Not an endless genealogy


The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Mt. 1:1

Matthew begins his gospel with the words “the book of the generation (genesis - translated birth in 1:18) of Jesus Christ” (1:1). This is a title for chapters 1-2, which tells us who Jesus is and where he came from. The purpose of the genealogy in verses 1-16 is also given in verse 1: it establishes his link to both Abraham and David: “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Why Abraham? Matthew wants us to see that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise that God made to Abraham: “In you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). This is coming to pass in Jesus. Why David? Just as Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, even so Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to King David, from whose family all Israel waited in expectation for the Messiah (Messiah is the Hebrew equivalent of Christ and means “anointed”). God promised that David’s kingly line would endure forever (cf. 2 Sam. 7:12-16). Clearly, this is more than a promise of a successful earthly reign: it was recognized as a promise of the Messiah. The prophets picked up on this. For example, the prophet Isaiah writes in 9:6-7,

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this."

In fact, this aspect of Jesus’ ancestry is so important that Matthew structures the genealogy around David. The genealogy is divided into three sections of 14 generations (2-6; 7-11; 12-16). Now he didn’t do this because there were literally only 42 generations between Christ and Abraham. Some names are obviously missing, like Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah between Joram and Uzziah. But this doesn’t mean that this isn’t a real genealogy, since “son of” could (and often does in the Bible) mean “ancestor of.” Rather Matthew does this to underline the significance of Jesus’ link to David: the Hebrew name for David has a numerical value of 14. Luke also gives a genealogy of Jesus (Lk. 3:23-38). They are obviously different. Matthew gives Jesus’ genealogy through Solomon, Luke through Nathan. What do we do with this? An early solution to this apparent discrepancy which has satisfied many is that Matthew records Christ’s genealogy from Joseph, and Luke gives it from Mary (Eusebius).

Who is Jesus? The genealogy shows us that he is the one for whom God is moving history so that his people can be saved. It shows us that he is the one in whom the saving blessings of God promised to Abraham come. It shows us that he is the one who will take David's throne and rule forever, King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the one in whom all the promises of God find their ultimate and eternal yes. Should we not, therefore, "through him . . . utter our Amen to God for his glory"? (2 Cor. 1:20, ESV).

By: Jeremiah Bass