Family lists and genealogies are a prominent part of 1 and 2 Chronicles and other Old Testament books. These genealogies were obviously important to Israel, and the Jews kept meticulous records.
One reason family history was important to Israel is that it proved one’s identity as a Jew, a partaker of the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and part of the people chosen by God. If a person was not a Jew, he or she could not truly be a Jewish citizen and participate in all of the aspects of Jewish life and culture.
Family history was also important due to where one lived. Each of the Jewish tribes had received a land inheritance in Israel. For a person to inherit land in a particular tribal area required evidence that he was descended from that particular tribe.
Genealogies were essential to proving whether a Jewish male could serve in the Levitical priesthood. Priests could only be from the tribe of Levi and descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses. If a man could not prove this connection, he was unable to serve as a priest.
A family’s history could also show an affiliation with people of significance. Today, people delight in finding proof that their ancestors are famous people, such as John Adams or Wyatt Earp. In the same way, a Jew descended from someone like Moses or Gideon was considered to possess a significant blessing.
Genealogies emphasized the importance of the family unit in Jewish culture. Traditional Jewish culture emphasized marriage between a man and a woman who were responsible for raising children and continuing the legacy of their family with the next generation. The Jews took seriously their responsibility to continue the line that would bring honor to the family name.
Finally, the genealogies of the Jews were important in tracing the line of the Messiah. The Old Testament made it clear that the Messiah would be the Son of David (see Matthew 22:42), so records of family history were vital. Matthew and Luke both include genealogies of Jesus in their Gospels to show Jesus’ connection to David. Matthew’s Gospel, written for Jews, traces Jesus’ genealogy to Abraham. Luke’s Gospel, written for Gentiles, traces Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to Adam.