It is easy, and even understandable that one might gloss over the list of names in Matthew 1:1-17. It is a long genealogy but more importantly, it is a curated one.
Subtly but intentionally, Matthew opens his story with the words: “The historical record of” (Mt 1:1 HCSB). Hearing this phrase calls to mind a similar one, one Matthew wanted his audience to recognize. It is repeated throughout Genesis (2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1, etc.). It means “the record of the generations/origins of…”. It was a record of creation itself, followed by the record of humanity, with an emphasis on the chosen people of God.
“The historical record of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1) connects Jesus to this long history and simultaneously marks the beginning of something else that is brand new.
Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets (Mt 5:17), and Matthew takes care to demonstrate through ancestry that Jesus is exactly who Israel was waiting for. He begins with the ancient heritage of Abraham which confirms Jesus’ Jewish roots, and points to His fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to make him the father of many nations (Gen 17:3-8). Matthew also includes mention of Jacob the father of Judah, and his brothers, tying Jesus to the twelve tribes of Israel and pointing to the fulfillment of the prophetic blessing over Judah’s rule (Gen 49:10). Notably, “Jesse fathered King David” (1:6) signals a turn in the genealogy, emphasizing kings. Jesus’ royal bloodline establishes both His qualifications as a coming King, and as the fulfillment of God’s word to David.
“Your house and kingdom will endure before me forever, and your throne will be established forever.’”2 Sam 7:16
The second transition occurs at the mention of Jeconiah (vs 11) and the exile to Babylon (a loss of kingship). Israel is displaced from their homeland. They eagerly await the promise of the Messiah-King who will bring freedom and restoration.
Matthew then makes a curious summarizing statement:
“So all the generations from Abraham to David were 14 generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Christ, fourteen generations.”Mt 1:17
It may come as a startling fact, but by modern methods, this is not historically accurate.
There were more generations than Matthew reported (for example, three between Joram and Uzziah in verse 8). This is a curated list, remember? It isn’t about genealogical precision, it is about something much greater. Summarizing in this way was an acceptable and understood practice at that time.
Matthew is looking back over history and saying everything that happened before this points to something new, something better.
In Leviticus we find the answer to Matthew’s mystery equation. (Continue reading this post where it originally featured on Living Free Indeed)