What follows is some research and writing I did but did not use for my last post. So – the reader beware – it’s a little like “raw video” and somewhat technical. If God can use it to bless you then it’s worth posting.
Actually, the genealogies pose some of the most difficult questions in the NT. Fortunately, these are questions that aren’t terribly important. The genealogies are given to establish Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, the fulfillment of centuries of promises God had made to His people. What follows are a sampling of the challenges inherent in these texts.
There are only 41 generations mentioned. There ought to be 42 if there are four sets of three. (The explanations vary; the simplest is that Matthew counted someone twice, David being the sentimental choice.)
If a “generation” is 25 years, then I only get 1,050 years of history spanned. The Gk verb for “became the father of” doesn’t necessarily mean consecutive generations. It is understood that this is not the complete family tree, just the important branches. Also, the length of the list serves Matthew’s organizational principle; three sets of fourteen names each, with each set serving one of the three periods of Israel’s history.
Matthew’s version is different from Luke’s. There are any number of reasonable (read “human”) explanations (i.e., the two authors had different sources and/or different purposes), but how do we reconcile this with divine inspiration?
Let’s look at the text in detail. 1This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
- Set #1 = From one family to one nation (1:2-6).
1 = Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Abraham is recognized as the “father” of 3 major world religions; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This is undoubtedly why Matthew’s genealogy begins with him. There is too much to be said about Abraham to even begin here.
2 = Isaac the father of Jacob.
Isaac was the “son of promise” in keeping with God’s promise to make a “great nation” out of Abraham’s descendants. Even so, Abraham demonstrated his faith by being willing to sacrifice Isaac at God’s command.
3 = Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Jacob was the schemer, a biblical con man, but God chose him and used his twelve sons to form a new nation, the 12 tribes of Israel.
4 = Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.
We learned last year from our study of GNS 38 what a goof-ball Judah was and the red-neck kind of backstory between Judah and Tamar.
5 = Perez the father of Hezron.
Zerah was Perez’s twin brother, but God chose Perez to be in the line of the Messiah. The Jews also remember Perez fondly.
6 = Hezron the father of Ram.
Hezron is mentioned twice i/t OT (GNS 46:12; 1CL 2:5), but we are told nothing about him.
7 = Ram the father of Amminadab.
Ram has only one mention (1CL 2:9) without any information.
8 = Amminadab the father of Nahshon.
Amminadab has three mentions (EXS 6:23; NBS 1:7; 1CL 2:10), without any information. Tradition says that Amminadab was part of the generation that defied God by not going into the Promised Land and subsequently died during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
9 = Nahshon the father of Salmon.
Nashon has 3 OT mentions (NBS 2:3; 7:12-17; 1CL 2:10) and was described as a leader within the tribe of Judah, responsible for 74,600 men. His offering to the Lord on the occasion of the dedication of the tabernacle is fully described as he offered it on behalf of all the members of the tribe of Judah. His offering is listed first among the 12.
10 = Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.
Salmon has just two mentions (RTH 4:18-21; 1CL 2:11) with no personal information given.
Rahab is the prostitute mentioned in JHA 2+5, the woman who saved the Israelite spies as they scoped out the city of Jericho.
11 = Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth.
In the summer of ’15 we went through the entire book of Ruth and into detail about Boaz and Ruth, one of the great love stories of the Bible. It is one of the most pleasant books of the Bible to read.
12 = Obed the father of Jesse.
Obed is mentioned twice (RTH 4:22; 1CL 2:12), by name only.
13 = Jesse the father of King David.
Jesse is mentioned forty-seven times in the Bible, all in connection with his son.
14 = David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.
God Himself described King David as a man after His own heart (ACS 13:22), in spite of the scandal mentioned in this verse. This is an example of the power of grace and the strength of God’s forgiveness. There is so much more that can be said about David, we don’t have time to approach it this morning.
- Set #2 = From nationality to captivity (7-11).
1 = Solomon the father of Rehoboam.
Solomon is the king who represents the height of the nation of Israel. He was the wisest, wealthiest, and had the widest influence on the world of that time. we can’t begin to touch on the life and kingdom of Solomon in the time we have this morning.
2 = Rehoboam the father of Abijah.
After Solomon’s death, the kingdom of Israel was divided between two of his sons; Rehoboam ruled foolishly and retained only two of the twelve tribes. That half of the kingdom was called “Judah.”
3 = Abijah the father of Asa.
4 = Asa the father of Jehoshaphat.
Asa was one of the good kings of Judah and so was Jehoshaphat. But the same cannot be said of all the kings on this list. The implication is that God is so powerful that He can make good come from bad.
5 = Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram.
6 = Jehoram the father of Uzziah.
7 = Uzziah the father of Jotham.
8 = Jotham the father of Ahaz.
9 = Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
10 = Hezekiah the father of Manasseh.
11 = Manasseh the father of Amon.
12 = Amon the father of Josiah.
13 = Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
Josiah was the last free king of Judah. After that, rulers were designated by the conquering Babylonians; they were puppet rulers.
- Set #3 = From captivity to Christ (12-16).
1 = Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel.
2 = Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.
3 = Zerubbabel the father of Abihud.
HGI 2:20-23 offers Zerubbabel as a model for the Messiah.
4 = Abihud the father of Eliakim.
The nine names from Abihud through Jacob are not found in the Bible. What we can learn about them is
5 = Eliakim the father of Azor.
6 = Azor the father of Zadok.
7 = Zadok the father of Akim.
8 = Akim the father of Elihud.
9 = Elihud the father of Eleazar.
10 = Eleazar the father of Matthan.
11 = Matthan the father of Jacob.
12 = Jacob the father of Joseph.
13 = Joseph the husband of Mary. Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
14 = Jesus
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 Messiah.