Genealogy of Jesus
An account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)
So-and-so begat so-and-so, who begat so-and-so, and he begat so-and-so, who lived three-hundred years and begat—
We tend to skim and quite possibly skip these passages of the Bible. Chances are, you’ve never heard a sermon on the biblical genealogies. If you follow a yearly reading plan, perhaps you sigh when you come to them. While I do understand, we should pause long enough to ask, “If all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable, what do we gain from these genealogies?” (2Ti 3:16). God must have put them here for a reason.
Matthew, in particular, should encourage us to pursue an answer to that question because he not only includes a genealogy, but he even opens his Gospel with one. The very first thing he wants his readers to see is not the virgin birth, the deity of Jesus, or even the last prophet to announce the Messiah’s arrival. Instead, he wants us to see the ancestry of Jesus. Why?
Matthew seems to have a distinct audience and purpose in mind when he writes his account of Jesus’s life and ministry. He is writing to the Jewish people, and he is writing to establish Jesus’s right to sit on the throne of David and reign as king forever.
All of Israel anticipated this day. Long before, God promised King David:
The LORD himself will make a house for you. When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will discipline him with a rod of men and blows from mortals. But my faithful love will never leave him as it did when I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and kingdom will endure before me forever, and your throne will be established forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-16)
Whoever this eternal king might be, God foretold he would be David’s descendent. Every Jew understood the rightful king must possess the legal authority to assume David’s throne and rule over the kingdom of God’s people. In other words, his pedigree mattered, and he must be able to prove his unbroken lineage back to David.
Let’s not forget how important ancestry was in the history of Israel. When the people first entered the land of Canaan, they had to know to which tribe they belonged before they could claim any land. After their Babylonian captivity, men searched for their entries in the genealogical records to see whether they qualified for the priesthood (Ezr 2:62). Even under Roman control, authorities conducted the national census according to tribes. The significance of genealogies to the Jewish people continued throughout the first century, which is why Paul notes he was of the illustrious tribe of Benjamin more than once (Ro 11:1; Php 3:5).
If you are writing to the Jewish people, who place more than a little value in family lineage, to prove Jesus’s right to reign as king, it only makes sense to begin with the genealogical evidence that he qualifies as David’s rightful heir.
Interestingly enough, those who reject Christ, still waiting for this king to arrive, will never be able prove about him what Matthew did about Jesus. When the Romans conquered Jerusalem in AD 70, all genealogies were destroyed. Anyone claiming to be the Christ since that time could never verify he was David’s direct descendant.
Matthew’s primary purpose for writing an account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ is only the beginning of what we can learn from this seemingly boring list of names (Mt 1:1). What’s the significance of the women mentioned? Didn’t God curse Jeconiah so that none of his descendants would succeed in sitting on the throne of David? (Mt 1:11; Jer 22:30). If so, how could Jesus ever become king?
Don’t breeze by these passages so quickly. They contain much more than meets the eye.