From Jechoniah to Jesus in Matthew’s Genealogy

Matthew’s genealogy has three parts (1:2-6a, 6b-11, 12-16). The third part is the most obscure because of the names after Zerubbabel. While the characters of Jechoniah, Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel are in the Old Testament, the next nine names (Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, and Jacob) are from sources unknown to us.

Important to observe is that Matthew doesn’t draw a straight line from Joseph to Jesus (the 13th and 14th in this section of the record, cf. 1:17) but moves sideways to Mary first: “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matt 1:16). The “whom” is a feminine relative pronoun here and can only refer to Mary. The implication? Mary is Jesus’ mother, but Joseph is not his father. So how did Jesus end up in Mary’s womb? That’s what the next section, Matthew 1:18-25, will narrate.

The third section of the genealogy covers key events like “the deportation to Babylon” (1:12), the end of the exile and the return to Jerusalem for the temple’s reconstruction (see the Old Testament accounts involving “Zerubbabel”), and then approximately five hundred years (from “Abiud to Jacob,” 1:13-15). Much happens during those five centuries, such as the Babylonians being conquered by the Persians, who were conquered by the Greeks, who were conquered by the Romans. To put it another way, the third section of Matthew’s genealogy takes you through the time period represented by the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (in Dan 2).

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