Reconciling the Two Genealogies of Jesus Christ
By Peter Salemi
The two Genealogies of Jesus have confused and bewildered many Christians and others throughout the centuries. There have been many theories and ideas to try and reconcile these two genealogies to try and make it make sense. Why do they differ? Are they both Joseph’s? Or does the one in Luke’s Gospel belong to Mary? These are the many questions and ideas put forward to reconcile the two genealogies.
What is the main purpose for genealogies? Without going into much detail the purpose for these is simply this:
1. The Bible’s genealogies help confirm the historical reliability of the Bible.
2. The Bible’s genealogies reveal the importance of family to God and to the writers of the Bible.
3. The Bible’s genealogies were also important in determining who could serve in certain roles. These included only Levites working in the tabernacle and temple, as well as descendants of Aaron who were to serve as high priest. Who had the legal right to sit on the throne of David (2 Sam 7:16; Isa 11:1-5; Ps 89:3, 4). Both of the genealogies of Jesus (Matt 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-28) link him with David,
4. The Bible’s genealogies also prove many Bible prophecies. For example, Jesus would be a Jew from the tribe of Judah. He was also a descendent of Abraham and David as Scripture predicted, as well as the virgin birth.
5. The Bible’s genealogies also teach how God has used a wide diversity of individuals throughout history. For example, in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, four women were mentioned, emphasizing the importance of women (especially important in the original setting of the Gospel when women were often considered of less importance than men).
With these main points, it tells us why the Gospel writers felt the need to put these into the text. For Matthew, his main audience was for the Jews, and he began his genealogy with “Abraham” (Matthew 1:1-2) for the simple reason, “Matthew recorded it for legal purposes; he was writing to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah, and the Jews' custom in keeping records was to trace descent through the father. Legally, the Jews of Jesus’ day looked on Him as a son of Joseph (John 6:42).” (Article; Does God’s Word Contain Errors? by Robert C Borake, emphasis added).
Whereas Luke “carries the genealogy back to Adam [Luke 3:38] and does not stop with Abraham…Luke, a Greek himself and writing for the whole world” (Robertson Word Pictures, emphasis added). He is showing that Jesus is the Savior, Yes for Israel-but also for the whole world!
Difficulties between Matthew and Luke
There are obvious difficulties one encounters between the two genealogies. This requires one to study and search the scriptures for the answers.
One of the major issues most people have is the fact of the cursed line of King Jeconiah. Critics say, “Jesus descended from the cursed King Jeconiah, therefore he cannot be the Messiah” The scripture says, “Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” (Jeremiah 22:30). This curse disqualifies any of Jeconiah’s descendants from being King of the Jews. Some scholars argue that since Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph, the curse does not apply to him. However, if Jesus inherits the royalty of King David through the ancestry of Joseph, his legal, adoptive father, it stands to reason Jesus would also inherit the curse of Jeconiah through him, too!
Now, some ancient rabbis taught that God reversed it. Rabbi Johanan taught the unbiblical idea that “exile atones for everything.” Others, more satisfactorily, taught that in captivity Jeconiah repented of his evil youth, so God cancelled the curse, just as He cancelled the declared destruction of Nineveh in Jonah’s time.
The final notes on Jeconiah in 2 Kings, describing his treatment in Babylon, certainly support the view that he repented. But God preserved a very direct curse in Scripture, calling all the earth to hear “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD.” (Jer 22:29). Would He cancel it without telling us directly that He had done so, and why – especially if it related to the descent of Messiah? (Quotes from article; The Genealogies of Christ and “Jeconiah’s Curse”). The curse is still in place nothing in the Bible indicates that God reversed it.
Another problem is, in both genealogies, when one gets to Salathiel and Zorobabel; we have a different father in Luke’s Gospel as opposed to Matthew’s Gospel. Then when one gets to Joseph, we have him as the “son of Heli” (Luke 3:23) and the other as “begat” by Jacob (Matthew 1:16). Can all this be reconciled and make sense! Absolutely!
The Cursed line of David
Let’s begin with the curse on David’s line through Jeconiah. How can Jesus inherit, “the throne of his father David:” (Luke 1:32) if there is a curse on that particular line of David that Joseph belongs? As most commentators rightly admit, “why should the Evangelist present this genealogy to his readers? Joseph was descended from David through the legitimate royal line of the house of David; and it was necessary to show that Jesus, the adoptive son of Joseph, was the legal heir to the throne of David.” (Lange’s Commentary of the Old and New Testament, emphasis added). This is one major reason why it’s presented to the readers. Yet there is a curse, OR IS THERE?
The simple solution is that the Jeconiah cursed in Jeremiah 22 is a different man from the Jeconiah named by Matthew in Jesus’ genealogy, and you can prove it in the Bible!
First, Matthew 1:11 says, “And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:” There are problems if one believes this is King Jeconiah, the line that God had cursed. 1 Chronicles 3:15-17 states that Josiah was the grandfather of not the father of Jeconiah, whose father was Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim; yet Jeconiah’s son is “Salathiel” which corresponds to Matthew 1:12. This all contradicts and is in error if one believes this is the cursed line of Jeconiah. Does the Bible contain errors? Absolutely Not! The problem is simply solved when one understands who it is really speaking of here.
Notice, Matthew says that Jeconiah had brothers– plural – which were carried away to Babylon. But 1 Chronicles 3:16 it says that King Jehoiakim had only two sons – Jeconiah and Zedekiah. Therefore, King Jeconiah had only one brother, who was carried away to Babylon – not plural brothers as Matthew 1:11 states. The Jeconiah in Matthew 1:11 is a different man from King Jeconiah.
Who was Matthew’s Jeconiah? He had to be one of Josiah’s SONS! Not Grandson! His sons are listed:
“And the sons of Josiah were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum.” (1 Chron 3:15).
The Bible in detail tells us the fate of Jehoiakim, Zedekiah, Shallum who became kings of Judah. Jehoiakim and his line of course is cursed and will not sit on the throne of David (see Jer 22:13-30; 36:30-31), and of course does not fit the genealogy of Matthew.
Shallum was king and died after only a few months as ruler and went to Egypt and died (see Jer 22:10-12; 2 Kings 23:31-34).
Zedekiah was the last king on the throne, he replaced Jeconiah by the King of Babylon (2 Kings 24:17). Zedekiah sons were slain and he was carried captive to Babylon (2 Kings 25:7; Jer 39:7; 52:9-11), and there he died. His daughters left and married the Princes in Spain and then went to Ireland to establish the throne in Israel that Jesus will inherit at his second coming (Read our Booklet the throne of David in Prophecy for details).
This leaves us with “Johanan” who was the “Firstborn.” The firstborn who not only has the right to the throne, but the firstborn is also holy to God (Ex 13:12-13). But when Josiah died, the “people of the land took Jehoahaz [Sallum see Jer 22:10-12] the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father’s stead.” (2 Kings 23:30). This phrase “people of the land,” “was a technical term that referred to a body of leaders such as a council of elders or a kind of informal parliament (see 33:25). This group acted in a time of crisis, such as the death of Josiah in battle [actually, from battle]. His loss was made worse by the fact that he had at least four sons who could succeed him. Josiah [probably not expecting to die for many years] may not have made his choice of successor clear” (Nelson Study Bible, note on 36:1, emphasis added).
Josiah did not get a chance to name his successor. So, first the people chose Sallum. Then the Pharaoh of Egypt chose Eliakim (2 Kings 23:34). Then after Eliakim whose name was changed to Jehoiakim died, “Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead.” (2 Kings 24:6; also known as Coniah and Jeconiah, the cursed one).
Then Zedekiah whose name was also “Mattaniah,” was picked by the King of Babylon to reign in Judah (see 2 Kings 24:17; Jer 37:1). All these kings were picked by other people and not by Josiah himself. The rightful heir of the throne was Johanan, yet one source says, “we know nothing about the firstborn Johanan?” (Jerome’s Hebrew Philology: A Study Based on his Commentary on Jeremiah, p.172). Some speculate that he died in battle with his father, but again that is all speculation!
As one reads in the Bible, Kings were given other names. Here are the names and second names (royal names) of King Josiah’s sons:
1. Johanan – ?
2. Eliakim – Jehoiakim (royal name when he became king) (2 Kings 23:34)
3. Mattaniah – Zedekiah (royal name when he became king) (2 Kings 24:17 )
4. Shallum – Jehoahaz (royal name when he became king) (2 Kings 23:30; Jeremiah 22:11)
Some might object that Eliakim, Mattaniah, and Shallum had their names changed because they became kings, and that Johanan would not have had his name changed, because he did not become a king.
The response to this objection is that not everyone in the Bible who had a name change or dual names became a king. Jesus gave Simon the nickname of Peter. Nebuchadnezzar changed the name of Daniel to Belteshazzar, and Daniel’s three colleagues, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had their names changed to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. None of these people became kings. The fact is name changes were common during these times. Even today we give nicknames to people.
Now that all three brothers were off the throne and God cursed Jeconiah and his line then all that is left is Johanan to take the throne.
It is possible that Johanan was given a regal name, like his brothers, in preparation to become King of Judah. It is possible that the name he received was Jeconiah, which means “God has established” or “established by God.” In these turbulent times, when Josiah’s sons and grandson took the throne, not in order of their birth, but in compliance with the dictates of the foreign warlords of Egypt and Babylon, Johanan never got the chance to rule Judah, as should have been his right as the firstborn of King Josiah. Perhaps Pharaoh Necho and Nebuchadnezzar disapproved of him? Maybe Johanan unlike his brothers was a believer in God like his father Josiah and the King of Egypt and Babylon wanted complete allegiance to them and not to God? This could also be the reason why earlier the people did not pick him as one source writes, “Was he righteous and the people did not want him so they choose Jehoahaz?” (Marks Bible Study).
This could be the reason why Jehoiakim’s son was then named when he took the throne, from “Jehoiachin” to “Jeconiah.”? They took Johanan’s regal name (for it was his turn to rule since his brothers were failures) and instead gave it to the next king of Judah Jehoiachin approved of course by the King of Babylon, “for at that time it belonged to the king of Babylon, and Jehoiachin was a mere viceroy or governor” (Clarke’s Commentary).
Notice the pattern of what Jehoiakim does here. In 1 Chronicles 3:15 and 16 there are two Zedekiah’s. One is the son of Josiah, the other the son of Jehoiakim. If he named one of his sons after Zedekiah his brother could he not name his other son after his other uncle “Johanan” whose Regal name was “Jeconiah”?
And as pertaining to Jesus, notice the meaning of his original name “Johanan,” which means, “gift or grace of God” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, emphasis theirs). Does this not describe the Lord Jesus as the one who brought “grace and truth” (John 1:17)?
How can we verify if Johanan is really the uncursed Jeconiah in Jesus’ lineage?
Now it is obvious that “I Chronicles 3 contains a counterpart to Matthew’s list, at least his middle section covering the kings of Judah, that is, the family of David, and: “From David to Zedekiah, twenty-one kings reigned in Judah. But in Matthew’s list, only the names of fifteen kings appear. Three of the six left out, [are] the three who followed Josiah (Shallum/Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah), [and] were of the same generation, brothers—blood relatives, of the same family line.” (Forerunners’ Commentary, emphasis added). They were left out because they “are not direct ancestors of Jesus and so are not included, providing a logical reason for their absence” (ibid, emphasis added). Instead Matthews names “Jochonias” and says, “Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren [Shallum/Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah], about the time they were carried away to Babylon:” (1:11), and then, “And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias [Johanan] begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;” (v.12). Jochonias was the ancestor of Christ who was the son of Josiah; the other brothers were omitted because they are NOT the ancestors of Christ; that leaves only one person, Johanan who was also named Jechonias. Remember, Matthew says Jeconiah had brothers (plural), while 1 Chronicles 3:16 says that Jeconiah the grandson of Josiah had only one brother, Zedekiah. Obviously there are TWO different “Jechonias.” These names were common during the time before and after the Babylonian exile.
Another proof that they are different is, Matthew says, “Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;” (v.12). Yet going by 1 Chronicles 3:17-18, it says, “And the sons of Jeconiah; Assir, Salathiel his son,
“Malchiram also, and Pedaiah, and Shenazar, Jecamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah.” So Yes, Jeconiah’s son was “Salathiel” however, “And the sons of Pedaiah were, Zerubbabel, and Shimei:” (v.19). Pedaiah was the father of “Zerubbabel” not Salathiel.
Then “And Zorobabel begat Abiud;” (Mtthew 1:13). In 1 Chronicles 3:19-20, “the sons of Zerubbabel; Meshullam, and Hananiah, and Shelomith their sister: And Hashubah, and Ohel, and Berechiah, and Hasadiah, Jushabhesed, five.” Not one is named “Abuid.” Obviously these two lines of Joconiah are two different lines. One is the cursed line that would not inherit the throne, the other is the firstborn Johanan whose name was changed to Jeconiah who was righteous and had every right to the throne and had “brothers” plural who were carried off to Babylon. He was the who had a son named Shealtiel, who had a son named Zerubbabel, who had a son named Abiud. These are the ancestors of Joseph and Jesus has the complete legal right to the throne of David through this line that is NOT CURSED! “Therefore, Johanan must have received a given name, Jeconiah, and Jesus descends from him, not from the cursed King Jeconiah…So also Zerubbabel, who led the Jews back from Babylon to Jerusalem, along with Jeshua the priest, was also not of King Jeconiah’s cursed line but was a descendant of Johanan (Jeconiah), who was never king and was never cursed. And this Jeconiah was an ancestor of Jesus.” (Article; The Curse of King Jeconiah, emphasis added).
Also Notice the scriptures, Of King Jeconiah, God said “As I live, declares the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off and give you into the hand of those who seek your life, into the hand of those of whom you are afraid, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of the Chaldeans.” (Jeremiah 22:24-25) So, God likened King Jeconiah to a signet ring that he tore off his right hand.
By contrast, of Zerubbabel, God said, “I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:23). God likened Zerubbabel to a signet ring that he had chosen.
In Zechariah, God says, “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
“Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. [His grandfather Johanan’s name means “grace of God”]
“Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.” (4:6-9)
This Zerubbabel – clearly not cursed – was the leader of the Jews back from Babylon to Jerusalem. His mission was to restore the worship in the temple that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed. He was the descendant of righteous King Josiah and acted in the role of Judah’s king – even though he was a governor not King under the over-lordship of King Cyrus of Persia. Interestingly, the High Priest who accompanied Zerubbabel was named Jeshua - Jesus in Greek.
So, Zerubbabel, Jesus’ ancestor, became the ruler of the Jews as they returned from Babylon under the guidance of a High Priest who was Jesus’ namesake.
In Acts 4:11-12, Peter told the Sanhedrin, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The righteous Zerubbabel, chosen and blessed by God, brought forth the literal capstone – that used to rebuild the temple – and the figurative capstone of the living temple, God’s people, the church, in the person of Jesus Christ, was the descendant of this blessed Zerubbabel.
The only possible and correct ancestry of Jesus is completely consistent with the texts of 1 Chronicles, 2 Kings, Jeremiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Matthew.
The cursed King Jeconiah had the same name as his uncursed uncle Jeconiah, who was the firstborn of King Josiah but who never got to wear Judah’s crown.
The cursed Zerubbabel had the same name as his uncursed cousin Zerubbabel. (The name Zerubbabel is not Hebrew, but Aramaic. It means “the seed of Babylon.” Since both men of this name would have been born in the Babylonian exile, this is hardly a strange name for them. It may even have been a kind of a title.) (Quotes from above article). All these names were common among the Jews of the Babylonian captivity. In the genealogies one can easily see this.
There are many common names. Johanan seems to have been a very popular name:
1. Son of Azariah and grandson of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, and father of Azariah, 3. (1 Chronicles 6:9,10) Authorized Version.
2. Son of Elioenai, the son of Neariah, the son of Shemaiah, in the line of Zerubbabel's heirs. (1 Chronicles 3:24) (B.C. after 406.)
3. The son of Kaereah, and one of the captains of the scattered remnants of the army of Judah, who escaped in the final attack upon Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. (B.C. 588.) After the murder of Gedaliah, Johanan was one of the foremost in the pursuit of his assassin, and rescued the captives he had carried off from Mizpah. (Jeremiah 41:11-16) Fearing the vengeance of the Chaldeans, the captains, with Johanan at their head, notwithstanding the warnings of Jeremiah, retired into Egypt.
4. The first-born son of Josiah king of Judah. (1 Chronicles 3:15) (B.C. 638-610.)
5. A valiant Benjamite who joined David at Ziklag. (1 Chronicles 12:4) (B.C. 1055.)
6. A Gadite warrior who followed David. (1 Chronicles 12:12)
7. The father of Azariah, an Ephraimite in the time of Ahaz. (2 Chronicles 28:12)
8. The son of Hakkatan, and chief of the Bene-Azgad who returned with Ezra. (Ezra 8:12)
9. The son of Eliashib, one of the chief Levites. (Ezra 10:6; Nehemiah 12:23)
10. The son of Tobiah the Ammonite. (Nehemiah 6:18) (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, under “Johanan”)
From this point, Zerubbabel to Joseph’s time, the public registries were available for people to look into their ancestry. This was common practice in the first century, “Josephus, too…publishes his own genealogy, as it existed in the public registries.” (Lange’s Commentary of Old & New Test, emphasis added). Matthew going into the public registries and the Bible strung together the genealogy of Joseph showing that Joseph is Jesus father “in the eyes of the law” and is from the “royal line from David to Joseph” and so has the “legal right” to the throne (quotes from Difficulties in the Bible, by R.A. Torrey, pp.150-154).
What of Luke’s genealogy? Why it is that Luke writes that Joseph is the “son of Heli”? (Luke 3:23). Is he not the son of Jacob? (Matthew 1:16).
Why it is that Matthew says, “…and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.” (Matthew 1:17). However he lists only 13 names after the captivity is counted. Is it 13 or 14?
What about Salathiel and Zorobabel? We have a different father in Luke’s Gospel as opposed to Matthew’s Gospel? Luke says “Neri” was the father of “Salathiel” whereas Matthew says Joconiah was his father (Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27).
Also, look at the two genealogies from Zerubbabel on; the names are completely different-and Luke’s is a longer list:
Also, look at the two genealogies from Zerubbabel on; the names are completely different-and Luke’s is a longer list:
Why is Luke’s longer than Matthew’s? Can all this be reconciled? Yes it can!
First, many scholars have concluded that this genealogy is the genealogy of Mary, not of Joseph. So why is Joseph called the “son of Heli”? Before we answer this question, first let’s establish that this is Mary’s genealogy.
Point #1: As mentioned above, these two Gospels were written for two different audiences. Matthew’s Gospel was written for the Jews and so, “All through it [Matthew’s Gospel] Joseph is prominent, and Mary is scarcely mentioned. In Luke on the other hand, Mary is the chief personage in the whole account of the Saviour’s conception and birth. Joseph is only brought in only incidentally and because he was Mary’s husband” (Difficulties in the Bible, p.151, emphasis added; see also Lange’s Commentary). Mary is the primary subject in Luke’s account so the genealogy, in context must be hers.
Added to that, “that Luke would record Mary’s genealogy fits with his interest as a doctor in mothers and birth and with his emphasis on women with his Gospel which has been called ‘the Gospel for Women’’’ (When Critics Ask, by N. Geisler, p.386, emphasis added).
Obviously, the prime focus is Mary, then so is the genealogy!
Point #2: The genealogy of Mary goes all the way back to Adam, and who was Adam’s Father? God! Who was Jesus’ Father, GOD THE FATHER! It is showing the father is of the first Adam and the “last Adam” Jesus. (1 Corinth 15:45). Also, Luke tracing Mary’s ancestry all the way back to the book of Genesis is revealing that this is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the “seed” of the woman in Genesis 3:15. God said, “it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Clearly the genealogy is that of Mary.
Point #3: If one notices the two lines of David in the two genealogies they are different. One is through Solomon son of David, and the other is through Nathan son of David (Matthew 1:6; Luke 3:31). (See Lange’s Commentary for full discussion). Two different lines and so two different results. Matthew’s is Joseph’s Luke’s is Mary’s.
Now Some argue that “That while the genealogies of Luke and Matthew have nothing else in common, they both contain the names of Salathiel and Zerubbabel?...[and] that both Mary and Joseph seem to have descended from Zerubbabel, the son of Salathiel.” (Lange’s Commentary). But the fathers are different and so are the sons. Are they really both descendants of the same Zerubbabel, the son of Salathiel? Now as we have noted, these were not the descendants of King Jeconiah, but of Johanan/Jeconiah in Matthew’s Gospel. This explains the father of Salathiel. But what about in Luke’s Gospel of Salathiel “which was the son of Neri” (Luke 3:27)? What is the answer? This is not Joconiah/Johanan! It is simple! “In Matthew’s line, the parent of the foster-father of Jesus is called Jacob, while in that of Luke he is designated Eli. The same discrepancy extends over the whole table,—always assuming that the apparent coincidence of the two lines in Zorobabel and Salathiel is simply due to similarity of names.” (ibid, emphasis added). These names were common among the Jews during the captivity as we have proven throughout this paper. This Zorobabel and Salathiel in Luke’s Gospel are different from the Zorobabel and Salathiel of Jeconiah-Johanan line. This is why the descendants and the fathers are different.
Point #4: Why is Luke’s Genealogy longer than Matthew’s?
One: Luke’s goes all the way back to Adam.
Two: With different lines of descent they cannot be exactly the same due to life spans and unexpected deaths.
Three: from Zorobabel to Mary the descendants are not the same descendants of Matthew’s Gospel.
Four: Matthew does a lot of “omitting” in his genealogy. Why does he do this? “The true explanation appears to be, that all the individuals omitted by the Evangelist had, in one respect or another, no claim to be regarded as separate and distinct links in the theocratic chain.” (Lange’s Commentary, emphasis added). Matthew only emphasized important players in the genealogical table that pointed to Christ. This is true of all the genealogies.
In the Old Testament, there were clearly other people on the earth during the time of Cain and Abel but Cain’s line is emphasized and Seth’s line is emphasized due to the fact that these lines affected the history of man. The book of Genesis says, “And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:” (Gen 5:4). These people are not named in the genealogies but the line of Seth is emphasized (Gen 5:3). Matthew is basically doing the same in keeping with the Old Testament. “In the arrangement and division of the genealogical tree of Jesus, Matthew was undoubtedly influenced by the Old Testament symbolism of numbers. The grand general arrangement into three groups (patriarchs, kings, and persons of royal extraction) presents an ascending and descending line.” (ibid, emphasis theirs).
Point #5: So why does Matthew say there are 14 generations from Babylon to Christ when there are only 13 names? 14 generations 3 times as we read in Matthew 1:17 is a total of 42. But when you count there are only 41 generations. How can this be?
First the genealogy is in three distinct divisions of 14 people each.
First division of 14 generations:
(1) Abraham, (2) Isaac, (3) Jacob, (4) Judah, (5) Perez, (6) Hezron, (7) Ram, (8) Aminadab, (9) Nahshon, (10) Salmon, (11) Boaz, (12) Obed, (13) Jesse, and (14) David.
Since David is counted in the first division, it would not make sense to double count him into the second division as one individual cannot be seen as 2 separate generations. Hence, there is also no problem counting the second division.
Second division of 14 generations:
(1) Solomon, (2) Rehoboam, (3) Abijah, (4) Asa, (5) Jehosophat, (6) Joram, (7) Uzziah, (8) Jotham, (9) Ahaz, (10) Hezekiah, (11) Manasseh, (12) Amon, (13) Josiah, and (14) –Johanan/Jeconiah; the time of the deportation to Babylon.
A problem only arises when counting the number of people from the time of the deportation to Babylon to Jesus Christ. The list comes up short:
Third division, there are only 13 generations:
(1) Shealtiel, (2) Zerubbabel, (3) Abiud, (4) Eliakim, (5) Azor, (6) Zadok, (7) Achim, (8) Eliud, (9) Eleazar, (10) Matthan, (11) Jacob, (12) Joseph, and (13) Jesus Christ. How is this resolved?
Notice that 4 women are mentioned in this genealogy in verses.3, 5, 6. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Notice how Matthew puts them, “Zara of Thamar;” “Booz of Rachab;” “Obed of Ruth” “David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;”
Now why are these women included? These four women listed by Matthew all made foundational contributions to the greatness of ancient Israel. Tamar and Ruth navigate Israelite law and custom in order to continue the lineage of their husbands. Had it been left to the men in the story, King David would never have been born. Israel would never have been great.
Rahab and Bathsheba likewise play strategic roles in the history of Israel. Rahab makes possible the Israelite invasion of Jericho. Bathsheba intervenes in a dispute about succession to ensure her son Solomon received the throne instead of David’s older son Adonijah.
Together, these four women fundamentally shaped the history of ancient Israel. By including them in Jesus’s genealogy, Matthew reminds us of the essential role of women in the story of ancient Israel and in the advent of Jesus Christ including Mary!
Although this is NOT Mary’s genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel, her GENERATION is added here because of her essential role in the history of Israel-the prophesied virgin who will give birth to the Messiah the Savior of Israel (see Matthew 1:21-23). This is done intentionally to emphasize the virgin birth! “By this Matthew evidently intended to indicate that the name of Mary was here to be inserted in the genealogy; for in so important a matter he could not have made a mistake…the Evangelist wished to lay emphasis on the fact, that Joseph was not the natural father of Jesus. Accordingly, there is a sudden break in the natural order of the genealogy: Abraham begat etc., Jacob begat Joseph; and an expression is introduced which forcibly points to the circumstance that Jesus was born of a virgin.” (ibid, emphasis added). “the husband of MARY” (v.16) is added to show Mary being 13 generation added to this genealogy and Jesus being the 14th. This is another main purpose for the genealogy to show Jesus was born of a virgin-the fulfillment of that great prophecy of “Immanuel” “God with us.”
Like “Zara of Thamar;” “Booz of Rachab;” “Obed of Ruth” He is the 14th generation-JESUS OF MARY!
Point #6: So why is Joseph called the “son of Heli”? And why isn’t Mary put in as the “daughter of Heli” in the Gospel of Luke?
Notice the text, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,” (Luke 3:23). Notice the phrase “as was supposed” “hōs enomizeto” This, as Robertson Word Pictures explains, “Luke evidently means to suggest something unusual in his genealogy by the use of the phrase ‘as was supposed’ (hōs enomizeto). His own narrative in Luke 1:26-38 has shown that Joseph was not the actual father of Jesus.” (Emphasis added). So according to the custom at the time, “Mary’s genealogy was given in her husband’s name” (Does God’s Word Contain Errors? article by Robert C Boraker, emphasis added). So Joseph was the “son in law” of Heli.
Trapps NT states, “That is, his son-in-law. For Heli was Mary’s natural father; and it is Mary’s genealogy that is here described; but put upon Joseph, because the Hebrews reckon not their genealogies by women, but by men only” (emphasis mine).
Added to this, “ ‘It is remarkable that, in the Talmud, Mary the mother of Jesus is called the daughter of Heli. From whence have Jewish scholars derived this information? If from the text of Luke, this proves that they understood it as we do; if they received it from tradition, it confirms the truth of the genealogical document Luke made use of.’(Godet.)” (Popular New Testament, emphasis theirs and mine).
Through this line, “according to the flesh,” Jesus’ actual blood genealogy is through Mary. Her ancestor was David’s other son, Nathan (Luke 3:31). To fulfill His promise to establish David’s seed on the throne forever; God honored Nathan by making him the ancestor of the promised King who would sit on David’s throne through eternity (Luke 1:31-33).
Jesus’ Inheritance through a Woman?
Mary being a woman how could she transmit David’s royal inheritance — the right to the throne — to her son, since all inheritances had to pass through male descendants? It’s pretty obvious Heli had no other heirs!
According to Israel’s law, when a daughter was the only heir, she could inherit her father’s possessions and rights if she married within her own tribe (Num. 27:1-7, 36:6-7).
Apparently, Mary had no brothers who could be her father’s heirs. Joseph became Heli’s heir by marriage to Mary, and thus inherited the right to rule on David’s throne. This right then passed on to Christ.
Both genealogies had to be recorded to establish Christ’s right to rule on David’s throne. Joseph’s genealogy shows Christ was a descendant of Johanan/Jeconiah the firstborn and holy to God, and thus could sit on the throne by inheriting the legal right through Joseph. It further proves the virgin birth of Christ as well.
But Christ was Mary’s son through Nathan and can inherit the throne being a descendant of David “according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3) fulfilling the promised God made to David (2 Sam 7:12-16; Psalm 89: 3-4; Jer 33:17); and legally because of her marriage to Joseph, whose genealogy shows he was of the tribe of Judah.
These two genealogies do not contradict. The purpose of these genealogies is clear. When studied together, they prove the virgin birth, and Christ’s legal right to rule on David’s throne when He returns.
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