Friends, Don't Skip Bible Genealogies!

I once told a woman that I enjoyed reading Bible genealogies and she laughed. I guess she found the idea amusing. Lists of names, linking “so and so” to “so to so?” Yes, they may be useful in tracing Bible characters but why enjoy them? Can we “apply” these passages to our lives?

We tend to treat Bible genealogies like movie credits: passing glances at long and sometimes hard to read names. We understand their need and can even appreciate these people’s contribution to the story, but we don’t always give a great deal of time or thought to these lists.

But of course Bible genealogies are much more than film credits--they are Scripture. And if “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” then these lineages are meant for our teaching (2 Timothy 3:16). They are instructive to our understanding of God, His purposes and His people.

Friends, don't skip Bible genealogies! They have much to offer. Below is a study of Matthew 1:1-17, let’s learn of it and enjoy!

Matthew’s Genealogy: God Chose Women

The New Testament offers two genealogies of Christ. The first is found in Matthew 1:1-17 and there’s a second in Luke 3:23-38. The Luke lineage follows the Near Eastern tradition of tracing male descents with no mention of women. Matthew’s genealogy, on the other hand, is different in that it names no less than five women!

Tamar, a Canaanite who disguised herself as a prostitute and became pregnant by her father-in-law (Genesis 38:1-30); Rahab, a prostitute from Jericho who sided with a King more fearsome than her own (Joshua 2:1-24); Ruth, a poor Moabite with an ancestral legacy of incest (Genesis 19:30-38) and curse (Deuteronomy 23:3-5); Bathsheba, a woman who signifies David’s adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11:1-27); and Mary, the mother of Christ, a poor girl from the despised town of Nazareth (Luke 1:26-38). These women are unlikely candidates and yet God makes them integral to His purposes in sending Christ! They are named; so read those names and be encouraged that God sees you and salvation belongs to Him.

Matthew’s Genealogy: God Chose Foreigners

Three of the five women listed in Matthew 1:1-17 were foreigners in Israel. The stories of Tamar, Rahab and Ruth reveal a “God with no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35). Their presence in Matthew also affirms Genesis 12:3. God’s promise to Abraham and his seed was always meant to extend to “all the families of the earth.” Gentiles reading Matthew 1:1-17 should rejoice in a God who takes strangers and makes them members of His own household (Ephesians 2:19). Praises to the God who has made “Not my People” His own (Hosea 2:23).

Matthew’s Genealogy: God Chose Sinners

Abraham’s lies (Genesis 12:13), Judah’s neglect of duty and Tamar’s deception, Rahab’s prostitution, David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, Hezekiah’s pride (2 Kings 20:12-15; 2 Chronicles 32:31) and Josiah’s disobedience (2 Chronicles 35:22)---Matthew’s genealogy is filled with sinners. These were men and women in need of the the very Savior their line was purposed to bring.

Jesus descends from these names and yet He doesn’t come by natural means. The Holy Spirit overshadowed a virgin and God brought forth His Son without the taint of Adam’s sin (Luke 1:35). Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of Abraham, Tamar, David, Rahab, Hezekiah and all those who look to Him for salvation (John 1:29). David’s sin, pardoned from the punishment of death in 2 Samuel 12:13, is suffered by Christ on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).

Matthew’s Genealogy: God Fulfills His Promises

I’ve heard John Woodhouse, Principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, say that Matthew 1:1-17 reveals the Bible’s “Gospel shape.” This is what he means: read the passage and you will see that Jesus’ coming stis within the unity of the whole Bible. Matthew’s genealogy begins the incarnational story of Jesus with a reminder of God’s progressive redemption seen in the periods of Abraham, David, the Exile, to Christ.

In other words, the Christ of Matthew 1:16 is the very fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 (see Galatians 3:8). That same Jesus is the offspring promised to David whose kingdom will last forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Luke 1:32-33). He is the shepherd promised to a people in exile in Ezekiel 34:11-12, 23-24 and fulfills the yearning for Israel’s restoration after the exilic period by proclaiming the Kingdom of God and pointing to the “better country” that faithful Old Testament saints had longed for (Hebrews 11:13-16).  

As we read Matthew’s genealogy, we can rejoice that ours is a God who keeps His promises. If Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of Old Testament promises, then we can be confident that He is the firstfruits of a full and glorious eternal kingdom to come (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). Read of Him in Matthew 1:1-17 and enjoy it!