A question that often arises is that of the genealogies of Jesus in the Gospel according to Matthew, and that of Luke
The first thing one must realize when reading the Gospels is that there is a profound Jewish presence. If you want to understand these genealogies, you must come to them as a first century Jew would, with a Hebrew mindset. How would a Jew of the first century understand the significance of these two seeming differing genealogies in the Gospels? They are only seemingly differing to a non first century Hebrew. Therefore, it behooves every student of the Bible to ascertain the context of scripture in order to understand what is being written, and why.
The genealogies themselves would be understood immediately by the first century Hebrew as to their significance. First thing to notice is how far back each of the genealogies go. Matthew goes back to Abraham. Luke takes it all the way back to Adam. Second point of significance is the expressions used by the Gospel writers. This is highly significant for Jewish people. Jews are renown for their detailed record keeping. You may not like what history says, but the Jews will record everything whether someone likes it or not. We can argue about it later…. . It’s something to love about the Jewish people, and one reason why I think they excel in business. Meticulous record keeping. Consider the Mishnah and the Talmud as examples.
Matthew uses the expression, “begat”. We need some History on this Hebrew word to understand the Hebrew perspective in Matthews genealogy. Begat is usually how English translates from the Greek word ἐγέννησεν, egennēsen, But to really understand the context of the word, we must look at how this word is used throughout Hebrew writing, i.e. the Torah. Looking at Matthew 1 from the Hebrew (The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels is a good source by Vine of David) we can see what the Hebrew word that is translated from the Greek as begat, would actually look like to a first century Jew. אברהם הוליד Abraham “spawned”. That is, he fathered, or begat. הוליד yalad (Strong’ number H3205) is found very often in the Tanakh/Old Testament, particularly in Genesis 5 and 11, used for genealogies, also for Biblical chronology.
This word הוליד yalad means to produce, to bring forth. The word for begat in Matthew comes from this Hebrew word. It is a word used in the Tanakh for genealogies. Notice In Genesis 11 we have the first real genealogy recorded in the Bible. Look at Genesis 11:12, “12 Arpachshad lived thirty-five years, and became the father of Shelah; [H3205]. This word yalad וַיּ֖וֹלֶד, and beget, or and fathered as some translations have it, has the meaning to produce offspring. Arphachshad produced offspring. This verse is teaching that Arphachshad brought forth a descendant named Shelah. This wording does not necessitate Shelah being Arphachshad’s actual son. But only a descendant he produced, spawned, etc. He might have been his great grandson.
The question that arises in many non Jewish, non “Hebrew mindset” minds is this, doest the genealogy mean to say Shelah was an immediate descendant, as in a son, or a grandson or even great grandson, etc. Many will look at this verse and assume, going on a western mentality, or Muslim mindset, that this must be referring to a direct son of a father. But it is apparent from other portions of the Hebrew Bible this is not the case. This is what would be apparent to a first century Hebrew. Greeks would not have cared so much about Jewish genealogies, neither would anyone else but a Jew. These genealogies were for Jewish readers.
The wording in Matthew was written for a Hebrew mindset. Not Muslim, not Greek, not American, and so on, but Hebrew/Jewish. And so, we will look at both of these genealogies before us from a Hebrew perspective to get an understanding of what is being said.
Luke uses the expression,υἱὸς (huios) “properly, a son (by birth or adoption)” Not from a fathers perspective but as a son. With Matthew it was to beget as a father, from Abraham; with Luke it was to descend as a son, even from Adam. These differences would be understood by the Hebrew mindset. This is why they are both presented in the Gospels.
The purpose of Luke’s genealogy was to show the Messiah was actually a blood descendant of King David. Whereas Matthew, according to Jewish Law, shows Yeshua a descendant of King David by His step father. This was perfectly legitimate reasoning for a Jew. There was no word for the concept of son-in-law in first century Judaism. You were a son. The Gospels not only provided the genealogy for Yeshua that shows His right to be King through His “step” father, Joseph, just so all questions would be answered, Luke also shows the direct blood line through His mother, Mary.
When these two genealogies are put together side by side, they are parallel from Abraham to David which in itself is amazing, coming from two different directions. And would be viewed that way by a first century Jew. Just to have these two type genealogies meeting at any point would have been amazing.
Now, beginning with David, Matthew begins to trace a line of decent through Solomon, which will end with Joseph. This is the paternal linage of Yeshua. Luke on the other hand begins to trace Mary’s line through Solomon’s brother, Nathan. What would be so amazing to the Jewish mind would be the fact that these two “lines” would once again come together with the marriage of Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. So as the paternal and maternal separates into their own genealogical descendants, they would come together again, both genealogies still being descendant of King David.
They are separated again with the two sons of Zerubbabel, Rhesa and Abiud, but they come together again forever with the marriage of Joseph and Mary. Joseph being of the Paternal, and Mary the maternal line as the daughter of Eli.
The remarkable thing for me in study of these two genealogies is the fact that, though they come from two opposite directions,they meet twice along the way. God brought forth His Son in due time, so that the man who would marry the women who would give birth to the Son of God, would himself be descendant of King David, giving this child the right to the Throne of David in and of itself. This incredible, amazing fact about Joseph is itself an amazing study.
But also, we have the genealogy of Yeshua’s mother, which gives the actual blood line, proving beyond any doubts, that Yeshua/Jesus, is descended from King David. Yeshua has both the right to the throne of David, through Joseph, and the the blood line from David, through Mary, was necessary for Yeshua to sit on David’s thrown uncontested.
It is too bad, in my view, that so many want to tie themselves up with perceived contradictions when there is so much to know of God in the scriptures. The Bible has the WORDS OF LIFE. It tells us of the LIVING God.
Yeshua not only has the legal right to the Throne of David, according to the scriptures, He has also fulfilled every prophecy concerning the Messiah of Israel, who would sit on the Throne of David.
Hosea 6:3 “So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.”