Matthew 1:1-17 – The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah


Matthew 1:1-17


The opening title describes this narrative as an “account” or “book” of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham, and then works out that genealogy in a carefully structured triad of 14 generations each, tracing Jesus’ ancestry from Abraham to Joseph.


The genealogy begins Matthew’s unique and distinctive narrative of the birth of Jesus (chapters 1 and 2) that has been added to the beginning of his model Mark and is replete with special Matthean themes and theology. Instead of the word “gospel” or “good news,” used by Mark, Matthew uses the word biblos (“book”) to describe his work, perhaps giving it more rational credibility for the reader. The translation “genealogy” actually represents the Greek word genesis and disguises the immediate literary and thematic connections to the opening book of the Jewish Scriptures, which Matthew’s audience would have read in Greek, and also the connection to Matthew’s use of the same word to begin the next section’s more focused account of the birth of Jesus. The link certainly intends to bind these two stories closely together and to invite the reader to ponder the implications of God’s creative activity that is both a continuation from the beginning and a new event in the birth of Jesus.The intentional and purposeful design of this creative activity  leads to the birth of Jesus the Messiah (1:16). Matthew underscores this point in the carefully drawn symmetry of the genealogy, summarized in 1:17, and by the way in which the literary pattern is broken at the point of its end reference to Jesus. Significantly, the genealogy begins with Abraham, is traced through King David, and, for Jesus to truly be a son of David, depends on Joseph being the father of Jesus. In addition to the numerical symmetry, Matthew’s interests have been noted in the choice of details of the genealogy, particularly the naming of four women, whose scandalous stories may be intended to point to God’s surprising and sovereign mercy in the completion of God’s designs.