Matthew’s Gospel serves several purposes beyond presenting a mere biography of Jesus. One purpose is to prove to Jewish readers that Jesus is their Messiah and promised King.
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.
Succession to a throne is often a time of conflict and uncertainty. David’s son Absalom tried to usurp the throne (see 2 Samuel 15:1–18:18). Solomon’s choice of successor lost more than half the kingdom to a traitor (see 1 Kings 12:20). Menahem assassinated his predecessor in Israel (see 2 Kings 15:14).
Royalty is a dangerous business.
This is no less true than when the heir is the King of kings. If ever there was a high-stakes succession, this was it. A Man claims to be Israel’s own Messiah; of course all Israel sits up and takes notice.
Of course, He must prove His credentials: Who wants an imposter? The Book of Matthew presents Jesus’ credentials. It presents Jesus as the King, but King of a totally different kingdom—the kingdom of heaven.
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.
Christ’s genealogy is crucial to historic Christianity. Matthew traced the lineage of Christ Jesus back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to show that He was a Jew, but also back through David to inform the readers that Jesus is qualified to rule on the thrown of David (see 2 Samuel 7:12)—an event still in the future (Matthew 19:28).
And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
Joseph, the husband of Mary, was a direct descendant of David. Matthew, however, was careful not to identify Jesus as the physical son of Joseph. The Greek pronoun translated of whom is feminine and refers to Mary.
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.
The genealogy is broken down into three groups of names with fourteen generations in each list. The name David in Hebrew has a numerical value of 14. Because the heading of the list is “Son of David” (verse 1), Matthew may have been drawing attention to the Davidic emphasis in these names.
The genealogy in chapter 1 points to Christ as the One who inherited God’s promises to David of an eternal dynasty. Jesus’ use of a familiar messianic psalm in Matthew 22:41–44 would have clearly implied to nay Jew that He was the heir of the Davidic thrown.
Even though many Jews of Jesus’ time were blind to Jesus’ identity, Gentiles (such as the wise men) identified Him as Israel’s promised King when He was a baby.
Finally, the charge that hung above Jesus’ head on the Cross clearly highlights His royalty: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS (Matthew 27:37). But most important, the Book of Matthew proves Jesus’ legitimate authority by highlighting His wise teaching and righteous life (see 7:28, 29).
Questions to Ponder
Let’s admit it: we can easily gloss over the genealogies in the Bible, even the one at the beginning of Matthew that shows Jesus’ earthly ancestry. Why is it important for us to be able to trace Jesus’ family back through David and also through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
Why was it important for Matthew to not identify Joseph as the father of Jesus?