Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Jesus' Family Tree
Scholars believe the Gospel of Matthew was written between AD 60-70. People who had witnessed the events were still alive when it was written and knew that what Matthew recorded had happened. They knew it was the truth.
Matthew’s audience was primarily the Jewish people. He was writing to tell them the long-awaited Messiah, the King of the Jews, had come. Matthew focused much more than the other Gospels on the many ways that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophesies. A key word in the Gospel of Matthew is “fulfilled.” Matthew includes 53 direct quotations and 76 allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament.) Wow!
Matthew starts out his gospel with the genealogy of Christ. Read Matthew 1:1-17. This genealogy would have been very significant to the Jewish readers.
The Jewish people kept extensive meticulous records of their lineage - more so than any other nation or race of people in all of history. This was to determine a person’s heritage (Jewish), inheritance, legitimacy, and rights. Usually only men were listed in genealogies because property, rights and titles were passed on to male heirs. Descent was most often traced through the head of the family.
The genealogy in Matthew starts with Abraham, who was the father of the Jewish people, and runs through David, who was their most revered king, and through King David’s descendants to Jesus.
This genealogy shows Jesus is a legal descendant of David through the royal line. It is basically a legal document.
God made a series of covenants with His people in the Old Testament. “Covenant” is a key word in the Bible. (See my post on Covenant Keeping dated April 24, 2016.)
Two of the covenants God made were:
With Abraham – God will create through him a great nation (Israel) and to bless all nations through his descendants. (Genesis 12:2-3, but referred to many times in the Old Testament.)
With David – A king will come through David’s descendants who will reign in righteousness and justice. David’s kingdom would endure forever. (The Davidic Covenant is referred to a few times in the Bible. See 2 Samuel 7:16. Another example is Psalm 89:3-4.)
The Messiah was to come directly from King David’s royal line. God promised it.
This genealogy shows us Jesus is the rightful heir. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of Israel, our Lord and Savior.
Jesus descended from:
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
And godly and wicked kings of Judah
According to Hebrew Scriptures, the Messiah would come to restore the kingdom of David. Most Jewish people at the time thought it would be a military hero who would free them from Rome and restore a physical nation. But Jesus was not what they were expecting. Jesus didn’t liberate them from Rome, but from sin and death.
Note when reading Matthew how often he refers to Jesus as the Son of David. Remember Matthew’s primary audience was the Jews.
Something else that is noteworthy in this genealogy is the inclusion of the 4 women - Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Mentioned at the end is Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Women were not usually named in eastern genealogical tables. This was contrary to custom and makes this astonishing! And these women mentioned weren’t the notable women we might think would be mentioned. Where is Sarah and Rachel? Instead these 4 women mentioned are somewhat scandalous.
After Tamar’s husband dies and she is not wed to his younger brother, she tricks her father-in-law into sleeping with her and ends up having twins with him. (Genesis 38)
Rahab was the prostitute in Jericho who helped the Israelite spies and ended up being grafted into the people of Israel. (Joshua 2)
Ruth was an Arab and becomes grafted into God’s people when she marries Boaz. (Ruth 4)
Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite committed adultery with King David. (2 Samuel 11)
Three of these women; Tamar, Rahab and Ruth, were Gentiles (non-Jewish.)
Think about it. First of all, women weren’t usually included in genealogies. Why would God through Matthew include some women? Secondly, this genealogy in Matthew is included to prove that Jesus is the King of the Jews. If he was going to include some women, why those 4 women – women who were very “human” to put it nicely?
No one really knows for sure. But by including these women, perhaps God is letting us know from the get-go that the Gospel is not limited to men or the people of Israel.
Their inclusion in Matthew’s introduction is perhaps a subtle suggestion that the coming of Christ would bring salvation to sinners, grace to Gentiles, and barriers of race and sex would be torn down.
[Source: Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald, copyright 1990, page 1204 - affiliate link]
Jesus is the descendant of the royal house of David.
He came to be King of all people.
God has fulfilled the covenant He made with Abraham to bless all nations and with David that his throne would go on forever.
God is a covenant-keeping God.
Jesus is the Messiah, our Savior, the long-awaited King of the Jews.
And the Good News is for all people.
And now stop and listen to Matthew’s Begats by Andrew Peterson from his Behold the Lamb of God annual Christmas concert tour.
Yes, the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah is a very good way to begin the New Testament!
[You may also want to read Any way you slice it, Jesus is King dated July 9, 2016 about the genealogy of Jesus as recorded in the gospel of Luke.]