I enjoy the series ‘Who do you think you are?‘ – I’m sure that there are some celebrities whose family trees don’t hold any surprises, but those that make it to the screen often have some fascinating stories. What can be surprising is the degree of emotion that comes out when people find out something about their ancestors – whether the struggles that they had or any particular achievements. There’s a sense of identity and connection across generations, which I think most of us can understand at least to some extent.
That doesn’t make nine chapters of names easy going, and I can’t help but think of the hours spent by scribes in the days before printing, carefully copying out page after page of names from the distant past and distant lands. It must have taken a particular kind of belief in the importance of scripture to make it seem worth while.
But these names are here for a reason – and I suspect that it’s not unconnected to the emotions of Who do you think you are? The books of Chronicles are written to help those who eventually came back from exile to remember who they are. After generations away from the promised land, the Temple and the kings, they need to be rooted back in their history and their identity; and their history comes in the form of the names of individual people who carried the promise through the generations, not just for Israel but for the nations of the world.
Where are our roots? Not just in the family tree of biology but in that of the faith passed from one generation to another? Perhaps today gives us a chance just to sit back and place ourselves. Who do we think we are?