“King and Kingdom” is a series in which we walk through Matthew’s Gospel. Tune in every Thursday morning for thoughts on the next passage.


1:1-17

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Matthew sees Abraham and David as Christ’s most significant ancestral heads (twice singled out [vv.1, 17]). Whereas Luke traces Christ’s lineage back to Adam, Matthew only goes back to Abraham. Matthew is concerned with the Jewish lineage of Christ, to present him as a true and greater Israel, the anti-type of all these Israelite figures. In this, Matthew demonstrates the importance of federal headship. As a son of Abraham and a son of David, Jesus inherits their covenants. How can the Messiah fulfill all circumcision if he is born a Gentile? How can he fulfill God’s promise to David if he is not David’s son?

Even between Abraham and David, the point of emphasis may be reduced further to David himself. Matthew structures the genealogy to fall in three sections of 14 (v.17). He “structures” in that he leaves out certain generations. This was common practice at the time, and by no means deceptive, as, for example, a grandfather may be said to be the father of his grandson in a seminal sense (e.g. Romans 4:16). “The word [egennesen, “begat”] itself does not always mean immediate parentage, but merely direct descent.” (Robertson, 4-5) Therefore, the question is, “Why did Matthew choose to omit certain generations?” Perhaps for ease of memorization, but more likely to use the genealogy as a literary device to further spotlight David and Christ as his son. By rules of gematria [1], David’s name (D + V + D or 4 + 6 + 4) adds to 14. Whereas John would employ gematria in subtle ways in his Apocalypse, Matthew leaves no doubt that he wants us to think on such terms: “So all the generations of Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:17). David is also the fourteenth name Matthew lists. (Wilkins, 1820-21; Blomberg, 1927) The sections also correspond to Israel’s narrative of growth, decline, and ruin. (Bruce, 66) The stage is set for the Redeemer.

In the process of identifying Christ, this genealogy identifies the people of Christ. Some commentators propose that the church of the Old Covenant had no salvific significance, but was only a servant of God. Concerning both the waxing and waning covenants, we see here a refutation of this error. Jesus came to save his people from their sins (v.21), and these are his people. To say that the Old Covenant did not administer the benefits of Christ’s death is to sever the connection Matthew makes in this chapter between the salvation Christ brings and the covenant of circumcision.

Some make light of Davidic descent by arguing how Jesus could have been the Christ without being David’s son. Gentiles are grafted into Abraham (Romans 11:11-31), Paul was an Apostle born out of season (1 Corinthians 15:8), and Christ himself is of the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7). Jesus may be the son of David by spiritual means. (Bruce, 61-62) The point is intriguing only at a glance. First, such figures as Gentiles and Paul were not prophesied to be physical descendants of certain others, whereas Jesus was prophesied explicitly to be the descendent of David. Second, physical descent matters for federal headship. Third, there is no Biblical or otherwise reasonable data that would lead us to the conclusion that Jesus is not a son of David.


[1] In gematria, Hebrew letters correspond to numbers. This was common literary tool in Jewish culture. The most famous instance of gematria in Scripture might be the mark of the beast: 666 (or 616 in some manuscripts). Both numbers translate to the Emperor Nero.

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