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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI


Vol.7: Hidden Things of God's Revelation

Part V



Table of Contents

Chapter 1.   Old Testament Genealogies
Chapter 2.   New Testament Genealogies



Publishing history:
1967:  Doorway Paper No. 24, published privately by Arthur C. Custance
1977:  Part V in Hidden Things of God's Revelation, vol.7 in The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company
1997:  Arthur Custance Online Library (html)
2001: 2nd Online Edition (design revisions)

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     How fruitful are the seeming barren places of Scripture. Wheresoever the surface of God's Word doth not laugh and sing with corn, there the heart thereof within is merry with mines, affording, where not plain matter, hidden mysteries.
     Lord, I find the genealogy of my Saviour strangely chequered with four remarkable changes
in four immediate generations (Matthew 1:7,8) .

     1. Roboam begat Abia;
that is, a bad father begat a bad son.
     2. Abia begat Asa;
that is, a bad father, a good son.
     3. Asa begat Josaphat;
that is, a good father, a good son.
     4. Josaphat begat Joram;
that is, a good father, a bad son.

     I see, Lord, from hence, that my father's piety cannot be entailed; that is bad news for me.
But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary; that is good news for my son.

(Thomas Fuller,
quaintest of English divines,
in his Scripture Observations)


     pg.2 of 5     



     ON MY DESK I have a little snuff box. When we were children we used to use snuff and I still recall how remarkably refreshing it was. It was somewhat like opening a window and getting a sudden, exhilarating breath of completely fresh air blowing away all the mental cobwebs. I don't know quite why it went out of fashion: perhaps it came under some Drug Act. This little snuffbox is made of whale bone, and on the lid it has a small silver plaque with my initial and name on it: "A. Custance". But it is not really my name, because underneath that is the date: 1766.
     I often used to wonder who this forebear was and, not unnaturally, assumed that his first name was, like mine, Arthur. But then a few years ago, as a result of an odd circumstance, some of us Custances began to try to re-establish the lines of relationship between different members of the family in England and Canada and the United States. In due time the genealogy was completed without any breaks backward some five hundred years. In this genealogy there appeared the original owner of my little snuff box. But unfortunately his name was not Arthur! His name was Adam (1713 -1782).
     Anyway, it was a bit of fun. And even when they are not our own, genealogies can greatly stimulate the imagination and provide a framework for historical events for which there is really no substitute. For anyone who has roamed widely and deeply in history, they serve somewhat the same purpose that maps do for those who have roamed widely and deeply over a country. The historian pores over the genealogy as the traveller pores over his map. Both provide insights into relationships and a kind of skeleton about which to hang much else that has stirred the imagination. Unlike the very ancient maps, however, which have a tendency to be

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grossly distorted, many of the most ancient genealogies are quite precise. Kalisch has observed, "The earliest historiography consists almost entirely of genealogies: they are most frequently the medium explaining the connection and descent of tribes and nations." (1) And they quite often insert, where appropriate, brief historical notes, such as those relating to Nimrod and Peleg in Genesis 10. The little notes have their counterpart in maps which often contain little inset pictures of local events such as where battles took place, and so forth.
     The "value" of these biblical genealogies depends to some extent on one's specific interests, but each one of them can be shown to contribute its own particular kind of light. In this Paper we explore them, not merely as a guide to lines of relationship, but also for the light they shed in some cases on the world's spiritual history, its social customs, its contemporary value systems, on mythology, the bearing they have on chronology, and from several other points of view.
     While it is perfectly true that they may not serve as appropriate passages to be read for the edification of the public as most of the rest of the Scriptures may do, they can form the basis of a very profitable private study. And of course, they provide fundamental links in the thread of historical narrative as well as valuable clues for the establishment of an overall chronology. This Paper contains one or two "interpretations" which will not appeal perhaps to many readers because they are based on certain assumptions which may not be justified. Yet these one or two sections have been included because they may stimulate thought which in due course will lead to a more precise understanding of why the genealogy in question contains the peculiarities which gave rise to my surmisings. For the most part my conclusions will not be seriously challenged except in the matter of chronology, in which it will be observed that I still hold to the very old-fashioned position that it is possible on the basis of these genealogies to establish a time interval from the First Adam to the Last Adam which is quite unacceptable to the anthropologists in general, not excepting some of the Lord's people among them.
     In earlier times and among primitive people today, genealogical information was one of the most valuable parts of the inheritance which a man received from his forebears. Until quite recently, an Arab youth was

1.  Kalisch, M.M., A Historical and Critical Commentary on the Old Testament, Longmans, Brown and Green, London, 1858, p.235.

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required to know his own genealogy in the main line for seventy generations; it was his passport in society. Only a few years ago, a New Zealand Maori chief, explaining his claims to certain lands, engaged the government Land Commission three whole days with a recitation of descent from an ancestor twenty-four generations back, comprising very many collaterals and marriages and over fourteen hundred names in all (Chambers Encyclopedia, 1956 edition under "Genealogy").


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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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