Gospel of Matthew Chapter One Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Genealogy Of Jesus
Verses 1-2: "The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers." Genealogies of the Hebrew people were kept in the towns and cities of Israel. Two notable histories of Jesus the Christ are reflected in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. This record in Matthew was Jesus' legal genealogy in that culture, the record leading to His step-father. The Apostle Matthew, a Jew, went to the appropriate synagogue in Bethlehem, in Judea, and simply copied the words kept in that place. Another record, which differs somewhat from this one, was written by Luke, a Gentile medical doctor who accompanied the Apostle Paul. Luke likely got his information during the time of Paul's imprisonment in Caesarea, based on a personal interview with Jesus' mother. As a Jew, Matthew viewed Jesus' step-father's line as appropriate for this record, whereas the non-Jewish Dr. Luke reported the maternal human line of Mary—Jesus was fully human, and also He is God. Mention of David is first here because of the Lord's promise to David: "Your throne shall be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:16), which it is in Jesus Christ. The human line that led to Jesus, began with Abraham, his son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob, flowing through Judah, one of Jacob's sons, culminating in the then-future Messiah to be born in Israel. No mention is made here of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, so this Gospel of Matthew was written before the destruction of 70 A.D.
In Verses 3-6, the biological line to Joseph, the step-father of Jesus, continues: "Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. 4 Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. 5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 6 Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah." Isn't it interesting that those who, from our perspective, were ordinary people, became human ancestors of the King? You might say that David the king was exceptional, and in many ways he was, but he was also raised as an obscure shepherd boy. Of special interest in this genealogy written by a Jew is the inclusion of women, and likely not the women most would have chosen if we were the writers. In Genesis 38, we find Tamar, a widowed daughter-in-law of Judah. She posed as a prostitute, and Judah, who did not see through her disguise, paid for her services. Out of that temporary union came twins, and one of them, Perez, was granted entrance into the genealogy of the Messiah. Another women in this line was Rahab the harlot (Joshua 2), saved from the destruction of Jericho, her native city. And we also see Ruth, who, like Rahab, was not a Jew—Ruth was of the tribe of Moab. And finally we see Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), who became one of David's wives under questionable circumstances. We are reminded that God takes the obscure and does great things. He takes outsiders into the kingdom of God. He rescues us from ourselves, from what we have done, and what was done to us.
Verses 7-11: "Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa. 8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah. 9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah. 11 Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon." Both Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph, His step-father, were descended from David. Under different circumstances, they could have been viewed as royalty within Israel, instead of commoners in Nazareth. The Gospel of Matthew presents the royal line of descent through Solomon, son of David, whereas Luke gave us Mary's lineage by talking personally with her, learning of her descent through Nathan, another son of David. The "deportation to Babylon" came after the terrible siege and subsequent capture of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The men, women and children of the little Hebrew nation of Judah, became Babylonian slaves for the next 70-years. Just like these people who were slaves are important to God and His unfolding of history, you and I are being used for good in more ways than we can see or understand.
Verses 12-16: "After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. 14 Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. 15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah." Babylon was certainly not the first enslavement of the Jews, for they were slaves in Egypt. The tribes to the north who later formed the nation called "Israel" after the death of Solomon, were captured and enslaved by the Assyrians in about 721 BC. The Jews experienced many hardships. Life IS hard, and God will use surprising circumstances to grow us up into the men and women of faith we always were intended to be. The line to the Messiah continued through years of slavery, first in Babylon and then within the Persian Empire. But the end is never the end with our Lord, and so these obscure men would become a royal line that led from nothing to everything in the Person of "Jesus," the Greek equivalent of "Joshua," which meant "Yahweh is salvation" or "Yahweh saves." The Hebrew word "Messiah" is "Christ" from the Greek, and both words mean, "The Anointed One." Kings were anointed with precious oil—Jesus is our King.
Verse 17: "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations." The custom of grouping lists of names by numbers was a common way to encourage memorization. Alphabetization was also common for the same reason; for example, the lengthy Psalm 119 was divided into the Hebrew alphabet, as a means of learning the alphabet and memorizing that Psalm. The Lord, through Matthew, was presenting a way to remember the ones whose lives led to the birth of the Messiah. Fourteen names at a time are easier to remember than Forty-two all at once, a gift of the Lord through Matthew.
Verse 18: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit." There are many who have refused to believe that Mary became pregnant through the Touch of God. But Matthew later listened to Mary speak of these things and he was open to the Holy Spirit. Additionally, he likely talked with others in the family and possibly a surviving shepherd about the events at Bethlehem. To believe is to understand that 1) God created all that is, including the macroscopic, so large we can't comprehend it, and the microscopic, more small than we imagine, and 2) God is not limited by the laws of the universe He created. He reached from outside of time and space and implanted the Son of God into humanity. A miracle?—yes. Impossible for God?—no. And through His gift of faith, we begin to believe and receive through faith, what He has done.
Verses 19-21: "And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.'" Another way of describing Joseph was that he was a really nice guy. The couple was within what we would call the engagement process, but in the Jewish culture, they were technically married. He knew he was not the father, but did not yet understand the miracle that was happening right in front of him. He cared about Mary, placing her reputation ahead of whatever anger he might have felt. He was also protecting her in a community where outraged citizens might insist that Mary be stoned to death. And so God sent a dream. From many instances in Scripture, it is apparent that the Lord does communicate with us in such a manner, and suddenly, faithful Joseph KNEW what God had done and what he must do. This son was to be named "Jesus" ("Yahweh saves")—He was the Savior announced by the prophets and longed for by Israel since before the beginning of that nation.
Verses 22-23: "Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name 'Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us.'" These verses relating Joseph's dream, given by "an angel of the Lord" (Verse 20), reach back in time to the surprising response of the prophet to ancient King Ahaz. And if you wonder about the root word for "virgin" here, it is the Greek word "parthenos," which precisely meant "virgin" and nothing else. If you want to see God, by the way, you can look at the quoted Isaiah 7:14 and to Joseph's dream. Isaiah and Joseph heard God, encountered Him, and reported to us first-hand what happened. If you want more, prayerfully read all Scripture, understanding in faith that God appears to us suddenly in more and better ways than we ever expected. We have direct evidence that we are not alone because "God with us" has come.
Verses 24-25: "And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus." Joseph "did as the angel of the Lord commanded him"—we need to learn from this faithful man, Joseph. He believed in the Lord, even though he was placing his own reputation at risk by accepting Mary. He did not touch her sexually until after Jesus was delivered, even though they were now married. And he did just what he was told in Verse 21, naming the boy "Jesus" at His birth. Our Lord entered humanity, became a man, our Representative, the legal basis for the forgiveness of our sins, and as seen in Isaiah 9:6—He is "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." He is ours—the Gift to all who will trust in Him.
Father, help us to be like Mary and Joseph, trusting in the Lord and accepting Your will for our lives. We confess our own sin of unbelief and ask for forgiveness. We are Yours, Lord. We trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.