Abraham’s Tree

SDA JournalDevotional


Scripture: And Abraham begot Isaac. The sons of Isaac were Esau and Israel.    (1 Chr 1:34 NKJV)

Observation: This is one of the driest portions of the Bible, mainly because it just consists of lists of names, a genealogical chart of the generations since the creation of Adam to the date of the writing of this book.  Here and there you may find a short account of a prominent person, but for several chapters there are lists, and more lists.  The text today points to one of the best known family tree, that of Abraham.

Application: As part of my doctoral dissertation I wrote the following:
One way marriage and family therapists, maybe even trained clergy people, can discover unhealthy family patterns transmitted from one generation to the next is by the use of a Genogram.  A Genogram is a pictorial display of a person’s family relationships and medical history, and goes beyond a traditional family tree by showing hereditary patterns and psychological factors that punctuate relationships. It can be used to identify repetitive patterns of behavior and to recognize hereditary tendencies.  A Genogram could help one understand the meaning of the words of God through Moses, “You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:5 NKJV).  While some look at this text as God’s way of punishing succeeding generations for the sins of their fathers, it seems as if what God was trying to show was that the sins, habits, practices of one generation are transmitted to others and often get worse.  The editors of the Seventh-day Adventist Commentary explain:
     A distinction should be made, however, between the natural results of a sinful course of action, and punishment inflicted because of it (PP 306). God does not penalize one individual for the wrong deeds of another (Ezekiel. 18:2–24). Each man stands before God, responsible only for his own acts. At the same time God does not interfere with the laws of heredity in such a way as to protect one generation from the misdeeds of its fathers, as that would be inconsistent with His character and His principles of dealing with men. It is only through these laws of heredity, which were of course ordained by the Creator in the beginning (see Gen. 1:21, 24, 25), that divine justice visits the “iniquity” of one generation upon the next.
     No one can escape completely the consequences of dissipation, disease, profligacy, evil doing, ignorance, and bad habits handed down by preceding generations. The descendants of degraded idolaters and the offspring of evil and vicious men generally begin life under the handicap of physical and moral sin, and harvest the fruit of seed sown by their parents. Juvenile delinquency proves the truth of the second commandment. Environment also has a decided effect upon each rising generation. But since God is gracious and just, we may trust Him to deal fairly with each person, making due allowance for the disadvantages of birth, the inherited predispositions, and the influence of previous environment upon character. His justice and mercy require this (Ps. 87:6; Luke 12:47, 48; John 15:22; Acts 17:30; 2 Cor. 8:12). At the same time our aim is to be victorious over every inherited and cultivated tendency to evil (COL 315,  330, 331; DA 671).
     God “visits,” or “appoints,” the results of iniquity, not vindictively, but to teach sinners that a wrong course of action inevitably brings unfortunate results.
     In the Bible there is the history of several prominent families, patriarchs of the Jewish, Christian, and even Muslim faiths.  When these families are studied, and with the help of a Genogram, it’s clear to see some of the unhealthy patterns transmitted from one generation to several generations that followed.  One of the examples is the family of David, as seen in the Genogram below.  At least three patterns or themes become evident from one generation to the next.
     i. The first is their heart or religion.  Although we don’t know much about Jesse, David’s father, he must have been a devoted believer in God (1 Samuel 16).  God referred to David as a man “after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14 NKJV).  However, he also committed a doubly-grievous sin when he sinned with Bathsheba and then plotted to have her husband, Uriah, killed. His son, Solomon, was responsible for the actual construction of God’s temple and asks for wisdom and is granted the answer to his prayers plus riches and power as well.  However, Solomon married hundreds of wives who led him to mix the worship of God to that of pagan deities.  By the time of the next generation Rehoboam, son of Solomon, ignores God completely and practices idolatry of the worst kinds, like other nations around Israel.
     ii. A second pattern or theme that can be seen through the Genogram of David’s family is that of sexual sin.  Much like people and rulers of the time, David marries several wives and even commits adultery with Bathsheba before marrying her.  His oldest son, Ammon, commits sexual immorality, possible forcible rape, with his half-sister Tamar.  David’s other son, Solomon, continues with this pattern by marrying seven hundred wives and adding three hundred concubines to his retinue (1 Kings 11:3).  Following him, Solomon’s son Rehoboam had eighteen wives and sixty concubines (2 Chronicles 11:21).
     iii. Another pattern is the family division and sibling rivalry present in every generation.  David has some problems with his older brothers who don’t think much of him (1 Samuel 16-17).  Absalom, one of his sons, murders one of his brothers, Ammon as revenge for raping his sister Tamar.  Later Absalom rebels against his own father and goes out in pursuit of him but is tragically killed by one of David’s generals.  Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, continues this pattern of rebellion and disobedience to God so Israel is divided into two with ten tribes to the north and two to the south.  Eventually both separate kingdoms are conquered by surrounding nations and the people either taken captive or scattered.
     This knowledge of family history through the use of Genograms  is very important, as Scazzero writes, because “sin is passed on from generation to generation.  God allows this story to be recorded to sober us to take a deep, hard look inside (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:6).  The implication for church life is clear: It is impossible to help people break free from their past apart from understanding the families in which they grew up.  Unless people grasp the power of the past on who they are  in the present, they will inevitably replicate those patterns in relationships inside and outside the church.”

A Prayer You May Say: Father, may we learn from our past so we don’t repeat with our children mistakes and sins that will continue to be transmitted for many more generations in the future.

Used by permission of Adventist Family Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.



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