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Bible: What Does Matthew 1 Teach Us About the Lineage and Birth of Jesus Christ?

Updated on October 5, 2016

The Birth of Jesus

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Important Words in Matthew 1

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Matthew 1: The Lineage and Birth of Jesus Christ

Matthew 1

As the first book of the Older Testament—Genesis—discusses a family-related concept—toledoth (“generations”)—, so does the first book of the Newer Testament—the gospel of Matthew—, using a similar term geneseos (“genealogy, generation”).





Encased between the opening verse, which simply announces the topic under investigation—that is, “the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham”—and verse seventeen, which concludes the section by totaling the number of generations from Abraham to Christ (namely, forty-two), appears the genealogy that uses the term “begot” many times.


Readers must note the critical observation that Matthew addresses a Jewish, not a Gentile, audience in his account.

Jesus: Yahweh is Salvation

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The Meaning of Jesus' Name

Yahweh is Salvation

Verse 1 begins with a reference to the person of Jesus Christ. The designation “Jesus Christ” encompasses both a name and a title.

The name “Jesus” literally means “Yahweh is salvation,” and the title “Christ” refers to his role or status as the meshiach, the Messiah, the anointed king of Israel, whose coming the Older Testament had foretold from the protoevangelium (Gen. 3:15), to the “Lord, the Messenger of the covenant” (Mal. 3:1).

He is the “son”—or “Son,” as the NKJV editors interpreted it—of David.

As God foretold through Nathan the prophet, David, a mighty king of Israel, would beget a son (Solomon) who “shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam. 7:14).

One must carefully define what God meant by "throne" and "forever."

Undoubtedly, the terms point forward to the age when Christ, as the ultimate fulfillment of this promise, will reign as King on the Earth for a thousand years and then on into eternity.

Jesus is also the Son of Abraham.

As the Seed of Abraham, He is the fulfillment of the promise and covenant that God made to and with this patriarch: “In Him all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).

God makes a three-fold promise to Abram: He will

(1) make him a great nation;

(2) make his name great; and

(3) make him a blessing (v. 2).

In addition, Yahweh will befriend Abram’s friends, but curse his enemies; overall, every “family of the earth” (people-group?) will benefit greatly from Abram’s life (“in you”) [v. 3].

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The Genealogy of Jesus

The genealogy proper contains at least two salient features.

First, it references five women—some of dubious (or thought dubious) reputation:

First, Tamar [v. 3; cf. Gen. 38];

Second, Rahab [v. 5; Boaz was the son of a one-time harlot];

Third, Ruth [v. 5; Boaz became the husband of a Moabitess, a non-Hebrew];

Fourth, the unnamed wife of Uriah (Bathsheba committed adultery with David) [v.6; cf. 2 Sam. 11-12]; and

Fifth, Mary [vv. 16, 18; the people of Nazareth considered her unfaithful to her betrothed, Joseph].

Second, the grammar of verse sixteen indicates (by means of the feminine pronoun hes) that Mary conceived Jesus without Joseph’s seminal contribution.[Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, p. 7.]

[Alva McClain also points out: “Jesus was the seed of Mary, who was descended from David through Nathan (Luke 3:31), not through Solomon.

Jehoiachin was to be written “childless,” that is, in the genealogical register of the royal family line” (cf. Jer. 22: 24-30)] (The Greatness of the Kingdom 126).

The phrase—“before they came together” [cf. v. 18]—confirms that Joseph and Mary did not have sexual relations before marriage; instead, the Holy Spirit brings about Jesus’ conception (v. 18b).

Jewish culture considered the betrothal period as if the marriage had already taken place; the text, therefore, records Joseph’s status as the husband of Mary (vv. 16, 19).

As such, he responds as any “righteous” Jew would have done, having found out Mary’s condition.

Yet instead of making her “a public example,” Joseph debates within himself about divorcing her privately (“put her away secretly”) [v. 19].

Divorcing Mary would permanently reduce Joseph’s social status as a “righteous” Jew. Did stoning her to death (in keeping with the Law regarding adultery) ever enter his mind?

While contemplating this painful decision, he receives divine revelation in a dream brought to him by an angel (v. 20).

The angel communicates several important biblical and theological facts to Joseph:

(1) Joseph is a son of David, i.e., he is in the Messianic line;

(2) Mary has not “cheated” on him, but has conceived a Son through the Holy Spirit’s agency;

(3) Joseph should call this son “Jesus” (whose name means salvation); this Jesus “will save His people from their sins” (vv. 20-21).

Matthew further asserts that Jesus’ conception and birth would literally fulfill an Old Testament prophecy (vv. 22-23; cf. Is. 7:14 for more discussion of hermeneutical difficulties).

Joseph would call him Jesus—this action speaks of legally adopting the child—but “they” would call His name Immanuel (“God with us”). Who “they” might be is open to speculation, but “all believing humanity” makes sense.

After Joseph awakes, he obeys the angel’s message in every respect:

(1) He does not divorce Mary;

(2) He keeps her a virgin until she gives birth; and

(3) He calls her son’s name Jesus (vv. 24-25).

[His obedience to the angel’s message effectively destroyed his social status as a righteous Jew; he no longer relied on his own righteousness, but on God’s.]

© 2012 glynch1

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