If you were to ask people what are the most taxing excerpts to read in the Bible, I am betting that they would say the genealogies. There are a lot of them and they are far removed from our experience in our modern western culture. I’m sure a fair number of you wonder why the Bible has these listed, and are they important for us to read? The answer to that is Israel and yes. In the nation of Israel one would get their tribal affiliation through their genealogy, and also would qualify or not for the priesthood and for kingship.
The genealogy of the Messiah is important because of the promises that it fulfills. There were two requirements for kingship in the Hebrew Scriptures: they had to be of the house of David (descendant of King David), and there had to be prophetic sanction or divine appointment. There are two genealogies given of Jesus, one in Matthew’s gospel and one in Luke’s. There have been many theories by Bible scholars as to why these two different genealogies are given. I think one of the most interesting is based in the problem of the curse of Jeconiah.
In Jeremiah 22:24-30 there is a curse pronounced on Jeconiah:
As I live,” declares the LORD,
“even though Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim
king of Judah were a signet ring on my right
hand, yet I would pull you off…
“Is this man Jeconiah a despised, shattered jar?
Or is he an undesirable vessel?
Why have he and his descendants been hurled out
and cast into a land that they had not known?
“O land, land, land, Hear the word of the LORD!!
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Write this man [Jeconiah] down childless,
A man who will not prosper in his days;
For no man of his descendants will prosper
Sitting on the throne of David, Or ruling again in Judah.’
Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum explains in his article The Genealogy of the Messiah:
Out of David’s many sons, Solomon is chosen (verse 6), and the line is then traced to King Jeconiah (verse 11), one of the last kings before the Babylonian captivity. From Jeconiah (verse 12), the line is traced to Joseph (verse 16). Joseph was a direct descendant of David through Solomon, but also through Jeconiah.
No descendant of Jeconiah would have the right to the throne of David. Until Jeremiah, the first requirement for messianic lineage was to be of the house of David. With Jeremiah, it was limited still further. Now one had to be not only of the house of David, but apart from Jeconiah.
According to Matthew’s genealogy, Joseph had the blood of Jeconiah in his veins. He was not qualified to sit on David’s throne. He was not the heir apparent. This would also mean that no real son of Joseph would have the right to claim the throne of David. Therefore if Jesus were the real son of Joseph, he would have been disqualified from sitting on David’s throne. Neither could he claim the right to David’s throne by virtue of his adoption by Joseph, since Joseph was not the heir apparent.
The purpose of Matthew’s genealogy, then, is to show why Yeshua could not be king if he were really Joseph’s son. The purpose was not to show the royal line. For this reason, Matthew starts his Gospel with the genealogy, presents the Jeconiah problem, and then proceeds with the account of the virgin birth which, from Matthew’s viewpoint, is the solution to the Jeconiah problem. In summary, Matthew deduces that if Jesus were really Joseph’s son, he could not claim to sit on David’s throne because of the Jeconiah curse; but Jesus was not Joseph’s son, for he was born of the virgin Miriam (Matthew 1:18-25).
Isn’t that interesting? In this solution to the Jeconiah problem, the genealogy of Jesus as given by Matthew is a proof for the virgin birth! God often fulfills His prophetic word in surprising ways.
Soli Deo Gloria!