The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: Matthew 1:1-6

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: (1:1)

Matthew begins with this verse full of content and contextual implications. It would seem that Matthew is intent on linking the story of Jesus to the larger context of Israel’s history. Notice his reference to “the genealogy of” in language which in the original Greek parallels that of the Septuagint in Gen. 2:4 and 5:1, alongside the names of David and Abraham, two of Israel’s most illustrious heroes. That Matthew uses the terms “Jesus the Messiah” (or Jesus Christ) makes it quite clear that this son of David is special (cf. 2:4; 16:16, 20; 22:42; 24:5, 23; 26:63, 68). In putting the personal name together with the messianic concept, Matthew is referring back to the hopes of an entire Nation.

With the reference “son of David” our author is hearkening back to the glory days of his people and God’s covenant promises concerning the Davidic royal house, David may well be considered the pivotal name in the genealogy for it is mentioned 5 times, and is the only name associated with the title of “king” (v. 6), singling him out of all other royal references as the greatest. Many scholars also point out the presence of the numerical value associated with the Hebrew numeric consonants. For the name David the numerics look like this: d (4) w (6) d (4) or 4 + 6 + 4 = 14. The number 14 is the number of David to be sure, but here it appears that, as some suggest, it has more meaning than that, for it is also arrived at by multiplying 2 X 7. Seven, as we saw in our study of Revelation, is the number of completeness or perfection. Jesus is the second Person of the godhead. Thus, some suggest that 14 is the number of Messiah, and when you compare that to David, and recall that the Messiah would be the son of David, these scholars conclude their case.

As for me personally, I don’t know who is right or wrong about the numbers, but in noticing how often the number 14 appears here, and remembering how the ancient Jews felt about numbers, it appears to me that at the least, Matthew is trying in every way possible to make sure that his readers get “son of David” and “Messiah” out of this discussion.

Matthew goes on to mention that David was a “son of Abraham” which is another interesting component. Recall God’s covenant with Abraham: Isaac was the son of promise through whom all of the nations of the world would be blessed. Here, David is named “son of Abraham”. Jesus is mentioned as “son of David” and “Messiah” with the obvious attempt to reinforce Matthew’s contention that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to Abraham.

This isn’t such a boring genealogy is it?

While Matthew doesn’t mention every man who could be mentioned here, the inclusion of the names of four women is worthy of our note. As scholars like to do, they often differ about why these four names are included. My thought is that these women are all Gentiles; yet here they are in the genealogy of Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the very non-Gentile Abrahamic covenant. It strikes me that this may be important for two reasons: First, because Matthew makes certain to point out when Jesus breaks the ethnic barrier between Jew and Gentile (cf. 8:5-13; 15:21-28; 28:18-20), and second because of the way that social outcasts received His message. Whether or not this was Matthew’s thinking, one thing is perfectly clear: This is no ordinary genealogy, and with the arrival of Jesus the Messiah, nothing would ever be the same again.

We’ll pick up in verse 6 when we get together next time!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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2 Responses to The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: Matthew 1:1-6

  1. Wally Fry says:

    Good trip through these, Don. Not everybody agrees about it all, but still fun

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