the weblog of Alan Knox

What’s with the begats?

Posted by on Dec 19, 2007 in discipleship, scripture | 7 comments

Last Sunday, December 16, we started studying through the Gospel of Matthew. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been reading Matthew in preparation for this (see the post “The least of these…“). Last Sunday, I had the privilege of teaching through the first section: Matthew 1:1-17. Yes, I do mean “privilege”. God has challenged and blessed me so much as I have been studying the “genealogy” passage. So, what did I learn from all the “begats”? Well, I came up with six things that I observed when studying this passage:

1. The Genealogy connects Matthew’s Gospel to the Old Testament.
This is especially seen in Genesis 2:4 and 5:1 where the wording is very similar. There are other genealogies in Genesis that parallel Mathew’s genealogy. There is also a connection with Ruth 4:18-22. The last book of the Hebrew Bible – Chronicles – also begins with genealogies. So, Matthew does not view the gospel as being distinct from God’s work as communicated in the Old Testament, but a continuation of God’s work.

2. The Genealogy demonstrates that Jesus is the Son of David and the Son of Abraham.
This is probably the most important observation, and it is the point that Matthew highlights. He begins his account of the gospel with this: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1 ESV) Thus, even in the genealogy, Matthew begins to set the stage for Jesus Christ being the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Messiah, and the fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.

3. The Genealogy is composed of real, historical people.
Matthew does not make up stories about fictional people to create Jesus’ genealogy. Instead, he traces back through real people who actually existed. Even today when have historical and archaeological evidence that many of these people actually lived. This is quite different from the Greek stories about their gods and heroes. The next two observations flow from this one.

4. The Genealogy does not follow the “proper” path.
Kings and bishops are very concerned about the proper path of succession. Matthew was not concerned with that. He did not follow the inheritance through the first-born son to demonstrate that Jesus deserved to be king through proper succession. Instead, Matthew used a real genealogy – just as if we traced our own family tree.

5. The Genealogy includes women.
Not only does Matthew’s genealogy not follow the “proper” path of succession, he includes women. This might be acceptable if the women were queens. But, these women were prostitutes, aliens, adulteresses, sinners. They had nothing to offer Jesus in the way of succession to the throne of David, but they were real women who were actually part of Jesus’ genealogy. And, God used them to bring the Messiah into the world.

6. The Genealogy demonstrates that God was always carrying out his plan.
There are rough parts in anyone’s genealogy – even Jesus’. However, when Abraham lied, he did not thwart God’s plan. When Judah committed adultery with Tamar, he did not thwart God’s plan. When Boaz married a Moabitess, he did not thwart God’s plan. When David had an affair with Bathsheba and killed her husband, he did not thwart God’s plan. God was working through each of these people to bring his Messiah into the world.

One of the most important things that I learned from this study is that God has been working, he is working, and he will continue to work through the people of this world – good, bad, beautiful, ugly, obedient, disobedient, righteous, sinners – even me.


7 Comments

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  1. 12-19-2007

    “There are rough parts in anyone’s genealogy – even Jesus’. However, when Abraham lied, he did not thwart God’s plan. When Judah committed adultery with Tamar, he did not thwart God’s plan. When Boaz married a Moabitess, he did not thwart God’s plan. When David had an affair with Bathsheba and killed her husband, he did not thwart God’s plan. God was working through each of these people to bring his Messiah into the world.”

    The above statement is very encouraging. This reminds me of the classic passages on God’s sovereignty in Gen. 50:20 & Acts 4:27-28.

  2. 12-20-2007

    Dusty,

    I was thinking about the passage in Gen 50 when I wrote this. Thanks for the comment.

    -Alan

  3. 12-20-2007

    Alan, this is great, I’m glad you guys did that. I just spent three weeks teaching through the genealogy, and I have to tell you that God blessed my socks off through that study. I am convinced that Matthew wrote it in the manner that he did as an indictment against the hubris of the Jews. Ironically we usually hear that Matthew is the most “Jewish” of the Gospels, but I think it projects the most culpability for the Jews. This fits with Matthew’s perspective, a tax collector who probably came to Christ with a great sense of his own sin. Thus, looking into the genealogy, he saw a nation with great sin, and he saw a Savior willing to deliver that nation along with the nations of the world. I love the theme of marriage in this opening chapter. God saves the marriage of Joseph and Mary, a direct contrast to the sexual immorality of Tamar and Judah, David and Bathsheba. It is as if one of the first implications of the gospel message is the redemption of marriage and the family. The families of the genealogy were stuck in a cycle of sin, but God is breaking it. It also makes one wonder why Matthew is the only one with the divorce clause. I’m so thankful for the Matthean and Lukan genealogies. When I first thought about teaching it, I thought, “no way, there is not enough there.” But in three weeks of teaching I found myself leaving a lot of things out.

  4. 12-20-2007

    I almost forgot, there is a great song by Andrew Peterson called “Matthew’s Begats.” You have to check it out. I forget what album it is on, but all his albums are worth getting.

  5. 12-20-2007

    Matthew,

    Good thoughts about marriage and the family! I had not noticed that before. I’m glad that someone else enjoys the genealogies!

    -Alan

  6. 12-22-2007

    Alan,

    Well Michael’s interview worked – I came by to visit and may stay a while!

    Writing on this same passage last week, I was struck by how Matthew;s salvation history with the 14 or so generational epochs represent the fullfillment of God’s promises – the promise made to Abraham about the land, the promise made to David about the nation, and finally the promise made to Jechoniah about the restoration to be filled-full in Jesus.

  7. 12-22-2007

    John,

    Welcome to my blog and thank you for the comment! Yes, I think this genealogy plays an important role is Matthew’s desire to show that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the OT. When I taught this passage, I also covered the fulfillment of those promises/covenants in the observation about Jesus being Son of David and Son of Abraham. I have not read much about the promise to Jeconiah, so I’ll look that up. Thanks!

    -Alan