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B. W. Johnson Commentary on Matthew 1:1-17

From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891.


The Genealogy and Birth of Christ.

SUMMARY.--The Genealogy of Jesus Christ. Three Series of Fourteen Generations. The Betrothal of Mary and Joseph. The Immaculate Conception. The Purpose of Joseph. The Lord's Message in a Dream. The Name Jesus. The Prophecy of the Virgin. Immanuel. The Birth of Jesus.

1. The book of the generation. Literally, "the book of birth," or genealogy. This title applies, not to the whole Gospel, but to the tables of descent in the first seventeen verses. The title was possibly copied from some Hebrew document compiled from the genealogical tables. Jesus Christ. Jesus, the personal name, which means "Savior;" Christ, the official title, which means "Anointed." He is our Anointed Prophet, Priest, and King. The son of David. The descendant. The prophets had declared that the Messiah should be of David's seed. The son of Abraham. The Lord had promised Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 22:18) that in his seed all the world should be blessed. David and Abraham were the two greatest ancestors of Jesus, and are named because it had been predicted that he would be their descendant.

2. Abraham begat Isaac. Matthew begins with Abraham to trace the line down. He was writing for Jews, and Jewish history begins with Abraham. Luke (3:23-38), writing for Gentiles, goes back to Adam. For the differences between Matthew and Luke, see verse 16.

3. Tamar. Three women are named in this list: Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. These were all Gentile women, and are named for this reason, and for their remarkable history. There were stains upon the character of Tamar (Gen. 38:11-30) and of Rahab (Josh. 2:1), but Ruth is one of the sweetest women of the Bible.

6. David the king. The greatest of line from Abraham to Christ, so exalted that one of the titles of the Messiah was "the Son of David." Of Uriah. The mother of Solomon is referred to, not by name, but as the wife of Uriah. Uriah was a Hittite, a Gentile, and his wife may have been also. She was certainly a partner of David in the greatest guilt of his life.

8. Joram. Between Joram and Uzziah three names are intentionally omitted. They are found in [19] 1 Chron. 3:11, 12. They were probably omitted to equalize the threefold division of generations from Abraham to Joseph. Such omissions of unimportant links are common in the Old Testament.

11. The carrying away to Babylon. The great seventy years' captivity in Babylon, following the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.

12. Zerubbabel. The descendant of the ancient kings who led the Jews back from the Captivity (Ezra 3:2).

16. Jacob begat Joseph. The descendant of a long line of kings was a poor carpenter of Nazareth. As the husband of Mary he was the legal father of Jesus, and Matthew gives his line of descent. A comparison of the table given by Luke will show that it differs in part from that of Matthew. Between David and Joseph the lists are widely different. Several views, all possible, have been presented, but the most probable explanation is that Matthew gives the line of Joseph, the legal line, and that Luke gives the line of Mary, the mother of our Lord. As the Jews regarded only male descent, unless Joseph, the supposed father, was a descendant of David they would not have recognized the genealogy as a fulfillment of the prophecies that Christ should be the Son of David; while Luke, himself a Gentile and writing for Gentiles, was more particular to give the line that shows that Jesus is really the Son of David. If Mary was the daughter of Heli, especially if an heiress, Joseph, by marriage, would become the "son of Heli." That there is no contradiction between the two tables is shown by the fact that the Jews who best understood their genealogies never charged it. These tables were preserved with great care, for various reasons, until Christ was born, but it is asserted that Herod destroyed them. If this is incorrect, they did not survive the destruction of Jerusalem.

17. Are fourteen generations. There are exactly fourteen generations from Abraham to David, and two other series are made to correspond. From David to, etc. David's name is counted again to make the number fourteen. The third series begins with Jeconiah and ends with Christ.

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