A catalogue of names of a dynasty or family. In the OT and NT there are several lists of ancestors or descendants. In some cases the names (which may not be comprehensive—the Hebrew noun ben could mean not only ‘son’ but also ‘grandson’, or simply ‘descendant’) are a means of tracing an individual's history back to an important figure of the past; or the list may be an illustration of human mortality.
The ancestry of the twelve tribes of Israel back to the patriarch Jacob is mentioned in Gen. 46 and at the time of the Return from Exile the books of Ezra and Nehemiah record registers of families. Indeed the whole of 1 Chron. 1–9 consists of genealogies, whose existence in the text bears witness to the Hebrews' consciousness of being part of an extended family. The interdependence of individuals on each other, and of different social groups on each other, was a fundamental assumption of Hebrew society. Genealogies were also useful for establishing the validity of claimants to the priesthood.