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Regret the Begets?
In Defense of the Faith
Wednesday, April 04, 2018
Wendy Wippel

I recently read an internet article entitled, “The Most Baffling Passages in the Bible, and What They Mean", penned by a women named Esther Inglis Arkell.  The first of these “most baffling passages” ended up being -- in her words—the ones having to do with “all those begettings”. There are too many “begettings”, apparently, with not enough explanation.


Here’s her take on it:

"One of the features of the Bible, which have been satirized many times, are the long passages that say things like "and Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse." The longest begetting streak is at the beginning of the book of Matthew. It starts with Abraham and ends with Joseph, the father of Jesus. This is puzzling, not just because the Bible is keeping track of people's sex lives, but because it includes Joseph at all. The supposed intention of the passage is to link Jesus, son of Joseph, to Abraham, father of the people of Israel, and yet the entire point of Jesus is that he is God's son by the virgin Mary. Joseph had nothing, biologically, to do with it. If anything, the Bible should be linking Mary with Abraham, and leaving Joseph out of it. Why the many listed begettings?”

Not to worry. The title of her column, if you remember, was, “The Most Baffling Passages in the Bible and What They Mean”. So we are not going to be left in the dark.

Here’s her answer: “Some say that there is a subtext to this passage. Many of the people who were doing the begetting were not married to those who were begat upon. Therefore the sons that they begat held the technical definition of "bastard." Jesus was born to a single woman who was known to be engaged to a local man, and who was also in occupied territory. This kind of thing gets people talking. Although the begettings link Jesus to Abraham, they also necessitate acceptance of paternity that was outside the norm, negating questions about how, exactly, Mary got pregnant. Whatever happened, Jesus was God's chosen son and connected with God's people."

Now we know.  Or maybe you are as confused as I am?

Frankly, I am not really sure whether to laugh or to cry.

First of all, Esther, the Bible has all those genealogies because the Mormons hadn’t been invented yet to give us ancestry.com.  And all peoples -- even those way back before Christ walked the earth--- are naturally interested in preserving their roots and the knowledge of their heritage.  But there’s really a lot more than that to the begets than that.

The Scriptures tell us that God’s word is deep:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  (Hebrews 4:12) 

God’s word is deep. It’s W’s multi-layered.  So Jesus, in this passage, (despite what Esther concluded), should not, by any means, have been written out of the equation.  In fact, Jesus was right square in the middle of it all the time.

The fact that Matthew and Luke seemingly offer two different versions of Jesus’ genealogy has caused a lot of confusion over the years, leading modern Bible “scholars” to brand the genealogies as anywhere from “jumbled oral traditions” to “outright fabrication”.

The sorting out of the genealogies, however is simple once you have the cast of players sorted out: it involves two promises and two fathers. And one infinite God who knows the end from the beginning.

Both genealogies trace Jesus’ inheritance through Abraham and David.  But there they diverge.

Matthew’s genealogy continues from David through his son Solomon:

David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife[a] of Uriah. (Matthew 1:7)

Then we get the details of that lineage:

Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa.[b] 8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon,[c] and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon. 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

Two things you are going to want to remember in this passage:

Remember that this genealogy names Jacob as the father of Joseph. And second, remember that one of Joseph’s direct ancestors, his great, great; great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandfather, in fact, was Jeconiah.

Luke, however traces the genealogy beyond David through his other son, Nathan:  

23 Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Janna, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathiah, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathiah, the son of Semei, the son of Joseph, the son of Judah, 27 the son of Joannas, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmodam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Jose,the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonan, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menan, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:23-38)

Two things to note in this genealogy:  Heli is recorded as the name of Joseph’s father, and interestingly, Luke records that, “Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph”.  

Luke makes a point out of making sure the readers of the genealogies remember that Jesus wasn’t really Joseph’s son. By blood.

The biggest issue with the two genealogies, obviously, is that they provided two completely different lineages to Jesus, through two different fathers.

Which does throw us a loop, but doesn’t mean we have to throw the Baby out with the bath water. 

And the one thing we do know is that the Jews, in general, were serious about genealogies (to the point that Paul admonishes the redeemed Jews in I Timothy 1:4 to avoid getting too wrapped up in them.)  And we know the genealogy of the Messiah was a pretty big deal. Important enough that two "contradicting” genealogies, if they genuinely contradicted, would have been resolved.

But 2000 years later, they stand unchanged.  Why? 

The only thing that makes any sense is that the seeming contradictions in the genealogies for modern scholars must have not been a contradiction at all to the readers of the genealogies in the first century. There must be a piece or two of the puzzle missing to us that weren’t missing to Christ’s contemporaries.  And the obvious solution, since the norm is, after all, two parents per child, is that one of the genealogies is the maternal side, and one is the paternal.  But which is which, why do they both name fathers, and why do they name different ones?

One of the most important considerations in Bible interpretation is to understand what audience is in play. Our two “audiences” here are Matthew and Luke.  From what viewpoint do they view the genealogy of Christ? 

Matthew was a Hebrew through and through and looks at the genealogy of Christ as one awaiting the “Son of David”, the promised Messiah. The right of kingship, obviously, passed through the male line, so Matthew provided the paternal genealogy.

Luke certainly was at least a Hellenized Jew and may in fact have been a Gentile. And as a physician he approached the genealogies as--what else, a blood line. So, his genealogy provides the maternal line. So far, so good. But how do we sort the rest out?

Remember Jeconiah?  In Matthew’s genealogy? As a direct ancestor of Joseph? 

Jeconiah—(aka) Jehoiakim was a very wicked king. Such a wicked king that God eventually had had enough of him—even though he was in the royal line and made this pronouncement:

"As surely as I live," declares the LORD, "even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off. This is what the LORD says: "Write this man down as childless, … For none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.’” (Jer 22:30)

All of Jeconiah's descendants were declared forevermore ineligible for the throne, and Joseph was one of them. Joseph couldn’t pass on the right to the throne.

Point: Satan. 

Or so it would seem. But God knew the end from the beginning, and He had an end-around planned before the creation of the world.

Enter the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 25), from the tribe of Manassah. 

“The family heads of … Manasseh, … came and spoke before Moses and the leaders, the heads of the Israelite families. 2 They said, “When the LORD commanded my lord to give the land as an inheritance to the Israelites by lot, he ordered you to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters. 3 …

This is what the LORD commands for Zelophehad’s daughters: They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within their father’s tribal clan. 7 … Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry someone in her father’s tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess the inheritance of their ancestors.

The land stayed within the tribe because her inheritance, by the law established by Moses for the daughters of Zelophehad, was transferred to her husband when there were no sons that could inherit.  Essentially the daughter’s husband, by law, became the son that father did not have.

Which is pretty much exactly where we get the phrase son-in-law, (i.e. a son, by law.) 

We know from Scripture that Mary had at least one sister, but no brothers are mentioned.  And Jesus’ genealogies document that they were both of the tribe of Judah. So whatever would have been inherited by male sons, including the right to pass on rights to the throne, would have been inherited by Mary, as a daughter with no brothers to inherit it.

Both Joseph and Mary could document descent from David, but through different sons.

That resolves the differences between the two audiences.

But what about the two promises?

God made an immediate promise to fallen man of eventual victory over the serpent that beguiled Eve.

“I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

A prophecy which foretells a future day in which a human man will defeat the devil and reign on the throne of God. Translation: That was God’s promise to all sons of Adam, the whole human the bloodline, which Luke recorded.

God also made a promise to David that an eternal king would arise from His loins:

“the Lord tells you that He will make you a house.[a]12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." (2 Samuel 7:11-13)

That’s the promise made to His chosen people; a king that will rule justly, and a kingdom that will endure under His rule.   

Two genealogies, two audiences, two promises. Child’s play, really.

And a fascinating example of the richness available to those who mine for God’s truth.

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth.  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field  will clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:11-12)

Walking in God’s light is a preview of walking in His presence.  An I am so glad to be His adopted child.

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter.

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: The Red Cross, Revisited

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