Gibbs, Jeffrey A. “Matthew 1:2-17, The Genealogy of Jesus” Matthew 1:1-11:1. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006, pp. 78-95.
As he begins his discussion of the genealogy in Matthew 1, Gibbs observes that the word for “begat” and its Hebrew equivalent may frequently be used in lists and can skip multiple generations, thus not always indicating a father-son relationship but simply that of an ancestor and descendant (Gibbs 2006, 78). This pattern is borne out, for example, in verses 3-4 as the period from Hezron to Aminadab is approximately 400 years. A similar challenge exists if the “Rahab” from verse 5 is the one from Joshua 6:17 (Gibbs 2006, 79). However, Gibbs suggests the two may well be different people. Again, in verse 8, there are several generations omitted, and again a gap appears in verse 11. Matthew makes yet another artful piece of arrangement in verse 16, where he arrives at Joseph but then pivots to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Gibbs concludes that “Matthew is clearly not interested in absolute chronology in the secular sense, and we should not expect him to be” (Gibbs 2006, 81).
Gibbs notes that the threefold use of fourteen generations has attracted scholarly interest over the years, as has the presence of four women exclusive of Mary (Gibbs 2006, 81). Yet Gibbs considers it more important that Matthew is communicating the history of Israel as moving toward the goal of the Messiah in an orderly way. Jesus is the fulfillment of the purpose of God’s covenant with Israel (Gibbs 2006, 82). As to the issue of the threefold count of fourteen, the first two groups can be fourteen each, though it requires us to count Jeconiah at the end of the second group and again in the third. However, the third comes to thirteen. This can be resolved by counting both Joseph and Mary, by counting “Jesus” and “Christ” as if they are two persons, or by filling the gap in verse 11 with Josiah by inserting Jehoiakim, the father of Jeconiah. Gibbs suggests that Matthew is drawing attention to the Babylonian deportation and the decline from Abraham and David. This could emphasize God’s faithfulness despite Israel’s failure, which is able to be restored in Christ (Gibbs 2006, 84). I observe the count of thirteen out of fourteen may be a further suggestion of humans coming short. The number 14 may well have been chosen based on 1 Chronicles 1-2, where fourteen generations are given from Abraham to David (Gibbs 2006, 85). Matthew would then have used a threefold repetition, creating a memorable pattern of God’s movement in history.
The five women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the wife of Uriah, and Mary, are probably significant. Mary is clearly set apart in the miraculous nature of her conception. Gibbs seeks out interpretations which make snse of the inclusion of the women (Gibbs 2006, 86). The four are easily noted as Gentiles, therefore unexpected. They may provide a contrast with the righteous Mary, partaker of the covenant with Israel. There are indicators of the four others being or pretending to be adulterous (Gibbs 2006, 87). Yet Gibbs thinks Matthew’s most likely reason for including them is to show God in control of history, interjecting the women as evidence that He may do the unexpected. This culminates in Mary, the least expected mother of them all (Gibbs 2006, 89).
Gibbs finally turns his attention to the fact that Luke’s Gospel includes a very different genealogy of Jesus. Though there is no reason to think Matthew’s original audience would know of Luke’s Gospel, the two genealogies have always attracted interest (Gibbs 2006, 89). Luke’s, from Abraham to David, matches Matthew’s almost exactly. However, they diverge significantly from David to Salthiel, where Luke lists some of the kings (Gibbs 2006, 90). They then diverge again. Julius Africanus, ca. 160-240, suggested that Luke gave a legal genealogy based on remarriages of widows. Another attempt essentially reverses Africanus’ argument (Gibbs 2006, 91). Others, including Luther, have suggested that Luke actually provides Mary’s lineage (Gibbs 2006, 92). Gibbs suggests two possible solutions, neither of which heconsiders entirely satisfactory. Luke may have traced Mary’s genealogy (Gibbs 2006, 93). It is also possible that Matthew sought out a royal heritage while Luke sought a heritage which emphasized a divine provision regardless of royal credentials (Gibbs 2006, 94).