1 Chronicles 9:35-44 – The More You Know, The Better You Can Defend the Faith!

Posted: February 10, 2020 in 13-1 Chronicles

1 Chronicles 9:35-44

King Saul’s Family Tree

One of the things that is rampant in this 21st century world in which we live is biblical illiteracy among the unchurched. It was once in our country, whether you went to church or not, you had a general understanding of the Bible, probably knew key verses, and understood exactly who and what Jesus Christ represented. However, the world in which we live today, there are 2nd and 3rd generations of families that have never darkened the door of a church much less understand anything about the Bible, about the general tenor of the Bible, or, even, who Jesus Christ is and what he represents. Further, there is little, if any, understanding of why Christians believe what they believe. And biblical laziness even within the ranks of those who profess to be Christians and we as leaders of the church have done a poor job of teaching church history and the development of our church doctrines (why we believe what we believe) has led to a lack of understanding even among the faithful.

For example, yesterday, the Holy Spirit led to a compelling need in me to share what a portion of the Apostle’s Creed means when we say it. The Apostles’ Creed represents a set of uncompromisable core beliefs for Christians. As such, the core tradition of it is also found in the Nicene Creed. The Apostles’ Creed, like all creeds, functions like a filter for correct belief; it indicates what is and what is not “Christian.” It is a public profession of belief in historic Christianity. According to an article at Faithlife.com, “The Apostle’s creed dates back to the 8th century”, as far as church historians can tell. Further, it is an adaptation of and expansion of an earlier creed known as the Old Roman Creed. Th Old Roman Creed “was in use as early as the second century. The earliest written form of this creed is found in a letter that Marcellus of Ancyra wrote in Greek to Julius, the bishop of Rome, about AD 341. About 50 years later, Tyrannius Rufinus wrote a commentary on this creed in Latin (Commentarius in symbolum apostolorum). In it, he recounted the viewpoint that the apostles wrote the creed together after Pentecost, before leaving Jerusalem to preach (Symb. 2). The title “Apostles’ Creed” is also mentioned about 390 by Ambrose, where he refers to “the creed of the Apostles which the Church of Rome keeps and guards in its entirety” (Ep. 42, trans. in Saint Ambrose: Letters).”

For us, in the 21st century, as believers, as those who are searching, and those who are not churched or seeking at all, to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for the Christian faith and those who still do in other parts of the world, we must understand what we believe and why we believe. One of the often most confusing parts of the Apostle’s Creed that we recite, as long-time followers of Christ, and could probably recite in our sleep is when we say “I believe in the holy catholic church”. We as Protestants (any non-Catholic vein of Christianity) take great pains to separate ourselves from the Catholic Church (catholic with a capital C) because of the Protestant opinion that the Catholic Church has gone off the rails theologically with all the things that it has added to the Christian faith over the centuries (that is not to say that there are wonderfully, and deeply grounded and faithful Christians who are Catholic, but that they have to wade through so much fluff to get at the core of what it is to be Christian). We have and continue to make it clear as Protestants that we are not Catholic. We see our brand of the faith as much simpler and more true to the original church that Christ himself established. Then, why do we say that particular line in the Apostle’s Creed as non-Catholics (Protestants).

The first thing we must remember that words in use in the 3rd through 8th centuries are not always still in use today. For example, the word, catholic, with a small c, was a Latin-based word that means the same thing as the modern word, universal. Universal means “something done all people or by all people in a particular group” or something that “is applicable in all cases.” Thus, the origin of the name of the branch of Christianity known now officially as the Catholic Church (with a Capital C) is the fact that it was the original church before all the splits and fractures into the various forms of Protestant (non-Catholic) veins of Christianity. All Protestant denominations of the Christian faith are offshoots of the original universal church that was one church, a universal church, that lasted in-tact as a single church from the time of Christ until the Protestant Reformation that began in the year 1530. When we use that term, catholic with a small c, we are thus praying for the Christian faith, the church, as a whole, all over the world, that it will thrive and survive continually each time we pray the Apostle’s Creed. We are also praying too that one day, one day, that all the fractures in the Christian faith will be healed and ended and that one day, one day, we will be reunited as a whole and universal faith with no fractures, no separational boundaries. We pray for, thus, unity within the faith of Christianity.

Why do I bring this up within a blog about a genealogy of the family tree of Saul, the first king of the united kingdom of Israel? It’s because if we do not understand why we believe what we believe, we can be duped into believing things that are not true about our faith. In ignorance, we can be lead to believe things that are simply not true. For example, many non-believers and enemies of the Christian faith say that the Bible is full of contradictions and errors that may it unreliable as the true source, and the rule of our faith. When they can attack the accuracy of the Bible, the basis of our faith, they can tear down our faith altogether, make believers question what they believe. Then, Satan has won by introducing doubt. One of those things that they point is this passage here, 1 Chronicles 9:35-44, because they say that it contradicts other passages in the Old Testament. Biblical laziness might lead us to agree with them and then begin to question the accuracy of the Bible itself as the foundational text of our faith. When that happens, it can rock our faith, make us question our faith, and may lead to fall away from the church. Thus, we must be strong and take the time to understand why we believe what we believe and not take non-believers detractions from the Bible at face value. They work hard to get us to question our faith. We must work our biblical knowledge muscles so that we can defend our faith against our own laziness. With that in mind, let’s read this passage and then discuss the raised objections to this passage and the solution to it:

35 In Gibeon lived the father of Gibeon, Jeiel, and the name of his wife was Maacah. 36 His firstborn son was Abdon, then Zur, Kish, Baal, Ner, Nadab, 37 Gedor, Ahio, Zechariah, and Mikloth; 38 and Mikloth became the father of Shimeam; and these also lived opposite their kindred in Jerusalem, with their kindred. 39 Ner became the father of Kish, Kish of Saul, Saul of Jonathan, Malchishua, Abinadab, and Esh-baal; 40 and the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal; and Merib-baal became the father of Micah. 41 The sons of Micah: Pithon, Melech, Tahrea, and Ahaz;[a] 42 and Ahaz became the father of Jarah, and Jarah of Alemeth, Azmaveth, and Zimri; and Zimri became the father of Moza. 43 Moza became the father of Binea; and Rephaiah was his son, Eleasah his son, Azel his son. 44 Azel had six sons, and these are their names: Azrikam, Bocheru, Ishmael, Sheariah, Obadiah, and Hanan; these were the sons of Azel.

In this passage, we see that The Bible seems to present two different lineages for the first king of Israel. Saul’s father was named Kish, but when we try to figure out the name of Kish’s father, we run into a complication. 1 Samuel 9:1 states, “”There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power.”” Later in the same book, we are told, “”Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel.”” So 1 Samuel presents Saul and Abner as cousins whose fathers (Kish and Ner, respectively) were sons of a man named Abiel. When we turn to 1 Chronicles 8:33, we find an apparent contradiction. It states, “”Ner begot Kish “[and] “Kish begot Saul.”” This same wording is repeated in 1 Chronicles 9:39. So was Saul’s grandfather named Abiel or Ner? Furthermore, was Ner Saul’s uncle as 1 Samuel implies or was he Saul’s grandfather? Is there any way to resolve these difficulties?

There are several possible solutions to properly identify Saul’s grandfather. However, the Bible does not provide us with a definitive answer, so we should not dogmatically hold to any of these plausible explanations. Yet, since we only need to show why this is not a contradiction, any of these resolutions will suffice. One possibility is that in the genealogies provided, some of the generations were skipped. In this case, Abiel could have been Saul’s grandfather and Ner could have been several generations earlier or vice versa. While this is plausible, it seems unlikely given that 1 Samuel 9:1 provides us with the names of three ancestors prior to Abiel and Ner is not one of them. Perhaps he was four generations earlier or more.

Another possible solution is the one I think makes the most sense. It is very possible that Abiel and Ner were simply two names for the same person. Several men in Scripture are called by different names (Abram/Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Reuel/Jethro, Gideon/Jerubbaal, Solomon/Jedidiah, Simon/Peter, etc.). In modern times we often go by first and last names, and sometimes even a middle name, to distinguish us from others who might share our name. In a culture where people were given one name at birth another convention seems to have arisen to make distinctions between people of the same name. Often one’s personality would lead to the receiving of a second name, sort of like a nickname.

If Abiel and Ner were just two names for the same man then this would solve both of the difficulties mentioned above. 1 Samuel 14:50 clearly states that Saul’s uncle was named Ner and 1 Chronicles asserts that his grandfather’s name was also Ner. According to this scenario, Saul’s grandfather (Ner, also known as Abiel) named his son Ner. Further support for this is found in the fact that this son named Ner (who was Saul’s Uncle Ner) passed his name to his son Abner (“my father is Ner”). In Hebrew, the name Ner means a “lamp”1 and Abner means “my father is a lamp.”2 So perhaps Saul’s grandfather was originally named Ner, but, perhaps due to godly character, came to be known as Abiel, which means “God is my father.”

Although we cannot be certain this is the actual solution to the problem, the second option seems to be the most likely scenario. It fits with the common practice of a person going by two names. It also solves the alleged contradiction that one person named Ner was both Saul’s uncle and his grandfather. Instead, both his uncle and grandfather shared the same name, just like many people today who are named after their fathers. For example, in my own family, my grandfather, father, and brother, all have the same name (Ralph Truman Bowling – one Sr., one Jr. and one III). So there are multiple plausible solutions to this alleged contradiction.

Let us take time as Christians to not be that kid in the back of the room that does not study and does not take school seriously. Let us be the kids that study and understand Christianity. Let us study and understand our faith. Let us study so that we can know with assurance that our faith is solid, reasonable, and based on a Bible that is free from error and cannot lead us wrong. Help us to know the objections to our faith and how to defend against those arguments. Help us not be bamboozled by enemies of the faith into thinking things that are simply not true about our faith and about the basis of our faith, the Bible.

Amen and Amen.

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