How do Jesus' two genealogies show He is the Messiah?

By Rabbi Robert

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The differences in the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3 have been a conundrum for a long time. We know several prophecies must be fulfilled in order for Jesus to be the Messiah. We know according to Micah 5:2 that the Messiah must be born in Bethlehem, and Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We know that because of the Abrahamic covenant that the Messiah must come through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as opposed to Abraham and Ishmael or Isaac and Esau. Both genealogies have Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Because of the Davidic covenant we know that the Messiah must be from the line of David, and many people also believe that the Messiah must come through the line of Solomon (1Kings 2:4, 1Kings 9:5). Is Jesus a descendent of David, from the tribe of Judah, and the legal and spiritual heir to the throne? Why is the genealogy in Matthew different than the genealogy and Luke? Does the Messiah have to come to the line of Solomon or just David? So many questions must be answered to show that Jesus is the legal, Royal and spiritual heir to the throne.

Let's start with the genealogy of Matthew chapter 1. Matthew was concerned with showing the genealogy of the Messiah through Jewish eyes. Matthew's purpose is to show that Jesus carried the proper Jewish credentials to be the Jewish Messiah. Thus, Matthew focuses on Jesus from Abraham through David. The genealogy provided by Matthew is clearly that of Joseph the husband of Mary and the legal father of Jesus the Messiah. As required by Scripture, Joseph was of the tribe of Judah from the line of David and even from the line of Solomon. But two problems arise with Joseph's genealogy; the curse of Jeconiah and the fact that Joseph was not Jesus' biological father. Let's start with the curse of Jeconiah.

The Curse of Jeconiah

Solomon gave birth to Rehoboam who gave birth to Jeconiah who gave birth to Zerubbabel and onto the Messiah, Jesus. According to 1 Chronicles 3:16-17, there were seven descendants of King Jeconiah, who was an evil king, all of whom were carried off to Babylon during the captivity. In Jeremiah 22:24-30, God says that he will remove Jeconiah as a signet ring from his hand and none of his descendants would sit on the throne of David or rule Judah anymore; that the King should be counted as childless. If none of King Jeconiah's descendants are eligible to sit on the throne, and Joseph came from this lineage, he and his descendants would be ineligible to be the Messiah.

This curse could be a problem except that Jehoiachin repented and the family line was restored. The first piece of evidence is found in Jeremiah 52:31-34, which describes a special favor that was shown to Jehoiachin after decades of prison and exile. These verses speak that in the 37th year of exile of the King he was released, and on the 25th day of the 12th month (25th of Kislev, which happened to be the day of Hanukkah — the festival of rededication — which is fitting) he was given back his seat of honor eating at the King's table. We also see in Haggai 2:20-23 that Zerubbabel, the grandson of Jehoiachin, became the governor of Judah after the exile. God even says he will shake the heavens and earth and that he will take as his servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and the Lord declares that he will make him a signet ring because he has been chosen.

These verses and others clearly show that the curse had been broken and reversed. Even the rabbis understand that the curse has been reversed. From one of the Jewish writings called the Pesikta, Rabbi Kahanna, 24:11 states, I accepted the repentance of Jeconiah: should I not accept your repentance? When God restores he restores fully. The curse had been broken through the obedience of King Jeconiah's grandson and all descending from that lineage were now eligible for the throne of David and could possibly be the Messiah.

Jesus as Joseph's Legal Heir

With the establishment that the curse on Solomon's line had been broken, Jesus as the son of Joseph had legal standing to be the Messiah. However, Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus. So would the adoption of Jesus by Joseph give him the legal standing he needed to be born of David through Solomon? Jesus was clearly known as a son of Joseph throughout his life. Matthew 1:18 says that Joseph accepted Jesus as his son. In Luke 4:22 as the crowd is amazed that Jesus is gracious words they ask, "Isn't this Joseph's son?" Again we see a reference to Jesus as the son of Joseph in John 6:42. So throughout his life he was clearly seen as the son of Joseph. According to Jewish law, if the mother is Jewish the child is Jewish, so Joseph was established as the legal adoptive father of Jesus giving him legal authority as Messiah.

Based on the authority of Jewish law and Scripture, Jesus had a legal claim to be the Messiah because he was born in Bethlehem, he was a son of David, through Solomon, of the tribe of Judah and legally the son of Joseph. Some will not accept the legal argument that Jesus had a right to claim to be the Messiah because Joseph was not his biological father. This brings us to the genealogy listed in Luke chapter 3. Was Mary a descendant of King David?

The Genealogy of Mary

The genealogy listed in Luke chapter 3 is that of Mary the mother of Jesus. Luke, concerned not just with the Jewish aspect of Jesus as Messiah but the larger aspect of Jesus as the Savior of the world, takes his genealogy all the way back to Adam and to God. There are no signs of any debate about the Davidic lineage of Jesus in any of the early sources, suggesting that Mary's Davidic background was well known. In Luke 1:32, Gabriel's words to Mary show that she honestly was a descendent of David, since she is being informed that the son to be conceived within her as a virgin will inherit the throne of his father David: "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David." Luke identifies Mary's father, Heli, as Joseph's father in Jewish genealogy because Mary had no brothers.

Now there are concerns that because Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus that Mary must come from the line of David through Solomon in order to give Jesus proper authority to be the Messiah. But Luke clearly shows that Solomon's older brother Nathan is in the line of Mary. Others claim that Mary was not from the tribe of Judah but from the tribe of Levi because she was related to Elizabeth who was married to Zechariah who was a priest and the parents of John the Baptist. So these difficulties must be overcome in order for us to see that Jesus has legal authority to be the Messiah.

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Image Credit: Ian 'Harry' Harris; "Splitter"; Creative Commons

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Published 1-6-15