Matthew 1:1-17: Destined for Greatness

Read: Matthew 1:1-17

Matthew launches right into Jesus’ genealogy without as much as an introduction or purpose in writing the book of Matthew. Matthew’s purpose in writing his gospel was to show that Jesus was indeed the messiah that was promised to the Jewish people. In order to do so, Matthew needed to show that Jesus was indeed a descendant of David and ultimately Abraham.

Jewish genealogies would generally follow the lineage from the father to the son. Matthew follows this tradition, but also inserts the names of women in the text as well. This is no mere coincidence either. Each one of the women presented in the genealogy as some thing about her that makes

  • Tamar was actually Judah’s daughter-in-law who posed as a prostitute and seduced Judah. She became pregnant and presented his staff and cloak to incriminate the father (Genesis 38:13-26).
  • Rahab is mentioned here as being the mother of Boaz. She can’t be the Rahab from Joshua 2 because Boaz lived much later. She was probably a foreign woman like Rahab from Joshua 2 though .
  • Ruth was a Moabite woman who married Boaz and has an entire book in the Bible written about her virtuous deeds (Ruth 1:4, Ruth 4:13-22).
  • Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon. She committed adultery with David, who tried to conceal by having her husband killed in battle (2 Samuel 11:1-5, 2 Samuel 11:26-27).
  • Mary is mentioned as the mother of Jesus, who conceived him while she was till a virgin (Luke 1:26-38).

Another remarkable feature contained in Matthew’s genealogy are the remarks concerning the number of generations between various events in Jewish history: 14 from Abraham to David, then 14 from David to the exile, then another 14 from the exile to Jesus. Apparently, Matthew omitted a number of names from his genealogy that are found elsewhere (Ezra 7:1-5, 1 Chronicles 6:3-15). Scholars have offered explanations as to why this is the case – and some see this not as 14 biological generations, rather 14 divisions of history to mark time, similar to how the contemporary culture has “The Greatest Generation”, “Boomer”, “Gen X” and so on. The ebb and flow of this from Abraham to David is a rise, from David to Babylon is a fall, then from Babylon to Christ is another rise. Jesus in a manner of speaking is at the zenith of this rise and thereby “destined” in a manner of speaking to be great.

The entire story of Jesus’ coming is remarkable even from the beginning of time. God in his providence knew this and was able to redeem even sin and even used non-Jewish people to bring about his purposes. The women in the genealogy work as markers to remind his readers of many of these occasions. Likewise, Jesus numbers mentioned show that Jesus was the culmination of that history, standing with David . This sets the stage for the rest of the book – a story of how the Jewish Messiah comes into the world to redeem it!

Lord, you redeemed history to bring about salvation! Truly, you are amazing!