The genealogies of Jesus tend to be one of the parts of Scripture we scan through or skip completely. Yet they teach us critical truths about the Old Testament, show the fulfillment of prophecy, and even dispel some false doctrines about the unique character and life of God’s Son. Once we study them closely we will understand Scripture much more clearly.
The two genealogies are not exactly alike. Matthew’s (1:1-17) is written from a Jewish perspective, connecting Jesus with the promises made to Abraham and David (Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3:16, Isaiah 11:1-2, Acts 13:21-23). Matthew begins with Abraham and goes to Joseph, the husband of Mary who gave birth to Jesus. It shows the legal ancestry of Jesus, giving us 14 patriarchs, 14 kings, and 14 generations from the Babylonian captivity to Jesus. Luke’s account (3:28-38) is written with the Gentile reader in mind. He connects Jesus with the first man—Adam—and even with God. This is important because Jesus’ birth life and work bless all of mankind, not just the Jews. Also Luke’s genealogy is in reverse order to Matthew’s. He begins with Jesus and goes back to Adam, who is referred to as the Son of God. God, without employing normal reproductive processes, created Adam’s body, yet, Adam was fully human. Likewise, without normal reproductive processes, God created Jesus’ fleshly body and Jesus was fully human. So these two genealogies show that Jesus fulfills God’s promises in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), to Abraham (Genesis 12:1), to David (2 Samuel 7:12), and to the world as a whole. They show Jesus as heir of the throne of Israel and the fulfillment of prophecy.
One of the interesting parts of the genealogies is the fact that while most such lists are paternal (male oriented), four women are mentioned in the list. Each of these women are unusual, yet by providence they became a mother in the lineage of Jesus. Each shows a special providence of God.
- Tamar, the daughter of Judah, is the woman who was forgotten by her family who fooled her father-in-law into getting her pregnant so that she could provide for herself.
- Rahab was a harlot in pagan Jericho who saved the spies, showed faith in God, and became the mother of Boaz, the husband of Ruth.
- Ruth was a pagan from Moab who showed great loyalty to her Jewish family and became the great grandmother of King David.
- Bathsheba was an adulterous wife of Uriah the Hittite, but also the mother of King Solomon.
Each of these women is a part of Jesus’ family tree. Most people hide the “black sheep” of their families, but scripture seems to go out of the way to declare their places. This proves Jesus is a friend to sinners and shows the power of God to change lives.
Also notice an interesting, often overlooked part of Jesus’ lineage. In Luke 3:27 we learn one of his ancestors was name Shealtiel. In Jeremiah 22:28-30, we see that the prophet stated no descendant of Coniah would ever rule again in Judah. Coniah is also called Jeconiah or Jehoichin. According to 1 Chronicles 3:17-18 we see that he was the father of Shealtiel. Thus we learn that if Coniah’s descendants would never occupy the throne of Judah, and Shealtiel was descended from Coniah, and an ancestor of Jesus, then Jesus could never reign in Jerusalem (Judah). Of course, he never has and never will reign from a throne in Jerusalem. This destroys the premillenial doctrine about an earthly reign of Christ. Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords over a spiritual kingdom that is not of this world.
These genealogies serve many important purposes and teach many lessons. As we study these closely we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. We also see that God works in ways to accomplish his will that we don’t always fully understand. Thanks be unto God for his amazing wisdom and power!