Matthew 1 - Virgin birth, Genealogy of Jesus

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The genealogy of Jesus

Matthew 1:1-17 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.


The Jews were meticulous in keeping genealogical records partly because property rights were linked to family heritage. The twelve tribes had been allocated portions of the land as an inheritance, which was subdivided between the families within each tribe. Every Year of Jubilee (fifty years) a family that had been dispossessed of their land could lay claim to the land which their ancestors had originally owned. But in order to prove land ownership, it was important to maintain accurate genealogical records.

In the OT God had also promised several people that the Messiah would be one of their descendants. In order to prove this descent, it was necessary to keep genealogical records.


Moses had promised that a future prophet would come to reveal God to men. This prophet became known as the Messiah (the Anointed One). "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him... If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account." (Deut 18:15,19)


The promised Messiah would be the son (descendant) of David. When David wanted to build a 'house' (temple) for God, the prophet Nathan prophesied that David's kingdom would be established forever through his offspring.

"The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom... I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son..." (2 Sam 6:11-14 NIV)

Thus it was believed that the Messiah would be a descendant of David - and so the title "Son of David" was applied to the coming Messiah.


It was also believed that the promised Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham because in Genesis 22:18 God told Abraham: "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" (NASB). 'Your seed' refers to his offspring or descendants. And so Matthew, writing to the Jews in his Gospel, starts by saying, "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matt 1:1)


Isaac was promised in Gen 26:4, "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (KJV). Jacob was promised in Gen 28:14, "in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." (KJV)

Judah was promised in Gen 49:10:

"The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his."

In addition Micah 5:2 contains the following prophecy which was used by the chief priests and teachers of the law (Matt 2:4-6) to reply to Herod's question about the Messiah's birthplace:

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."

And so Matthew records that, "Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers" (Matt 1:2).


Another Messianic prophecy of Isaiah spoke of the Messiah as being a descendant of Jesse (David's father):

Isa 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD... 10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.

And so Matthew records in Matt 1:5-6 that Jesse was one of Jesus' ancestors. "... Obed the father of Jesse and Jesse the father of King David."


Christ is the English term for the Greek 'Khristos' meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew 'Masiah', usually transliterated into English as Messiah.[1] The genealogy of Jesus shows that he fulfilled the prophecies concerning the lineage of the Messiah. So in effect Matt 1:1 reads:

"A record of the genealogy of Jesus - the Messiah - the son of David, the son of Abraham".


In an earlier study we looked at the role of the kinsman redeemer. In the OT the book of Ruth contains the best known example of a kinsman redeemer - namely Boaz. Interestingly Boaz and Ruth are listed in Jesus' lineage as well. Jesus ultimately became the kinsman redeemer for all mankind.

Matt 1:5 ... Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse...


Some have objected to the fact that Matthew skipped some generations in Jesus' genealogy. While some have proposed different reasons why Matthew did this, the truth is that we do not know. However we do know that at times OT writers also abridged their genealogical records, so Matthew had scriptural precedent to do so.

e.g.                                   COMPARE:

Ezra 7:3 "the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth"


1 Chr 6:7-11 "Meraioth the father of Amariah... the father of Ahitub... the father of Zadok... the father of Ahimaaz... the father of Azariah... the father of Johanan... the father of Azariah... the father of Amariah"

Matthew 1:8 refers to "Jehoram the father of Uzziah". Now Jehoram was actually Uzziah's great-great-grandfather as Jehoiakim was also skipped. And it also seems likely that Matthew skipped some generations between Zerubbabel and Joseph as he lists only 9 generations, while Luke lists 18 generations in the same time period. In Luke's list he includes Cainan (Luke 3:36) who is not mentioned in our OT (Gen 10:22-24).[2]

However the term "father of" really meant "the ancestor of" and "the son of" meant "a descendant of". We see the classic example of this in Matthew 1:1 where Jesus is called "the son of David, the son of Abraham". David and Abraham were of course Jesus' ancestors and not his actual 'father,' as we understand from the limited sense of the word in English. 


Matthew and Luke keep the same record from Abraham to David. But Matthew traces through David's son Solomon to Joseph, while Luke traces through David's son Nathan. Thus Matthew has Joseph's father as Jacob, while Luke has his father as Heli.

Luke's nativity record seems to be given from Mary's perspective, while Matthew's seems to be from Joseph's. Luke alone records the appearance of Gabriel to Mary (1:26-38), her song (1:46-55), the details of her relative Elizabeth's story (Luke 1), Simeon's prophecy to Mary (2:34-35), her anxiety when Jesus was lost (2:48) and then the telling statement "But his mother treasured all these things in her heart." (2:51) Matthew alone records Joseph's four dreams (1:20, 2:13,19,22), his initial intention to break the betrothal to Mary (1:19) and his fear of returning to Judea (2:22).

Hence it is believed that Matthew traced the ancestry of Jesus through Joseph, while Luke traced it through Mary. Thus Heli was actually Mary's father. Joseph was the son of Jacob, and the son-in-law of Heli. Again in Biblical times it was customary to refer to a son-in-law as a son. (Note that Saul called his son-in-law David, his 'son' in 1 Sam 24:16 & 26:17.) So Luke's statement was culturally correct.

p class="para1"> Interestingly an unlikely source has verified that Heli was actually Mary's father. The Talmud Yerushalmi or the Talmud of Jerusalem was a product of Palestinian rabbinic Judaism compiled around AD 400. In the Jerusalem Talmud (Haggigah, Book 77, 4) it refers to Mary in a derogatory sense, but nevertheless as "the daughter of Heli". The book relates how a certain person had a dream in which he saw the punishment of the damned. In the dream, "He saw Mary the daughter of Heli amongst the shades..."[3]


The Bible makes it clear that by virtue of the virgin birth only Mary was a true genetic parent of Jesus. Luke refers to this issue by stating that Jesus "was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph" (Luke 3:23). Joseph was descended from the kings of Judah through David's son Solomon. So although not his genetic parent, through Joseph - Jesus had a legal claim to the throne of David.


What is of particular interest if the 5 women mentioned in Matthew's genealogy. Normally women were seldom mentioned in these lists, so the choice of these somewhat disreputable women is intriguing.

Tamar  Rahab  Ruth  Bathsheba  Mary

TAMAR style=" width:90% ; max-width: 229px; float:right; margin:15px" />

Tamar (Genesis 38:6-30) was the daughter-in-law of Judah. After the death of her first two husbands, Judah would not give Tamar to any of his other sons. So Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced Judah in order to have a son.


Rahab (Joshua 2:1-24) was a Canaanite prostitute who lived in Jericho. She is remembered for hiding Joshua's spies and thus being spared when the Israelites took Jericho. She subsequently married an Israelite called Salmon,and became the mother of Boaz. Rahab was commended in Heb 11:30-31 as one of the heroes of faith.


Ruth was a Gentile from the land of Moab. The Moabites were an accursed people (Deut 23:3-4). After being widowed, her devotion to her mother-in-law Naomi was extraordinary, leaving her own country to accompany her to Israel. In Bethlehem, Ruth was later married to Boaz, one of Naomi's relatives. Ruth became the mother of Obed, the grandfather of David.


Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1-27) was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who was one of David's soldiers. She and David had an adulterous affair and David had her husband killed. They came under God's judgment for this. Bathsheba later married David and became the mother of both Solomon (Joseph's ancestor) and Nathan (Mary's ancestor).

So in summary:

- Tamar: pretended to be a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law. - Rahab: a former Canaanite prostitute - Ruth: an accursed Moabitess - Bathsheba: an adulteress - Mary: a suspected adulteress

At least two of the five women listed - Rahab and Ruth - were Gentiles, with Bathsheba as a possible third (she was married initially to Uriah the Hittite).

The question might well be, "Why not rather list women who were known and honoured as virtuous Israelites?"

God often places value in those people and things that men despise and reject. Bear in mind that Jesus alone - because of his pre-existence - could choose where to be born and who his relatives would be. Yet he chose a manger in a stable in a humble town with very ordinary parents.


D. L. Moody (1837-1899) was raised in poverty and didn't attend school beyond the fifth grade. He progressed poorly in reading and writing, was a bad speller, and poor at maths. Moody as a young Christian was for a while a mere babe in the Kingdom. His zeal was strong, but his mind was not tutored in the Scriptures, his command of language was very limited, his sentences were broken and ungrammatical. So his first application for admission into church membership was not accepted, as he was thought not to know enough. While attending the Plymouth Congregational Church in Chicago he was repeatedly advised not to attempt to speak in public. speak in public.[4]

A Mr. Reynolds who knew Moody related:

"The first meeting I ever saw him at was in a little old shanty that had been abandoned by a saloon-keeper. Mr. Moody had got the place to hold the meetings in at night. I went there a little late; and the first thing I saw was a man standing up with a few tallow candles around him, holding a negro boy, and trying to read to him the story of the Prodigal Son and a great many words he could not read out, and had to skip.I thought, 'If the Lord can ever use such an instrument as that for His honour and glory, it will astonish me.' After that meeting was over, Mr. Moody said to me, 'Reynolds, I have got only one talent; I have no education, but I love the Lord Jesus Christ, and I want to do something for him: I want you to pray for me.'
I have never ceased, from that day to this, to pray for that devoted Christian soldier. I have watched him since then, have had counsel with him, and know him thoroughly; and, for consistent walk and conversation, I have never met a man to equal him. It astounds me to look back and see what Mr. Moody was 13 years ago, and then what he is under God today... The last time I heard from him, his injunction was, 'Pray for me every day; pray now that the Lord will keep me humble.' "[5]

This man who had very humble beginnings became one of the greatest evangelists of all time. Some estimate that he led as many as a million people to confess faith in Christ. You might feel inadequate and incapable of being effective for God but former shoe salesman, D.L. Moody said:

"If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent. After all, there are comparatively few people in the world who have great talents."

When the educated Jewish rulers "saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)

God's not looking for ability, He's looking for availability. Hudson Taylor said:

"God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him."

God can use anyone (including you) to accomplish his purposes.

1 Cor 1:26-29 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.



Matthew 1:18-25 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" - which means, "God with us." When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Jesus was born of a virgin:

Matt 1:22-23 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" - which means, "God with us."

Luke is believed to have used Mary as one of the sources for his Gospel. He confirms the virgin birth of Jesus:

Luke 1:26-35 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."



Q: Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin?

A: To fulfill the prophecy God pronounced to Satan that the promised deliverer of Adam's offspring would be the "seed of the woman".

Gen 3:15 "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." (NASB)

Both aspects of this prophecy were fulfilled at the cross:

You shall bruise him on the heel (i.e. a minor wound)

A bruise on the heel is a relatively minor wound compared to a head injury. The 'bruise' that Jesus received was the crucifixion. The Bible makes it clear that although Judas was the instrument used, he was prompted to betray Jesus to death by Satan himself:

Luke 22:3-4 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. /p>

We are also told the dark rulers of our age, including Satan and his fallen angels, did not understand the significance of the cross as God's means of salvation - or that they were unwittingly assisting in bringing about man's redemption:

1 Cor 2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

He shall bruise you on the head

A bruise on the head is a fatal wound. Scripture makes it clear that by his bruised heel (i.e. his death on the cross) Jesus defeated the powers of darkness and brought about man's awaited redemption by God.

Col 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.


Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit

Matt 1:18 ... Mary ... was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit

Matt 1:20 ... because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus was called the "Son of God"

Luke 1:35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."

The virgin birth and conception by the Holy Spirit was necessary for Jesus to be the Son of God - and thus be sinless (untainted by Adam's sin).


Matthew traces Jesus back to David and Abraham to show that he is the Son of David (Messiah).

Luke traces Jesus back to Adam to show that he is the Son of Man.

John shows that Jesus is the Son of God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)



Jesus was God in flesh:

Matt 1:23 "... and they will call him Immanuel" - which means, "God with us."

Col 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form...

John 1:1,14 ... the Word was God ... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.



[1] Wikipedia: Christ

[2] However Cainan is listed in the Septuagint rendering of Genesis. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the OT widely used in Jesus' time. In reality most of the NT quotes from the OT were taken from the Septuagint - and not the Masoretic text which our OT is based on.

[3]John Lightfoot, "Commentary On the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica"

[4] SOURCE: &

Christian History Institute