Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gimli Son Of Gloin

I'm convinced that J.R. Tolkien plagiarized I Chronicles to come up with names for his characters.  Well, maybe plagiarize is too strong a word, but at least he seems to have been inspired by I Chronicles.  This shows exactly how nerdy I am, but after reading chapter after chapter after chapter after chapter after chapter...(you get the point) of genealogies, one of the first thoughts I had was, "Hey, this is like the dwarfs."  Sad, huh?  And to further my reputation as a hopeless nerd, let me now argue how the Lord of the Rings helps us understand the books of Chronicles.

The dwarfs (dwarves?  my spell check is saying it is dwarfs...) in LotRs are a dying people.  A once mighty people now stand in the shadow of who they were.  In that environment, genealogies serve a specific function for the dwarfs.  They tie the present to the past.  They give a sense of pride to a broken people by acting as a living memory.  In a way, they're almost a biting of the thumb to everyone else around, a sort of "you may not remember who we are, but we do...so foowee on you."  But even more importantly, they act as a continual reminder of hope.  We were once a great race; we can be again.

That's a similar setting to I Chronicles.  The Hebrews have returned to their ancestral home.  It's certainly a mess.  Their capital city is in ruins.  Their wealth is gone.  They've gone from autonomous to living under the rule and influence of another, but they haven't forgotten the stock from whence (biting of the thumb and "whence"...  If my writing weren't so bad the rest of the time, I could be Shakespeare!) they came.  When they actually saw the city they were returning to, the remaining Israelites must have been asking whether they made a mistake.  Surely it would have been a better idea to stay in Babylon.  "Not so," says the editor(s) of I Chronicles, "You are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  You are the descendants of Judah, Joseph, Benjamin, and the other great men of your past.  You are the people of David.  This was your land.  This was your nation.  It was a mighty nation.  Do not forget who you are."  That may not be all the genealogies at the beginning of I Chronicles are about, but that is certainly part of it.  Jehu, son of Joshibiah son of Seraiah son of Asiel, may be a bit longer than Gimli son of Gloin, but the pattern may serve the same purpose.  It may be I Chronicles' way of saying, "We are not done yet.  We can be great once again."

There, I've gotten my nerd fix for the day.  I should go reread LotRs.

Stopping point: I Chronicles 8

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