The Unexpected Ancestors

Lynn Hayden | December 13, 2018

Matthew 1:1–17

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

—Matthew 1:1–17

In ancient biographies, genealogies were common. However, in patriarchal cultures it was not customary, and certainly not necessary, to include anything beyond the lineage from father to son. But Matthew includes the names of five women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba), and Mary. Why would the Holy Spirit inspire Matthew to depart from common practice and include these women—these five mothers­—in Jesus’ genealogy?

Are they included because they exemplify God’s values? Certainly not! Tamar had her twin sons with Judah, her father-in-law, by posing as a temple prostitute, luring him into a sinful relationship to secure an heir. Rahab was a prostitute. Again, why are they included? It wasn’t to support Jesus’ Jewish pedigree since several of these women were Gentiles (Rahab was a Canaanite; Ruth was a Moabitess).

Let’s consider some other possibilities for their inclusion. One reason may be to legitimize the role of women in the line of Jesus, challenging the Roman culture which dismissed and overlooked women. Additionally, highlighting the Gentile women shows that God’s promises really are (and always have been) for all peoples on earth, supporting God’s promise to Abraham. Jesus came to reign, rule, save, and unite all people! “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Another possible reason these women are included may be to affirm the humanity of Jesus, who descended from a long line of men and women of questionable character, as all of us are. These ancestors help exemplify how God can work through fallible sinners, and painfully broken scenarios, to accomplish His purposes. And yet, God is not ashamed to claim these fallible sinners in Jesus’ human genealogy. Nor is Jesus ashamed to claim fallible sinners as His brothers and sisters! “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11).

Questions for reflection and discussion: Have you ever felt overlooked because of your gender, ethnicity, or position in life? How can the unexpected inclusion of these women, these Gentiles, these outsiders in Jesus’ genealogy help affirm how God can use you in the ways He has made you? How can you use this to encourage others?

Today’s devotionals were written by Lynn Hayden, who has called Wheaton Bible Church home since 1995. Lynn currently serves as a small group leader for the Place4You women’s Bible study, attends Single Purpose, and serves on the Finance Committee. She is an accountant, and recently finished a degree in Biblical Studies at Wheaton College. 

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