The Gospel of Matthew… In way of introduction, this particular record is part of what is known as the Synoptic Gospels — synoptic meaning similar. Written at roughly the same time, Matthew, Mark, and Luke recount many of the same stories of Jesus’ life but from differing perspectives — Mark presenting Jesus as a servant and Luke as the ultimate man.
And yet, while similar, the Gospel of Matthew has some unique characteristics unto itself. First, like John but unlike Mark and Luke, Matthew was one of the original 12 Apostles. Also known by his Hebrew name Levi, Matthew “the son of Alphaeus” grew up in the Galilee and was a tax collector by trade. Not only was he a man of considerable means but on account of his necessary connections with Rome it’s likely he was a Roman citizen.
Evidence of this can be found in the fact that while possessing an ethnic name Levi, he was also known by a Greek moniker — Matthew. Other examples of this in the Scriptures can be found in John who was also known as Mark and Saul who’d later become known as Paul.
Though Matthew was hated by his Jewish brethren on account of his occupation (tax collectors were universally seen as being turn-coats and traitors to their own people), Mark 2 records the amazing moment when Jesus comes to Levi and calls him to leave everything behind in order to become one of His disciples — an invitation Matthew readily accepted.
While Mark produced his account from Peter’s recollections and Luke does the same by conducting extensive interviews with those who’d been present, again, like John, Matthew provides the reader a first-hand account. He was an eyewitness to everything he records.
With this in mind, and on account being a tax collector would have required Matthew to be highly educated, fluent in multiple languages, and possess experience keeping detailed records, many scholars believe Levi may have been the official secretary of Jesus’ ministry charged with documenting noteworthy events as they occurred.
A convincing proof of this is the fact Matthew provides a more comprehensive record of Jesus’ teachings than any of the other Gospel writers. While you will find bits and pieces of these sermons in Mark and Luke, it’s in Matthew’s Gospel we have the most complete and thorough recording of Jesus’ three major discourses: The Sermon on the Mount, The Parables of the Kingdom, and The Olivet Discourse. It stands to reason that Matthew was actively writing down what Jesus was saying in real-time.
Though it’s impossible to say whose narrative of Jesus’ life was completed earliest (Matthew or Mark), placing Matthew first in the sequence of the New Testament canon was not an accident. You see Matthew intentionally crafted his account to build off the Old Testament by presenting Jesus as the promised Messiah — The promised King!
To this point, over and over again throughout his Gospel, after recording some important development in the life of Christ, Matthew will write how this “fulfilled what was said by the prophets” before proceeding to then cite the specific prophecy recorded in the Scriptures.
What’s interesting is that, while he may have been a tax collector when Jesus called him, Matthew was perfectly equipped for the task of connecting the life of Christ back to the prophets of old. By his namesake “Levi” we know Matthew possessed a priestly heritage.
In all likelihood, because he came from the Tribe of Levi making him a member of the priesthood, as a boy Matthew would have been groomed to be a religious scholar, a scribe, or even a political leader like a Pharisee. He would have known the Torah, Books of History, the Poetic manuscripts, and the prophetical writings backward and forwards.
With some 99 Old Testament references and a particular Jewish flavor to his writing, there is no doubt Matthew’s Gospel was crafted for a Hebrew audience! In fact, his entire point in writing was to prove Jesus was indeed their Messiah! Matthew wants his reader to know all of the promises God had given to Abraham and later David had been fulfilled in Jesus!
As an aside, Matthew’s family connection with the ruling, religious class may also explain why he ends up being the most critical of the religious establishment who, in spite of all the incontrovertible evidence right in front of them, still rejected and crucified Jesus!
Before we dive into this amazing book, I want to answer an important question… If Matthew is writing specifically to a Hebrew audience presenting Jesus as the fulfillment of all these Old Testament prophecies regarding a Jewish King -- since the overwhelming majority of us are bacon-loving Gentiles, why should we care?
Here’s why… The same prophecies that predict the Jewish King also tell us He will establish a global kingdom by which all the nations of the world would be blessed… That He’d come to provide a way in which any man could be saved from his sin… That, in the end, His family would transcend the Jewish people and come to include all who’d place their faith in Him! If Jesus is the rightful King of the Jews, it means He’s also the King of Heaven!
Knowing that Matthew’s intention is to present Jesus as the King all the prophets foretold would come, it makes sense his Gospel begins with a genealogy. Obviously, in order to be the promised Messiah, a lineage going back through King David to Abraham was necessary.
Matthew 1:1, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham…” Beyond its relevance to the list of names provided in this chapter, verse 1 provides a much larger thesis. Again, bridging the New to the Old Testament, Matthew begins by providing the family origins of “Jesus Christ” or more accurately translated “Jesus the Christ” whom he then adds was “the Son of David” as well as “the Son of Abraham.”
Prophetically, the Jews understood the promised Messiah had to possess a very particular family heritage that weaved its way from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and ultimately through King David. You see Matthew’s use of the definite article “the Son” indicated he’s not presenting just any descendant but the descendant promised to each of these men.
Matthew 1:2-6, “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram.
Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.”
Matthew 1:7-11, “Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.”
Matthew 1:12-16, “And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.”
Matthew 1:17, “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.”
Let me make a few broad points about this particular genealogy before we get into a few of the more interesting details that emerge from this list of names… First, you need to keep in mind that genealogies were very important to the Nation of Israel!
Going all the way back to the end of Genesis, while on his deathbed in Egypt, Jacob (whose name God had changed to Israel) prophesied over his 12 sons. Because of this, as his family grew over their 400 years in captivity, the family of each son grew into a unique klan. At last, once Moses led the people out of Egypt, this nation of descendants from Jacob existed in twelve distinct tribes related to their ties to each of these twelve sons.
In fact, during the Exodus, God specifically organized the camp of Israel to surround the Tabernacle according to these tribal designations: Dan, Asher, and Naphtali to the north — Gad, Simeon, and Reuben to the south — Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun to the east — with the tribes of Benjamin, Manasseh, and Ephraim being situated to the west. (Numbers 2-3)
Ultimately, when the nation finally entered the Land of Promise under the direction of Joshua, the territories were subsequently divided by tribe — who then subdivided the land into plots the individual families in each tribe would possess. A great example of these important tribal identities can be found in the designation of Levi to be the priestly tribe.
Because the Twelve Tribes were given various functions and landownership was attributed to each family, keeping detailed genealogical records was paramount. Beyond the records that were written down in the Old Testament Scriptures, by the time of Christ, the Temple housed an extensive archive tracing the family lineage of every living Hebrew male.
While it’s true Herod the Great had many of the genealogies related to those living in Bethlehem destroyed around 6 BC, since both Mary, Joseph, and their families had settled in Nazareth, Matthew would have had access to their records in order to compile this particular list specifically related to Joseph. That said, when Rome sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD, all of the genealogies were seemingly lost along with the destruction of the Temple.
Since 70 AD, it’s simply a fact that no one can prove a Messianic lineage going back through King David to Father Abraham other than Jesus as the records no longer exist!
The second thing you need to keep in mind regarding this particular genealogy is that when compiling such a listing it was not abnormal to record only the notable characters and, in turn, skip a few generations. In fact, when Matthew sums up the genealogy by saying there were 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the Babylonian captivity, and then 14 from the captivity to Jesus he’s affirming this reality.
Third, it’s worth noting the absence of any criticism pertaining to the family lineage of Jesus in His day. Since these records were in the public domain during the life of Christ and when Matthew published his Gospel, it would have been easy for the religious scribes to challenged Jesus’ Messianic claim if such a genealogical connection did not exist. Because His heritage was never questioned by His enemies, we know it was legit.
Lastly, while it seems Luke provides the blood lineage of Jesus to these men by giving us Mary’s genealogy, in providing us a list that concludes with Joseph Matthew is providing Jesus’ legal standing to David’s throne. Let me explain… Look again at verse 16, “And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.”
Regarding the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew goes above and beyond to make it clear Jesus was not Joseph’s biological son. Matthew introduces him as being “the husband of Mary” before adding concerning Mary “of whom was born Jesus.” In the Greek, the phrase “of whom” is both singular and presented in the feminine gender. Matthew is saying biologically Jesus had only one parent — His mother Mary, inferring the virgin conception.
And yet, while Jesus did not possess a biological connection with Joseph, because He was an adopted son, Jesus would have had a legal claim to the throne by extension.
Regarding some of the more interesting details of this list, knowing that God was in total control of the Messianic lineage, it’s really amazing who ends up being included in the family of Jesus. For starters, even the ardent Bible scholar will concede the fact a majority of names in this list are people we simply know nothing about. For example, following Zerubbabel, we really know absolutely nothing of the next ten people recorded!
It should also be pointed out, of those we do recognize, there are almost as many that were infamous as were famous. Judah was a disaster. Most of Solomon’s life was lived in abject hedonism. His son Rehoboam was such a head-case his actions ended up splitting the kingdom. Manasseh was arguably the evilest king to reign over God’s people. And that doesn’t even take into account the checkered lives of Abraham, Jacob, and King David!
In what would have been a break from a normal genealogical record, it’s also noteworthy that Matthew includes four women in the lineage of Christ — which was absolutely unheard of in that day. And if that weren’t enough, their inclusion was hardly a compliment.
In verse 3, Matthew notes how “Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar.” Recorded all the way back in Genesis 38, Tamar was a young Canaanite woman picked by Judah to marry his oldest son Er. Sadly, Er proved to be a wicked man so the Lord killed him.
Because Er died before Tamar could conceive an heir, as was the custom in that day, Judah gives Tamar to his second son, a man named Onan. Tragically, he was a jerk-off, emitted on the ground instead of impregnating her, which led to God striking him down as well.
Despite the promise to give her to his youngest son Shelah once he came of age, in the course of time, it becomes evident to Tamar that Judah had no intention of honoring their arrangement leaving her no choice but to take matters into her own hands. As such, she ends up dressing like a whore, catches Judah’s gaze who doesn’t recognize her, secures payment (his signet ring, cord, and staff), and proceeds to have sex with her father-in-law.
Three months later, when she finally turns up pregnant, Judah figures he now has cause to rid himself of this problem. Oh, the surprise when Tamar identifies the father as being none other than Judah using his signet, cord, and staff as evidence. Amazingly, she has twins by him — one of which is this man “Perez” who ends up being included in the lineage of Jesus!
Two verses later, in verse 5, Matthew also tells us that “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab.” Unlike Tamar who whored herself as a means to an end, Rahab was a known harlot working the red-torch district of ancient Jericho. According to the account provided in Joshua 2 and 6, when two spies, sent into the city by Joshua, run the risk of being captured, in an act of bravery and kindness, Rahab hides them in her home helping them escape detection.
In the end, Rahab places her faith in the God of Israel, hangs a scarlet cord from her window via the instructions of the spies, and ends up being the only survivor when the walls ultimately came tumbling down. It seems at this point Rahab joins the camp of Israel, eventually marries a Jewish man named Salmon, and ends up having a son they name Boaz. Not only is Rahab saved but she’s also included in the lineage of Jesus!
In the same verse, Matthew then notes how Rahab’s son “Boaz begot Obed by Ruth.” While there is nothing bad you could say about Ruth, her story beings in the land of Moab. You see Ruth was a Moabite. She grew up in a pagan, godless, wicked culture. And yet, deeply influenced by the faith of her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth made the important but difficult decision to leave behind her life and reside in the land of Israel as a widow.
Incredibly, while the cards were stacked against a Gentile widow trying to make it in a foreign land, God had a plan for her life. Ruth would end up crossing paths with Boaz who God would use to demonstrate His love for her. Not only would Ruth be the great-grandmother of King David, but she’d also be included in the lineage of Jesus.
Lastly, in verse 6, Matthew notes that “David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” I don’t know about you but the way Matthew articulates this development makes me feel a little uneasy. It’s as though Matthew can’t even bring himself to utter the name Bathsheba simply referring to “her who had been the wife of Uriah.”
While the child conceived from their affair passed away because David had her husband murdered he eventually marries Bathsheba. Astonishingly, their son Solomon would not only become the third king over Israel but what began as a sexual affair leading to a murderous coverup ultimately leads to Bathsheba also being included in the lineage of Jesus!
I know the first 17 verses of Matthew 1 provide a list of ancient names that, while necessary to record, are difficult to pronounce and laborious to read. And yet, in light of who’s included in this genealogy, there are five big ideas I want you to consider before we wrap things up.
1. You don’t have to do something significant to be included in the family of Jesus.
2. Your sordid past doesn’t automatically disqualify you from being in His family either.
3. In fact, Jesus is able to work through your dysfunction to accomplish His will.
4. A checkered family tree doesn’t determine who you have to be.
5. In the family of Jesus, women are just as important as men.
In closing, I want to get back to verse 17… Matthew sums up this genealogy by writing, “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.” Aside from the interesting pattern and unique symmetry presented in these three couplings of 14 generations, I believe Matthew is articulating something significant that would have only been understood by the Jewish mind.
From Abraham to David, we have 14 generations or 2 couplings of 7. From David until the Babylonian captivity, we have another 14 generations or 2 more couplings of 7. And then from the captivity to Christ, there is a third set of 14 generations or 2 final couplings of 7.
Broadly speaking, Matthew is telling us that from Abraham to Jesus there were 42 generations or 6 couplings of 7 in total (2x2x2). What this means is that beginning with Jesus we have the start of what would now be the seventh coupling. Bear with me…
It’s interesting that Matthew begins this entire section writing that this is “the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ” before then listing out these 6 couplings of 7 generations bringing us to Jesus. In the original language, the word “genealogy” is very unique. In fact, the Greek word is literally genesis and can be translated as origins or beginnings. Again, considering Matthew’s religious background, using the word genesis was intentional.
How interesting that for six days God created before resting on the seventh! The seventh day signified the completion of His work. It was the day in which God intended to sit back and enjoy His relationship with man. And yet, following man’s rebellion and sin, God’s rest ceased as He set about bringing the redemption of man and the restoration of this divine relationship. This is why the Sabbath Day was consecrated and considered to be holy!
Setting aside the events that occurred between Genesis 4 and 11, there is no question that in His calling of Abraham in Genesis 12 God was initiating a plan to accomplish His aim.
To the Hebrew mind, seven always meant completion and the numbers presented here are not a coincidence. I’m convinced, in a stroke of genius, in the way Matthew structures verse 17 and summarizes this genealogy, he’s telling his Jewish audience that this work God set into motion with Abraham which lasted for 6 couplings of 7 generations had now been completed with the arrival of Jesus — the beginning of a seventh coupling.
You see 6 couplings of 7, covering God’s work through the Old Covenant, were now giving way to a seventh initiated by Jesus! Jesus was not only the fulfillment of the promise, but He would usher in something entirely new — a return to the seventh day — the restoration of Sabbath rest — the reconciliation of the relationship God had with man before sin!
While Jesus was born from these 6 couplings of 7 generations, moving forward, His family would expand to include those born again through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. In setting up the larger flow of his Gospel, Matthew is saying with Jesus God would begin something new! King Jesus would usher in a new genesis, a new creation, a new beginning.
No Additional Links.