The beginning of Matthew is pretty much a family tree showing Jesus’s lineage to Abraham. This is important because of multiple prophecies stating Christ would be born from the Hebrew line. Not only that but further Christ would be of the line of David. Matthew being a publican, he would be characteristically detailed in legal matters. Being a Hebrew himself he would understand the importance of such a break down of lineage.
The text demonstrates the human heritage of Christ. Not only they but the relationship he had with other men. Furthermore he had a past the lead up to him and it is demonstrated that God knows the end from the beginning. In Christ’s birth a multitude of prophecies were fulfilled. Even further it demonstrates he is the heir to the throne of David, a throne he will sit upon in the coming kingdom.
1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.Matthew 1:1 KJV
The first thing that is apparent from an English language prospective is the reference of Jesus being the son of David and David being the son of Abraham. In the Hebrew language there is no separation of grandfather from father or grandson from son. Those words are not in their vocabulary so a father or grandfather or even great great great great grandfather is father and vise versa for mother and daughter as well.
2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;Matthew 1:2 KJV
Verse 2 has nothing really too interesting about it, the whole thing is pretty much straight forward, but verse 3 is another story.
3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;Matthew 1:3 KJV
You may notice that Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar. When all the others do not mention who the children came from but rather stayed to the father and son line. Matthew bothers to make a note of Phares and Zara’s mother, Thamar. To understand why this is a bit out of the ordinary we need to turn to Genesis 38 where this event happened.
I will summarize the events of the chapter for you but feel free to read the whole thing for yourself.
Judah or Judas, intermarried with a Canaanite woman named Shuah. They had three sons together named Er, Onan, and Shelah. Thamar or “Tamar” was the wife of Er. However, Er before he could consummate a child with Tamar died by God’s hand; he was wicked before the LORD. Whatever that means… I may go into a study on that on it’s own sometime. I digress though.
Now historically something called a Levirite marriage happened. It was the responsibility of the brother of a widows husband to take care of her and take her on as his wife. Odam however, refused to consummate with her by using the “pull out method”. This also displeased God enough that he smites him dead too.
Judah then promised her that Shelah would marry her once he became of age. Now God clearly had aspirations for her as shown in the text. People are dying because of their actions and not only that but by God’s own hand. Keep that in mind when things are going wrong in your own life. Is it God leading you in another direction?
Time passes and Judah does not wed Thamar to his son Shelah, SO, she tricks Judah into sleeping with her by dressing as a prostitute in secret. As payment he agrees to give this prostitute a goat. Tamar however asks for his seal and staff as collateral for the goat. Judah agrees and leaves to get the goat. However, when he returns she is gone.
Three months later Jacob finds out Thamar is pregnant and he is pissed. He sends for her and wants to have her burned alive. This was not an uncommon punishment for adultery in the ancient world. HOWEVER, when she is presented to him she bore his SEAL and STAFF. Which he put two and two together realizing she was the prostitute he slept with.
A bit of drama ensues and she is pregnant with his twin children; Pharas “Perez” and Zara “Zerah”. Legally they are illegitimate children.
So from this point in the genealogy we are outside of the line of Judah. Which is a huge problem! Why? Well, in Deuteronomy (Deut 23:2) there is a Levitical law forbidding a bastard child from being considered part of the “Congregation of the LORD” or a Hebrew. In fact it takes 10 generations from that point for ANY of the offspring of that line to be considered proper Hebrews.
So let’s count. Pharez 1, Hezron 2, Ram 3, Amminadab 4, Nahshon 5, Salmon 6, Boaz 7, Obed 8, Jesse 9, David 10. King David is generation 10. King David is the first legitimate son of Judah from that line. So now that we have solved that issue let’s continue.
4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;
5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;Matthew 1:4-5 KJV
Now you may notice once again we have the mother mentioned. Booz “Boaz” of Rachab “Rahab”. So who is Rahab and why is she mentioned? Rahab is the gentile mother of Boaz. This is covered in the Book of Ruth.
6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;Matthew 1:6 KJV
Once again an interesting statement pops up. Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias. Urias is the poor bloke who David sent to war in the front line to ensure his death. Basically the guy David had murdered. Her name is Bathsheba.
7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;
8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias;Matthew 1:7-8 KJV
This is a good point to take pause. Unless you study the Old Testament closely you will entirely miss that some of the names are completely missing from the genealogy here. Ahaziah son of Joram, Joash son of Ahaziah, and Amaziah or Uzziah son of Joash. They abandoned God and brought idolatry into Jerusalem. God literally had them blotted out from the text here to emphasis how much he despises such things.
9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias;
10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias;
11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:Matthew 1:9-10 KJV
So, this is an interesting note. Josias did not begat Jechonias, actually is was Jehoiakim who begat Jechonias and Jeconiah did not have any brothers. So what is this issue, it is a curse put upon them from God actually.
24 As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence;
25 And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.
26 And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die.
27 But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return.
28 Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not?
29 O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.
30 Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.Jeremiah 22:24-30 KJV
Coniah is another name used for Jechonis. So he is cursed. Big deal.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;Matthew 1:12 KJV
Now Salathiel was not the biological father of Zorobabel but instead he adopted him. This breaks the blood curse placed upon his family. The line can continue by legal rite over blood rite.
From this point forward we have a straight shot to Jesus with nothing all that confusing coming in the way.
13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor;
14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud;
15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob;
16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
17 So 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.Matthew 1:13-17 KJV
Now if you noticed I made it a point of pointing out Matthew’s background in legal matters. There is a good reason he pointed all this out. Judaism and Mosaic law is very detailed and meticulous about inheritance laws. For this set of events to have played forth it would seem as if those laws were written for this specific scenario.
First lets take a look at Numbers 27:7-11
6 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
7 The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them.
8 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.
9 And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren.
10 And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father’s brethren.
11 And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the LoNumbers 27:6-11 KJV
We can see a few of these instances in the genealogy above. Further a tradition existed that husbands are also adopted by the brides father. SO, what is all this about. Well, it is to show Joseph carries the royal line with prophecies; the genealogy of Joseph fits with the hundreds of other prophecies about Christs birth and the regulations on the royal line.
Normally I don’t like to split up chapters but I feel like this is a good place to stop for now and the next time we study together we will go over the rest of the chapter taking a look at the virgin birth in detail.