From contributor Pastor Daryl Cox on the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew. Pastor Cox discusses the generation of Jesus Christ according to Matthew.
January 12, 2012/Daryl Cox
The Gospel of Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Written to the Jews, the author’s intent was to identify Jesus as the Messiah, the King of Israel. By way of ancestry, Matthew links Jesus with two great figures in the history of Israel: King David and Abraham. These men represent the two major Old Testament covenants, Abrahamic and Davidic. The author supports his Gospel’s theme with this connection by showing throughout that Jesus is the “Son” who partially fulfilled and will completely fulfill the promises of these two covenants at His first and second comings. His death and resurrection would be the basis for their fulfillment. Next, the genealogy of Jesus not only is a historical fact, but an account with a strong support base in the Scripture. We find portions of Jesus‘ genealogy throughout select books of the Old Testament. This shows that the Messiah’s lineage is a part of Scripture. Matthew based his record of the Lord’s genealogy on the inspired Word, and the early church used it as a witnessing tool to both Jews and Gentiles.
The Genealogical Periods
The Holy Spirit opened Matthew’s understanding and guided him to find Christ’s genealogy in Scripture. However, parts of this genealogy are not recorded in Scripture. One example of this is the Jews after their return from the Babylonian exile. Matthew does, though, connect the vast gap between Zerubbabel and Jacob, the father of Joseph. According to Matthew, this period covers fourteen generations, but what Matthew records sufficiently connects Jesus of Nazareth with the Old Testament. Luke, using the genealogy of Mary, traces Christ’s lineage back to David, and then back to Shem, the son of Noah, and then back to Adam. It is here, that Jesus is identified with the human race and qualified to be its Savior. Matthew uses portions of Scripture along with historical records to establish the royal lineage of Jesus of Nazareth to be the King of Israel.
Matthew divides his genealogy into three periods of fourteen generations each, listing Hebrew names in their equivalent form of Greek. The first period, from Abraham to David, is called the period of the Patriarchs. The second period, covers from David until the last king, going into exile in Babylon. This is called the period of the Kings. The third, and last period, is from Babylon until the birth of Christ. This period is called the Post Exile. It covers the full, 600-year period up to Christ’s birth, but it does not mention everyone in this line. It is silent on the four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments, as well as the partial period of two hundred years after the exile. Matthew’s approach proves the royal lineage of Jesus through Joseph, His legal father.
The Expression, Begat
Once Matthew arrives at “Jacob who begat Joseph” (Matt 1:16 KJV), he does not use this expression about Jesus. Instead, Matthew writes “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (v. 16). Jesus has no biological father in the natural sense of the term. To prove the virgin birth, Matthew shows that Jesus was not begotten by a human. The Holy Ghost conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb, making Jesus the Son of God (v. 18) and then fulfilling the prophecy that Christ would be born of a virgin (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:21-23). The expression begat is common in Matthew’s genealogy. Begat, [Greek: gennaó, γεννάω] speaks of the procreation of offspring. The names in Matthew’s genealogy are descendants by procreation. Luke does not use this expression. Instead, Luke features the expression the son of [Greek: huios, υἱὸς’], meaning child by procreation; however, this meaning permits a wider range of kinship. One does not have to be a son by direct generation. Jesus was thought to be Joseph’s actual son (Luke 3:23). Luke’s genealogy traces Jesus’ lineage back to David through Nathan, the son of Bathsheba, called Bathshua (1 Chron. 3:1, 5). Jesus had a biological link to King David through His mother. On the other hand, Jesus only had a legal link through Joseph.
The Blood of Jesus Was Shed for Everyone
In addition to Mary, Matthew mentions four other women in his genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba (whose name intentionally was not given). Ancient Hebrew genealogists commonly did not list a woman in a man’s record of lineage; rather, they established family lineage through the father. Tamar was of Gentile lineage. She deceitfully had sexual relations with her father-in-law Judah, son of Jacob. Rahab was a Gentile prostitute from Jericho, Ruth was an idolater from the country of Moab. And, Bathsheba was a Gilonite of Jewish descent (2 Sam 11:2-4; 23:34). Bathsheba committed adultery with King David. These four women had questionable life styles that Scripture does record, and yet Scripture lists their names in the Lord’s genealogy. One sees the story of God’s grace with each woman’s genealogical entry. The absence of Bathsheba’s name reflects the sin associated with her, and the gracious act of God in forgiving and recording her in the genealogy of the king of Israel. Matthew, under divine guidance, identifies these women with the great men of Israel’s history. Their presence testifies to God’s miraculouse use of a woman to produce the virgin birth, and the new status of honor He would grant to both males and females under the New Covenant, thus illustrating God’s plan of redemption by grace through faith. Everyone in God’s Kingdom is honored as a son. Matthew did not only record the names and the sinful acts of these four women, but he also recognized the males: Judah, Tamar’s “partner;” Manasseh, Israel’s most wicked king; David, the first king and Jechonias, the last are among the names listed. With the exception of Jechonias, the first three repented and experienced God’s mercy over their lives. Their failures are a testimony to the faithfulness and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, another great truth emerges from this fact. Three of the four women were definitely Gentiles. (Bathsheba was not.) The Gentiles, along with the Jews, were to become part of the family of God by faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul taught the church at Ephesus (predominately Gentile) that the whole family in heaven and earth is called by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 3:14-15). Acts 2 says the outpouring of the Holy Ghost is for all flesh (nations and races). God’s grace does not exclude race or sex, rather His intent is to “bring many sons to glory” (Heb 2:10). Humankind’s past sinfulness cannot place a person beyond God’s reach. Jesus Christ shed His blood for everyone. Race and immoral lifestyles have no bearing because of the New Covenant, for Jesus Christ makes men and women of all nations new.
The Firstborn, Higher Than the Kings of the Earth
Two psalms describe the nature of the Messiah’s appointment, power and honor: Psalm 132:11 and 89:27. The first, Ps 132:11 says, “The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne;” likewise the other, Ps 89:27, states that “Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.” Matthew’s genealogy mentions the last king of Israel, Jechonias. The Hebrew Scriptures identify him as Jechoniah. Prior to Babylon’s invasion of Israel, Jeremiah prophesied that Jechoniah’s children would be cursed from ruling Israel upon the throne of David (Jer 22:30). This includes, of course, Joseph. Had Jesus been a direct descendant of David through Solomon, and consequently Joseph, he could lay no claim to be Israel’s King. The curse only was upon the descendants of Jechoniah. The royal authority and honor of David could no longer be passed in succession. However, the oath of Scripture promised kingship to the Messiah. God’s oath ensures fulfillment of His will. Christ bypassed the curse by way of the virgin birth. As King David’s descendent, He does not inherit David’s earthly authority and honor. Instead, He inherits the glory, honor and authority of the almighty God through the incarnation. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. His dominion is God’s sovereign dominion. Scripture calls Christ God’s firstborn Son, as opposed to begotten Son (John 3:16). The reference is to His resurrection found in Col 1:15, 18. He is the Firstborn among many bretheren who are partakers in His resurrection, the Church. The King of Israel will reign with His redeemed people when He returns to earth. This fulfills Ps 89:27 quoted earlier.
The Termination of Noah’s Curse
Luke traces the genealogy of Mary, the mother of Jesus, back to Shem the son of Noah. Genesis 9:26 records Noah blessing two of his sons and their descendants while cursing the son his third child. It is interesting what Noah spoke over Shem, which is “Blessed be the LORD God of Shem” (v. 26a). Noah gave a prophecy of praise. Shem and his descendants would indeed be blessed and his brother Japheth and his posterity with him. Out of Shem’s posterity came the Jewish race from which would come the Messiah to redeem humankind. The ultimate praise to God spoken by this prophecy speaks of a universal salvation that delivers all men from sin and reverses all curses spoken because of sin. Noah spoke prophetically to God as a descendant of Shem. The incarnation was in view. Luke 3:21-23 and 36 support this thought. At Jesus’ baptism, God publicly declares the sonship of Jesus by acknowledging His incarnation in Him. Luke then declares Christ’s genealogy from His mother back to Shem. God would come in flesh as the Son of God to redeem us from the curse of the law and give us the blessing of eternal life through the death and resurrection of Christ (2 Cor 5:19). On the cross, Jesus was made a curse when He was made sin for us. What was accomplished by His passion is now received by faith through repentance, water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Christ terminated Noah’s curse, Jeremiah’s curse, and the curse of law. We now can have life more abundantly.
Matthew’s presentation of the genealogy of Jesus Christ is unique. He presents Jesus as the Messiah, King of Israel foretold in Scripture. He identifies Jesus with the two major covenants God made with Abraham and David. As the promised descendant of both men, Jesus is the Son who fulfills both covenants so that both Jews and Gentiles could be blessed with eternal redemption. Against the Jewish custom of women absent in a man’s genealogy, Matthew records the mother of Jesus and four women. Though four of these women have questionable pasts, one sees this as message of God’s grace. Also, the author’s mention of some of Israel’s greatest men and their failures are a testimony to God’s mercy and His willingness to restore sinners and fulfill covenant promises. Next, this genealogy presents the New Testament truth that the Gentiles would also become part of the family of God. God’s grace has made the new birth a reality for all nations. This fulfills the promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed in his seed, Jesus Christ. The gaps in Matthew’s genealogy serve as a reminder that every name was not needed, but the recorded connections identify Jesus as David’s royal heir. The apparent distinction between the way Matthew and Luke list descendants is unique. While begat speaks to biological descent, son of can have a more remote relationship (son-in-law, grandson, etc. speak to this fact). When Matthew arrives to Joseph in his genealogy, the author takes care that his words do not obscure one of Christianity’s most important truths, the virgin birth of Christ. Luke’s genealogy identifies the Son of God with the human race. Uniquely, the virgin birth makes Jesus a part of the human race. His coming would deliver us from sin, its curse and death by taking these things upon Himself. The Holy Ghost imparts to us all the blessings of eternal life that Jesus died and rose for us to have (Gal 3:13-14). This genealogy was a powerful witness then and is to us today.
Pastor Daryl Cox
Reprinted from All Nations Leadership Institute, Jesus Across the Gospels
All Rights Reserved, All Nations Leadership Institute, 2013.
Photo Credit: Sharefaith.com