Sermon on Acts 6:14-27 – “The Genealogy of Moses and Aaron”

Sermon for Sunday, March 8th, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Exo 6:14-27 ESV] 14 These are the heads of their fathers’ houses: the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the clans of Reuben. 15 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman; these are the clans of Simeon. 16 These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, the years of the life of Levi being 137 years. 17 The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shimei, by their clans. 18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, the years of the life of Kohath being 133 years. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites according to their generations. 20 Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being 137 years. 21 The sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri. 22 The sons of Uzziel: Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri. 23 Aaron took as his wife Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 24 The sons of Korah: Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph; these are the clans of the Korahites. 25 Eleazar, Aaron’s son, took as his wife one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites by their clans. 26 These are the Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said: “Bring out the people of Israel from the land of Egypt by their hosts.”

New Testament reading:

[1Ti 1:1-7 ESV] 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Gospel reading:

[Luk 1:5-7 ESV] 5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

 

I. Details of the Genealogy

We come now in our series on the book of Exodus to the genealogy of Moses and Aaron.

Before we look consider the purpose and meaning of this section, I want to look at the details of the genealogy itself.

And so I have printed off copies in the bulletin of an outline of the genealogy. Each level of indent represent a generation (or as we’ll see) multiple generations.

So Israel is first and three of his sons are mentioned. Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. We know of course that there are 12 sons of Israel. But only the first three here are mentioned. The goal is to get to Levi, for it is from him that the lineage of Moses and Aaron is traced. So the author (Moses) first notes the eldest son Reuben, then the second eldest Simeon and each their children. But he then gets to Levi. He doesn’t then continue with the other sons, but that can be found in other genealogies in the Bible.

From Levi we step another generation to his sons Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The intent of this genealogy is not to list every connection, but to focus down to Moses and especially Aaron and his sons, who are the priests.

Some of the ages at death are mentioned. Levi 137 years. Kohath 133 years. Amram 137 years.

It can be challenging to understand how all of the generations and dates in the Bible line up chronologically.

Especially here in Exodus 6 is there some problems to solve regarding the numbers.

In Genesis 15:13, God tells Abraham, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.”

This is repeated in Acts 7:6 – “And God spoke to this effect–that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years.”

You remember in the Genesis account that is is the youngest son Joseph who first goes to Egypt; he is sold into slavery by his brothers. In time his brothers settle in Egypt as well. The father Jacob, and the whole family move down as well. Jacob, according to Genesis 47:28 lived in Egypt for 17 years before he dies and has his body buried back in Canaan.

And the people were free all those 17 years; in fact for 30 years were they free before coming slaves.

They were ENSLAVED for 400 years, but the ENTIRE time the Israelites lived in Egypt was 430 years. (Exodus 12:40-41, Galatians 3:17)

In Genesis 15:16, God tells Abraham, “And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

Well, these must be fairly long generations!

And so some have suppose that this account in Exodus skips some generations; that a “father” is really a grandfather or great-grandfather.

But that isn’t necessary. In fact, it would cause more problems than it would solve.

In our Exodus passage we see that it is indeed the fourth Generation. There is Levi-Kohath-Amram-Moses. Four generations.

And we’re given the lifespans, of only one line, and no others. That must be intentional. They are 137, 133, and 137 years. And Moses is now 80 years old, and Aaron is 83.

Unfortunately for making a nice chronology we don’t have the ages of each father when the respective son was born.

But there are enough years in the cumulative total ages of Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses to accommodate the 430 years they were in Egypt.

So there is no need to say that Moses omitted generations in this account.

It does mean though that these men were generally fathering children in their 90s or 100s. But that doesn’t seem out of the question, as it seems that Moses was having children in Midian not long before he left back for Egypt and he was about 80 at the time.

All this to say, I don’t find there to be any “problems” here. And so is there no reason to get creative (as some have done) on solutions to a problem that isn’t there.

II. Four things to Learn from this Passage

You might be thinking, “Pastor, how are you going to preach on this!?” Maybe it seems a bit like preaching on the phone book. It’s just a list of names! Right?

Well there are some things that can be learned.

1. Genealogies tell us that these were real people!

No one is going to detail such a genealogy for a fictional character. You might hear that King Arthur’s father was Uther Pendragon, but you’ll never hear of his grandfather or great-grandfather. Well, actually the legend gets murkier and the name Constantine III is given as Arthur’s grandfather in one place, but any further back than that and there is no genealogy.

In Luke 1:5, part of our Gospel reading, we see that Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, married his wife Elizabeth who was “from the daughters of Aaron.” Though it had been 1500 years, the genealogies were kept and known.

So interested in genealogies were the Jews that some took it too far, causing Paul charged not to be devote to “endless genealogies.” He says much the say in Titus: “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”

2. Outsiders may be grafted in to the people of Israel

Shaul is called a “son of a Canaanite woman.” Yet, there is every indication that he is accepted as among the people of God.

We find this happen a number of times in the Old Testament.

Caleb (a Kenizzite)

Rahab (a Canaanite)

Ruth (a Moabite)

Yet they each are worshippers of God and are included among the People of God, though they are not descended from Israel.

These are small foreshadowings of the eventual prophecy that the Gentiles (in mass) will grafted in.

While God remembered his covenant and promised to be their God, it is clear in the Scriptures that salvation comes not from physical descent but from spiritual rebirth, and that the Lord causes many to be born again who are of all nations.

All of this is indicated in just a small way in the mention of Shaul the “son of a Canaanite woman.”

God did not want the Israelites to intermarry. This is not because of any racism, but in order to keep them from worshipping the false gods of the other nations.

Outsiders may be grafted into the people of God. And if you were not raised in a Christian family, yet God brings you into His church and makes you part of of His family. We can take great comfort in this.

What else can be learned from the genealogy of Exodus 6?

3. The focus is on Aaron to provide credibility

That is the purpose of this passage: to provide credibility for Aaron.

While Moses has “uncircumcised lips,” Aaron does not. He is a capable speaker and a worthy priest. Even his son Eleazar and Eleazar’s son Phinehas, both high-priests, are mentioned. In the genealogy no one else is so focused on as Aaron.

Jesus also has a genealogy given in both Matthew and Luke. He too is a priest. He too has credibility. In fact, he is fulfilling prophecy in his descent from David the King. And Jesus is not a descendant of Aaron, but is a priest of the order of Melchizedek.

What else can be learned from the genealogy of Exodus 6?

4. Biblical Genealogies Teach us About God

Man is finite. The genealogies of Genesis always say for each person “and he died.” Over and over – “and he died.” “and he died.” And so did he.

But God is there from generation to generation, blessing His people, remembering His covenant.

And guess what? The people are always sinners. Those listed in these generations are not perfect people, but they are God’s people, forgiven in the promise of Jesus Christ who was then yet to come.

Conclusion:

Every passage and every verse of the Bible is there for a reason. So don’t overlook these genealogies. There is important information there, and it is all there for a purpose.

 

This is part of the true real history of the people of God. God’s chosen are not limited to descendants of Israel. Aaron and Moses are legitimate. And God is the most legitimate, with power over all and with great mercy and grace in forgiving sins through Jesus Christ from generation to generation. Praise be to God. Amen.