Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Descended from People like You and Me - Matthew 1:1-17

This Study Series' Focus 

Welcome, everyone, to our first day back in verse-by-verse study.  I’m super excited to delve into Matthew’s account of our Savior’s life.  In honesty, that’s quite a monumental task, so I’ve narrowed it down to one specific mission for this study, pulled from verses I found in Matthew itself.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.  It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master.”
Matthew 10:24-25a

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.”
Matthew 11:29

From those verses, can you guess what our theme is?  We’ll be continually answering two questions: What is Jesus like? and How can I live like that, too?

The Author and the Audience

As with literature, you usually glean from a passage of the Bible when you understand a bit about the person who wrote it, and (especially) who he was writing it to.

Although the text itself never explicitly states it, the vast majority of people accept that this Gospel was indeed written by Matthew because there are a number of records from the same time period stating that he did.  Matthew was one of the Twelve Apostles (Mt 10:3), called away from a life as a tax collector (Mt 9:9-13), which the Jews viewed as traitors to Israel because they made their living by cheating people.  Matthew is particularly noteworthy in that he gave up great wealth to follow Jesus (Luke 5:27-28).  From this brief biography, we can see that Matthew’s Gospel was written by a very passionate man.

Matthew wrote specifically to a Jewish audience, trying to convince them that Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies in the Old Testament about Messiah being the promised Savior and King.  It is for this reason that we will run across a lot of Old Testament quotes (they’re the all-capital words in my Bible; other translations designate them with italics or simply with footnotes).

Organizational Note

The Jewish audience is also the reason that Matthew’s Gospel starts out with a long genealogy – he had to demonstrate that Jesus fulfilled prophecies by being descended from David’s kingly line.  This would have been fascinating to the original Jewish readership, but to us, it’s honestly a bit of dull reading.  For this reason, I’m interweaving my commentary with the text itself (below) so we don’t get muddied in the long list of names.  For today’s passage, I’m going to share a blurb about each person named on the list (and give references so you can read more if you wish) so that we get to know each person named as a real person – people just like you and me.  Note that there are a lot of “big name” guys at the top of the list, so we’ll spend a bit longer there.  Feel totally free to skip my commentary on names you’re very familiar with. :-)

(Please also note that this genealogy is traced through Jesus’ step-father Joseph; the one traced through Mary is found in Luke 3:23-38.)

Matthew 1:1-17

1 The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

The word used for “son” here (huios) doesn’t mean literal son, it means descendant.  Matthew points out David and Abraham specifically before launching into the chronological list because they are key figures prophetically.  God pointed specifically to the Messiah as Savior when He promised Abraham, “And in your seed [singular seed – Jesus] all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18a).  And God pointed specifically to the Messiah as King when He promised David, “He [Solomon, David’s son] shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13).  This is emphasized in Jeremiah 33:17, “For thus says the Lord, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel.”  We’ll look more into David and Abraham when we get to them on the list itself.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.

Abraham was a man who, even though his fear made him mess up quite a bit (delaying moving to where God told him to because he didn’t want to leave his family, telling people his beautiful wife was his sister so they wouldn’t get jealous and kill him), he was known for his great faith in God.  God rewarded him by giving him a firstborn son when he was a hundred years old and his wife was ninety.  He is the father of the Jewish people.
Genesis 11:26-25:11

Isaac was Abraham’s miracle baby, and he was so obedient to the Lord that he was even willing to allow his father to sacrifice him (God was testing Abraham; He never intended him to go through with it, and saved Isaac at the last minute).
Genesis 21:1-28:9

Jacob (also called Israel) is most well-known for stealing his brother Esau’s birthright and later his blessing by tricking his blind father on Isaac’s deathbed.  Jacob later proved to be a hard worker, however, laboring for fourteen years in exchange for the right to marry the woman he loved, and a shrewd businessman at that.  He fathered the twelve sons who are the twelve tribes of Israel.
Genesis 25:19-50:11

Judah was one of Jacob’s oldest sons, and the father of one of the tribes of Israel.  He was the first one to come up with the idea of selling Joseph into slavery, but he was also the one who later offered himself as a slave in Benjamin’s stead.  From both Jacob’s prophecy of his tribe (Genesis 49:8-12) and from later in the Old Testament when we get to the story of David, we see that Judah’s tribe was the kingly line (therefore, it was crucial for the Messiah to be of the tribe of Judah).
Genesis 29:35-50:26

3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.

There’s not much known about Perez.  It is noteworthy that his mother Tamar is mentioned, however (particularly because Jewish genealogies were marked by males – so any woman being mentioned is a huge deal!).  Tamar married two brothers (at different times), and both of them died before impregnating her.  She wanted to carry on the family line, but her father-in-law Judah would not give her his youngest son as a husband because he thought she was bad luck…so, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute, and when Judah hired her, she got pregnant – thus carrying on the family name.
Genesis 38

Like Perez, we aren’t told much at all about Hezron and Ram in the Bible.  However, it’s cool to think that even if they didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy, God included them in His plan to bring the Messiah into the world.  They were regular Joes, and they are forefathers of Jesus Christ Himself.

4 Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon.

We don’t know much about Amminadab and Nahshon, either – see note above (we’ll address Salmon below).

5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.

We aren’t given many specifics about Salmon himself, but we do know that he married Rahab.  Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho who gave up her ways, hid Israelite spies (helping them overthrow the city), and followed God.  In this, not only did God welcome a former prostitute into the lineage of His Son because she turned her heart to Him, but also note that Salmon was willing to overlook her past because of her changed heart, too.
Joshua 2:1-6:23

Boaz and Ruth were an “odd couple” – Ruth was a Midianite woman who returned with her mother-in-law to Israel after they were both widowed to take care of her (and she also converted to Judaism), and Boaz was an older man living nearby.  They were both willing to overlook each other perceived faults – his age and her pagan heritage – to find the love God had planned for them…and look what He did with it – He led them to father the Messiah.  Also note that this is a Gentile (non-Jewish) woman in Jesus’s family tree – a Gentile (I’m assuming) like you and me!
Book of Ruth

We aren’t told much about Obed.

We get a little bit more information about Jesse – just essentially that he respected the authority of God’s prophets and was considered worthy to (directly) father David, the future king of Israel.
1 Samuel 16:1-22

6 Jesse was the father of David the king.  David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.

David is considered to be one of the best guys in the Bible, described as “a man after God’s own heart.”  He did mess up at times, like with Bathsheba – he took a fancy to her, then (depending on how you read it) he either raped her or they had an affair, the result of which was she got pregnant; the problem was her husband had been refusing to sleep with her as sort of a fast out of respect for the soldiers on the battlefield at that moment, so he would have known the child wasn’t his.  To cover this up, David had her husband (Uriah) killed, and then later ended up marrying Bathsheba.  But, David had a truly repentant heart – as evidenced by the Psalms (most of which he authored).
1 Samuel 16:11-1 Kings 2:11, Book of Psalms

Solomon was one of David’s sons – not his firstborn, but the one he hand-selected to take over his throne.  He built God’s temple and was famous for his wisdom, but he also messed up a lot too, amassing wives and wealth for himself.
2 Samuel 5:14-1 Kings 11:43, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes

7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa.

Rehoboam took over the throne after Solomon, but his harsh treatment of his subjects led to a split in the kingdom.  He also led Israel into idolatry.
1 Kings 11:43-15:6, 2 Chronicles 9:31-13:7

Abijah was the next king, who returned the nation to following God and tried to reunite Israel.
2 Chronicles 11:20-14:1

Asa had a fantastic start, cleansing Israel from residual idolatry and rebuilding the nation…but then he started relying on military alliances instead of on God, and he imprisoned the prophets who called him out on it.
1 Kings 15:8-16:29, 2 Chronicles 14:1-16:13

8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah.

Asa is described as, “the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days,” and he is compared directly with David.  He continued the work to remove idolatry from the land and even removed his mother from power when she was caught in idolatry.
1 Kings 15:8-15:33, 2 Chronicles 14:1-21:12

Jehoshaphat had a special “education reform” policy under which he sent out Levites to educate all the people in God’s Law, and God rewarded his obedience with military supremacy.  Later in life, however, he allied himself with the evil King Ahab, then repented, and then allied himself with another evil king, Ahaziah.
1 Kings 15:24-22:51, 2 Chronicles 17:1-21:1

Joram was a very wicked king and married Ahab’s daughter.  God spared the nation, but allowed military setbacks during Joram’s rule.
2 Kings 8:16-9:29

Uzziah flipped his father’s reign around, followed after God, and was granted great military success.
2 Chronicles 26:1-26:23

9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.

Jotham is known for following God, warring against the Ammonites, and mass building projects in the land – he is described as, “Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God.”
2 Chronicles 26:21-27:9

Ahaz was another evil king and advocated Baal worship and who “brought about a lack of restraint in Judah.”  As a result, his kingdom was plundered.
2 Kings 15:38-16:20, 2 Chronicles 27:9-28:27

Hezekiah went the polar-opposite way, reinstituting worship of God and a hard-core reform of the entire nation – repairing the temple, returning to God’s Law, beginning the celebrate the feasts again, etc.
2 Kings 16:20-20:21, 2 Chronicles 28:27-32:33

10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah.

Manasseh flip-flopped the kingdom once more and reinstituted idol worship in the land, seemingly on an even greater scale than his predecessors – including witchcraft and sorcery.  Late in his life, however, he repented and turned to the Lord.
2 Kings 20:21-21:18, 2 Chronicles 32:33-33:20

Amon copied the first part of his father’s life, and did not end up turning to the lord.  After only two years on the throne, there was a conspiracy against him and he was assassinated.
2 Kings 21:18-21:25, 2 Chronicles 33:20-33:25

Josiah was a boy king who took the initiative to reform the nation early on.  He purged the nation of idol worship and executed the pagan priests, and repaired God’s temple and reinstituted following God’s Law.
2 Kings 21:24-23:34, 2 Chronicles 33:25-35:26

11 Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

Jeconiah is only mentioned a couple of times in the Old Testament, and there all we learn is that he was exiled to Babylon with the rest of the nation (Esther 2:6, for example).  Since the Babylonians stomped out the culture of the nations they overtook, it makes sense that there would be much more incomplete records at this time period.  Also note that the Babylonian captivity is an important 2/3 marker in Jesus’s genealogy, which we will get to in verse 17.

12 After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.

Shealtiel is only mentioned on genealogy lists; no details are given about his life.  Zerubbabel, however, is a prominent figure in Israel’s post-Babylonian Captivity history.  He was one of the leaders in charge of restoring God’s temple, rebuilding Jerusalem, and reinstituting following God’s Law. 
Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah

Zerubbabel is the last person on this genealogy until Joseph whom we have actual record of.  As such, just the Scripture itself for verses 13-15 appears below.

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.

Here’s where we get to the point of Jesus Himself and His family.  Obviously, we’ll study them each more in depth as we interact with them in this Gospel. :-)

I’d also like to touch on the word “Messiah.”  Most of us are used to hearing the term “Christ,” which comes from the Greek, but they actually both mean the same thing.  Greek Christos and Hebrew Mashiach both mean “Annointed One,” and if you read the Old Testament, you’ll see that when someone was anointed in such a manner, it meant that God had chosen them to fulfill some particular task He wished to see accomplished (kings were anointed like this).  So, Matthew is here specifically pointing out that Jesus fulfills the prophecies and is King.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation of Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Normally I don’t get too into the numerological study approach of the Bible because I believe it’s overdone far too often, but in this case, the sentence’s whole purpose is to point out numbers to us; as such, I believe diving into the numbers is appropriate in this case.

You’ll notice there are three divisions, each marking important segments in Israel’s history – three is the number of the Trinity.  There are also six sets of seven – six is the number of man, and seven is the number of God/perfection – so, six sets of seven mirrors how when Jesus came to Earth, He was fully man and fully God.

Closing Thoughts

Bible genealogies are often dreaded because it is very difficult to glean much benefit from simply reading them, since their deeper meaning is lost on us.  I hope I have made this one beneficial and informative.

If you only remember one thing from this study, let it be this: there are a lot of great people, evil people, and in-between people that God allowed to be in His Son’s lineage, and they all had one thing in common – they were all normal, flawed, everyday people like you and me.  In the same way, God invites every one of us to join His family as well, regardless of our past mistakes.

Let’s Make it a Conversation

Did the stories of anyone on this list surprise you?
Who on this list can you most relate to?
Feel free to go beyond these questions – they’re just discussion starters. :-)


Clare Kolenda said...

When I first read that you were planning on breaking it down person by person, giving a little insight about each of them, I immediately thought you were much braver than I. I am very interested in Bible history, but even I have never been able to really get into the genealogy in the beginning of the gospel of Matthew. You did this beautifully. You made it fascinating and interesting and I really enjoyed it!:) Thanks!

I had never known that Rahab was mentioned in the genealogy. That was pretty cool. :)
Looking at this list of names, it makes me wonder how Christ will use all of His children in aiding Him to build His kingdom. I wonder if there is a sort of "genealogy of the kingdom" up in heaven, listing everyone who has aided in it's growth. ;)

Sapphire said...

Clare, thank you for all you compliments, and I'm glad it was beneficial to you! Working on this study gave me a newfound respect for the Bible scholars who devote years of their lives to studying out all the *Old* Testament genealogies - I have absolutely no idea how they do what they do! :-)

And that's *awesome* what you said about the "genealogy of the kingdom" - what a cool thing to think about! :-)