04.02.02 The Genealogy of Jesus as Recorded by Matthew

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 04.02.02 The Genealogy of Jesus as Recorded by Matthew

04.02.02 Mt. 1:1-17 The Genealogy of Jesus as Recorded by Matthew


The historical record of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:

2 Abraham fathered Isaac,
Isaac fathered Jacob,
Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers,
 3 Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar,
Perez fathered Hezron,
Hezron fathered Aram,
 4 Aram fathered Amminadab,
Amminadab fathered Nahshon,
Nahshon fathered Salmon,
 5 Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab,
Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth,
Obed fathered Jesse,
 6 and Jesse fathered King David.

Then David fathered Solomon by Uriah’s wife,
 7 Solomon fathered Rehoboam,
Rehoboam fathered Abijah,
Abijah fathered Asa,
 8 Asa fathered Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat fathered Joram,
Joram fathered Uzziah,
 9 Uzziah fathered Jotham,
Jotham fathered Ahaz,
Ahaz fathered Hezekiah,
 10 Hezekiah fathered Manasseh,
Manasseh fathered Amon,
Amon fathered Josiah,
 11 and Josiah fathered Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 Then after the exile to Babylon
Jechoniah fathered Shealtiel,
Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel,
 13 Zerubbabel fathered Abiud,
Abiud fathered Eliakim,
Eliakim fathered Azor,
 14 Azor fathered Zadok,
Zadok fathered Achim,
Achim fathered Eliud,
 15 Eliud fathered Eleazar,
Eleazar fathered Matthan,
Matthan fathered Jacob,
 16 and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary,
who gave birth to Jesus
who is called the Messiah.

 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Messiah, fourteen generations.


04.02.02.Q1 Concerning Matthew 1:9, was Uzziah really the father of Jotham?

Matthew’s genealogical record has been somewhat challenging because Jotham’s father is known as Azariah,[1] as well as Uzziah.[2]  The two names have been a favorite subject for critics.  However, it is also known that people would occasionally change their name when there was a dramatic change in their life. There is no reason given for the name change or if the king maintained two names, but the fact that these refer to the same person has been well established. There are several other examples of name changes in both the Old and New Testaments, as well as in the surrounding cultures. Examples are as follows:

  1. When Gideon destroyed the Canaanite altar to Baal at Ophrah (Jg. 6:32, 7:1), his name was changed to Jerubbaal.
  1. Jehoahaz, who was the son of Josiah, had his name changed to Shallum.[3]
  1. When the famous Saul became the Apostle Paul, he went from a Hebrew name to a Greek name.
  1. Name changes were also common in other cultures, as exemplified by the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho, who changed the name of Eliakim to Jehoiakim (2 Kg. 23:34).[4]
  1. Evidently, a reason for the dual identity of Uzziah/Azariah was not considered significant by the biblical writers.


04.02.02.Q2 Is there a mistake in Matthew 1:11 concerning the name of Jeconiah?

The phrase in question is, “Jeconiah and his brothers.”   The biblical record of Jeconiah (a/k/a Jehoiachin or Coniah)[5] has given critics fuel for their arguments that the Bible contains errors.  At issue is the verse where Matthew states that Salathiel (a/k/a Shealtiel) is the son of Jehoiachin while Luke ascribes him to be the son of Neria. Jeremiah 27:24-30 predicted that Jehoiachin would leave no heirs.  Yet, it is altogether possible for him to have adopted the seven sons of Neria, as implied in Zechariah 12:12. Matthew made a special note of Jeconiah and his brothers because the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had all of them and their wives imprisoned.  But in April, 561 B.C., the Babylonians released them and gave Jehoiachin a lifetime pension.  As a result, the first century Jews were convinced that the Messiah would come through one of Jehoiachin’s descendants, which is precisely what happened.[6]

“Mary, who gave birth to Jesus.”  The importance of this Greek phrase is that it is feminine, and obviously refers to Mary. The significance lies in the fact that in the Jewish culture, the birth of a child was always associated with the father.  However, in this case the gospel writer used a feminine relative pronoun to break the pattern of the genealogy to emphasize that Joseph was not the father and that Mary was indeed a virgin when Jesus was born. The gender is lost in English translations, but the writer underscored the importance of her genealogy.[7]

04.02.02a (2)

“Who is called the Messiah.” The meaning of the word “Messiah” or “Christ” is “Anointed One” (Gk. Christos 5547).[8] The lack of a definite Greek article suggests that the term “Christ” may have been used as a name rather than a title.  The phrase was later repeated by Pilate (Mt. 27:17, 22).[9] Jesus was appointed and consecrated by God the Father to the anointed office of Redeemer, which in the Hebrew language took on the name “Messiah.”  In Jewish history, the term “Messiah” was applied to priests who were anointed with holy oil to perform their sacred duties (Lev. 4:3, 5, 16).


04.02.02.Q3 Why did Matthew omit several names from his genealogical list (Mt. 1:1-17)?

Matthew’s purpose was not to present every single name, but to present a general listing with an emphasis on King David that his Jewish audience clearly understood. But in modern thinking, why did he divide the list of names into three groups?

This is a clear example of how written communication is at times beyond the common definition of words. In this case, there is a mystery of the term “fourteen generations.” In biblical times there was no standardized numerical system of numbers, but rather, alphabet letters also had numeric values.  For example, students today are familiar with the system of Roman numerals.  In this system, I = one, V = five, X= ten, etc.  Letters are combined to create specific numbers, such as XXIV is 24.  Likewise, the Jews had their system.

When Matthew presented his genealogy, he wrote it in a manner so the Jews would recognize the Hebrew numeric value of the most important king in their history, King David. The name “David” spelled with three consonant letters[10] with their corresponding numeric values are as follows: daleth = 4, waw = 6, and daleth = 4. The name of “David” is a simple arithmetic problem of 4+6+4=14.[11] Therefore, to see the written number 14 is also to see the name “David.”[12] Messianic Jews and many other scholars agree on this point, including the fact that the last group has only 13 names, not 14. So why is the last group counted as 14? Jechoniah is named twice, rightly as the last member of the second group.[13] Or perhaps Matthew counted “Jesus” (pre-resurrection name) as number 13 and “Christ” (post-resurrection name) as number 14.[14] It is a bit unnerving to modern readers when names are skipped as in a case like this.  Yet this was part of first century biblical hermeneutics and every Jew understood and accepted it.

To Matthew, the expressed numeric value is of far greater importance than recording every name. In addition, Matthew had no problem skipping names, because a grandson or great-grandson was also considered to be a “son.” No one in Western culture today would consider calling a grandson as a son, but this was typical in the biblical world.  Therefore, there are no mistakes in the genealogical record.  The Hebrew term for this alpha-numeric system is gemetria.[15]  He omitted names in order to have three groups of “14” that spelled “David.”

At this point it is also important to explain why there are three groups of names, not two or four groups. The most emphatic way to say anything in Hebrew was to repeat it three times. In this case, the numerical value of King David was underscored three times to emphasize its importance, and was also a convenient memory technique.  Two other examples are as follows:

  1. When the prophet Isaiah wanted to emphasize the holiness of the Lord, he repeated the word holy three times (Isa. 6:3).
  1. When the apostle John described the future horrible plagues, he said, “woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth” (Rev. 8:13).

There simply was no other way for a Jew to express an idea in the most emphatic way possible but to repeat it three times.  Only a Jewish audience would have understood the numerical meaning of Matthew’s genealogy, and this literary device also implied “holiness” to Jesus.


04.02.02.b (2)


04.02.02.Q4  What was the purpose of a genealogical listing (Mt. 1:1-17; Lk. 3:23-28)?

It was most important for Matthew and Luke to inform their audiences that Jesus was both a physical man and the fulfillment of many messianic prophecies.[16] The genealogical records were important for these reasons:

  1. From the earliest days as a nation, the Jewish people considered their ancestry important. Their promised land was divided into tribal areas. In the course of doing business, at times land was sold or mortgaged. Every fifty years the lands reverted to their original owners, so a record of genealogy was important.
  1. Genealogies gave a clear identity of ancestral and tribal origins,[17] which led to another reason,
  1. Genealogies were critically important for certain religious or political offices. Amazingly, a priest gained his position by birth as proven by the records, but a rabbi owed his position to himself and dedicated study.
  1. The genealogical record demonstrates the divine purpose for the restoration of man from the beginning of Adam.


The promise of the Davidic Covenant was fulfilled by Jesus. The common interpretation is that Jesus received His “blood right” to King David’s throne through Mary and His “legal right” to the throne through His adopted earthly father Joseph.[18] The records of Matthew and Luke reflect not only their Jewishness, but also their commitment to convey information deemed important to Jewish audiences.  Other examples of genealogical records are as follows:

  1. The historian Josephus preserved his genealogy for posterity (Life 1.3).
  1. The Babylonian Talmud records that one rabbi, with a desire that his son would marry only into the right family, traced the genealogy of a prospective daughter-in-law to King David.[19]
  1. There is a reference to genealogical records (presumably military enrollment lists) made in the time of King Jotham of Judah and King Jeroboam II of Israel. This would have been about the year 745 B.C.
  1. In Jewish history, when the Jews returned from Babylon, three families, Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai, claimed to be of priestly stock, but Nehemiah denied them that privilege of service because no record was found of them (Ezra 2:61-62).
  1. At the time of Ezra, another group of 652 people — apparently Gentiles — wanted to “return” to Jerusalem, but could not prove they were descendants of Israel (Ezra 2:59). They were denied the opportunity because it was uncertain whether their families ever came from Jerusalem or if they were truly Jewish.
  1. The Apostle Paul reflected upon his genealogy when he claimed that he was of the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5).[20]
  1. Of all people, even Herod the Great was concerned about his genealogical record, for since he had an Idumean father and Nabatean mother, he destroyed those records in the temple. But the account was preserved by Julius Africanus, whose writings were eventually also destroyed, but not until the church historian Eusebius copied some of them. According to the church historian, Julius wrote,


But in the archives were still [to the time of Herod] inscribed [first] Hebrew families and [second] those descended from proselytes, such as Achior the Ammonite and Ruth the Moabitess, and people of mixed blood[21] who came out of Egypt at the same time [as the Jews]. Herod who had no drop of Jewish blood in his veins, was stung by the consciousness of his base origin, and burnt the registers of these families, thinking to appear nobly born if no one else was able by reference to public documents to trace his line back to the patriarchs or [to proselytes and] to whose called [mixed blood].[22]

Julius Africanus, Letter to Aristides[23]


The phrase, “A record of the genealogy,” could also be translated as reading, “the book of the generations of,” or “the book of origin,” and is similar to records found in Genesis 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, and 37:2.[24] Priests and Levites always examined the genealogical records of a future spouse going back five generations, to insure that she met all the requirements of rabbinic purity concerning being a “true Israelite.”[25] Elders and wealthy aristocrats also reviewed the genealogical records before a son or daughter got married. A bride-to-be had to be a virgin, preferably from a priestly or Levitical family, she could not have been a prostitute, divorced, or held captive by an enemy.[26] Likewise, a future son-in-law had to be of “pure Israelite stock” without any proselytes for at least four generations.[27] The Hebrew word kiddushin, means betrothals.[28]

If a man would marry a woman of priestly stock, he must trace her family back through four mothers, which are, indeed, eight: her mother, mother’s mother, and mother’s father’s mother, and this one’s mother; also her father’s mother, and this one’s mother, her father’s father’s mother, and this one’s mother. [If he would marry] a woman of Levitic or Israelitish stock, he must trace the descent back to one mother more.

Mishnah, Kiddushin 4.4[29]


The traditions of the elders, as recorded above in the Mishnah, were essentially confirmed by Josephus in the following statement.

For our forefathers did not only appoint the best of these priests, and those that attended upon the divine worship, for that design from the beginning, but made provision that the stock of the priests should continue unmixed and pure, for he who is a partaker of the priesthood must propagate of a wife of the same nation, without having any regard to money, or any other dignities; but he is to make a scrutiny, and take his wife’s genealogy from the ancient tables, and procure many witnesses to it;  and this is our practice not only in Judea, but wheresoever any body of men of our nation live; and even there, an exact catalog of our priest’s marriages is kept.

Josephus, Against Apion 1.7 (30-32)


The Essenes were also interested in one’s genealogy.  Those who desired to be a member of their exclusive group were recorded according to their racial/ethnic heritage.

They shall be written down by name, each man after his brother, the priests first, the Levites second, the children of Israel third, and the proselytes fourth. 

Dead Sea Scroll, Damascus Document 14.4


And the priests and Levites were not the only ones who searched genealogical records. Scribes and those of wealth did likewise. The famed philosopher, historian, and theologian Philo, who lived in Egypt, made use of the genealogical library.  When he became interested in a certain future wife, he sent someone to the Hall of Pedigrees in the Jerusalem temple and had her genealogy examined.[30]

One’s heritage was always important, not only in the Jewish world, but throughout all ancient cultures in this area.  Lineage was reckoned through the father from whom the son received his heritage.  It made no difference if a father was a biological father or a legal father through adoption or marriage. This is explained in the second century B.C. Apocrypha book of Ben Sirach.

A covenant was also established with David,

the son of Jesse, of the tribe of Judah:

the heritage of the king is from son to son only;

so the heritage of Aaron is for his descendants.

Ben Sirach 45:25                  


This ancient custom continues today among some Muslim leaders, who trace their record of ancestry from Muhammad. Likewise, the Samaritans claim to have their priestly genealogy recorded from Adam to the present day priests. Their genealogical record is known as the Adler Chronicle or Chronicle 7.[31]  Therefore, the genealogy presented by the gospel writers was perfectly in tune with the cultural requirements for anyone functioning in any religious office.

The incredibly amazing feature is that while the genealogical record existed for the purpose of verifying Israelite purity for the priests and Levites, when Matthew wrote his gospel, he completely ignored the purity aspect.[32] No priest or Levite would ever be considered worthy if there was a prostitute or other “impure” woman in his record.  Yet Matthew recorded four of them at a time when doing that would have eliminated Jesus from serious consideration because the son of David was expected to be of pure stock. At a time when skipping a name or two was acceptable, the he could have overlooked these questionable women and given Jesus a genealogy that would have “looked good” to his Jewish audience.  But rather, Matthew wanted to emphasize that Jesus had a “connection” with those whom the Jews despised and considered unworthy.


04.02.02.Q5 Do some biblical genealogies suggest a hidden message?

No, but a rare exception has been suggested.  For example, Genesis 4:17-18 has the names of six generations that followed Adam; a number that represents mankind.  Genesis 5 has the names of seven generations that followed Seth; a number that represents perfection and wholeness. Jewish readers would have been aware of both the names and what the meaning of the number of names implied.[33] Genealogies were important to identify those who qualified for temple service, and that is all.


04.02.02.Q6 Why did Matthew include four women of unfavorable character (Mt. 1:1-17)?

Men’s opinions of women were not always very good. For example, Josephus and Nicholaus of Damascus seldom mention then names of women.[34] Therefore, it is most unusual that Matthew violated the traditions of every culture in the ancient Middle East by including women. Furthermore, if he wanted to highlight the character of noble women, he could have chosen Sarah, Rebekah, or several other matriarchs. Instead, he chose four who were the shame of Judaism – women with an historic less-than-favorable reputation: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Genealogies almost never contained the names of women, unless they were significant heroines. However, these women were anything but heroines. Note the brief description of each:

  1. Tamar, according to Jubilee 41:1 was Aramean and not Jewish. After her first two Jewish husbands died, her father-in-law was supposed to provide a husband for her according to the Jewish law (Deut. 25:5-10). However, he abandoned her to poverty. Consequently, she cleverly disguised herself as a prostitute and invited her father-in-law to sleep with her. She became pregnant and later delivered twins.  Her father-in-law eventually admitted to mistreating her.
  1. When Joshua sent two spies into Jericho prior to the Israelite invasion, Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, provided protection for them. When her neighbors searched for them, she provided a means of their escape (Jos. 2).
  1. Ruth was a pagan Moabite, ancient enemy of Israel. She slipped under the covers of a sleeping man named Boaz, who later married her. The Moabites eventually assimilated into the larger neighboring Arab tribes. But the great-grandson of Ruth was King David. According to the Law of Moses, no Ammonite or Moabite was permitted to enter the assembly of the Lord (Deut. 23:3), yet she was included in this list – amazing.
  1. Bathsheba committed adultery with King David. Since her deceased husband Uriah, was from the pagan Hittite tribe, there is good reason to believe that she was also of the same tribe. Later she gave birth to Solomon.[35]


The focus of Matthew’s gospel is to demonstrate that Jesus had the credentials to bring salvation to humanity and break down ancient cultural and religious barriers; barriers between Jew and Gentile and barriers between male and female. Scholars have concluded the following possibilities of concerning the motive of Matthew to include these women:

  1. These women became part of the written Hebrew Bible in spite of their actions or heritage. In that culture they most certainly suffered discrimination for what they did and who they were. So likewise, Mary, the mother of Jesus, suffered discrimination from her neighbors in Bethlehem and Nazareth for being pregnant while out of wedlock. Matthew demonstrated that Jesus came through and to the lowest, most despised people, as well as those of wealth and esteem. Sexual sin and being a Gentile placed one on the bottom of the Jewish social ladder. The genealogy was a powerful statement of the forgiveness of God and revealed His messianic plans for the Jews and Gentiles.
  1. As foreigners, these women were historic demonstrations of the love of God for the Gentile people. Rahab, Ruth, and possibly Tamar and Bathsheba were of Gentile ancestry.
  1. All these women were eventually vindicated, as would be Mary, the mother of Jesus.


However, there is an amazing feature of this genealogy that challenges critics. If Matthew wanted to show the Jewish “purity” of Jesus, he would never have listed these women. In fact, he should not have chosen any women.  To the religious leaders of the time, nothing was more important than purity as it was a constant point of contention between them and Jesus. And to the subject of the messianic figure, the “impure bloodline” of Jesus would have been reason for condemnation. If he had to list women, at least he could have identified some Jewish heroines. Furthermore, men’s opinions of even good women were not always very good. For example, Josephus and Nicholaus (Nicholas) of Damascus seldom mention the names of any women.[36] But Matthew recorded four women of poor reputation. Only God could have created a literary document as this gospel.

[1]. 2 Kg. 15:1-7, 1 Ch. 3:12.


[2]. 2 Kg. 15:32, 34; 2 Ch. 26:1-23, 27:2; Isa. 1:1, 6:1; 7:1.


[3]. 2 Kg. 23:21, 1 Ch. 3:15, Jer. 22:11.


[4]. Pharaoh Necho is among fifty biblical names whose existence has been verified by archaeological studies in a published article by Lawrence Mykytiuk titled, “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.” Biblical Archaeology Review. March/April, 2014 (40:2), pages 42-50, 68.  This archaeological evidence confirms the historical accuracy of the biblical timeline.  For further study, see the website for Associates for Biblical Research, as well as Grisanti, “Recent Archaeological Discoveries that Lend Credence to the Historicity of the Scriptures.” 475-98.


[5]. Franz, http://www.lifeandland.org/2009/02/the-angelic-proclamation-to-the-shepherds-luke-28-15/ Retrieved July 22, 2015.


[6]. Gilbrant, “Matthew.” 27.

[7]. Wallace, Greek Grammar. 336-37; Young, Intermediate New Testament Greek. 76.

[8]. Vine, “Christ.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:101.


[9]. Hagner, “Matthew 1-13.” 12.

[10]. Hebrew does not have vowels. It is a consonantal language although vowel “points” were added to the language in the 9th or 10 century (A.D.), thus making it easier to read.


[11]. See Appendix 14 for the Numerical Values of Hebrew letters.


[12]. Johnson, “Matthew.” 7:252; Hagner, “Matthew 1-13.” 7.


[13]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 294.


[14]. Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 33.   


[15]. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture. 56.


[16]. See 04.02.01 “Introduction.”


[17]. David, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah and Manasseh are among fifty biblical names whose existence has been verified by archaeological studies in a published article by Lawrence Mykytiuk titled, “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.” Biblical Archaeology Review. March/April, 2014 (40:2), pages 42-50, 68.  This archaeological evidence confirms the historical accuracy of the biblical timeline.  For further study, see the website for Associates for Biblical Research, as well as Grisanti, “Recent Archaeological Discoveries that Lend Credence to the Historicity of the Scriptures.” 475-98.


[18].  The messianic title “Son of David” appears in the following three groups of passages in the gospels where it is always reflective of the Davidic Covenant: 1) In various healings by Jesus – Mt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; Mk. 10:47-48; Lk. 18:38-39. 2) In connection of the harassment the religious leaders gave Jesus – Mt. 22:42-43, 45; Mk. 12:35, 37; Lk. 20:41, 44, and 3) The praise the crowds gave Jesus at His entry into Jerusalem – Mt. 21:9, 15; Mk. 11:10. See Rogers, “The Davidic Covenant in the Gospels,” Bibliotheca Sacra. Part 1 of 2. 158-78.


[19]. Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot 62b.

[20]. Golub, In the Days. 41.


[21]. Ex. 12:38; Num. 11:4.


[22]. “Mixed blood” meaning “full proselyte.” LXX Ex. 12:19; Isa. 14:1.


[23]. Quoted by Eusebius Ecclesiastical History. I 7.13; Bracketed inserts by Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 281.


[24]. Gilbrant, “Matthew.” 19; Dalman, Jesus Christ in the Talmud. 31; Jerusalem Talmud, J’bamoth 49b.

[25]. For further study on the marriage requirements, see the Mishnah, tractate Kiddushin; See also various chapters in Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus including pages 270-85.


[26]. Lev. 21:13-15; Mishnah, Yebamoth 6.4. It was assumed that if she was held captive by an enemy, that she was no longer a virgin, but was raped by the enemy guards.    


[27]. Some Jewish writings list five generations.


[28]. Danby, ed., Mishnah x.


[29]. Brackets inserted by Danby, ed., Mishnah.


[30]. Mishnah, Hallah 4.10.


[31]. Information obtained during a personal interview with Hosney Kohen, a Samaritan priest in August of 1999; See also Neusner and Green, eds., Dictionary of Judaism. 13.

[32]. It should be noted that scholars have uncovered some falsification of genealogical records as found in some Jewish writings. Apparently, there were those who desired to hide some less-than-desirable forefathers for the purpose of acquiring a good spouse for a child or well-paying employment opportunity. See Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 283-84, 290.    


[33].  See footnote to Genesis 4:17-18 in the New International Version Study Bible.


[34].  For further study on the various opinions concerning the status and influence of women in the Second Temple Period, see the excellent work by Tal Ilan, Integrating Women into Second Temple History, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999. Take note of Chapter 3 on the discussions of two first century historians, Josephus and Nicholaus of Damascus, and their comments about women.


[35]. Notice that Matthew refers to Bathsheba only as “the wife of Uriah,” and not by her name. He evidently had no appreciation for her, yet included her in the genealogy when writing his gospel.


[36].  For further study on the various opinions concerning the status and influence of women in the Second Temple Period, see the excellent work by Tal Ilan, Integrating Women into Second Temple History, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999. Take note of Chapter 3 on the discussions of two first century historians, Josephus and Nicholaus of Damascus, and their comments about women.


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