Commentary on Matthew

- Chapter One -


Jesus’ Genealogical Credentials as Heir of the World and the Davidic Throne.

1 - The book of the generation of Jesus Christ,

The identical phrase the book of the generation occurs in Genesis 5:1, where it introduces a list of Adam's descendants beginning with Seth through nine generations, to Shem, Ham, and Jepheth, the sons of Noah (Gen. 5:32). The table is not a comprehensive list of Adam's descendants, but represents the sacred seed-line through which God would bring the Redeemer into the world. Following the fall of our first ancestors, God promised to save his people and defeat the power of sin and death:  

"And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Gen. 3:14-16 

This promise, called the protevangelium, is the earliest announcement of the gospel of Christ. The woman stands for the people of God, the faithful seed embodied in by the covenant community. The serpent is the enemy of God's people, first and foremost, the power of sin and death, but by extension, the sons of disobedience, which persecuted the people of God, particularly as these came to be identified in the opposing world civil power (Rome and the rulers of the Jews). The promised seed is Christ. Bruising the heal of Christ describes the sting of the serpent's bite in Jesus' crucifixion; bruising (crushing) the head of the serpent describes Christ's complete victory over the power of sin and death in his cross and glorious resurrection. It also foretells of Jesus putting his enemies (the Jews and Romans) beneath his feet in the events that which witnessed the Roman civil wars and the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome (A.D. 68-70). 

By using language recalling the book of Adam's sacred heirs, Matthew signifies that the seed-line of man's salvation culminates in the birth of Jesus Christ. 

the son of David, the son of Abraham. 

The genealogical descent of the sacred seed-line from Adam to the sons of Noah resumes in Gen. 10:10-32, which gives an account of the descendants of Shem to Abraham (nine generations). The heirs to the promise are usually, though not invariably, firstborn sons. The election, by which the promise descended, was according to God's sovereign choice, and "not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy" (Rom. 9:16). Sometimes the descent occurred under circumstances specifically designed to show that the work of man's salvation belonged to God. Isaac was born to Abraham when he was past the age of generation and his own body was "now dead" (Rom. 4:19). Other times, the descent appears to have been according to the foreknowledge of God, who foresaw the profane nature of the firstborn son (Cain/Esau), and thus gave the blessing to a younger sibling who was morally disposed to the obedience of faith (Abel/Seth/Abraham/Jacob). The promise of a kinsman redeemer given to Adam and Eve in the garden funneled down to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then to the tribe of Judah and finally the house of David, the king.  David was the youngest of seven brothers and was chosen because he was a man after God's own heart (I Sam. 13:14; 16:7; Ps. 89:20; Acts 13:22).  

Matthew places the names of David and Abraham at the head of his genealogical account because these two names sum up in an instant the distinct claims of Christ: As son of David he was heir to the Davidic throne; as the son of Abraham he was the promised seed who was heir of the world (Rom. 4:13). 

2 - Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren. 

Luke (e.g., Lucas abbreviated from Lucanus) was a Gentile and addressed his gospel to a Gentile named Theophilus (Lk. 1:3; Acts 1:1). It is therefore natural in giving the genealogy of Christ that Luke traced Jesus' descent to Adam, showing his common humanity with the whole race of men and that he is the Savior of all mankind. Matthew, however, was a Jew and composed his gospel as we might expect a Jew, concerned to demonstrate how Jesus fulfilled the promises of which the Jewish nation was steward (cf. Rom. 9:4). Matthew therefore confines himself to proof of Jesus' descent from Abraham. The first series of names covers four generations, from Abraham to Judah and his brethren.[1] The phrase and his brethren will occur again in v. 11, but to a different purpose. Here the point serves to underscore the twelve tribes, which took their start from Jacob's sons.  

Judah was not the first born son of Jacob; Ruben was, but lost his birthright by defiling his father's bed (Gen. 35:22; 49:4; I Chron. 5:1). The birthright and double portion of the father's estate Jewish custom set aside for the firstborn went instead to Joseph (Gen. 43:22; cf. Deut. 21:15-17); the seed-line of the promised Savior, however, was transferred to Judah, perhaps because of the selfless nobility with which he intervened with Joseph and offered himself in place of his brother Benjamin (Gen. 44:18-34). We learn of the transference of the blessing to Judah from Jacob's blessing of his son's shortly before his death: 

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Gen. 49:10 

The term Shiloh is an epithet for the Messiah and means he that shall be sent.[2] Jacob thus prophesied that the royal scepter would come to the tribe of Judah, and there remain until Christ. 

3 - And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esron; and Esrom begat Aram. 

Judah had five sons by two women, of whom Pharez and Zarah were numbers four and five. Rebekah had twins, yet she is not named nor is Esau; only Jacob is mentioned by Matthew. The specific mention of Tamar and the twins she bore is not necessary to Matthew's genealogy, and can only serve to direct attention to the moral stain associated with the children's conception (Gen. 38). Out of forty-two generations given by Matthew, only four provide the mother's name, and each of these was marked with the opprobrium of sin. Some were of foreign extraction and presumably had been worshippers of idols; others were implicated in adultery, harlotry, and incest. Notwithstanding their offences, we may number these women among the righteous, and if the specific mention of their names calls attention to their failings, it is not to condemn them, but to recommend us to the grace of God, by showing that even the most sordid sinners can find a place in the family of God where they come to him in true faith and repentance. 

Israel entered into Egypt while Hezron was a child (Gen. 46:12). Hence, the genealogy here reaches to the first generation of children born in Egypt. 

4 - And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naason; and Naason begat Salmon. 

Abraham was seventy five when he entered Canaan (Gen. 12:4). He was one hundred years old when Isaac was born (Gen. 21:5); a difference of twenty-five years. Isaac was sixty years old when Jacob was born (Gen. 25:26). Jacob was one hundred thirty years old when he entered Egypt (Gen. 47:9). Hence, there were two hundred fifteen years from Abraham's entering Canaan until Jacob entered Egypt (25 + 60 + 130 = 215). There were four hundred thirty years from Abraham entering Canaan to the Exodus from Egypt (Ex. 12:40, 51; Gal. 3:16, 17). These four hundred thirty years are therefore evenly divided between two hundred fifteen years from when Abraham entered Canaan until Jacob entered Egypt, and two hundred fifteen years from entering Egypt until the Exodus.  So Josephus:

"They left Egypt in the month Xanthicus, on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt" Ant. II, xv, 2

God told Abraham that his seed would be servants in a strange land and come out in the fourth generation (Gen. 15:13-16). Nahshon is listed as one of the heads of the tribes of Judah at the Exodus (Num. 1:7). If numbered from Hezron, who was a child when the tribes entered, this group of names would represent the four generations of Israel's sojourn in Egypt. 

5, 6 - And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse. And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias. 

The chief difficulty of these verses is the distance of time spanned by six generations. Solomon began building the temple in the four-hundred-eightieth year after the children of Israel came out of Egypt (I Kng. 6:1). Assuming he was about 30 years old when he began construction, this would mean Solomon was born about four and a half centuries after the Exodus. Given the size of this expanse, it has been usual to suppose that the list has suffered abridgement and that several names have dropped out. However, if it has suffered abridgment, it did so at a very early stage and not by the hand of Matthew, since the identical genealogy is given by the book of Ruth (Ruth 4:18-21). However, it argues for the completeness of the record that Caleb at age eighty-five was as strong as he was at forty and able to go to war (Josh. 14:10, 11), and that Abraham begat Ishmael when he was eighty-six and married again and begat six sons more after the death of Sarah when he was over one hundred (Gen. 16:16; 25:1-3). The body's natural strength and vitality was therefore much greater at this time, so that men and women bearing children into their eighties or older is not at all improbable. 

It is remarkable that, in mentioning David and Solomon, the two principal types of the Messiah, there should also occur the names of women whose mention calls to mind our fallenness and sin. By woman sin entered into the world; and by woman came the Redeemer of mankind. 

7 - And Solomon 

Matthew introduces his genealogy saying, "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David." The first son of David in the kingly line was Solomon; Jesus Christ was the last. After David, Solomon is the leading type and foreshadow of Christ. God promised David: 

"And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son." II Sam. 7:12-14 

Here we find God's promise that Christ would come from the seed of David, that God would be his father, and that his throne and kingdom (dominion) would last forever. In their immediate historical context, these promises found a certain fulfillment in Solomon, whose greatness, wealth, and wisdom prefigured Christ, who was their ultimate object. Israel under Solomon was the world power of the day. Egypt was in decline, and Assyria had not yet risen to world prominence; Solomon was king of kings and lord of lords: 

"All the kings of Arabia and the governors of the country brought gold and silver to Solomon…and all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God put in his heart"…And he reigned over all the kings from the river even unto the land of the Philistine, and to the border of Egypt." (II Chron. 9:14, 23, 26; cf. Ps. 72). 

The typological nature of Solomon's reign, and the prediction that the Messiah would reign "unto the ends of the earth" (Ps. 72:8; cf. Dan. 7:27), caused Jewish expectation to see Christ as a national liberator, who would sit on David's throne in earthly Jerusalem, vanquish Israel's enemies, and raise her to world power. On one occasion, this misapprehension led the Jews to attempt take Jesus by force and make him king (Jn. 6:15). But this very much mistook the case: Christ's kingdom (dominion) is not of this world (Jn. 18:36); his rule is from the right hand of God in heaven, which he received at his ascension.  He rules the nations with a rod of iron (Act 2:33; I Pet. 3:22; Ps. 2:9; Rev. 2:26, 27; 12:5). 

begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa. 

David reigned forty years over Israel and Judah, as did Solomon after him (I King 2:11; 11:42). Rehoboam reigned seventeen years over Judah, for in his days the kingdom was divided (II Chron. 10:19; 13:1). Abaijah reigned three years over Judah (II Chron. 13:2). Asa died in the forty-first of his reign over Judah (II Chron. 16:13). The reigns of David through Asa thus fulfilled one hundred forty-one years. 

8 - And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias. 

This verse presents a gap in the succession of kings and Matthew's genealogy. Jehoshaphat reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem (II Chron. 20:31); his son, Jehoram, reigned eight years (II Chron. 21:5). The genealogy then skips to Uzziah, omitting three kings: Ahaziah, the youngest son of Jehoram, who reigned only one year (II Chron. 22:1, 2); Joash, who reigned forty years (II Chron. 24:1); and Amaziah, who reigned twenty-nine years (II Chron. 25:1). In between Ahaziah and Joash, Athaliah, the queen mother, reigned six years (II Chron. 22:12). This verse thus covers a period of one hundred nine years.  

The omission of these kings involves neither deception nor error, but probably reflects a Jewish convention that was loath to give their names in the succession of the kings of Judah, because of their connection with the house of Ahab. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, made affinity with Ahab, king of Israel, by marrying his son, Jehoram, to Athaliah, Ahab's daughter (II Chron. 18:1; 21:6).[3] Ahab and his wife Jezebel were unparalleled in wickedness among the rulers of Israel, even persecuting the prophets and Elijah (I Kng. 18:13). God thus said he would cut off the house and posterity of Ahab (I Kng. 21:21; II Kng. 9:8). When, therefore, Jehu executed judgment upon the house of Ahab, Ahaziah was slain also (II Kng. 9:27, 28; II Chron. 22:7-9). And because the iniquity of the fathers is visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those that hate the Lord (Ex. 20:5), the names of Joash and Amaziah apparently are blotted from memory also. 

9 - And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias.  

Ozias is the Greek spelling of Uzziah; Uzziah reigned fifty-two years (II Chron. 26:3). Jotham reigned sixteen years (II Chron. 27:1). Ahaz reigned sixteen years (II Chron. 28:1), and Hezekiah reigned twenty-nine years (II Chron. 29:1). This verse thus spans the period of one hundred thirteen years. It was during the reigns of these kings that Isaiah prophesied (Isa. 1:1), and we first read of the Assyio-Babylonian invasions. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, the ten northern tribes were carried in captivity by the Assyians (II Kng. 17:1, 6; II Kng. 18:9, 10). The Assyrians also invaded Judah and took many of the fenced cities, but when they attempted to besiege Jerusalem, they were smitten by the Lord and one hundred eighty-five thousand Assyrians died of the plague (Isa. 37:36). It was during the reign of Ahaz that the prophecy of the virgin birth of the Savior was made (Isa. 7:14; cf. Matt. 1:23). It is sometimes supposed that this prophecy had Hezekiah as it immediate, historical object, but this cannot be. Hezekiah was twenty-five when he began to reign, following his father's reign of sixteen years. Hence, Hezekiah was fully nine years old when Ahaz obtained the kingdom. Isaiah's prophecy of a child yet to be born therefore cannot refer to Hezekiah. However, as the prophecy does appear to have had an immediate, historical application relevant to the invasion of Judah and Jerusalem by Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king of Israel, as a sign that the Lord would deliver Judah (Isa. 7:1-9; cf. II Kng. 16:5), the better view is that Isaiah's child was in immediate in view (cf. Isa. 8:3, 18; see also comments at v. 23). 

10 - And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias.  

Manesseh reigned fifty-five years (II Chron. 33:1). Amon reigned two years (II Chron. 33:21). Josiah reigned thirty-one years (II Chron. 34:1). From Manasseh through Josiah thus covers a period of eighty-eight years. 

11 - And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon. 

Josiah had four sons: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah, and Shallum. Jehoahaz was carried into captivity and died in Egypt without issue (II Kng. 23:33, 34; II Chron. 36:3, 4); the sons of Zedekiah were slain leaving no male issue (II Kng. 25:1-7; II Chron. 36:11-21; Jer. 52:1-11); and Shallum apparently had no male issue at all (see I Chron. 3:15). Jehoiakim had one son, Jehoiachin (Coniah). Even though all of Josiah's sons, with the exception of Shallum, reigned as king, descent of the seed-royál fell to Jehoiakim, because he alone had issue that survived. The succession following Josiah until the carrying away into Babylon is as follows: 



Length of Reign






31 years


Slain in battle by Pharaoh Necho 



3 months


Carried by Pharaoh Necho into captivity in Egypt where he died without male issue. 



11 years


Rebelled against Babylonians; was executed by Nebuchadnezzar, who made Jehoiakim's son, Jehoiachin (Coniah), king instead. 

Jehoiachin (Coniah, Jeconiah):


3 months, 10 days


Carried into captivity in Babylon; Nebuchadnezzar made Zedekiah, Jehoiachin's uncle, his father Jehoiakim's brother, king instead. 



11 years


Rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, was captured, his sons slain without issue, and was carried captive into Egypt. 


Since three out of four of Josiah's sons reigned as king, when Matthew says Josiah begat Jeconiah and his brethren about the time they were carried away into Babylon, it seems clear it is Jehoiakim and his brethren that are actually referred to. This is especially evident when it is borne in mind that Jeconiah was the only son of his father and had no brethren. The question thus becomes, why is Jeconiah named in place of his father Jehoiakim? We believe it is because Jehoiakim is numbered among the execrated kings of Judah whose names convention forbade mention. 

Jehoiakim “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (II Kng. 23:37). In the beginning of his reign, Jeremiah prophesied that all nations would be brought under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar; those nations that did not submit willingly would be carried into captivity, but those that did would be allowed to remain in their land (Jer. 27:1-11). Jehoiakim responded to Jeremiah’s prophecies by burning them and ordering the prophet to be arrested (Jer. 36:1-26). Because of Jehoiakim’s wickedness and rebellion, God swore that he would be slain and have the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem, his body left to the elements, and that none of his seed would reign upon the throne of David in Jerusalem (Jer. 22:18-30; cf. 36:30). Jehoiakim's fate was similar to Jezabel's, whose body was eaten by dogs and was like "dung upon the face of the field" (II Kng. 9:30-37). Jewish convention thus appears to have forbade mention of Jehoiakim in the succession of Judah's kings; hence, his son, Jeconiah is named in his place. 

12 - And after they were brought to Babylon,  

Beginning with the Babylonian captivity, Judea was under the dominion of Gentile nations, set under tribute, and garrisoned by foreign armies; the nation was trod underfoot by successive Gentile powers, Babylon, Mede-Persia, Greece, and finally, Rome. Isaiah thus cried, "O Lord our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us" (Isa. 26:13). And the Psalmist lamented that God had profaned David's crown "casting it to the ground. Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin…Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground" (Ps. 89:39, 44). This condition prevailed for almost six hundred years. Not until Christ would the Davidic throne again have an occupant, and then, not on earth, but from the right hand of God in heaven (Acts 2:33; Heb. 1:3; 10:12, 13; I Pet. 3:22). This was according to the word of the prophet Ezekiel, who stated that the Davidic crown would perish from Judah until Christ arrived to claim it: 

"And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, thus saith the Lord God: Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same. Exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him." Ezek. 21:25-27 

From the Babylonian captivity until the birth of Christ, the house of David was like a tree cut down, leaving only a stump. But the root of Jesse would put forth a rod and bud:

"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;  And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." Isa. 1:1-5

Jechonias begat Salathiel;

Matthew has arranged his genealogical account in three sets of fourteen generations (v. 17). Jeconiah appeared in place of his father above, and a Jeconiah appears again here. However, these are not the same man; otherwise, Matthew would be guilty of counting the same man twice, negating his scheme of three sets of fourteen generations. The Jeconiah of this verse is actually Zedekiah, the son of Jeconiah. This is clear from the genealogy of I Chronicles:

"And the sons of Josiah were, the firstborn Johannan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. And the sons of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son. And the sons of Jeconiah, Assir, Salathiel his son, Malchiram also, and Pedaiah, and Shenazar, Jecamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah."  I Chron. 3:15-18

Here we see that the succession of the seed-royál followed Josiah, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, Zedekiah, and Salathiel. But where we would expect Zedekiah to be named in the generation following Jeconiah, the son of Jehoiakim, the name Jeconiah appears a second time instead. But this must be understood as Zedekiah by another name and not the same man twice, for it was common among the kings and royal family to have more than one name. Thus, Johoahaz is called Johannan and Shallum (I Chron. t1:time Hour="15" Minute="15" w:st="on">3:15; Jer. 22:11); Johoiakim is called Zedekiah (Jer. 27:1, 3); and Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, is called Mattaniah (II Kng. 24:14). A further difficulty arises in the fact that, where Matthew has Salathiel as the son of Jeconiah (Zedekiah), Luke has Salathiel as the son of Neri or Neriah (Lk. 3:27). But this may be explained by a levirate marriage[4], in which Neri died childless and it fell to Zedekiah to father a son by marrying his near kinsman's widow.

and Salathiel begat Zorobabel.

There is an apparent discrepancy between Matthew and Chronicles. Matthew says Zerubbabel was the son of Salathiel, but Chronicles say he was the son of Pedaiah.

And the sons of Jeconiah, Assir, Salathiel his son, Malchiram also, and Pedaiah, and Shenazar, Jecamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah. And the sons of Pedaiah were, Zerubbabel, and Shimei: and the sons of Zerubbabel, Meshullam, and Hannaniah, and Shelomith their sister: And Hashubah, and Ohel, and Berechiah, and Hasadiah, Jushabhesed, five."  I Chron. 3:17-20

The solution here again doubtless is a levirate marriage, in which Pedaiah died without issue and Salathiel married his brother's widow, similar to Boaz who married Ruth, so that Chronicles attributes Zerubbabel to Pediahah, but Matthew gives the name Salathiel instead. Matthew is corroborated by Ezra, the prophet Haggai, and Luke, who also call Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel (Ezra 3:2; 5:2; Haggai 1:1,14; 2:2; Lk. 3:27). 

13 - And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor. 

Zerubbabel was the governor who, together with Joshua the high priest, brought again the captivity out of Babylon to Judea and undertook rebuilding the temple (Ezra 2:1, 2; 3:2, 8). Zechariah prophesied about Zerubbabel and Joshua under the character of two olive trees ("anointed ones"), which provided oil to a golden lampstand with seven lamps. In its historical context, the vision refers to the work of rebuilding the temple and spiritual light of the nation, but it is probable that the vision looks beyond its immediate circumstances unto the Messiah. If so, the lampstand would seem to represent Christ (cf. Zech. 3:8, 9 and 4:10), and the two olive trees to signify that the two families of Joshua and Zerubbabel would combine and bring forth the Messiah (Zech. 4; cf. Jer. 33:17-18 where union of David and Levi in the person Christ is suggested). That Jesus carried in his veins the blood of both David and Aaron is suggested by the fact that Mary, Jesus' mother, was the cousin of Elizabeth, who is called a daughter of Aaron (Lk. 1:5; 36).[5] 

The names following Zerubbabel in Chronicles disagree with those in Matthew. Chronicles attributes eight children to Zerubbabel, seven sons and one daughter: Meshullam, Hananiah, Shelomith (their sister), Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah, and Jushabhesed (I Chron. 3:19, 20). But where Matthew follows Abiud, Chronicles carries forward Zerubbabel's descendants through Hananiah. Since Chronicles does not mention Abiud, we may assume that he appears in Chronicles by another name (Jushabhesed?), and that Chronicles follows Hananiah because it was the leading family at the time, which later dying out, the succession fell to the line of Abiud. Indeed, virtually all the seeming discrepancies between Matthew, Luke, and the other genealogies of scripture may be attributed to either levirate marriage or the failure of one male line and its transference to another. 

14 - And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud. 

We here enter the intertestamental period between the close of the Old Testament canon and the opening of the New Testament. This was a period of prophetic silence, during which there were no prophets or prophetic utterances and heaven seemed shut up against man, as if to make the miracles of Christ and the apostles the more glorious and pronounced when once the heavens opened again, attesting that Jesus is the Son of God.  

15, 16 - And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Joseph the husband of  

Matthews says that Jacob begat Joseph, but Luke calls Joseph the son of Heli (Eli) (Lk. 3:23).  Matthew's genealogy traces the jus successionis, or right of succession, to the Davidic throne; hence, Matthew traces Jesus' royal descent through the kings of Judah and putative heirs to David's throne. On the other hand, Luke traces Jesus' descent through the family of Nathan, a lesser known son of David briefly mentioned in the Old Testament (II Sam. 5:14; I Chron. 3:5; 14:4). That the house of Nathan would be connected with the birth of the Messiah is alluded to by the prophet Zechariah in describing the death of Christ, saying, "the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart" (Zech. 12:12). These two lines touch briefly at Salathiel and Zerubbabel, and then part to meet again in Joseph. The way Jacob could beget Joseph and Joseph be also the son of Heli, is by Jacob marrying his kinsman's widow, preserving the seed of Heli. Luke's son of therefore does not contradict Matthew's begat.[6]  

Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. 

St. Paul said Jesus "was made of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:3; cf. Rev. 5:5; 22:16). Since Jesus had no earthly father, we must infer that Mary was of the house of David and that Christ was the seed of David by virtue of descent from her. However, in Jewish society, except as to the status of slaves (Ex. 21:1-4; cf. Gal. 4:21-26), illegitimate issue (Deut. 23:2), and children of concubines (Gen. 25:1-6), one's legal status was determined by the father. Thus, the promise that the Savior would be of the seed of David would normally require descent through the male, not female, line. But we are not here dealing with what is normal; the birth of Christ was to be a supernatural event. The protevangelium affirmed that the woman's seed would bruise the head of sin and death (Gen. 3:15), attributing seed to the woman and implying the virgin birth. But as the Jews did not understand any of this and looked for the Messiah to be a son of David by the male line, God made provision that Jesus have a father of the house of David. Both Matthew and Luke therefore provide Joseph's genealogy, and his paternity is attributed to Christ, if only to prevent the Jews from stumbling or taking offense. 

17 - So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations. 

Matthew enumerates three sets of fourteen generations ("tesseradecads") from Abraham until Christ. As we have seen, these are not strictly literal, but contain several omissions. They represent sets of mentionable (non-execrated) names, symmetrically arranged in equal parts to aid memorization - "three sets of fourteen, plus four" ( the four kings omitted being Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah, and Jehoiakim) -  the omission of certain names being understood and accepted by all in accordance with Jewish convention. The absolute reliability of Matthew's account of Jesus' descent and claim to the Davidic throne is admitted even by the Jews. Rabbi Ulla (circa A.D. 210) says "Jesus was exceptionally treated because of royal descent."[7] This royal descent was publicly known and acknowledged by the Romans in the time of Domitian, who gave orders for the execution of the royal family of David, but, having examined the grandsons of Jude, the brother of the Lord, dismissed them as harmless, simple folk.[8] 

If we tally the years until the birth of Christ, the sum of the above will be as follows: 

From the birth of Abraham to Israel's entering Egypt was……………………290 years

From entering Egypt until the Exodus was……...………………………….......….215 years

From the Exodus until the beginning of David's reign………….…………...…..552 years

From David until the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.).…………...……....…..452 years               

From the captivity until the birth of Christ (2 B.C.)………....…………………...584 years       

                                                                                                        Total…..2093 years    

 If we then add to this the period from Adam to Noah…………....……………..1056 years[9]

And from Noah to Abraham…...…………………………………………...............……952 years[10]

                                                                                                            Total…4101 years

 18 - Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise:  

Having provided an account of Jesus' genealogical descent and claim to the Davidic throne, Matthew proceeds to the circumstances of his birth, which, no less than his ancestral descent, give full evidence that Jesus is the Christ of prophetic promise. 

When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together,  

According to Jewish law and tradition, betrothal or espousal was equal to marriage in all points except consummation and sexual intimacy. The couple's espousal was solemnized by covenant and oath just as in a marriage ceremony, but instead of the nuptials following immediately, there was instead a betrothal period of approximately one year - enough time for the bride's purity to be demonstrated; for if she were pregnant with another man's child, it would become evident during this period. The couple did not cohabitate as is sometimes asserted, for if the bride was found to be pregnant, this would expose the husband to a charge that the child was in fact his own. And since impurity in the bride was equal to adultery and might be punished capitally, every precaution was made to preserve the bride's chastity from all suspicion and accusation. The shame and peril associated with the charge of being unchaste, which Mary freely undertook to bring Christ into the world, anticipated Jesus' shame in the cross, who "was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II Cor. 5:21). 

she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 

The details of Mary's conception are not provided. For these we must turn to Luke, who tells of the visitation of Gabriel and the Annunciation (Lk. 1:26-38). The appearance of Gabriel at the Annunciation is significant, for it was Gabriel who carried word to Daniel, placing the appearance of the Messiah within four hundred and ninety prophetic years from the rebuilding of Jerusalem following the captivity (Dan. 9:20-27). Hence, with the Annunciation, the kingdom of the Messiah and fulfillment of all prophetic utterance was at hand.  

19 - Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 

Legal standing to bring a charge of adultery seems to have belonged solely to the husband; the state appears to have had no jurisdiction or authority to prosecute a complaint in its own right where the husband decided not to act. The husband at his election might bring a public charge; punishment would then entail stoning at the door of her father's home, since while she was in his house she was under his coverture (authority and protection, as implied by the veil, I Cor. 11:1-16), and he must therefore share the blame for not having adequately safeguarded her purity and conduct  (Deut. 22:13-21). The guilty man was also to be put to death (Deut. 22:22). Or, the husband might put her away privately (Deut. 24:1-4). Guided by a sense of justice and proportion rather than the passions of anger and vengeance, the offense being against him alone and not of a public nature or scandal, Joseph determined that there was no sufficient reason to make of Mary a public example, and hence determined to divorce her privately. Joseph's compassion here anticipates the Lord's when confronted by his adversaries with the woman taken in adultery (Jn. 8:1-11). 

20 - But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 

The Davidic throne had been unoccupied for almost six hundred years; the house of David had fallen into the utmost meanness and poverty; his descendants reduced to country peasants and simple artisans; descent from David must have seemed a mere curiosity, an irrelevancy, just as it would be to claim today descent from a medieval monarch. Yet, the angelic announcement revives the hope of Israel for its promised Savior. Heaven has safeguarded the house and seed of David these long centuries for this very moment: the child Mary carries is from God and will fulfill his promise to David: "Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne" (Ps. 132:11; cf. II Sam. 7:12).  

21 - And she shall bring forth a son,  

The prophecy of Isaiah seems particularly appropriate here: 

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." Isa. 9:6, 7

 and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 

The name Jesus means "savior." It is the Greek form of the Aramaic Yeshua or the more familiar Anglicized version Joshua. The Holy Ghost chose to reveal the Savior to the Gentile world by the Greek name Jesus, even though his family would have known him by the Aramaic Yeshua. But as the Aramaic form would be a word without meaning to the Greek speaking world of the day, the Greek form was chosen to make clear that Christ's mission was to save man from sin.  

22, 23  - Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son,  

The virgin birth of Christ is firmly attested and an essential element of the Christian faith. When God created Adam, he made him in his own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26), which is best understood in terms of man's moral faculties and ability to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23). Man's ability to live above the flesh depended upon the indwelling of God's Spirit, breathed into man at his creation (Gen. 2:7). This indwelling and inspiration meant that man supernaturally inclined to the things of the Spirit. But with the fall of our first ancestors, the indwelling of the Spirit was lost, and man became subject to his carnal nature; he inclined naturally to the things of the flesh. Adam's children were made in his image and likeness after his fall (Gen. 5:3), and therefore did not inherit the original state and condition of goodness and innocence Adam was created with. Rather, they inherited his fallen, carnal nature. This does not mean, nor do we believe scripture teaches, that God imputed Adam's transgression to his heirs, or that babies and little children are in need of salvation. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son" (Ezek. 18:20). As children attain the moral faculties to know right from wrong, then and then alone do they come under condemnation for sin (Jm. 4:17; cf. Deut. 1:39). But the lesson of scripture and human experience is that all the descendants of Adam are by nature carnal, sold under sin, and will invariably and without exception follow the flesh and transgress God's positive law written man's own conscience. Hence, the apostle Paul thus declaims against himself  

"For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which  I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I…I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom. 7:14-25 

Here we have Paul's description of man's hopeless inability to satisfy the law, even though he consents that it is good and aspires to satisfy its demands. This is the unhappy lot of all Adam's natural descendants. Since man's Savior had to be the blameless and spotless Lamb of God, it is impossible that he should have been born into the world by normal procreative process; for if he had, he would have inherited our fallen nature, and suffered the same debilitating effects described by Paul. Hence, the virgin birth was essential to man's salvation and is therefore a foundational tenet of the Christian faith.  

Thus far the doctrinal basis underlying the virgin birth, what does the text and language of scripture state? There are two terms rendered virgin in the Old Testament; one implies virginity, the other expressly declares it. The term used by Isaiah is the Hebrew almah, which Strong's defines as "a lass, damsel, maid, or virgin." The common factor in all these is the subject's age, from which virginity is naturally implied. The other term is the Hebrew bethuwliym, which Strong's defines as "a virgin; sometimes (by continuation) a bride; also (fig.) a city or state: - maid, virgin." As between these two, the latter is the more specific. But Isaiah used almah, not bethuwliym, and this has given occasion for some to impugn the virgin birth, claiming that the prophecy affirms only that a young woman would conceive.  

The reason Isaiah used almah and not bethuwliym is that his prophecy had both an immediate historical application, and another that was messianic; the one was fulfilled in Isaiah's day, the other in Christ. Isaiah's prophecy of the virgin birth was given in the days of king Ahaz, when Judah and Jerusalem were threatened with invasion by Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king of Israel. However, God promised that their threatenings would come to nothing, and that within sixty-five years Israel would be broken and no longer a people (nation). The Lord then urged Ahaz to ask for a sign in assurance of this promise. Ahaz feigned an objection to asking a sign on the grounds that it was tempting the Lord (Isa. 7:1-13). God responded by saying he himself would give a sign:  

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings." Isa. 7:14-16

 Here we see that there is an unmistakable historical context the prophecy spoke to. Within the space of sixty-five years, the northern tribes would be carried into captivity and cease to be a nation; but before that, while as yet a child was still tender, Rezin and Pekah would be taken out of the way. This sign was fulfilled in Isaiah's son, Ma-her-shal-al-hash-baz. 

"And I went to the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Ma-her-shal-al-hash-baz. For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria." Isa. 8:3, 4

 The name Ma-her-shal-al-hash-baz means "in making speed to the spoil he hasteneth the prey" (marginal reading). Isaiah then states, "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion" (Isa. 8:18). Taken together, this argues strongly that the prophecy had an immediate context that was fulfilled when a virgin, a bride, married and bore a son, whose name pointed to the coming judgment upon Israel and Damascus. However, it is equally clear that there was a messianic dimension to the prophecy that looked ahead to Christ. Use of the Hebrew word almah allowed the prophecy to have this flexibility and dual application, which bethuwliym presumably could not. 

When we come to the New Testament, we find that Matthew translated the Hebrew almah by the Greek parqenoj. This is the Greek word for a virgin, and is the root of the word Parthenon, the Greek temple devoted to the virgin goddess, Dianna. Matthew follows the Septuagint, which also used the term parqenoj to translate Isa. 7:14. Thus, Jews several hundred years before Christ took almah, not in the sense of merely a young woman, but a virgin. Therefore, the virgin birth is firmly fixed in both doctrine and text.  

and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 

Here we find another aspect spread before us that gazes beyond Isaiah's son to the birth of Christ. The name given the child in Isa. 7:14 does not correspond with the child named Ma-her-shal-al-hash-baz, and is further evidence that the prophecy had a double signification. Ma-her-shal-al-hash-baz spoke distinctly to the historic situation confronting Judah and Ahaz; Immanuel looked ahead to the incarnate God. St. Paul says that Christ, though "being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and  was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:6, 7). The phrase "thought it not robbery to be equal with God" has perplexed many, and caused the translators of the Revised Standard Edition (RSV) to wrest the Greek to obtain what they supposed to be Paul's meaning (even if not his language). Hence the RSV renders the passage, saying, Christ "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped"; but this misses the point entirely. What Paul is saying instead is that Christ did not consider his equal part in the Godhead a thing gotten by robbery, properly requiring that it be laid aside. To the contrary, Christ's divinity was fully and properly his own, and his only compulsion to assume our humanity was that he might redeem us to God. "For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself" (II Cor. 5:19).   

24 - Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife. 

Setting aside all doubts and concerns about Mary's purity, Joseph obeys the Lord's command to take Mary as his wife. The divine message was not merely to give assurance to Joseph, or for Mary's sake and reputation. Joseph had a critical role to play in the divine plan, by lending his royal lineage and claim to the Davidic throne to Christ. Taking Mary as his wife also served to legitimize Jesus' birth in the public eye. Mary would have given birth whether Joseph married her or not, but Jesus' future ministry would have been greatly hindered if it was rumored that he was illegitimately conceived and born. It was necessary that the stainless and pure Lamb of God not seem to bear any blemish or mark of sin, which could not be the case without Joseph standing in as his earthly father. 

25 - And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son:

The natural inference of this verse is that Joseph and Mary engaged in normal conjugal relations following the birth of the Christ child. Although the word "till" does not require this conclusion, it seems unavoidable nevertheless as its inclusion would otherwise be meaningless. What purpose could be served in saying the couple did not have conjugal relations until the birth of Christ, if in fact they never had them at all? Numerous passages speak of Jesus' brothers and sisters in connection with Joseph his father and Mary his mother: 

"Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?" Matt. 13:55-56; cf. Mk. 6:3; Acts 1:12-14; Gal. 1:10

 Surely, the normal sense of passages such as these is that Mary went on to bear Joseph children, who were recognized by the community as Jesus' brothers and sisters by their common parents.  The notion that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were Joseph's children by a prior marriage has its roots in the second century, the pseudo-epigraphical book, The Protoevangelium of James, which is also the source of the notion that Mary was only twelve and Joseph and old man and widower when they were betrothed and Mary bore Jesus.[11] By the fourth century the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary had gained currency among Christian writers, and was eventually followed by the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and her Assumption into heaven; but none of these has ever had the least scriptural support. 

and he called his name JESUS. 

Naming the child usually occurred at the child’s circumcision, and was an event attended by close friends and family members (Lk. 1:58-63). The father’s naming the child would have also served as public ownership of paternity. Joseph’s naming the child indicates his adoption of Jesus, holding him out as his own.

[1] The Greek spelling of names found in the manuscripts is preserved by the translators; hence Judas = Judah.

[2] See Isa. 8:6 where Siloah or Siloh is rendered in the Septuagint apestalmenoj, sent fourth. Clarke in loc.

[3] Athaliah is called the daughter of Omri in II Chron. 22:2, but this is understood in the sense of a descendant (e.g., grand-daughter), in the same way that Jehoshaphat could be called the son of David (II Chron. 17:3). Ahab was the son of Omri (I Kng. 16:28).

[4] The term levirate is not from the tribe of Levi as is sometimes supposed, but from the Latin levir for "one's husband's brother."

[5] Succession followed the father. Mary's mother may have been of the house of Aaron and have married into the family of David, making Mary of the house of David, but the children of Mary's uncle, the brother of Mary's mother, Elizabeth's father, would be called after Aaron.

[6] See Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History where a letter by Julius Africanus proposed this very thing with slight variation, representing it to have been preserved by the desposyni, or descendants of the holy family (Eccl. Hist. I, vii).

[7] T.B. Sanhedren 43a, Amsterdam edition; cited by F.W. Farrar, the Gospel According to St. Luke (Cambridge, 18 82), p. 373.

[8] Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. III, xix, xx.

[9] Adam begat Seth when he was 130 (Gen. 5:3); Seth begat Enos when he was 105 (Gen. 5:6); Enos begat Cainan when he was 90 (Gen. 5:9); Cainan begat Mahalaleel when he was 70 (Gen. 5:12);  Mahalaleel begat Jered when he was 65 (Gen. 5:15); Jered begat Enoch when we was 162 (Gen. 5:18); Enoch begat Methuslelah when he was 65 (Gen. 5:21); Methuselah begat Lamech when he was 187 (Gen. 5:25); Lamech begat Noah when he was 182 (Gen. 5:28); the sum of which equals 1056 years.

[10] Noah was 500 when he begat Shem, Ham, and Jepheth (Gen. 5:32). The flood came in the 600th year of Noah's life, and prevailed for a full year and ten days (Gen. 7:11; 8:14). Shem was 100 when he begat Arphaxad two years after the flood (Gen. 11:10); Arphaxad was 35 when he begat Salah (Gen. 11:12); Salah was 30 years when he begat Eber (Gen. 11:14); Eber was 34 when he begat Peleg (Gen. 11:16); Peleg was 30 when he begat Reu (Gen. 11:18); Reu was 32 when he begat Serug (Gen. 11:20); Serug was 30 when he begat Nahor (Gen. 11:22); Nahor was 29 when he begat Terah the father of Abraham (Gen. 11:24). Terah was 70 when he “begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran” (Gen. 11:26). However, as Abraham was 75 when his father Terah died at the age of 205 (Gen. 11:32; 12:4), Terah would have 130 at Abraham's birth. Hence, Gen. 11:26 seems to contemplate Terah’s age when he had his first-born son, probably Haran, and not when all three were born. If this is correct and Terah was 130 at Abraham’s birth, the sum of these figures is 950 years. But as Gen. 11:26 appears to reverse the order of birth, placing Abram first even though he must in fact have been the last-born son, this may affect the way we understand Gen. 5:32 and Noah’s three sons, so that Shem, like Abraham, was probably the last-born son when Noah was 502. This would explain how Shem could be 100 two years after the flood. For if Shem was born when Noah was 500 and the flood came in the 600th year of Noah’s life, Shem could not be 100 two years after the flood. If this is correct, the total from Noah to Abraham would then be 952 years..

[11] Protoevangelium of James, 7-9. The notion that Joseph was an old man is apparently intended to buttress the virgin birth; e.g., Joseph is impotent and unable to consummate the marriage.



Adoration of the Shepherds


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