An Open Notebook

Museums: An Analogy of History

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Andrew Tobolowsky writes in “Reading Genesis Through Chronicles: The Creation of the Sons of Jacob” that “the display of artifacts in a museum itself is not a neutral activity. [N]ewer studies constantly remind us that museums are not neutral. While they collect and conserve, classify and display, research and educate, they also deliver messages and make arguments.”

In general, Tobolowsky’s wishes to give a broader warning about history. It is not entirely a neutral activity. Everyone uses words, history, and tradition, for good or bad, to solve social problems today and address the concerns of the future. Whenever anybody argues with another, have you noticed, that they often attempt to do so rationally–pointing towards a particular vision of history?

Chronicles is no different, though we should be far more optimistic than Tobolowsky is about its contents, and their ability to point towards truths.

With its nine-chapter genealogy (which most modern readers skip over), the Chronicler starts his own project of history by collecting the genealogies of Scripture in an accessible way, that any reader could trace genealogies. And, in doing so, it gives emphasis to the descendants of Jehoichin, the king who ended the Book of Kings, demonstrating true faith in Yahweh recognizes his faithfulness.

In other words, the genealogy is not merely for historical record (like a Museum), but to make a statement about the world today. The point of constructing the genealogy from the beginnings of the world is to show how faithful God is to have delivered (‘exodused’) his people.

Like a museum, the book has been curated to emphasize this fact, beginning and ending the book with God’s faithfulness from Adam, Noah, until now. God did not obliterate the world (in the flood), but has stayed faithful to his promises of the past and the future by preserving Israel. That’s what the genealogy is for; it’s a museum of God’s faithfulness towards particular people, the generations of their descendants, and human life.

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