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Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and other clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 1:1-17

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[a] and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,[b] and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,[c] and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,[d] and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

——————————————————————–

Today’s post begins a weekly study of passages from St Matthew’s Gospel which, as mentioned above, do not appear in prescribed readings for churches using the three-year Lectionary.

Not surprisingly, this Lectionary, developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, avoids any verses deemed to be too complex or unpleasant.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Bible, including children, seeing a genealogy as the first entry of the New Testament is bewildering. Children will find the names amusing and the content boring. Adults will wonder why this was included.

Matthew, formerly Levi the tax collector, wrote for a Jewish audience in the decades following Christ’s ministry on earth. During his ministry Matthew sought to prove to the Jews that our Lord was indeed the long-promised Messiah. The best way to do this was by proving his lineage.

Every Jew knew his family line and tribe. Those who are familiar with the Old Testament know this well. John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

After the conquering of the land of Canaan, it was essential to determine what your tribe was and what your heritage was so that you knew where you were to live because the line of all the land was divided into tribes. 

And according to Numbers chapter 26 and chapter 35, you had to know your tribe, you had to know your family, and you had to know your father’s house so that you could identify yourself in the right location in the land.  So a pedigree was very important, tribal identification essential.  Under certain circumstances, according to the Book of Ruth, chapters 3 and 4 … transfer of property required accurate knowledge of the family tree.  God wanted to keep tribal land within the tribe, and so there had to be pedigree in order to make some business transactions with land.

Another interesting thing is indicated to us in Ezra 2  … it tells us at the end of Ezra … verse 62, “These sought their registration among those who were reckoned by genealogy.”  And what it means is that when after the Babylonian captivity, the people started coming back to Israel – you remember at the end of the 70 years, they started flowing back – many of them were claiming to be priests and they were claiming to be the tribe of Levi. 

Genealogy was part of Jewish history and personal identity. Matthew used it to prove that our Lord Jesus Christ is descended from David and from Abraham, our father in faith. Mention of these ancestors combined with the extensive records the Jewish authorities kept prove that God had fulfilled His promise to His people.

Matthew is careful to use ‘genealogy’ in the first verse. In Greek the word was genesis.

As this family tree unfolds, we see a variety of people. Some were ordinary people, some were royalty. We also see a mix of saints and sinners. Matthew Henry reminds us:

He took upon him the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), and takes even great sinners, upon their repentance, into the nearest relation to himself.

Verse 17 explains how verses 2 – 16 were deliberately organised: verses 2 through 6 cover the 14 generations from Abraham to David; the second half of verse 6 through verse 11 recounts the ancestors from David through to exile in Babylon; the next four verses describe family from the end of Babylonian exile to the birth of Christ.

Henry calls our attention to the following in the first tranche of verses:

– No mention of Ishmael (Abraham’s son by Hagar) nor of Esau, Isaac’s son who forfeited his birthright to Jacob.

– Not all of those mentioned had a traceable bloodline with our Lord, nonetheless, Matthew included these patriarchs from the different tribes here to indicate that all Jews should have an interest in this genealogy and Christ as the Messiah;

– Judah’s twin sons Perez (Phares) and Zara are both named, although our Lord was related only to Perez. Zara’s inclusion could have been allegorical. At birth, he put his hand out of the womb first but then withdrew it, leaving Perez as Judah’s heir. Similarly, the Jews claimed a Messiah from their own but, once He appeared, rejected Him. The second, lesser group — the Gentiles — embraced Him as Lord and Saviour.

– We see three women mentioned. Tamar, Perez and Zara’s mother, was an adulteress. Rahab was Boaz’s mother, and Ruth, his wife. Rahab was a Canaanite — Gentile — woman of bad reputation who, yet, had her role to play in helping to bring down the walls of Jericho. She obeyed when God’s servants gave her instructions. Ruth was also a Gentile — a Moabite — but very different in character. She was an example of holiness and faith and one of King David’s grandmothers.

In the next set of verses, Henry’s commentary points out:

– One more woman is mentioned, although not by name: Bathsheba, an adulteress, was ‘the wife of Uriah’.

– Rehoboam and Abijah were both ‘wicked’, yet from that family came the obedient Asaph whose son Jesoshaphat was also faithful. The latter’s son Joram, however, was completely different:

Grace does not run in the blood, neither does reigning sin. God’s grace is his own, and he gives or withholds it as he pleases.

The final period of history through to the birth of Jesus Christ recalls the following:

– The captivity in Babylon was a significant time in Jewish history. Henry explains that the Jews survived it only because they believed in a Messiah and wished for His deliverance. Although that did not occur in their lifetimes, their faith saved them.

– Although Joseph and Mary were both descended from King David, Joseph’s lineage is mentioned as the Jews considered the paternal family as being more important. That said, Joseph was Jesus’s earthly father only. Still, under Jewish law, MacArthur explains that Jesus was considered his son:

He was Joseph’s child legally because if you were adopted into a family, you were the legal child with all the rights and privileges.  He was Joseph’s child legally.  He was Mary’s child lineally and by blood.  And so every way possible Jesus Christ had the right to rule.  The father was the one who granted the royal line.  The mother was the one who granted the royal blood to Jesus.

The remainder of Matthew 1 recounts the angel’s visitation to Joseph with a brief mention of Jesus’s birth. It concludes with these verses:

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Next time: Matthew 4:24-25

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