Two Genealogies of Jesus Christ
12/24/19 08:18 PM Topical
As we’ve been working our way through the book of Genesis, line-by-line, last week in chapter 38 we read about a woman named Tamar who happened to be in family line of Jesus Christ. And since it is Christmas, the time of year when we reflect upon and celebrate the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, I thought it would be a great idea to zoom in on the genealogies of Jesus. There are two of them. Two similar but different family lines, one in Matthew 1, and the other in Luke 3. But why are their two genealogies of Jesus? What purpose could there be for that?
Let’s find out.
LEGAL LINE OF JESUS
Matthew 1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
David and Abraham are singled out here in the beginning of Jesus’ family line, or book of the generation, to illustrate the point that Jesus was the fulfillment of the promises given to both of these patriarchs, and that Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne over the kingdom of Israel (Jer. 23:5, Psa. 132:10-11). For Jesus was both a legal descendant of Abraham and David.
The word Christ means ‘the anointed one’. People who were anointed with oil upon taking office in Israel were the prophets, priests, and kings. Anointing was highly symbolic of being one who was chosen by God. Jesus being the Christ was chosen to be ALL three. He was the anointed prophet, priest, and king. Being all three at the same time makes Him the long awaited Messiah, The Savior of the World.
Matthew 1:2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
Matthew 1:3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;
You see the name Thamar there? Looks different because we’re translating from Greek instead of Hebrew, but this is none other than Tamar of Genesis 38. Just different transliterations giving us a different English spelling. Seems like she is getting an honorable mention here, because it isn’t normal for a woman to be included in Biblical genealogies. But I think there is a reason for this that we’ll talk about later.
Another thing worthy of our attention is that Judah’s other son Zara is mentioned here even though the rest of this genealogy is the direct lineage of Pharez not Zara. Why mention Zara then too? I think it is probably because this is point where this genealogy and the genealogy in Luke 3 break from each other. In Luke 3 we are given Zara’s direct line on down through to Jesus Christ. You might be thinking, “What?”. Don’t worry, we’ll make sense of this by the time we conclude this study.
Matthew 1:4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;
Matthew 1:5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;
Again, in this verse we get another honorable mention, two more women – Rachab and Ruth. Many of you recognize those names, Rachab is the same as ‘Rahab’, she was the woman who helped the spies of Israel (Jos. 2), and a whole book was written named after the woman - ‘Ruth’.
Matthew 1:6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;
Now this gets interesting. Another woman is included in this list, but not by name. It rather says, “her that had been the wife of Urias”. We all know this to be Bathsheeba, the adulteress who slept with king David. Including this detail doesn’t exactly reflect too good upon the genealogy of the Messiah. You’d think the genealogy of Jesus would be pristine, chalked full of perfect saints. So why include it in here? For that exact reason. To show that Jesus accepts repented sinners into his family line. This line is real, full of real people. Not some whitewashed line full of a bunch of fake hypocritical Pharisees or some make believe list of perfect people.
I mean, when it says, “her that had been the wife of Urias” it’s purposely reminding us of David’s adulterous affair with another man’s wife. And when Tamar is mentioned, it’s purposely reminding us of Judah’s sexual sins and his hypocritical reaction when he found out Tamar was with child, not knowing it was his and calling for her to be burnt to the stake. We also have Rechab (Rehab) who was a prostitute. That doesn’t look reflect too good either. But again, this is a line full of sinners, imperfect people. Some refer to this family line as the line of ‘grace’, because only by the grace of God could these people be allowed into the same family line as Jesus Christ.
Matthew 1:7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;
Matthew 1:8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias;
Matthew 1:9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias;
Matthew 1:10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias;
Matthew 1:11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:
From king Solomon on down we have here a list of the kings of Judah. Again, showing that this genealogy, fully accepted among the Jews at the time, proves that Jesus Christ had a legal right to be the king of Israel. Now I say ‘legal’ here for a reason. Because this was not Jesus’ actual biological genealogy. More on that later.
Matthew 1:12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;
Jechonias- (see note below in the concluding remarks)
Matthew 1:13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor;
Matthew 1:14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud;
Matthew 1:15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob;
Matthew 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Jacob begat Joseph- This man named Jacob was Joseph’s biological father. What we have here is Joseph’s official family line. Of course we know Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, God was. What is the purpose of giving Joseph’s genealogy here then if Jesus wasn’t even the son of Joseph? For a very important reason. JESUS WAS THE LEGAL SON AND HEIR TO JOSEPH’S INHERITANCE being the ‘adopted’ firstborn son of Joseph. And as we can see here, though Joseph appeared to be a common man, a carpenter, HE HAD LEGAL RIGHT TO THE THRONE OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL being a direct descendant of the last reigning kings of Judah.
Matthew 1:17 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.
Fourteen generations- Interesting. We find all throughout the Bible, starting at creation, that time is divided by groups of seven. Seven days, seven years, seven times seven years, seventy sevens, and on the list goes. Here these generations are divided by groups of seven as well, three pairs of sevens. And another interesting point that some bring out is that ‘fourteen’ is the number of David, because David’s name in Hebrew gematria equals fourteen.
Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
Now that we’ve established that the genealogy given in Matthew is the physical line of Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus, now we’re going to take a look at the other genealogy in Luke 3.
It starts out by saying:
Luke 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,
Two important points here.
1. Jesus was the ‘as was supposed’ or legal but not the biological son of Joseph. That point is clearly brought out here. No one disputes that.
2. The confusing part is where it says that Joseph was the “son of Heli”, but in Matthew 1:16 it says that Joseph was the “son of Jacob”. Moreover, if you compare the two genealogies you’ll see that they are the same going from Abraham to David, but after David they are completely different. So how can Joseph have two drastically different family lines? Obviously he can’t.
How do we solve this problem?
It’s really not that difficult if we take into account that since Jesus was “as was supposed” the son of Joseph, Joseph in turn was “as was supposed” the son of Heli. In other words, Joseph was Heli’s son in law, and Heli was Joseph’s father in-law the biological father of Mary. So what we have here is not Joseph’s family line but Mary’s. In other words, LUKE 3 GIVES US THE BIOLOGICAL FAMILY LINE OF JESUS CHRIST WHILE MATTHEW 1 GIVES US THE BIOLOGICAL LINE OF JOSEPH.
Even the Jews who opposed Jesus admitted that Mary’s father was Heli. I quote: “Mary, daughter of Heli was seen in the infernal regions, suffering the horrid tortures” (Jerusalem Talmud Chag. 77,4). Obviously, a disgusting slanderous statement, but it did not dispute that Heli was Mary’s father. It proves that even the most bitter enemies of Christ acknowledged that Heli was Mary's biological father.
So why not then just give us Mary’s genealogy and not Joseph’s?
Because like was pointed out earlier, it was very important to establish that Jesus had a lawful claim to the throne of Israel being a ‘legal’ descendant of the kings of Judah through Joseph, his adoptive father (Matt 1). Jesus’ biological genealogy through Mary in Luke 3 does not establish this because her line goes through David’s son Nathan rather than through Solomon, the king line went through Solomon. However, Luke 3 is still important for a number of reasons we can’t get into today. But probably the most important thing it does is document that Jesus was the promised ‘seed of the woman’ who was prophesied to come and save mankind from the power of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). It also proves that Jesus was indeed a biological son of Abraham and David to whom many promises were made to their descendants. Jesus himself highlights this point in the book of Revelation by saying, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David” (Rev. 22:16). He was and had to be a literal descendant of David in order to be the real Messiah.
Now, there is something else interesting to point out. Joseph’s family line, along with all others in the royal line of Judah, included a king named Jeconiah, who had a curse placed upon him. God promised that “no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (Jer. 22:30).
There are some differences between the two but one thing both of these genealogies prove together is that Jesus was not some kind of mythological figure like Santa Claus who lives in the North Pole, but He was rather a real person with real historical documents to prove it!