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Smith's Bible Dictionary

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Genealogy

In Hebrew the term for genealogy or pedigree is "the book of the generations;" and because the oldest histories were usually drawn up on a genealogical basis, the expression often extended to the whole history, as is the case with the Gospel of St. Matthew, where "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ" includes the whole history contained in that Gospel. The promise of the land of Canaan to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob successively, and the separation of the Israelites from the Gentile world; the expectation of Messiah as to spring from the tribe of Judah; the exclusively hereditary priesthood of Aaron with its dignity and emoluments; the long succession of kings in the line of David; and the whole division and occupations of the land upon genealogical principles by the tribes, occupation of the land upon genealogical principles by the tribes, families and houses of fathers, gave a deeper importance to the science of genealogy among the Jews than perhaps any other nation. When Zerubbabel brought back the captivity from Babylon, one of his first cares seems to have been to take a census of those that returned, and to settle them according to their genealogies. Passing on to the time of the birth of Christ, we have a striking incidental proof of the continuance of the Jewish genealogical economy in the fact that when Augustus ordered the census of the empire to be taken, the Jews in the province of Syria immediately went each one to his own city. The Jewish genealogical records continued to be kept till near the destruction of Jerusalem. But there can be little doubt that the registers of the Jewish tribes and families perished at the destruction of Jerusalem, and not before. It remains to be said that just notions of the nature of the Jewish genealogical records are of great importance with a view to the right interpretation of Scripture. Let it only be remembered that these records have respect to political and territorial divisions as much as to strictly genealogical descent, and it will at once be seen how erroneous a conclusion it may be that all who are called "sons" of such or such a patriarch or chief father must necessarily be his very children. Of any one family or house became extinct, some other would succeed to its place, called after its own chief father. Hence of course a census of any tribe drawn up at a later period would exhibit different divisions from one drawn up at an earlier. The same principle must be borne in mind in interpreting any particular genealogy Again, when a pedigree was abbreviated, it would naturally specify such generations as would indicates from what chief houses the person descended. Females are named in genealogies when there is anything remarkable about them, or when any right or property is transmitted through them. See (Genesis 11:29; 22:23; 25:1-4; 35:22-26; Exodus 6:23; Numbers 26:33)


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Bibliography Information
Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Genealogy'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary".
<http://classic.studylight.org/dic/sbd/view.cgi?number=T1641>. 1901.

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