Christmas Genealogies

“When I was a teenager, I became interested in the Bible for the first time, and I went to a summer conference where the Lord spoke to my heart. Our Bible teacher thrilled my heart as he taught the Word of God. One morning he asked, ‘How many of you young people have read the Bible through in a year?’ There were two to three hundred young people there, but not A hand went up. He asked the same question four times. Finally, one young man in the back put up his hand rather hesitatingly and said, ‘Well, I read it, but I only read the parts that were interesting. I didn’t read the genealogies.’ Everybody laughed, and the teacher laughed, too, and admitted that he didn’t read them either. At that very moment it occurred to me that since the Spirit of God has used so much printer’s ink to give them to us, there must be some importance in them for us” (McGee 7-8).

As we read this gospel, we should note that Matthew was trying to reach out to Jewish people. Think about this: If Jewish people were going to be convinced that Jesus is the Messiah and the Promised Son of David who would rule over Israel, what would they be looking for? They would want to see evidence that Jesus had descended from the royal line of David.

“If Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of these two great covenants, is He related to the rightful line? This is the question the Jews would have asked, so Matthew traced Jesus’ lineage in detail” (Barbieri 18).

  1. Matthew’s Genealogy (Matt. 1:1-17)

    a. Patriarchs

    Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are familiar to us because of the book of Genesis. We remember how Abraham was a friend of God, Isaac was deceived by his son, Jacob wrestled with God, and Judah gave an impassioned plea to spare his younger brother for the sake of his father.

    However, the most important thing about them is their relationship to God and especially “God’s promises to Abraham that his offspring would bless all the people of the earth (Gen. 12:1-3)” (Blomberg 53).

    While God’s blessings flowed through the Jewish people, God’s promise was that Jesus’ life would be a blessing to all the world not just the Jewish people. We obviously benefit from that.

    b. Women

    It was unusual in a patriarchal society to have women listed in a genealogy. However, Matthew lists Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (as well as Mary). Each of these women had an interesting part to play in Bible history.

    Interesting note: “Why are the first four women included? Suggestions have included viewing them as examples of sinners Jesus came to save, representative Gentiles to whom the Christian mission would be extended, or women who had illicit marriages and/or illegitimate children. The only factor that applies to all four is that suspicions of illegitimacy surrounded their sexual activity and childbearing. This suspicion of illegitimacy fits perfectly with that which surrounded Mary, which Matthew immediately takes pains to refute (vv. 18-25)” (Blomberg 56).

    • Tamar (Gen. 38)

    Tamar married Judah’s oldest son. But God took his life because he was evil. This meant that he died childless. The custom of the day was for the brother of the deceased to marry the widow and the child born to them would continue the name of the deceased brother.

    Judah’s second son acted shamefully and did not fulfill this duty. So, God took his life. Judah was afraid for his remaining son’s life and did not give him to Tamar. So, Tamar took the matter into her own hands and pretended to be a prostitute. After seducing Judah, her father-in-law, she conceived and gave birth to twins who were named Perez and Zerah.

    • Rahab (Josh. 2:1-21; 6:22-25)

    She was a harlot who lived in Jericho. But … she hid Joshua’s two spies on her rooftop and lied to the authorities looking for them. But when you read Joshua 2:8-13, you see something else. Notice her faith in God. Of all types of people, would you have expected this? However, because of her faith in God and her kindness toward the two spies, her life was spared along with her family. Interestingly, she married someone who is in the line of Christ.

    • Ruth

    Ruth was a Moabite woman who married a Jewish man from Bethlehem. When her mother-in-law told her to go back to her family, Ruth refused (Ruth 1:16-17). Instead, she returned with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem and took care of her.

    While Ruth’s character was flawless, she was still a Moabite. Moabites were to be excluded from the people of Israel (Deut. 23:3-6). This was God’s punishment for their wickedness and poor treatment of Israel when they came out of Egypt. Remember Balaam and his donkey. The man who hired Balaam to curse Israel was a Moabite.

    She was a foreign woman from Moab who should not have been allowed into the community of Israel but who was shown mercy because of her godly character. She was the great-grandmother of David.

    • Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:2-5)

    The story of Bathsheba is a sad one. When David stayed home from a battle, he was tempted and chose to commit adultery with the wife of Uriah, who was one of his 30 Mighty Men. When he could not cover his sin, he had Uriah killed before taking Bathsheba as his wife. One of their later children was Solomon, the son who succeeded David as king of Israel.

    When you look at the lives of those included in the lineage of Jesus, it is difficult not to wince as you read their stories. But at the same time, it is a thing of wonder that God would choose to use sinful people in his plan to save the world from sin.

    “He who came not to call the righteous but sinners (ix. 13), and who so commended the faith of those who were not of Israel (viii. 10, XV. 28), was Himself descended from flagrant sinners and from a stranger” (Plummer 2).

    c. David’s Line

    The most important part of the genealogy for Jewish people was whether the person was from the line of David. This would mean that he could actually sit on the throne of David as one of his royal offspring. While this genealogy proves that fact, it also poses a problem. According to this genealogy, Jesus was a descendant of Jeconiah. (“Jeconiah is a variant form of Jehoiachin, who with Shealtiel and Zerubbabel appear in 1 Chr 3:17-19” (Blomberg 55)).

    Take a look at Jeremiah 22:30. Jeconiah’s wickedness was so great that God excluded any of his descendants from sitting on the throne in the future. “Jeremiah’s prophecy related to the actual occupation of the throne and the reception of blessing while on the throne. Though Jeconiah’s sons never occupied the throne, the line of rulership did pass through them. If Jesus had been a physical descendant of Jeconiah, He would not have been able to occupy David’s throne” (Barbieri 18).

    We have a problem. Jesus, the promised Seed of David, was not qualified to be king according to this genealogy because of the curse against Jeconiah. So, how could Jesus be the promised Messiah, the son of David?

    The answer is this: This genealogy was Joseph’s line. He was Jesus’s adopted father. We must look at Luke’s genealogy for the answer to this problem.

  2. Luke’s genealogy (Luke 3:23-38)

    As you read through this passage, you will notice that the genealogy is somewhat different than the one in Matthew. What does this reveal to us?

    a. Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus.

    “Luke makes it clear that Joseph was not the father of the Lord Jesus Christ” (McGee 259). Luke was very careful in showing the ancestors of Jesus. He lists all the people by the father’s name but there is one important difference when it comes to Joseph. He refers to Jesus as “being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.” This is the clue that makes us think that this genealogy was not through Joseph but through Mary’s ancestors.

    b. The genealogy was for Mary.

    “There is good reason to believe that Matthew and Luke are in fact tracing entirely different genealogies. For example, Matthew gives Joseph’s father as Jacob (Matthew 1:16), while Luke gives Joseph’s father as Heli (Luke 3:23). Matthew traces the line through David’s son Solomon (Matthew 1:6), while Luke traces the line through David’s son Nathan (Luke 3:31). In fact, between David and Jesus, the only names the genealogies have in common are Shealtiel and Zerubbabel (Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27).

    Most conservative Bible scholars today take a different view, namely, that Luke is recording Mary’s genealogy and Matthew is recording Joseph’s. Matthew is following the line of Joseph (Jesus’ legal father), through David’s son Solomon, while Luke is following the line of Mary (Jesus’ blood relative), through David’s son Nathan. Since there was no specific Koine Greek word for “son-in-law,” Joseph was called the “son of Heli” by marriage to Mary, Heli’s daughter.” (GotQuestions).

    This makes the most sense to me. Through the line of Mary (not through Joseph) Jesus was a blood relative of David and able to become the king someday.


Some may consider the genealogies to be unimportant. But is any part of the Bible unimportant? God put it there for a reason. So, what can we learn from the genealogies?

1. Patriarchs

God honored the faith and obedience of Abraham and his sons and kept the promise to send someone who would bless all the earth. Be thankful that God fulfilled that promised through Jesus. The world, including non-Jewish people, has been blessed through Him.

2. Relationships

Several of the women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy were not of high moral character. And yet God still used them in the carrying out of His plan. This should give us hope. Despite our past failures, God is able to use people who repent of their sins, believe, and obey Him.

3. Kings

Some of the kings were mere “place holders.” They were part of the genealogies and passed along their royal blood, but they were nothing more than a person who filled that part of history and did not do it well. Don’t be a placeholder. Be something for the Lord today. Use your life for something that will count for Him.

4. God’s Plan

When you realize that the line of kings was cut off at the time of Jeconiah, this put in jeopardy Jesus’ ability to be the king. But, despite that king’s wickedness, God still had a “backup plan” to carry our His plan. Jesus was born of Mary who was also of the line of David just by a different route. From this we learn that no matter how bad things look, God has a way to fulfill His plan. Trust God to work out His plan in and through you.


Barbieri, Louis A., “Matthew,” in  in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, (USA: SP Publications, 1983), p. 18.

Blomberg, Craig L., Matthew, Nashville: Broadman, 1992, pp. 52-56.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, pp. 7-8; 259-60.

Mounce, Bill, “νομίζω” as viewed at on 12/11/22.

Plummer, Alfred, An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew, Minneapolis: James Family, n.d., pp. 1-3.

“Why are Jesus’ genealogies in Matthew and Luke so different?” as viewed at on 12/11/2022.

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