Everyone who reads the Bible knows the feeling of getting stuck with ‘boring’ names and measurements in some passages: the genealogies of Genesis 11, 1 Chronicles 1-9, and Matthew 1; the measurements of the ark of the covenant and the temple; the names of people who helped rebuild the wall in Nehemiah’s time; and many more. This begs the question: can we just skip them and get to the exciting parts?
I suggest not. I believe that reading the ‘boring’ passages of the Bible is a spiritually enriching exercise. Three reasons:
1. Because there are treasures buried there. Few days ago I was reading about the clothes for priests in Exodus 28 and noticed that God actually commanded Moses to provide the priests with underwear to be worn along with other priestly garments (v42). What a strange thing to be included in the Bible! Upon further reflection, I realized that in those days, pagan worship was performed by naked priests and priestesses. Sensuality was their way of connecting with their gods. The Bible, by contrast, commands modesty and holiness. God doesn’t want our nakedness to be uncovered by just anyone. Can you see God’s attention to human dignity in this passage?
2. Because they give us insights into God’s providential care. Long before germs were discovered by scientists, God already commanded the Israelites not to touch the dead (Numbers 19). They must have been bewildered why. The Egyptians worshipped the dead and their other neighbors did the same, why can’t they do it? It was only until science discovered microorganisms that we understand why. As dead people rot, they spread germs and diseases. God’s command not to touch the dead was actually His providential way of saving them from outbreaks of diseases.
3. Because some boring parts of the Bible actually have more theological weight than we could ever imagine. When I first read the genealogies, I was puzzled why they had to be included in the Bible. I mean, of all the things God could say, why the long list of names? Did you ever wonder why He gave us names of people we don’t care about but didn’t tell us where Cain got his wife? Or why He named two ordinary midwives in Exodus 1:15 but didn’t tell us the name of the Pharaoh? That would have made the dating of the Bible easier.
It turned out that the list of names were written not to kill us with boredom but to tell us that the promised seed of the woman in Genesis is the same as the son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the heir to the royal bloodline of David. All these details point to Jesus, the Messiah. You may say, “So what?” Well, this shows us a lot of things, including the following: that God keeps Word, even the ones He spoke thousands of years ago; that God is in control of the overall flow of history; and more importantly, that the our salvation and the coming of Jesus are the running themes of the Bible.
What are the parts of the Bible that seem difficult for you?