of Isaac - Esau and Israel .

Vv 35-42: Children of Esau.

Vv 43-50: The Seven Kings of Edom . The names of these seven kings, who "ruled and died", allude to the vessels of the seven lower kabbalistic Sefirot, which "broke" and had to be rectified.

Vv 51-54: The Princes of Edom .

All of the above genealogies parallel and supplement the corresponding genealogies in Genesis chapters 5 (Adam-Noah), 10-11 (Noah-Abraham), 25 (Ishmael and the sons of Keturah) and 36 (Esau and Seir).


Vv 1-2: Names of the sons of Jacob.

Vv 3-4: Names of the sons of Judah .

V 5: Sons of Peretz.

Vv 6-9: Descendants of Zerach - Karmi, Eithan - and Hetzron, son of Peretz. Rashi on v 6 states that the descendants of Zerach enumerated there were outstanding sages who lived in the generations of David and Solomon (cf. I Kings 5;11). K'LUVOI listed in verse 9 as one of the three sons of Hetzron is identified by Rashi as Kaleb, founder of the line that led to Naval (I Samuel 25:3). His was the only line that was not "flawed" (because his brother Yerachmiel married Atara, who was not an Israelite, see our present chapter v 26, while his brother Ram's descendant, Bo'az, married Ruth the Moabitess. This is why Naval spoke so disparagingly about his kinsman David: see I Samuel 25:10; Rashi on our present chapter v 9).

Vv 10-17: The line from Ram, second son of Hetzron down to David and his family.

Vv 18-20: Children of Kaleb son of Hetzron. The Talmud associates this Kaleb with Kaleb son of Yephuneh, who together with his comrade, Joshua son of Nun, rebelled against the other spies sent by Moses to scout out the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14; Temurah 16a). However, this identification is questioned by RaDaK (on v 18). Bezalel (v 20) was the craftsman who made the wilderness Sanctuary and its vessels.

Vv 21-24: Children of Hetzron from the daughter of Makhir of the tribe of Menasheh.

Vv 25-41: Children of Yerachmiel son of Hetzron and his descendents. Yerachmiel's "other wife", Atarah (v 26) was said to be a non-Israelite (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 2:3). From her son Onam derived the line that went down to Elishama (v 41), grandfather of Ishmael son of Nethanyah, who assassinated Gedaliah son of Ahikam, thereby destroying the last vestiges of Judean autonomy after the destruction of the First Temple (see Rashi on I Chronicles 2:35; cf. Jeremiah 41:1 and RaDaK ad loc.).

Vv 42-45: Additional children of Kaleb son of Hetzron.

Vv 46-49: Children of Kaleb from his concubine.

Vv 50-55: Children of Kaleb son of Hur (see Rashi on v 50 noting the ambiguity in the Hebrew text, which makes it uncertain whether this Kaleb is identical with Kaleb son of Hetzron mentioned above in vv 18f or was a different Kaleb, the firstborn of Hur).

Rashi commenting on verse 42 gives another clue to understanding the "method" of these genealogies, which is apt to be somewhat confusing. ".And thus the way of this entire genealogy is not to trace the lines in order. Rather, he traces part of the line of a certain family and then picks up a different family, and after having traced the line of this second family he starts again tracing the line of the first family, and then goes back again to the second. Thus this whole book of genealogies is somewhat ME-URAV - MIXED UP!!!"

It is noteworthy that the genealogy of the tribe of Judah not only gives the names of the members of its various clans but also in many cases the names of the towns and settlements in which they lived, some of which are still to be found on the map of present-day Israel.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5767 - 2006-7 All rights reserved