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I recently stumbled upon the following verses in 1 Chronicles 2 (ESV). (I highlighted the confusing, seemingly contradicting, parts in v31 and v34.)

31 The son of Appaim: Ishi. The son of Ishi: Sheshan. The son of Sheshan: Ahlai. 32 The sons of Jada, Shammai’s brother: Jether and Jonathan; and Jether died childless. 33 The sons of Jonathan: Peleth and Zaza. These were the descendants of Jerahmeel. 34 Now Sheshan had no sons, only daughters, but Sheshan had an Egyptian slave whose name was Jarha. 35 So Sheshan gave his daughter in marriage to Jarha his slave, and she bore him Attai.

I did check different translations and tried finding an explanatory bible comment on that but without much luck so far. Bible Family Tree lists the descendants like this:

  1. Appaim
  2. Ishi
  3. Sheshan
  4. Ahlai
  5. Attai
  6. Nathan

This would mean that Sheshan in v34 references Ahlai and calls him by his father's name. Is that correct?

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    Welcome to the group leun4m. You've asked a really challenging question. Please do take a look at the Tour (link at lower left of the page) to get better acquainted with the territory. Nov 16, 2023 at 1:08

2 Answers 2

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This question is a stumper! Here's a idea that might have merit. This article suggests that Ahlai is really a daughter but is counted as a son in order that Sheshan's lineage would be preserved. In other words, she is called a son in vs. 31 but she is really the unnamed daughter mentioned in vs. 35, who is given in marriage to Jarha.

If this is right, I'd say the situation is the patrilineal version of the story of Sarah giving her husband to her female slave Hagar saying: "perhaps I will have sons through her." (16:2) But in this case Sheshan gives his male slave to his daughter in order to have a (grand)son, and in the process, for the purpose of the family tree, Ahlai is listed as a son so that Attai would belong to Sheshan's lineage rather than that of his slave.

Why was this important? Because when the book of Chronicles was written, the current generation of Jews needed to prove its descent from the patriarch Judah. (See the beginning of the chapter.) It may be objected that this would make the genealogy inaccurate. However we do have another example that involves changing a genealogical fact in order to to preserve a patrilineal descent: David was not the physical ancestor of Jesus, who had no biological father according to the gospels; but he is listed as such in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke.

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  • Thanks a lot! This is very interesting and seems quite plausible.
    – leun4m
    Nov 15, 2023 at 23:49
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Verse 35 - "Sheshan gave his daughter to Jarha his servant as a wife, and she bore him Attai." The children of Jarha were considered from the tribe of Judah, even though the father Jarha was an Egyptian. This shows that sometimes the lineage was not traced through the father, it could be traced through the mother.

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