Matthew 1:1-17 I See Dead People

This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b]the son of David,the son of Abraham:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

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

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

4 Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

6 and Jesse the father of King David.

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

7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14 Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

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

17 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.

I See Dead People

When we read a list like the one above, we tend to glaze over.  We don’t know how to pronounce ancient Jewish names and we don’t know how to dig into a genealogy.  It’s like hanging out in a graveyard of people you never knew.  It is not surprising that we see little importance, my generation know the names of their grandparents but have difficulty recalling the names of great-grandparents.  In Jewish society it was important where you came from.  The claims to inheritance were settled this way.  The line of the king was settled this way.  Jewish priests kept records in the temple and families kept private records too.  Maybe we should be more intentional about passing on to the next generation records from previous ones.  Without written records, videos, and stories the legacy of lives lived blows away too soon with the dust.

Jesus’ line was biological and legal.  Mary is emphasized in the Greek as the biological mother of Jesus, Joseph is emphasized as the legal father of Jesus.  Legally Jesus inherits the right to be King of Israel through Joseph.  The Jewish audience would know that a claim to Jesus as Messiah, the Anointed One, is being emphasized.  Jesus has the right to rule.

Another interesting fact is that Matthew, who partied with tax collectors and prostitutes, includes a number of colourful women in his list.  This could be because he saw how women were increasingly abused by society and yet they were honoured by God.  It could be that the women were often Gentiles and Jesus line shows he is related to people beyond the Jews only.  Matthew had a purpose in including women, it was odd for the time.  What do you think that purpose might be?

The emphasis on checkered origins is emphasized by the lineage.  Jesus does not come from a line of righteous people.  The kings listed (the genealogy is selective and does not list everyone in Jesus’ heritage) are a mix of wicked people and good ones.  This shows that God starts new work in places that are not righteous and pure to begin with.  We have a hope that our family or personal histories are not a block to God using us in the future.


  1. Which women does Matthew include in his list?
  2. Is this a legal or a biological list?
  3. Who does this list show Jesus to be by legal right?
  4. If Jesus is the Messiah, what does that mean for non-Jewish people?
  5. What does this list of names mean to you?
  6. How might you record your family history for the benefit of your children and grandchildren?
  7. (For my mum)Can you find the book that you made with Grandma of all her recollections?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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3 Responses to Matthew 1:1-17 I See Dead People

  1. Kelli says:

    1. He includes Rahab the harlot and Ruth and Mary.
    2. Both, isn’t it?
    3. He comes from the kingly line of David.
    4. Gentiles are included in the lineage. Jesus came for them as well.
    5. I love that the women are included. Especially, Rahab the harlot. It’s beautiful to see a woman with such a personal history redeemed by God and elevated to such a place.
    6. My grandmother wrote a book about her life, which I cherish. My mother recorded quite a bit about her life as well. And I’ve written several essays about my journey. That includes several pieces about our adoption process. It’s interesting to think about family heritage when you have adopted children. They will have two family histories to trace. I will want them to explore their biological heritage in whatever way they want to as they get older. But I also want them to know that they have been grafted into our family with all of the “rights of heirs.” It’s such a wonderful picture of what God has done for us! Going through the adoption process gives you a fresh understanding of salvation. And I pray regularly for wisdom in how we communicate these things to our children.

  2. Jonna Leshock says:

    These genealogies always intrigue me and confuse me! Is there any significance to the fact that in the first set of 14 generations, we learn about Jacob and his son Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers (both significant characters in the old testament). Then in the last set of 14 generations, we learn about another Jacob and his son Joseph who is the legal father of Jesus (again, significant stories).

    Also, why does Jesus’ lineage begin with Abraham? Who was Abraham’s father? Maybe I just don’t understand how lineages work…i.e. how they begin.

    Thanks for any insight or clarification!

    • Plymothian says:

      The lineage startes with Abraham because of what it is trying to show. Luke’s starts with Adam. However, Matthew is trying to show what jesus is heir to. He is heir to the Abrahamic inheritance, he is heir to the throne of David (emphasized through being repeated at the end of one list and beginning of the other).

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