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What Can You Learn From a Genealogy?

January 23, 2012

Most of us (me included), let out a big collective yawn when we come to genealogies in the Bible. Let’s be honest…the last thing we want to look at sometimes is our own family history, let alone someone else’s. As one of my seminary professors used to say, though, “Ink was expensive.” So, there must  be some important nuggets to mine in genealogies, right? Here are a few I see in Matthew 1:1-17:

  • Jesus inherits the Abrahamic (Genesis 12:1-3) and Davidic (2 Samuel 7) covenants. He also inherited every other covenant, and fulfilled them. With Jesus comes the New Covenant, which abolishes the Mosaic covenant and fulfills others. There is no need for sacrifice, as he will bring the once and for all sacrifice. Matthew is at pains to show Jesus’ legal inheritance of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants to highlight his blessing going to the ends of the earth (Abrahamic, see also Matt. 28:19, Acts 1:8) and his everlasting spiritual reign over all the earth in the face of the expectation of a political takeover of the Roman occupation (Davidic).
  • Women are in Jesus’ genealogy. Today this may not seem like a big deal, but in Jerusalem at that time…it was. Not including women in genealogies was not a slam on women at all, but merely a custom designed to create continuity in family blood lines. However, in this genealogy we have four women (Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, and Bathsheba). Jesus came for all, male and female. He is the one who breaks down social norms and turned the world on its head (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).
  • There are people of questionable character in Jesus’ genealogy. You would think that when God sent his son to earth that he would want to show off his pristine ancestry, right? Wrong! God wanted to highlight that Jesus came from a broken line of people to bring restoration to our sinful state. Manasseh and Bathsheba are just two examples within this genealogy. Both of them brought shame on Israel. There are also people who walked uprightly before the Lord such as Josiah. However, more often than not, people in Jesus’ lineage were not exemplary people but were sinners in need of a savior. From the very beginning of the Gospels, God wants you to know that Jesus came to save your from your sin and to spoil your illusion of perfection.

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, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 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, 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, 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.

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