1 Chronicles 2:25–41 (ESV)

25 The sons of Jerahmeel, the firstborn of Hezron: Ram, his firstborn, Bunah, Oren, Ozem, and Ahijah.

The ominous repetition of died without children (1 Chronicles 2:30, 1 Chronicles 2:32) and the absence of male offspring for Sheshan (1 Chronicles 2:34) spoke volumes to readers anxious about their future. The linkage from Adam to Abraham to Jacob-Israel to David was never to be taken for granted. The harsh realities of life were that some families did not enjoy continuation down the generations. These startling exceptions to the rule showed how the genealogical survival of the appointed, such as the royal and high priestly houses, were a tribute to the sustaining grace of God’s hand across the ages. This was the case for the house of Jesse and his seventh son David (1 Chronicles 2:13) whose male offspring were also numerous (1 Chronicles 3:1–9). There must have been a growing sense of confidence in the Lord’s sovereignty as each clan and family’s names resounded in the mind of the ancient reader. No person was incidental to Israel’s life, past or present. The church has always experienced the same triumphant note in a future for God’s people because of the testimony of the past.1

There are no canonical parallels for this genealogy in the entire Old Testament, and the Chronicler’s sources are unknown. It would appear that he relied on a single reliable source for this information. These names are not found anywhere else in the Old Testament.

The descendants of Jerahmeel are actually divided into two groups (1 Chronicles 2:1–55, 1 Chronicles 2:34–41). The two lists differ considerably in genealogical style and structure. The first section of the genealogy is segmented or horizontal, providing side information of some of the members included in the list. The second section (1 Chronicles 2:34–42) is strictly sequential, passing from one generation to the next. 1 Chronicles 2:25–33 notes the line of Jerahmeel (eldest son of Hezron) through Ram and Onam. There are no canonical parallels for this genealogy in the Old Testament, and none of these names is mentioned in the rest of the Old Testament, except for reference to the Jerahmeelites who were among people raided by David that lived south of the border of Judah (1 Samuel 27:10; 1 Samuel 30:29).2

This first list of Jerahmeel’s family introduces the children of two wives: five sons through an unnamed wife (Ram, Bunah, Oren, Ozem, Ahijah) and one son through Jerahmeel’s second wife Atarah (Onam). Only the eldest (Ram) from the first wife is traced further, and then only for one generation to Ram’s three sons (Maaz, Jamin, Eker).3 It is the line of the second wife, Atariah mother of Onam, that now becomes the Chronicler’s focus. The genealogy of Onam is comprehensive and segmented, giving more than usual additional details on the members of the genealogy.

The second list (1 Chronicles 2:34–41) deals particularly with the family of Sheshan (1 Chronicles 2:34), listed in the favoured seventh spot from Jerahmeel and tenth position from Judah in 1 Chronicles 2:31.4 It is clearly stated in 1 Chronicles 2:31 that Sheshan had a son named Ahlai, and yet 1 Chronicles 2:34 makes clear that Sheshan had no sons but only daughters. If these two statements are to be harmonized, then Ahlai must have been his daughter whom he gave in marriage to his Egyptian slave, which seems to be supported by the claim in 1 Chronicles 11:41 that Zabad (see 1 Chronicles 2:36) is named as a descendant of Ahlai. The practice of giving a daughter to a slave seems to have been a combination of emergency customs in a patriarchal society, first, to trace inheritance through a slave (Genesis 15:2–4) and second, the emergency custom of tracing the inheritance through the daughters (Numbers 27:1–11; Joshua 17:3–6).

This genealogy is strictly a vertically arranged genealogy, as though the Chronicler wants to get straight to his intended destination, Elishama. Not much is known about Elishama. If there are no gaps in this genealogy, then Elishama appears near the generation of David. This sequential arrangement suggests that he may have been David’s contemporary,5 but he may have been the scribe of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36:12, Jeremiah 36:20) or the person mentioned in 2 Kings 25:25. It may also be included since Egyptian blood is to be found in the line of Elishama. Whatever the case, the Chronicler saw fit to establish his status as an important Judahite perhaps because some questioned his status because an Egyptian was included in his ancestry. This is unlikely, however, because the Chronicler did have an inclusive and not an exclusive outlook toward foreigners being added to the covenant people of Israel.