“It came to pass that Shelach had lived for thirty years, and he begat Eber. And after he began Eber, Shelach lived another four-hundred and three years and he begat sons and daughters.”
And here the pattern continues. At times this may seem to get redundant, but the presence of these genealogies reminds us of God’s patience through the generations and the long gaps of time in between his covenantal activities. Our tendency is to be impatient and we want everything yesterday. God’s design is that he may never intend to bring earth-shattering events in our generation, but it may be through our children, our grandchildren, or through our great-great-great grandchildren whom we will never live long enough to meet in this life. There are basically ten generations that are traced here from Noah’s son Shem to Abraham. In which generation are we? We may be called simply to live in faith and obscurity, setting an example in our children or grandchildren to follow, for it may be in their generation that God is going to fulfill our prayers and move. We may pray for revival, but God is the one who brings such revival and he does so in His timing.
The name Eber comes from the Hebrew word meaning, “to pass by” or “to cross over.” Typically this is seen to reflect the nomadic lifestyle given to the descendants of Noah (they were to multiply and fill the earth — Genesis 9:1). It could also reflect the deliverance that God had given to his people through the flood as they passed over the waters of judgment if only still in the loins of Shem. It is also rather prophetic, because the people of God would pass through the Red Sea and the Jordan River by God’s divine working. There is some debate as to the origin of the word Hebrew, but some trace the word back to this son of Shem’s name. Hebrew traditionally is understood to be taken from the term “the ones who come from across the river.” Prophetic indeed.
The bottom line is that God is still continuing to work. Shelach and Eber may not be mighty judges or covenant mediators, but they prove faithful to God and hand down what they know from one generation to the next — something that we are all called to do as believers. We must be engaged in this privilege — teaching our children and grandchildren about the mighty works of God. The sad thing is that in our culture today, many parents are not doing that, but rather are taking the attitude that children should make up their own mind on such matters. Yet, for a plant to grow strong and healthy, it must be biased by good soil, plenty of water, and good sunshine; for a child to grow strong and healthy, he or she must be biased toward the truth — we are called to do that biasing by the way we live and by the way we teach our children. And while history may simply record us as a name in the line of another, our faithfulness will bear fruit in the generations that follow in faithfulness to God’s call and design.