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The Genealogy of Christ
1:1 This is the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham.
Matthew's purpose in writing his gospel is clear from the very beginning: he intends to reveal Jesus as the Christ, the long awaited anointed one promised by God. He demonstrates this fact by showing how all the promises of Scripture relating to the coming of Christ are fulfilled in him. The titles "Son of David" and "son of Abraham" describe Christ in this way, for God both to Abraham and to David that one of their descendants would be the Christ.
To David, God said "I will set one of your seed upon your throne" (1 Chron. 17:11; Psa. 132:11).
To Abraham, God said "Through your seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 22:18). The apostle Paul explained the meaning of this promise in Galatians, that "seed" is singular, referring to one of Abraham's offspring, not all of them (Gal. 3:16). Matthew's aim throughout his gospel is to reveal Jesus as the one God had promised.
The word “genealogy” means the line of natural descent. Although Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God (who pre-existed his manifestation in the flesh), yet he became part of Abraham's family by his incarnation, and was born as a Jew (2 Tim. 2:8).
Christ's genealogy reveals how Christ truly became one of us by entering the human family and the Jewish family in particular. Of this family's history much could be said, which would be superfluous to our understanding of this gospel. But since the inspired writer particularly highlights several features of this genealogy, so we shall consider them in greater detail.
1:2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Christ's descent from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob made him a Jew. This was a vital qualification for the Christ, since Moses said "The Lord your God prophet like me from among your own people" (Deut. 18:15). God had made it clear that it would not be through Ishmael (Abraham's child born in natural way, albeit to a slave) but through Isaac (Abraham's child born by the power of the Spirit in fulfilment of God's promise) that the lineage of Christ would come. It was not by the works of the flesh but by his miracle working power that God brought Christ into the world; and it is through that same power that God brings salvation to our hearts by faith.
Furthermore, God later revealed that the Christ would be descended from Judah (Gen. 49:10).
1:3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah (by Tamar), Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram.
The devil had many times tried to frustrate God's purpose of bringing Christ into the world. One such occasion was in the days of Judah. Judah's oldest son married a girl named Tamar, but died without leaving children. Judah's younger son, Onan, according to custom, was to take her as his wife and raise up children who would inherit his brother's estate. But Onan knew that the child would not be his heir, so whenever he had sex with Tamar, he tried to prevent getting her pregnant (Gen. 38:6–10).
This scripture was not intended to imply that contraception is wrong; what Onan did it was wicked because behind it was Satan’s attempt to end the family line of Judah. Judah had still one son, Shelah, whom he promised to give to Tamar when he was old enough, but when Judah did not keep his promise, Tamar made her own plans. She dressed up with a veil and waited near Judah's place of work posing as a prostitute. Judah's wife had already died and he paid Tamar to let him have sex with her, and made her pregnant; he did not know that she was his daughter in law. Since he had no money with him at the time, Judah left his personal seal as a pledge that he would return with payment. But when he sent a friend to pay the girl and get his seal back, the girl had disappeared. (Read the whole story in Genesis 38).
Later it was told Judah that his daughter in law, although a widow, was pregnant. He was about to order her execution when the girl announced that she was pregnant by the owner of a seal that she showed. It was Judah's. So he did not execute her, but said “she is more righteous than I”. Tamar had twins, and it is through one of them (Perez) that Jesus Christ is descended from Judah according to the flesh.
The reason why God’s Word details this whole sordid history is to show how neither the devil nor the wickedness of men could prevent God bringing his only begotten son into the world in the way that he had promised.
1:4–5 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz (by Rahab), Boaz the father of Obed (by Ruth), Obed the father of Jesse.
Matthew notes that Boaz's mother was Rahab, who by the faith which she showed when she hid the spies was accounted as righteous before God (Heb. 11:31) and became not only numbered among the people of Israel, but included in the family tree of the Lord Jesus Christ. We too are accounted as righteous by God through faith in Jesus Christ, a faith which expresses itself in good works (Rom. 5:1).
Boaz married Ruth, the Moabitess, even though the law had said that a Moabite could not enter the congregation of the LORD until ten generations (Deut. 23:3). This highlights that Jesus Christ would become the one who would break down the middle wall of partition and makes it possible for both Jews and Gentiles to enter into God's kingdom (Eph. 2:14).
1:6 And Jesse the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon (by the wife of Uriah).
If Jesus is truly the Christ then he must be a descendent of David, and Matthew is at pains to stress that this is the case. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, the child born from that unholy union died. But later, her husband Uriah being dead and God having forgiven David's sin, David and Bathsheba were married. Solomon, the result of their legal union, was loved by God, and it is through him that the future kings of Israel came, even up to the time of Christ, for when God forgives, he forgives fully.
This inclusion of Bathsheba is Jesus' family tree reveals God's ultimate purpose in sending his son, for “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).
It is at this point that the genealogy in Matthew begins to differ from the one given by Luke. Scholars have debated much about this. Some suppose that Luke's genealogy is actually that of Mary. What is clear is that Matthew wants to show how Christ fits into the royal line, and that Joseph was in line for the throne. When it comes to Jesus, of course, he is not merely in line for the throne, for the throne belongs to him absolutely.
All the names given in the following verses were kings of Judah, and their life histories are found in the books of 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles.
1:7–11 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram 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 deportation to Babylon.
These verses span the 400 years from the civil war in Israel to the carrying of Judah to Babylon. During this time the purposes of God concerning his people were not forgotten, nor was that greatest purpose of all—to bring Christ into the world, Throughout the history of Israel, God was working out his purpose for the salvation of mankind.
It is of note that such was the effect of the deportation to Babylon on the corporate mind-set of the nation that the Jews dated their history as being either the time before or after the deportation and return.
1:12–16 After the deportation to Babylon, Jeconiah became 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 Achim, Achim 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, by whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
God had promised that after 70 years in exile, Judah would return again and rebuild Jerusalem, which they did. Matthew points out that God who kept this promise to Israel has also kept his greater promise of spiritual restoration in Christ Jesus.
1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to Christ, fourteen generations.
God's plan to bring Christ into the world was not drawn up last minute, for the way of salvation in Christ was ordained before time. God had planned it to the smallest detail before he ever made the world. Notice the symmetry of the generations, which reveals that God is in charge of the flow of human history. Everything happens according to his time scale. God predicted the exact day and date of Christ's crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to glory (through the foreshadowing of the Passover and also through Dan. 9:25–26). It was written of the exodus from Egypt that God’s promise was fulfilled “on the exact day” (Gen. 15:13 and Exod. 12:41), so all the details of our spiritual exodus through Christ came exactly on time.
The Birth of Christ
In order to further show that Jesus is the Christ, Matthew demonstrates that the manner of his birth fulfilled the scriptures.
1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
Through the birth of Jesus, God breaks into time. The Word became flesh to dwell among us, in order to fulfil all the promises of God. This is why Matthew devotes a whole section to Christ's birth. Whilst Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit who formed within her womb this fusion of God and man—Jesus Christ. Matthew emphasizes that she had not had sexual intercourse with Joseph, or any other man.
1:19 Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately.
Joseph at this time knew nothing about the purpose of God being carried out in Mary's life. Supposing she had been unfaithful, he considered his position. The selflessness of Joseph is here revealed. He wished to spare Mary the shame of being found pregnant outside of marriage. So he decided to go ahead with the marriage to keep up appearances, but later to divorce Mary away from the public eye, for he did not wish to be united with (as he may have then thought) an immoral woman.
1:20–21 When he had contemplated 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 as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
God began to reveal his purpose to Joseph. God wanted him to marry Mary without fear, for the child within her was conceived of the Holy Spirit. The son she would bear would be born in fulfilment of long awaited prophecy. He would be the Saviour who would save his people from their sins—Jesus.
1:22–23 This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: "Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel," which means "God with us."
Matthew again emphasizes that Christ's birth was in fulfilment of the scripture, that a virgin would conceive and bear a son who although fully man would be no less than fully God. He would be God manifested in the flesh. Jesus would have a unique birth, a unique name, and a unique mission.
1:24–25 When Joseph awoke from sleep he did what the angel of the Lord told him. He took his wife, but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus.
Although nothing like this had ever been heard of before—a virgin pregnant—Joseph believed and acted obediently upon the word of God. What is more, out of reverence for the holy child she carried, even after they were married, Joseph had no intercourse with Mary until after Jesus was born.
This Bible study is an extract of Faithbuilders: The Gospel of Matthew
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