THE GENEALOGY OF THE MESSIAH
or ‘Whose line is it anyway?’
Part one - Jesus is the Messiah
The genealogical list
Part two - The women of Matthew’s genealogical record
‘Genealogy’ is an important subject in the OT - entire chapters are devoted to the record of ancestors and their offspring. It’s quite surprising, then, that the Church hasn’t given it the place it deserves over the years - the RSV relegates the genealogical records to small type in one of its more popular editions (the Bible that I first started with when I became a christian) so as to help the reader not to be bogged down if he’s wanting only to ‘read the plot’.
Though this procedure can be well appreciated (and it certainly helped me as a new christian to access the Bible more easily), it must also be understood that the genealogy of the Messiah is an integral part of the plot - it bears witness to the promise and its fulfilment that through Abraham’s natural offspring, the One who was to restore all things was to be brought to earth. He is the last word on the genealogical records, the summation of all that Israel was looking for.
In a very real sense, genealogical records are now of no consequence, for salvation is shown to be not of natural lineage (just as it was in the OT though not as definitively as it is in the New) but of rebirth by the Holy Spirit according to the acceptance of, reliance upon and active participation in the work of Christ on the cross - and the burial, resurrection and subsequent ascension.
These notes are in two parts.
In part one, I’ve attempted to show the line of the Messiah by using the OT genealogical records, with an explanation following each of the patriarchs who were promised that He would come from their natural offspring (in the Internet edition, the text is linked to the person’s name) - along with some interesting stories that we have recorded for us along the way concerning various of the Messiah’s descendants.
I’ve also had to harmonise the apparently conflicting genealogies found in Matthew and Luke. This harmony is more than the often ‘simplistic’ explanation that Matthew represents the genealogy of Joseph while Luke records that of Mary - the records diverge after the person of David only to be re-united with Shealtiel and Zerubbabel at the time of the exile and return and then diverge again swiftly after.
As no one individual can have two natural fathers, some thought needs to be given to what the Bible asserts in the two accounts. Far from finding a contradiction, it will be seen that, had it not been for the two conflicting lists, the Bible would have been in error but, because there’s a divergence of genealogy in a place where we wouldn’t have expected it, then we can learn something that we would otherwise have missed.
Indeed, Matthew’s list standing alone would have been proved false by some OT Scripture (specifically, the prophecy concerning Jeconiah) and Luke’s similarly (the promise of God concerning the continuation of the Davidic line through Solomon and the kings of Judah until the promised Messiah). It’s only both lists that supply the solution to the problem.
In part two, I’ve looked specifically at the four women mentioned in Matthew’s account and gone on to arrive at an explanation of how and why God chose specific individuals rather than others.
I’ve hinted at this in a couple of places in part one but have, on the whole, refrained from giving substantial details until part two. This second part can be read on its own regardless of the first section, but it should be noted that the two parts compliment each other.
Part one - Jesus is the Messiah
I’ve divided up the following genealogy into three columns to try and show simply which fathers and relatives are mentioned in each of the two Gospels. I’ve included the ‘four women’ along with the descendants wherever they occur but it must be noted that it’s only Matthew who makes mention of them for reasons that I’ve gone in to in part two.
It shouldn’t be expected that either or both genealogies contain a complete list of all the descendants as it was often the practice to miss out sons so that grandparents became the fathers of their grandsons, even as Jesus was called ‘Son of David’ by the multitudes (Mtw 21:9).
Luke 3:23-38 begins with Jesus and ends with Adam, from modern times to ancient, and, as the author travelled extensively with Paul on his missionary journeys, the Gospel is normally taken to be more a message for the Gentiles if Matthew, conversely, is taken as being for the Jews. As such, it traces the genealogy back to the very foundation of the world and the first man, Adam.
Mtw 1:1-17 begins with Abraham and ends with Jesus and, therefore, presents the reader with a more logical order, from ancient times to modern. The Gospel is reputed to be the Gospel that was specifically written ‘for the Jews’, the gospel of the Kingdom, and therefore it wouldn’t be surprising that Matthew begins his record with Abraham.
It was to Abraham that every Jew traced his or her ancestry back, seeing in him the beginning of God’s purpose with regard to the people and nation of Israel. In my Introduction to the Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, however, I’ve noted that this ‘Jewishness’ is possibly misguided for it’s taken to imply that what we have today was a direct translation from a single Aramaic manuscript.
Abraham (the first Jew in Matthew’s list) is also the first of the six patriarchs Abraham-Isaac-Jacob- Judah-David-Zerubbabel) through whom God specifically promised to bring the Messiah to earth for the benefit of all mankind.
Internal evidence is also present in the form of transliterated Hebrew words which occur on numerous occasions and which remain uninterpreted in the text (for example, Mtw 5:22 [fool] and 27:6 [treasury]) and Jewish religious traditions that go unexplained (whereas the ‘Gentile’ Gospels offer explanations for their readers - for example Mtw 15:2 Cp Mark 7:1-4) suggest that Matthew’s readers would have been familiar with such Judaistic practice.
However, the evidence supporting the theory that the Gospel of Matthew first appeared in Hebrew form before being translated into Greek for wider circulation is, realistically, flawed. Besides, the mention by Eusebius of a ‘Gospel to the Hebrews’ that’s often identified with this early manuscript is better seen as a heretical document (regarded as such by the early Church) and therefore unlikely to be this Gospel.
And the similarity of Greek text between Matthew and Mark/Luke in passages relating to the same event, make the ‘Aramaic/Hebrew original’ theory extremely unlikely and not at all compelling.
Though Matthew was almost certainly originally written in Greek, the Jewish connection that’s come down to us through many varying sources and commentators may be that, initially, its intended readership was Greek-speaking Jews either within Israel or in the Diaspora.
Matthew’s genealogy is divided up into three groups of fourteen ‘fathers’. I know of at least one other genealogical record in ancient history that has this sort of division (an Egyptian genealogical record carved on the side of a quarry in present day Egypt) and it’s therefore quite possible that ‘14’ was a number that lent itself well to the memorisation of genealogical records. Whether this is true or not, we have no way of knowing, but one indication that this is an aid to memory is seen in the fact that 14 new names are listed in both the first group and second but only thirteen in the third (fourteen is made when the repeated father ‘Jeconiah’ is included in the list - if we include the repeated ‘David’ in the second list as in the third, then we would arrive at fifteen), Matthew choosing to conform his lists to ‘fourteens’ for remembrance sake rather than for literal accuracy.
Additionally, there have been many attempts to see in Matthew’s use of three groups of fourteen, a symbolical meaning, some related to Daniel’s seventy weeks’ of years. It’s even pointed out that the summation of the numerical values of David’s name (D=4, W=6, D=4) totals fourteen, thereby giving a reason for Matthew’s use of that number, Jesus being ‘David’s greater Son’. It seems very unlikely that Matthew would have purposefully sat down to conform his genealogy thus, but it’s an interesting aside. Whether we can determine anything truly (rather than hypothetically) ‘theological’ or ‘spiritual’ out of this is extremely doubtful.
There’s also a point made by Matmor (page 25) that, according to Finkelstein, the number fourteen was significant to the Jews in so far as this corresponded
‘...to the number of high priests from Aaron to the establishment of Solomon’s Temple; the number of high priests from the establishment of the Temple until Jaddua, the last high priest mentioned in Scripture...’
In this way, Matthew’s intention would be to show Jesus as a type of the great high priest (Hebrews chapter 7)
‘after the order of Melchizedek’
Whatever the reason for this division, it’s clear that Matthew had some purpose which we can only speculate over.
The genealogical list
The articles related to the individuals are linked to the names.
* The six patriarchs who were promised that Messiah would be their seed.
@ The four women mentioned by Matthew (Tamar-Rahab-Ruth-Bathsheba)
Italicised Scripture references to the side of descendants represent genealogical passages that underpin the lineage that normally follows
||Seth (3K) (Genesis 4:25-5:5)
||Enos (Genesis 5:6-32)
||Shem (Gen 5:32,10:1)
Arphazad (Gen 11:10-26)
The first 14 - The rise
of the Kingdom
Abraham - David
||Abraham (16K) (Abram) (Gen
||Isaac (7K) (I Chr 1:28) *
||Jacob (7K) (Israel) (I Chr 1:34) *
||Perez (9K) (by Tamar - Gen 38:12-30, I
Chr 2:4) @
Ram (3K) (I Chr 2:9-10)
|Hezron (Ruth 4:18-19,
I Chr 2:5)
||Amminadab (I Chr 2:9-11, Ruth 4:20-22)
Salmon (Luke - 'Sala', I Chr 2:11 - 'Salma')
Boaz (3K) (by Rahab the harlot)
||Obed (10K) (by Ruth the Moabitess)
(I Chr 2:12, Ruth esp 4:13-17) @
||David (6K) (the second king of
(I Chr 2:13-15, Ruth 4:22, I Sam 17:12)
The second 14 - The
fall of the kingdom
David - Jeconiah
|Solomon (6K) (by Bathsheba, the
of Uriah - I Chr 3:5) @
|Nathan (by Bathsheba -
I Chr 3:5) @
(The Divided Kingdom - 5K)
(I Chr 3:10-14)
Jehoiakim (I Chr 3:15-16) added here although not included in Matthew's list
Jeconiah (8K) (Jehoiachin) into exile
|The third 14 - The establishing
of the eternal kingdom
Jeconiah - Jesus
(Greek - Salathiel)
Heir of David's throne
Son of David through Neri
(by natural descent).
(I Chr 3:17)
'...the husband of
Mary, of whom Jesus was
born, who is called
'Jesus...being the son
(as was supposed) of
Joseph, the son of Heli...'
Part two - The women of Matthew’s genealogical record
God doesn’t choose according to righteousness under the Mosaic Law. Matthew takes great care to point this out in his genealogical record by purposely including the names of four women through whom the Messiah came - all of whom would have been ‘disqualified’ if God’s calling depended upon the righteousness of the Law.
Gen 38:11-30 informs us that Judah’s daughter-in-law, deprived of a promised husband (the last of Judah’s sons), impersonated a harlot. She enticed Judah to lie with her and from that illicit union came two sons - Perez and Zerah. And from Perez sprung Boaz, David and ultimately the Christ.
Moses’ Law speaks out against such a union and pronounces the death sentence upon both individuals. Lev 20:12 records the command as
‘If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; they have committed incest, their blood is upon them’
We’ve already looked at this incident under the person of ‘Perez’ in part one where we noted that Tamar had acted righteously by doing what she did. However, in this instance the Law makes no allowance for the intention of the heart and can only judge the situation by what has actually taken place.
Because Rahab had given friendly welcome to the spies, she’d exercised faith in the spies’ God (Heb 11:31). She believed that Jehovah was about to destroy Jericho and give Israel Canaan, so she petitioned the spies to spare her (Joshua 2:9-13).
Having entered into a covenant agreement with her (Joshua 2:14,17-20), she tied a red cord in the window, demonstrating her faith (belief in action) and was saved by Jehovah who didn’t let her habitation in the wall be destroyed (Joshua 6:25).
Though the NT writer James had something positive to say about the entire incident (James 2:25) as did the writer to the Hebrews quoted earlier, the Law - which had already been given and was in effect at this time - has something very different to say.
In Deut 7:1-5 we read that YHWH told Israel to utterly destroy everything in the land of Canaan in their campaign of war when God gave them victory (Deut 7:2). Neither were they to enter into covenant relationship with any of them as Joshua 9:3-27 shows - the scheme of the Gibeonites (see also Exodus 23:32, Deut 20:16-17).
Entering into a covenant relationship with Rahab, sparing her life and allowing her to enter the assembly of the Lord (the nation of Israel) was in opposition to what was plainly set out in the Law of the Lord. Yet she became the mother of Christ.
Notice that Rahab was known as ‘the harlot’ (Joshua 2:1) although Matthew doesn’t use the title. It also has obvious implications with regard to Deut 5:18 (‘neither shall you commit adultery’). The Law of Moses made no provision for mercy to be shown to the inhabitants of Canaan. Indeed, the Law makes no provision for faith and the righteousness that comes by it when this is opposed to its legal demands.
Ruth 1:16 notes Ruth’s decision that
‘Your God [shall be] my God’
and Boaz notes in Ruth 2:12 that YHWH was the God
‘...under whose wings you have come to take refuge’
Ruth forsook the god of her fathers and of her nation and married herself to the living God of Israel. She exercised faith by recognising that Jehovah is the true God and by turning to Him from idolatrous (and maybe even immoral) types of worship (see Numbers 25:1-3, 6-8). It seems, therefore, that apart from the entire race of the Gibeonites (Joshua chapter 9), the first two freewill conversions to the Jewish ‘religion’ were both women.
Even though this ‘conversion’ caused the Israelites to welcome her as part of the Israelite line, the Law had less flattering things to say about her.
Ruth was a Moabitess (Ruth 1:4) and, under the Law (Deut 23:3-6), it was an eternal statute that they were to never enter the assembly of YHWH (that is, Israel the nation. The phrase ‘even to the tenth generation’ implies a figurative amount of time which is shown in Deut 23:6 to be ‘forever’).
Yet it’s plain from Scripture that Ruth not only came under the wings of Jehovah but that she settled amongst the nation in the land of Israel. From her marriage union with Boaz, David came and the greater Son of David, Jesus (David, strictly speaking, was the third generation from Ruth, well within a literal ‘ten’ generations but see the discussion and quote from Ruthmor in part one under Ram and Admin about the lineage being compressed at this point).
Through the incident of II Sam 11:1-12:25, David broke at least four of the ten commandments.
i. He coveted his neighbour’s wife - II Sam 11:2
ii. He committed adultery (or, perhaps, rape) - II Sam 11:4
iii. He committed murder - II Sam 11:14-21
iv. He stole Bathsheba to be his wife - II Sam 12:4
There are various other passages in the Law that comment on the incidents recorded in II Samuel, especially the ones dealing with sexual sin (such as rape) and loving God.
The child who was conceived through that adulterous act was smitten by God and died, but the union of husband and wife was, after repentance, blessed by God and from the marriage came Solomon, David’s heir.
But the Law’s remedy for such an occurrence was the death of both the man and the woman (Lev 20:10). It wasn’t possible to ‘sanctify’ an adulterous relationship (see also Deut 22:23-27 where the Law regarding rape is given which also demands that both parties be put to death - there are, however, uncertainties by comparison to declare the incident as one of rape).
Notice that, by writing ‘the wife of Uriah’ instead of ‘Bathsheba’, Matthew is deliberately bringing out the sinfulness of the union and hints at his intention of naming these four women. What’s been true of the first three women is equally true here - that while the Law condemns such actions, YHWH still accepted the individuals into the line of the Messiah.
We’ve discussed above in part one that the heir according to the flesh came probably through Nathan’s line and not via Solomon. But the point here made is equally relevant as both Solomon and Nathan had Bathsheba as their mother - and that after the adulterous relationship.
[e. The Firstborn
Reuben was the firstborn son among the twelve sons of Israel (Jacob) and had the right of pre-eminence (to be first in rank) over the others. However, it was removed from him by his father because of the son’s sin against him (Gen 49:3-4).
But, under the Law, the firstborn son had a right to a double portion regardless of favour (Deut 21:15-17) - that is, a subsequent son couldn’t be treated as if he was the firstborn simply because the father regarded him with greater affection.
And also in the Law, it was always the firstborn son in a Levirate marriage that perpetuated the deceased man’s name (Deut 25:5-6). The firstborn, therefore, had a special place in the purpose of Israelite Law as given to them by God and we’d naturally expect the line of the Messiah to reflect this commandment.
But, out of the six patriarchs that were promised that the Messiah would be their offspring, Jacob (Gen 25:25-26), Judah (Gen 29:31-35) and David (I Sam 16:11-13) were definitely not the firstborn of their brothers. God’s choice didn’t lie in the acceptance of the firstborn as the true lineage of the Messiah.]
So, what principle does God use in choosing the line of Christ?
There’s only one universal ‘method’ that God uses, and that’s His own will.
God chooses the one He’s chosen.
We know the one that God has chosen because that person is the one that God chooses.
And God will only ever choose the one He’s already chosen.
In other words, it depends upon the sovereignty of God, not upon any requirement being fulfilled in man. God doesn’t call an individual because He necessarily sees something He can use in that person, but He calls them solely according to His will. God will put inside us what He’ll use us for - the talent isn’t ours (I Cor 4:7), but His choice is independent of natural ability (Rom 9:10-13 - ‘though [Esau and Jacob] were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call, [the mother] was told “The elder shall serve the younger”’ and Rom 9:18 - ‘...He has mercy upon whomever He wills and He hardens the heart of whomever He wills’ - see also Rom 11:32).
Since (Rom 3:23)
‘...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’
God’s calling upon an individual’s life can only ever be according to His Divine purpose, not upon (Rom 9:16)
‘...man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy’
This is a principle both in the area of man’s salvation (but I’m not defending a heavy Calvinist standpoint! - see the notes ‘Foreknowledge, Freewill and Predestination’) and of God’s earthly purpose for an individual or nation’s life. Notice the perplexing and enigmatic passage (to our minds) in Deut 7:7-8 where, if you read the text carefully, you can see that God declares He loves Israel because He loves them! The reason for God’s choice becomes choice itself.
Abraham was called (Gen 12:1-4), promised an heir, a son, who was to be the Son (Gen 15:4) and afterwards was considered righteous by faith (Gen 15:6) and justified by works even later (Gen 17:9-14, 22-27, chapter 22).
But God’s choice came first and, indeed, in the life of the Church today must always come first in the area of ministry to the body (I Cor 12:27-30 esp v.28). We look to men and women who’ve gone through the greatest Bible colleges and Theological seminaries (perhaps) the world has ever known to lead the congregations wherever they find themselves and bring revival to the land - but God’s choice is not to the wise or well-educated by necessity but to the ones that He chooses as the outcome of His own Sovereign will. While education is by no means to be scoffed at, God’s choice is the singularly most important factor in determining ‘who does what’ within His Body, the Church.
God’s calling is different to the salvation that comes from faith in Christ. Although it’s difficult to find any ground in Scripture to show that one may find that he’s saved in Christ for a significant length of time yet miss totally the fulfilling of God’s calling upon his life, it seems quite apparent that an individual or nation may fulfil the calling yet miss God’s salvation in Christ (Mtw 7:21-23), just as Balaam found his calling as a prophet fulfilled but lost his opportunity to be one of the family of God through covetousness (Numbers 22-24, 31:8,16). Or Cyrus (II Chr 36:22-23, Isaiah 45:1) who fulfilled God’s purpose for himself on the earth while it’s said of him that he didn’t know God (Isaiah 45:4-5), the necessary requirement of salvation (John 17:3).
God’s purpose for our life on earth is different to God’s eternal destiny for our life, therefore.
The choice made concerning Christ’s line is no different.
The patriarchs weren’t guaranteed salvation because of their calling but that they would be the father of the One who would fulfil the purpose of God for mankind. In Jesus’ day (and even today), the Jews prided themselves on having Abraham as their father (John 8:39-40) but John the Baptist was quick to point out (Mtw 3:8-9) that genealogical descent was of no avail to the Pharisees and Sadducees if they didn’t bear the fruit that came with repentance. And, as Paul says in Philippians 3:4-8, natural descent is as dross when looked upon as a qualification by which to be saved. We’re sons by faith, not by descent (Gal 3:7).
In summary then, God’s choice of descent for the Christ was in harmony with the choice He made (peculiar as that may sound), according to the Sovereign will of God and not according to any natural qualification that was resident in man.
Appendix - God brings good out of what is evil
Rom 8:28 reads
‘To the ones loving God, He works together all things for good...’
Our mistakes (for example, our weaknesses and failings as opposed to our deliberate disobedience to His revealed will) God has foreseen and has already sown them into His plan for our life so that, far from being unnecessary hiccups on the road to fulfilment, they become the means whereby His purpose is realised.
Yet, God often goes one step further in His dealings with man and uses what’s total rebellion and sin to be woven into the outworking of His purpose. Though the person who commits sin is culpable before God, He nevertheless will use the outcome and consequence of that sin to bring about His own purpose and will for others.
This is what Eph 1:11 means when it states
‘In Him, according to the purpose of Him who works in/energises/gives power to all things according to the counsel of His will...’
where ‘all things’ in the Greek means ‘the totality’ and is used frequently with this meaning in the passage Col 1:15-20. God works even in the ‘evil’ situations to bring about His will for the sake of mankind.
Judah and Tamar’s union to produce Perez, and David and Bathsheba’s union to produce Solomon/Nathan are both good examples. Both began life in sin - Judah refusing to give Tamar what was culturally and morally acceptable and choosing to have sexual intercourse with what appeared to him to be a cult prostitute - David taking for himself Bathsheba and then murdering her husband when she became pregnant (and David was certainly judged for his adultery in this life).
But God took hold of the situations and used them to bring the Messiah to earth to fulfil His ultimate purpose for mankind. Therefore, out of man (spiritually dead), God brought life (Christ - spiritual life).
When the Pharisees and Sadducees plotted to murder Jesus (John 11:45-53 esp v.53), and Pilate delivered Him up to be crucified (John 19:16, Mtw 27:24-26), God was allowing man’s rebellion to manifest itself in their rejection of His Son, yet all the while using it to put Christ on the cross and fulfil His ultimate purpose for mankind (Acts 4:27-28). It wasn’t that God overruled their sin, but that He used their sin to be a part of the means whereby His will was accomplished.
However, it must be repeated that, while God may use the thoughts and actions of men and women that are set against the purposes of God, the individuals concerned are still responsible for the choice of their own freewill in rebelling against Him.
If God only blessed and used the sinless in the world, He would have long since given up and wiped out the human race to start again. But God uses the imperfect, even the totally rebellious, to bring about the purpose of His will while still upholding individual responsibility.
Such is the greatness of our God.
Therefore Paul writes (Rom 9:15-24)
‘What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For He says to Moses
‘“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion”
‘So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.
‘For the scripture says to Pharaoh
‘“I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing My power in you, so that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth”
‘So then He has mercy upon whomever He wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever He wills.
‘You will say to me then
‘“Why does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?”
‘But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is moulded say to its moulder
‘“Why have you made me thus?”
‘Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for the vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?’
God chooses who He will use and who He won’t.
He chooses what He’ll give power to to bring about His will and which other things He’ll remove power from so that they become impotent.
There’s nothing that God can’t use for the outworking of His will - man’s responsibility is to make sure that he’s used in his obedience and not as a consequence of his rebellion!