An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
and Isaac the father of Jacob,
and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar,
and Perez the father of Hezron,
and Hezron the father of Aram,
and Aram the father of Aminadab,
and Aminadab the father of Nahshon,
and Nahshon the father of Salmon,
and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab,
and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth,
and Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,
and Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
and Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
and Abijah the father of Asaph,
and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat,
and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
and Joram the father of Uzziah,
and Uzziah the father of Jotham,
and Jotham the father of Ahaz,
and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
and Manasseh the father of Amos,
and Amos the father of Josiah,
and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers,
at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel,
and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel,
and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud,
and Abiud the father of Eliakim,
and Eliakim the father of Azor,
and Azor the father of Zadok,
and Zadok the father of Achim,
and Achim the father of Eliud,
and Eliud the father of Eleazar,
and Eleazar the father of Matthan,
and Matthan the father of Jacob,
and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary,
of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
This is probably the bit of Matthew’s Gospel which would win the “most skipped-over” prize! Providing a genealogy like this was intended to establish how great its subject was. Jesus’ genealogy, though, has some surprises. In amongst the hard-to-pronounce Hebrew names, there are five places where women are mentioned:
“Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar”
This sorry tale is told in Genesis chapter 38, slap bang in the middle of the Joseph story. Tamar was Judah’s widowed daughter-in-law, but Judah was refusing her marriage to another of his sons, as she was entitled to under the law, so she tricked him by masquerading as a prostitute. She became pregnant by Judah, and forced him to recognize her sons as his.
“Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab”
Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho, who helped the Israelites to conquer that city – her story is told in Joshua chapter 2.
“Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth”
Ruth was a woman from Moab, and in Deuteronomy 23:3 is the command “No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of their descendants shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.” And yet, here she is, the great-grandmother of King David.
“David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah”
The “wife of Uriah” was Bathsheba. David committed adultery with her (though she would have had no choice in the matter). When Bathsheba became pregnant, David had her husband killed, and took Bathsheba as his wife.
“Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born”
Not “Joseph the father of Jesus”, as Matthew goes on to explain in chapter 2.
So the genealogy of the greatest ever human being, the Messiah who came to save not only Israel but all humanity, is a story with prostitution, incest, adultery, ethnically forbidden marriage, and illegitimacy.
If such a family tree was good enough for the Son of God, we are all acceptable to God, whatever there might be in our backgrounds!
(The stained glass, by C E Kempe, is in St. Mary’s church, Godmanchester. Its design is a ‘Jesse Tree’ showing pictorially the ancestry of Jesus)