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  • Writer's pictureBrian O'Kelly

58 - Why Does the Family Tree of Jesus Matter?

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

1) Who was Matthew?

2) Who was the intended audience.

a. Matthew is primarily writing to Jewish believers. In this gospel Matthew addresses Jewish concerns in Jewish history and prophecy more than any other gospel writer. One of the features of Matthew’s writing is that he uses the term “kingdom of heaven” in the same places where the other gospel writers use the term “kingdom of God”. This was an important distinction when writing to Jews. The Jews considered God’s name so holy that they would not mention it. So phrases like “heaven help you” or “for heaven’s sake” or any other reference to God would typically include “heaven” as a substitute word.

3) The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

a. Matthew opens his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus Christ in fact these are these exact words he uses:

i. 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:

b. I remember when I was a relatively new believer, and at times before I was a Christian and even as my Christianity grew in maturity that I found these lists of genealogies to be quite boring. You may find them boring and tedious as well. Going to do my best to share with you the reasons why Matthew included this in with some of the significance of the people in the list is.

c. The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah, and they been waiting quite a long time. It was known that the Messiah would have to come through the lineage of David, the lineage of Isaac, the lineage of Abraham. This is the reason Matthew reported who Jesus’ progenitors were. If the Messiah had to be of the house of David that had to be demonstrated Jesus could be the Messiah. Since the audience Matthew was writing to was primarily Jewish it was important to establish that he was of the house of David.

d. Remember that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because his father Joseph was of the house of David and Bethlehem was the city of David. This is the genealogy of Joseph. Luke offers the genealogy of Mary.

e. Since Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus, how could Jesus be of the lineage of David? When we get to Luke’s gospel and study the genealogy of Mary will see that Jesus was also of the bloodline as a descendent of David. But in Jewish culture, the “house” that you belong to was that of the father. This is why Jews practice something called levirate marriage. This is the idea that if your brother died childless, a man would marry his brother’s wife to raise up children as descendants for him. They would be considered as his children and of his house. Even today people are Jewish if they have a Jewish mother independent of the father’s ethnicity.

f. We have then in the Gospels both the political familial ancestry here in Matthew and the bloodline ancestry given in Luke.

g. So let’s explore some of who these people were as we go through the ancestry of Jesus. I think you’ll find some very interesting things that you may not have seen before.

i. 2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.

1. Here in verses two we have the patriarchs Abraham Isaac and Jacob. If you remember God changed Jacob’s name to Israel which means “governed by God”.

2. We also have Judah, from whom we get the label “Jew”. In Genesis 49:9 Jacob refers to Judah as a “young lion” and the lion became a symbol of the tribe of Judah and was even included in the emblem of Jerusalem in 1950 and is still included in that emblem today. Jesus is referred to as the “lion of Judah” in Revelation 5:5 as a reference to the second coming.

ii. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram.

1. In verse three we see Tamar who was the mother of Perez. Tamar was given by Judah in an arranged marriage to his son Er, who was wicked and killed by God because of his wickedness. We don’t know where Timor was from, but Judah had chosen his wife Shua from the Canaanites and so it’s likely that Tamar was a Canaanite. This was the first generation of the children of Israel and it’s unlikely that he married an unmentioned sister. The family of Israel at that point consisted of Jacobs 12 sons as far as we know. Judah then commanded that Onan the brother of Er marry her and raise up an heir for his brother. Onan was also wicked wouldn’t be obedient to this so God also killed him. Then Judah told Tamar she would have to wait until his youngest son Shelah was old enough to fill the role of husband. In Jewish culture a woman who didn’t have children was considered of little value and so it was important to Tamar to have children. In the interim the wife of Jacob, Shua, had died and Shelah was not given to Tamar. Tamar then took off her widows garments, disguised yourself covering her face and sat in an open place to entrap Judah as a prostitute. Judah fell for the trap and wanted to be her customer. So as a prostitute would she asked for payment. Judah said he would send her a young goat from his flock. So she asked for something of value to hold onto until she received the goat and Jacob gave her his signet ring to hold onto until the goat was delivered. When he sent his friend to deliver the goat and collect the ring they couldn’t find her. A few months later Judah was told that she had behaved as a harlot and that she was pregnant because of it. Judah was furious and commanded her to be burned alive. She stepped up and showed the signet ring saying that it was the owner of this ring I whom she was pregnant. And Judah then said “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again.

2. In Jewish genealogies it was rare to mention women. The family’s name and honor and reputation was through the patriarchy. Tamar is the first of four women we see in the lineage of Jesus and she is not a particularly honorable woman. We will see as we go forward through the rest of the genealogy that this happens a few more times.

iii. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse,

1. Who is Rahab? Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. Joshua sent spies into Jericho and the king of Jericho heard about it was looking for them, she hid them from the authorities preserving their life. So here is another woman mentioned, a prostitute and an Amorite, not a Jew in the lineage of Jesus. Rhab was also honored as a woman of faith in Hebrews 11:31and in James 2:25.

2. Rahab was the mother of Ruth. Many people know who Boaz is because of his prominence as the husband of Ruth in the book of Ruth. But who was Ruth? Ruth was a Moabitess, also not a Jew.

3. And the son of Ruth was Obed. Now Obed is not as well known as some others in the Bible. Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of King David.

iv. 6 and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.

1. The wife of Uriah of course was Bathsheba. We know that Uriah was a Hittite and that Jews were forbidden to marry non-Jews. For this reason it’s likely that Bathsheba was a Hittite although she may have been Jewish. We don’t know if Bathsheba was a woman of loose character in general, but we do know that at least on one occasion she was willing to commit adultery.

h. Up to this point we have seen for women, at least three of them who were not Jewish and more likely all four. We also see three of them with sin issues evident. It’s my own belief that the reason these women are included in the lineage of Jesus is to demonstrate that Jesus is not just here for the Jews and came for the benefit and redemption of sinners. The inclusion of these women in the genealogy of Matthew would have definitely been an eyebrow raiser amongst the Jews to whom Matthew was writing.

i. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. 8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah.

1. Ahaz was a wicked king. He left the following of God and followed the Baals. He sacrificed children and gave the treasure of the temple to the king of Assyria. He sacrificed to the gods of Damascus. Because of this he was not very in the tombs of the kings of Israel. This is yet another demonstration that Jesus came for the ungodly.

ii. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.

1. Missing here between Josiah and Jeconiah is Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim burned a scroll with the words of Jermiah written on it. And for this reason, God told him that he would have no son to sit on the throne of David. Here we can see that while Joseph was of the house of David, Jesus was not a descendent of David through Joseph. This is why the lineage of Jesus in Luke is so important because it establishes that not only was Jesus of the house of David but he was also a direct descendent of David.

iii. 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

i. And this completes the list offered by Matthew and then Matthew makes summation of the list in verse 17.

i. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.

ii. The Jews who Matthew was writing to would’ve noticed right away that these lists were not exhaustive. We can deduce from this that either Matthew was unaware or mistaken about the facts of these genealogies although that seems highly unlikely. More likely is the idea that since most information was still passed along orally that he organized it into lists of 14 for purposes of helping people to remember it. It’s also possible that since these are multiples of seven that this is the motivator since seven was considered very important number to God.

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