1 Chronicles 2:5–8 (ESV)

5 The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul.

The concluding section of this genealogy lists the sons Judah’s twin sons, Perez and Zerah (1 Chronicles 2:5–8). The sons of Zerah are dealt with before the Chronicler arrives at his main area of interest, the line of Perez.

Four of Zerah’s sons, namely, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Darda, are identified as famous wise men (1 Chronicles 2:6). These descendants of Zerah (Zerahites) can be identified from 1 Kings 4:31 as later descendants, not immediate “sons,” of Zerah. The Chronicler singled them out as examples of God-given wisdom (see his reference to Bezalel in 1 Chronicles 2:20) during the Solomonic period. Moreover, Heman and Ethan became authors of psalms (Psalm 88:1–18 and Psalm 89:1–52). They must not, however, be confused with David’s musicians, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan (1 Chronicles 15:19), who were from the tribe of Levi, not Judah (1 Chronicles 6:33–44).1

It is, however, worth noting that in no other biblical tradition are Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Darda attached to Zerah of the tribe of Judah. Some commentators have reckoned that this group of five (1 Chronicles 2:6) may have been members of a guild of musicians who were adopted into the tribe of Judah because of their musical skills.2

Joshua 7:1 and Joshua 7:18 clearly state that Carmi was the son of Zimri, who in turn was the father of Achan, the troubler.

Up to this point, any comment by the Chronicler can be correlated with earlier biblical genealogies (1 Chronicles 1:10, 1 Chronicles 1:19, 1 Chronicles 1:43; 1 Chronicles 2:3), but now comes a statement unmentioned in previous material: Achan, the troubler of Israel, who broke faith in the matter of the devoted thing (1 Chronicles 2:7). The ESV translation is unfortunate at this point because the Hebrew text actually has Achar (עָכָר), a play on the word translated troubler (עוֹכֵר; see also KJV, NIV, NASB). The place where Achan was buried under a heap of stones was called the Valley of Achor, or Trouble Valley. This wordplay connecting the man’s name with his sin is first introduced in Joshua 7:24–26.3 The point the Chronicler is making is that this sin places Achan in the same tradition as Ahab, who also was a troubler of Israel (1 Kings 18:17).4 What was his sin? The Chronicler describes him as a troubler who broke faith. He broke faith in the matter of the devoted thing, in that he deliberately disobeyed the express command of God concerning the occupation of Jericho; he kept some of the spoils of war for himself, some of which should have been destroyed and others handed over to the treasury of the Lord. Because of this appalling sin the Lord’s people suffered defeat at Ai (Joshua 7:2–5)

The Hebrew term for to break faith is מָעַל, and means to violate or to be unfaithful; it denotes breaking faith with the God of Israel. Unfaithfulness is a key concept in the book of Chronicles because it ties in with his theology of retribution: sin has serious consequences and sometimes punishment immediately follows the act. But sin impacts not only the sinner but the whole community: All Israel was punished because of one man’s sin. Such is the constitution of society, that this is often seen, the punishment of many for the transgression of one.5

The very existence of God’s people came under threat because this sinful and selfish violation contaminated the entire community and brought it under God’s curse. It was a disastrous situation. The people had hardly set foot in the land and their very existence was now being threatened. Achan would have brought destruction upon the people had God not in the fullness of his grace provided a means of decontaminating the community. It was a very shaky beginning. The Chronicler will recount numerous examples of Israel’s breaking faith, commonly stated explicitly as worshipping other gods. The results were always catastrophic, leading to defeat, death, or exile (1 Chronicles 5:25; 1 Chronicles 9:1; 1 Chronicles 10:13; 2 Chronicles 12:2; 2 Chronicles 26:16, 2 Chronicles 26:18; 2 Chronicles 26:18, 2 Chronicles 28:22; 2 Chronicles 29:6, 2 Chronicles 29:19; 2 Chronicles 30:7; 2 Chronicles 33:19; 2 Chronicles 36:14).6 It is David, the son of Jesse, who will rise as the model of faithfulness to God and provide the ultimate solution to Israel’s maʿal.7

This episode serves as a stark warning to the church of Jesus Christ, as seen in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. Human sin rising up together with the subtlety of Satan working in the heart of man can potentially disrupt a new work of God if it is not decisively dealt with at the outset. This overt act of God’s judgement had consequences on the church and on outsiders who would be led to think twice about joining the community of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:11).

The mainly segmented genealogy of Judah is limited to the offspring of Perez, the elder of Judah’s twins by Tamar, who gained the status of the firstborn by supplanting or crowding his brother aside during the birth process and through this manoeuvre taking for himself the right of the firstborn son (Genesis 38:28–30). This was exactly what his grandfather did by stealing the birthright from his brother Esau.

The names in the Perez line, listed sequentially, are Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salma, Boaz, Obed, Jesse, and David, ten in all excluding Judah himself. This formula of ten corresponds with the list of ten in Adam’s genealogy and the ten of Shem’s as well, thus affirming both the significance of ten as a number of fullness or completeness and the likelihood that it is more than coincidence that biblical genealogies had exactly ten generations.8