How to Read a Bible Genealogy

Bible Genealogies are the dullest of all Bible reading. On the first day of teaching my first class in Bible reading, somebody asked me, “Do we have to read the genealogies?”

“Yes,” I assured him. “We are reading the Bible, every word.”

It seems like nobody likes genealogies, except me of course. I enjoy them. But then, I’m a genealogist. I spent about fifteen years on my own genealogy, looking at Danish birth, death, and marriage records until I reached Gorm the Old, the first king of Denmark. Every Dane wants to be descended from him, so I got pretty cheerful when I found the link.

But there’s more. One of my ancestors is a woman named Adele of Flanders. Her family tree goes back to 397 AD and includes such luminaries as Alfred the Great and Charlemagne.

So here I am, little Ellen, a direct descendant of Gorm, Al, and Charlie. Who couldn’t love genealogy?

In truth, lots and lots of people don’t love genealogy, so here are some of my tips for getting the most out of them, even if you don’t like them.

Don’t Let the Names Trip You Up

First, if the names are too difficult for you, don’t try to struggle through them on your own. Trying to sound them out will slow you down and discourage you. We have the technology today that can help you. Call up an online Bible that has an audio version, and listen to somebody else read the difficult passages while you follow along.

I highly recommend downloading the app from YouVersion. Find the passage you want. In the upper right corner you’ll find a play button. Click on that and you’re good to go. If you don’t see a play button, try another translation since they aren’t all supported with audio.

When you listen, be sure to follow along in your Bible. It will help you learn the difficult names and pronunciations.  Even better, if you read aloud as you follow along, you’ll be a pronunciation pro in no time.

Note how the genealogy is organized

Unless they are very short, Bible genealogies don’t follow a linear pattern. For example, Genesis chapter 10, lists the descendants of Adam, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. First, beginning in verse 2, it lists the descendants of Japheth. Then in verse 6, it goes back and lists the descendants of Ham, and in verse 21 it goes back again and lists the descendants of Shem.

You’ll see that sort of pattern in all of the genealogies unless they are only tracing one branch.  Sometimes it can be a bit tricky figuring the pattern out, but give it your best try.

Make a Game of It

I have a blog post called Genealogy Fun. I found all kinds of interesting things in the genealogies in Genesis 5, 10, and 11.  See if you can answer my trivia-type questions. Make up your own little quizzes if you have time.

Don’t Lose Heart

If genealogies aren’t your thing, or if you feel overwhelmed, bored, or anything else, don’t let it bother you.  Your assignment is to read the Bible, every word. So, read the boring chapter! When you’ve read it, you’re done! That’s enough. You’ve read every word. Move on to the next chapter.

You’ll discover, as I have, that each pass gets a little easier.

P.S.  And don’t forget to order your own copy of The Bible Reading Revolution.