Matthew 1:1-17 — The Genealogy of Jesus (Week 1)
PLEASE READ: Matthew 1:1-17
How can the Ancient of Days have an ancestry? How can the Beginning and the End have a genealogy? Those are the questions we are going to endeavor to answer today.
Welcome, to week 1 of The Gospel Diaries! This is the first post in a three-year discipleship journey of your very own through the Gospels.
Today, we see that the New Covenant begins very aptly — with an endeavor to prove Christ’s birthright, His lineage, His ancestry, and His divinity. And why is ancestry so important? We see it exploding today in our modern world with DNA studies, DNA testing, cloning, stem cell research, and ancestry.com. Everyone wants to know more about who they really are, and from where they’ve come. It’s in our nature to discover these links so we can more fully understand our identity. When people make those discoveries for the first time it’s often very surprising — and can be life-changing. Ask any adopted child who has no records of their birth parents. There is a void that can’t be rightly filled, and as a result there are often mysteries and unanswered questions that can lead to frustration and a vague sense of feeling ‘incomplete’. Part of being whole as a person is knowing our families, understanding our roots, and being able to clearly trace ancestral patterns and relations in all their forms.
The Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants
For centuries Jews have kept meticulous ancestral records that extend all the way back to Abraham. They are a patriarchal society, which means bloodlines were traced from the father, rather than the mother. Being a Jew meant being able to trace your lineage back to Abraham. That was key. So, let’s look at our text. In verse 1 we see that it opens with Jesus being “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (KJV). That immediately defines His paternal lineage at two key generational intersections:
(1.) The Abrahamic covenant — He was the promised seed of Abraham.
(2.) The Davidic covenant — He would inherit the throne of David.
Boom. This is huge. Verse one delivers astounding impact to any inquiring Jew at the onset with regard to Christ’s validity. They understand this statement. This opening remark gets it done. Here’s why:
(1.) Christ fulfilled the promise to Abraham, making him the father of many nations (see Genesis 15 and Galatians 3:1-29). That promise was one that extended far beyond any biological capability. It had clear spiritual implications as well. God promised Abraham that his seed would be as innumerable as the stars of the sky and sand of the sea.
And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be,” (Genesis 15:5, KJV).
As Paul explains: All who are in Christ are Abraham’s seed. Every nation on earth, and every tribe and tongue has members belonging to Christ’s Body.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” (Galatians 3:29, KJV)
(2.) Jesus Christ was a Davidic King (see Isaiah 11:1-11, and Hebrews 1). He inherited the throne of David, just as promised to King David during his early reign. David’s lineage extended from the line of Judah. Judah received the prophecy of being a lion’s cub from his father Jacob, who was renamed Israel (see Genesis 49:8-12). This prophecy was Judah’s birthright, given traditionally upon the thigh (nearest to the loins) as an oath before God which would extend to all generations. This birthright, once given, could not be revoked. Israel spoke the following prophecy to his son Judah from his loins:
Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he crouched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk,” (Genesis 49:8-12, KJV).
Where the line begins with Judah, who was a mere cub at the time, it ended with Christ who was a fully mature lion. Hence, Christ is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah as revealed in Revelation 5:5, fulfilling the prophetic birthright and Davidic covenant.
To understand the significance of Christ’s Davidic reign and His prophetic fulfillment, we must revisit Israel’s history. When Israel asked for a king (see 1 Samuel 8), it was never God’s intention that a man rule Israel. He had always been their King. In giving them Saul, God taught them a painful lesson. It’s severity served to remind them well in its consequences. Saul slew the priests and became a raging lunatic. He literally went mad, and his end was a sign to Israel — he died falling upon his own sword. That’s when David, God’s chosen and anointed who was a man after His own heart, took the throne. David represented God’s heart for Israel and ruled the nation in righteousness and truth. David was a shepherd. But he was also a warrior, being very ‘lionesque’. He defeated all of Israel’s enemies and firmly established Jerusalem, leaving the nation at rest on every side by the time he died.
God promised David a perpetual reign: that he would have an heir who would sit upon his throne for generations without end (see 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Psalm 2, Psalm 89, Psalm 110, and Psalm 132). The ultimate plan was to restore kingship back to God. The manner in which God achieved this is unique. Christ’s fulfillment of the Davidic covenant is key to being proven as Israel’s promised Messiah. Through Christ God would once again rule His people Himself as He had always intended, doing so through His own Son. The Jews understood this plan, although they did not recognize their King — who came to them not as the “Lion of Judah” but as the “Lamb of God” (which was prerequisite to the prophetic fulfillment). When Jesus was crucified, the “Son of David” was heralded as “King of the Jews” (see John 19:19). As the rightful heir to the throne, Christ finally fulfills the prophecy given to Judah in Revelation 19:11-16:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. and he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS,” (Revelation 19:11-16, KJV).
In Peter’s dissertation from Acts we see Christ’s fulfillment of the Davidic covenant further validated and proven:
For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed for this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God that made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart…,” (Acts 2:24-37a, KJV).
As a son of Abraham and David, Christ fulfilled both the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, which are clearly delineated and assured throughout the ancient biblical texts of the Old and New Testaments.
All of this is unpacked in verse 1. Any Jew reading it understands the enormity of the statement being made here. It’s of paramount significance. We often miss the validity of its revelation by merely glossing over. But in reality — it’s a heavyweight.
As we continue through Matthew’s genealogy we see all the patriarchs, which are precisely accounted for in Joseph’s line, totaling 42 generations when traced back to Abraham. We also see the inclusion of two women specifically, in which Matthew breaks from the patriarchal tradition: David’s great grandmother, Ruth, and David’s mistress, who is not named, but rather termed as “the wife of Uriah”. Ruth was a Moabite who swore allegiance to Jeovah and the Jewish people, and Bathsheeba was taken in adultery by an act of murder, which God justly punished. So, we see that this lineage is not “pure” in that there are two clearly defined outliers. He identifies both exceptions: The first being biological in that Ruth was a Gentile, and the second being spiritual, in that Bathsheeba was a woman taken in iniquity — clearly outside the covenant of marriage. This detailing, although unnecessary, is honorary, being enough to satisfy any curious questioning Jew. Matthew goes the extra mile. He does a good job. He anticipated precisely what anyone reading would want to immediately know, and he delivers it beautifully on the front end.
Yet there is more…
Son of Man & Son of God
Interestingly, Matthew 1:1-17 has a sister chapter. In Luke 3:23-38 we see another genealogy of Jesus that is just as eager to prove His lineage. Yet instead of giving it prior to the account of His birth, Luke decides to give it afterward. I encourage you to read this text. For centuries believers have wavered in faith, wondering how two genealogies can be so different. So, let’s do our due diligence and investigate them.
As we can see, both trace Christ’s lineage from the line of Joseph. Although the genealogies differ in their method, we will find that they are identical in their ancestry. Matthew begins with Abraham moving forward in time, whereas Luke begins with Christ, moving backward in time. However, both arrive at the same conclusion: Christ is the Son of Man, meaning His humanity is established in the line of Abraham, which any Jew must prove. But Luke presses a point Matthew does not make so readily. He endeavors to prove Christ’s lineage as the Son of God — and that is where the similarities of these two accounts end:
(1.) Matthew and Luke both prove Christ’s lineage as the Son of Man — tracing Him back to Abraham.
(2.) Luke singularly proves Christ’s lineage as the Son of God — tracing Him back to Adam.
Where Matthew stops, Luke continues. He takes us far beyond Abraham. It’s as if he is saying, “Yes, Abraham is certainly here, but there’s more.” Indeed, much more. Luke takes us all the way back to Adam, who is the son of God. And that is the key difference. Luke is doing Christ His due justice before any Jew who would dare to believe the Gospel, and Christ’s claim that He is the Son of God (see Matthew 16:15-19). When Christ asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” only Peter had this revelation, which Christ says was granted by His Father in heaven. Christ’s divinity as the Son of God is something one would think cannot be proven by birth.
But Paul, being the teacher he was, enlightens us by delineating the true landmark of Christ’s origin right here:
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit… The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven,” (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47, KJV).
Jesus Christ is the Last Adam. He is the divine Son of God. His origin and birthright come from His heavenly Father, which He referenced repeatedly. Throughout the Gospels we see Christ refer to Himself as both the Son of Man and the Son of God — each being represented in differing contexts. So, let us understand: As the Son of Man Christ reveals His humanity, and as the Son of God He reveals His divinity. The genealogical accounts of Matthew and Luke prove both when aligned side by side, and are completely congruent. They match perfectly.
And this is where the arguments end. This is where any contest ceases between the two accounts. Christ is precisely who He says. And for the Jew who would question Christ’s claim on either point, there is no better proof than to lay it out line upon line in a fully documented genealogy. It will satisfy the most cynical Jew. Hence, the opening of Matthew’s gospel account. The “pricking of their heart” which Peter achieved in His discourse will still manifest to this day when Christ is so remarkably revealed.
Was your heart pricked with the awe of His majesty today? All things considered, this is the testimony of Jesus Christ:
I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star,” (Revelation 22:16, KJV).
The Beginning and the End has spoken (See Revelation 1:8).
I hope you enjoyed this first session! If so, please share. I look forward to seeing you here next week!
Cheers & Shalom,