We might be tempted to gloss over the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1[A]. We may feel obligated to acknowledge it during Christmastime because it’s part of the story of the birth of Jesus. The genealogy, though, doesn’t hold our attention like the plight of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in a manger.
The overarching significance of the genealogy is stated in the text. The lineage of Jesus can be traced back fourteen generations to the Babylonian exile, fourteen more generations back to King David and fourteen additional generations back to Abraham, the father of faith. This is no insignificant thing, but it may not capture our attention as, perhaps, it should.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham to bless all the nations of the earth through his seed. The prophets foretold more specifically that the promise was to be fulfilled through the line of David.
Forty two generations passed from the original promise to Jesus. Twenty eight generations passed from the line of David. Fourteen generations passed from the Babylonian exile to Jesus, and the Babylonian exile is approximately the time period of those prophecies.
That genealogy, further, represents the history of God’s interaction with man. Most of the Old Testament fits between the beginning and the end of that genealogy!
When I spent some thinking about the genealogy, something else jumped out at me. We think of the Bible in our modern sensibilities as a bronze age work carrying forward an antiquated worldview with paternalistic stories about a patriarchal people and history. The genealogy appears to confirm our notions … until we look a little closer.
Wait a minute! There are five women listed!
The fact that these women are included in the genealogy should catch our attention and give us a clue that we might be wrong about our assumptions colored by our modern sensibilities.
In the following posts, I will explore who these five women were and how there are significant to us today. We will begin with Tamar and end with Mary. We don’t have to wonder about the significance of Mary, but what of the others? The fact that they were listed should highlight their importance to God and His redemptive work in history.
[A] This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
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