This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
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.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat 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.
After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
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 Messiah.
– Matthew 1:1-17
“To know Jesus’ story I must, in the same way I get to know anyone else’s story, learn something of His culture, family, and background.
“Following that principle, Matthew opens his gospel not as I might be tempted to begin, with a teaser on ‘How this book will change your life,’ but rather with a dry list of names, the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew chose a representative sampling from forty-two generations of Jews in order to establish Jesus’ bloodline. Much like the shabby descendants of deposed European royalty, the peasant family of Joseph and Mary could trace their lineage back to some impressive ancestors, including Israel’s greatest king, David, and its original founder, Abraham*.”
“*Matthew’s list of names lets some skeletons out of the closet. Consider the women mentioned (a rarity in Jewish genealogies). At least three of the four were foreigners, which may have been Matthew’s way of hinting that Jesus held out universal promise. The Jewish Messiah had Gentile blood!
“Tamar, a childless widow, had to dress like a prostitute and seduce her father-in-law in order to produce her contribution to Jesus’ line. Rahab did not merely pretend, but made her living as a prostitute. And ‘Uriah’s wife,’ Bathsheba, was the object of David’s lust, which led to the most famous royal scandal of the Old Testament. These shady ancestors show that Jesus entered human history in the raw, a willing descendant of its shame. In contrast, Herod the Great, reigning king at Jesus’ birth, had his genealogy records destroyed out of vanity because he wanted no one to compare his background with others’.”
– Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew
I have heard detractors argue that Matthew and Luke made errors in their genealogies. Yancey drives through that argument by simply stating that Matthew gave enough information to tie Jesus to king David and Abraham. Abraham made covenants with God. Those covenants are completed in full through Jesus. David was given a promise that David’s kingly line would live on. While the earthly kingdom died due to Solomon’s disobedience, the kingly line goes to Jesus, who will reign forever. I think we can forgive Matthew for leaving someone out to get his fourteen, fourteen, and fourteen. Jesus told us to forgive, but it is not a ‘mistake’ if Matthew was only trying to make a point. Is it?
What we need to get out of this Scripture is some profound things and some subtle things. People have been yelling of late about how the Bible is too male-centric. Yet, in the tremendously male-centric world of the first century, where women absolutely were seen and not heard, four women are mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. Add this to the first eye witnesses to the resurrection being women and the other stories of women throughout the Gospels, and it is hard to intellectually continue that argument.
While Yancey mentions the ‘Gentile’ blood and the shady ancestors of Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and David (a man after God’s own heart, but he was culpable in the scandal), Matthew also lists some kings that, according to 2 Kings, did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Matthew listed the good and bad kings. Might we draw a conclusion that the sins of the father do not necessarily pass to the son? The discussion in the Old Testament about curses passing to the third and fourth generation were the exceptions rather than the rule. We are each responsible for our own mistakes and our children are responsible for their own. Our children may inherit the aftermath of our mistakes, making their path a little harder.
And regardless of his picking and choosing as Yancey states it, Jesus is King.
On a personal note, I have known many Christians who do not attend Sunday school and never read the Bible. Yancey’s first statement, about knowing a friend’s culture, family, and background, could be asked as a challenge. Can you really know someone and have a deep, meaningful relationship with that person, if you do not know much about them? Yes, you can be saved with very limited knowledge of the One who saved you, but once Jesus comes into your heart, you should want to know more. You should have the desire, placed there by the Holy Spirit. That requires Bible study and prayer. Not for salvation, but for a deeper understanding of the One who saved you.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.