It was an evening like most others—our pajama-clad children gathered around and we opened our Bibles for family worship. But this night, our study ran into a Bible genealogy. Should we pass it by, or dig in? After all, if a sermon on a genealogy—preached by a trained pastor—can seem like a “root canal or a trip to the DMV,” then what chance does a mom or dad have to successfully teach these texts to kids? And how can a genealogy help our children anyway?
These were good questions, but they were followed by better ones.
What if avoiding specific sections of Scripture is itself a lesson to our kids? Do we give the impression that only certain corners of the Bible are suited for families when we limit our studies to known, or easier-to-apply passages? And what fruit—if carefully gleaned—from these biblical family trees could nourish our growing disciples?
We moved forward with our family devotion and discovered three truths.
1. Genealogies Are Inspired
Being a mom has taught me this: what I think about the Bible is revealed in how I teach it to my kids. I can give theological lectures on the infallibility, inerrancy, and worth of God’s Word—but my heart-level judgment is seen in the ordinary context of bedtime devotions. How I approach the Scriptures in these everyday settings says a great deal to my children.
What I think about the Bible is revealed in how I teach it to my kids.
R. C. Sproul wrote, “It is one thing to give an intellectual assent to a proposition, but quite another to place personal trust in it.” If so, our family’s bedtime encounter with a genealogy came with an opportunity for self-examination: do I trust all Scripture is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16)? If yes, then why not study a Bible genealogy for our children’s benefit?
I believe the Bible was penned by human authors but was breathed out by God. The 66 books of Scripture were written by various authors from distinct historical periods and backgrounds. There is a diversity of original authors, and yet, these writers were all taught by the same Holy Spirit. Together they inscribed “God-breathed” words, the infallible measuring rod for the church.
Since God is the source of each word in Holy Scripture, each word bears divine authority. When we travel with our children through different books and genres, we help them (and ourselves) to remember that the whole Bible is inspired by God and useful for faith and practice—yes, even genealogies.
2. Genealogies Spotlight the Big Story
You may have heard this testimony before: a Christian grows up hearing isolated Bible stories. Later in life, she discovers these various accounts all fit together to proclaim one glorious gospel. She’s delighted to see God’s unfolding revelation in Scripture but wonders why she never saw this before. Parents hoping to make this testimony rare in their homes might find genealogies useful.
Children will not necessarily see the big picture of Scripture without some intentionality from their parents. They’re used to hearing self-contained storybooks and may be prone to view Bible characters as isolated and unrelated people. Abraham, Ruth, and David likely sound like stand-alone characters with no connection.
Of course, Bible narratives are distinct in that each has a unique context, as well as a specific intended meaning from the divine and human author. But these passages also sit within the broader context of the history of God’s unfolding redemption. This means that—historically and chronologically—the individual stories of Abraham, Ruth, and David come together to testify of one person: Jesus Christ, the mediator of our salvation (John 5:39).
Children will not see the big picture of Scripture without some intentionality from their parents.
If the goal of a parent is to paint a sequential gospel story, then how helpful is a passage like Matthew 1:1–17? This genealogy takes us from Abraham’s children to David (Ruth’s great-grandson); from Judah’s kings to the exile in Babylon; and from the post-exilic time to “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born” (Matt. 1:16).
Matthew’s genealogy gives our children a beautiful chronological sketch of God’s purposes in Israel’s history. This first chapter of the New Testament can help us to connect the dots for them: Jesus is the promised offspring of Abraham, and Ruth’s ultimate redeemer, and the eternal king on David’s throne. From the Old Testament to today, he fulfills every promise of God.
3. Genealogies Showcase Redemption
I recall the evening I taught the story of Queen Athaliah to my children. Our devotional book took us to 2 Kings 11:1–3 where we learned of this daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and her attempt to extinguish the royal house of Judah. Athaliah’s lust for power drives her to kill her own children and grandchildren. My kids, astonished by her callousness, asked: “Mommy, how can God bring good from something so evil?” Their question brought Bible genealogies to mind.
I remembered Athaliah was not the first to plot the extinction of God’s people.
Pharaoh had tried the same thing; and Herod, in the New Testament, would seek to do likewise. But they all failed. Pharaoh’s deadly decree in Exodus 1:22 is contrasted with Moses’s genealogy in Exodus 6:14–27. The listing of David’s descendants in 1 Chronicles 3:1–24 laughs in the face of Athaliah’s purge. Matthew’s genealogy, in chapter 1, assures us that Herod’s massacre, in chapter 2, won’t achieve its desired end. God raises up people like Athaliah, Herod, and Pharaoh “that [he] might show [his] power . . . in all the earth” (Rom. 9:17). Biblical genealogies boast of God’s prevailing strength over human schemes.
David, Solomon, Joash, Josiah, and Zerubbabel are names that contribute to the continuation of God’s ancient gospel promise in Genesis 3:15. The propagation of his people says no obstacle can hinder his redemption plan. Bible lineages remind us God’s Word proves true. These names we read encourage us to trust the coming consummation of all things.
God redeems real people in history. He is gathering the full number of his people home. Bible genealogies allow us to ask ourselves (and our children) great questions: Are we named among God’s people? Will we be gathered home to him one day?