When reading the Bible, there are an awful lot of names mentioned. Some of them are mentioned in passing while others are listed in a genealogical frenzy. So what is Biblical genealogy – and where can you find it?
Genealogy in the Bible is listed to show relation, inheritance, priesthood power, and that God is the same throughout time. Genealogies are given to many people and show relation to important prophets like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), Noah, Adam, Jesus, and others. Keep reading for more info.
Ready to learn more about genealogy in the Bible – and where to find it? Let’s go find it all together.
Biblical Genealogy – What is it and What Does it Mean?
The Bible is both a historical and religious record. Genealogy in the Bible exists to show proof of one or multiple of the following.
- Relation to important figures.
- Give authority through name relation and association.
- Prove the inheritance or value of an individual through relation and association.
- To show a right to rule or judge.
- Justification for actions due to relation.
- Track priesthood across generations (especially for the tribe of Levi and Levitical priesthood)
- To add another layer of meaning
- To reflect and associate previous stories with new people
- That God makes the same promises and covenants with people throughout time – that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- To show family relations – and that all of humanity is a family.
- Show miracles or promised prophesies (that involve genealogy) coming to pass.
Some stories use Biblical genealogy to do multiple things at once. For example, let’s take a look at King David. David’s genealogy is important to the narrative because he’s of the lineage of Judah – who was promised to be the ruler of the House of Israel. So not only does David’s lineage help a prophecy come true, but it’s also seen as an inherited right and justification for his rule.
Throughout the Bible, we can see that genealogical history is given many times. And each time, it’s drawing on one (or more) of the above factors to enhance the narrative – or give authority to the individual in question.
These same factors can be considered in today’s time – why do people share their family lineage with others? Why are they shared in stories? It’s to add another layer of meaning to the interaction or story in question.
Why Does the Bible Show Genealogies?
The Bible shows genealogies because they are inherently important, but also because they are important to the themes, stories, and history associated with the Bible.
Genealogies have historically been kept to show lineage and relation to important historical figures. In the Bible, it was important for people to show that they were descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – to show that they were part of the covenant people.
Genealogy was also important for the tribe of Levi to be able to trace their ancestry back to Aaron and his sons – to prove their right to hold the Priesthood. After all, any priest who couldn’t prove their lineage was removed from office, as seen in Ezra 2:62 and Nehemiah 7:64.
The Bible also uses history, genealogy, and stories to show that themes repeat themselves within a family. One of the biggest, most often repeated themes in the Bible is that humanity is flawed, but that with divine help, amazing things can happen. That theme isn’t always limited to a single, modern familial line, though. Rather, the Bible uses genealogy to show that we’re all part of the same family – and that we can all see and experience miracles if we have faith and believe in our Heavenly Father.
Beyond that, the Bible also shows genealogy for all modern reasons. To read more about why people study genealogy (throughout history and today), read our complete guide to why people study genealogy right here.
Whose Genealogies are Shown in the Bible?
There are a lot of genealogies shown in the Bible! Here is a list of whose genealogies you can trace in the Bible.
- Adam to Noah
- Descendants of Noah and his 3 sons (Ham, Shem, and Japheth)
- The genealogy of Shem to Abram (later renamed Abraham)
- Lineage from Abraham through Ishmael
- The genealogy of Jacob (later renamed Israel) from Abraham’s line
- Esau’s genealogy and lines
- Jacob’s ancestry and descendants
- The lineages of Jacob’s sons via the 12 tribes of Israel, including the leaders of the various tribes and subtribes
- The genealogy of various judges, important leaders, and prophets
- The genealogy of Jesus Christ
As you’re looking at these genealogies, you’ll notice that some of the lineages show a few differences in which line they emphasize. This is because each genealogy listed is focusing importance on different names to prove a different point through relation or inheritance. That’s totally normal – for both historical context and even today.
Where are Genealogies Found in the Bible?
If you want to find all of the genealogies in the Bible, the Bible Dictionary (contained within King James editions of Bibles printed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is probably your best resource. But even if you don’t have that resource, don’t worry! Here are the genealogies found in the Bible according to that source.
|Scriptural Reference||Genealogies Given|
|Genesis 5||The genealogies from Adam to Noah.|
|Genesis 10||The descendants of Noah and his 3 sons (Ham, Shem, and Japheth).|
|Genesis 11||The genealogy of Shem down to Abram (Abraham).|
|Genesis 25||The descendency of Abraham through Ishmael – followed by Ishmael’s lineage and the beginning of Jacob’s family line.|
|Genesis 36||The genealogy of Esau.|
|Genesis 46||Jacob’s genealogy.|
|Exodus 6||The lineages of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi.|
|Numbers 1||The lineages, counts, and genealogies of the tribes of Israel.|
|Numbers 26||Multiple chapters show the counts of the various tribes as well as genealogies.|
|Joshua 14-19||How the promised land of inheritance is divvied between the tribes of Israel.|
|1 Chronicles 1-9||So. Many. Names. There’s a lot of genealogy going on here – it’s a recap of all the genealogy of all the tribes of Israel so far!|
|Ezra 2||The genealogy of the Jews who were taken captive in Babylon and returned to Judah.|
|Ezra 2:62||“These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.”|
|Nehemiah 7||The genealogy of Jews who returned from Babylon.|
|Nehemiah 7:64||“These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.”|
|Matthew 1||The genealogy of Jesus Christ through Joseph’s line. This lineage was intended for the Jewish leaders and to prove that Jesus, as descended from Judah and David, was the promised Messiah and literal King.|
|Luke 3||The genealogy of Jesus Christ (also through Joseph’s line) was intended for the world in general.|
Now, remember that not every listed genealogy will list all the same names – that’s normal. And, in regards to Jesus’ genealogy (and how it’s different in Matthew 1 and Luke 3), we’ll discuss that a little bit later on in this article.
When are Biblical Genealogies Important?
Genealogy is always important! So when it’s listed in the Bible, it’s always important. Now, the importance of those names (and those people’s stories) may have been lost to us today. Or perhaps they aren’t lost – and we just don’t know them yet.
In either case, those names are always listed for a reason. And it’s up to us to discover why they were important enough to be mentioned.
That’s going to mean a whole lot of research, though. And there’s plenty enough to research, so it’s totally fine to pick and choose where you start your research. Just be sure to pick and stick with reliable resources for doing that research. Thankfully, there are a lot of fantastic Biblical and scholarly resources out there.
If you need a great place to start, I’d recommend that you check out the Interpreter Foundation. They focus on scriptural texts from a scholarly point of view. Please note, however, that they focus on the entirety of the scriptures that are used by members of the Church of Jesus Christ. In other words, they’ll have not only Biblical-based articles but also other scriptures, including the Book of Mormon.
However, they do reference Bible-only-based scholars, so it’s still a great first resource to search. You can reach the Interpreter Foundation’s website by clicking here.
The Genealogies of Jesus Christ
While the main genealogies of Jesus Christ can be found in either Matthew 1-4 or Luke 3, there’s still an awful lot to unpack by digging into those lineages. Far more than we can cover in even one article! Even so, let’s make sure you’ve got a great idea of where to start – and some of our favorite resources for more information.
But let’s start by looking at the genealogies of Jesus Christ according to the New Testament. We’ll go in chronological order and compare Matthew and Luke in the following table that outlines the genealogies of Jesus Christ.
The Genealogy of Jesus Christ
We’ve tried to set up a comparison of the two genealogies. However, because we’re still students of Biblical genealogy, too, you’ll notice a few spots where there are blanks (signified as a – dash).
- A single dash means that that data isn’t included in the textual genealogy.
- A double dash means that we’re not sure how these timelines match up – and there’s some space to fill.
What can I say? We’re still learning, too. If you know how we can better line this up, be sure to contact us and let us know.
|Matthew 3||Luke 3|
|–||Adam, the son of God|
|Booz (Boaz)||Booz (Boaz)|
So of the two genealogies, Luke gives far more names. It’s possible that he gives a more thorough genealogy. Or it could be that the difference is explainable in the two differing lineages. Or it could be something else.
So far, the main something else is a simple difference: it may have to do with the audience that the author is hoping to reach.
Matthew, for example, writes for a Jewish audience. His narrative, therefore, focuses on how the life of Christ fulfills certain Old Testament prophecies. Therefore, the genealogy in Matthew is used to support that purpose.
Luke, on the other hand, writes to the Gentiles and the world. So the genealogy he lists ties Christ back to Adam, who is the first man.
So now back to those other factors, let’s look into some great resources about Jesus’ genealogy.
Resources about the Genealogies of Christ
Here are our favorite, free, online resources (all made available by the Church of Jesus Christ) that give great background information and other knowledge that will help you better understand the importance, significance, and names of Jesus Christ’s genealogy.
- The New Testament Student Manual (online version)
- The New Testament Come Follow Me curriculum
- Information about The Abrahamic Covenant by S. Michael Wilcox (from the Church Ensign magazine)
- Gabriel’s Annunciation of John and of Jesus from chapter 7 of James E. Talmage’s book “Jesus the Christ.”
- From the Church Ensign: “How do we interpret scriptures in the New Testament that seem to condemn genealogy?”
This is by no means a be-all, end-all, exhaustive list. But it is a great list of free and reputable resources to start your learning adventure.
The Genealogies of the Old Testament
The usual genealogies in the old testament are given such that it gets back to the most recent, important historical figure.
So in the first five books of the Old Testament, the most important figures are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and (to a lesser extent) Moses. In later sections of the Old Testament, other important figures include King David, Solomon, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Because the Old Testament is a forward-moving story that builds on itself, one section may focus on getting the genealogy back to the most recent, important historical figure. That’s because they know that you can go earlier in the books to take that genealogy back even further.
For example, Isaac’s genealogy will go to his father, Abraham. Then, you can search earlier in the Bible to take Abraham’s genealogy back to Noah. Then, you can find Noah’s genealogies back to Adam. Later in the books of the Bible, David’s genealogy will be listed back to Judah, who was the son of Jacob (and Abraham’s grandson).
It’s pretty convoluted, but at least it’s fairly consistent. The factors to remember when reading genealogies in the Old Testament seem to be these:
- Not every line gets mentioned.
- Some lines get more focus than others.
- Not every ancestor is listed.
- The names of women progenitors are rarely mentioned unless they’re part of a significant story that’s also mentioned in the Bible – like Ruth and how she married Booz (Boaz) to become the mother of Obed, who was David’s grandfather.
- There are not a lot of timelines or dates used, which can make tracing things a lot harder for those of us who like dates.
So as you’re looking for specific lineages of the Old Testament, remember: they are there. But they aren’t by any means complete. And, as they’re used to enhance a story, there may be some issues with transparency – as storytellers may have skipped an ancestor or two they’d rather not mention or even forget. However, the validity of this is a topic for a whole other post!
Even so, looking at the genealogy of the Old Testament can be a fascinating exercise – and it’s a lot of work to map it all out. But if you’ve got the time, inclination, and desire to do so? Go for it. Have fun doing some old-school genealogy and research. And, in that case, welcome to the genealogy nerd club.
Why is Jesus’ genealogy different in Matthew and Luke? The names listed for Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew and Luke each focus on different lines, hence their notable and inherent differences.
What is the purpose of genealogy today? Genealogy has been used throughout history to prove lineage for purposes of inheritance, importance, and in governance. The modern genealogy shows us that we are all important and every person’s story is worth remembering. For more on the history of genealogy, read our article on it here.
Where can I do my own genealogy? To do your own genealogy, select a genealogy site or software to store, research, and report your family history. The best free software to start with is FamilySearch.org. Other good resources include Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, RootsMagic, and Legacy Family Tree. For more on genealogical software, read our complete guide here.