The following is an excerpt native Edward Sri, Ph.D.’s brand-new book, “God with Us: Encountering Jesus in the Gospel the Matthew” ($22.95, Emmaus road Publishing) together a reflection for the liturgical season that Advent.

For most people, reading a biblical family tree is around as amazing as reading the fine publish in an instruction manual. However this is exactly how the entire brand-new Testament starts in chapter among Matthew’s Gospel:

“The publication of the ancestry of Jesus Christ, the boy of David, the kid of Abraham. Abraham to be the father of Isaac, and Isaac the dad of Jacob, and Jacob the dad of Judah and also his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah . . .” (Matthew 1:1–3).

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I would certainly bet that many readers today perform what i did once I first looked in ~ this genealogy: skip the long list of names and pick up again in thing two! even the few brave readers who endure the list of 42 generations are nevertheless probably left wondering, “Couldn’t Matthew have actually chosen a much better way to start his Gospel?” 

Admittedly, gift hit with a family members tree of people who lived countless years earlier doesn’t it seems ~ to it is in the most captivating way to lure human being into the story the Jesus Christ. Together one new Testament scholar placed it, “Let’s confront it: various other people’s family members trees are about as exciting as various other people’s holiday videos.” 

For a Jew in Jesus’ day, however, this ancestry would have actually had more attention-grabbing power 보다 the most popular video clip or news article trending on social media today. That would have actually summed up all their hopes and also expectations around what God had been promising to carry out in their lives ever since the time that Abraham. 

And it would have actually triumphantly announced that God’s arrangement had come to completion in their own lifetime! In fact, if there were contemporary media outlets in first-century Judaism, this small genealogy would have made the height story ~ above CNN.

Let’s look in ~ Matthew’s ancestry with new eyes — v the eyes of first-century Jews that would have actually seen their identity, history, and future encapsulated in these few verses. In the process, us will start to see just how this story of Jesus, which sums increase the story the Israel, has end up being our story — the story that the Church.

The promised “Son of David”

For the old Jews, a ancestry is not simply a lengthy list the names. Every surname tells a story. And the name the stands out most in Jesus’ ancestry is David, the an excellent king that Israel in the Old Testament.

Consider the plenty of ways Matthew draws attention to David and also his relationship with Jesus. The very first title Matthew bestows on Jesus in the opening verse is the “son the David” (1:1). 

Another link between David and also Jesus is the they room the only individuals who are given titles. David is defined as “the king” (1:6) and Jesus is dubbed the “Christ” — meaning “anointed one” (1:16), a title given to a Davidic king as soon as he to be anointed at his coronation. 

Scholars have also found Davidic imagery in verse 17, in which Matthew draws fist to the variety of generations in the ancestry from Abraham come Jesus:

“The generations from Abraham come David were fourteen generations, and also from David come the deportation come Babylon fourteen generations, and also from the deportation come Babylon come the Christ fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:17).

Here, Matthew divides every 42 generations of the family tree into three sets of 14. The is drawing our attention to the number 14, i beg your pardon is far-reaching because David’s name “adds up” come 14 in Hebrew. 

Let me explain. In the Hebrew alphabet, letter are likewise given numeric value. The 3 Hebrew consonants in David’s name are dwd (d = 4, w = 6), including up to 14. Thus, the very structure the Matthew’s genealogy centered approximately three to adjust of 14 generations subtly proclaims Jesus to be the “thrice-Davidic kid of David.”


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Statue the King David, conqueror of Goliath, pointing toward his descendant, the Messiah, by French sculptor Nicholas Cordier in the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. (Wikimedia Commons)


Why all this focus on David? Allusions come David would bring to mind the glory work of Israel’s history, once the kingdom got to its top in terms of its politics power and also influence in the world. Yet that’s not all. 

God promised David and his descendants an everlasting dynasty: “... Her house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be created for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16). This dynasty would have global influence: the Davidic king would ascendancy over every the earth, nations would bow down prior to him, and in the all peoples would uncover blessing (cf. Psalms 2:8; 72:8–11, 17; 110:6). 

And God promised the one day, a brand-new son that David would certainly come — someone who would rescue God’s people from their enemies, reclaim the kingdom, and extend its regime to all countries (Isaiah 11:1–10; Amos 9:11–2).

Think about the excitement an old Jew would have felt in reading about the great King David in this genealogy. Jesus is presented as a “son that David” (1:1). Climate the genealogy traces the descendants of Abraham down to “David the king” (Matthew 1:6) and also goes on to perform the emperors of Judah flowing from David’s line (Matthew 1:7–10). 

We deserve to imagine civilization wondering, “Could this Jesus it is in the kid of David — the one because that whom we’ve every been waiting, the one that will bring ago the kingdom and totally free us from our enemies?”

But climate in verse 11 come a major turning point in the genealogy which worries a somber note for Jewish reader — a sudden, spicy minor chord in the genealogy’s triumphant march v David’s imperial descendants: 

“. . . And also Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the moment of the deportation to Babylon” (Matthew 1:11). 

Here in this one verse, Matthew sums up 6 centuries the Jewish anguish, suffering, and oppression. Matthew highlights the Babylonian deportation not so lot as a chronological marker, however as a signpost signaling a tragic shift in the story of Israel: the end of the Davidic monarchy. 

These indigenous recall how all of Israel’s really hopes surrounding the Davidic kingdom to be crushed in 586 B.C., when the Babylonians dominated Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and carried the people and even your king into a most humiliating exile. 

This exile was not merely a painful storage from the distant past, yet an abiding truth for the Jews in Jesus’ day, who ongoing to feel the impacts of this terrible loss. For most of the 6 centuries following the Babylonian exile, the Jewish human being continued to suffer oppression under the hands of various international nations up to the time of Jesus, once the Romans rule the land. 

For numerous years, the Jews were a nation without manage over their own land and also a world without their very own king, a child of David, sit on the throne. 

The end of the kingdom was not merely a political disaster or armed forces defeat. For a long time, god’s prophets had actually been reminding the human being that Israel’s stamin depended no on army might, financial wealth, or political maneuvering, however on commitment faithfulness to the one true God. 

Israel’s legislation taught them that if they broke their commitment relationship through Yahweh, they would endure the curse that exile, in which even their king would be lugged away through a foreign nation and God would no much longer be through them (cf. Deuteronomy 28:32–36; 31:16–18). This is specifically what occurred at the time of the deportation come Babylon (cf. 2 emperors 24).

With Matthew’s mention of the Babylonian exile, every the sadness, frustration, and despair that surrounded the first-century Jews’ experience of suffering and also oppression would certainly ring loudly in your ears. 

All this is synthetic up in this one brief verse about the exile (Matthew 1:11), and the genealogy continues these somber notes and also minor chords through listing the following two generations of exiled Davidic descendants approximately a guy named Zerubbabel in verse 12.

God readily available the Jews some hope throughout this period of suffering and exile. He sent his prophets to tell just how a new Davidic king would certainly be raised up — a messiah (“anointed one”) who would gain back the kingdom and also bring about the brand-new Covenant era in i beg your pardon there would certainly be forgiveness of sins and also blessing for the totality world. Most first-century Jews reading Matthew’s ancestry would it is in longing because that these guarantees to it is in fulfilled. 

Matthew plays upon those wishes in verse 13, whereby the family tree slowly starts to adjust keys again. Consider the dramatic transition between city 12 and verse 13. 

In city 12, Matthew mentions Zerubbabel, that was the last of the Davidic descendants in Matthew’s family tree recorded in the Old testament — another tragic note. What happened to the imperial line of David generations after ~ Zerubabbel had actually been uncertain, for it had not been videotaped in the scriptures — till verse 13 the Matthew’s Gospel.

Verse 13 offers a sign of brand-new hope, reflecting for the an initial time just how the Davidic royal line continued throughout the centuries even after Zerubbabel! This, no doubt, would stir excitement and also anticipation: the Davidic heat continues! here are the descendants of the kings! perhaps we will find the messiah at the finish of this line! 

The family tree builds a optimistic momentum together it introduces each descendent after Zerubbabel — the royal guys who were previously unrecorded in Scripture: Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim and so on. 

Finally, that reaches the peak of that is crescendo when Matthew gift “Joseph the husband that Mary, of who Jesus was born, who is dubbed Christ” (1:16). Here, the chorus resounds in ~ the climax of the whole genealogy: Jesus is the “Christ”— the messiah God had foretold would gain back the kingdom and bring to completion his arrangement of blessing the entire world!

Emmanuel: God with us

The chorus continues into verses 18–23, in which Matthew highlights two more titles because that this good royal Son. First, Matthew mirrors us exactly how this child’s really name has an excellent importance. The shall be referred to as “Jesus,” which literally method “God saves.” 

Why is he given this name? Matthew tells us with the angel’s explanation come Joseph: “nd you shall contact his name Jesus, for he will conserve his civilization from their sins” (1:21).

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Here we view that Jesus’ surname in verse 21 is the answer to the trouble of the Babylonian exile in verse 11. Remember, the Jews viewed their exilic problem not simply as a political or army problem, yet as a sin problem. According to your prophets and also their law, it was agreement unfaithfulness that brought about their exile and oppression. 

Thus, Jesus (“God saves”) comes to “save his people from your sins,” thereby saving the Jews from the real exile — which is no being chained down by the Babylonians or Romans, but being enslaved come the actual oppressor, the devil, who has a host over all humanity through the chain of sin and death.