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Chapter I

The Genealogy and Birth of Christ

SummaryThe Genealogy of Jesus Christ. Three Series of Fourteen Generations. The Betrothal of Mary and Joseph. The Immaculate Conception. The Purpose of Joseph. The Lord's Message in a Dream. The Name Jesus. The Prophecy of the Virgin. Immanuel. The Birth of Jesus.

1. The book of the generation. Literally, “the book of birth,” or genealogy. This title applies, not to the whole Gospel, but to the tables of descent in the first seventeen verses. The title was possibly copied from some Hebrew document compiled from the genealogical tables. Jesus Christ. Jesus, the personal name, which means “Savior;” Christ, the official title, which means “Anointed.” He is our Anointed Prophet, Priest, and King. The son of David. The descendant. The prophets had declared that the Messiah should be of David's seed. The son of Abraham. The Lord had promised Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 22:18) that in his seed all the world should be blessed. David and Abraham were the two greatest ancestors of Jesus, and are named because it had been predicted that he would be their descendant.

2. Abraham begat Isaac. Matthew begins with Abraham to trace the line down. He was writing for Jews, and Jewish history begins with Abraham. Luke (3:23–38), writing for Gentiles, goes back to Adam. For the differences between Matthew and Luke, see verse 16.

3. Tamar. Three women are named in this list: Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. These were all Gentile women, and are named for this reason, and for their remarkable history. There were stains upon the character of Tamar (Gen. 38:11–30) and of Rahab (Josh. 2:1), but Ruth is one of the sweetest women of the Bible.

6. David the king. The greatest of line from Abraham to Christ, so exalted that one of the titles of the Messiah was “the Son of David.” Of Uriah. The mother of Solomon is referred to, not by name, but as the wife of Uriah. Uriah was a Hittite, a Gentile, and his wife may have been also. She was certainly a partner of David in the greatest guilt of his life.

8. Joram. Between Joram and Uzziah three names are intentionally omitted. They are found in 201 Chron. 3:11, 12. They were probably omitted to equalize the threefold division of generations from Abraham to Joseph. Such omissions of unimportant links are common in the Old Testament.

11. The carrying away to Babylon. The great seventy years' captivity in Babylon, following the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.

12. Zerubbabel. The descendant of the ancient kings who led the Jews back from the Captivity (Ezra 3:2).

16. Jacob begat Joseph. The descendant of a long line of kings was a poor carpenter of Nazareth. As the husband of Mary he was the legal father of Jesus, and Matthew gives his line of descent. A comparison of the table given by Luke will show that it differs in part from that of Matthew. Between David and Joseph the lists are widely different. Several views, all possible, have been presented, but the most probable explanation is that Matthew gives the line of Joseph, the legal line, and that Luke gives the line of Mary, the mother of our Lord. As the Jews regarded only male descent, unless Joseph, the supposed father, was a descendant of David they would not have recognized the genealogy as a fulfillment of the prophecies that Christ should be the Son of David; while Luke, himself a Gentile and writing for Gentiles, was more particular to give the line that shows that Jesus is really the Son of David. If Mary was the daughter of Heli, especially if an heiress, Joseph, by marriage, would become the “son of Heli.” That there is no contradiction between the two tables is shown by the fact that the Jews who best understood their genealogies never charged it. These tables were preserved with great care, for various reasons, until Christ was born, but it is asserted that Herod destroyed them. If this is incorrect, they did not survive the destruction of Jerusalem.

17. Are fourteen generations. There are exactly fourteen generations from Abraham to David, and two other series are made to correspond. From David to, etc. David's name is counted again to make the number fourteen. The third series begins with Jeconiah and ends with Christ.

18. The birth of Jesus Christ. The word rendered here “birth” is the same in Greek that is translated “genealogy” in verse 1. Mary having been betrothed. Not married, but engaged. Betrothal 21was, from the times of the patriarchs, a formal ceremony (Gen. 24:53), and was regarded a binding obligation. It generally lasted a whole year before marriage. After betrothal unfaithfulness was regarded adultery. Before they came together. Before marriage. She was found. The angel (Luke 1:26) predicted her conception, and when the prediction was verified she probably did not hesitate to reveal it. Her heart would be filled with joyous pride instead of shame. Holy Ghost. Correctly, Holy Spirit. The Divine power. Christ is the only example of such a birth in all history. His birth, like his life and his resurrection, is a miracle.

19. Joseph her husband. Betrothal, according to the law (Deut. 22:24), made him her husband before marriage. A righteous man. Just and humane. To put her away publicly was to expose her to the penalty of death. Probably she had made her defense to him, but her story was so wonderful that he was in doubt. Privily. Give her a bill of divorce. See Deut. 24:1.

20. While he thought. Reflected, still in doubt, perplexed. An angel. Gabriel appeared to Mary (Luke 1:26); the name of the angel is not here given. Angels are messengers; an angel of the Lord is the Lord's messenger. These messengers are usually superhuman, but not always. In a dream. Often messages were conveyed by impressions made in sleep. Three times revelations were thus made to Joseph. Thou son of David. It was fitting that he should now be reminded that he belonged to the family from whence the Messiah was to come. Fear not. His betrothed was pure.

21. Thou shalt call his name Jesus. That is, Savior. The Hebrew form is Joshua; the full meaning is Jehovah's salvation. Shall save his people. Not the Jewish nation, as Joseph probably supposed, but all who accept and follow him. From their sins. Not a temporal salvation, but from the curse of sin, condemnation and banishment from God's favor and heaven.

22. That it might be fulfilled. Matthew neglects no opportunity to show the Jews that their prophets described Christ. The prophecy will be found in Isaiah 7:14.

23. Behold, a virgin. Rather the virgin, as in the Revision. Isaiah had in view a particular virgin, the mother of the true Immanuel. Like many other prophecies, it had a double, a typical and a true, fulfillment. The first was in the reign of Ahaz, concerning a temporal deliverance, but the higher reference is to the spiritual Deliverer of the world. The first is the type, the second is the great event that inspired the message. Immanuel. This means “God with us,” an appropriate title for Jesus among men.

24. And Joseph … did. He obeyed at once, a fitting example for all men. When the Lord's will is spoken there should be no delay in obedience. 22

25. Knew her not. A Hebrew form for conjugal intercourse. The language of the verse does not imply the perpetual virginity of Mary. 22

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