Quite A List, Reflections on the Genealogy of Jesus.

This morning my Bible transcribing project brought me to Matthew today. {I will explain that below if you are interested.} Matthew begins with a genealogical listing of people in the line of Joseph, and the man who helped raise him. As I wrote out those names several things came to mind.

A family tree illustration.

Some people want to make a big deal about the seventeen generation between Abraham, David, Captivity to Babylon, and Jesus. This was a numerical way to remember key names but, in fact, more people would be in this lineage than those listed. This is clearly reflected in the verses 5 and 6, “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.” The issue is the time from Rahab to David more than three generations. Rahab is present at the conquest of Jericho, pre-Judges. David is born about 1000 B.C.E. time period of somewhere. My guess is a couple of grandfathers or great-grandfathers are listed as fathers. This is not uncommon for mostly oral traditions.

As I read through the names several things came to light. Some of those fathers I really know little to nothing about. All they are is a name. Some of the others have whole sagas about them, Abraham and David of course, but also Jacob, Solomon, and several of the kings {Josiah, Hezekiah, and Manassah come to mind}. People like the former I call “seams.” A major story {known as a sage} needs to connect to the next saga, so the writers used genealogy to do it.

Another interesting sidelight (at least to me) is people whose stories are well developed that are not on the list. Joseph is a prime example. He plays a pivotal role in the OT story, but is not part of Jesus’s lineage, Judah is. Joseph’s role in the story is to keep Judah alive and not starve during a famine. Prophets are missing, as are all the Northern kings. These are important, critical to the whole story of redemption carried in the OT, but they are not part of the lineage of Jesus.

a simple crown

A third reflection is on the imperfection one finds in these people on the list. Most of the kings were not very good people, evil comes to mind, David, Solomon, Josiah, Hezekiah to name four of the eight good kings. There were eleven bad kings in case you were wondering. There were other interesting people listed, like the wives. Tamar seduced Judah, Rahab was in all likelihood a prostitute, and Ruth was from Moab. The final woman, youth woman, is Mary, the mother of Jesus. The lesson I draw here and the thing that gives me hope from myself, is the God uses all kinds of people to accomplish his work. Good people, bad people, men, women, famous, and no names {well just names} can all have a part to play.

The biggest take-away from this list is the way it is divided. It starts with Abraham, the man who received a promise from God. David, a king who received a promise. These are the key names we are to remember. These carry the promises of God. These promises are important to Matthew and the Jewish audience to whom he was writing. Jesus will through the book fulfill the promises of scripture that God made to them and so many others along the way.

a page from John's gospel

NOTE: I mentioned above my Bible transcribing project. Let me explain. Last January I saw a Facebook challenge to write out the book of John. Just 15 verses a day or so. I accepted that challenge. I enjoyed the project so much that after John I started on Ephesians, then Philippians, and so one. To date I have transcribed nineteen of the twenty-seven NT books. I do a few verses most every day. Why? Several reasons. For one, it helps me see connects that I sometimes miss. John 3 is an example. Also, the project gets me into books and passages that are not my favorite. There are some hard passages, and I would just as soon not deal with them. But I have to if I am writing the whole book. Still another advantage is I come across things I have forgotten or not noticed before. On a few times I have said to myself, “Who added that since I last look here?” A final advantage (and there are more) is that it is a discipline to stay in the word. To write a word means I have to think about the word. And I have to go there most every day. Both are good for me.