In the previous chapters we have been given the lineages of Judah , Shimon, Levy and Reuven (all sons of Leah) - and with Reuven, who settled east of the Jordan , we were also given the lineages of Gad and half the tribe of Menasheh, who also settled there. Altogether that is a total of six tribes.

In the present chapter we are given the lineages of most of the remaining tribes of Israel : Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, the other half of Menasheh, Ephraim and Asher.

It is noteworthy that the genealogy of Naphtali in our present chapter is brief in the extreme compared with those of the other tribes, while no genealogy at all is given for the tribe of Zevulun (although the territory of Zebulun was mentioned in connection with the Levitical cities in ch 6 vv 48 & 62). Nor does there seem to be any mention in our text of the tribe of Dan (although Danites and Zebulunites are both mentioned among the warriors who came to give the kingship to David in Hebron (I Chron. 12:34 & 36).

Members of the tribes of Naphtali, Dan and Zebulun may have been among the early members of the Ten Tribes who went into exile. Zebulun was a tribe of merchants, who very likely traveled and may have found it easier to adapt to foreign lands. As to Naphtali and Dan, in II Chronicles 2:4 we learn that when King Asa of Judah was under attack from Ba'sha king of Israel, Asa bribed Hadad king of Aram to hit the northern territories of Israel, including Dan and some poor cities of Naphtali.

Commenting on the brevity of the genealogy of Naphtali as given in our present chapter in v 13, Rashi makes a comment that throws some more light on Ezra's methods: "The reason why no further details of the genealogy of Naphtali are given is provided at the end of Yerushalmi Megillah (cf. Sifrei on Ve-Zos Habrachah 33:27): it says that Ezra discovered three books, each of which contained various genealogies. What he found, he wrote and what he did not find he did not write - and he simply found no further details about the tribe of Naphtali. For this same reason all of the genealogies in Chronicles skip around, because he skipped from one book to the other and joined them together, and what he could not write in this book he wrote in the book of Ezra. The proof is that it says further on in our text, 'And all Israel were reckoned by genealogies and surely they are written in the book of the kings of Israel ; and Judah were exiled to Babylon ' (I Chron. 9:1). This is saying, 'If you want to know the genealogy of the Ten Tribes, go to Halah and Habor, Nahar, Gozan and the cities of Medea [where they were exiled], for their Book of Chronicles went into exile with them, but as for Judah, I discovered their book in Babylon and what I found I have written."

Rashi in his comment on I Chron. 8:29 mentions more about the books of genealogies that Ezra found in Babylon . They were called SEPHER ME'ONIM (the book of "residences"???), SEPHER ZATOUTI (the book of "lads", "children" or possibly "slaves" cf. Jastrow s.v. ZA'TOUTI) and SEPHER HE-ACHIM (the book of "brothers"). According to Rashi, in cases of discrepancy between them, Ezra would follow the opinion of two of the books against one. Likewise in cases where they found many genealogical scrolls, wherever there was a majority version and a minority version, he would ignore the minority and follow the majority, while if he found an even division of opinion, he wrote both genealogies - one in Chronicles and one in the book of Ezra - on account of the discrepancies between them.

Vv 1-5 of our present chapter give the lineage of the descendants of Issachar and their numbers in the time of David. The tribe of Issachar were particularly prolific (see v 4), and as we will see later (ch 12 v 33) they attained great heights in the deeper wisdom of the Torah, including knowledge of the "times" (astronomy and astrology).

Vv 6-12: Lineage of the descendants of Benjamin and their numbers. RaDaK (on v 6) mentions an opinion that the Benjamin mentioned here is not the son of Jacob and founder of the tribe of that name, but rather one of the members of Issaschar (because the full genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin is given in the next chapter). However RaDaK finds it more plausible that here too we are being given part of the lineage of the tribe of Benjamin.

V 13: Lineage of the children of Naftali. This is brief - perhaps for the reasons discussed above.

Vv 14-19: Lineage of the children of Menasheh.

Vv 20-29: Lineage of the children of Ephraim and their territories.

"And the sons of Ephraim. and the men of Gath who had been born in the land killed them because they came down to take their cattle" (vv 20-21). Targum on v 21 brings the story of how some of the tribe of Ephraim tried to leave Egypt and enter the Promised Land before the foreordained time, only to lose their lives: "And Zavad his son and Shoothelah his son and Ezer and Elad were leaders of the House of Ephraim and they calculated the date of the redemption from the time of God's Covenant between the Pieces with Abraham (Gen. 15:9ff), but they were mistaken because they should have counted from the day of the birth of Isaac. Thus they went out of Egypt thirty years before the end, because the Covenant between the Pieces was thirty years before the birth of Isaac. When they went out of Egypt, 200,000 armed warriors from the tribe of Ephraim went out with them, but the men of Gath, who were born in the land of the Philistines, killed them because they came down to capture their cattle" (Targum Rav Yosef on I Chron. 7:21). The Talmud (Sanhedrin 92b) states that the dead whose bones the prophet Ezekiel brought back to life (Ezekiel ch 37) were these fallen members of the tribe of Ephraim. Indeed, Rabbi Yehuda ben Beseira declared that he himself was descended from the dead whom Ezekiel had revived and that he possessed an ancestral pair of Tefilin handed down from them.

One wonders if they went to take the cattle merely to get rich or in order to use the skins for Tefilin. The reason the home-born Philistines of Gath had the advantage over them was because they were familiar with the terrain, while the Ephraimites did not know the escape routes. This teaches how well we need to learn the geography of our land.

The genealogy of the other members of the tribe of Ephraim, that of Noon (v 27) goes no further than his son Joshua (ibid.) because the latter had no sons. He did, however, have daughters (he was married to Rahab, the convert from Jericho ) and among his descendants were Huldah the Prophetess and Jeremiah (Megillah 14).

Vv 30-40: Lineage of the children of Asher and their numbers. The Midrash mentions that because of the abundance of olive oil in the territory of Asher (cf. Deut. 33:24) their daughters were very beautiful and married kings anointed with olive oil (Rashi on v 31; Pirkey d'Rabbi Eliezer).


The whole of Chapter 8 is apparently devoted to the genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin. In the words of Rashi (on ch 8 v 1): "He has already given their lineage, but because he wanted to trace the lines down to King Saul he now goes back and gives the line all the way from Benjamin. Here he calls some of them by different names. This is because Ezra found a variety of genealogical scrolls."

I advisedly wrote that Chapter 8 is APPARENTLY devoted to the genealogy of Benjamin, because under the surface of the names, other things are happening as well. Verse 6 seems to be telling us of a branch of the tribe of Benjamin who were inhabitants of GEVA but who were taken into some kind of forced exile - Targum identifies MANAHAS at the end of v 6 with a town of Edom . Verse 7 then tells us who it was that took those Benjaminites into exile. Verse 8 appears to be telling us about a certain SHAHARAYIM who was one of the exiles, and who fathered a child in the field of Moab after having been released from exile. However, the Midrash on this verse identifies this SHAHARAYIM with Boaz (despite his having been from the tribe of Judah ) because he had been RELEASED (SHAHRER) from sins. His fathering a child in the field of Moab alludes to his marriage with Ruth the Moabitess. "And he begat of CHODESH his wife." This alludes to the renewal (CHADASH) in his time of the Halachah that the Torah forbids only the Moabite from entering the Assembly of HaShem but not the Moabitess (Yalkut Shimoni).

Vv 1-13: Genealogy of the children of Benjamin.

Vv 14-28: Names of the family heads of the tribe of Benjamin who resided in Jerusalem .

Vv 29-31: The Benjaminites who resided in Giv'on.

Vv 33-40: The line of King Saul and his descendants. Since Saul's kingship and death prepared the way for King David, in whose honor DIVREY HAYAMIM was written, Saul's genealogy comes here near the conclusion of the genealogical section of the work, shortly before we launch into the story of the death of Saul and kingship of David (chs 10ff).

The Talmud (Pesachim 62b) comments on the fact that in our present chapter v 38, the name of Atzel appears at the beginning and the end of the verse, which contains the names of her six children. "Between ATZEL and ATZEL there are four hundred camel loads of DRASHOS!!!"



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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