The Genealogy of Jesus
And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge, which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri, which was the son of Meldu, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er, which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim, which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David, which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Boaz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson, which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor, which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God. —Luke 3:23-38
We come now to consider the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who read their Bibles with any degree of care have often noticed the two genealogies of the Saviour—the one given in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, introducing the New Testament record, and the other given here in the third chapter of the Gospel of Luke.
In the Old Testament we have a great many genealogical tables. In the Book of Genesis we have ten of them, and in other Old Testament books; notably First Chronicles, we have a great many. God had a purpose in preserving these lists. They may not seem very interesting to us. Oftentimes those of us who read our Bibles through regularly year by year, are tempted to pass them over as of no real spiritual value, and yet every little while we find some bright jewel flashing out in the midst of a chapter of the almost unpronounceable names, for some of us. We may be sure there was a very special purpose for preserving them and it was this: God had said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh come, and unto many shall the gathering of the peoples be.” Shiloh is a name for our Lord, Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah, the Prince of Peace. Shiloh means peace and God saw to it that the genealogical tables were preserved from Adam right on down through Abraham and on to David, and then from David to the coming into the world of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in order that His title to the throne of David might be definitely proven.
Now there are those who reject the Saviour as the Messiah, as many for instance in Israel do, who are still looking for a Messiah, and expect that sometime, perhaps very soon, perhaps in the more distant future, the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of Jehovah’s anointed into the world will have their fulfillment. If Jesus is not the Messiah there are no records left whereby it would be possible for them to trace out the genealogy of any one who might come in the future professing to be the true Son of David, who was destined to fulfill the promises made to the people of Israel and to rule over the Gentile world. There is no way now by which they could prove that any future Messiah was really the promised Saviour. The genealogies have all been lost. We have nothing beyond that which is given us here in the Bible. After the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ no other records were preserved that would enable anyone to trace out the genealogy of a future Son of David, if He were yet to arise. So God had a special reason for preserving the genealogical lists until His Son should actually be born into the world of a virgin, as predicted. After that there was no special reason to keep the records, so they were lost.
You remember, back in the Book of Psalms, the Lord speaks of one particular person that would be before Him. He said, “They shall say that this or that man was born there, but the Lord shall say when He writeth up the people that this man was born there,” and this man is God’s Messiah, the Saviour of Israel and of the world.
When we come to look at these two genealogical lists as given in Matthew and Luke we are at once struck by their differences, and many have supposed that the one is contradictory of the other. In Matthew’s Gospel we have a list beginning with Abraham and culminating in Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. We read, in the very opening of Matthew’s Gospel of the generations of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. Now, Matthew is the Jewish Gospel. Do not misunderstand me when I say that. I do not mean that it has no word of authority for the Gentiles, but I mean that it was written specifically for the Jewish people in order to prove to them that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. The Messiah was to be the seed of Abraham, through whom all nations of the earth should be blessed, and He was to come in the direct line of David. So in this first chapter we have the generations of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham, and beginning with Abraham we go right on to Joseph. In verse 16 we read: “And Jacob, (that is Joseph’s father,) begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Then the Scriptures carefully show us that Mary was already with child by the Holy Spirit before Joseph gave her the protection of his name and took her to be his wife. This table in Matthew’s Gospel is definitely the genealogy of Joseph. It gives us the line from Abraham to Joseph. It is divided into three parts of fourteen generations each. Actually, when you go back to the Old Testament you find that there were quite a number of other names that came in along the way, but for certain reasons God dropped out various ones. He dropped out three kings of Judah because they came of the race of that vile woman Jezebel. For other reasons He dropped different ones out of the list, and He focuses our attention on three groups of fourteen each.
In the last instance, however, we seem at first sight to have only thirteen names. We read in verse 17: So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.” Notice again in the sixteenth verse: “Jacob begat Joseph.” That’s the twelfth generation. “The husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus”—that’s the thirteenth generation. “Who is called Christ”—that’s the fourteenth generation, for when He comes the second time He’ll be recognized as the Christ, the Messiah of Israel.
In this list given by Matthew we have four women referred to beside Mary herself. Ordinarily it was not customary for the Jews to include any reference to women in their genealogies, and the four women mentioned in this list are the very four which one who was jealous of the purity of the Hebrew strain would have left out. There was Tamar, whose history was one of the most wretched stories in the Bible. There was Rahab, the harlot of Jericho. There was Ruth, a Moabitess, outside the covenant of promise altogether. There was Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah, with whom David sinned so grievously. Why are these four women’s names listed here? Surely to show us that where sin abounded grace did much more abound! All of these women, three of whom were great sinners, are found in the line from which our Saviour came. The other one, an outcast and a stranger of Moab, of whom the Lord had said, “The Moabite shall not enter the congregation of the Lord unto the tenth generation.” This outcast is brought in to tell us that Jesus is not only the Messiah of Israel, but He is the Saviour of all sinners, of all nations who will put their trust in Him.
Now, when we turn over to the Gospel of Luke and we look at the genealogy there we find it is quite different. “Jesus began to be thirty years of age.” A Levite was thirty years of age when he began to serve. With our Lord Jesus it presents a new dispensation. He has not reached the age when He is about to enter upon His public ministry, “being as was supposed, the Son of Joseph.” Notice that Luke has been very careful in the previous chapters to show us that the Lord Jesus was not the Son of Joseph, that He had no human father. On the other hand, recognizes that people supposed that He was the Son of Joseph. So he mentions that here. Joseph, he says, was the son of Heli.
When you turn back to Matthew’s Gospel you find that Joseph is the son of a man named Jacob, not Heli; and from Heli back to David you have an altogether different line from what you get in Matthew. Surely here is a contradiction in the Bible! Surely this proves that, after all, the Bible cannot really be inspired of God, that it only consists of mere human records and it is not trustworthy! That’s the way men have reasoned. When you look into it carefully I think the mystery is cleared up. It is remarkable that God has preserved the key to the mystery in the last Book on earth, in which we might have expected to find it.
After the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews, in order to keep before their people the great teachings of the past, combined many things in a series of volumes called “The Talmud,” and today the orthodox Jews give far more attention to the study of The Talmud than they do to the Holy Scriptures themselves, though I was very glad to see in a Jewish magazine that some of the leading rabbis of this country are urging the Jewish soldiers to familiarize themselves with the Old Testament—to read it carefully. We rejoice in this because we know that if people read the Old Testament carefully and thoughtfully many of them will be brought to the Light of the New Testament. The Old Testament points people to the Christ revealed in the New Testament. In the Jewish Talmud, written just a few years after the death of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we are told that Jesus was the illegitimate son of Mary of Bethlehem, the daughter of Heli. That clears the mystery for us here.
Women’s names are dropped out of the genealogy, but here we are told that Joseph was the son of Heli. This genealogy then is clearly the genealogy of Mary. Heli was the father of Mary, and Joseph by marrying Mary became the son of Heli. Married folks have two sets of fathers and mothers, don’t they? You husbands speak of the bride’s parents as father and mother, and the bride speaks of the husband’s parents as father and mother. So it was in the old days in Israel. When a man married a maiden of a certain family, her father and mother were recognized as his father and mother. So Joseph was actually the son of Jacob, but through marriage to Mary he was the son of Heli, and Mary herself was the daughter of the house of David.
The reason for giving us the two genealogies seems to be this: In the first chapter of Matthew we have the genealogy of the King. Matthew deals particularly with the messiahship of Jesus. It was written to prove that He was the promised King of Israel. Joseph, who married Mary before the actual birth of Jesus and took her under his protecting care, was himself lineally descended from David, through King Solomon, and had conditions been right in Israel he possibly himself would have sat upon David’s throne. Instead of being Joseph, the carpenter, he would have been Joseph, the King of the Jews, but on account of the failure and sin that had come in, David’s family had been set to one side and we find that in very poor circumstances, but nevertheless the royal line ran on as God saw it, and Joseph was the last of the royal line of David, and by marrying Mary, her Son being born after she entered into wedlock, Jesus became the legal heir to the throne of David. That’s why we have this genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew—to prove that Jesus is the legal heir to the throne of David.
But then the blood of Joseph did not run in the veins of Jesus, and according to the prophets, the Messiah Himself is to actually come through David’s line. He is to be the son of the house of David. He is called David’s son. Luke shows that this too was fulfilled, for we find as we go down through this genealogy that Heli, the father of Mary, came from a Davidic line, but the line through which she came was that of another son of David. Heli was a lineal descendant of David’s son, Nathan. So the blood of David flowed in Mary’s veins. Therefore when our Lord Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary and born of her, he was actually a son of David. Do I say a son of David? He was the Son of David, the one who transcended every other, the one who is to confirm the sure mercies of David, and bring in everlasting blessing for the world. “Great David’s greater Son!”
So God has been very careful here to give us these two genealogical lists, to show us that the Lord Jesus is the rightful King. Through Joseph He is entitled to the throne, and then through Mary He is an actual Son of David. There are no mistakes in God’s books. We may often come across things in the Bible that we find difficult to understand, but we can be very sure of this: If we only had a little added information, if we only had fuller knowledge, God’s Word would always be shown to be right. There are no mistakes here. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:17).
I said earlier that Matthew wrote especially for the Jews; therefore the genealogy tracing Christ from Abraham down—from Abraham and Solomon to Joseph.
Luke wrote for the Gentile world, and he is concerned not simply in proving that Jesus is the Son of David, nor yet that He is the Seed of Abraham, with all that that implies. He undertakes to show that He has become in grace, one with the entire human race. He is the Son of man, and so the genealogy is traced back not to David or Abraham, but to Adam himself, and from Adam to God.
Scriptures speak of the first man—Adam. There have been those that have suggested that there might have been some pre-Adamic race in this world but God’s Word says, “The first man, Adam, was made a living soul.” Adam was not born into the world. He was created. God fashioned his body of the dust of the earth. Do you really believe that? I believe it, and if I didn’t believe it—if it was not in the Bible, I would believe it because of the fact that when the body dies it goes back to dust again. God took from the dust of the earth and formed the body of a man, and then God breathed into that man the breath of the spirit of life, and man became a living soul. So Adam could be called, in this sense, the son of God. God is the father of spirits, “the God of the spirits of all flesh.” There is a sense in which it is perfectly right to speak of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. There is another sense in which it is wrong. As created originally, Adam was the son of God. God was his father by creation, but sin came in and man became alienated from God. All men are now born in sin. There is a universal brotherhood of man, but it is a brotherhood of sinners. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” When people are born again, when they are regenerated, then they enter into a new relationship. They are in a new sense the children of God. God is their Father and they that believe are all brethren in Christ. The heathen had the conception of man coming originally from God. They said, you remember in the poem that Paul quoted on Mark’s Hill—“we are also His offspring.” But oh, how man has dishonored God. How far away we have gotten from Him! Therefore we need regeneration.
It is not for us today to pride ourselves on being children of God by natural birth and to claim God as our Father simply by creation. We are alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in us. In order now to be able to look up to heaven and call God our Father and in order to enter the new brotherhood that has been established by grace, we must be born again. How does that new birth take place? We are told of our Lord Jesus, “He came unto His own and they received Him not, but as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on His name, which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of men, but of God.” It is when we receive Christ, when we trust Him as our Saviour, that we become children of God. This does not mean that we are put back to the place that Adam was in before his fall—created in righteousness, created in innocence he fell into sin. In the old creation he was put on test and when he went down the whole creation went down with him. But now Christ, the last Adam, has met all the claims that God had against sinful men by His sacrifice on Calvary. He has been raised in triumph from the dead and He has become the head of a new race, a new creation. Those who put their trust in Him are not put on trial as Adam was before he sinned, but they are now raised up together and seated together in Christ, in Heavenly places. This is our glorious calling, and so for us there is no interest except an academic one in the matters of genealogy.
We are told in the epistle to Timothy—“Neither give heed to genealogies.” We do not base anything on our earthly genealogy. We rest everything on the fact that we have been regenerated by the Word and Spirit of God. God has preserved the genealogies of His Son in order that we may have a clear and faithful record, and see His identification with David and Abraham, and with Adam as the Son of man, who has “come to seek and to save that which was lost; as the Seed of Abraham,” through whom all nations of the earth shall be blessed; as the Son of David, who shall yet sit upon the throne of His father David and reign in righteousness over all this universe when it has been turned back to God. How we can thank Him for the perfection of His Holy Word.