Bible Study: Matthew 1:1-17
As we work chapter by chapter through the Bible, I will be posting Bible studies using the Shape & Sharpen 5 Step Bible Study Method.
What does it SAY?
At the time of Jesus’ birth, Judea and Samaria were under Roman rule. The Roman administration was governed by “prefects” or “procurators”. In the years of Jesus’ ministry, Pontius Pilate was the Roman procurator of Judea and Herod Antipas was the ruler of the province of Galilee where Jesus lived.
The Gospel of Matthew was written by the disciple of Jesus named Matthew, who is also called Levi in Matthew 9:9-13 and Mark 2:13-17. It is estimated that he wrote the book between 64 – 70AD in Antioch, Syria. The Church in Antioch was a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles (Acts 15).
Matthew introduces his book with the genealogy of Jesus. His purpose for his book is to give an authoritative account of Jesus and his teachings, and to show that Jesus’ coming is the fulfillment of God’s promises and the presence of the Kingdom of God. Matthew often refers to events in Israel’s history and promises in the Old Testament, showing that they have been fulfilled in Jesus. He wants to show his audience that the promised Messiah has come, and his name is Jesus. He is the King, and his Kingdom has come.
My children both commented after reading this chapter that the genealogy wasn’t easy reading! “It’s just a long list of names!“ they both said. It can be easy to dismiss long passages of genealogies, lists and names in the Bible, but we do well to remember that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. That means there is something profitable for us to learn even in this genealogy.
Matthew begins by calling his book the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. He is tracing Jesus’ genealogy back to both of these significant men in Israel’s history – two men to whom God gave significant promises – or covenants. Matthew is pointing out that Jesus is the offspring of these two men, and the heir of the promises that God gave to them concerning their offspring.
To Abraham, God said:
 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2–3, ESV)
 … “To your offspring I will give this land.” … (Genesis 12:7, ESV)
God made a covenant promise to Abraham that through him and his offspring, God was going to bless all the families of the earth and that Abraham’s offspring would inherit the land. Later, God revealed to Abraham that this covenant was to be continued through the line of his son, Isaac:
 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.  I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”  Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”  And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”  God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. (Genesis 17:15–19, ESV)
Matthew’s genealogy traces Abraham’s offspring from Isaac to Jacob, Judah and so on through to Jesus. This is to show that God’s covenant promise to Abraham that He would bless all the families of the earth through him is fulfilled finally in Jesus Christ, and that the inheritance belongs to Jesus (and all who believe in Him). The whole earth belongs to Jesus and is under His authority, and through Him salvation has come to all the people of earth – both Jew and Gentile.
Matthew traces 14 generations from Abraham to David, to whom God said:
 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:12–13, ESV)
God continues and says:
 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,  but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. (2 Samuel 7:14–15, ESV)
Here in 2 Samuel 7:14-15 is a clear image of the cross on Calvary, where Jesus was beaten and lashed with the cat of nine tails by men before being hung on the cross and crucified. When God says that David’s son (Jesus) “commits iniquity” and is “disciplined”, He is not referring to Jesus’ own sins, since Jesus is without sin; He is referring to the sins of the people for whom Jesus died. When Jesus was being crucified on the cross, He was bearing our sins and taking upon Himself the full wrath of God against our sins, on our behalf.
As the prophet Isaiah put it:
 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4–5, ESV)
The way that God planned to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham was through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham; who died in our place to take away our sin and give us His righteousness.
In Genesis 15:5, God tells Abraham that his offspring would be like the stars in the night sky – too many to count. Verse 6 says “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Abraham was counted righteous, not because of his obedience or his works, but because he believed God. So it is with with all to whom the blessing of salvation belongs – it is received by faith (Romans 4:13). All who believe in Jesus Christ and by faith are trusting in his death and resurrection for our salvation, are blessed, forgiven and saved.
Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy to David, calling Him the son of David, to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with David. Jesus is the promised King; His Kingdom has come and His throne is established forever. Even Jesus’ death and resurrection are the fulfillment of what God was promising to do, which was to bless all the nations of the earth, bringing salvation for all peoples.
Abraham and David are the two key Old Testament figures to whom Matthew traces Jesus’ lineage, to show that God’s promises and covenants with His people through them are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The coming of Jesus Christ and the completion of His work of salvation is a gift of God’s grace to us.
When we read the accounts of Abraham and David, we find that these men were not perfect and had many faults of their own. Abraham was a stranger to God when he was called by God in Genesis 12, and after receiving the promise of God concerning the land, gave up his wife to the Pharoah of Egypt to save himself (Genesis 12:10-20)! David was himself was not without sin – he committed adultery and had the woman’s husband murdered, among other things. These men were not deserving of God’s blessings, nor such great promises!
That God came to Abraham and David was an act of pure grace by God. God took the initiative to make covenant with His people, promising to save to the utmost all who by faith believe in Jesus and His work of salvation. Salvation is not a reward to the worthy, but a gracious gift to the unworthy.
We can see this in some of the names listed in the genealogy given by Matthew.
- Judah & Tamar – bore twins Perez and Zerah through immoral behaviour (Genesis 38:6-30)
- Rahab – a Canaanite prostitute who turned and believed in God, and helped hide Joshua’s spies when they came to evaluate the fighting force of Jericho (Joshua 2:9-13)
- Ruth – a Moabite woman (Ruth 1:4). The Moabites were a cursed people (Deuteronomy 23:3-5)
- The wife of Uriah – Matthew doesn’t mention her by her own name, but by the fact that she was Uriah’s wife – because he was the man David had murdered so that he could have his wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). Solomon, the great wise king if Israel, was born to David by Bathsheba.
Not that the other people in the list were without faults and failures of their own, but that God allowed for people such as these to be part of the lineage and bloodline of the man Jesus Christ shows that God doesn’t choose the worthy who are already clean, but lavishes grace on the unworthy and makes them clean through the blood of Christ.
All in all, Matthew traces 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 generations from David to Israel’s exile in Babylon, and 14 generations from the exile to the birth of Christ. Matthew here shows that none of the fulfillment of these things has happened by chance. God has always had a purpose in history, and even now Jesus Christ is reigning over human history and bringing his purposes to fulfillment.
His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom and His throne is established forever.
Jesus is the promised King, whose everlasting Kingdom has come and who reigns even now over the whole world. He is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises and came to take away the sins of the world, so that by grace all who believe in Him will be saved.
What does it say about GOD?
- God is sovereign. Every event in human history served God’s ultimate purpose to bring His Son into the world to live and die and be raised again for our salvation. He reigns over all the earth forever, and is even now working all things together in fulfillment of His Word.
- God is gracious. He took the initiative to come to Abraham and David, making covenant with His people and providing for their salvation through His Son, though none are deserving or worthy.
- God is just. God does not sweep sin under the carpet. He is able to justify and forgive unworthy sinners because our debt has been settled on the cross. God provided for our salvation by dealing with our sin in Jesus as He hung on the cross, bearing our guilt.
What does it say about US?
- None are good / worthy. Even in the genealogy of Jesus Himself we find men and women who sinned in grievous ways.
- We are all sinners. Every one of us have sinned, whether in thought or deed, in the same or worse ways than those whose deeds we criticize in the Scriptures.
- We are at God’s mercy. Were it not for God’s grace and mercy in seeking sinners and taking the initiative, we would be without hope of salvation.
What does it say about the GOSPEL?
- God has provided for our salvation in Jesus Christ. Since God is just, He does not allow the guilty to go unpunished (Exodus 34:6-7). Since we have all sinned, God’s justice demands that we should be held accountable and pay the price of our sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). Jesus dealt with this by volunteering Himself in our place, taking upon Himself our sin and suffering in our place the discipline of the Father (2 Samuel 7:14-15).Thus, God is able to forgive those for whom Jesus died, and He remains just in doing so (their debt has been paid).
- Salvation is received by faith. Abraham was counted as righteous because he believed God (Genesis 15:6). Nobody can earn salvation through good deeds or obedience. Our salvation is only possible through the death and resurrection of our gracious Saviour, and is received by us through faith. Without faith, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6) and remain in our sin and under God’s wrath (John 3:36).
- The worst sinners can be saved. As we look through the genealogy of Jesus, we see God’s grace on display. There is no sinner too bad that God cannot save him / her.
What must I DO?
- Believe the gospel. We are counted as righteous by God through faith alone. Do not trust in your works or your obedience – they will never be enough to save you.
- Repent of sin. The gospel is not the good news that all are saved, but that all the believing are saved. The believing love the Lord and hate their sin, desiring to put to death their old evil habits. The gospel is the good news of salvation for even the worst of sinners, but the gospel does not leave sinners unchanged. The believer who has received salvation also receives the Holy Spirit and a new heart that desires to please God (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
- Trust the Lord. Jesus is King, His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, and His throne is established forever. His Kingdom has come – it is both already here and not yet here, but even now Jesus is ruling over the authorities and powers of this world to bring His purposes to fulfillment. This is good news for His followers, who share in His inheritance!