II. THE GENEALOGY OF PEREZ (4:18–22)
18 Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, 1
19 Hezron was father of Ram, 2 Ram the father of Amminadab,
20 Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmah,
21 Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed,
22 Obed the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David.
This genealogy constitutes the book’s third and final ending (cf. 4:13, 17b). Storytelling gives way to an ancestral list running from Perez to David (vv. 18b–22). In form, the section has two parts: an introductory genealogical formula (v. 18a, weʾēlleh tôleḏôṯ, “Now these are the descendants of”) and the genealogy itself (vv. 18b–22). Nine times the latter reports that someone was the father of (hôlîḏ ʾeṯ-, lit. “caused to be born”) a son. Strikingly, it also lists exactly ten generations, five between Perez and Nahshon (the pre-Mosaic era) and five between Salmah and David (the post-Mosaic era). Comparison with other lists (cf. 1 Chr. 2) suggests the omission here of several intervening ancestors (see below). Apparently, the author tailored the genealogy to fit a ten-member scheme, a schema typical of ancient royal genealogies such as this one. 3 Perez probably heads the list because his clan dominated the tribe of Judah and the city of Bethlehem. Literarily, of course, his mention follows up the reference to “the house of Perez” (4:12a), implying that David’s kingship fulfilled the crowd’s good wishes for Boaz. 4
18 The genealogical formula (see above) introduces the list of Perez’s descendants (Now these are the descendants). 5 Elsewhere the phrase occurs primarily as a key structural signal in Genesis that critical scholars attribute to the Priestly writer (P). Though derived from yld (“give birth”), tôleḏôṯ (lit. “begettings”) apparently means “story, history” when the formula opens (Gen. 6:9; 37:2) or concludes (2:4a) narratives, and it means “descendants” when it introduces lists of sons (10:1; 25:12; 36:9) and narratives with genealogical interest (11:10, 27; 25:19; 36:1; Num. 3:1). The latter sense fits here, although besides Gen. 2:4a this is the only case where the genealogy comes after, rather than begins, a narrative. Its usage in Genesis suggests that the formula theologically signals that the list which follows stands under God’s blessing, a blessing expressed in numerical fruitfulness. 6 That nuance is also suitable here.
The son of Perez was Hezron, an ancestor of whom little is known. Apparently he was born in Canaan since Gen. 46:12 lists him among those who migrated with Jacob to Egypt. 7 The Hezronite clan (Num. 26:21) is named for and presumably descends from him. The etymology of the parent Hebrew root (ḥṣr) is uncertain, but Arabic cognates suggest several possible derivations. 8 The connection of the name with two towns in southern Judah (Hezron, Josh. 15:3; Kerioth-hezron, Josh. 15:25) is equally uncertain.
19 The son of Hezron was Ram, a name derived from rûm (“to be high, exalted”), a common Semitic root often found in proper names. 9 Ram was probably the second son born to Hezron (cf. 1 Chr. 2:9, 25; Matt. 1:4; Luke 3:33). 10 Beyond that, his only distinction is his paternity of Amminadab, about whom slightly more is known. Amminadab is the only sentence name in the genealogy (lit. “my kinsman is generous, noble”), a pattern typical of patriarchal names. 11 The biblical tradition remembers him only as the father-in-law of Aaron the high priest (Exod. 6:23) and as father of the very distinguished Nahshon (Num. 1:7; 2:3; 7:12, 17; Num. 10:14; 1 Chr. 2:10; Matt. 1:4; Luke 3:33; see further below).
20–21 Among the ancestors listed here, only the reputations of David and Boaz outstripped that of Nahshon, son of Amminadab. His name probably means “little serpent” (i.e., nāḥāš [“serpent”] plus diminutive ending, -ôn). 12 He was the brother-in-law of Aaron, who married his sister Elisheba (Exod. 6:23), and he emerged as tribal chief (Heb. nāśîʾ, “prince”) of Judah when selected to assist Moses in the first census of Israel in the wilderness (Num. 1:7; cf. Num. 2:3). 13 When Israel dedicated the tabernacle, he presented Judah’s dedicatory offering—the first tribal leader to do so (7:12, 17), probably an indication of his high social prominence. When the tribe of Judah led Israel’s departure for Canaan, Nahshon was at their head (10:14). Years later, the Chronicler remembered him as “leader [neśîʾ] of the sons of Judah” (1 Chr. 2:10; cf. Matt. 1:4; Luke 3:32).
It may be significant that Nahshon was precisely the fifth ancestor listed. Some ancient genealogies reserved the fifth spot for an ancestor deemed worthy of special honor, though, to be sure, honor still secondary to the person occupying the seventh position. 14 Descent from this illustrious ancestor probably helped David’s monarchical claim in two ways. On the one hand, it recalled the emergence of Judah as Israel’s leading tribe as far back as the Mosaic era. On the other, it indicated that David came from one of Judah’s leading families.
Less illustrious was his son (perhaps grandson?), whose name the MT spells both as śalmâ (v. 20) and śalmôn (v. 21). Compounding this complexity, the name is śalmāʾ in 1 Chr. 2:11, and the versions again show perplexing diversity. 15 The -ôn endings in the names Hezron and Nahshon certainly could have led a careless copyist to write Salmon here in v. 21. Thus, on the one hand, the temptation to harmonize the text through emendation beckons. On the other hand, the persistence of these variant spellings suggests that they may all have been accepted spellings of the same name. 16 If so, their variations represent simply the use of different endings (-ʾ, -â, -ôn, -ay) with the root ślm. 17 This root is commonly (though not satisfactorily) related to śalmâ, “garment.” 18 Whatever his name’s original spelling and meaning, the OT reports nothing else about Salmah/Salmon except that he fathered Boaz (v. 21; 1 Chr. 2:11), who in turn was father of Obed (v. 21; 1 Chr. 2:11–12). 19 It is no accident that Boaz is the seventh ancestor named. Ancient genealogical practice reserved that spot for the ancestor of special honor and importance. This placement implies a thematic link between Boaz, hero of the story, and Boaz, revered ancestor of David. 20 In effect, it accords him special heroic honors for rescuing a faltering family line from extinction.
At this point a brief comment concerning chronology is in order. If Nahshon was a contemporary of Moses, considerably more than the list’s five remaining generations would intervene between Moses and David. Since David’s reign began ca. 1000 B.C., an “early” date for the Exodus (ca. 1450 B.C.) would place 450 years between them, a “late” date (ca. 1250 B.C.) about 250 years. 21 If each man fathered his son at age 30, however, only 150 years would have elapsed. As noted above, the genealogy obviously has gaps, a common phenomenon in such lists in the Bible. If the short genealogy (v. 17b) is any clue, such gaps would likely fall either between Nahshon and Salmah/Salmon or between the latter and Boaz, since presumably no gaps separate the last four names. 22 As for the pre-Mosaic names, 150 years for five generations probably falls short of the interval between the migration of Perez and Hezron to Egypt (Gen. 46:12) and the Exodus, however dated, since, according to Gen. 15:13, that period lasted 400 years (cf. v. 16, “four generations”). According to pentateuchal narratives, Perez and Hezron migrated together (Gen. 46:12), while Amminadab and Nahshon were contemporaries of Moses and Aaron (Exod. 6:23; Num. 1:7). Hence, the most likely gaps in the pre-Mosaic list would fall between Hezron and Ram or between Ram and Amminadab.
22 This verse repeats the content of v. 17b in different genealogical form. Outside the book of Ruth, Obed occurs only in the Chronicler’s genealogy and in the NT (1 Chr. 2:12; Matt. 1:5; Luke 3:32). Naomi probably raised him as if he were her own son (v. 16b), and he kept alive her family line on its ancestral property (cf. vv. 5, 10). Presumably, he later married a woman unknown to us and became the father of Jesse, about whom much more is known. 23 It was Jesse whom Samuel visited in Bethlehem on Yahweh’s orders to anoint a replacement for Saul from among Jesse’s seven sons (1 Sam. 16:1–13). 24 Later, at Saul’s request, Jesse dispatched the anointed, David, to soothe Saul’s troubled spirit with his sweet harp music (vv. 14–23). In another episode, Jesse sent David with food for three older brothers away at war; young David emerged the hero by defeating Goliath (17:12–54). Though elderly (17:12), Jesse sojourned with the King of Moab during Saul’s jealous pursuit of David (22:3–4). Isaiah foresaw that the future messianic ruler would sprout from Jesse’s “stump” and “root” (Isa. 11:1, 10; cf. Rom. 15:12).
Jesse’s greatest legacy, of course, was his son, David. 25 This is not the place to rehearse the heroic exploits of this “son of Jesse” that fueled his remarkable rise from obscurity to monarchy. 26 Israel resmembered him as a military genius (1 Sam. 18:7; cf. 1 Sam. 21:12 [Eng. 11]; 29:5), especially his defeat of the powerful Philistines (2 Sam. 5:20–25) and his capture of Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:6–8). Israel also recalled him as founder of its longest continuous dynasty (2 Sam. 7:9–16; Ps. 132:11–12). Small wonder that prophets made him the paradigm for the future Messiah (Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:24–25; 37:24, 25; Hos. 3:5; cf. Matt. 22:42; Mark 11:10). More importantly, from him descended the one whom later Jerusalemites welcomed with, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” 27
As the book’s concluding word, however, David sounded the triumph of God’s providence over the vicissitudes suffered by the names listed. Considering Judah’s irresponsibility (Gen. 38), the perilous intervening centuries, and Ruth’s earlier infertility (1:4–5), that David was born at all amply attested the presence of that providence. Further, given Saul’s cruel vengeance (1 Sam. 18–28), David’s ascent to power provided weighty corroborating evidence. God is, indeed, King! 28
1 Old Latin, Vulg., and some LXX mss. have “Hezrom” (i.e., a final letter -m), and these seem to have influenced its spelling in NT genealogies (cf. ēsrōm, Matt. 1:3; Luke 3:33). Though names ending in -ān/-ôn are more common than those with -ām/-ôm, the fact that several proper names evidence bothendings (Gershom/Gershon; Zethan/Zetham) may explain this textual difference (so Campbell, p. 170, who believes the variants may represent different texts of the book of Ruth).
2 Only MT has rām (also at 1 Chr. 2:9). In the versions, the name always begins with an a sound (reflecting an initial aleph?), then shows several spellings; cf. Arran (LXX Alexandrinus and Vaticanus); Aram (Vulg.; Syr.; Matt. 1:3–4; BHS); Aran (Old Latin); Arni (Luke 3:33). Unfortunately, the problem has no easy solution at present. Campbell (p. 171) notes that, while LXX seems to settle exclusively on Aram in Chronicles, the highly regarded Vaticanus (also Syr.) tenaciously retains the spelling Ram. In his view, the variations reflect the tradition’s attempt to reckon with the firmly anchored name Ram in the genealogy of Judah. The principle of the more difficult reading favors the MT, and that is the position taken here.
5 For “Perez,” see also the commentary above at 4:12.
6 Cf. J. Schreiner, “yālaḏ,” TWAT, III:637; P. Weimar, “Die Toledot-Formel in der priesterschriften Geschichtsdarstellung,” BZ 18 (1974) 65–93. According to R. K. Harrison (Introduction, pp. 543–48), in Genesis the genealogical formula represents a summary statement which, rather than introduce what follows, concludes what precedes it. He compares it to the colophons which typically conclude ancient cuneiform tablets and theorizes that eleven such tablets underlie Genesis. This is not the place to discuss the merits of that theory. Although Genesis and Ruth 4:18 certainly use the same formula, in Ruth the formula clearly introduces the genealogy of Perez which follows.
7 Alternatively, KD (p. 493) argues for his birth in Egypt. Cf. 1 Chr. 2:5, 9, 18, 21, 24, 25; Matt. 1:3; Luke 3:33. Inexplicably, 1 Chr. 4:1 lists him as a son of Judah. A son of Reuben also bears this name (Gen. 36:9; Exod. 6:14; 1 Chr. 5:3).
9 On the textual variants, see n. 2 above. For the root, see BDB, pp. 926, 928; for the names, see Gröndahl, Die Personennamen der Texte aus Ugarit, pp. 182–83; Benz, Personal Names in the Phoenician and Punic Inscriptions, pp. 408–409; H.-P. Stähli, “rwm,” THAT, II:754. Note that 1 Chr. 2:25, 27 lists (presumably) another Ram as firstborn son of Jerahmeel, brother of Ram, son of Hezron (v. 9).
10 The presence of Ram in both Ruth 4:19 and 1 Chr. 2:9–10 despite the many textual variants noted above suggests an interdependence between the two contexts (so Campbell, p. 171). That 1 Chr. 2:10–12 exactly parallels Ruth 4:19b–22a, including the formula X hôlîḏ ʾeṯ-Y rarely used by the Chronicler, favors the assumption that 1 Chr. 2:10–12 is dependent on Ruth 4:19b–22a; similarly, Sasson, pp. 188–89.
11 Campbell (p. 171) believes that “kinsman” was a divine title, and hence that the name expressed “the patriarchal personal style of relationship.” The OT has several Amminadabs (1 Chr. 6:7; 15:10–11) and also many names composed of ʿam (“uncle, kinsman”) and nāḏaḇ (“to be noble”): Ammiel (Num. 13:12; 2 Sam. 9:4–5; 17:27; 1 Chr. 3:5; 26:5); Ammihud (Num. 1:10; 2:18; 34:20, 28; 1 Chr. 7:26; etc.); Ammishaddai (Num. 1:12; 2:25; 7:66, 71; Num. 10:25); Ammizabad (1 Chr. 27:6); Abinadab (1 Sam. 7:1; 16:8; 17:13; 31:2; 2 Sam. 6:3, 4; 1 Chr. 8:33; 13:7; etc.); Ahinadab (1 K. 4:14); Jehonadab (2 Sam. 13:5; 2 K. 10:15, 23; Jer. 35:6; etc.). For Semitic names built on this name’s components, see Gröndahl, Personenname, pp. 109, 164; Benz, Phoenician Personal Names, pp. 359, 379; cf. esp. Amminadab, king of Ammon (Sasson, p. 189); Amminadbi, king of Edom; Kammusu-nadbi, king of Moab (Noth, IP, p. 193 n. 1). For other OT occurrences of Amminadab, see F. Schumacher, “Amminadab,” IDB, I:107–108; T. Lewis, “Amminadab,” ISBE, I:111.
12 See Sasson, p. 189, who also lists other possibilities; cf. Astour, Hellenosemitica, p. 279 n. 4 (“serpent-man”); the Ammonite King Nahash (1 Sam. 11:1, 2; 1 Sam. 12:12; 2 Sam. 10:2; 1 Chr. 19:1, 2). For other OT names derived from animals, see Noth, IP, p. 230.
13 The term nāśîʾ (“nobleman, prince”) is a leadership title firmly rooted in Israel’s tribal organization (Exod. 22:27 [Eng. 28]; Num. 1:5–16; 1 K. 8:1). Its sense approaches the modern term “sheik”; cf. F. Stolz, “nśʾ,” THAT, II:115; W. Kaiser, “nāśāʾ.” TWOT, II:601. Cf. C. G. Rasmussen, “Nahshon,” ISBE, III:477; R. F. Johnson, “Nahshon,” IDB, III:498.
16 So Campbell, p. 172, who also concedes the possible originality of Salmon; Sasson, pp. 189–90 (cf. š/śalmāy, Neh. 7:48); KD, p. 493 (Salmah grew linguistically out of Salmon); against Joüon (p. 97) and Würthwein (p. 20), who read Salmon in v. 20; Rudolph (p. 71), Gerleman (p. 36), and Hertzberg (p. 278 n. 4), who emend both forms to Salma’ after 1 Chr. 2:11; cf. 1 Chr. 2:51, 54.
18 See BDB, p. 971, as a variant of the more common śimlâ (note the transposition of the second and third letters; cf. Ruth 3:3).
19 Cf. E. R. Dalglish, “Salmon,” IDB, IV:166–67; Gray, p. 403. According to Matt. 1:5, Salmon/Salmah was married to Rahab, who bore him Boaz. On Boaz, see the commentary above at 2:1; on Obed, see the commentary at 4:17, 22.
22 Note that some mss. of Luke 3:33 have Admin between Ram and Amminadab. KD (p. 493) places the extra generations between Salmah and Boaz and one between Obed and Jesse.
23 Cf. E. R. Dalglish, “Jesse,” IDB, II:868; R. K. Harrison, “Jesse,” ISBE, II:1033–34. A consensus on the etymology of yišay (ʾîšay, 1 Chr. 2:13) continues to prove elusive. For Noth (IP, pp. 38, 138), the name, presumably Canaanite in origin, consists of ʾîš (“man”) plus the vocative ending -ay (hence, “follower of God”). Other suggested derivations (cf. Sasson, p. 190): (1) the particle yēš (“being, existence”); (2) the root yšh or šyh/šwh (“to resemble, be equal to”). ʾîšay (1 Chr. 2:13) might be short for ʾîš y (hwh) (“man of Yahweh”), but Sasson reckons the initial aleph as simply a prefixed expansion; hence, the first word cannot mean “man.”
25 Several versions add comments: “the king” (LXX Alexandrinus; Syr.; Matt. 1:6); Old Latin (“and David begat Solomon”). According to Noth (IP, p. 223), the name (“Beloved, Darling”) reflects a parental declaration.
26 For a convenient summary of his career (with bibliography), see J. M. Myers, “David,” IDB, I:771–82; D. F. Payne, “David,” ISBE, I:870–76; Bright, History, pp. 192–211. For the term “son of Jesse,” see 1 Sam. 20:27, 30–31; 22:7–9; 25:10; 1 K. 12:16; 1 Chr. 10:14; 29:26; Acts 13:22.
28 Cf. Porten, “Scroll,” pp. 24–25: the book opened with Elimelech (“My God is King”) and closed with David, the king whom God appointed (1 Sam. 16).