The Importance of Genealogy, Matthew 1:1-17 (Knowing The Father: The Paternity of the Son of God, Part 2)

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In Part 1 of this mini-series, I discussed the angel’s appearance to Joseph, how he told Joseph that Mary would give birth to a son, whose name would be Jesus. Mary’s baby would be conceived by the Holy Spirit, not Joseph. So, in a sense of today’s terminology, Joseph was Jesus’ adopted father or “earthly” father, as some have said. Perhaps he could serve as a legal guardian of Jesus, though not His biological guardian. And along those lines, we here at The Essential Church would like to wish fathers, whether biological, spiritual (serving as a father figure in a church-related role or as a spiritual mentor in the Word), or even in something such as being a parent in the absence of parents, a happy father’s day to you all. We honor you and bless God for the role you’re serving in the lives of our upcoming future leaders, thinkers, and world-changers.

Do you know your genealogy?

But here in Part 2, I’ll now turn to the issue of Jesus’ genealogy. As I asked some months ago, “Do you know your genealogy?” Do you know who your father is? Do you know his parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents? Do you know his siblings, your aunts and uncles? Do you know cousins of his? If you have any additional siblings that are children of his, whether half-siblings or whole siblings?

In asking these questions, some believers turn angry. “Why is it important?” They ask. “Why do I need to know all that? My life is fine as is without all the complicated drama that family brings.” Yes, I’m all too aware of family drama. It exists, even in the most model families. And yet, family is a gift from God, a good gift from a Good God, that should be celebrated.

Family is a gift that brings responsibility. We are tied to a group of people on the earth from which we can never be separated. Even death doesn’t separate you from that person because you take them with you, wherever you go. I am a unique hybrid of both my parents. Though my mother is gone, I carry her with me in my facial features, laughter, mannerisms, and her ways of thinking. Yep, I’m a “mini Teressa,” make no mistake about it. And when people see me and say, “You’re so much like your mother,” I smile because, as my card to mom said some months before she died, “it makes me very happy.”

God has given us family. And, in the same way He’s given us family, He gave Jesus an earthly family to be born into. Jesus had a specific bloodline He was born into, a specific bloodline He “came from,” and this was important enough that the Jews preserved Jesus’ genealogy. We see this by looking in Matthew 1:1-17, where we see some familiar names in the family of Jesus. And we have a responsibility to our children and families to answer questions about their origins, their beginning, and the people from which they descend (their ancestors). We owe it to our future generations to learn the answers to questions we have in this moment.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the genealogy of Jesus.

The Jewish genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17)

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:

Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king.

David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.

12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations. (Matthew 1:1-17, New King James Version)

Where does Jesus come from? That’s the question the Gospel writers Matthew and Luke answer for us. Matthew’s focus is on Jesus’ Jewish genealogy, which explains why he starts Jesus’ genealogy with the description, “the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” in Matthew 1:1.

And then, we see that Jesus comes from Abraham, through his son Isaac, Isaac’s son Jacob, through Judah and his son Perez, and so on. In Matthew 1:5, Boaz, the “kinsman redeemer” of Ruth the Moabitess, appears in the family of Jesus, as does Rahab the prostitute. Remember Rahab, who hid the Jewish spies when Joshua and company entered into Jericho (Joshua 2)? That Rahab makes it in the family of Jesus. Yes, even a prostitute is part of God’s family. I know, it’s scandalous, isn’t it? And you thought you were the only one who had some infamous family members. Jesus understands, because He has some in His genealogy — and we all get to read about it!

We also see Jesse and David, the father-son duo that comes to the forefront when the prophet Samuel is sent by God to anoint another king after Saul turns away from following the Lord (Matthew 1:5-6). And yes, Matthew doesn’t shy away from listing Solomon’s mother as “her who had been the wife of Uriah” (v.6). He doesn’t mention “Bathsheba” as her name, though many of us would instantly know who she is and to whom Matthew refers.

Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and a rather hot-headed king, is also in the line of Jesus. There is Uzziah (Matthew 1:8), the same Uzziah that could very well have been the one that the prophet Isaiah knew in his prophetic book (Isaiah 6:1).

The Hezekiah of Matthew 1:9-10 could be the same Hezekiah that we read about in Scripture regarding God adding 15 years to his life because he prayed and turned to God in the darkest time of his life. Manasseh was an evil king, according to Scripture, but as the son of Hezekiah, he appears in the family of Jesus. Notice that Joseph and Mary are mentioned at the end of the genealogy text in Matthew 1:16-17.

Why is the genealogy of Jesus based on Joseph instead of Mary?

One question that some have asked regards Joseph: why is Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph instead of Mary? Isn’t Mary the mother of Jesus? And Joseph isn’t Jesus’ biological parent, so why is he mentioned? Well, the Jews valued paternity in those days through the male. Remember, the Jewish Old Testament history is patriarchal, which is why “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” are called “the Patriarchs.” Jewish history is patriarchal, as has been the case for a number of cultures. So Jewish history comes through the male. And, in the case of Joseph, he and Mary come from the lineage of David. By going through Joseph, Matthew was able to pay honor to Joseph, the legal male guardian of Jesus, while still honoring Mary who gave birth to Jesus and is Jesus’ only human biological parent.

What can we learn from the family of Jesus?

From the genealogy of Jesus, we learn a few things.

First, like all families, Jesus has some infamous and scandalous family members. I have some criminals in my family. You do, too, even if you don’t know who they are. Regardless of our infamous family members, they are our family and we can’t “disown” them, even if we try not to think about or care about them. Matthew doesn’t shy away from mentioning the scandals in Jesus’ family. There’s Rahab, who was a prostitute, and Bathsheba, whose husband Uriah was killed by King David, “a man after God’s own heart,” nonetheless. And then, while God kills their first child, he allows Solomon, Bathsheba’s son, to become part of the family of God. Isn’t that something?

If God were like us, He would’ve stayed angry at David forever. But He doesn’t. God’s anger endures but for a moment, and we see that when we read the words in Scripture about Solomon that “the Lord loved him” (2 Samuel 12:24). Yes, the Lord loved a son that was conceived by a man who killed a woman’s husband and conceived the child — a product of what was an adulterous relationship. Bathsheba was Uriah’s wife, and David married her, making himself an adulterer. And yet, God came through the line of a product of an adulterous marriage.

Next, God accomplishes His purpose through scandalous family members. It doesn’t matter how scandalous the family member, God uses even scandals to accomplish His purposes. He doesn’t cause evil because He Himself isn’t evil (James 1: ), but He can use evil and bring good from it. God delights in doing this not because He delights in evil, but because, by bringing good from evil, God shows us that evil doesn’t win; good does. Hate doesn’t win; love does. And only a sovereign God can turn around that which was done against Him for His purposes. Only a sovereign God can do that.

Last but not least, Jesus’ genealogy critiques the modern-day approach to family history and the “it’s old, who cares?” mindset. We should care about our genealogy, where we come from, because Jesus cared. The Jews cared enough to preserve His genealogy. In fact, Jesus’ genealogy is vital evidence to prove that He was human, He really lived, that His life was rooted in history. Without a genealogy, atheists would be able to claim that Jesus was an imaginary character, a figment of the Gospel writers’ literary imaginations, not a living and breathing human being.

So, genealogy, one’s origins, are important. Genealogy is important to the Jews about Jesus and it should be important to us. We should want to know our roots, not merely for ourselves but also for our children who will have those same questions as they get older.

As I’ve said in Part 1, Jesus knew who His “biological” father was. Do you know? If genealogy is important to Jesus, and it is important to you, then don’t you think it’s time to do something to find the answers about your genealogy you may not know?

What you can do about your genealogy

You may say that you don’t know your genealogy, your roots, your origins, where you come from, who your ancestors are, what countries they come from, and so on. Well, there’s something you can do to find out.

And it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Reliable DNA companies such as AncestryDNA, 23andMe, LivingDNA, and others provide DNA kits that start at $99 or less. You can order one, spit in the tube when you get the kit, send it back postage-free, and find out some things about your origins in 6 weeks or less. LivingDNA now has kits available for just $49. So with that said, there’s nothing holding you back but you. These kits can tell you about who your parents are, siblings, and cousins — that is, if they’ve submitted their DNA. It may not be much, but it’s worth a shot. Besides, what can it hurt to find out about how many thousands of fourth cousins you may have? Finding family is never a bad thing.

But, you may say, what about the privacy factor? “If I give my DNA to these companies, they may be compelled to hand it over to law enforcement.” I’ve tackled this issue before, but I’ll do so here: if you give your blood and saliva to your local doctor’s office, they can submit it to law enforcement as well. When you donate blood to the American Red Cross, for example, they don’t tell you what’s done with your blood — but the expired blood you give is actually donated to CSI and other investigative agencies for crime study.

If you drink Starbucks coffee and throw your cup away in a Starbucks trash can, any police officer can retrieve it in public without a warrant because it’s called “abandoned DNA.” Read the link in the words “tackled this issue before” above to discover what abandoned DNA is all about. Search for “DNA” at the site’s search engine to discover what other questions we’ve answered about DNA.

The truth of it all is that DNA companies cannot just hand over your DNA without a warrant, and the reliable companies listed above have lawyers who review DNA requests from the federal government before handing them over. Know that your DNA is protected by privacy laws provided by these reliable DNA companies. There are other, unreputable companies that could do anything with your DNA, but these reliable companies want to retain your trust (and your DNA sample, for research purposes). Therefore, they desire to maintain your trust and will fight for it for that reason.

At this point, there’s nothing in the way to stop you from doing your DNA. So, go ahead and order that DNA ancestry kit. What’re you waiting for?