Matthew Chapter 1: 1-17
The Gospel of Matthew begins with a beginning. It’s a bit dry but fascinating nonetheless. Let’s look at the text, then use the CAGED method to see all we can see. For those who are new and those who have forgotten, CAGED is an acronym for, Context, Aspirations, Genre, Exegesis, Divide. More on this as we continue. To the text.
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. To Abraham was born Isaac; and to Isaac, Jacob; and to Jacob, Judah and his brothers; and to Judah were born Perez and Zerah by Tamar; and to Perez was born Hezron; and to Hezron, Ram; and to Ram was born Amminadab; and to Amminadab, Nahshon; and to Nahshon, Salmon; and to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab; and to Boaz was born Obed by Ruth; and to Obed, Jesse; and to Jesse was born David the king. And to David was born Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah; and to Solomon was born Rehoboam; and to Rehoboam, Abijah; and to Abijah, Asa; and to Asa was born Jehoshaphat; and to Jehoshaphat, Joram; and to Joram, Uzziah; and to Uzziah was born Jotham; and to Jotham, Ahaz; and to Ahaz, Hezekiah; and to Hezekiah was born Manasseh; and to Manasseh, Amon; and to Amon, Josiah; and to Josiah were born Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon, to Jeconiah was born Shealtiel; and to Shealtiel, Zerubbabel; and to Zerubbabel was born Abihud; and to Abihud, Eliakim; and to Eliakim, Azor; and to Azor was born Zadok; and to Zadok, Achim; and to Achim, Eliud; and to Eliud was born Eleazar; and to Eleazar, Matthan; and to Matthan, Jacob; and to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Therefore all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the time of Christ fourteen generations.”
May we make two assumptions right away? We will abandoned them if the context proves otherwise. I am not saying, “this is the Antichrist,” but close. I am assuming facts not in evidence, however, this is my opening statement and I wish to prove two assumptions as we study. One is that this genealogy is trustworthy. Why would Matthew record it if it wasn’t? It differs from Luke’s and is also incomplete, but that brings us to assumption number two; Matthew wrote this gospel primarily to the Jews in the first century. We will look intently at the author’s aspirations to his audience. The Genre is gospel, and it’s a letter, and it’s historical. We will keep that in mind. Now, we will expose the context.
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” In your Bible, this simple sentence should be one paragraph. That is because it is the title and the introduction–Matthew is building a firm foundation on which he will continually construct. Literally; Book; Jesus’s genesis, David’s son, Abraham’s son. Or, Book of genesis of Jesus Christ son of David son of Abraham. The book is about Jesus, son of David, son of Abraham. Luke writes to the Greeks, John, to the world about the word, but Matthew stresses Christ’s Jewish genealogy right from the genesis.
We will not be discussing every name in this genealogy. We will look at a few familiar friends and faces and probably meet some new ones as well. We will look at a few highlights, especially ones that may reappear in the text; David and Abraham being the most obvious. Matthew starts with Abraham because he was considered the Father of the Jews (John 8, et al). However, we need a bit more background.
Genesis 17:17-19, “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!” But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.” And indeed, Sarah bore a son and named him Isaac. However, we notice a little lack of faith. Abraham believed God, but not the specifics. He tried to negotiate for Ismael to be the heir apparent but God had a different plan. That plan was through Isaac, as Paul quotes Genesis in Romans 9, “through Isaac your descendants will be named.”
Genesis 25, 21-25, “And Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples shall be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.” When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. And afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.” Things between Jacob and Esau continued much in the same way. Jacob bought Esau’s birthright for red stuff, tricked his father into giving him Esau’s blessing, but Esau never killed Jacob. However there was much tension between their offspring. The words of the Lord proved true.
Then, later on in Genesis, Jacob has 12 sons, they became the twelve tribes of Israel–Jacob’s new name. Judah was chosen by God to be the tribe from which the Messiah would come. Not from the first-born nor from the Levitical priests, but from the largest tribe. Why? Because God said so. Consider Israel’s blessing in Genesis 49:10; “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
And to Judah, another set of twins were born; “and to Judah were born Perez and Zerah by Tamar.” Matthew doesn’t tell the reader they were twins, but he expects the reader to recall Genesis 38, “But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out. Then she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” So he was named Perez.” Another twin, usurping the birth right, this time, from the womb. Another tale of two babies, two people, two nations and two cities. We are shown similar themes from Genesis on down to Revelation.
“And to Perez was born Hezron…” Genesis 46:12, “And the sons of Judah: Er and Onan and Shelah and Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan). And the sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul.” In Genesis 46, we find a genealogy of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt. They kept very good records in those days. Genealogies are very dry and frankly, boring. But they were recorded for a purpose and that is the reason we are examining them. Notice also that we are almost 1/6 of the way through the genealogy and we’re still within the context of the first book of the Bible. And we started at Abraham, not with Adam, or Seth, Jared, Methuselah, Noah or his sons. We should notice and understand how much of the world’s history happens in Genesis. A generation in Genesis was a hundred years. Genesis covers a very long period of time.
But I digress, though I do find it interesting and important. Speaking of a long period of time; briefly highlighting for time’s sake. Ram is found in Ruth 4 and the next three in Numbers chapter one. Again, we see a detailed genealogy. We also have a genealogy in 1st Chronicles 2 and in Ruth chapter 4. Matthew writes, “and to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab;” the prostitute who hid the spies. Which brings us to David, who was the father of Solomon by the woman whose husband he had murdered.
Solomon was the father of the terrible king, Rehoboam, who took terrible advice from his friends. Under him, the twelve tribes split into Judah and Israel. We find that the genealogy of Jesus isn’t high and lofty, but proof of the promise.
Skipping a few kings for time’s sake, we’ll zoom in on Jeconiah. In Jeremiah 22 we read, “’As I live,’ declares the LORD, “even though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were a signet ring on My right hand, yet I would pull you off; and I shall give you over into the hand of those who are seeking your life, yes, into the hand of those whom you dread, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.'” And, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Write this man down childless, A man who will not prosper in his days; For no man of his descendants will prosper Sitting on the throne of David Or ruling again in Judah.’”
Problem; and it’s a huge problem: the royal bloodline is cut off. The last few “kings” of Judah are not in the bloodline of the Messiah. The Old Testament is clear and Matthew’s genealogy confirms this. Though there were a few more kings of Judah, they were merely puppet kings with little power. Why is this a problem? Because we misunderstand the Bible by keeping it caged with our presuppositions and preconceived notions. Remember Genesis 49:10; “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Yet we’ve now read that indeed the scepter has departed from Judah. But considering the context we realize that God didn’t say the scepter will never depart, Jacob did. When one digs into the context one also understands that while the royal bloodline was obliterated, the legal line remains. I believe this is exactly what Matthew aspired to demonstrate to his audience. Notice Zerubbabel, he was governor over the returning exiles. Much is written about him. If you studied Revelation with me, you’ll remember Zerubbabel in Zechariah. We also read about him in Ezra and Nehemiah and in Haggai, chapter one, “In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.”” The people dwelled in their land, once again and had rebuilt the walls but not the temple. Zerubbabel was going to lead them in rebuilding the temple, to a certain extent.
Matthew records the rest of the genealogy of Jesus from the deportation to Joseph and concludes; “therefore all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the time of Christ fourteen generations.
This is a dry and boring but brief overview of the genealogy. Nevertheless, when we consider the scum and the heroes that comprise said genealogy, it’s fascinating. We didn’t dig deep due to time, or more aptly put, attention spans. But we see the context and verses. One is now well equipped to read further if they choose to do so. However, one needs not get bogged down. We see the big picture that Matthew has presented. The genealogy of Jesus clearly demonstrates God’s true promise made to Abraham, Issac and Jacob concerning the promise of the Messiah. We will see this more as the context unfolds.