One of the most marvelous verses in the whole Bible is Mat
1:1: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of
Think about it for a minute. There it sits, at the very
beginning of the New Testament. Anybody can find it. Anybody can remember where
it is. No searching the memory banks for a "good verse" to use. No flipping
through pages, muttering, "Now where WAS that verse?"
When you think about it, this IS pretty much the beginning for
most everyone except Christadelphians: "I don't bother much with the Old
Testament, of course," they say. "Too much dull history, and lists of names. The
New Testament is all I need!"
"Fine," we say, "Let's go there!"
And now that one has begun at the beginning, the message of
this single verse -- at the very crossroads of the Bible, the bridge between Old
and New -- is... breathtakingly simple: Here, at the very beginning -- the
jumping-off place -- of the New Testament, the reader is actually directed to
look back at the Old... "HALT! Proceed no further until you look back and
understand WHY it is important that Jesus Christ is the son of Abraham and the
son of David."
And right away, the reader can be introduced to the promises
-- resurrection and eternal life on the earth, the Kingdom of God, and the
throne of David, and the Second Coming. Some of the most positive, and
fundamental, teachings of the Bible.
And -- if you have a memory like a sieve, or can't remember a
single thing under pressure -- how do you get to those promises? No problem.
Alongside Mat 1:1 in your Bible margin, simply write: (a) "Abraham": Gen 12 and
Gen 13 (and Gal 3:16,27-29 if you want to be adventurous!); and (b) "David": 2Sa
7 (and maybe Isa 9:6,7 and Luk 1:31-33).
Now you are off and running!
RECORD OF THE GENEALOGY: "Book" (biblos, Bible) of the
"genesis". A new beginning; a spiritual creation.
DAVID... ABRAHAM: Both David and Abraham received the
promises of God with faith and joy (Mat 22:43; Joh 8:56). "How they would have
rejoiced to read this 'dull' chapter" (WEnj 188).
Think of the analogy of a wealthy family (this analogy is
actually used in Gal 4). All the children receive a generous "inheritance" (or
at least their share is laid up in trusts or the like, for their use at a later
date). But the children -- as they grow up -- also willingly and eagerly go to
work in the family business, doing their own part to cause the family enterprise
to grow, and making wise and prudent decisions about the "investments" of the
company... not just for themselves, but especially for their own children and
grandchildren. Here is a lengthy list of names, a list that can make for very
dull reading. But if we make it personal, it comes alive! Read the genealogy as
though it were your own family history (and it is: for if you belong to Christ,
then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promises: Gal
3:16,27-29). When read that way, it is immensely exciting. It is as though you
suddenly discover that you are "heir" to a vast fortune (and what a property!
the whole world in fact: Gen 13:14,15; Rom 4:13; 2Sa 7:12-16!) through an
obscure branch of the family tree which you had never considered before. Just
think: if you learned of this possible "inheritance", how avidly would you read
and reread that "dull", "dry" list of names, just to be sure that it did in fact
lead finally to you! And then how eagerly and avidly would you go to work at the
family's enterprise, knowing that one day it would all belong to you!
DAVID: Jesus is called Son of David: Mat 9:27; 12:23;
15:22; 20:30,31; 21:9,15; 22:42.
JUDAH AND HIS BROTHERS: As with vv 3,11, calls
attention to God's selectivity.
The women in Jesus' genealogy: Jesus as a friend of publicans
and sinners: Mat 8:10; 9:10; 11:19.
AMMINADAB: Father-in-law of Aaron (Exo 6:23).
JEHORAM THE FATHER OF UZZIAH: Skipping 3 generations
here: the descendants of Athaliah: Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah: 2Ki 8:16-18,26;
2Ch 21:6; Deu 29:20. To fulfill prophecy: "God will blot out their
Excludes Jehoiakim, poss because he was appointed not by God,
but by the king of Babylon.
JECONIAH: The two lines (Joseph's in Mat and Mary's in
Luk) converge in 2 successive generations (Shealtiel and Zerubbabel). Was
Jeconiah the father of Shealtiel (here), or was Neri the father (Luk 3:27)? One
of the two lines (in Mat and Luk) was prob perpetuated through an adoption.
Either way, legally or by blood, Jesus was descended from David. See Jer 22:30n
SHEALTIEL THE FATHER OF ZERUBBABEL: Poss excluding one
generation: 1Ch 3:17,18.
AND JACOB THE FATHER OF JOSEPH...: This generation is
Joseph's -- whereas the one in Luk 3 is Mary's. This generation stresses kingly
(David) and national (Abraham) inheritance, which would naturally come through
the "father". Thus, legally speaking, Jesus was the heir of Joseph.
JESUS, WHO IS CALLED CHRIST: The total number of
persons in genealogy is 41. How does the writer arrive at 42? A couple of
possible answers: (1) Jesus is 41st, and Christ is 42nd -- being "born" twice.
Or, (2) perhaps the 42nd generation is the multitudinous Christ, the "seed" of
Isa 53:10,11, and the "generation" of Psa 22:31.
First 14 generations: royalty given. Second 14 generations:
royalty removed. Third 14 generations: royalty restored.
As with the lunar cycle (complete in 28 days): the 42
generations sym the waxing (to David), waning (to Jeconiah), and waxing again
(to Christ) of Messianic fortunes.
3 x 14 = 42 "stations" in the "wilderness" of man (Num 33),
until the promise is received. Also, 42 periods of affliction (Rev 12:6;
13:5,12), until deliverance.
By the time Mary returned from Judea to Nazareth her pregnancy
was at least three months advanced (Luk 1:56). If not already obvious, her
condition would be discovered not long thereafter -- most likely by her parents.
This is implied by the statement: "She was found to be with child." Mary did not
reveal the past events to any but Elizabeth and Zechariah until her condition
was known. Her silence was the result (we may suppose) of equal parts modesty
and faith; modesty in speaking of such an intimate matter, and faith that God
would reveal His purpose when He chose, and to whom He chose. It must be pointed
out that the last phrase of v 18 ("through the Holy Spirit") does not describe
what was known immediately -- either by Mary's parents or by Joseph. This is
certain because of what follows in the narrative.
The position of this last phrase is Matthew's explanation, by
which the link is made to the foregoing genealogy (esp with v 16) and to the
succeeding prophecy (v 23). The first intimation Joseph received of anything
extraordinary in his betrothed wife may have come from his in-laws, or the
secondhand gossip of not-so-friendly neighbors.
Matthew's narrative is so brief that the reader is compelled
to select from different possibilities. Did Joseph go direct to Mary for
confirmation, or did he inquire of others (her parents, perhaps) in order to be
sure? A good guess of what happened (and it can only be a guess) is this: When
Mary's parents discover her pregnancy, they naturally question her, but she says
that she must first speak to Joseph. She may have felt that, since her condition
is now in the open, the first explanation is due to her "husband", not her
parents. The next reasonable guess would be that Mary's father approaches Joseph
with the unwelcome news, and with an understandable accusation framed. Joseph
can do nothing else but assert his innocence, which only makes a bad situation
References in Psalms to the Virgin Birth: (a) Psa 22:9,10: The
AV mg has: "kept me safe". This was fulfilled in Mat 2:13-16. (b) Psa 69:8: "My
brethren" = "my mother's children", but not "my father's children" -- implying
that Jesus had no human father! (c) Psa 71:6: "You brought me forth, or upheld
me from the womb!" (d) Psa 86:16 / Psa 116:16: Cp with Luke 1:38,48: Mary is the
"handmaiden" of the LORD, and in these words she gives her consent which is
necessary for the conception of the unique child in her womb. (e) Psa 89:26,27:
"I will appoint him my firstborn". Cp Col 1:15,18. The "first Adam" and "last
Adam": referring to the one who is "firstborn" not just by his birth, but by his
special selection by his Father, and especially by his overcoming of sin and
death. (f) Psa 110:3: Why does David call him "Lord"? Because, though born after
David, Jesus is greater than he -- being the son of the Most High. See v 3:
"From the womb before the morning I begat thee" (LXX). (g) Psa 132:11: "From
your belly" (AV mg) -- ie, not "loins" (as of paternal origin), but "womb"
(maternal origin). This is the same word in 2Sa 7:12. Cp with Luke
JOSEPH SON OF DAVID: A woman's identity is merged into
that of her husband, and this is why Joseph (and not just Mary) needed to be
descended from David.
Both Mary and Joseph are asked by God to accept the disgrace
and shame of a couple who have "sinned". Joseph is told to name the child (Mat
1:21), an act which would be interpreted by all as an admission of paternity.
(This would also be equivalent to an admission that he had lied in previously
asserting his innocence) In the eyes of the people, then, either Joseph was a
weak man who could not control his passions, or, worse yet, a fool duped into
raising another man's son. (Because of Mary's three-month sojourn in Judah, the
tongue-waggers could make a strong argument for the latter view.) Such matters
would not be soon forgotten in a close-knit country village.
God could have made it easier. He could have smoothed the way,
but He did not. Mary must now gather her belongings and go quietly to the house
of Joseph. She would go with relief, certainly, that her beloved no longer
doubted her, and that he was one with her in understanding the marvelous
revelation of God. But she would go also under the disdainful eyes of her
friends and relatives, and perhaps the sorrow of her parents, which she could do
nothing to alleviate. For Mary and Joseph there would be no happy wedding,
bridesmaids, feasts, laughing children, gifts or good wishes. The cloud of
suspicion was made worse because there could be neither repentance nor
explanation, only passive endurance (see 1Pe 2:20,21).
God saw to it that His own Son was provided with sterling
examples of such traits in his childhood. Jesus was "called" to follow the
pattern of meek suffering in well-doing that Mary and Joseph set for him. The
grace under pressure which they showed during an extended trial was the object
of his keen discernment. He could not fail, as he grew up, to hear the whispers
and the innuendoes (cp later incidents: ie Joh 8:1-11); but from his parents,
never a complaint. These lessons were taken to heart, and given the perfect
reinterpretation in his own life.
SHE WILL GIVE BIRTH TO A SON: But not, "she will bear
to YOU a son" (as in Gen 17:19; Luk 1:13), because Joseph was not literally the
father. But see Mic 5:2: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small
among the clans of Judah, out of you will come FOR ME one who will be ruler over
Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient time."
YOU ARE TO GIVE HIM THE NAME: Joseph was not the
"amiable nonentity" so often portrayed. He, not Mary, was appointed the
custodian of Jesus (cp Mat 2:13,14,19-21).
BECAUSE HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS: Coming
as it does right after the genealogy (which highlights so many of the sins of
his ancestors), this promise emphasizes that the work of Jesus will be
efficacious even for sins that are past: Rom 3:25; Heb 9:15.
With this cp Psa 130:1-8; 131:1-3 (RSV: "as a child quieted at
its mother's breast"). Psa 130:8 is esp apt: "He himself will redeem Israel from
all their sins."
VIRGIN: Gr "parthenos".
GOD WITH US: Thus Mat's gospel begins AND ends (cp Mat
BUT HE HAD NO UNION WITH HER UNTIL...: This was
Joseph's choice; it was not apparently required by God. Had he chosen to have
relations with Mary no one would ever have known. Nor would it have been wrong.
It would, of course, have been the expected thing. Such a restraint, which he
willingly imposed upon himself, tells us much about the dedication and
sensitivity of this man Joseph.