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THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS

Matthew 1:1-1:17
Key Verse: 1:17

Thank God for blessing us our study of Malachi. A clear message of Malachi is to revere the LORD and honour his name. Those who fear God and honour him as God are his, his treasured possession. Malachi prepares people’s hearts for the coming Messiah, describing him as the messenger of the covenant and the sun or righteousness. Now we get into the New Testament, Matthew 1. It begins with the genealogy of Jesus, which is quite understandable. In this genealogy there are many names including Abraham, David and Jesus Christ. This is the summary of the Old Testament leading to the birth of Christ Jesus. The genealogy of Jesus is the last genealogy in the Bible. Then there is the book of life kept in heaven, which really matters to all people of the world. The genealogy of Jesus is the written record showing the history of God in the world, and it has a clear direction and purpose for the redemption of mankind through Christ Jesus. God is the God of history. This genealogy of Jesus shows who Jesus is and how God works in history.

First, Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (1). Verse 1 says. “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Here the word “record” is in Greek, “biblios,” meaning book, a written book or scroll, and “genealogy”, “genesis,” which means origin. Matthew traces the human origin of Jesus to show first of all that he is a historical figure. In last chapter of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, the names of Moses and Elijah were mentioned, who represented the Law and the Prophet, which are the Old Testament. When Moses died, his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone (Dt 34:7). And it is written in Deuteronomy 34:6, “…to this day no one knows where his grave is” and 34:10, “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.” Elijah, without experiencing death, went up to heaven in a chariot of fire in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). In the gospel narrative, after speaking about his suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus went to a mountain with his disciples and there he was transfigured into a glorious image. At that moment two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour and talked with Jesus concerning his death on the cross (Lk 9:29-31). The human greatness of Moses and Elijah seems to surpass anyone in the history of Israel. But their names are not written in verse 1, even in the whole genealogy of Jesus. Rather, the names of Abraham and David are written here at the very beginning of Jesus’ genealogy. Why?

It is because God’s covenant promises concerning the Messiah were given to them. Before God’s call Abraham was just a hopeless old man with no son to inherit his name, only with his barren wife. But God called him with the words of promise, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you…and all people’s on earth will be blessed through you” (Ge 12:1-3). When he accepted God’s call in obedience to the word and lived by faith, his faith grew tremendously though through many ups and downs. As he passed God’s final test of faith to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering, God was so pleased and confirmed the promise that had been given to Abraham swearing by himself, “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand of the seashore…through your offspring all nations will be blessed, because you have obeyed me” (Ge 22:16-18). Then in the New Testament, about the certainty of God’s promise to Abraham the author of Hebrews wrote in 6:13-14, “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And in the promise to Abraham in Geneses 22:18, “your offspring” is in KJV, “your seed.” Then Apostle Paul wrote regarding this promise in Galatians 3:16, “The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.”

David was a mere shepherd boy tending his father’s flock in the field. He was not even at home when the prophet Samuel came to his father Jesse’s house to anoint one God would choose to be king over Israel after Saul. He was not a possible candidate to human eyes. But God chose him and anointed him to be king over Israel (1 Sam 16:13). Through God’s much training he indeed became king. First, the men of Judah came to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah (2 Sam 2:4), and then later all the elders of Israel anointed David king over Israel (2 Sam 5:3). A glorious theocratic kingdom was established in Israel through King David who obeyed God and fought many fierce battles with faith. David’s kingdom was a glorious king of love and peace when he ruled the nation with the fear of God. It was the shadow of the messianic kingdom. After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, God gave him the words of promise through the prophet Nathan, “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you…I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam 7:12-13). Then in Luke 1 when God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary in Nazareth, the angel said to her concerning the baby she would conceive, “…The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Lk 1:32-33).

As we studied in Malachi, the coming Messiah was depicted as the messenger of the covenant, specifically of the new covenant. Definitely God’s covenant to Abraham and to David were related to the new covenant. Jesus Christ came as the fulfillment of his covenant promise given to Abraham and David. So it is a very meaningful description, “Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” As you know Christ means “Anointed One.” So if we paraphrase it, “Jesus Christ is God’s anointed King to bless all peoples of all nations on earth.” This can be the concise summary of the whole Bible.

Also, another point we need to think of is this. While on earth Jesus was despised by his hometown people. They said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?...” (Mt 13:55), or “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t Mary’s son…” (Mk 6:3). But according to Matthew’s record Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham. David and Abraham are two greatest pillars of faith in the history of Israel. It is undisputable. The Jewish nation began from one man Abraham. In the Old Testament it is clearly written how one man became a nation. In short Abraham is the ancestor of the Jewish people. David is the most glorious king in the history of Israel. So when it says, “Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham,” Jesus is from the most orthodox family line.

Second, the unconventional genealogy. In verses 2-6, “Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.” God is called the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were three pillars of faith, and God was pleased to be the God of each of them. Isaac was the son of promise, while Ishmael, the son of flesh, though older. So Isaac was the succeeding son. Jacob was the second son, but God chose him in God’s sovereignty, not his brother Esau. Judah was the fourth son among Jacob’s twelve sons and could be the wickedest son. He was the ringleader in trying to kill his brother Joseph and finally selling him to Egypt, and breaking their father’s heart telling him that some ferocious animal had devoured Joseph. Then he married the daughter of a Canaanite man and had three sons. His first and second sons were wicked in God’s sight and died after marriage, for they were wicked before God. After a long time his wife died. When he had recovered from his grief, there was an event in which it turned out that he slept with his daughter-in-law, since she disguised herself as a prostitute. He was really terribly wicked and immoral man. But later on he sincerely repented and became a changed man, willing to take a responsibility to rescue the life of his youngest brother and to comfort his father. The tribe of Judah became the tribe through which the Messiah came. God’s grace was there. It was God’s grace that he was chosen, not the powerful and remarkable son, Joseph.

And here in verses 3-5 we see the names of three women written as mothers, Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. Israel was a male dominant society and even women were not counted in number at Jesus’ time. And the women listed here were not even Jewish orthodox women. Tamar was the very woman, Judah’s daughter-in-law with whom Judah slept thinking that she was a prostitute. Humanly speaking, what she did was unacceptable, even unthinkable. But the reason behind her act was that when her husband Er and then her second husband her brother-in-law died, Judah promised to give her his third son according to the levirate law. But Judah her father-in-law did not keep the promise. So she acted in that way as mentioned before. She wanted to be faithful to her dead husband and must have valued the line and heritage of her husband’s ancestry leading to the God of Israel. Later knowing all including her pregnancy by him, Judah confessed, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah” (Ge 38:26). When the time came, she gave birth to twin sons, Perez and Zerah.

Rahab was a prostitute of Jericho. What a terrible human status! She hid two spies of Israel who came to Jericho to get necessary information to conquer the city. From nationalistic view she was a traitor. But when she had heard how the LORD dried up the water of Red Sea for the Israelites when they came out of Egypt and how he helped them to destroy the two kings of the Amorites, she came to know that the LORD, the God of Israel is God in heaven above and on the earth below, and believed that the LORD is the true God. She knew that the destiny of her nation was in the hand of the LORD and the destiny of her and all her family as well. Because of her faith in the LORD she and all her family members were saved, while all the disobedient in Jericho were killed. We aren’t told in the Old Testament about her life subsequent to that event. But here in Matthew’s gospel we find that she became the mother of Boaz, the husband of Ruth.

Ruth was a Moabite woman. Moabites were descendants of Lot. Moabite women were the ones who seduced the Israelite men to indulge in sexual immorality and invited them to sacrifices of their gods when the Israelites were about to enter the promised land. Deuteronomy 23:3 says, “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation.” Becoming a Moabite was not her choice; she was born and raised there. Then Ruth a Moabite woman came to marry a Jew, a son of Naomi, who came to Moab because of the famine in Israel. But her husband died. When Naomi heard that the LORD was restoring her land in Israel, she prepared herself to return, but urged Ruth to remarry and live in Moab for her future happiness. However, Ruth insisted to follow Naomi, her mother-in-law, although there was no human security guaranteed at all in doing that. She said, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and you God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried…” This showed that she had faith in God of Naomi, the God of Israel, the true God. Then in God’s providence she married Boaz and became the mother of Obed, the grandfather of David.

These three women were included in the genealogy of Jesus. God never fails to see such women, who feared God and put personal faith in him. This stresses that the genealogy of Jesus is the genealogy of grace. Jesus once said, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Mt 12:50; Mk 3:35) and “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Lk 8:21).

And in verse 6b we read an odd description, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” This description exposes the terrible sin of David, the great King of Israel: his commission of adultery and murder. When David sincerely repented of his sin, God forgave him and continued his promise given to David. The king also needed God’s grace. Indeed the genealogy of Jesus is the genealogy of grace.

Third, the faithfulness of God. In verses 7-11, “Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.” They were kings of Israel, although the title king was given only to David. There were good kings like Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah, who did what was right in the eyes of the LORD (1 Kings 15:11; 22:43; 2 Kings 18:3), and there were terribly bad kings like Ahaz and Manasseh. As for Asa, among many good things one thing he did was that he expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his father had made (1 Kings 15:12). As for Jehoshaphat, in his reign the Levites went around all the town of Judah taking with them the Book of the Law of the LORD and taught the people. The fear of the LORD fell on the kingdom of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not make war with Jehoshaphat (2 Ch. 17:9-10). On one occasion the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. Then he held an assembly where all people including children came and they had a nation-wise prayer meeting. Jehoshaphat even appointed singers before the enemies, who praised God, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.” As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the enemies, and they were defeated, destroying and annihilating one another among them (2 Ch. 20). As for Hezekiah, he trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses. And the LORD was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook” (2 Kings 18:5-7). Once a large army of Assyria came to destroy Judah, Hezeiah came to the temple to pray, asking also prayer support of Isaiah, Then that night angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. They were totally defeated (2 Kings 18:17-19:36.

As for Ahaz, he even sacrificed his son in fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites (2 Kings 16:3). When Aram and Northern Israel came to attack Jerusalem, the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. At this situation God sent Isaiah to help him. Isaiah delivered God’s message, “It will not take place, it will not happen…If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” When Ahaz did not seem to accept the word of God, Isaiah told him to ask God for help. But he refused it gently, saying, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” (Isa 7:2-12) He was still unbelieving and proud. He even shut the doors of the LORD’s temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to others gods and provoked the LORD, the God of his fathers, to anger. He was buried in the city of Jerusalem, but he was not placed in the tombs of the kings of Israel” (2 Ch 28:24-27).

Manasseh reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. During such long years he did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. The LORD said of him, “He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols.” And because of him the LORD wanted to destroy Jerusalem, saying, “I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down (2 Kings 21:10-15).

In the history of Israel there were good kings faithful to God and bad kings unfaithful to him. However, in the ebb and flow of Israel’s history, in the course of rising and falling of the kings, and amid human tragedies and success, the history of God flowed like the undercurrent of the sea. Finally the nation was led to the exile to Babylon. In their exile to Babylon no one could imagine their liberation to Babylonian captivity. But God moved the heart of Cyrus king Persia, and indeed liberated them after 70 years of the exile. It was according to God’s promise (2 Ch 36:23; Ezra 1:1). Yet, after the exile the nation, once known as the glorious kingdom of David, became so weak even to be called a nation with no king of Israel raised. We see in verses 12-15 many unknown people with just names even not written in the Old Testament, except the names of Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. Yet, the history of God continued quietly through the 39 fatherings that reached to Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

It is notable that in Greek “father” and “was born” come from the same root word, “γενναο” pronouncing, “ghen-nah-o.” In verse 16 Matthew did not write, “Joseph the father of Jesus” according to the flow of his record. Luke wrote, “Jesus was the son, so it was though, of Joseph.” But Matthew wrote in verse 16, “and Jacob, the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Thus he stresses that Jesus was born of Mary, a woman. This reminds of God’s promise in Genesis 3:15, the promise given at the very time of man’s fall: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This was God’s promise to send a Saviour through the offspring of a woman. Later on Apostle Paul said in Galatians 4:4, “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” The description of verse 16 shows that God finally kept his promise to send a Saviour, Jesus Christ. He was truly a faithful God.

Matthew concludes this genealogy of Jesus with verse 17, “Thus 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.” Here the number fourteen draws our attention. It is according to Matthew’s counting. When we carefully observe the genealogy, some names were omitted. From Perez to Nahshon (Num 1:7) around 450 years passed, but only four generations were written: Hezon, Ram, Amminadab and then Nahshon, while six generations were written from Nahshon to David for the time of about four hundred years. We can guess some of the names omitted.

And Matthew intentionally omitted three kings’ names between Jehoram and Uzziah. 1 Chonicles 3:11 says, “Jehoram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son.” Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, these names were not written. Azariah is Uzziah (2 Kings 15:1,2,5).

And Jeconiah who was Jehoiachin was the son of Jehoiakim, who was the son of Josiah. 1 Chronicles 3:15, 16 reads, “The sons of Josiah: Johanan the firstborn, Jehoiakim the second son, Zedekiah the third, Shallum the fourth. The successors of Jehoiakim: Jehoiachin his son, and Zedekiah.”

Here we see that Matthew was not interested in writing a meticulous genealogy. We also know that from the period of Abraham to David is about 1,000 years, from the period of David to the exile to Babylon, about 600 years, and the period after the exile to Babylon to Christ, about 400 years (of silence). Yet he organized the genealogy of Jesus into three stages, each of which has fourteen generations. His intention was to make it easy to remember for the people of his time when the written books were rare to get. The number 14, in particular, was David’s number. In Hebrew there are no figures; when figures are necessary the letters of the alphabet stand for the figures. In Hebrew there are no written vowels. The Hebrew letters for David are DVD; if these letters be taken as figures and not as letters, they add up to 14 (4+6+4). In that way the author stresses that the genealogy of Jesus is strongly attached to David, who is mentioned 5 times, and is the only one on whom the title King is put, whose number is written 3 times, ensuring that Jesus’ is the genealogy of kings’ lineage, and Jesus is the son of David, God’s anointed King according to his promise. Matthew wanted the people to know God’s faithfulness even through remembering the number. God was faithful thrice fourteen generations until Jesus Christ was born as God’s anointed King. As for us it is also very important to know that God is a faithful God in our personal lives, in God’s ministry and in the history of God in our nation.

Also verse 17 in ESV (many other translations), “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” In Greek “generations” is repeated in the same way. Yes, God was faithful three times of fourteen generations. This indicates that he is perfectly faithful throughout all generations. He will be faithful until he will come again. God is the God of promise and he is faithful to his promises. According to God’s promise, Jesus was born. According to God’s promise, Jesus died and rose again. And according to his promise Jesus will come again and stand on the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. God’s history will continue in his faithfulness to the end of the age. In Matthew 24 after telling his disciples the signs of the end of the age, he said, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (24: 34-53). Then what a grace it is to live in God’s history and serve the redemptive history of God faithfully as his people in this world and find our names are written in the book of life in the age to come, which has already begun in Christ Jesus.

Thank God for this study of the genealogy of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the son of David, the son of Abraham. The genealogy of Jesus is the genealogy of grace. God is the God of history and he is faithful, keeping his promises. May we live in the streams of God’s history and serve the redemptive history of God faithfully with faith in Jesus and his words of promise very personally.

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