“Great Among His Brothers,” But Who Is He? Heterogeneity in the Composition of Judah
Gary N. Knoppers,
The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, U.S.A


To a large extent past scholarship has been absorbed with textual, source-critical, and redactional issues. Each of the major approaches surveyed attempts to deal with the formidable problems presented by the text. Inasmuch as an effort has been made to understand the genealogy historically, most of that effort has been expended on recovering the early history of Judah and its growth during the monarchy. Because genealogies are essentially histories of generations, it is only natural for scholars to want to plumb the depths of these records as one means to reconstruct the past. But whatever traditions may have been available to the authors, one should inquire further about what functions the genealogy may have fulfilled in the late Persian or early Hellenistic period, the time in which the authors wrote. Genealogies in the ancient Mediterranean world were caught up with fundamental issues of self-definition, identity, territory, and relationships. They were composed mainly to address claims about social status, kinship ties, and territorial affiliations and not to satisfy idle curiosities about the distant past. In most, albeit not all, cases lineages "establish and validate living relationships." Given that the postexilic Judah constructed by modern scholarship is not known for having a diverse social and ethnic makeup, pursuing the heterogeneity within the Judahite genealogy holds much promise.

1. Introduction

1.1 In the Chronicler’s genealogical introduction to the people of Israel (1 Chr 2:3–9:1), it is Judah—and not Reuben, Joseph, Ephraim, or Manasseh—who appears first.1 That this privileged placement is no accident can be seen from a number of other features of the Chronicler’s work. The book devotes more coverage to the lineages of Judah than to those for any other tribe (1 Chr 2:3–4:23). The only other groups that come close to receiving the extensive attention Judah receives are Israel’s priestly tribe, Levi (1 Chr 5:27–6:66) and Benjamin (1 Chr 7:6–12; 8:1–40; 9:35–44). Along with Benjamin (1 Chr 8:1–40), Judah (1 Chr 2:3–4:23) frames the other tribes with Levi occupying the centre (1 Chr 5:27–6:66).2

1.2 On one of those rare occasions in which he comments on his choices, the Chronicler explains why he does not list Reuben first.3 Referring to Reuben’s sexual relations with his mother, narrated in Gen 35:22 and condemned in Gen 49:4, he comments that Reuben “was indeed the firstborn, but he defiled the bed of his father” (1 Chr 5:2). In the same context, the writer further clarifies his rankings: “although Judah became great (כי יהודה גבר‎) among his brothers and a leader came from him (ולנגיד ממנו‎), the birthright belonged to Joseph” (1 Chr 5:2).4 In other words, Judah was neither the firstborn of Israel nor the recipient of the birthright, but it was he who gained preeminence among his brothers.5 In speaking of Judah as the tribe which brought forth “a leader,” the author alludes to the Davidic monarchy which eventually came to rule over all segments of Israel.6 For these reasons, Judah is the first tribe for whom the book provides a genealogy. The Chronicler clearly advances the argument that Judah, and not Reuben or Joseph, became the most prominent son of the patriarch Israel. Judah enjoys an appealing position among all of the sodalities that collectively comprise Israel.7

1.3 Considering Judah’s critical and privileged standing, one might think that the lineages for this patriarch would be clear, well-organized, and coherent. Instead, his lineages are highly complex. Adjectives such as garbled, disorderly, corrupt, and incoherent have been used to describe the work.8 In what follows, I would like to discuss the difficulties inherent within this genealogy and review the different attempts to explain its heterogeneity. In many respects, these attempts mirror the methods used in historical criticism to uncover different strands within a single narrative. The use of the Judahite genealogy to recover the early history of Israel will also be reviewed and critiqued. The essay will conclude with some comments on the present shape of the Judahite lineages and suggestions for future research.

1.4 The issue of the genealogy’s complexity is neither simply one of length nor one of segmentation. Chronicles begins with a long universal set of lineages (1 Chr 1:1–2:2), both linear and segmented in form, which extend from the first person Adam to the patriarch Israel, but there is no such continuity in the genealogy of Judah. To be sure, the Davidic lineages (1 Chr 3:1–24) within the Judahite genealogical tree show a great deal of coherence, even though they exhibit both segmented and linear forms.9 But the other sections of the Judahite genealogy have proved troublesome. In certain instances, lineages interrupt other lineages (e.g., 2:3, 18–20, 21–24; 4:1). In other instances, the text presents a series of genealogies that apparently have no relation to each other (e.g., 4:16, 17–19, 20). In yet other cases, there seem to be duplicate lineages for the same person (e.g., 1 Chr 2:9, 21–24; 2:18–20, 42–50a). There are also inconsistencies and tensions within the genealogies themselves. Some lineages seem to be out of order.10

1.5 The heterogeneity becomes all the more intriguing, when one scrutinizes the biblical sources from which the Chronicler drew. There are no systematic genealogies of Judah in earlier biblical sources. While the Judahite lineages show an indebtedness to a range of earlier biblical texts, especially at the beginning, these texts are not extensively quoted.11 The scope and extent of the genealogy of Judah are therefore unprecedented in earlier biblical literature. This only complicates matters further. One might think that because the Chronicler had to create a genealogy of Judah from only a few biblical sources the product would be a highly polished one. Instead, the product is tangled and dense.

1.6 The complexity extends beyond the genealogy’s literary features to its content. In this context, the work exhibits some very curious features. Groups that seem to be non-Israelites or distant relations of the Israelites in other biblical contexts—the Calebites, Jerahmeelites, and Qenizzites—are incorporated into Judah as constituent elements of this tribe. Members of other peoples such as the Canaanites and Qenites are included within Judah. There are some six cases of intermarriage in the genealogy of Judah. The groups involved are the Canaanites, Ishmaelites, Arameans, Egyptians (twice), and Moabites. The authors also intimate a variety of Judahite connections with other groups, such as the Midianites, Horites, Seirites, and Edomites.12

1.7 Scholars differ widely on how best to account for all of the difficulties in the genealogy of Judah. Four trends may be observed in modern criticism. Both the importance and the difficulty of this material mandate that its composition receive some detailed consideration, even if space constraints do not permit an exhaustive analysis and review of scholarship. One has to be careful, of course, not to imply that these approaches are exclusive. The four trends clearly overlap and one finds scholars employing two or even three approaches simultaneously.

2. Textual Criticism as Higher Criticism

2.1 First, there is a longstanding tradition of scholars who, having deemed the Judahite genealogy to be corrupt, propose all manner and sorts of textual emendations.13 The emendations extend to more than individual names and toponyms. Because a number of the lineages have no ties whatsoever to each other, commentators propose reconstructions to link them together. The operative assumption is that such connectives must have been lost in the transmission of the genealogy, otherwise the genealogy would not seem so incoherent. Insofar as it clarifies ambiguities, explains variant readings in the manuscript witnesses to the text, and corrects mistakes, this approach is helpful. But insofar as it generates new connections between discrete lineages, this approach is forced. Textual criticism should be employed to collate and examine discrepant readings. The variant readings may be used, in turn, to recover older forms of the text. But they should not be employed to resolve genealogical problems artificially. There is, however, one unintentional benefit of this approach. It serves a useful function in calling attention to the many gaps within the Judahite genealogy. What should one make of the lack of connections between a number of the Judahite lineages?

3. Traditional Source Criticism

3.1 By far the majority of scholars have employed a second approach to account for the heterogeneity in the genealogy of Judah. These commentators employ source-criticism to recover disparate extra-biblical sources which the author(s) may have used to compose the genealogy. The operative assumption is that absent plentiful biblical sources for the long Judahite genealogy, the author(s) must have had access to other (extra-biblical) sources. Again, the very incoherence of the genealogy is a contributing factor to the popularity of this approach. The variety of lineages and the lack of connectives among them are viewed as evidence for the embedment of older sources within the larger Judahite tree. Such sources have to be carefully excavated beneath the layers of later scribal additions, rearrangements, and glosses.

3.2 The work of Martin Noth may be taken as an examplar of this approach. In a series of prominent articles on the history and geography of Judah, Noth argued that the genealogy of Judah contained an important source which, when separated from many corruptions and secondary accretions, could be used to reconstruct Judah’s early history.14 To be sure, Noth’s approach was not entirely novel. Other scholars, whatever their misgivings about the Chronicler’s historical reliability, had also cited evidence in Chronicles which they thought revealed the existence of older sources.15 But Noth’s study was the most ambitious and systematic. In his reconstruction, there were four main sections in the original list:

Noth dated this list, which he considered to be a military reserve list for Judah, to the early ninth century.17 Noth’s reconstruction was influential in the work of many later scholars, not always so much for the precise details of his source-critical analysis as for the larger picture it yielded.18 The critical employment of certain data in the genealogy could compensate to a certain extent for the paucity of references to Judah’s origins in earlier biblical sources. Having isolated source materials and reconstructed their original order, commentators could employ them to recover the history of Judah from its very beginnings to its later incorporation of disparate elements, such as the Calebites and Jerahmeelites. In this way the work could be used as evidence for the existence of groups, such as the Qenites, Qenizzites, and Manahathites, the peaceful migrations of these groups, and the interrelationships among them. References to particular groups could also be cross-checked against those occurring in other biblical sources to ascertain their progress, movements, or decline. Given the complex picture of Judah’s development—its origins, socio-ethnic composition, ties to other peoples, and migrations of individual units—one can also see why this genealogy has appealed to some of those scholars, who have advocated peaceful immigration and internal development models of early Judahite history.19

3.3 Ironically, Noth’s argument had only a limited effect on his own scholarship. Or, to put it somewhat differently, he speaks with two distinct voices about these materials in later publications. In Noth’s subsequent treatment of the Judahite genealogy contained in his Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, he posits an original core consisting of only 1 Chr 2:1–5, 9*, 10–17.20 The rest of the genealogy is made up of random additions and glosses. When he discusses the matter of non-Pentateuchal sources used by the Chronicler in his genealogies, Noth sees such sources reflected only in 1 Chr 2:9*, 10–15, and 6:34–38.21 He does not mention, to the best of my knowledge, his earlier articles on Judah. This is baffling, but it is possible that Noth, having changed his position, did not want to call attention to his earlier work. Nevertheless, this does not seem to be the case. In his history of Israel, Noth deals with the early history of Judah at some length.22 In this context, he reverts to his earlier articles to reconstruct both the early history of Judah and the rise of the tribal confederation.23 It seems that Noth the literary critic was entirely distinct from Noth the historian and the twain, at least in this instance, never met.

3.4 In assessing the relative strengths and weakness of the position(s) championed by Noth, it may be appropriate to begin by raising a couple of points about his literary criticism. Although Noth posits an extensive single source, the material within this putative source varies. One wonders whether the reconstructed document can actually be seen as a coherent list. One can also agree with many of the recent criticisms posed by Kartveit against Noth’s literary criticism, which posits all manner of “wild growth” in the genealogy.24 Texts do not develop genetically all by themselves—they are written and edited by humans. The use of source criticism by Noth to reconstruct the early history of Judah fails to address these critical points.

3.5 As for Noth’s historical presuppositions and conclusions, one can initially agree with him that the picture presented by the genealogy is most intriguing, even credible—a socially stratified Judah made up of disparate clans and loosely connected families. The groups that make up this entity develop by means of internal growth, occasional migrations, and intermarriage. The question is, however, the degree to which this complex material may be used to reconstruct a detailed social history of ancient Judah. Comparative studies on the functions of genealogies in the ancient world suggest that these works are primarily statements of identity, territorial affiliations, and kinship relationships.25 Lineages as histories of generations have prima facie appeal for historical reconstruction, but lineages are quite adaptible and flexible. Current political and tribal affiliations might be seen in genealogical terms. As circumstances and social relationships shift, genealogies change along with them. A special interest might be taken in the eponymous ancestor, because his character and the nature and number of his relationships could determine the course of future generations.26

3.6 The length and depth of a genealogy might also signify the importance of the ancestor and his family. Since the author resides in Yehud, it is not surprising that Judah receives the longest genealogy of all of the tribes. The composition of genealogies are not generally taken to reflect moments of disengaged contemplation upon the hoary past. Genealogies were composed of names that were deemed significant by the genealogists who shaped them and they usually supported a group’s traditions and speculations. One of the functions of genealogies, in particular heavily segmented genealogies, is to document kinship ties and alliances, hence it is natural that they would contain comments about what certain members of the group did or where their descendants settled. In this respect, the details about Judah’s intermarriage, settlements, and migrations are in keeping with what is known about other lineages in the ancient Mediterranean world.27

3.7 Given the nature and context of ancient Mediterranean genealogies, the extent to which source criticism can be truly helpful in unravelling the details of their composition is very much a question. By its very nature, source criticism focuses on isolating older documents embedded within larger narratives. In the case of Noth’s source criticism, he posits a document dating to a time not long after the death of Solomon, some five or six centuries before the Chronicler wrote. Given the propensities of genealogists to deal with contemporary concerns and to adjust, shape, and supplement inherited lineages according to different circumstances, the reconstruction seems to be a stretch.28 If such a document ever existed, it seems implausible that the work would survive unblemished despite of all of the upheavals in later Jerusalemite history only to be incorporated, albeit with some selections and rearrangements, into the Judahite lineages. The fascinating historical and social questions that Noth’s work leaves completely unaddressed are the relationships between the lineages in this genealogy and the circumstances of the author(s), who wrote them.29

4. Newer Forms of Source Criticism

4.1 The third approach to the genealogy’s heterogeneity is really a variation on the second, tracing the Chronicler’s use of source materials in composing the Judahite lineages. Both Williamson and Japhet, for example, posit much in the way of sources, but ironically they do not devote much attention to source criticism itself.30 Their main concern is to show how the sources they recreate have been carefully incorporated within a larger literary framework. In this respect, their approach combines source criticism with a form of redaction criticism.

4.2 Williamson, followed in part by Braun and De Vries, focuses on the role played by the Chronicler in ordering inherited materials.31 According to Williamson, the sources available to the Chronicler were substantial:

The editorial link of 4:1 provided the Chronicler with the opportunity to insert the genealogy of David into the middle of the other lineages. The addition of the Davidic lineage gave the Judahite genealogy a chiastic shape.32 The addition of 4:21–23, in turn, created an inclusio with 2:3. As for 4:1–20, Williamson maintains that it is impossible to say how many of these miscellaneous fragments are pre- or post-Chronistic.33 In this reconstruction, the main contributions of the Chronicler were to compose certain rubrics and lists—2:(1–2), 3–8, 9, 20–23, 34–41—from available sources and to order the whole.

4.3 Like Williamson, Japhet thinks that the Chronicler was dependent on earlier materials, but unlike Williamson she posits one main extra-biblical source, containing three sections—2:25–33, 2:42–50a, and 2:50b–55; 4:2–4—each of which has a similar heading and conclusion:

The sections devoted to Jerahmeel, Caleb, and Hur evince increasing focus as the genealogy progresses. In this respect, Japhet envisions the Chronicler as responsible for more composition than Williamson does. But however much Japhet differs with Williamson on details, the two agree in their assessment of authorial technique. The result is a significantly simpler process than Noth envisioned. Rather than seeing the final text resulting from a whole series of random additions and glosses to an older source, the final text is basically the work of the Chronicler himself. The genealogy of Judah is the work of principally one writer, who composed some material (e.g., 3:1–16), created transitions (e.g., 4:1), and arranged the whole.

4.4 By way of evaluation, there is much to be said for certain features of this third approach. One of its virtues is the careful attention it pays to the literary devices unifying the work. Williamson and Japhet show how this ancient genealogy did not simply appear, but was edited and ordered in a deliberate fashion. In some respects, however, their approach is similar to that of Noth. The model of an author/editor handling disparate traditions is promoted to explain tensions within the text. The uneveness in the Chronicler’s presentation indicates that he drew upon and reworked, but did not efface, various materials that were available to him. One question that might be asked is whether an author living in the late Persian or early Hellenistic period would actually have accesss to so many different written sources. Even granting the possibility of one major source or many different sources, is it possible to recreate this source or sources with any degree of certainty?35 It would be unrealistic, of course, to expect complete consensus on the basic source(s) embedded within the genealogy. Nevertheless, it is sobering to see such little agreement among the positions of Noth, Williamson, and Japhet. A related question is the connection to history. Precisely because the third approach focuses on an author’s reuse of inherited materials, it leaves unanswered the larger question of how this highly segmented genealogy may have functioned within the context of the late Persian or early Hellenistic period.

5. Redaction Criticism

5.1 A fourth approach some scholars have used to explain the heterogeneity in the Judahite genealogy is redaction criticism. These commentators envision the Chronicler employing far less in the way of sources than the second and third groups do. The works of Wilhelm Rudolph and Magnar Kartveit may serve as exemplars of this approach.36 In his commentary, Rudolph found fault with Noth’s textual and literary criticism.37 In Rudolph’s view, Noth’s approach was far too simplistic to account for all the literary diversity one finds in 1 Chr 2:3–4:23. Rather than explaining the heterogeneity within the genealogy by recourse to a substantial amount of source material, Rudolph turns to redaction criticism, reconstructing a series of post-Chronistic layers and additions to the Chronicler’s basic work:

One can easily see how much Rudolph’s reconstruction differs from those of Noth, Williamson, and Japhet. In Rudolph’s view, only a small portion of the Judahite lineages originate with the Chronicler himself. Whereas Noth dates a substantial portion of 1 Chronicles 2 and 4 to the preexilic age, Rudolph dates most of 1 Chronicles 2 and 4 and all of 1 Chronicles 3 to post-Chronistic (late postexilic) levels of composition. The bulk of the genealogy stems, in fact, from the editor responsible for the second supplement. Both source critics and redaction critics could find textual evidence to defend their positions. Whereas Noth, Williamson, and Japhet could point to the contrast between his reconstructed list and the limited boundaries of postexilic Yehud, Rudolph could point to the overlap between family names and settlements in the Judahite genealogy and family names and settlements listed in Ezra and Nehemiah.

5.2 The work of Kartveit follows the broad parameters established by Rudolph, even though it differs substantially from Rudoph in many areas. Like Rudolph, Kartveit employs redaction criticism to address the uneveness of the text, distinguishing between the work of the Chronicler (2:3–8, 9b*, 10–17, 21–24; 4:5–7;) and no less than seven additional layers:

The seven additional levels of composition did not complete, however, the contributions of writers to the genealogy of Judah. A series of shorter expansions and annotations purportedly rounded off the work.39

5.3 The redaction-critical studies of Rudolph and Kartveit demonstrate the likelihood that the Judahite genealogy is the work of more than one author. Rudolph and Kartveit also call attention to the fact that the genealogy of Judah is a postexilic, not a preexilic, creation. Kartveit, in particular, is not unaware of possible links to the author’s own circumstances. He points to the great range of toponyms in the genealogy and the fact that all of these locations lie within the orbit of Judah. In Kartveit’s view, the Chronicler furnished Judah with the greatest possible territory based on the traditions available to him.40

5.4 But the supposition of many layers of composition raises its own set of questions. One wonders, for example, why this genealogy attracted such intense scribal activity and how the work of these writers may have responded to different developments in the life of the community. Assuming, for the sake of argument, a sequence of additions to the text by a series of authors, one should press the matter further. What is the larger effect of composite authorship? If a number of editors or glossators each supplemented the work of their predecessors, why did they seemingly multiply incoherence in the text?41 Why did they apparently not choose to create a more unified, even seamless, text? Certainly, there were literary tools available to these editors to integrate their work more closely into the work of their predecessors.42

5.5 Comparison between the works of source and redaction critics also raises some issues. There is neither any agreement about the identity, date, or extent of sources nor about the editing of such older material(s). Scholars avidly disagree about the number and nature of redaction(s) within the Judahite lineages.43 Assuming, for sake of argument, the existence of sources and one or more reworkings, this may be a case in which scholars simply do not have enough pieces of a complex puzzle to solve it. Complicating matters further is, as we have seen earlier, the nature of the subject matter itself. Genealogies are prone to grow, change, or diversify in dealing with new exigencies in the relations of a given family or group. 44 Given the social and political importance of ancestry in the ancient Mediterannean world, lineages tend to reflect the current position or claims of the groups who have a vested interest in their composition. As such, genealogies are the least stable of historical traditions.45

6. Unity and Diversity in the Genealogy of Judah

6.1 In what follows, I would like to explore a few features of the present form of the Judahite genealogy and to point to some new directions that future studies of this work might take. I will begin by pointing to some marks of unity. Part of this discussion will draw upon and develop observations made by Williamson and Japhet (see above). I will then address some possible implications of the genealogy’s disunity.

6.2 Consistent with the schematized outline of the nations (1 Chr 1:1–2:2), the treatment of Judah reflects patternization.46 As in the genealogies from other parts of the Mediterranean world, this schematization includes the use of typical numbers.47 There are three children of Bath-shua (2:3), Hezron (2:9), Ram (2:27), Neariah (3:23), Helah (4:7), Eshton (4:12), Caleb son of Jephunneh (4:15), Jether (4:17), and Bithiah (4:18). There are seven sons of Jesse (2:13–15) and of Elioenai (3:24). There are ten generations in the genealogy of Ram (2:9–17). Sheshan and his long line of descendants total fourteen (2:34–41). Numerical sums punctuate parts of the work (e.g., 2:3, 4, 6, 16).

6.3 More important than these minor stylistic patterns is the division of the genealogy into three major sections. The first (2:3–55) and the third (4:1–23) are set apart from the second (3:1–24) through the use of opening and closing formulae. Both the first and the third sections begin with similar rubrics: “the descendants of Judah” (2:3; 4:1). Both end with similar appendices: lists of professionals (2:55; 4:22–23). There is also a correspondence between the introduction to the genealogy of Judah and its close. The prologue to Judah’s sons in 2:3–4 forms an inclusio with the enumeration of the descendants of one of these sons: Shelah (4:21–23).

6.4 Each of three parts within the genealogy (2:1–55; 3:1–24; 4:1–23) bears its own distinctive character. In the first section of the genealogy, the lineages are listed in generally descending order. But the authors artificially apportion lineages of certain figures (e.g., Hezron, Caleb) throughout this section. In other words, the writers interrupt their own genealogies so that they will conform to a larger literary design.

6.5 The separation of the lineages of Hezron and Caleb clearly results in some disunity in the progression of the larger genealogy. Nevertheless, the short-term discontinuity also has some long-term benefits. First, it allows for the placement of the Davidic genealogy in roughly the center of the other genealogies.48 If one were to insist on a linear descent, the list of David’s descendants (3:1–24) would have to follow the list of his ancestors (2:10–17). Second, as Japhet observes, the positioning of the genealogy of David after the descendants of Hur (2:50b–55), connects David to Ephratah and to “Salma the father of Bethlehem” (2:50, 54).49 Third, postponing the conclusions to certain genealogies from 1 Chronicles 2 to 1 Chronicles 4 creates ties between the two sections surrounding the Davidic genealogy.

6.6 If the lineages in the first part of the Judahite family tree generally appear in a descending order, a number of those in the third part appear in an ascending order. That is, the sequence of at least some units in 1 Chr 4:1–23 bears an inverse relationship to the sequence of corresponding units within 2:1–55.50 There is, of course, a descending progression within individual lineages, but an ascending progression within the third section as a whole.

1. Sons of Judah (2:3–4) 4. Reaiah (4:2)
2. Ashhur (2:24) 3. Sons of Hur (4:4)
3. Sons of Hur (2:50–55) 2. Ashhur (4:5)
4. Haroeh (=Reaiah) (2:52) 1. Shelah (4:21–23)

6.7 Having sketched some of the literary devices that are operative in the Judahite genealogy, it may be useful to address how these function. An obvious reason for this pattern of arrangement is the elaborate system of relationships it forges within the larger work. It also allows the authors to include a variety of unrelated materials within the context of a broader structure. In this schema, ambiguity has its place. From the perspective of the writers, it is sufficient to situate the descendants of Qenaz (4:13–14) and Jehallelel (4:16) within the larger Judahite genealogy without abandoning the structure of the whole. As for the correspondence between the descending order of 2:3–55 and the ascending order of 4:1–23, it calls attention to the intervening history of generations—the seed of David. David is firmly related to one of Judah’s major families and his descendants occupy a privileged place within the tribe as a whole. Both the extensive coverage given to Judah and the detailed coverage given to David’s descendants comport with the interests exhibited by the book at large.

6.8 In discussing some of the stylistic devices by which the authors have organized the Judahite genealogy, it is important to acknowledge that these devices impose a literary unity upon a disparate lot of lineages. The gaps and incongruities need neither be ignored nor denied. The disunity within the genealogy remains one of its most important features. In this respect, one wonders whether the questions have been framed in the best possible way. The search for complete coherence in the text presumes that the text was authored and edited with complete coherence in mind. Perhaps writers were willing to tolerate or even to create a certain degree of incoherence in the text. As we have seen, even those scholars who contend that the bulk of the genealogy, as we now have it, is the product of numerous redactions, interpolations, and rearrangements have to acknowledge that the scribes who were responsible for this long process of composition brought greater disunity to the text, not greater unity.

6.9 My proposal is not to deny the disunity, but to argue that some have misapprehended it. Commentators have long noticed, for example, that some of the genealogies in 4:1–23 are neither integrated with each other nor linked to the previous genealogies in 2:3–55. In spite of his meticulous application of redaction criticism, Kartveit is unsure of what to do with 4:3, 8–23, finding no reference point to place this material.51 It may be, however, that the authors differentiate between elements within Judah who comprise the main body of the tribe, such as the descendants of Caleb son of Hezron (2:18–20), and those elements who were not completely integrated into Judah, such as the descendants of Qoz (4:8).52 When composing lineages, there are advantages to establishing connections between certain rammages and failing to do so for others. Both Caleb and Qoz belong to Judah, but the former may be fully affiliated while the latter retains significant independence. A certain amount of disorder in 1 Chronicles 2:1–4:23 may be precisely the point. Both determinacy and indeterminacy, the links between units and the lack thereof are significant.

6.10 Judging by their coverage, the authors were also concerned to establish a complex social makeup for the tribe of Judah, whose lineages appear in highly segmented form. Unlike linear genealogies which can easily trace succession within a single family for many generations, segmented genealogies underscore, by their vary nature, familial and social stratification. In segmented lineages, genealogists can not only posit a variety of kinship relationships, but also classify such relationships as primary, secondary, or tertiary in character. One means to accomplish such a system of classification is to posit multiple relationships and multiple kinds of relationships among major and minor figures. Such varied relations allow the authors to depict elaborate blood relations within the larger tribe and to identify important points of contact, if so desired, with other groups. Against this background, it is no accident that wives (2:18, 24, 26, 29, 35; 4:5, 7, 19; 3:3), concubines (2:46, 48; 3:9; cf. 2:21, 24), sisters (2:16–17; 3:9, 19; 4:3, 19), daughters (2:4, 21, 34, 35, 49; 3:2, 5; 4:18), and mothers (2:26; 4:9) all play recognized and significant roles. One of Judah’s major clans is matriarchal in nature (2:50b–55; 4:4).53

6.11 By hinting at kinship relationships with other tribes, such as the Benjaminites, Ephraimites, Levites, and Simeon, by positing sexual relations and mixed marriages with other peoples, such as the Canaanites, Ishmaelites, Moabites, Arameans, and Egyptians, and by incorporating members of other groups, such as the Jerahmeelites, Maacathites, Qenizzites, and Qenites, into Judah’s lineages, the writers present a Judah that is very much connected with its neighbors. The descendants of the patriarch, who “became great among his brothers,” do not appear as an unadulterated, homogeneous, and internally fixed entity. The history of multiple affiliations affects both minor and major families within the tribe. The segmentation and the claims about diverse relationships underscore that a range of humans—male and female, ancestor and slave, Israelite, Canaanite, Aramean, Edomite, Moabite, Ishmaelite, and Egyptian—had a role to play in Judah’s development.

7. Conclusions

7.1 To a large extent past scholarship has been absorbed with textual, source-critical, and redactional issues. Each of the major approaches surveyed attempts to deal with the formidable problems presented by the text. Inasmuch as an effort has been made to understand the genealogy historically, most of that effort has been expended on recovering the early history of Judah and its growth during the monarchy. Because genealogies are essentially histories of generations, it is only natural for scholars to want to plumb the depths of these records as one means to reconstruct the past. But whatever traditions may have been available to the authors, one should inquire further about what functions the genealogy may have fulfilled in the late Persian or early Hellenistic period, the time in which the authors wrote.54 Genealogies in the ancient Mediterranean world were caught up with fundamental issues of self-definition, identity, territory, and relationships. They were composed mainly to address claims about social status, kinship ties, and territorial affiliations and not to satisfy idle curiosities about the distant past. In most, albeit not all, cases lineages “establish and validate living relationships.”55 Given that the postexilic Judah constructed by modern scholarship is not known for having a diverse social and ethnic makeup, pursuing the heterogeneity within the Judahite genealogy holds much promise.


[1] In referring to the Chronicler, I basically mean the author of Chronicles. On the distinction between the authorship of Chronicles and that of Ezra-Nehemiah, see S. Japhet, “The Supposed Common Authorship of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah Investigated Anew,” VT 18 (1968) 330–71; “The Relationship between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah,” Congress Volume, Leuven 1989, ed. J. A. Emerton (VTSup 43; Leiden: Brill, 1991) 298–313; H. G. M. Williamson, Israel in the Books of Chronicles (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977) 5–70; I. Kalimi, “Die Abfassungszeit der Chronik—Forschungsstand und Perspectiven,” ZAW 105 (1993) 223–33; S. Talmon, “Esra und Nehemia: Historiographie oder Theologie?” in Ernton was man sät. Festschrift für Klaus Koch zu einem 65. Geburtstag, ed. D. W. Daniels et al. (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1993) 329–56. Some of the arguments for disunity have been challenged by J. Blenkinsopp, Ezra-Nehemiah: A Commentary (OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988); D. Talshir, “A Reinvestigation of the Linguistic Relationship Between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah,” VT 38 (1988) 165–93; K. -F. Pohlmann, “Zur Frage von Korrespondenzen und Divergenzen zwischen den Chronikbüchern und dem Esra/Nehemia-Buch,” Congress Volume, Leuven 1989, 314–30. In my judgment, more than one author is responsible for Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, but I would not deny that some connections exist between them.

[2] M. Oeming, Das wahre Israel: die ‘genealogische Vorhalle’ 1 Chronik 1–9 (BWANT 128; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1990).

[3] I am following a number of scholars, who view much of the genealogical material in 1 Chronicles 1–9 as integral to the Chronicler’s work, S. Japhet, “Conquest and Settlement in Chronicles,” JBL 98 (1979) 205–18; I & II Chronicles (OTL; Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993) 1–10; H. G. M. Williamson, 1 and 2 Chronicles (NCB; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) 37–40; R. L. Braun, 1 Chronicles (WBC 14; Waco: Word, 1986); M. Kartveit, Motive und Schichten der Landtheologie in I Chronik 1–9 (ConBOT 28; Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1989) 11–109; Oeming, Das wahre Israel, 9–72. For a different view, see A. C. Welch, The Work of the Chronicler: Its Purpose and Date (The Schweich Lectures 1938; London: Oxford University Press, 1939); M. Noth, Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien: Die sammelnden und bearbeitenden Geschichtswerke im Alten Testament (2nd ed.; Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1957) 110–31; W. Rudolph, Chronikbücher (HAT 21; Tübingen: Mohr, 1955) 6–91.

[4] Reading הבכרה‎ with MT. LXXB, which has kai hē eulogia (“and the blessing”), may reflect metathesis (הברכה‎). The emendation proposed by W. Rudolph (Chronikbücher [HAT 21; Tübingen: Mohr, 1955] 42) and largely adopted by REB to insert לו לא‎ (cf. Ps 78:67, 68a) is unwarranted and contradicts the force of 1 Chr 5:1.

[5] On the inversion of expectations, see further G. N. Knoppers, “The Preferential Status of the Eldest Son Revoked?” in Rethinking the Foundations: Historiography in the Ancient World and in the Bible; Essays in Honour of John Van Seters, ed. S. L. McKenzie, and T. Römer (BZAW 294; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2000) 115–26.

[6] 1 Sam 13:14; 25:30; Mic 5:1. In Chronicles the acclamation of David as king is immediate (1 Chr 11:1–3), even though the author acknowledges that David’s rise to power involved a longer process (1 Chr 11:10–12:41). In referring to Judah’s rise to preeminence, the Chronicler may also have the Blessing of Jacob in view, because the patriarch proclaims that the scepter (שׁבט‎) will not depart from Judah (Gen 49:10).

[7] Judah’s distinction is reaffirmed in one of David’s public speeches, justifying Solomon’s ascendancy by asserting that YHWH’s choice of his successor fits a larger pattern. It began with the divine election (בחר‎) of Judah as leader (נגיד‎) among his brothers and the house of David’s father out of the tribe of Judah (1 Chr 28:4).

[8] I. Benzinger, Die Bücher der Chronik (Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alten Testament 20; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1901) 5–16; R. Kittel, Die Bücher der Chronik und Esra, Nehemia und Esther (HAT 1/6; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1902) 7–32; M. Noth, “Eine siedlungsgeographische Liste in 1. Chr. 2 und 4,” ZDPV 55 (1932) 98–124; Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, 119–20; W. Rudolph, Chronikbücher, 10–38; Kartveit, Motive und Schichten, 30–65, 156–58, 163–65; Japhet, Chronicles, 67–73.

[9] See further my “The Davidic Genealogy: Some Contextual Considerations from the Ancient Mediterranean World.” [Editor’s note: G. N. Knoppers, “The Davidic Genealogy: Some Contextual Considerations from the Ancient Mediterranean World.” Transeu 22 (2001), pp. 45–46.]

[10] Compare 1 Chr 2:3–4 with 4:21–23; 2:24 with 4:5; 2:50–55 with 4:4; 2:52 with 4:2.

[11] Gen 38:1–7, 29–30; 46:12; Num 1:7; 26:19–21; 1 Sam 16:1–23; 17:1–51; 2 Sam 2:18; 17:24–25. The Davidic lineages show a great deal of indebtedness to Samuel and Kings. There are also, of course, parallels between some of the Judahite lineages and the genealogy which appears in Ruth (e.g., 2:9//Ruth 4:18; 2:10–17//Ruth 4:19b–22), but most scholars think that Chronicles was the source of the genealogical material in Ruth, Rudolph, Chronikbücher, 16; Noth, Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, 119–20; C. McCarthy, “The Davidic Genealogy in the Book of Ruth,” Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association 9 (1985) 53–62.

[12] The varied connections with other peoples is a subject in and of itself. See my “Intermarriage, Social Complexity and Ethnic Diversity in the Genealogy of Judah,” JBL [Editor’s note: G. N. Knoppers, “Intermarriage, Social Complexity and Etnic Diversity in the Genealogy of Judah,” JBL 120 (2001), pp. 15–30.]

[13] Two examples are J. Wellhausen, De gentibus et familiis Judaeis quae 1. Chr 2.4 enumerantur (Diss.; Göttingen: Officina Academica Dieterichiana, 1870) and E. Curtis and A. Madsen, The Books of Chronicles (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1910) 84–113.

[14] M. Noth, “Eine siedlungsgeographische Liste,” 98–124; “Die Ansiedlung des Stammes Juda auf dem Boden Palästinas,” PJB 30 (1934) 31–47. See also his “Zur historischen Geographie Süd-Judas,” JPOS 15 (1935) 35–50 and his earlier Das System der zwölf Stämme Israels (BWANT 4/1; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1930).

[15] J. Wellhausen was generally dismissive of the historical value of the Chronicler’s genealogies, regarding them as only having value for reconstructing the Judaism of the Chronicler’s own time, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (Edinburgh: Adams and Charles Black, 1885) 211–24. But he made a clear exception with the genealogy of Judah, which he regarded as containing an important kernel of historical material relating to preexilic times, De gentibus et familiis Judaeis, 4–41; Prolegomena, 216–18. See also A. Kuenen, The Religion of Israel, vol. 1 (London: Williams and Norgate, 1874) 176–82; E. Meyer, Die Enstehung des Judentums: Eine historische Untersuchung (Halle, 1896 [repr. Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1965]) 114–19. On the larger issue of the debate about the Chronicler’s reliability for reconstructing preexilic history, see the comprehensive overview of K. Peltonen, History Debated: The Historical Reliability of Chronicles in Pre-Critical and Critical Research, 2 vols. (Publications of the Finnish Exegetical Society 64; Helsinki: The Finnish Exegetical Society/Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996).

[16] “Eine siedlungsgeographische Liste,” 106–7.

[17] “Eine siedlungsgeographische Liste,” 112–24; “Die Ansiedlung des Stammes Juda,” 41–47.

[18] e.g., J. Goettsberger, Die Bücher der Chronik oder Paralipomenon (HSAT 4; Bonn: Peter Hanstein, 1939) 36–55; W. F. Albright, “The Judicial Reform of Jehoshaphat,” Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume, ed. S. Lieberman (New York: Jewish Publication Society, 1950) 65; J. M. Myers, I Chronicles (AB 12; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965) 9–30; R. G. de Vaux, “The Settlement of the Israelites in Southern Palestine and the Origins of the Tribe of Judah,” Translating and Understanding the Old Testament: Essays in Honor of Herbert Gordon May, ed. H. T. Frank et al. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1970) 108–34; The Early History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978) 534–50; W. Belz, Die Kaleb-Traditionen im Alten Testament (BWANT 98; Stuttgart, Kohlhammer, 1974) 38–46; V. Fritz, “Erwägungen zur Siedlungsgeschichte des Negeb in der Eisen I-Zeit (1200–1000 v. Chr) im Lichte der Ausgrabungen auf der irbet el-Mšāš,” ZDPV 91 (1975) 30–45; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible (rev. ed. by Anson Rainey; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1979) 246–48; W. L. Osborne, The Genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1–9 (Diss., Dropsie University, 1979) 244; N. K. Gottwald, The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel, 1250–1050 BCE (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1979) 275, 320–21, 558, 561–63; S. Herrmann, A History of Israel in Old Testament Times (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981) 75, 84; J. P. Weinberg, “Das Wesen und die funktionelle Bestimmung der Listen in I Chr 1–9,” ZAW 93 (1981) 91–114.

[19] e.g., M. Weippert, Die Landnahme der israelitischen Stämme in der neueren wissenschaftlichen Diskussion (FRLANT 92; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967) 49–50.

[20] Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, 118–20 (= The Chronicler’s History [JSOTS 50; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987] 36–39).

[21] Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, 132–33 (= The Chronicler’s History, 52).

[22] M. Noth, The History of Israel (2nd ed. London/New York: A. & C. Black/Harper & Row, 1960) 55–58, 147.

[23] But he does not cite his Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, at least in this context.

[24] M. Kartveit devotes a special section of his work to a critique of Noth’s treatment of the Chronicler’s genealogies, Motive und Schichten der Landtheologie in I Chronik 1–9 (ConBOT 28; Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1989) 23–30.

[25] R. R. Wilson, “The Old Testament Genealogies in Recent Research,” JBL 94 (1975) 169–89; Genealogy and History in the Biblical World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977); “Between ‘Azel’ and ‘Azel’: Interpreting the Biblical Genealogies,” BA 42 (1979) 11–22; M. D. Johnson, The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies (2nd ed.; SNTSMS 8; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); T. Willi, Juda—Jehud—Israel: Studien zum Selbstverständnis des Judentums in persischer Zeit (FAT 12; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1995).

[26] B. A. van Groningen, In the Grip of the Past: An Essay on an Aspect of Greek Thought (Leiden: Brill, 1953) 47–61.

[27] e.g., M. L. West, The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: Its Nature, Structure, and Origins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985) 29.

[28] In this context, note also the comments of Oeming, Das wahre Israel, 109–10.

[29] See section VI below.

[30] H. G. M. Williamson, “Sources and Redaction in the Chronicler’s Genealogy of Judah,” JBL 98 (1979) 351–59; 1 and 2 Chronicles, 48–61; Japhet, Chronicles, 67–106.

[31] Braun, 1 Chronicles, 25–62; S. J. De Vries, I and II Chronicles (FOTL; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989) 35–48.

[32] A chiastic pattern has also been seen by a number of other commentators (e.g., Curtis and Madsen, Chronicles, 82–84; Oeming, Das wahre Israel, 129–30). Following the lead of F. Michaeli (Les Livres des Chroniques, d’Esdras et de Néhémie [Commentaire de l’ancien Testament 16; Neuchâtel: Delachaux & Nestlé, 1967] 47–49), Williamson (“Sources and Redaction,” 358) also contends that the original material found in 1 Chr 2:10–55; 3:1–24 falls into a large chiastic pattern, but I am not convinced of this.

[33] 1 and 2 Chronicles, 58.

[34] Chronicles, 67–73, 92–94. Nevertheless, she also attributes most of 4:8–23 to extra-biblical sources (pp. 104–6).

[35] In this context, the comments on Noth’s work (section II) are also applicable.

[36] Rudolph, Chronikbücher, 10–38; Kartveit, Motive und Schichten, 30–61. The erlier work of J. W. Rothstein and J. Hänel, Kommentar zum ersten Buch der Chronik (KAT 18/2; Leipzig: Deichertsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1927) and K. Galling, Die Bücher der Chronik, Esra, Nehemia (ATD 12; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1954) should also be mentioned. In the case of the commentary of Rothstein (completed by Hänel) much is also posited in the way of sources (pp. 14–75).

[37] As embodied in Noth’s articles on the settlement of Judah, Rudolph, Chronikbücher, 10–14.

[38] Kartveit, Motive und Schichten, 36–61, 156–58, 163–65.

[39] For a more detailed assessment of Kartveit’s book, see G. N. Knoppers, “Review of M. Kartveit, Motive und Schichten der Landtheologie in I Chronik 1–9,” JBL 110 (1991) 338–40.

[40] Motive und Schichten, 166. Given the importance of land in many ancient genealogies and the fact that Yehud was not known for commanding a large territory in the southern Levant, this facet of the Judahite lineages deserves further study.

[41] In this context, the cautions of T. Willi are also relevant, Chronik (BK xxiv/1; Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1991) 71–80.

[42] C. Kuhl, “Die ‘Wiederaufnahme’ —ein literarkritische Prinzip? ZAW 64 (1952) 1–11; M. Seidel, “Parallels between Isaiah and Psalms,” Sinai 38 (1955–56) 149–172, 229–240, 272–280, 335–355 (Heb.; repr. in his Hiarei Miara [Jerusalem: Mossad ha-Rav Kook, 1978]) 1–97; P. C. Beentjes, “Inverted Quotations in the Bible: A Neglected Stylistic Pattern,” Bib 63 (1982) 506–523; J. H. Tigay, “The Evolution of the Pentateuchal Narratives in the Light of the Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic,” Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism, ed. J. Tigay (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985) 21–52; “Conflation as a Redactional Technique,” Empirical Models, 53–95; E. Tov, “Glosses, Interpretations, and Other Types of Scribal Additions in the Text of the Hebrew Bible,” Language, Theology, and The Bible: Essays in Honour of James Barr, ed. S. Balentine and J. Barton (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994) 40–66.

[43] Nor do all of the putative traditions need be of a written nature. The genealogists of ancient Greece, for example, seem to have relied heavily on oral sources.

[44] Braun makes the same point somewhat differently, observing that while the material in the genealogies may be useful for historical reconstruction, it is not clear how this is so (vis à vis biological, political, or social relationships), “1 Chronicles 1–9 and the Reconstruction of the History of Israel: Thoughts on the Use of Genealogical Data in Chronicles in the Reconstruction of the History of Israel,” The Chronicler as Historian, ed. M. P. Graham, K. G. Hoglund, and S. L. McKenzie (JSOTS 238; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1997) 92–105.

[45] R. Thomas, Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens (Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture 18; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

[46] The relevance of patternization in the Chronicler’s genealogy of the nations (1 Chr 1:1–2:2) will be discussed in my commentary, I Chronicles (AB; New York: Doubleday, in progress).

[47] Johnson, Biblical Genealogies, xviii-xix, 211–14; West, Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, 27–29.

[48] The positioning fits the pattern proclaimed in one of the narrative portions of Chronicles in which YHWH is said to have chosen (בחר‎) Judah as a leader among his kin and David followed by his son Solomon to be kings over Israel (1 Chr 28:4–5).

[49] Chronicles, 73.

[50] For more details, see G. N. Knoppers, “The Davidic Genealogy: Some Contextual Considerations from the Ancient Mediterranean World,” Transeu 22 (2001), pp. 45–46.

[51] Motive und Schichten, 58.

[52] In a similar vein, see Japhet, Chronicles, 112.

[53] This is exceptional. The Chronicler’s historiography is generally male-dominated and patriarchal, A. L. Laffey, “1 and 2 Chronicles,” The Women’s Bible Commentary, ed. C. A. Newsom and S. H. Ringe (London: SPCK, 1992) 112–13.

[54] For one attempt to deal with these features of the Judahite genealogy, see my “Intermarriage, Social Complexity, and Ethnic Diversity.”

[55] W. E. Aufrecht, “Genealogy and History in Ancient Israel,” Ascribe to the Lord: Biblical and Other Studies in Memory of Peter C. Craigie, ed. L. Eslinger and G. Taylor (JSOTS 67. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1988) 222 (italics his).