At first, the opening verses of Matthew might seem boring or even irrelevant. What’s in a name? Why do we need to bother reading this long list of names? Can’t we just skip it and go on to the good stuff? But all of God’s Word was written down for our instruction and is profitable for us (Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 10:11, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Let’s study the genealogy of Jesus to see what we can learn from it.
With every Bible study we will follow the same process, asking the same questions of the text. This is one memorable and practical way to read the Bible for understanding and application. As you answer the questions and make observations, be careful not to assume anything. We have a tendency to insert our own ideas or draw conclusions that sound logical to us but aren’t in the text. The aim of this exercise is to only observe what Matthew is actually saying. If someone makes an observation that is not clearly in the text, ask them to elaborate on where they have found their observation. Try to develop the habit of only listening to what the text is saying.
WHAT DOES IT SAY?
Read Matthew 1:1-17 together.
1.1 WHAT IS THE CONTEXT?
Your reading of the Introduction to Matthew will help with some of the historical context. Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience, hoping to convince them that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, who God promised would come to save His people.
1.2 ANALYSE THE FLOW OF THOUGHT
Matthew begins his book by announcing it as “the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ”. Matthew’s first point of order is to show us something about Jesus’ bloodline and who He is descendant from in the natural sense – in a human sense. He refers to Jesus first as “the son of David” and “the son of Abraham”, but not because they are his father and grandfather. David and Abraham are two major figures in Israel’s history and in the story of the Bible. There is something significant, something important about these two men from whom Jesus is descended.
Matthew then begins in verse 2 to trace the bloodline of Jesus, starting with Abraham. Abraham’s son was Isaac, Isaac’s son was Jacob, Jacob’s son was Judah, etc. The sentence comes to an end with “David the king”. He then starts again with David and lists his descendants – David’s son was Solomon, Solomon’s son was Rehoboam, etc. He continues until he gets to Jechoniah, where he mentions that he lived at the time of Israel’s “deportation to Babylon”. Then he carries on again from Jechoniah’s son Shealtiel through to Joseph, the husband of Mary, “of whom Jesus was born”. So Matthew has given us the line of Jesus going back to David and to Abraham, showing that he is descended from these two major Old Testament figures.
In verse 17, Matthew makes an interesting observation and statement. He points out that there were exactly 14 generations from Abraham to David (between the two important men Matthew has named in Jesus’ bloodline), 14 generations from David to when Israel was deported to Babylon (a significant point in Israel’s history), and 14 generations from the deportation to the birth of Jesus. Matthew is showing Jesus’ genealogy has a particular pattern and is by divine design, not by mere coincidence.
1.4 LOOK FOR REPETITIONS AND CHECK REFERENCES
The most significant repetitions are the repeat of the phrase “the father of”, tracing the bloodline of Jesus from Abraham, and the repeat of the “14 generations” in verse 17.
When we check references, we find the following interesting and significant connections:
Verse 1: “the son of David”
- Read 2 Samuel 7:12-16
- Read Isaiah 9:6-7
- Read Jeremiah 23:5
These passages of Scripture show that God promised to raise up a descendant of David who would be a king and who would rule over his kingdom forever.
- Read Acts 2:22-36 (Peter speaking)
- Read Acts 13:16-23 (Paul speaking)
- Read Revelation 22:16
These passages of Scripture show that both Peter and Paul applied the Old Testament promises to David that we have just read, to Jesus. They taught that Jesus is the promised king from David’s line. Jesus also called Himself the “descendant of David”.
Matthew has referred to Jesus first as “the son of David” in his genealogy, in order to point out that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to David and that He is the promised king.
Verse 1: “the son of Abraham”
- Read Genesis 12:1-3
- Read Genesis 22:17-18
These passages show that God made a promise to Abraham that from his offspring, God would make a great nation and the world would be blessed.
- Read Galatians 3:16
Paul is explains here that God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled in Jesus. It is through Jesus that God will bless the world, and that is why Matthew specifically calls Jesus “the son of Abraham” in his introduction.
Matthew is making the strong point in his introduction that God’s promises to both David and to Abraham were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the king whose kingdom will never end, and through whom all the world would be blessed.
Verse 2: Isaac and Jacob
- Read Genesis 17:19
- Read Genesis 26:2-5
- Read Isaiah 41:8
God chose to fulfill His promise to Abraham through Isaac’s line rather than Ishmael’s, and Jacob’s line rather than Esau’s.
Verse 5: Rahab
- Read Joshua 6:22-25
- Read Hebrews 11:31
Rahab was a Gentile (not an Israelite) and a prostitute. Still, God used her for good, and she was saved through her faith in God.
Verse 6: Solomon
- Read 1 Kings 1:28-31
Solomon became the nation of Israel’s wisest and most successful leader and king.
Verse 6: Uriah
- Read 2 Samuel 11:2-4
- Read 2 Samuel 11:14-17
Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba, but Matthew doesn’t list her by her name; rather, he refers to her as “the wife of Uriah”. Matthew is highlighting the fact that Solomon came from a union that was sinful from the beginning. While Bathsheba was still married to Uriah the Hittite, David had her brought to his room and he committed adultery with her. To make things worse, he then ordered her husband Uriah to be sent to the front line of battle so that he would be killed, so that David could have Bathsheba.
Verse 11: the deportation to Babylon
- Read 2 Kings 24:1-17
Israel had a long history of idolatry and many kings who had turned away from God to worship other gods. God sent many prophets to warn them to repent and turn back to Him, but they didn’t listen. Just as God had warned, Israel was judged by God for their idolatry and taken captive. The nation of Babylon attacked and overtook Jerusalem, and the people of Israel were taken into captivity.
One might expect the genealogy and bloodline of the promised Messiah and King to be a line of only the best, most morally pure and honorable people. The people of Israel certainly might have expected him to come from a line of pure Jewish blood, as they saw the Gentiles as godless and unclean people. Yet, as we look through Jesus’ genealogy, we see a line of people who had all sinned in some serious ways against God. There were Gentiles, a prostitute, an adulterer and murderer, some good kings, some terrible kings, and kings so evil that instead of leading their people in righteousness, they ignored God’s warnings and led their people in continued idolatry and eventual judgment and captivity.
1.3 WHAT PROBLEMS NEED TO BE SOLVED?
Problems that we would look for are any words, phrases or aspects of the text that we don’t understand. In this passage, we may have observed that Matthew lists each generation as father and son – example, “Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac was the father of Jacob, Jacob was the father of Judah, etc. – but when he comes to Solomon, he lists his genealogy differently. He says “David was father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah”. Why would Matthew mention who Solomon’s mother was? Why would Matthew refer to her as “the wife of Uriah” instead of using her name, Bathsheba?
As we have already seen above, when Matthew gives some more detail in this list instead of just “so-and-so was the father of so-and-so”, there is something important that Matthew is highlighting that his audience – the Jews – would have understood. In the above case, Matthew is highlighting the event of David’s idolatry with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, which gives us some insight into the nature of Jesus’ overall genealogy.
If you get stuck, you can consult a commentary or a study Bible.
1.5 SUMMARIZE THE AUTHOR’S MAIN POINT
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and to David, that through their offspring would come One who would be a king who would rule an everlasting kingdom, and through Whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. His kingdom is not being built through the righteousness or faithfulness of people, but through the faithfulness of God, who always keeps His promises.
WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT GOD?
C. WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT GOD’S CHARACTER?
- God is sovereign. God made promises, and the history of Jesus’ genealogy (14 generations, 14 generations, 14 generations) shows that everything was under God’s control and direction. God made promises and chose how He would fulfill them. He chose to fulfill His promise through Isaac rather than Ishmael, and through Jacob rather than Esau, and that while they were still babies and hadn’t done anything righteous or deserving.
- God is faithful. He kept His promises to Abraham and to David in spite of the unfaithfulness of His people.
- God is gracious. Even though David had committed serious sins in the eyes of the Lord, God still blessed him and called him “a man after my own heart”. He even chose to use Rahab, a prostitute, in the line of Jesus. He chose to fulfill the promise through Isaac and Jacob, though they were still babies and hadn’t done anything worthy or deserving.
- God is gracious to all people groups. God promised to bless all the nations – not just Israel – through the coming king. There were even Gentiles in Jesus’ bloodline.
- God is holy and just. He commanded His people to live righteously, and when they rebelled against Him, He punished them by allowing them to be taken into captivity. However, He still kept His promises for His own glory.
C. WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT GOD’S CONDUCT?
- God is building His kingdom. God kept His promises to David and Abraham, and we can be sure that He will continue to keep His promises to the end. Jesus’ kingdom will last forever, and He is still building His kingdom. His kingdom is made up of all kinds of people groups, nations, ethnicities and tribes.
C. WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT GOD’S COMMANDS?
- God is holy, and He commands us to be holy. To reject God’s commands and to live in sin brings serious consequences. There were serious consequences for Israel’s idolatry.
WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT US?
C. WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT WHAT GOD CREATED US TO BE?
- God created us to be a kingdom of righteous and holy people, with Him as our sovereign King
C. WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT OUR CONDITION, CHARACTER & CONDUCT?
- Even the best men among the nation of Israel – men like Abraham and king David – were sinful men. David in particular was called a man after God’s heart, and yet as great a king and leader as he was, he still committed serious sins against God and against people.
- God’s chosen people – Israel – had seen so many miracles and amazing works of God, and yet they still turned to worship other gods.
- God sent so many prophets to turn the kings of Israel away from their sin and idolatry and turn back to Him, but they refused.
- All of us are born as sinners, and as a result we all turn so easily toward idols. Even when we have experienced God’s hand in our lives and have no excuse, we still don’t surrender our whole lives to Him.
- We are just like the Israelites. We might not worship stone or clay idols, but we do prioritize so many things higher than our worship of God – things like sport, money, business success, etc.
- Even though we know who God is, we still disobey His law.
WHAT HAS GOD DONE?
- God made a promise to build His kingdom, with Jesus as King reigning forever.
- God kept His promise to Abraham and David, He is still keeping it today and will continue to keep it until Jesus comes.
- God is keeping His promises in spite of our unfaithfulness and failings.
- God sent His Son Jesus to live the holy and righteous life that we never could.
- Jesus came live for us and to die for our sins to adopt us into His kingdom.
- Jesus can save the worst of the worst – adulterers, murderers, prostitutes, etc.
WHAT MUST I DO?
- Praise God for His grace, to make a promise of blessing and prosperity to people He knew would not be able to live up to His holy standard.
- Praise God for His faithfulness to keep His promise, and for sending Jesus to take away our sins.
- Consider all the ways I prioritize other things in order to avoid spending time in the Word and in prayer.
- Consider the things I spend most of my day thinking about, dreaming about, and spending money on. These are my idols.
- Confess the sin of idolatry in my life and ask God to forgive me and change my priorities.
- Believe that Jesus came to die to take away my sin, and that trusting in Him is the only way I can be saved.
- Revisit my priorities and plan my schedule around my time with the Lord.
- Set aside time each day to read the Bible and pray, and lead my family to do the same.