The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
(Matthew 1:1 ESV)
The opening of any literary work establishes the foundation on which the rest of the text will be based. Matthew’s intention, as we learned in the introduction to this study, was to demonstrate that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah of the Old Testament. That Messiah had to be of a certain lineage – from King David – as foretold by the prophets. Therefore, Matthew begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus Christ.
Many people today are very interested in tracing their own genealogy. Such history often reveals interesting information that can shed light on present realities. It can also be used to prove a person’s right to a legal claim, such as an inheritance. Similarly, dog and horse breeders require proof of an animal’s pedigree (i.e. genealogy) so they can be sure that the animal is pure for breeding purposes.
Genealogies were likewise important to the Jewish people. Israel’s king had to be a Jew, and not a foreigner [Deuteronomy 17:15]. He also had to be a descendant of David [2 Samuel 7:14]. When the exiles returned from Babylon only those who were proven to be of Jewish descent could be priests [Ezra 2:62]. Genealogy was a very important issue for the Jewish people as evidenced by the fact that these genealogical records were preserved even during the lengthy exile.
Matthew understood this, being a Jew himself. So he knows that if he is going to prove that Jesus is who He claimed to be then he (Matthew) is going to need to show that Jesus meets the necessary criteria. Matthew does so by tracing Jesus’ ancestors all the way back to Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people.
Jesus was the son of both David and Abraham. It was with these two men that God made two very important promises (i.e. covenants). God promised that He would bless all the nations of the world through Abraham [Genesis 12:1-3]. This is known as the Abrahamic covenant. Centuries later God promised to send a savior to the Jewish people (and the world) who would be a descendant of David [2 Samuel 7:10-16]. This is known as the Davidic covenant.
In the next several verses Matthew will provide the proof for today’s verse, which is a summary statement of Jesus’ pedigree. As we will see, this proof will demonstrate that Jesus is a verifiable descendant of David and Abraham and therefore has a legal claim to be the fulfillment of the promises made by God to these two men.
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