Humble Beginnings

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Sunday, November 26, 2006 at FBC, Comanche; Studies: Christmas

Text: Matthew 1:

1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

“Humble Beginnings”

Introduction: We see the non-typical yet significant parallel between Ezekiel's four "living creatures" and the four Gospels the true opposites are those which we have shown, i.e. the lion aspect in Matthew, the ox aspect in Mark, the man aspect in Luke, the eagle aspect in John. [1]

      The first verse of this chapter gives the title to the section under consideration; while the last verse of that section summarizes its content.  The first is undoubtedly the title of the genealogy of Jesus as it appeared in the Jewish records.  The last is Matthew’s summary of the content.

      Matthew made this from the legal records available to him in order to preface the Gospel in which he was about to present the One Whom he had come to know as the long-looked-for Messiah-King of his people.

      Although there are omissions for spiritual reasons, Matthew’s phraseology differs: “all the generations from Abraham to David…”; as opposed to “from David to the Babylonian exile…”; Matthew chosen those named to complete the chain.  Those omitted first were the immediate descents of the daughter of Ahaz and Jezebel: Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah.

      Notice that this genealogy does NOT say that Jesus was the son of Joseph.  It is the genealogy of Jesus only because of His mother’s marriage with Joseph, and in the Jewish records He appears as one born to Mary whose husband was Joseph.

Another point of interest is that of the closing declaration of the genealogy proper: “Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus,” which is entirely out of harmony with the method of obtaining all through until that point.  It marks a separation to be explained by the story of the birth of Jesus which immediately follows.  It emphasizes the fact that He [our Lord Jesus] was NOT the son of Joseph.  Thus, on the first page of the Gospel Jesus is presented as connected with a race that could not produce Him.  He came into humanity, was fully human, and yet was distinct from humanity.  The mystery was not explained here, but waits for the apocalyptic of the subsequent story. [2]

      This is the only genealogical record in Scripture that includes women, and tonight we’ll look in detail at God’s great grace; this morning, we will but mention them. The Record of the Messiah (1:1–17): Matthew traces the genealogy leading to Jesus Christ, beginning with Abraham and concluding with Joseph, husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother.

1.    The preview (1:1): The account begins with a reference to two all-important individuals:

Matthew 1:1 (KJV)

1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

A.     David, Israel’s Royal Father (1:1a)

B.    Abraham, Israel’s Racial Father (1:1b)

++  Our Lord Jesus is descended from the line of kings in Judah, and from the “father and founder” of the Hebrews [“Eber”; Genesis 10-11; 1 Chronicles 1:18 ”And Arphaxad begat Shelah, and Shelah begat Eber.”][3]

2.    The overview (1:2–16)

A.     From Abraham to David (1:2–6)

B.    From Solomon to Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) (1:7–11)

C.    From Shealtiel to Jesus (1:12–16)

++  Matthew’s account is exactly the same from Abraham to David, but differs David to Jesus.  The record in Luke gives Jesus’ lineal descent through Mary, and He was through her, the son of David.  Matthew therefore speaks of Him as “son of David,” and not as son of any of those who are in the genealogy of Joseph, subsequent to that point.

The remarkable fact of this title is that it speaks of Jesus as son of David and son of Abraham.  Matthew therefore speaks of Him as son of David, and not as son of any of those who are in the genealogy of Joseph subsequent to that point.[4]

Now the peculiar promise of God to each of these men, according to Old Testament history, was that of a son; and the immediate fulfillment in each case was in many senses disappointing.  Therefore the son of Abraham, who came forth fulfillment of the ideals for which he stood in obedience to faith; and the son of David, who came for the fulfillment of the ideals for which he stood in obedience to faith; was neither Isaac, nor Solomon, but our Lord Jesus.

The story of Solomon—why David before Abraham?—gifts of wisdom, builder of the Temple [“form without power”], Kingdom of peace and prosperity in his lifetime because of God’s promise to his father, David.  Look at his life and his legacy.  Our Lord Jesus built the Temple that cannot be destroyed and laid the foundation for the establishment of the Kingdom in peace.

The story of Isaac—the fulfillment of God’s promise from fourteen years earlier.  He was born of Sarah who “received power to conceive when was past age.”  Isaac retained influence which he exerted by his power to pronounce a blessing on his sons after him.

3.    The review (1:17): Each phase of the threefold genealogical account encompasses fourteen generations.[5]

Matthew 1:17 (KJV)

17So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.

++  Jesus Christ, the Son of David and Son of Abraham, came in the fullness of time to overcome the failure of Solomon and Isaac—to establish the throne and to perfect the nation of God’s children.  Notice the three crises in the history of God’s children:

A.     The Call of Abraham—his obedience to leave and to cleave, and the founding of the new race on the principle of faith.

B.    The Crowning of King David—man after God’s own heart, “king like the other nations.”

C.    The Captivity of God’s People—to Babylon, the people whose very existence in the purpose of God was intended to be a force antagonistic to everything of which Babylon was the embodiment.

@  Identity of Principle—Jesus, the Author and Finisher [line leader] of faith; Abraham’s imperfections recorded, and Jesus’ perfection of God’s will

      Superiority of Realization—David’s loyalty to God was the condition of his royalty [Ps 40:8; Heb 10:5-7]

      Correction of Failure—no longer subject to sin’s penalty, but still submissive to earthly authority [Babylon, Rome], Jesus Christ broke the bonds resulting from sin, and leading us to trust in Him alone.

Conclusion and Application

 In this genealogical paragraph humanity’s aspirations and incompetencies are represented in these generations; and these make us look to our Lord Jesus.  The founder and the king look to Him as Son for the fulfillment of purpose.  Faith, which by comparison with sight, has seemed feeble through the passing of the centuries, waits His vindication.  Government which has perpetually failed waits for His divine authority.  Captivity which has sighed and sobbed in its agony waits His deliverance.  Christ is all, in all, through all, and over all.  Truly He is King and worthy of our submissive obedience.    

“Hail to the Lord’s anointed;

King David’s greater Son!

Hail, in the time appointed,

His reign on earth begun!

He comes to break oppression,

To set the captive free,

To take away transgression,

And to rule in authority.”


 Genealogy of the King  (Matthew 1:1-17)

The Gospel of Matthew begins with the genealogy of our Lord from Abraham to Joseph. But this was not the bloodline. It was the royal line, however, and carried with it the throne rights.  As Son of Abraham, our Lord is the promised seed in whom all nations of the world shall be blessed (Genesis 22:18). As Son of David, He is the King who is to reign in righteousness upon David's throne (Isaiah 9:6-7).  His actual descent from David was through His mother Mary, who was the daughter of Heli. She was married to Joseph before her holy child was born, thus giving Him legal, full title to the throne, though the curse on Jeconiah (Jeremiah 22:30) would have precluded His occupancy of it had He actually been the son of Joseph.

Matthew 1:17 epitomizes the genealogy, dividing it into three groups of fourteen generations each. In order to do this, certain names are omitted and in the last instance Mary's name has to be counted to make fourteen, unless, as others have suggested, we are to consider the birth of Jesus as the thirteenth and the second coming of Christ as the fourteenth.

Others have drawn attention to the inclusion of the names of five women in this list, all of whom no Jewish chronologist would naturally have desired to recognize. These are Tamar, whose shameful story is recorded in Genesis 38; Rahab the harlot, a Gentile who, though a woman of evil character, became the wife of an Israelite prince; Ruth the Moabitess, also a stranger from among the Gentiles, who entered this royal line only through her levirate marriage to Boaz, her first husband's near kinsman; Bathsheba, definitely mentioned as "her that had been the wife of Urias," thus bringing to mind David's terrible failure; and last of all, the sweetest of all, Mary the virgin of Nazareth, the one whose fair name has been impugned [maligned] by unbelieving Jews because she became the mother of Jesus apart from the natural order.

What a list is this! How it reveals the grace that is in the heart of God, who in His sovereignty chose to bring these five women into the line of promise. The names of unchaste Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba tell us of mercy that goes out to the most sinful and depraved. The name of Ruth, loyal and devoted, yet a stranger, speaks of grace acting in spite of the ban upon the Moabites (Deuteronomy 23:3-6).  When we think of Mary the virgin mother, we adore the God who gave us His holy and blessed Son through her as the human instrument.[6]



Matthew 1:1-17

The introduction:


1. It is a book; but it is not, like other books, the product of human thought. It presents to us a life not like other lives. That life stands alone in its beauty, purity, tenderness, in the glory of its unearthly holiness, in the majesty of its Divine self-sacrifice. It stands alone in its claims; it claims to be the great example, the one pattern life, the Light of the world. It claims to be a revelation of a new life; it offers a gift of power and Divine energy - a power which can lift men out of darkness into light, out of worldliness and selfishness into the life of holy love, into the clear light of the presence of God.

The conception of that life is unlike any of the ideals of perfection to be found in ancient writers; there was never anything like it before. It has changed our estimate of various moral qualities; it has raised some that the world thought little of to a very high place of dignity; it has depressed others that once stood high in the thoughts of men to their proper level. That life has affected the modes of thought and feeling even of those who will not accept it as a revelation from God.

It formed a mighty epoch in the history of thought; men cannot divest themselves of its influence; they cannot think now as they might have thought had that life never been lived on earth. It is impossible for us to put ourselves back into the mental attitude of those who had never heard of that life; it has exercised an influence so widespread, so deep-reaching, over the whole field of thought and feeling. But we can see that that life could never have been conceived by any human genius, least of all at the time when the Gospels were written.

Compare it with any efforts of human imagination; there is not one that can even seem to endure the comparison. This history is unique. It has the stamp of genuineness, the ring of truth. Fictitious it cannot be; there never was man that could have invented it. Compare it with other religious writings of antiquity, whether Jewish or Christian; compare it with the apocryphal Gospels, or with the books of the sub-apostolic Fathers: this book stands absolutely alone; there is no other book like it; the gulf that parts it from all other books is wide, deep, immense.

It is the book, the Bible - the book that speaks to the heart of man as no other book can, because it is God's book; it comes from him, and it speaks to the heart which is his handiwork, to the man whom he created in his own image, after his own likeness. It bears in itself the evidence of its Divine origin; we feel, as we read its sacred words, that it has a message for us, that it is God's voice calling us, telling us all that we need to know of himself, of his will, of his redemption of the human race from sin and death.

2. The subject of the book. It is "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ," the book which tells us of his birth, of his history. It opens with a tab!e of genealogy. He is “the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” In him was fulfilled the promise made to Abraham: "In thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." In him was fulfilled the faithful oath which the Lord had sworn to David: "Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne."

The book gives us the history of a Person. Christianity presents to us not simply a code of morals, a system of theology, but a Person. The book describes his character, it relates the circumstances of his life upon earth. It is a history, but it is more than a history. "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." It sheds a light upon the way that leadeth to Christ; it shows us where to find him.

For this history is not like other histories, merely a record of past facts of more or less interest. It is the revelation of a present Saviour. It has not done its work for us unless it is leading us to Christ himself, to a personal knowledge of the Lord. We may know the Gospel through and through, its language, history, geography, archeology, - that knowledge is of deep, absorbing interest; but if we advance no further, we miss the very end for which the Gospel was written. Indeed, it is no Gospel to us, no glad tidings, but only an ancient book, unless by its guidance we find Christ. The deepest biblical scholar, if he fails to find Christ, knows less of the real meaning of the Gospel than the humblest Christian who is living in the faith of the Son of God. It is not the knowledge of the facts of the Lord's history, but the living, personal knowledge of himself, that is eternal life.

We must learn to abide in him, to live in that fellowship which is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Without this spiritual know]edge the Gospel is written in vain for our salvation: "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." The mere external knowledge of the Scripture can only increase the condemnation of those who have not sought by prayer and the gracious help of God the Holy Ghost to penetrate its inner meaning. That inner meaning, revealed to our hearts by the Holy Spirit of God, and brought to bear upon our inward and outward lives, giveth life, because it brings us to him who alone is the Life of men. The promise was that all the nations of the earth should be blessed in the Seed of Abraham; not in his history, not in the record of his life and teaching, but in that holy Seed himself, in his grace, in his abiding presence, in union with him.


1. It begins from Abraham. St. Matthew was writing for the Jews in the first instance. He proves that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah whom the Jews expected, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. He was descended from the father of the faithful, born in the covenant, himself admitted by the rite of circumcision into the conditions of the ancient covenant. He fulfilled all righteousness, all the requirements of the Law. He lived as a Jew, he preached to the Jews. "I am not sent," he said," but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But even as he said those words he healed the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman; it was an earnest of the world-wide range of his redemption. He died, "not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad" [John 11:52]. Therefore through him the blessing of Abraham hath come upon the Gentiles. As St. Paul teaches us in Gal 3, "The Scripture preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." "There is neither Jew nor Greek; for if we be Christ's, then are we Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Thus the first verse of the First Gospel preaches faith. Christ is the Son of Abraham, who "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." They which are of faith are the children of Abraham; they share the blessing of Abraham. Christ is theirs, and they are Christ's.

2. The genealogies in Genesis descend from Adam; this ascends to Christ. God made man in the likeness of God. Adam begat sons in his own likeness, after his image. The sting of the serpent infected the race: "Original sin is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam." The Spirit of the Lord indeed strove with man from the beginning; he was not left to die in his sin and misery; the first promise of a Redeemer follows close upon the first sin.

God was never without a witness; in Cain and Abel we have the first sight of the field in which the wheat and the tares grow together unto the harvest. But corruption soon spread widely among the descendants of Adam; all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. As man receded further from the Divine origin of the race, the deeper became the taint of sin; the traces of the image of God grew ever fainter, the poison of the serpent deadlier and more loathsome. It repented God that he had made man upon earth; the Flood destroyed the ungodly.

Then God established his covenant, first with Noah, afterwards with Abraham. The promise became clearer and more definite. The generations had descended from God; now they begin to ascend towards God again, towards the Christ, who is the Son of God, himself God incarnate. Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ; he saw it and was glad.

Generation after generation looked for the promised Saviour; Simeon was "waiting for the consolation of Israel." The Jews inquired of John the Baptist whether he was the Christ that was to come - the Christ was to restore all things. In Adam all died, in Christ shall all be made alive; for the last Adam is a quickening Spirit, even the Lord from heaven. He came to restore the almost lost image of God. "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we must also bear the image of the heavenly." God hath predestinated his elect to be conformed to the image of his Son. As they draw nearer and nearer to Christ, imitating his blessed example, looking always unto Jesus, they are being renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created them. The generations ascend towards the Christ; so must each Christian strive in his own spiritual life to rise ever nearer to the Lord.

3. The variations of rank in the genealogy. The generations begin with patriarchs; they rise to kings; they descend again to private men. From Abraham to David the king; from David the king to Joseph the carpenter. Human ancestry, however illustrious, could add nothing to the dignity of the Son of God. But both his blessed mother and Joseph, his father by adoption, were descended from David. Apparently the Lord Jesus was, according to the flesh, the representative of David, the lineal [being in a direct line of descent from an ancestor]  heir to David's throne. But he lived in obscurity for the first thirty years of his earthly life. He was meek and humble in heart; he prided not himself on earthly rank. Indeed, what was rank to him? The difference between the greatest monarch and the humblest beggar is altogether inappreciable compared with the infinite descent from heaven to earth.

When once he had emptied himself of his glory, and taken the form of a servant, it was as nothing that he chose the carpenter's shop rather than the royal palace. His earthly ancestors varied in rank. There were kings, there were private men; the reputed father of the Lord, the husband of his mother, was a carpenter. Honours, like wealth, are vanity; the one highest honour, the one loftiest title, is theirs to whom he hath given power to be called the sons of God.

4. The variations in moral and spiritual character. In the genealogy there are holy men like Abraham, there are wicked men like Ahaz, Manasseh, Amen. There is a Moabitish woman, pure indeed, and lovely in character, but of heathen blood. Others there are whose lives had been defiled with sin - Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba. The Lord indeed was born by a miraculous conception, without stain of human corruption; but sinners as well as saints are reckoned in his genealogy, He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, though he was without sin. His ancestry was not uniformly holy, any more than uniformly royal. The poorest have an interest in him as much as the noblest; the sinful have an interest in him as well as apostles and saints.

5. The genealogy, like all genealogies, shows the transitoriness of all things human. "Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat Judah." Man comes, and man goes; a man is born into the world; man goeth to his long home. Each man represents a long line of ancestors, a line which each generation lengthens, a line stretching back into the remotest past. Most of us know very little of those who have gone before us, not so much as their names. They are gone, and we must follow; we shall soon be but names in the memory of posterity; soon our very names will be forgotten.

But God hath said, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Then the dead of ages past are living still; we speak of them as the dead, but they live unto God. Their number is incalculable; the world of the dead is infinitely more numerous than the world of the living. But they are all known, every one of them, to the all-seeing God. We shall soon be gathered to that countless multitude. It matters little now to them what their rank, their wealth, was in life. The patriarch, the king, the carpenter, are distinguished now only by their faith, their holiness. Many that once were last are first now, and the last are first. So will it be with us who are living now. "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven;" "Seek first the kingdom of God."

6. The genealogy shows the true manhood of Christ. According to the flesh he is descended, like ourselves, from a long line of human ancestors. His birth was miraculous; but on his mother's side he came out of Judah, Judah from Abraham, Abraham from Adam. He represents human nature; he is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; he was made in all things like unto us, yet without sin.

7. The genealogy shows his Divine birth; for "Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." He was born of Mary; he was not the Son of Joseph; he had no earthly father. Joseph was the husband of Mary, but not the father of Jesus; he was born of her. The first mention of his birth points at once to other than a human origin. He who is the Son of Abraham is also the Son of God.

8. The numbers. The three fourteens are probably intended to assist the memory, but they may possibly contain a mystical meaning. Seven is the signature of perfection; two, of human witness; three, of God. The history which we are approaching is the history of One who, though he appeared in the form of man, was in truth God. It is related by human witnesses; it is perfect, sufficient for all our needs. "These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his Name." The book which we are opening is "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ," the book which relates the redeeming work of "the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Reverence, awe, and adoring love are the tempers of mind meet for such a study.

Conclusion and Application:  LESSONS **

1. Search the Scriptures; they testify of Christ, and Christ is our Life.

2. Receive the word as the word of God; it has a message for you.

3. Believe in him; do his will. The study of the Scriptures must not end in knowledge; it must lead to faith and to obedience; it must lead to Christ.

4. Life is short; eternity is long. Set your affections on things above.[7]

Setting, Purpose. Matthew addresses the needs of his Jewish-Christian readers, who are apparently in conflict with a Pharisaic religious establishment (cf. 3:7 with Lk 3:7; Mt 5:20; 23:2–39). Members of the early rabbinic movement, mainly successors of the earlier Pharisees, never achieved the power they claimed, but they began to consolidate as much juridical and theological influence as possible, especially in Syria-Palestine, in the years following a.d. 70.

Matthew presents the traumatic destruction of the temple, which had probably occurred recently (see the previous discussion on date), as judgment on the previous Jewish establishment (though it was mainly Sadducean) in chapters 23–24. He wants to encourage his community to evangelize Gentiles as well as their own people (cf. 1:5; 2:1–12; 3:9; 8:5–13; 15:21–28; 24:14; 28:19). Matthew’s collection of Jesus’ teachings (especially chaps. 5–7, 10, 13, 18, 23–25) is to be used to make other disciples for Jesus, just as other Jewish disciples passed on their rabbis’ teachings to their own disciples (28:19).

Genre and Sources. Most scholars think that when Matthew wrote his Gospel, Mark was already in circulation. (Not all scholars accept this position, but it is widely viewed as the consensus.) In line with the standard literary practice of the day, Matthew followed one main source, which he regarded as highly reliable—Mark—and then wove in material from other dependable sources around it. Due to space limitations in this commentary, much of the material found in both Matthew and Mark receives more detailed treatment only under Mark.

Biographies were written differently in Matthew’s day than they are today. Biographers could write either in chronological order (e.g., Luke follows the order of his sources as carefully as possible) or, more frequently, in topical order. Matthew arranges the sayings of Jesus according to topic, not chronology: the ethics of the kingdom in chapters 5–7, the mission of the kingdom in chapter 10, the presence of the kingdom in chapter 13, church discipline and forgiveness in chapter 18 and the future of the kingdom in chapters 23–25. Some commentators have argued that Matthew grouped Jesus’ sayings into five sections to parallel the five books of Moses (other works were divided into five to correspond with the books of Moses, e.g., Psalms, Proverbs, the rabbinic tractate Pirke Abot, 2 Maccabees and perhaps 1 Enoch).

Matthew’s Message. This Gospel or one of its sources may have been used as a training manual for new Christians (Mt 28:19); rabbis taught oral traditions, but Jewish Christians needed a body of Jesus’ teachings in writing for Gentile converts. Matthew repeatedly emphasizes that Jesus fulfills the Jewish Scriptures, and argues from those Scriptures the way a trained scribe would. He portrays Jesus as the epitome of Israel’s hopes for his Jewish audience, but also emphasizes missions to the Gentiles: outreach to the Gentiles is rooted both in the Old Testament and in Jesus’ teaching. Matthew is quick to counterattack the religious leaders of his day who have attacked the followers of Jesus; but he also warns of the growing dangers of apostate religious leadership within the Christian community.

Matthew 1:1–17

The Gospel of Matthew divides into three main sections: 1:1–4:16; 4:17–16:20; and 16:21–28:20. These three sections correspond to the three main stages of Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus’ ministry: introduction, development, and climax. The contents of each of these three sections are clearly distinct (see “Structure” in the Introduction), and Matthew marks the major new thematic divisions of his narrative with the words “from that time on Jesus began to” in both 4:17 and 16:21.

Matthew 1:1–4:16 divides neatly in half. Chapters 1–2 describe events surrounding Jesus’ birth, while 3:1–4:16 deals with events of his adult life just preceding the beginning of his formal ministry.

A. Jesus’ Origin (1:1–2:23)

Chapters 1–2 are usually referred to as Matthew’s birth narratives; but, in fact, Jesus’ birth is never described. Only a selection of events before and after his birth appears. When we compare these chapters with Luke 1–2, we realize that Matthew is highly selective in describing events surrounding the beginning of Jesus’ life. Actually, very little of Luke’s more detailed nativity story reappears in Matthew.

Three major unifying themes account for what Matthew chose to include in chaps. 1–2. The most obvious is the theme of the fulfillment of Scripture. Five times Matthew quotes the Old Testament (1:23; 2:6, 15, 18, 23). Only that which serves to illustrate how Jesus’ origins fulfilled these various Old Testament prophecies appears in these two chapters. Second, Matthew focuses on who Jesus is and what key locations were involved in his birth. Chapter 1 portrays Jesus as the Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, and Immanuel; chap. 2 describes the significance of Jesus in Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth. Third, Matthew develops a contrast between the illegitimate King Herod and the legitimate King Jesus.

1. Heading (1:1)

1A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:

1:1 The opening verse of Matthew’s Gospel introduces its main character and describes his identity in very Jewish terms. The first phrase, “a record of the genealogy” (biblos geneseōs), would more literally be translated “a book of the genesis” (or origin). This phrase has therefore been taken to refer to the entire Gospel or to all of 1:1–4:16, but genesis is not a natural description of the contents of the whole book or of the events of Jesus’ adult life. The NIV understandably limits this heading to the genealogy that follows, but genesis reappears in 1:18 with reference to Jesus’ conception. In the LXX comparable phrases regularly refer both to genealogies and to the narrative material that follows them, but they do not generally refer to entire biblical books (see Gen 5:1a as the introduction to 5:1–9:29). The best interpretation of the opening words of Matthew thus views them as a heading for all of chaps. 1–2. They therefore carry the sense of an account of the origin.

Key Matthean titles for Jesus also appear here in the opening verse. “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Meshiach (Messiah), meaning Anointed One. There was a great diversity of Jewish messianic expectation in the first century and previous eras, but one common thread involved liberation of Israel from its enemies. “Son of David” points to the Messiah’s necessary lineage and royal role (see 2 Sam 7:11b–16). The classic intertestamental illustration of the messianic Son of David appears in Pss Sol 17:21–18:7—a righteous warrior-king who establishes God’s rule in Israel. “Son of Abraham” traces Jesus’ lineage back to the founding father of the nation of Israel, thus ensuring his Jewish pedigree from the earliest stage of his people’s history. But echoes are probably also to be heard here of God’s promises to Abraham that his offspring would bless all the peoples of the earth (Gen 12:1–3). “Son of Abraham” also carried messianic overtones as well in at least some intertestamental Jewish circles (e.g., T. Levi 8:15).

Already in this title verse, key themes of chaps. 1–2 are presented in a nutshell. Matthew’s names for Jesus present him as the fulfillment of the hopes and prophecies of Israel but also as one who will extend God’s blessings to Gentiles. His birth marks a new epoch in human history.

2. Genealogy (1:2–17)

The first main portion of the account of Jesus’ origin presents his genealogy in order to validate Matthew’s claims that Jesus is the son of Abraham and of David. The genealogy divides into three sections, as v. 17 makes clear. The times of Abraham, of David, and of the Babylonian exile mark the beginnings of these three periods. The genealogy culminates in the arrival of the Christ (vv. 16–17). Thus all three titles of v. 1 reappear as central elements in the genealogy. The Babylonian exile appears centrally as well, perhaps because Jesus is seen as the climax of the restoration of the nation of Israel from exile.

David, however, is the central figure throughout the genealogy. When one adds up the numerical values of the Hebrew consonants in his name (DVD), one arrives at the number fourteen (4+6+4). This gematria, as ancient Hebrew numerical equivalents to words are termed, probably accounts for the centrality of the number fourteen in Matthew’s genealogy. Each of the three sections contains fourteen generations (v. 17), and David’s name itself is the fourteenth entry. The actual number of generations in the three parts to the genealogy are thirteen, fourteen, and thirteen, respectively; but ancient counting often alternated between inclusive and exclusive reckoning. Such variation was thus well within standard literary convention of the day (for a good rabbinic parallel, see m. ˓Abot 5:1–6). When one compares the genealogy with Luke’s account (Luke 3:23–37) and with various Old Testament narratives, it is clear that Matthew has omitted several names to achieve this literary symmetry. But the verb consistently translated in the NIV “was the father of” (more literally begat) could also mean was the ancestor of. Other differences from Luke are more difficult to explain. Two major proposals concern the divergence of names in the two genealogies: (1) Luke presents Mary’s genealogy, while Matthew relates Joseph’s; (2) Luke has Jesus’ actual human ancestry through Joseph, while Matthew gives his legal ancestry by which he was the legitimate successor to the throne of David. Knowing which of these solutions is more likely probably is impossible unless new evidence turns up.

2Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 4Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, 7Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, 8Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, 9Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, 11and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 14Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, 15Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

17Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.

1:2–17 Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah figure prominently in Gen 12–50. The other male names in vv. 2–6a correspond to 1 Chr 2:3–15. Solomon through Josiah (vv. 6b–11) all appear in 1 Chr 3:10–14 (recalling that Azariah is the same individual as Uzziah—cf., e.g., 2 Kgs 15:1–2 with 2 Chr 26:3—and that there are omissions in Matthew’s list). In vv. 12–16 Jeconiah is a variant form of Jehoiachin, who with Shealtiel and Zerubbabel appear in 1 Chr 3:17–19. But there Zerubbabel is a nephew of Shealtiel, which may suggest that the latter died childless and that the line of succession passed to his brother’s family. In Ezra 3:2, Zerubbabel is legally considered a son of Shealtiel. The rest of the names from Abiud to Jacob are unparalleled, but ancient Jews tried scrupulously to preserve their genealogies; so it is not implausible that Matthew had access to sources that have since been lost.

Deviations from the otherwise repetitive pattern of “X the father of Y” throughout these verses begin with the addition of “and his brothers” to the reference to Judah in v. 2. Obviously, it was natural to speak of all twelve of the sons of Jacob as founding fathers of the tribes of Israel. In v. 3 Zerah appears along with his twin brother Perez, a natural pairing (Gen 38:27–30). In v. 11 Jeconiah also appears with “his brothers,” again a reference to the nation of Israel as a whole at the time of its deportation. Otherwise the most notable break in pattern in Matthew’s genealogy involves the introduction of five women, both unnecessary and unusual in Jewish genealogies. These include Tamar (v. 3; cf. Gen 38), Rahab (v. 5; cf. Josh 2), Ruth (v. 5; cf. Ruth 3), Bathsheba (v. 6; cf. 2 Sam 11)— referred to only as “Uriah’s wife,” perhaps to remind the reader of David’s adulterous and murderous behavior—and Mary (v. 16).

Why are the first four of these women included? Suggestions have included viewing them as examples of sinners Jesus came to save, representative Gentiles to whom the Christian mission would be extended, or women who had illicit marriages and/or illegitimate children. The only factor that clearly applies to all four is that suspicions of illegitimacy surrounded their sexual activity and childbearing. This suspicion of illegitimacy fits perfectly with that which surrounded Mary, which Matthew immediately takes pains to refute (vv. 18–25). In fact, the grammar of v. 16 makes clear that Joseph was not the human father of Jesus because the pronoun “whom” is feminine and therefore can refer only to Mary as a human parent of the Christ child.

Within the Gospels, Jewish polemic hinted (John 8:48) and in the early centuries of the Christian era explicitly charged that Jesus was an illegitimate child. Matthew here strenuously denies the charge, but he also points out that key members of the messianic genealogy were haunted by similar suspicions (justified in at least the two cases of Tamar and Bathsheba and probably unjustified in the case of Ruth). Such suspicions, nevertheless, did not impugn the spiritual character of the individuals involved. In fact, Jesus comes to save precisely such people. Already here in the genealogy, Jesus is presented as the one who will ignore human labels of legitimacy and illegitimacy to offer his gospel of salvation to all, including the most despised and outcast of society. A question for the church to ask itself in any age is how well it is visibly representing this commitment to reach out to the oppressed and marginalized of society with the good news of salvation in Christ. At the same time, Matthew inherently honors the five women of his genealogy simply by his inclusion of them. So it is not enough merely to minister to the oppressed; we must find ways of exalting them and affirming their immense value in God’s eyes.[8]

Matthew 1

In the first ten chapters of Matthew, we have “The Revelation of the King.” He reveals Himself to the Jews as to His Person (1–4), His principles (5–7), and His power (8–10). Remember that Matthew is seeking to prove that Jesus Christ is the King, “the Son of David.” In this first chapter, he gives the human ancestry of Christ (vv. 1–17), then describes the birth of Christ (vv. 18–25). Thus, Jesus is the “root and the offspring of David” (Rev. 22:16). He is “the root” in that He is eternal God and brought David into being; He is the “offspring” in that His humanity is linked to David in His birth (Rom. 1:1–4).

I.     The Faithful Providence of God (1:1–17)

Providence is God’s control of circumstances so that His will prevails and His purposes are fulfilled. Think of Satan’s attacks against Israel and how he sought to prevent Christ from coming! Because of Abraham’s disobedience, Sarah was almost lost and the promised seed ruined (Gen. 12:10–20). At one time, the royal seed was all slain, except for young Joash (2 Kings 11). This genealogy is not a dull list of names. It is a record of the faithfulness of God in preserving the children of Abraham as a channel through whom Christ could come into the world.

Matthew’s genealogy is of Joseph, Jesus’ father in the eyes of the law. Luke gives Mary’s genealogy. Mary and Joseph were both descendants of David.

You can see the grace of God in this list of names. Note the four women mentioned: Tamar (v. 3, see Gen. 38); Rahab (v. 5, see Josh. 2; Heb. 11:31); Ruth (v. 5, see the Book of Ruth); and Bathsheba (v. 6, see 2 Sam. 12). Mary is also mentioned. These women illustrate the grace of God. Tamar was guilty of whoredom, yet God permitted her to be listed in the ancestry of Christ. Rahab was both a harlot and a foreigner. She was saved by her faith. Ruth was a Moabitess; and according to Deut. 23:3–6, she was excluded from the nation of Israel. Bathsheba was partner to David’s awful sin, yet God forgave her and permitted her to be one of Christ’s ancestors through Solomon. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20).

This genealogy is not complete, of course. Several names are left out. It was common among the Jews to leave out unimportant names to help the children remember the lists. Three sets of fourteen names would be easy to remember. In 1:8, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah are omitted, probably because of their relationship to Ahab’s wicked daughter, Athaliah. No Jew today has his legal genealogy. All the records were destroyed in a.d. 70 when the temple was ruined. Jesus Christ is the only Jew alive today who can prove His rights to the throne of David.[9]

Background and Setting

The Jewish flavor of Matthew’s gospel is remarkable. This is evident even in the opening genealogy, which Matthew traces back only as far as Abraham. In contrast, Luke, aiming to show Christ as the Redeemer of humanity, goes all the way back to Adam. Matthew’s purpose is somewhat narrower: to demonstrate that Christ is the King and Messiah of Israel. This gospel quotes more than 60 times from OT prophetic passages, emphasizing how Christ is the fulfillment of all those promises.

The probability that Matthew’s audience was predominantly Jewish is further evident from several facts: Matthew usually cites Jewish custom without explaining it, in contrast to the other gospels (cf. Mark 7:3; John 19:40). He constantly refers to Christ as “the Son of David” (1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9, 15; 22:42, 45). Matthew even guards Jewish sensibilities regarding the name of God, referring to “the kingdom of heaven” where the other evangelists speak of “the kingdom of God.” All the book’s major themes are rooted in the OT and set in light of Israel’s messianic expectations.

Matthew’s use of Greek may suggest that he was writing as a Palestinian Jew to Hellenistic Jews elsewhere. He wrote as an eyewitness of many of the events he described, giving firsthand testimony about the words and works of Jesus of Nazareth.

His purpose is clear: to demonstrate that Jesus is the Jewish nation’s long-awaited Messiah. His voluminous quoting of the OT is specifically designed to show the tie between the Messiah of promise and the Christ of history. This purpose is never out of focus for Matthew, and he even adduces many incidental details from the OT prophecies as proofs of Jesus’ messianic claims (e.g., 2:17, 18; 4:13–15; 13:35; 21:4, 5; 27:9, 10).

Historical and Theological Themes

Since Matthew is concerned with setting forth Jesus as Messiah, the King of the Jews, an interest in the OT kingdom promises runs throughout this gospel. Matthew’s signature phrase “the kingdom of heaven” occurs 32 times in this book (and nowhere else in all of Scripture).

The opening genealogy is designed to document Christ’s credentials as Israel’s king, and the rest of the book completes this theme. Matthew shows that Christ is the heir of the kingly line. He demonstrates that He is the fulfillment of dozens of OT prophecies regarding the king who would come. He offers evidence after evidence to establish Christ’s kingly prerogative. All other historical and theological themes in the book revolve around this one.

Matthew records 5 major discourses: the Sermon on the Mount (chaps. 5–7); the commissioning of the apostles (chap. 10); the parables about the kingdom (chap. 13); a discourse about the childlikeness of the believer (chap. 18); and the discourse on His second coming (chaps. 24, 25). Each discourse ends with a variation of this phrase: “when Jesus had ended these sayings” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). That becomes a motif signaling a new narrative portion. A long opening section (chaps. 1–4) and a short conclusion (28:16–20), bracket the rest of the gospel, which naturally divides into 5 sections, each with a discourse and a narrative section. Some have seen a parallel between these 5 sections and the 5 books of Moses in the OT.

The conflict between Christ and Pharisaism is another common theme in Matthew’s gospel. But Matthew is keen to show the error of the Pharisees for the benefit of his Jewish audience—not for personal or self-aggrandizing reasons. Matthew omits, for example, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, even though that parable would have put him in a favorable light.

Matthew also mentions the Sadducees more than any of the other gospels. Both Pharisees and Sadducees are regularly portrayed negatively, and held up as warning beacons. Their doctrine is a leaven that must be avoided (16:11, 12). Although these groups were doctrinally at odds with one another, they were united in their hatred of Christ. To Matthew, they epitomized all in Israel who rejected Christ as King.

The rejection of Israel’s Messiah is another constant theme in this gospel. In no other gospel are the attacks against Jesus portrayed as strongly as here. From the flight into Egypt to the scene at the cross, Matthew paints a more vivid portrayal of Christ’s rejection than any of the other evangelists. In Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, for example, no thief repents, and no friends or loved ones are seen at the foot of the cross. In His death, He is forsaken even by God (27:46). The shadow of rejection is never lifted from the story.

Yet Matthew portrays Him as a victorious King who will one day return “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:30).[10]

1:1 book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. This phrase is viewed by some as Matthew’s title for the entire gospel. The Gr. phrase translated “book of the genealogy” is exactly the same phrase used in Gen. 5:1 in the LXX. Jesus Christ. The Hebrew Jeshua means “the Lord is Salvation.” Christos means “anointed one” and is the exact equivalent of the Heb. word for “Messiah” (Dan. 9:25). Son of David. A messianic title used as such in only the synoptic gospels (see notes on 22:42, 45). Son of Abraham. Takes His royal lineage all the way back to the nation’s inception in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1–3).

1:2 For a comparison of this genealogy and the one given by Luke, see note on Luke 3:23–38.

1:3 Tamar. It is unusual for women to be named in genealogies. Matthew names 5: “Tamar” was a Canaanite woman who posed as a prostitute to seduce Judah (Gen. 38:13–30). “Rahab” (v. 5) was a Gentile and a prostitute (Josh. 2:1). “Ruth” (v. 5) was a Moabite woman (Ruth 1:3) and thus her offspring were forbidden to enter the assembly of the Lord for 10 generations (Deut. 23:3). “Bathsheba” (“Uriah’s wife,” v. 6) committed adultery with David (2 Sam. 11). And “Mary” (v. 16) bore the stigma of pregnancy outside of wedlock. Each of these women is an object lesson about the workings of divine grace.

1:5, 6 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab … and Jesse begot David the king. This is not an exhaustive genealogy. Several additional generations must have elapsed between Rahab (in Joshua’s time) and David (v. 6)—nearly 4 centuries later. Matthew’s genealogy (like most of the biblical ones) sometimes skips over several generations between well known characters in order to abbreviate the listing.

1:8 Joram begot Uzziah. Cf. 1 Chr. 3:10–12. Matthew skips over Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, going directly from Joram to Uzziah (Azariah)—using a kind of genealogical shorthand. He seems to do this intentionally in order to make a symmetrical 3-fold division in v. 17.

1:11 Josiah begot Jeconiah. Again, Matthew skips a generation between Josiah and Jeconiah (cf. 1 Chr. 3:14–16). Jeconiah is also called Jehoiachin (2 Kin. 24:6; 2 Chr. 36:8) and sometimes Coniah (Jer. 22:24). Jeconiah’s presence in this genealogy presents an interesting dilemma. A curse on him forbade any of his descendants from the throne of David forever (Jer. 22:30). Since Jesus was heir through Joseph to the royal line of descent, but not an actual son of Joseph and thus not a physical descendant through this line, the curse bypassed him.

1:12 Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. See 1 Chr. 3:17–19, where Zerubbabel is said to be the offspring of Pedaiah, Shealtiel’s brother. Elsewhere in the OT, Zerubbabel is always called the son of Shealtiel. (e.g., Hag. 1:1; Ezra 3:2; Neh. 12:1). Possibly Shealtiel adopted his nephew (see note on Hag. 2:23). Zerubbabel is the last character in Matthew’s list who appears in any of the OT genealogies.

1:16 Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus. This is the only entry in the entire genealogy where the word “begot” is not used—including those where whole generations were skipped. The pronoun “whom” is sing., referring to Mary alone. The unusual way in which this final entry is phrased underscores the fact that Jesus was not Joseph’s literal offspring. The genealogy nonetheless establishes His claim to the throne of David as Joseph’s legal heir.

1:17 fourteen generations. The significance of the number 14 is not clear, but Matthew’s attention to numbers—a distinctly Hebrew characteristic—is evident throughout the gospel. The systematic ordering may be an aid for memorization. Note that Matthew counts Jeconiah in both the third and fourth groups, representing both the last generation before the Babylonian captivity and the first generation after.[11]

The Background of Jesus

Ancient biographies typically began by rehearsing the noble lineage of their subject. Here Jesus is connected with the history of his people from the beginning.

1:1. The Messiah was to be a “son [descendant] of David”; “son of Abraham” was applied to Jewish people in general, so Matthew begins by reminding us that Jesus is Jewish. Genealogies could provide unity to a survey of history between major figures (as with Adam, Noah and Abraham in Gen 5, 11). Greek readers often called the book of Genesis “the book of generations,” and the title is also used for genealogies and other accounts contained in it (Gen 2:4; 5:1 LXX). In Genesis genealogies are named for the first person cited, but Matthew’s genealogy is named for the person in whom it climaxes, Jesus Christ.

1:2–16. As in Old Testament genealogies, but in contrast to Luke and Greco-Roman genealogies, Matthew records the names beginning with the oldest and moving to the most recent.

Genealogies reminded Jewish people of God’s sovereignty in arranging marriages and providing offspring. Sometimes they explained why a person behaved a particular way (e.g., Moses’ descent from lawbreakers like Reuben, Simeon and [directly] Levi helps explain some of his own weaknesses in Exodus 6:12–30). Most important, they were essential to document a person’s proper lineage as a pure Israelite (in contrast to some other Galileans, who could be descended from converted Gentiles), a member of the priesthood, or royalty. Genealogies could also be used as unifying links between major figures in history; Genesis links Adam, Noah and Abraham in this way (Gen 5, 11). Matthew connects Jesus with the Old Testament narratives about the patriarchs, the Davidic kingly line and the exile.

At least partial genealogical records of important (especially priestly) families were kept in the temple. After the temple was destroyed in 70, anyone could have claimed to be of Davidic descent, but the claim for Jesus was made before 70, when it still could have been checked (Rom 1:3). Even after 70, the evidence for his Davidic descent was still sufficient to provoke trouble for some of Jesus’ relatives with the Roman government.

Women did not need to be recorded in ancient genealogies, but Matthew includes four women (1:3, 5–6), three of them Gentiles (Gen 38:6; Josh 2:1; Ruth 1:4) and the other also a Gentile or at least the wife of a Gentile (2 Sam 11:3)—even though he omits the matriarchs prominent in Jewish tradition, Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel. Thus he hints from the Old Testament that God has always planned missions to all peoples (Mt 28:19).

Scholars have suggested that some ancient genealogies incorporated symbolic material based on the interpretation of biblical texts. Jewish interpreters of Scripture sometimes would modify a letter or sound in a biblical text to reapply it figuratively. Thus the Greek text of Matthew 1:10 reads “Amos” (the prophet) rather than “Amon” (the wicked king—2 Kings 21), and Matthew 1:8 reads “Asaph” (the psalmist) rather than “Asa” (a good king turned bad—2 Chron 16); most translations have obscured this point.

1:17. Matthew omits some names, as was customary in genealogies (in this case perhaps following the Greek translation of the Old Testament); creating patterns like three sets of fourteen made lists easier to remember. Some commentators have argued that Matthew uses fourteen generations because the numerical value of David’s name in Hebrew letters is 14. (Unlike letters in the English alphabet, Greek and Hebrew letters were also used as numerals; the Jewish practice of counting the numerical values of words and deriving meaning from them came to be called gematria.) Dividing history into eras was common; a later Jewish text, 2 Baruch, divided history into fourteen epochs.[12]

Matthew 1.1–17.

SECTION HEADING: “The Ancestors of Jesus Christ” (Today’s English Version [TEV]): for this section heading, if the translators follow TEV they should use the normal word for “ancestors,” which in some languages is “fathers” or “grandfathers.” Translators can also say “The people who were the fathers of Jesus Christ” or “The people from whom Jesus Christ descended.” Some translators put the emphasis on the fact that this is a genealogy, that is, a list of ancestors, and say “The list of Jesus Christ’s ancestors.”

There are languages where even section headings need to be complete sentences, so that translators say something like “This is the list of Jesus Christ’s ancestors” or “These are the names of Jesus Christ’s ancestors.”

In this Handbook we will comment on the section headings of TEV. However, translators should not feel they have to use these necessarily. They may find that in their translation some headings should be dropped or others added. Generally, good section headings help readers understand the text.

“Jesus Christ”: see notes on “Christ” and on names in 1.1. “Christ” is used here with “Jesus” as a name and will be transliterated, not translated.

The record of Jesus’ ancestors (1.1–17) is closely connected with the story of Jesus’ birth (1.18–2.23). Both the genealogy and the story of Jesus’ birth begin with introductory sentences (1.1; 1.18) in which the word “genealogy” or words related to it are used. In this first section of his Gospel (1.1–2.23), Matthew answers two questions: “Who is Jesus Christ?” and “Where does he come from?” In particular the record of Jesus’ ancestors is intended to prove that the entire history of Israel finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. He is a descendant of Abraham, to whom God made the promise that he would bless all families on earth (Gen 12.3). But at the same time he is a descendant of David and so has claim to be the expected Messiah, the rightful heir to the promises made to David (2 Sam 7.12–16).

Matthew states that the list of Jesus’ ancestors falls into three groups of fourteen names each. Although it is difficult to find more than thirteen names in the third group, at least two solutions to this problem are possible: (1) in verse 16 “Jesus” may be considered the thirteenth name and “Christ” the fourteenth name; or (2) the division of names in verse 17 may be understood to include “David” as the final name of the first group and the first name of the second group, yielding the following arrangement: from Abraham to David (verses 2–6a), from David to the Babylonian Exile (verses 6b–11), and from the time of the Exile to the birth of Jesus, the Promised Savior (verses 12–16). In this way Matthew indicates the high point of Israel’s sacred history (the time when David was king) as well as its low point (the Babylonian Exile) and its fulfillment (Jesus Christ). The result is three lists of fourteen names each:

1 2 3
(Abraham–David) (David–Exile) (Exile–Jesus)
1. Abraham 1. David 1. Jechoniah
2. Isaac 2. Solomon 2. Shealtiel
3. Jacob 3. Rehoboam 3. Zerubbabel
4. Judah 4. Abijah 4. Abiud
5. Perez 5. Asa 5. Eliakim
6. Hezron 6. Jehoshaphat 6. Azor
7. Ram 7. Joram 7. Zadok
8. Amminadab 8. Uzziah 8. Achim
9. Nahshon 9. Jotham 9. Eliud
10. Salmon 10. Ahaz 10. Eleazar
11. Boaz 11. Hezekiah 11. Matthan
12. Obed 12. Manasseh 12. Jacob
13. Jesse 13. Amos 13. Joseph
14. David 14. Josiah 14. Jesus

Jewish genealogical lists generally did not normally include women. Tamar (verse 3; see Gen 38.24), Rahab (verse 5; see Josh 2.1; Heb 11.31; James 2.25), and (Ruth verse 5; see Ruth 1.4) are all listed in the first section; in the second section the wife of Uriah is mentioned (verse 6; see 2 Sam 11.1–13), while in the final section Mary is named (verse 16). Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth were all non-Israelites, and Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah) may also be considered “non-Israelite” because of her marriage to a non-Israelite man.

Matthew’s genealogical list down through Zerubbabel in verse 12 is apparently based on the Septuagint text of 1 Chronicles 1–3 (verse 2: 1 Chr 1.34; 2.1; verse 3: 1 Chr 2.4, 5, 9; verses 4–11: 1 Chr 2.10–13; 3.5, 10–15; verse 12: 1 Chr 3.17–19). The source, or sources, used for verses 13–16 are unknown, but the names are well-attested Jewish names.

It goes without saying that translators should translate what Matthew says when he gives the three sets of fourteen generations, even though, as we pointed out above, it may not be immediately evident to readers how Matthew arrives at the number fourteen in every case. It would be wrong to change the numbers he gives or to add other names from the Old Testament.

Matthew 1.1.

Book of the genealogy (TEV “list of the ancestors”) translates a phrase which clearly has its origin in Genesis 2.4a: “These are the generations of the heaven and earth.” Similar use of this expression occurs in Genesis 5.1; 6.9; 10.1; 11.10, 27, showing clearly that the phrase reflected in Matthew may include not only a list of ancestors but narrative as well.

The book of the genealogy may be interpreted in three different ways: (1) It may be limited to mean “a list of the ancestors” (TEV, French common language version [FRCL], German common language version [GeCL]; Jerusalem Bible [JB] “A genealogy”; New English Bible [NEB] “A table of the descent”; New American Bible [NAB] “A family record”; Moffatt [Mft] “The birth roll”; American Translation [AT] “The ancestry”; Phillips [Phps] “This is the record of the ancestry”; Barclay [Brc] “This is the family tree”).

(2) Following the pattern of Genesis, one may enlarge the phrase to include not only a list of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, but the events surrounding his birth and childhood as well (1.1–2.23). No translations appear to state this explicitly, though it is possible to take the ambiguous phrase The book of the genealogy in this sense (so also Zürcher Bibel [Zür]; see Traduction oecuménique de la Bible [TOB] “The book of the origin of Jesus Christ”). However, it may as easily be assumed that these translations have done nothing more than to perpetuate a literal rendering of the Greek phrase.

(3) It is also possible to take this phrase to include the whole Gospel of Matthew, which may be the intention of Luther Revised (Lu): “This is the book of the story of Jesus Christ ....”

On the whole, the second of these three possibilities seems to be the best choice in light of the way that this phrase is used in Genesis; though, as can be seen from the translations quoted, most translators apparently prefer the first of these possibilities.

Translators who choose the second interpretation of the phrase The book of the genealogy, and understand it to include the events surrounding Jesus’ birth and childhood as well as the list of his ancestors, can use a phrase such as “This is the story of the ancestors of Jesus Christ and his birth.” (For “ancestors,” see comments on the section heading.) In some languages “story” is usually reserved for some tale that is not true. In such cases a better sentence will be “This writing (or, book) is about the ancestors of Jesus Christ and his birth.”

“Birth” will in some cases be translated by a noun, as in the above examples, and in others by a verb, as in “and how he was born.”

Those who follow the third interpretation, which suggests that book of the genealogy refers to all of Matthew, will use sentences such as “This book (or, writing) is the story of Jesus Christ” or “... is about Jesus Christ.”

Most translators, however, will follow the first interpretation and understand book of the genealogy to refer to a list of ancestors. Then, like TEV, they may say “This is the list of the ancestors of Jesus Christ.” In languages where there is no word “list,” or in which it would be awkward to use that word in this context, translators can say “These are the ancestors,” or “These are the names of the ancestors.”

This verse may be restructured in a variety of ways. But if the exegesis followed by the majority of translators is accepted, then GeCL gives a more natural order: “Jesus Christ is a descendant of David and Abraham. Here is the list of his ancestors: ....” This restructuring has a twofold advantage: (1) It introduces at the very first the information about Jesus’ ancestry from David and Abraham, which is so important to the Gospel of Matthew; and (2) the list of ancestors is given immediately following the mention of the list.

Note that even though The book of the genealogy is not a complete sentence, all the solutions we are suggesting are. (“These are ...,” “This is ...,” etc.) Many readers will find complete sentences easier to follow.

The word Jesus is a Greek equivalent of a well-known Hebrew name. It is constructed from two Hebrew words which mean “Lord” and “save,” and it is probably best taken in its root meaning: “O Lord, save.” In 1.21 the angel indicates to Mary the true and full significance of the name Jesus—he will save his people from their sins. However, even though the meaning of the name is significant, translators should not try to translate Jesus, but write it as a proper noun.

Most translators and commentators are apparently in agreement that the word Christ in this verse is used as a proper name, not with the force of “the Christ,” as in verses 16 and 17. The Greek word “Christ” is a translation of the Hebrew “Messiah,” meaning “the Anointed One.” In New Testament times it was a technical term used to describe the promised Savior-King, and it generally had political and military overtones. However, when used of Jesus by Matthew and the other New Testament writers, it is used exclusively in a spiritual sense. The complete name Jesus Christ is rare in the first three Gospels. It occurs here and in Mark 1.1 for certain; in 1.18 and 16.21 the Greek manuscripts vary between “Jesus” and “Jesus Christ.”

It is difficult in a Handbook to advise translators on writing proper nouns, since the problem is wider than just the specific names in any one book. It is important for translators to agree on the principles to follow fairly early in their work. (They can discuss this with their Translation Consultant.) In areas where a major language such as Spanish, French, English, or Portuguese dominates, translators often take the pronunciation of names in that language and adapt them so that they follow the phonological and orthographic patterns of their own language. Exceptions are sometimes made for well-known names in common usage in the area, such as Peter, John, or James.

A further problem is the case of several variants of one name in the Scriptures themselves, as we see with “Ram” in verse 3. Translators will have to consider what will be best for their readers. Certainly those preparing common language translations (CLTs) will find that following the lead of TEV will help avoid confusion with this problem.

For translators, there are two basic decisions that have to be made about “Christ” and “Messiah.” As we said, the two terms mean the same thing, but whereas “Messiah” is always used as a title (“the Messiah”), “Christ” is sometimes a title (“the Christ”) and sometimes a name or part of a name (“Jesus Christ”). This can be very confusing to readers. Since “Messiah” in English now is understood very much as in the biblical text, TEV has followed the policy in the Gospels of using “Messiah” whenever the title is involved, whether the text has “the Christ” or “the Messiah.” TEV then reserves “Christ” for its usage as a name. Many translators will want to consider doing the same thing.

A second decision to make is whether to transliterate “Messiah” or to translate it. Some translators have said “God’s promised Savior,” “God’s chosen Savior,” or simply “the One God promised (or, chose).” There are those who both transliterate and translate, saying “the Messiah, God’s chosen Savior.”

Christ as a name (as here) will be written in accordance with the principles followed for names.

Jesus Christ is specified as the son of David, the son of Abraham. Most languages have a noun that means “descendant” (TEV), and translators either use a sentence similar to TEV or use a construction such as “He descended from David and from Abraham” or “He descended from David, who descended from Abraham.”

In languages which use “son” to mean “descendant,” the sentence must be constructed so that it is clear that David was not the biological father of Jesus, and that Abraham was neither David’s father nor the father of Jesus. Sentences such as “one of his fathers of long ago was David and another was Abraham” or “One of his fathers of long ago was David, and one of David’s fathers was Abraham” will also be good ways to handle the phrase.

Matthew’s readers knew that David was the famous king of Israel’s history, but many readers today will not know that, particularly in languages that do not have an Old Testament. Translators in these languages may want to supply that information in a footnote or in the glossary, or they can insert it directly into the text by saying “King David.”

Similarly, not all modern readers will know that Abraham was the great founder of the nation of Israel, and translators sometimes say “Our founder Abraham” or “Abraham, who founded our nation.”

Matthew 1.2.

Abraham was the father of Isaac: notice that TEV restructures verses 2–16 (2–6a, 6b–11, 12–16) on the basis of the information given in verse 17: “So then, there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, and fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen from then to the birth of the Messiah.” That is, at the beginning of each list (2a; 6a; 12) TEV provides a summary of the ancestors to be mentioned: “From Abraham to King David ... From David to the time when the people of Israel were taken into exile in Babylon ... From the time after the exile in Babylon to the birth of Jesus ....” This has the advantage of presenting the lists in a way that is natural in English. However, if the reader looks for the fourteen generations (see verse 17) in each of these lists, he may still be at a loss as to what persons are to be included, because this information is still not immediately evident. Therefore the following restructuring may be helpful in making all the relevant information immediately evident for the reader:

This is the list of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, who was a descendant of David, who was a descendant of Abraham.

There were fourteen generations from Abraham to David:

1. Abraham

2. Isaac

3. Jacob, the father of Judah and his brothers

4. Judah, the father of Perez and Zerah (their mother was Tamar)

5. Perez

6. Hezron

7. Ram

8. Amminadab

9. Nahshon

10. Salmon

11. Boaz (Rahab was his mother)

12. Obed (Ruth was his mother)

13. Jesse

14. King David

There were fourteen generations from David to the time when the people were carried away to Babylon:

1. David

2. Solomon (his mother had been Uriah’s wife)

3. Rehoboam

4. Abijah

5. Asa

6. Jehoshaphat

7. Jehoram

8. Uzziah

9. Jotham

10. Ahaz

11. Hezekiah

12. Manasseh

13. Amon

14. Josiah, the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers, at the time when the people of Israel were carried away to Babylon.

There were fourteen generations from the time the people were carried away to Babylon to the birth of the Promised Savior:

1. Jechoniah

2. Shealtiel

3. Zerubbabel

4. Abiud

5. Eliakim

6. Azor

7. Zadok

8. Achim

9. Eliud

10. Eleazar

11. Matthan

12. Jacob

13. Joseph, the husband of Mary, who was the mother of Jesus

14. Jesus, the Promised Savior (the Messiah).

In many societies it is common to give the lists of the ancestors of people. But even in those societies where it is not often done, there will generally be ways to do it that people can follow easily. When translating these lists in verses 2–16, it is important to keep in mind what is normal and what the readers will follow easily. It may be that putting a restatement of the summary in verse 17 at the beginning will be helpful. This can be done as in TEV, or as we suggested above: “There were 14 generations from Abraham to King David.” Other suggestions are “The descendants Abraham had up to the time of King David are these” or “These are the names of the descendants of Abraham until the time of King David.”

This type of summary introductory statement may not be helpful or necessary in all languages. But those translators who do find it helpful will not only use one here in verse 2, but also in verses 6b and 12.

Some languages will normally use the formula “Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac was the father of Jacob ...” throughout the genealogy, much as Matthew did it. Translators will then follow the text quite closely. Other languages have formulas that mention the sons, as in “Abraham, his son was Isaac. Isaac, his son was Jacob ....” There are also languages that find it more natural to say “Isaac, his father was Abraham. Jacob, his father was Isaac ....”

Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob: in 1 Chronicles 1.34 the Hebrew text has “Israel,” whereas the Greek translation has Jacob, which indicates that Matthew is following the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew text. Matthew then takes the name Judah from 1 Chronicles 2.1 and summarizes with the phrase and his brothers, whereas in the Septuagint the names are listed individually.

Judah and his brothers: readers who do not know the Old Testament at all find it strange to add “and his brothers.” These readers suggest that of course Jacob was also the father of Judah’s brothers, or they would not be his brothers! The important historical information is that the twelve of them founded Israel’s twelve tribes, and this information should be given in a footnote.

Some languages normally use a word which means “siblings,” which covers both brothers and sisters. Since the text is speaking here of twelve specific brothers, then in those languages translators need to say “his male siblings” or “Jacob was the father of Judah and of the other sons.”

Matthew 1.3.

The first clause is from 1 Chronicles 2.4 (“and Tamar his wife [Hebrew: daughter-in-law] gave birth to Perez and Zerah”).

Many languages have to make by Tamar a separate sentence: “Their mother was Tamar.”

In 1 Chronicles 2.9 Ram is mentioned as one of the sons of Hezron. For Ram the Septuagint has Aram (see the RSV footnote), but Ram is obviously the person who is meant, and many modern translations follow this spelling (Phps, NEB, NAB, New Jerusalem Bible [NJB], Translator’s New Testament [TNT]), though others maintain the Septuagint spelling (TOB, Zür, Brc, Mft, AT). The advantage of using Ram is that it avoids confusion with the several Arams mentioned in the Old Testament (see Gen 10.22, 23; 22.21; Num 23.7; 2 Sam 8.6; 15.8; 1 Chr 1.17; 2.23; 7.34; Hos 12.12; Zech 9.1), some of which are people and the others are places, but none of which are the person intended by Matthew. See the comments on names in 1.1.

Matthew 1.4.

In 1 Chronicles 2.10 Amminadab is listed as the son of Ram, and in 1 Chronicles 2.11 Nahshon and Salmon are mentioned.

Matthew 1.5–6a

In 1 Chronicles 2.11 Salmon is listed as the father of Boaz, though Rahab is not mentioned. Obed and Jesse are Septuagint forms and come from 1 Chronicles 2.12. The names of the women Rahab and Ruth are not listed in the genealogy of 1 Chronicles.

David the king: there are several ways to translate this naturally: “King David” (TEV) or “David who was (or, became) king.” Some languages have to specify the people over whom he was king. These translations can say “the king of Israel.”

Matthew 1.6b

1.6 Matthew 1.6b

Those translators who used a short summary at the beginning of verse 2 to introduce the list of ancestors will do a similar thing here. “These are the descendants of David until the people of Israel were taken into exile in Babylon” or “After David, and until the people of Israel were taken into exile in Babylon, these are the names of his descendants.”

For TEV‘s “Babylon” and “deportation” (or, “exile”), see comments on verse 11.

Solomon is listed in 1 Chronicles 3.5, 10. As with Rahab and Ruth, the wife of Uriah is not given in the Chronicles list, either by name or by indirect allusion.

By the wife of Uriah: as with “by Tamar” in verse 3, this phrase may need a separate sentence: “His mother was Uriah’s wife.” In many cases it is important to specify that she was not Uriah’s wife at the time of Solomon’s birth but had been his wife previously. Translators can follow TEV or even say “His mother had been the wife of Uriah before.”

Matthew 1.7.

Rehoboam, Abijah, and Asa are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3.10. Although “Asaph” is the earliest form of the text, the name Asa apparently is used in most translations. The name Asaph occurs in the headings of some Hebrew psalms, while Amos is the name of the prophet. For further comment on the textual problem, see verse 10.

Matthew 1.8–9.

Jehoshaphat is listed in 1 Chronicles 3.10, while Joram and Uzziah are mentioned in the Septuagint text of 3.11. Where Matthew has the shorter text (“Uzziah was the father of Jotham”), the Septuagint has the longer, “Uzziah was the father of Joash; Joash was the father of Amaziah; Amaziah was the father of Azariah; Azariah was the father of Jotham.” So then, for whatever reason, whether textual (the accidental omission of these three names) or thematic (the intentional omission of names to maintain the schematic arrangement of three groups of fourteen names), Matthew has omitted three names: Joash, Amaziah, and Azariah.

Matthew 1.10.

This verse is based on 1 Chronicles 3.13, 14. The translations are divided between Amos (RSV, Brc, TNT, Zür, NAB) and “Amon” (TEV, Phps, GeCL, Lu, Segond [Seg], FRCL, TOB, Mft, AT, NEB, NJB) because there is a textual variant in the Greek text. This variant probably goes back to the Septuagint, which had Amos in some manuscripts and “Amon” in other manuscripts. The United Bible Societies’ (UBS) Greek New Testament accepts the reading Amos because of the strong manuscript evidence in its favor, although the majority of modern translations seemingly prefer “Amon.” See the comments on names in 1.1. However, TEV uses “Amon” because of the principle of consistency between the Old and the New Testaments when referring to the same person. This is true also with “Jechoniah” and “Jehoiachin” in verse 11.

Matthew 1.11.

Jechoniah and “Jehoiachin” (TEV) are the same person, but TEV has adopted the principle of following the more familiar name of a person rather than maintaining both names for the same individual (see, for example, the following verses, where Jehoiachin is referred to as Jechoniah in the Old Testament: 1 Chr 3.16, 17; Est 2.6; Jer 24.1; 27.20; 28.4; 29.2). See the comments on names in 1.1.

The phrase and his brothers is perhaps based on the text of 1 Chronicles 3.15, where the names of Jechoniah’s brothers are listed. The brothers of Jechoniah are not as important in the tradition of the people of Israel as the brothers of Judah in verse 2. In languages that have one word for both brothers and sisters, translators should say “Jehoiachin and his male siblings” or “Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and other sons.”

At the time of the deportation to Babylon is rendered “when the people of Israel were taken into exile in Babylon” by TEV and introduced earlier (verse 6b). GeCL (“This was at the time when the inhabitants of Jerusalem were carried off to Babylon”) and FRCL (“at the time when the Israelites were deported to Babylon”) provide a dynamic restructuring of the last part of this verse. The mention of the Babylonian exile closes the second division of the genealogical list.

Deportation is a concept many cultures understand far too readily and for which they have a way of speaking. In many cases the word for it is understood to mean “carried into slavery.” If possible the real emphasis should be on exile rather than on slavery. There are languages where the idea is expressed with two or more verbs, as in “At the time when the Israelites were conquered and forced to go live in Babylon” or “At that time, the Babylonians forced the Israelites to go live in their country.” Of course, translators must make sure that it does not sound as if the Israelites were literally picked up and carried to Babylon.

Most CLTs make it clear who was deported, that is, the people of Israel, and some languages also have to indicate who did it, by saying “the Babylonians forced ....”

Babylon refers to both the city and the country around it. In modern writings the city is commonly referred to as “Babylon,” while the country of which it is the capital is called “Babylonia.” Translators should use terms that are consistent for their own languages. Since not all the Israelites were made to live in the city, it may be best to say “the country of Babylonia” or, as above, “in their country.”

Matthew 1.12.

And after the deportation to Babylon (TEV “From the time after the exile in Babylon”) is based on 1 Chronicles 3.17. This verse clearly indicates that Matthew is basing his genealogical references on the Septuagint rather than on the Hebrew, since the Hebrew text lists Zerubbabel as the son of Pedaiah (1 Chr 3.19), while the Septuagint lists him as the son of Shealtiel.

Translators who choose to introduce each section of the genealogy with a summary from verse 17, as in verses 2 and 6b, will do the same here: “From the time after the people of Israel were carried away to Babylon until Jesus was born, these were his ancestors” or “These are the names of Jesus’ ancestors who were born (who lived) after the time the people of Israel were taken into Babylon (right up) until his own time.”

For deportation and Babylon, see comments on verse 11.

Matthew 1.13–15.

Matthew was dependent on unknown sources for the names listed in these verses and gives only ten names (Zerubbabel of verse 13 to Jacob of verse 16) for the five-hundred-year period.

Matthew 1.16.

Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ: the focus is on legal rather than physical descent. According to Jewish teaching, if a man acknowledged a son as his own, then he was considered that man’s son, without any further question. Matthew can thus show that Jesus was a descendant of David through Joseph and at the same time emphasize the unique aspect of Jesus’ birth through the virgin Mary (1.18–25).

For the husband of Mary, some languages say “Joseph, who married Mary.”

There are several things to consider before translating this verse. It is important to structure the verse so that it is clear that Jesus is Mary’s child, not Joseph’s. Secondly, translators do not want to give the impression that Joseph married Mary after Jesus had been born. A third problem for some translators is that of whom Jesus was born must be rendered by an active sentence, such as “She gave birth to” or “She was the mother of Jesus.” A further concern is that in many languages it is not possible to separate “Jesus” from “who is called the Christ” by the phrase “was born” unless a new sentence is started. Keeping all these things in mind, some translators have sentences such as “Jacob was the father of Joseph. He married Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, who is called Christ,” or “Jacob was the father of Joseph. Joseph’s wife was Mary who was the mother of Jesus. Jesus is called Christ.”

Who is called Christ: the present tense, is called, indicates that this is what people continue to call him. Here, “called” does not mean he is named “Christ,” but refers instead to the fact that people have applied the title of “Christ” to him, that is, “People call him the Christ” or “People say, ‘He is the Christ.’ ”

For Christ (TEV “the Messiah”) see comments at verse 17 and verse 1.

Matthew 1.17.

It is not always easy to speak of generations. Some languages use the same word as for ancestors. The translation may then be “So from Abraham to David there were fourteen ancestors of Jesus” or “From David back to Abraham there were fourteen ancestors.” Another way would be to use the word “descendant,” as in “Abraham had fourteen descendants until David.” But it would be very important to make sure that such a sentence was understood in the sense of a line of generations, and not, for example, that one man had fourteen sons.

For notes on other parts of the verse, see verses 2, 6b, and 12.

To the Christ is translated as “to the birth of the Messiah” by TEV. Both here and in verse 16 there is a problem related to the translation of the word rendered Christ by RSV and “Messiah” by TEV. In the Greek text there is no definite article before the word in verse 16, though there is in verse 17. The problem then is whether in both places or in either of these places the term Christ is used in the technical sense of “the Messiah” or simply as part of the proper name of Jesus. TEV, together with a few other translations (NEB, NAB, Brc, FRCL), understands this to be the technical term referring to the promised Savior-King, and so translates “Messiah.” All of these translations have “Messiah” in verse 16 and “the Messiah” in verse 17, maintaining a formal rendering of the Greek text. The Greek word Christ is, of course, simply the equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah.”

See verse 1 for comments on the translation of Christ.[13]


I.     Introduction of the King (1:1-4:11).

A.     Presentation by ancestry (1:1-17) (Luke 3:23-38).

1:1. From the very first words of his Gospel, Matthew recorded his central theme and character. Jesus Christ is the main character in Matthew’s presentation, and the opening verse connected Him back to two great covenants in Jewish history: the Davidic (2 Sam. 7) and the Abrahamic (Gen. 12; 15). If Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of these two great covenants, is He related to the rightful line? This is a question the Jews would have asked, so Matthew traced Jesus’ lineage in detail.

1:2-17. Matthew gave Jesus’ lineage through His legal father, Joseph (v. 16). Thus this genealogy traced Jesus’ right to the throne of David, which must come through Solomon and his descendants (v. 6). Of particular interest is the inclusion of Jeconiah (v. 11) of whom Jeremiah said, “Record this man as if childless” (Jer. 22:30). Jeremiah’s prophecy related to the actual occupation of the throne and the reception of blessing while on the throne. Though Jeconiah’s sons never occupied the throne, the line of rulership did pass through them. If Jesus had been a physical descendant of Jeconiah, He would not have been able to occupy David’s throne. Luke’s genealogy made it clear that Jesus was a physical descendant of David through another son named Nathan (Luke 3:31). But Joseph, a descendant of Solomon, was Jesus’ legal father, so Jesus’ right to the throne was traced through Joseph.

Matthew traced Joseph’s line from Jeconiah through the latter’s son Shealtiel and grandson Zerubbabel (Matt. 1:12). Luke (3:27) also refers to Shealtiel, the father of Zerubbabel, in Mary’s line. Does Luke’s account, then, mean that Jesus was a physical descendant of Jeconiah, after all? No, because Luke’s Shealtiel and Zerubbabel were probably different persons from those two in Matthew. In Luke Shealtiel was the son of Neri, but Matthew’s Shealtiel was the son of Jeconiah.

Another interesting fact about Matthew’s genealogy is the inclusion of four Old Testament women: Tamar (Matt. 1:3), Rahab (v. 5), Ruth (v. 5), and Solomon’s mother (v. 6), Bathsheba. All of these women (as well as most of the men) were questionable in some way. Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes (Gen. 38:24; Josh. 2:1), Ruth was a foreigner, a Moabitess (Ruth 1:4), and Bathsheba committed adultery (2 Sam. 11:2-5). Matthew may have included these women in order to emphasize that God’s choices in dealing with people are all of His grace. Perhaps also he included these women in order to put Jewish pride in its place.

When the fifth woman, Mary (Matt. 1:16), was mentioned in the genealogy, an important change occurred. The genealogy consistently repeated, the father of, until it came to Mary. At that point Matthew changed and said of whom was born Jesus. The “of whom” is a feminine relative pronoun (ex hēs), clearly indicating that Jesus was the physical Child of Mary but that Joseph was not His physical father. This miraculous conception and birth are explained in 1:18-25.

Matthew obviously did not list every individual in the genealogy between Abraham and David (vv. 2-6), between David and the Exile (vv. 6-11), and between the Exile and Jesus (vv. 12-16). Instead he listed only 14 generations in each of these time periods (v. 17). Jewish reckoning did not require every name in order to satisfy a genealogy. But why did Matthew select 14 names in each period? Perhaps the best solution is that the name “David” in Hebrew numerology added up to 14. It should be noted that in the period from the Exile to the birth of Jesus (vv. 12-16) 13 new names appeared. Many scholars feel that Jeconiah (v. 12), though repeated from verse 11, provides the 14th name in this final period.

Matthew’s genealogy answered the important question a Jew would rightfully ask about anyone who claimed to be King of the Jews. Is He a descendant of David through the rightful line of succession? Matthew answered yes![14]

I. Prologue: The Origin and Birth of Jesus the Christ (1:1-2:23)

A. The Genealogy of Jesus (1:1-17)

            In each Gospel Jesus' earthly ministry is preceded by an account of John the Baptist's ministry. This formal similarity does not extend to the introductions to the Gospels. Mark 1:1 opens with a simple statement. Luke begins with a first-person preface in which he explains his purpose and methods, followed by a detailed and often poetic account of the miraculous births of John and Jesus (Lk 1:5-2:20) and brief mention of Jesus' boyhood trip to the temple (2:21-52). Luke reserves Jesus' genealogy for chapter 3. John's prologue (Jn 1:1-18) traces Jesus' beginnings to eternity and presents the Incarnation without referring to his conception and birth. In each Gospel the introduction anticipates major themes and emphases. In Matthew the prologue (Mt 1:1-2:23) introduces such themes as the son of David, the fulfillment of prophecy, the supernatural origin of Jesus the Messiah, and the Father's sovereign protection of his Son in order to bring him to Nazareth and accomplish the divine plan of salvation from sin (cf. esp. Stonehouse, Witness of Matthew, pp. 123-28).

1 The first two words of Matthew, biblos geneseos, may be translated "record of the genealogy" (NIV), "record of the origins," or "record of the history." NIV limits this title to the genealogy (1:1-17), the second could serve as a heading for the prologue (1:1-2:23), and the third as a heading for the entire Gospel. The expression is found only twice in the LXX: in Genesis 2:4 it refers to the creation account (Gen 2:4-25) and in Genesis 5:1 to the ensuing genealogy. From the latter it appears possible to follow NIV (so also Hendriksen; Lohmeyer, Matthaus; McNeile); but because the noun genesis (NIV, "birth") reappears in Mt 1:18 (one of only four NT occurrences), it seems likely that the heading in 1:1 extends beyond the genealogy. No occurrence of the expression as a heading for a book-length document has come to light. Therefore we must discount the increasingly popular view (Davies, Setting; Gaechter, Matthaus; Hill, Matthew; Maier; Zahn) that Matthew means to refer to his entire Gospel, "A record of the history of Jesus Christ." Matthew rather intends his first two chapters to be a coherent and unified "record of the origins of Jesus Christ. "

            The designation "Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham" resonates with biblical nuances. (For comments regarding "Jesus," see on 1:21.) "Christ" is roughly the Greek equivalent to "Messiah" or "Anointed." In the OT the term could refer to a variety of people anointed for some special function: priests (Lev 4:3; 6:22), kings (1Sam 16:13; 24:10; 2Sam 19:21; Lam 4:20), and, metaphorically, the patriarchs (Ps 105:15) and the pagan king Cyrus (Isa 45:1). Already in Hannah's prayer "Messiah" parallels "king": the Lord "will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed" (1Sam 2:10). With the rising number of OT prophecies concerning King David's line (e.g., 2Sam 7:12-16; cf. Ps 2:2; 105:15), "Messiah, or "Christ," became the designation of a figure representing the people of God and bringing in the promised eschatological reign.

            In Jesus' day Palestine was rife with messianic expectation. Not all of it was coherent, and many Jews expected two different "Messiahs." But Matthew's linking of "Christ" and "son of David" leaves no doubt of what he is claiming for Jesus.

            In the Gospels "Christ" is relatively rare (as compared with Paul's epistles). More important it almost always appears as a title, strictly equivalent to "the Messiah" (see esp. 16:16). But it was natural for Christians after the Resurrection to use "Christ" as a name not less than as a title; increasingly they spoke of "Jesus Christ" or "Christ Jesus" or simply "Christ." Paul normally treats "Christ," at least in part as a name; but it is doubtful whether the titular force ever entirely disappears (cf. N.T. Wright, "The Messiah and the People of God: A Study in Pauline Theology with Particular Reference to the Argument of the Epistle to the Romans" [Ph. D. diss., Oxford University, 1980], p. 19). Of Matthew's approximately eighteen occurrences, all are exclusively titular except this one (1:1), probably 1:16, certainly 1:18, and possibly the variant at 16:21. The three uses of "Christ" in the prologue reflect the confessional stance from which Matthew writes; he is a committed Christian who has long since become familiar with the common way of using the word as both title and name. At the same time it is a mark of Matthew's concern for historical accuracy that Jesus is not so designated by his contemporaries.

            "Son of David" is an important designation in Matthew. Not only does David become a turning point in the genealogy (1:6, 17), but the title recurs throughout the Gospel (9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 22:42, 45). God swore covenant love to David (Ps 89:29) and promised that one of his immediate descendants would establish the kingdom—even more, that David's kingdom and throne would endure forever (2Sam 7:12-16). Isaiah foresaw that a "son" would be given, a son with the most extravagant titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace: "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this" (Isa 9:6-7).

            In Jesus' day at least some branches of popular Judaism understood "son of David" to be messianic (cf. Pssol 17:21; for a summary of the complex intertestamental evidence, cf. Berger, "Die koniglichen Messiastraditionen," esp. pp. 3-9). The theme was important in early Christianity (cf. Luke 1:32, 69; John 7:42; Acts 13:23; Rom 1:3; Rev 22:16). God's promises, though long delayed, had not been forgotten; Jesus and his ministry were perceived as God's fulfillment of covenantal promises now centuries old. The tree of David, hacked off so that only a stump remained, was sprouting a new branch (Isa 11:1).

            Jesus is also "son of Abraham." It could not be otherwise, granted that he is son of David. Yet Abraham is mentioned for several important reasons. "Son of Abraham" may have been a recognized messianic title in some branches of Judaism (cf. T Levi 8:15). The covenant with the Jewish people had first been made with Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 17:7; 22:18), a connection Paul sees as basic to Christianity (Gal 3:16). More important, Genesis 22:18 had promised that through Abraham's off spring "all nations" (panta ta ethne, LXX) would be blessed; so with this allusion to Abraham, Matthew is preparing his readers for the final words of this offspring from Abraham—the commission to make disciples of "all nations" (Mt 28:19, panta ta ethne). Jesus the Messiah came in fulfillment of the kingdom promises to David and of the Gentile-blessings promises to Abraham (cf. also Matt 3:9; 8:11).

2-17 Study has shown that genealogies in the Ancient Near East could serve widely diverse functions: economic, tribal, political, domestic (to show family or geographical relationships), and others (see Johnson; also Robert R. Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977]; R.E. Brown, Birth of Messiah, pp. 64-66). The danger in such study is that Matthew's intentions may be overridden by colorful backgrounds of doubtful relevance to the text itself. Johnson sees Matthew's genealogy as a response to Jewish slander. H.V. Winkings ("The Nativity Stories and Docetism," NTS 23 [1977]: 457-60) sees it as an answer to late first-century Docetism that denied the essential humanity of Jesus. One wonders whether a virgin birth would have been the best way to go about correcting the Docetists.

            D.E. Nineham ("The Genealogy in St. Matthew's Gospel and Its Significance for the Study of the Gospels," BJRL 58 [1976]: 491-44) finds in this genealogy the assurance that God is in sovereign control. Yet it is unclear how he reconciles this assurance with his conviction that the genealogy is of little historical worth. If Matthew made much of it up, then we may admire his faith that God was in control. But since Matthew's basis was (according to Nineham) faulty it gives the reader little incentive to share the same faith.

            Actually, Matthew's chief aims in including the genealogy are hinted at in the first verse—viz., to show that Jesus Messiah is truly in the kingly line of David, heir to the messianic promises, the one who brings divine blessings to all nations. There fore the genealogy focuses on King David (1:6) on the one hand, yet on the other hand includes Gentile women (see below). Many entries would touch the hearts and stir the memories of biblically literate readers, though the principal thrust of the genealogy ties together promise and fulfillment. "Christ and the new covenant are securely linked to the age of the old covenant. Marcion, who wished to sever all the links binding Christianity to the Old Testament, knew what he was about when he cut the genealogy out of his edition of Luke" (F.F. Bruce, NBD, p. 459).

            For many, whatever its aims, the historical value of Matthew's genealogy is nil. R.E. Brown (Birth of Messiah, pp. 505-12) bucks the tide when he cautiously affirms that Jesus sprang from the house of David. Many ancient genealogies are discounted as being of little historical value because they evidently intend to impart more than historical information (cf. esp. Wilson, Genealogy and History). To do this, however, is to fall into a false historical disjunction; for many genealogies intend to make more than historical points by referring to historical lines.

            Part of the historical evaluation of Matthew 1:2-17 rests on the reliability of Matthew's sources: the names in the first two-thirds of the genealogy are taken from the LXX (1 Chronicles 1-3, esp. 2:1-15; 3:5-24; Ruth 4:12-22). After Zerubbabel, Matthew relies on extrabiblical sources of which we know nothing. But there is good evidence that records were kept at least till the end of the first century. Josephus (Life 6 [1]) refers to the "public registers" from which he extracts his genealogical information (cf. also Jos. Contra Apion I, 28-56 [6-10]). According to Genesis R 98:8, Rabbi Hillel was proved to be a descendant of David because a genealogical scroll was found in Jerusalem. Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3. 19-20) cites Hegesippus to the effect that Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96) ordered all descendants of David slain. Nevertheless two of them when summoned, though admitting their Davidic descent, showed their calloused hands to prove they were but poor farmers. So they were let go. But the account shows that genealogical information was still available.

            While no twentieth-century Jew could prove he was from the tribe of Judah, let alone from the house of David, that does not appear to have been a problem in the first century, when lineage was important in gaining access to temple worship. Whether Matthew had access to the records himself or gleaned his information from intermediate sources, we cannot know from this distance; but in any case we "have no good reason to doubt that this genealogy was transmitted in good faith" (Albright and Mann).

            More difficult is the question of the relation of Matthew's genealogy to Luke's, in particular the part from David on (cf. Luke 3:23-31). There are basic differences between the two: Matthew begins with Abraham and moves forward; Luke begins with Jesus and moves backward to Adam. Matthew traces the line through Jeconiah, Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel; Luke through Neri, Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel. More important, (Luke 3:31) traces the line through David's son Nathan (cf. 2Sam 5:14), and Matthew through the kingly line of Solomon. It is often said that no reconciliation between the two genealogies is possible (e.g., E.L. Abel, "The Genealogies of Jesus O CRISTOS", NTS 20 [1974]: 203-10). Nevertheless two theories are worth weighing

            1. Some have argued that Luke gives Mary's genealogy but substitutes Joseph's name (Luke 3:23) to avoid mentioning a woman. And there is some evidence to support the notion that Mary herself was a descendant of David (cf. Luke 1:32). That Mary was related to Elizabeth, who was married to the Levite Zechariah (Luke 1:5-36), is no problem, since intermarriage between tribes was not uncommon. Indeed, Aaron's wife may well have sprung from Judah (cf. Exod 6:23; Num 2:3) (so Beng., CHS, Luther). H.A.W. Meyer rearranges the punctuation in Luke 3:23 to read "being the son (of Joseph as was supposed) of Heli [i.e., Mary's father], of Matthat." But this is painfully artificial and could not easily be deduced by a reader with a text without punctuation marks or brackets, which is how our NT Greek MSS were first written. Few would guess simply by reading Luke that he is giving Mary's genealogy. The theory stems, not from the text of Luke, but from the need to harmonize the two genealogies. On the face of it, both Matthew and Luke aim to give Joseph's genealogy.

            2. Others have argued, more plausibly, that Luke provides Joseph's real genealogy and Matthew the throne succession—a succession that finally jumps to Joseph's line by default. Hill (Matthew) offers independent Jewish evidence for a possible double line (Targ. Zech 12:12). This hypothesis has various forms. The oldest goes back to Julius Africanus (c. A.D. 225; cf. Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 1. 7), who argued that Matthew provides the natural genealogy and Luke the royal—the reverse of the modern theory (so Alf, Farrer, Hill, Taylor, Westcott, Zahn). In its modern form the theory seems reasonable enough: where the purpose is to provide Joseph's actual descent back to David, this could best be done by tracing the family tradition through his real father Heli, to his father Matthat, and thus back to Nathan and David (so Luke); and where the purpose is to provide the throne succession, it is natural to begin with David and work down.

            As most frequently presented, this theory has a serious problem (cf. R.E. Brown Birth of Messiah, pp. 503-4). It is normally argued that Joseph's father in Matthew 1:16, Jacob, was a full brother of Joseph's father mentioned in Luke 3:23, Heli; that Jacob, the royal heir, died without offspring; and that Heli married Jacob's widow according to the laws of levirate marriage (Deut 25:5-10). (Though levirate marriages may not have been common in the first century, it is unlikely that they were completely unknown. Otherwise the question of the Sadducees [Mt 22:24-28] was phrased in irrelevant terms.) But if Jacob and Heli are to be reckoned as full brothers, then Matthan (Matt) and Matthat (Luke) must be the same man—even though their fathers, Eleazar (Matt) and Levi (Luke) respectively, are different. It seems artificial to appeal to a second levirate marriage. Some have therefore argued that Jacob and Heli were only half-brothers, which entails a further coincidence—viz., that their mother married two men, Matthan and Matthat, with remarkably similar names. We do not know whether levirate marriage was practiced in the case of half-brothers. Moreover since the whole purpose of levirate marriage was to raise up a child in the deceased father's name, why does Luke provide the name of the actual father?

            R.E. Brown judges the problems insurmountable but fails to consider the elegant solution suggested by Machen (pp. 207-9) fifty years ago. If we assume that Matthat and Matthan are not the same person, there is no need to appeal to levirate marriage. The difficulty regarding the father of Matthat and the father of Matthan disappears; yet their respective sons Levi and Jacob may have been so closely related (e.g., if Levi was an heirless only son whose sister married Jacob or Joseph) that if Levi died, Jacob's son Joseph became his heir. Alternatively, if Matthan and Mat that are the same person (presupposing a levirate marriage one generation earlier), we "need only to suppose that Jacob [Joseph's father according to Matthew] died without issue, so that his nephew, the son of his brother Heli [Joseph's father according to Luke] would become his heir" (p. 208).

            Other differences between Matthew and Luke are more amenable to obvious solutions. As for the omissions from Matthew's genealogy and the structure of three series of fourteen, see on 1:17.

2 Of the twelve sons of Jacob, Judah is singled out, as his tribe bears the scepter (Gen 49:10; cf: Heb 7:14). The words "and his brothers" are not "an addition which indicates that of the several possible ancestors of the royal line Judah alone was chosen" (Hill, Matthew), since that restriction was already achieved by stipulating Judah; and in no other entry (except 1:11; see comment) are the words "and his brothers" added. The point is that, though he comes from the royal line of Judah and David, Messiah emerges within the matrix of the covenant people (cf. the reference to Judah's brothers). Neither the half-siblings of Isaac nor the descendants of Jacob's brother, Esau, qualify as the covenant people in the OT. This allusive mention of the Twelve Tribes as the locus of the people of God becomes important later (cf. Mt 8:11 with 19:28). Even the fact that there were twelve apostles is relevant.

3-5 Probably Perez and Zerah (v. 3) are both mentioned because they are twins (Gen 38:27; cf. 1 Chronicles 2:4); Judah's other sons receive no mention. Ruth 4:12, 18-22 traces the messianic line from Perez to David. There is some evidence that "son of Perez" was a rabbinic designation of Messiah (SBK, 1:18), but the dating of the sources is uncertain.

            Tamar, wife of Judah's son Er, is the first of four women mentioned in the genealogy (for comment, see on 1:6). Little is known of Hezron (Gen 46:12; 1 Chronicles 2:5), Ram (1 Chronicles 2:9), Amminadab (Mt 1:4; Exod 6:23; Num 1:7; 1 Chronicles 2:10), Nahshon (Num 2:3; 7:12; "the leader of the people of Judah," 1 Chronicles 2:10), and Salmon (Mt 1:5; Ruth 4:18-21; 1 Chronicles 2:11). Amminadab is associated with the desert wanderings in the time of Moses (Num 1:7). Therefore approximately four hundred years (Gen 15:13; Exod 12:40) are covered by the four generations from Perez to Amminadab. Doubtless several names have been omitted: the Greek verb translated "was the father of" (gennao) does not require immediate relationship but often means some thing like "was the ancestor of" or "became the progenitor of."

            Similarly, the line between Amminadab and David is short: more names may have been omitted. Whether such names properly fit before Boaz, so that Rahab was not the immediate mother of Boaz (just as Eve was not immediately "the mother of all the living," Gen 3:20), or after Boaz, or both, one cannot be sure. It is almost certain, however, that the Rahab mentioned is the prostitute of Joshua 2 and 5 (see further on Mt 1:6). Boaz (1 Chronicles 2:11-12), who figures so prominently in the Book of Ruth, married the Moabitess (see on Mt 1:6) and sired Obed, who became the father of Jesse (Ruth 4:22; 1 Chronicles 2:12).

6 The word "King" with "David" would evoke profound nostalgia and arouse eschatological hope in first-century Jews. Matthew thus makes the royal theme explicit: King Messiah has appeared. David's royal authority, lost at the Exile, has now been regained and surpassed by "great David's greater son" (so James Montgomery's hymn "Hail to the Lord's Anointed"; cf. Box; Hill, Matthew; also cf. 2Sam 7:12-16; Ps 89:19-29, 35-37; 132:11). David became the father of Solomon; but Solomon's mother "had been Uriah's wife" (cf. 2Sam 11:27; 12:4). Bathsheba thus becomes the fourth woman to be mentioned in this genealogy.

            Inclusion of these four women in the Messiah's genealogy instead of an all-male listing (which was customary)—or at least the names of such great matriarchs as Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah—shows that Matthew is conveying more than merely genealogical data. Tamar enticed her father-in-law into an incestuous relationship (Gen 38). The prostitute Rahab saved the spies and joined the Israelites (Josh 2, 5); Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 encourage us to think she abandoned her former way of life. She is certainly prominent in Jewish tradition, some of it fantastic (cf. A.T. Hanson, "Rahab the Harlot in Early Christian Tradition," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 1 [1978]: 53-60). Ruth, Tamar, and Rahab were aliens. Bathsheba was taken into an adulterous union with David, who committed murder to cover it up. Matthew's peculiar way of referring to her, "Uriah's wife," may be an attempt to focus on the fact that Uriah was not an Israelite but a Hittite (2Sam 11:3; 23:39). Bathsheba herself was apparently the daughter of an Israelite (1 Chronicles 3:5 [variant reading]); but her marriage to Uriah probably led to her being regarded as a Hittite.

            Several reasons have been suggested to explain the inclusion of these women. Some have pointed out that three were Gentiles and the fourth probably regarded as such (Lohmeyer, Matthaus; Maier; Schweizer, Matthew). This goes well with the reference to Abraham (cf. on 1:1); the Jewish Messiah extends his blessings beyond Israel, even as Gentiles are included in his line. Others have noted that three of the four were involved in gross sexual sin; but it is highly doubtful that this charge can be legitimately applied to Ruth. As a Moabitess, however, she had her origins in incest (Gen 19:30-37); and Deuteronomy 23:3 banned the offspring of Moabites from the assembly of the Lord to the tenth generation. R.E. Brown Birth of Messiah, pp. 71-72) discounts this interpretation of the role of the four women, because in first-century Jewish piety they were largely whitewashed and revered. Yet it is not at all certain that Matthew follows his contemporaries in all this. It is important that in this same chapter Matthew introduces Jesus as the one who "will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21), and this verse may imply a backward glance at some of the better-known sins of his own progenitors.

            A third interpretation (favored by Allen, R.E. Brown, Filson, Fenton, Green, Hill, Klostermann, Lohmeyer, Peake) holds that all four reveal something of the strange and unexpected workings of Providence in preparation for the Messiah and that as such they point to Mary's unexpected but providential conception of Jesus.

            There is no reason to rule out any of the above interpretations. Matthew, Jew that he is, knows how to write with an allusive touch; and readers steeped in the OT would naturally call to mind a plethora of images associated with many names in this selective genealogy.

7-10 The names in these verses seem to have been taken from 1 Chronicles 3:10-14. Behind "Asa" (Mt 1:7) lurks a difficult textual decision (cf. Notes). There is no obvious pattern: wicked Rehoboam was the father of wicked Abijah, the father of the good king Asa. Asa was the father of the good king Jehoshaphat (v. 8), who sired the wicked king Joram. Good or evil, they were part of Messiah's line; for though grace does not run in the blood, God's providence cannot be deceived or outmaneuvered.

            Three names have been omitted between Joram and Uzziah: Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah (2 Kings 8:24; 1 Chronicles 3:11; 2 Chronicles 22:1, 11; 24:27). "Uzziah" (Mt 1:8-9) is equivalent to Azariah (1 Chronicles 3:11; cf. 2 Kings 15:13, 30 with 2 Kings 15:1). The three omissions not only secure fourteen generations in this part of the genealogy (see on Mt 1:17) but are dropped because of their connection with Ahab and Jezebel, renowned for wickedness (2 Kings 8:27), and because of their connection with wicked Athaliah (2 Kings 8:26), the usurper (2 Kings 11:1-20). Two of the three were notoriously evil, all three died violently.

            R.E. Brown Birth of Messiah, p. 82) points out that Manasseh was even more wicked, and he is included. Therefore (with Schweizer, (Matthew), Brown prefers an explanation of the omissions based on a text-critical confusion between "Azariah" and "Uzziah." This conjecture is plausible; but if it is correct, it would have to be pre-Matthean, because Matthew's "fourteens" (see on 1:17) would require this omission or an equivalent. But there is no textual evidence to support the conjecture. Also, Manasseh (v. 10), though notoriously evil, repented, unlike the other three.

11 Another name has been dropped: Josiah was the father of Jehoiakim (609-597 B.C.), who was deposed in favor of his son Jehoiachin (some MSS in both OT and NT have "Jeconiah" for the latter). He was deposed after a reign of only three months and his brother Zedekiah reigned in his stead till the final deportation and destruction of the city in 587 B.C. (cf. 2 Kings 23:34; 24:6, 14-15; 1 Chronicles 3:16; Jer 27:20; 28:1). The words "and his brothers" are probably added in this instance because one of them, Zedekiah, maintained a caretaker reign until the tragedy of 587 B.C. ; but Zedekiah is not mentioned because the royal line does not flow through him but through Jeconiah. The Exile to Babylon marked the end of the reign of David's line a momentous event in OT history. Alternatively "and his brothers" may refer, not to the royal brothers, but to all the Jews who went into captivity with Jeconiah (Gun dry, Matthew). The locus of the people of God is thus traced from the patriarchs ("and his brothers," Mt 1:2) to the shame of the Exile, a theme to be developed later (see on 2:16-18).

12 The final list of "fourteen" (see on 1:17) begins with a further mention of the Exile. 1 Chronicles 3:17 records that Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) was the father of Shealtiel. Matthew goes on to present Shealtiel as the father of Zerubbabel, in accord with Ezra 3:2; 5:2; Nehemiah 12:1; Hag 1:1; 2:2, 23. The difficulty lies in 1 Chronicles 3:19, which presents Zerubbabel as the son of Pedaiah, a brother of Shealtiel.

            Several solutions have been offered, most not very convincing (cf. Machen, pp. 206-7). Some Greek MSS omit Pedaiah in 1 Chronicles 3:19. But the best suggestion is a levirate marriage (Deut 25:5-10; cf. Gen 38:8-9), scarcely an embarrassment to those who have adopted the explanation above (cf. on Mt 1:2-17) and find no other levirate marriage in the genealogy. If Shealtiel were the older brother and died childless, Pedaiah might well have married the widow to "build up his brother's family line" (Deut 25:9). In any case Zerubbabel himself becomes a messianic model (cf. Hag 2:20-23).

13-15 The nine names from Abiud to Jacob are not otherwise known to us today. Possibly names have been omitted from this genealogical section also, but then one wonders why this third section of the genealogy appears to lack one entry (see on Mt 1:17). Gundry's explanations (Matthew) of these names is tortured: certain names from Luke's list "catch the evangelist's [Matthew's] eye," as do names from the priestly (nonroyal) list in 1 Chronicles 6:3-14—names that then need abbreviating or changing to mask their priestly connection.

16 The wording in the best reading (cf. Notes), reflected in NIV, is precise. Joseph's royal line has been traced; Joseph is the husband of Mary; Mary is the mother of Jesus. The relation between Joseph and Jesus is so far unstated. But this peculiar form of expression cries out for the explanation provided in the ensuing verses. Legally Jesus stands in line to the throne of David; physically he is born of a woman "found to be with child through the Holy Spirit" (1:18). Her son is Jesus, "who is called Christ." The Greek does not make it clear whether "Christ" is titular or not; but name or title, Jesus' messiahship is affirmed.

17 It was customary among Jewish writers to arrange genealogies according to some convenient scheme, possibly for mnemonic reasons. Strictly speaking the Greek text speaks of "all the generations from Abraham to David … to Christ" (cf. KJV, NASB); but since the omissions are obvious to both Matthew and his readers, the expression must mean "all the generations … included in this table." So it becomes a hint that the fourteens, here so strongly brought to the reader's attention, are symbolic.

            Various arrangements of the three fourteens have been proposed. In one the first set of fourteen runs from Abraham to David, the second from Solomon to Jeconiah and the third attains fourteen by repeating Jeconiah and running to Jesus. Hendriksen (pp. 125-26) suggests Matthew purposely counts Jeconiah twice: first he presents Jeconiah as cursed, childless, deported (2 Kings 24:8-12; Jer 22:30); the second time he reminds the reader that Jeconiah was subsequently released from prison and restored and became the father of many (2 Kings 25:27-30; 1 Chronicles 3:17-18; Jer 52:31-34)—a new man as it were. But Matthew does not mention these themes, which do not clearly fit into the main concerns of this chapter. Schweizer prefers to count from Abraham to David. Then, because David is mentioned twice he passes from David to Josiah, the last free king; and then Jeconiah to Jesus provides a third set of fourteen, at the expense of making the central set one member short and of ignoring the small but distinct literary pause at the end of Mt 1:11. McNeile postulates a possible loss of one name between Jeconiah and Shealtiel owing to homoeoteleuton (identical endings), but there is no textual evidence for it. Gundry (Matthew) thinks that Mary as well as Joseph counts for one, pointing to the two kinds of generation, legal (Joseph's) and physical (Mary's). No solution so far proposed seems entirely convincing, and it is difficult to rule any out.

            The symbolic value of the fourteens is of more significance than their precise breakdown. Herman C. Waetjen ("The Genealogy as the Key to the Gospel According to Matthew," JBL 95 [1976]: 205-30; cf. Johnson, pp. 193-94) tries to solve both problems by appealing to 2 Baruch 53-74 (usually dated c. A.D. 50-70). This apocalyptic book divides history into a scheme of 12 + 2 = 14 units. Matthew, Waetjen argues, holds that just as David and Jeconiah are transitional figures in the genealogy, so also is Jesus. He is the end of the third period and simultaneously the beginning of the fourth, the inaugurated kingdom. Jesus is therefore the thirteenth and the fourteenth entries, the former a period of gloom in 2 Baruch (corresponding to the Passion in Matthew) and the fourteenth opening into the new age.

            But this analysis will not do. Two objections are crucial: (1) it is not at all clear that one may legitimately jump from schematized time periods in apocalyptic literature to names in a genealogy (Is anything less apocalyptic than a genealogy?) just because of a common number, (2) Waetjen has "corrected" the omission in the third set of fourteen by listing Jesus twice, even though the second reference to Jesus, in his scheme, properly belongs to the inaugurated kingdom and not to the third set, which remains deficient.

            Schemes like those of Hendriksen and Goodspeed that reduce the 3 X 14 pattern to 6 X 7 and then picture Jesus' coming to inaugurate the seventh seven—the sign of perfection, the dawning of the Messianic Age (cf. 1 Enoch 91:12-17; 93:1-10) stumble over the fact that Matthew has not presented his genealogy as six sevens but as three fourteens (cf. R.E. Brown, Birth of Messiah, p. 75). Other suggestions include those of Johnson (pp. 189-208) and Goulder (pp. 228-33).

            The simplest explanation—the one that best fits the context—observes that the numerical value of "David" in Hebrew is fourteen (cf. Notes). By this symbolism Matthew points out that the promised "son of David" (1:1), the Messiah, has come. And if the third set of fourteen is short one member, perhaps it will suggest to some readers that just as God cuts short the time of distress for the sake of his elect (24:22), so also he mercifully shortens the period from the Exile to Jesus the Messiah.[15]



[1] Baxter, J. Sidlow, Explore the Book

[2] Morgan, G. Campbell, The Gospel According to Matthew

[3] The Holy Bible: King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (1 Ch 1:18). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[4] Morgan, G. Campbell, The Gospel According to Matthew

[5] Willmington, H. L. (1999). The Outline Bible (Mt 1:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

[6] H.A. Ironside Commentaries

[7] The Pulpit Commentary

[8] Blomberg, C. (2001, c1992). Vol. 22: Matthew (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (51). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[9] Wiersbe, W. W. (1997, c1992). Wiersbe's Expository outlines on the New Testament (15). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[10] MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Mt 1:1). Nashville: Word Pub.

[11] MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Mt 1:1). Nashville: Word Pub.

[12] Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Mt 1:1). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

[13] Newman, B. M., & Stine, P. C. (1992). A handbook on the Gospel of Matthew. Originally published: A translator's handbook on the Gospel of Matthew, c1988. UBS helps for translators; UBS handbook series (5). New York: United Bible Societies.

[14] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:18). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[15] Expositor’s Bible Commentary

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