This article is part of the Why Study the Book? series.
The Forgotten Family Tree
When I was growing up, my father plopped a tome as large as a telephone book with yellowed pages on the counter. “Boys,” he said, “this is our family tree.”
In beautiful, calligraphic Korean script, this book traced our family line going back hundreds of years. With my brothers, we pored over our family tree, reliving old stories of family legend, kings, and ancient battles that stretched back to bygone years.
I had no frame of reference to understand this book. Since our family immigrated to the United States, Korean language and history were foreign. I thumbed through its voluminous pages for a few moments before I turned back to my attempts to conquer the next level of Super Mario Brothers. What should have been immensely important felt immensely irrelevant because I had no framework to understand this book.
Genesis and Genealogies
Many of us feel the same way as we stumble through the book of Genesis and its many genealogies. In the inspired, inerrant Word of God, we hear them like the safety instructions of a flight attendant before takeoff . . . which means we hardly hear them at all.
However, these genealogies form the backbone of the book of Genesis. Creation climaxes with the command to Adam: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). The rest of the book plots the fulfillment of this command with its genealogies (Gen. 4:17-24; 5:1–32; 10:1–32; 11:10–32; 25:1–18; etc.) and structural divisions marked by the phrase, “These are the generations of…” (e.g., Gen. 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; etc.).
Why? Genesis traces two lines: the line of the rebellious offspring of the serpent and the line of the blessed offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15). In Genesis 4, the rebellious line of Cain culminates in the seventh generation with the murderer Lamech (Gen. 4:23–24). In Genesis 5, the blessed line of Seth culminates in the seventh generation with Enoch, who “walked with God, and he was not” (Gen. 5:24), and in the tenth generation with Noah (Gen. 5:29).
From the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, the narrative zooms in on the blessed line of Shem (Gen. 11:10–26) and Terah, the father of Abraham (11:27–30). The story of Abraham and the patriarchs in Genesis 12–50 revolves around the struggle for the birth of blessed offspring (e.g., Isaac, Jacob) in contrast to the rebellious (e.g., Ishmael, Esau). The line of blessed offspring sets a trajectory from Genesis through the Old Testament, eventually culminating in the genealogy of Jesus, “the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:36).
Do You Know Your Family Tree?
Genesis’s genealogies are our family tree, as we trace our lineage backward to Abraham, the forefather of our faith (Rom. 4:11–12; Gal. 3:29). But they also remind us to look forward, as the gospel continues to bear fruit and multiply disciples (e.g. Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19:20; Col. 1:6, 10).
Children look like their parents; the more parents look like Christ, the more their children look like Christ. Seth reflected the image of Adam, who reflected the image of God (Gen. 5:1–3)—suggesting that Seth reflected God’s image insofar as Adam reflected God’s image. Similarly, the image of God in us is reflected in our physical and spiritual progeny.
May we grow to reflect the image more and more through worship (2 Cor. 3:18) so that we might raise up spiritual progeny who reflect Christ’s image well.
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