It is important for me to know about the Messiah. Matthew wisely starts with the facts of the genealogy and the history of Jesus the Messiah. This is not just some boring list of relatives as I have thought for some time. As I dig in, I want to know more.
An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham | Matthew 1:1 (CSB)
The good news is that we start with Jesus being the Messiah. Jesus is the anointed King of God’s country. Jesus is God’s very own Son. Jesus will go on to die to redeem me from the penalty of missing God’s goal (aka sin). It is also very good news I know the facts of his birth here on earth.
Can we dig deeper?
Royalty depends on heredity. It was important for Jesus to establish His rights to David’s throne. Matthew gave His human heredity (Matt. 1:1–17) as well as His divine heredity (Matt. 1:18–25).
His human heredity (vv. 1–17). Genealogies were very important to the Jews, for without them they could not prove their tribal memberships or their rights to inheritances. Anyone claiming to be “the Son of David” had to be able to prove it. It is generally concluded that Matthew gave our Lord’s family tree through His foster father, Joseph, while Luke gave Mary’s lineage (Luke 3:23ff).
Many Bible readers skip over this list of ancient (and, in some cases, unpronounceable) names. But this “list of names” is a vital part of the good news record.
It shows that Jesus the Messiah is a part of history; that all of Jewish history prepared the way for His birth. God in His providence ruled and overruled to accomplish His great purpose in bringing His Son into the world.
This genealogy also illustrates God’s wonderful grace. It is most unusual to find the names of women in Jewish genealogies, since names and inheritances came through the fathers. But in this list, we find references to four women from Old Testament history: Tamar (Matt. 1:3), Rahab and Ruth (Matt. 1:5), and Bathsheba “the wife of Uriah” (Matt. 1:6).
Matthew clearly omitted some names from this genealogy. Probably, he did this to give a systematic summary of three periods in Israel’s history, each with fourteen generations. The numerical value of the Hebrew letters for “David” equals fourteen. Matthew probably used this approach as a memory aid to help his readers remember this difficult list.
But there were many Jewish men who could trace their family back to King David. It would take more than human pedigree to make Jesus the Messiah “the Son of David” and heir to David’s throne. This is why the divine heredity was so important.
And deeper again!
The book of the generation—An expression purely Jewish; meaning, “table of the genealogy.” In Ge 5:1 the same expression occurs in this sense. We have here, then, the title, not of this whole book of Matthew, but only of the first seventeen verses.
of Jesus the Messiah— “Jesus,” the name given to our Master at His circumcision, was that by which He was familiarly known while on earth. The word “the Messiah”—though applied to Him as a proper name by the angel who announced His birth to the shepherds, and once or twice used in this sense by our Master Himself—only began to be so used by others about the very close of His earthly career. The full form, “Jesus the Messiah,” though once used by Himself in His Intercessory Prayer, was never used by others till after His ascension and the formation of churches in His name. Its use, then, in the opening words of this good news book is in the style of the late period when our Evangelist wrote, rather than of the events he was going to record.
the son of David, the son of Abraham—As Abraham was the first from whose family it was predicted that Messiah should spring, so David was the last. To a Jewish reader, accordingly, these proved to be the points of any true genealogy of the promised Messiah; and thus this opening verse, as it stamps the first good news book as one peculiarly Jewish, would at once tend to conciliate the writer’s people.
From the nearest of those two fathers came that familiar name of the promised Messiah, “the son of David”, which was applied to Jesus, either in devout acknowledgment of His rightful claim to it, or in the way of insinuating inquiry whether such were the case.
It’s Greek to me!
Christ (Χριστός). Properly an adjective, not a noun, and meaning anointed (χρίω, to anoint). It is a translation of the Hebrew Messiah, the king and spiritual ruler from David’s race, promised under that name in the Old Testament. Hence Andrew says to Simon, “We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, Christ.”
To us, “Christ” has become a proper name and is written without the definite article. In the body of the good news narratives, since the identity of Jesus with the promised Messiah is still in question with the people, the article is habitually used, and the name should therefore be translated “the Christ.” I personally use the words “the Messiah” in all cases as it is our Master Jesus’ title, not name.
Anointing was applied to kings, to prophets, and to priests at their inauguration. “The Master’s anointed” was a common title of the king. Prophets are called “Messiahs,” or anointed ones. Cyrus is also called “the Lord’s Anointed,” because called to the throne to deliver the Jews out of captivity. Hence the word “Christ” was representative of our Master, who united in himself the offices of king, prophet, and priest.
It is interesting to see how anointing attaches to our Master in other and minor particulars. Anointing was an act of hospitality and a sign of festivity and cheerfulness. Jesus was anointed by the woman when a guest in the house of Simon the Pharisee and rebuked his host for omitting this mark of respect toward him. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the words of the Messianic psalm are applied to Jesus, “God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
Anointing was practiced upon the sick. Jesus, “the Great Physician,” is described by Isaiah as anointed by God to bind up the broken-hearted, and to give the mournful the oil of joy for mourning. He himself anointed the eyes of the blind man; and the twelve, in his name, “anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them”.
Anointing was practiced upon the dead. Of her who broke the alabaster upon his head at Bethany, Jesus said, “She hath anointed my body beforehand for the burying”.
Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 1, pp. 10–11). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 5). Oak Harbor, WA
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Mt 1:1–25). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 13). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.