Matthew 1:1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.
Although anonymous, the gospel of Matthew was almost certainly written by the tax collector whom Jesus called to be an apostle (Matthew 9:9). It was likely written around AD 60, and includes more references to the Old Testament than any other New Testament book.
Genealogies were important to God’s people because property rights could be determined by your family of origin. Also, you could only be involved in temple service if you were descended from Levi; and you could only be a priest if you were descended from Aaron. Furthermore, the Old Testament contains genealogical clues about who the Messiah would be. This is why genealogical records were maintained, which Matthew and Luke included in their gospels.
Luke traced Jesus’ lineage to the first man Adam (Luke 3:38), demonstrating Jesus’ true humanity, as well as our common ancestry. Luke may have also been thinking of Adam’s sin, after which God promised to send someone who would crush the devil’s head (Genesis 3:15).
When Jesus died on the cross, he crushed Satan’s power to separate us from God, thus beginning to fulfill the first promise of the Bible. One of the great themes of the Bible is that God keeps his promises (2 Corinthians 1:20), and this is reflected in the genealogies of Christ.
Matthew 1:2 Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Matthew traced Jesus’ lineage through Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. God told Abraham, all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:3), and Jesus told the apostles to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). The whole world is being blessed through the gospel of Jesus Christ, thus fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham.
Matthew 1:3 Judah the father of Perez.
Matthew traced Jesus’ lineage through Judah, which is important because of an ancient promise. The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his (Genesis 49:10). Out of the twelve tribes of Israel, Jesus came from Judah, and through the proclamation of the gospel, he is winning obedience from the nations.
Matthew 1:5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.
Matthew included a number of disreputable people in his genealogy, including Rahab the prostitute. Jesus’ family history includes incest, adultery, prostitution, murder and many other sins. Jesus never sinned (1 Peter 2:22), of course, but he came into the world for people like us.
It is as though God intended for people to hear this genealogy and say to themselves: Oh, Christ is the kind of person who is not ashamed of sinners. See, he even puts them in his family tree (Martin Luther). Likewise, Jesus is not ashamed to call [us] brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11), says Hebrews.
Matthew 1:6 David was the father of Solomon.
Matthew traced Jesus’ lineage through David to whom God said, your throne will be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16). This is why the angel said to Jesus’ mother, The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32). Jesus currently rules from heaven (Hebrews 1:8, 1 Peter 3:22), and will eventually rule on earth, fulfilling God’s promise to David that his throne would be established forever.
Matthew 1:12 Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel.
Matthew identified Shealtiel’s father as Jeconiah, but Luke identified Shealtiel’s father as Neri (Luke 3:27). The genealogies in Matthew and Luke have differences that are difficult to reconcile, but not impossible.
If your natural father died when you were young, and your mother remarried, you would have two fathers: one biological and the other adopted. Legitimate genealogies could be traced either way. The differences between Matthew’s genealogy and Luke’s genealogy do not cast doubt on either, but show they were not copying each other to keep their records straight.
Three observations are in order. First, the rootedness of Jesus in genealogical records underscores the fact that he lived in history, and is not the invention of someone’s imagination. The historicity of Jesus is so firmly established that nearly all professional historians accept it as a fact.
Second, the number of first century males who were genealogically qualified to be the Messiah (descended from Abraham, Judah, David, etc.) was less than one tenth of one percent. This makes Jesus’ lineage a remarkable fulfillment of prophecy.
Third, since Jesus never had children, it is impossible to be his biological descendent. But Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister (Mark 3:35), he said. If you do God’s will by following Jesus Christ, you are part of his family, and closer to Christ than his natural relatives.
Reflection and Review
Why did Messiah have to come from Abraham?
Why did Messiah have to come from Judah?
Why did Messiah have to come from David?