Kids Need Genealogies

For a while, my daughter only wanted to listen to Ruth and Jonah in the car. Both books are short and using a dramatized audio Bible (this one) made them into immersive experiences. Jonah is obviously captivating for the frightening storm and unexpected fish, and while not as action-packed, Ruth contains a large amount of dialogue for which the dramatized version uses different voice actors. Therefore, they both hold the attention of a three-year-old quite well.

As we listened to these short books over and over again, I tried to make comments and raise questions to help her understand a little more of what is being described. In Jonah, this included noting how Jonah was supposed to obey God but does not pray to God until he is inside the fish’s stomach and how he asks for death whenever the Ninevites repent of their sins. In Ruth, one of these places happened to be the genealogy of Perez at the end of the book.

Genealogies have a bad reputation for being some of the most boring pieces of Scripture, and you will hear few arguments from me to the contrary, at least regarding the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles. Listening to the concluding genealogy of Ruth reminded me, however, of the vital importance that they play in understanding the overall narrative of the Bible. What’s more, it also convinced me that genealogies are a valuable tool for discipling our children in their knowledge of the Word.

Consider, after all, the importance of Ruth’s genealogy. The book begins by informing us that its events occurred during the time of the Judges, which is one of darkest books of the Bible. Therefore, Ruth begins by designating itself as a ray of light in a dark world. Judges is one long downward spiral into increasingly grievous sin among God’s people, whereas Ruth presents ordinary and faithful followers of the LORD, even in the midst brokenness like famine and death. All of this alone would be significant enough to grasp Ruth’s role within the biblical canon; however, the genealogy takes things even further by tracing the lineage of Perez (Judah’s son) through Boaz and Ruth to King David.

Éowyn knows some of David’s life and that he is an important figure in the Bible; therefore, this final name-drop served as a grounding connection for her. Knowing that Ruth was David’s great-grandmother helps to attach the story to her larger, ever-expanding understanding of the Bible as a whole.

This process continued whenever I introduced her to the song Christ by Poor Bishop Hooper, which is a marvelously musical rendition of Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (in fact, Firstborn is now my favorite Christmas themed album). When listening to the song for the first time, I paused after the mention of Boaz and Ruth to note with wonder to Éowyn that she knows their story. At various other listens, I would do something similar with Abraham at the beginning, with David in the middle, or with Zerubbabel (who we heard while listening to the book of Haggai). Jesus’s genealogy is a remarkably efficient way of showing her how some of the most important people in the Bible connect together by belonging to one large family.

Most importantly, Jesus’ genealogy also shows how Abraham, Ruth, David, and Zerubbabel are all pointing to Christ. The thread of the biblical narrative is laid out succinctly, and Jesus is plainly stated to be the goal of it all. Thus, teaching children the genealogies of the Bible, particularly Jesus’ genealogy, is an invaluable tool for helping them to see the overall scope and narrative of Scripture.

Of course, if we want our kids to see the value of something, we must lead by example. This means that we must first see the beauty in the genealogies and the vast, meaningful, God-ordained history that they represent. This means that we must know and understand the 30,000-foot snapshot of the Bible that Jesus’ genealogy provides. This means that we should probably have that particularly important list of names memorized. Thankfully with songs like Christ or Matthew’s Begats by Andrew Peterson, learning such a long list of names requires much less dry, rote memorization.

Brother and sisters, the genealogies of the Bible are not interruptions into the scriptural storyline; they are steady reminders of God’s providential hand throughout each generation of humanity to culminate into our Savior and King, Jesus.

Soon, I will also teach my daughter that Jesus’ genealogy runs forward as well, with thousands upon thousands of different branches, and that we are part of His family, with Abraham, David, Ruth, Zerubbabel, Paul, Augustine, Katherine Luther, and a multitude of others. Being adopted by the Father in Christ, the genealogies are now our lineage, our list of ancestors. May we, therefore, know them well and also teach them to our children.

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