There are many genealogies in the Bible. It is important to realize that many of the genealogies are not solely for the purpose of revealing who begat whom. Often there is a theological message contained in these genealogies. This message can be related to the reader through a variety of means. This means that Biblical genealogies are most unique and challenge a western view of accuracy. For example, David was the eighth son of Jesse. This fact fits nicely with the Hebraic significance of the number eight. The number eight has theological significance of “newness” and / or “redemption”. From where is this derived? There were eight individuals who lived through the flood, Noah and his three sons and their wives (see I Peter 3:20). G-d reestablished the human race a new after the flood through these eight individuals.
Also, a male child under Torah law is circumcised and brought into a new relationship with the people of Israel. Of course circumcision takes place on the eighth day. The idea of “newness” is so emphasized that the son does not even receive a name until he is circumcised reflecting this new identity, which he received on the eighth day.
Early Christian churches were often built in the shape of an octagon in order to reflect that Messiah, who resurrected from the dead, did so on the eighth day (Sunday, the first day of the week plus the seven days of the previous week 1 +7=8). This emphasis on the number eight was to teach the correlation between the resurrected Messiah and redemption.
David, the eighth son of Jesse, brought a new era to the children of Israel and the Messiah / Redeemer will do this same thing but in an even greater way in the last days; therefore the Messiah is called the son of David. Although David was the eighth son of Jesse, what should one make with the verse within the genealogy of Judah from I Chronicles 2,
“And Jesse begat his firstborn Eliav, and Avinadav the second, and Shimah the third, and Netanel the fourth, and Rahdai the fifth, and Ohtzehm the sixth, and David the seventh.” I Chronicles 2:13-15
This is a perfect example of how genealogies are used to convey a theological message rather than an absolute fact. The Chronicle passage is not ignorant of the fact that David is actually the eighth son of Jesse, but prefers to list him as the seventh son. The number seven carries a meaning of “set apart” or “sanctified”. Therefore the writer of First Chronicles chose to list David as the seventh son in order to speak to the fact that David was sanctified (set apart with a purpose) to be the son of Jesse who would be king. Some scholars suggest that perhaps one of David’s brothers had died and now David was in fact the youngest of seven remaining sons of Jesse. Whether this is the case or not is irrelevant because Jewish genealogies convey revelation and are not simply the restating of a chronological order of who is the father of whom.
Another important aspect of Biblical genealogies is the meaning of “father”. There are numerous examples in genealogies where although the reader is told that X begat Y, yet it is clear that X is not the father, but grandfather or some other male relative. For example in Yeshua’s genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew one reads,
“Asa begat Y’hoshafat, Y’hoshafat begat Yoram, and Yoram begat Uhziyahu.” Matthew 1:8
In actuality, Yoram did not beget Uhziyahu; rather there are three generations missing. These generations are Achazyah, Y’hoash, and Amatzyahu. Many of the Biblical genealogies skip generations not because of a lack of knowledge but due to some theological concern. Sometimes, as previously mentioned, the one who is said to begat is not even a grandfather or in the straight lineage at all but a relative. Case in point is Matthew 1:12 and Luke 3:27. In this verse we are told that Sh’altiel begat Z’rubahvel. This is also stated by Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai; however in the genealogy of I Chronicles 3:17-19 it is stated that in reality Z’rubahvel was the son of Sh’altiel’s brother P’dayah. Scholars give a variety of explanations for this, as perhaps P’dayah died and his brother adopted Z’rubahvel. Once again there is no reason to speculate, but simply accept that Biblical genealogies take liberties to make a point that may or may not be understood by the readers today.
Now let us consider Yeshua’s genealogy in Luke. There is no question that from Joseph to David there are considerable differences with Matthew’s account. How can one explain these changes? The most common response is that Luke is actually tracing Yeshua through His mother Miryam (Mary). There are a few problems with this claim. First of all, the genealogy itself never claims to be through Miryam,
“Yeshua was about thirty years old when He began (His ministry) being considered the son of Yoseph, the son of Eli.” Luke 3:23
There is not even any hint of Miryam in Luke’s genealogy or in all of chapter three. Furthermore Jewish genealogies are not traced through the mother. When one examines Yeshua’s genealogies in Matthew and Luke it becomes clear why there are such differences between them. All one has to do is go to Luke 3:31 to find why there are these discrepancies,
“…the son of Nathan, the son of David,”
This verse is different from Matthew’s genealogy which has Shlomo (Solomon) as the son of David instead of Nathan. It is now clear that while Matthew traces Yeshua’s genealogy through Shlomo, Luke does so through a different son of David, Nathan. What are the implications of this? We have already seen how genealogies may use other male relatives for a variety of reasons. To say emphatically, like a large number of Christian commentators that Luke traces the lineage of Yeshua through Miryam as the reason for these differences is without foundation. This standard response seems to stem from a desire to defend Yeshua’s royal lineage, as Shlomo represented this lineage and not Nathan. But as we have learned from the fore-mentioned Biblical genealogy of Z’rubahvel, which lists an uncle as his father, this is not a problem for Jewish genealogies. Instead of offering an explanation based on speculation one should accept the Biblical genealogies for what they are and in the manner they are given, because only when one does so can he receive their intended purpose.
Why does Luke prefer to take Yeshua’s lineage through Nathan and not Shlomo and what problem(s) if any does this cause? There are those who state that Luke’s genealogy actually disqualifies Yeshua’s Messianic claim because of what one reads in First Chronicles,
“Behold, a son is born to you, he will be a man of rest and I will give rest from all his enemies around for Shlomo will be his name; and peace and quietness I will give to Israel in his days. He will build a house for My Name he will be to Me for a son and I will be to Him for a Father and I will establish the throne of his kingdom upon Israel forever.” I Chronicles 22:9-10
If Yeshua is from the lineage of Nathan and not Shlomo as Luke asserts, then it would seem that according to this passage that Yeshua is not a viable candidate for Messiah. There are two flaws with such a view. First, the New Covenant is a unit and one must let it speak as such. Matthew’s Gospel has already established for the reader that Yeshua is a descendant of Shlomo so there is no need for Luke to repeat this fact. Rather Luke is following the tendency of Scripture and desires to make an additional point. He wants to present Yeshua as the Messiah and do so without any connection to Y’hoyachin, who Jeremiah prophesies is cursed by G-d and that none of his descendants will sit upon the throne (see Jeremiah 22:28-30). This in one sense poses a serious problem for G-d’s promise of the Messiah. How can there arise one who has a legitimate claim to the throne, i.e. a descendant of Shlomo; yet not be a descendant of Y’hoyachin?
Matthew boldly proclaims Yeshua as a descendant of Shlomo (Mt. 1:6-7) and also includes Y’hoyachin (verses 11-12) in his genealogy. Matthew handles the obstacle of Jeremiah’s prophecy with stating that Yeshua was conceived by a virgin by means of the Holy Spirit. Therefore Yeshua is not the biological son of Yoseph, but nevertheless according to Jewish law, a legal descendant of his. This allows for Yeshua to meet the qualifications of Davidic lineage through Shlomo, but not a biological descendant of Y’hoyachin. Luke does not speak of the virgin birth, not because he was unaware of it or doubted its authenticity, but rather simply used a method very much accepted by Judaism and took Yeshua’s lineage through Nathan instead of Shlomo to avoid the issue of Y’hoyachin altogether.
An important point which must be made is that it is most disingenuous for scholars out of Judaism to attack and attempt to discredit the New Covenant and Yeshua’s Messianic lineage due to idiosyncrasies within the two genealogies when such characteristics are also found in the genealogies of the Old Covenant. If one applies the same standards to the New Covenant as the rabbis allow for the Old Covenant, then the results are that the New Covenant is just as reliable and inerrant as the Old Covenant.
In conclusion, due to the nature of Jewish genealogies and the liberties that they employ, one should heed the admonition of Paul, who wrote,
“And do not give heed to fables or endless genealogies which give rise to speculations, rather than godly edification in faith.” I Timothy 1:4
Share this Post