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[Life of Christ] Why Don’t the Genealogies Match up? (Part 2)

Sorry for not getting this out this morning. Download the worksheet here.

(Part Two—Luke 3:23-38)

The purpose of Matthew’s genealogy is easy to understand: he showed Jesus is the legal heir to the throne of David, and the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.[1] The purpose of Luke’s, however, is not as cut-and-dried.

Oh, and it is way different from Matthew’s.

To put Luke’s genealogy in perspective, let’s consider the opening to his gospel account.

Luke’s Introduction (Luke 1:1-4)

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

Whatever we decide about Luke’s genealogy, it must fit into this opening statement. Luke didn’t just make up names. His list was the result of careful investigation. Luke did his research, and expected everything he wrote to stand up to the test of careful historical examination.

An atheist named William Ramsay hated the Bible so much he determined to prove it untrustworthy. He used Luke’s writings (the books of Luke and Acts) and went around to the areas mentioned. He involved himself in archaeological studies and historical records. And by the time he was finished, he declared Luke to be a first-rate historian, and proceeded to write several books defending the accuracy of the Bible.

All that to say, Luke would not have put these specific names in this specific order unless he was absolutely certain of their accuracy. So why doesn’t his list jive with Matthew’s? We’re going to first consider the difficulties, as well as proposed solutions to these two inspired lists.


We can’t call ourselves dedicated Bible students if we aren’t willing to take a look at difficult parts of God’s word. And of all the passages that people use as supposed “contradictions,” these two genealogies pose one of the most challenging to explain.

Difficulty #1: Sure Looks Like Joseph’s Genealogy

If we didn’t have Matthew’s gospel, then any reader of Luke would naturally assume (and with good reason) that this genealogy traces Jesus’ lineage through his foster-father, Joseph. Mary isn’t even named in this list. Look at Luke 3:23-24:

Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years old, being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph, who was the son of Heli, who was the son of Matthat…

And if this is the case, then either Matthew or Luke (or both) were just dead wrong on their lists.

Difficulty #2: Jesus Isn’t Heir to the Throne

If this is the legitimate genealogy through Joseph (see #1), then Jesus isn’t in line for the kingdom, as that right is passed from father to son. This genealogy goes back to David, but through his son Nathan (Luke 3:31), who did not inherit the throne, nor did his descendants. This poses a rather significant theological issue.

Difficulty #3: What Was Your Dad’s Name?

If we take Luke’s genealogy straightforward as written, then Joseph was the son of Heli (Luke 3:23). But Matthew says his father’s name was Jacob (Matthew 1:16). I know that sometimes people have multiple names in the Bible (Moses’ father-in-law had three different names),[2] but there is not a single name that matches in the two genealogies between Joseph and Zerubbabel. I personally find it difficult to believe that Matthew and Luke listed the same people (or even just some of the same people), but never once used the same name for them.

Difficulty #4: Luke’s Big Fail on Showing Jesus Representing All Mankind

One of the main purposes behind Luke’s genealogy seems to be to show that Jesus is the Savior for all mankind, because He—like everyone else—is part of humanity through Adam. But since Luke appears to trace Jesus’ lineage through Joseph (who was not His father), then all Luke can prove is that Jesus was raised by a man who descended from Adam. That raising doesn’t give Jesus His humanity.

Difficulty #5: Shealtiel’s Two Dads

Matthew says Shealtiel’s dad was Jechoniah (1:12). Luke says his dad was Neri (3:27). And no, these aren’t two names for the same person. None of Luke’s line from Shealtiel to David Matches with Matthew’s record of the same gap.

Difficulty #6: The Missing People

Between David and Zerubbabel, Matthew skipped a couple names here and there. But after Zerubbabel, things seem to get crazy. Where Matthew has nine names between Zerubbabel and Joseph, Luke has seventeen—nearly double! Was Matthew just lazy?

I’m sure there are probably more difficulties I am missing, but those are the ones that came to mind as I put this together.

Proposed Solutions to the Genealogical Conundrum

Throughout the centuries, Bible students, commentators, scholars, experts (and whoever else you want to throw in there) have attempted to find ways of harmonizing these two lists. And none of them are without their own difficulties. But we will present some of the more prominent ones here:

Possible Solution #1: The Royal and Priestly Line of Joseph

Ambrose, among others, posited that Jesus was descended from the Kingly line of Solomon (Matthew’s list) and from the priestly line of Nathan (Luke’s list). It is argued that this was necessary because Jesus is both king and priest.[3]

While this sounds interesting from a “let’s make a theological point here” standpoint, this solution fails due to the fact that Nathan—the son of David—wasn’t a priest. He couldn’t be a priest, since his father was David, of the tribe of Judah. That would make Nathan from Judah as well. And the only priests came from the tribe of Levi.

Possible Solution #2: Joseph and Shealtiel were Adopted

It has been suggested that an adoption or two could explain all the variances between the two lists. If Joseph was the natural son of Eli (Heli in some translations), but the adopted son of Jacob, then we have an explanation for the two different lists. The same thing would have to be true for Shealtiel: born to Neri, but adopted by Jeconiah.

There are biblical instances of being called “the son of” when it wasn’t talking about a natural parent. In the Jewish way of thinking (and to a large part it is true of us today), “[He] that brings up, not he that begets, is called the father” or parent.[4] Moses was called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.[5] Jesus was called the son of Joseph.[6] Joseph was called Pharaoh’s father.[7]

Matthew literally uses the word “begat” (KJV) or “fathered” (SENT),[8] which implies natural fatherhood, Luke says, “was of” for each layer of his genealogy (most translators expand it to “was the son of,” but the Greek just reads “was of”). While this may not seem like a big difference, Luke’s wording opens the possibility of an adopted son, or another option which we will note momentarily.

But there are problems with this one too.

  • One of the goals of Luke’s gospel, and thus the genealogy, is to show Jesus’ humanity, that He is not just Son of God, but also Son of man. Showing He was raised by a human who was descended from Adam doesn’t show Jesus’ relationship to the human race.
  • Jeconiah was 8 years old when he became king, reigned barely over three months, and was taken captive to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:9-10). He remained a captive until he was 45 years old, when the king of Babylon elevated him to eat with him (2 Kings 25:27-30). In other words, adoption doesn’t really seem like something he would have had the opportunity to engage in.

Possible Solution #3: This is the Genealogy through Mary

While this has its difficulties (specifically Difficulty #1 above), it is the one which answers most of the difficulties, when certain reasonable explanations are given. We will explain how this could be Mary’s family line after showing how this concept deals with the previously mentioned difficulties.

  1. If this is Mary’s, then it isn’t Joseph’s, and thus all differences between the two lists are rendered moot (at least from Zerubbabel to Joseph).
  2. If this is Mary’s, then it has no bearing on the legal, royal line, because that goes through the legal father (Joseph). Thus, this difficulty is overcome.
  3. See #1 in this list.
  4. If this is Mary’s, then it shows the physical line from which Jesus came, showing His relationship to the entire human race by tracing Him back to Adam. Thus, difficulty overcome
  5. We will deal with this difficulty momentarily.
  6. If this is Mary’s, then the difference in number of people between Joseph and Zerubbabel can rationally be explained (and it may be that Matthew skipped some generations in that section as well, which would also explain part of the difference).

So now, all we really have to do is figure out how this list could possibly refer to Mary’s lineage instead of Joseph’s. There are two main ways I’ve seen this tried. But both of them assume (and there is ancient evidence for it)[9] that Heli/Eli (depending on your translation) is Mary’s father.

The first attempt is a rearranging of the parentheses in Luke 3:23. Before we get into this, know that the parentheses are added by translators, as there was no such thing in Greek. So their placement is a matter of context and opinion. Luke 3:23, in most translations, reads: “Jesus… being (as was supposed) the Son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.” Instead, it is suggested that it should read: “Jesus… (being as was supposed the Son of Joseph), which was of Heli.” You might say this increases the confusion, calling Jesus “of Heli” or “the Son of Heli.” But since Luke doesn’t mention any women in his genealogy, it wouldn’t be unthinkable for him to connect Jesus and His maternal grandfather this way.[10]

The problem with this is that Luke is extremely detailed and accurate, and doesn’t appear to skip even a single generation. So while it isn’t outside the realm of possibility, it doesn’t seem likely he would skip a generation (Mary) at the beginning, while mentioning the adoptive father. Additionally, pretty much every professional translator agrees (check all the translations you like) that the parentheses are already in the right place, and don’t need to be changed to make it easier to prove a point.

The second attempt takes part of the Old Testament law and applies it to the genealogy. When the Israelites were traveling toward the Promised Land, a group of sisters came to Moses with a problem—their father had no sons, only daughters. What would happen to his inheritance? Moses went to God, who said in these cases, the inheritance would pass to the daughters.[11] These same sisters came back with another question—what happens if they get married to someone outside their tribe? God’s answer was for them to only marry whoever they wanted, but only within their tribe, because the inheritance that had come to the daughter would become also the inheritance of her husband.[12]

How does this apply to the genealogy? This law, when figuring the inheritance, counts the son-in-law as a son. That is why it is called a son in law. Thus, when a man had only daughters, the genealogy would give his son-in-law as his son, which wouldn’t mess up the later lines, because any children born to that union would still be physical descendants.

So, take all that information, then assume Heli was the father of Mary, but he had no sons, only daughters (a legitimate possibility). After his marriage to Mary, Joseph, now Heli’s son-in-law, would be counted as his son.[13]

So when Luke says, “Joseph, which was the son of Heli,” he’s saying Joseph was the son in law of Heli.

It is suggested that this is also the situation Shealtiel was in, being the son-in-law of Neri, who (according to this understanding) had no sons. Thus, Shealtiel would have been counted as his son in this genealogy.

I get that this isn’t the easiest, most cut-and-dried explanation we could want, but it is reasonable, fits with Jewish practice and custom of the time, and does away with all the difficulties between Matthew and Luke’s accounts. Because of this, even though it takes some thinking to get there, I am satisfied that this is the best explanation for the differences between the two genealogies.

Luke’s Purposes for His Genealogy

We already mentioned above that one of Luke’s purposes seems to be to show the humanity of Jesus—that is, Jesus was a human, born from a human, descended from Adam like every other human. In other words, Jesus is one of us. This makes Jesus relatable. He had to grow, to learn, to suffer, to eat, to sleep just like the rest of us.

Another purpose may have been to explain to the Greeks (who had myriads of theories and traditions about where man came from) the origin of mankind. He traces Jesus back to the beginning of humanity (Adam), and then says Adam was “of God,” meaning God was his source.

Both these two reasons help explain why Luke ran his genealogy backwards from Jesus to Adam instead of forward like Matthew did.

Luke may have also intended by this to show Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Zerubbabel. Whether he intended it or not, it does have that effect.

The Genealogy of Luke

Outside of Joseph, all the names between him and Zerubbabel are people only mentioned here. We know nothing about anyone on this portion of the list except that they are descended from Zerubbabel, and are in the ancestry of Jesus.

Since we discussed Zerubbabel (whose name literally means “Born in Babel [Babylon]”) and Shealtiel in the previous lesson, we won’t go into them here.

From Shealtiel, we encounter another list of people whose names only appear here. In other words, we know nothing about any of these men from Neri (verse 27) to Mattatha (verse 31), except that they are in this genealogy.


Nathan (father of Mattatha) was a son of David and Bathsheba, and was born in Jerusalem.[14] He almost certainly was named after Nathan the prophet, a friend of David who called out David’s horrid sinfulness to his face.

David through Abraham

We covered these men in the previous lesson.


Abraham’s father Terah traveled with him when they left Ur of the Chaldees, and died in Haran, a city Terah may have named after his own dead son.[15]

Nahor, Sereg, Reu

Outside of their appearance in genealogical records, nothing is known about these men.


I would have included Peleg’s name in the previous list, except that in Genesis 10:25, we are told he was called Peleg, “for in his days the earth was divided.” What exactly that means isn’t clear. It could mean his father was involved in some dividing up of land (the word “land” and the word “earth” are the same word in Hebrew). It could mean the family divided into different parts of the earth at the time Peleg was born. Or it could mean the earth was a giant land mass (frequently referred to in later literature as Pangea) that God divided into continents around this time.[16]


Heber was the well-known head of the family, which gave rise to his descendants being called Hebrews. The first person called a Hebrew is Abram (who God later renamed Abraham).[17] When Moses went to Egypt to free the Israelites, he went proclaiming “the LORD God of the Hebrews” had sent him.[18] In fact, the Israelites aren’t called Israelites until Exodus 9:7—before that they are called Hebrews.

Outside of his appearance in genealogies, we know nothing about him, but he must have been of some importance to have people generations down the line still being called by his name.

Shelah, Cainan, Arphaxad

Like so many others in Luke’s list, nothing is known about these men outside of genealogical facts. But God used them.


Possibly the oldest of Noah’s three sons, Shem was given the blessing by his father. It is from Shem that we get the word Semitic, which can be used to describe a wide variety of languages, but when applied to people (at least in modern times) it only refers to Jews.


In a time of rampant sinfulness, where “every imagination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only on evil continually,”[19] Noah stood out like a bright light. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”[20] By faith, Noah built an ark at the command of God, to keep them safe from the rain and floods that would come. This is even more impressive when you consider it had never rained before. So Noah was building an ark, preparing for something that no one had seen or heard of before. Imagine the heckling he would have gotten from those he warned: Water from the sky? Noah have you lost your mind? You’re nuts! But Noah kept working and working for over 100 years, staying faithful to God throughout it all.


Outside of his appearance in genealogies, nothing is known of Lamech.


His name literally means, “When he goes, it comes.” Methuselah lived longer than anyone in recorded history at 969 years. And his name seems to be prophetic—because he died the same year the flood came.


This man “walked with God.” God thought it was so important that He had Moses record that fact twice in three verses.[21] Genesis 5:22 seems to indicate he began walking with God after Methuselah was born. And since Methuselah’s name appears to foretell the flood, it may be that Enoch started taking God seriously at that point.

Enoch is called a prophet of God. He prophesied the flood (through Methuselah’s name), and another of his prophesies was quoted by Jude to apply to false teachers in the first century.[22]

Enoch is in rare company, being one of only four righteous people in the entire Bible whose earthly end was orchestrated and carried out by God. The other three are Moses,[23] Elijah,[24] and Jesus.[25]

Jared, Mahalaleel, Cainan, Enosh

Jared is the second-oldest person in recorded history. But other than their ages at death and their places in the genealogy, nothing is known of these men. It may be assumed that these men were righteous. It is from this family that men were born who are called “sons of God.” Unfortunately, most of these offspring married unfaithful spouses, “daughters of men,” and went badly astray.[26]


Seth is the third son that we know about from Adam and Eve. He certainly wasn’t their third child. Adam and Eve were commanded to “be fruitful and multiply.” Seth wasn’t born until at least nine months after Cain killed Abel. How old was Cain when that happened? Most seem to guess at least twenty years old. So were Adam and Eve “fruitful” and “multiplying” if they only had two children, waited twenty years, and then had a third?[27]

It was after Seth fathered Enos that “men began to call upon the name of the LORD.” Seth and his descendants appear to have dedicated themselves to following God.


Adam was the first sinless man, who then became the first sinner. Eve was deceived by the serpent, but Adam was there with her and said nothing. Instead, he joined in. When God came to Adam (who was the head of the family), asking what was going on, Adam threw Eve under the proverbial bus. But Paul makes it quite clear that Adam is the one to blame.[28]

There is actually surprisingly little good said about Adam in the Bible. He was the first human, created in the image of God. He worked the ground. He named Eve and he named the animals. And he had children with his wife. That pretty much summarizes the non-bad things (which are: knowingly disobeying a direct command of God, hiding from God, lying to God, blaming Eve, blaming God).


We can’t miss the fact that Luke traces all of humanity back to God. It was God’s plan to create man. It was God who formed Adam and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. It was God who created a garden paradise for Adam and Eve to live in. It was God’s plan to save mankind from their sin by sending His Son to be a perfect example, a perfect teacher, and a perfect sacrifice for them and us. He put that plan into motion by creating Adam.

When we look at the genealogies, we often get lost in the names and human-ness of the list, and sometimes we forget that God is the one behind it all. Luke reminds us not to forget where we came from. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

What Does This Mean for Us Today?

Behind it all, there is God. The bookends of Luke’s genealogy are Jesus and the Father, God. How are you doing at remembering God in your life? Do you pray enough? Do you thank Him enough? Do you read His word enough?

Jesus knows what it is like to suffer, to face temptation, to be tired, to be hungry, to be betrayed. And because of these things, He is able to identify with us, to help us.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Difficulties in the Bible can be figured out, or at least given a reasonable explanation if we are willing to dig a little and think a little. The world is quick to label anything a bit different in the Bible as a contradiction, but all of them have rational, reasonable explanations if we are willing to look for them.

We can’t back away from difficulties. We should be willing, as Christians who trust in God and His word, to admit difficulties and try to find reasonable answers.

[1] See previous lesson for far more detail.

[2] He was called Reuel (Exodus 2:18), Jerthro (Exodus 18:12), and Hobab (Judges 4:11).

[3] Just, Arthur Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Luke (Thomas C. Oden, editor). E-Sword edition.

[4] John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible on Luke 3:23. E-Sword edition.

[5] Exodus 2:10; Acts 7:21

[6] Luke 2:48; John 6:42.

[7] Genesis 45:8.

[8] The Spoken English New Testament.

[9] See John Gill’s Exposition on this verse for more information.

[10] McGarvey, J.W., and Pendleton, Philip Y., The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, FIND YEAR) page 7.

[11] Numbers 27:1-11.

[12] Numbers 36.

[13] McGarvey and Pendleton, Fourfold Gospel, page 7.

[14] 1 Chronicles 3:5.

[15] Genesis 11:31-32.

[16] While I like this option best for the coolness factor, I tend to think if the Pangea hypothesis is real, it would have happened during the flood.

[17] Genesis 14:13.

[18] Exodus 3:18; 9:1.

[19] Genesis 6:5

[20] Genesis 6:8.

[21] Genesis 5:22-24.

[22] Jude 14-16.

[23] Deuteronomy 34:5-7.

[24] 2 Kings 2:1-11.

[25] John 3:16; Acts 2:22-24.

[26] Genesis 6:1-3. The idea that “sons of God” in this passage refers to angels who fell is highly imaginative fiction which, unfortunately, has been allowed to be believed as truth. Jesus said angels neither marry nor are given in marriage (Mark 12:15). They are sexless beings. After describing the “sons of God” marrying the “daughters of men,” we are given God’s thoughts: “My spirit shall not always strive with man…” (Genesis 6:3). The sinners of verse 2 are humans, otherwise God is confused about who He is talking about.

[27] This doesn’t even get into the fact that Cain had to get a wife from somewhere—it was either his sister or a niece.

[28] 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; Romans 5:12-14.

[Life of Christ] Why Don’t the Genealogies Match Up? (Part One)

Download the Worksheet for this lesson here.

Having examined (at least partially) the heavenly existence of Jesus before He was born to Mary, it now behooves us to look into what God was doing to make sure Jesus had an earthly existence. And not just any earthly existence, but the right one.

Fortunately, Matthew and Luke both give us the answer. Unfortunately, they don’t give the same answer. But both are inspired, so let’s examine them and see what we can learn from the two distinctly different genealogies of Jesus, and whether there is any way of reconciling them with each other.

Matthew’s Introduction (Matthew 1:1)

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1).

Matthew’s gospel opens with a thesis statement for his readers—Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the one who was promised to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), and the one who was promised to David (2 Samuel 7:4-17).

Matthew was written to a primarily Jewish audience.[1] If Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ (as Matthew affirms in his first verse by calling Him Jesus Christ), then he was obligated to prove He was of the right pedigree.

Abraham to David (Matthew 1:2-6a)

Abraham fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, and Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers. Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez fathered Hezron, and Hezron fathered Ram. Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, and Nahshon fathered Salmon. Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab, Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, and Obed fathered Jesse. Jesse fathered David the king.

Matthew gives his Jewish readers a brief reminder of the ancestry of David, starting with Abraham. Nothing here would have given them much surprise, as it all comes straight from Old Testament Scriptures. But as a reminder, he lays it out for them.


God promised Abraham that through his seed, all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). Paul, when writing to the Galatians, made clear that when God said “seed,” he meant “seed.” Singular. Not seeds, as though this was a reference to the Jewish race, but seed, a single individual (Galatians 3:15-18).


Abraham (then still names Abram) complained to God that he had no child, and that his head servant was his heir. God’s reply was, “this man will not be your heir, but one whom you father will be your heir” (Genesis 15:4-5). After the fiasco leading to Abraham having a child, Ishmael, with Sarah’s servant, God reiterated that His promise was of a legitimate son, born to Sarah. That son was Isaac.

God gave Isaac the same promise he gave Abraham: “…in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 26:4b).


Jacob and Esau were the only two children (and twins at that) born to Isaac. Thus, the promises God made to Abraham and reiterated to Isaac had to go through one of the two. Jacob manipulated his hungry brother out of his birthright (as Esau was the oldest), and then outright stole the blessing from him (Genesis 27). But he could not steal the promise that God had given to Abraham and Isaac. That was something that was given to him knowingly by Isaac and God. Isaac said:

God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful, and multiply you so you may become a multitude of people, and give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your seed with you, that you might inherit the land wherein you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham (Genesis 28:3-4)

And God reiterated it:

God said to him, “Your name is Jacob. Your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” And He called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall be from you, kings will come from your loins. And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you and to your seed after you” (Genesis 35:11-12).


Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons, the fourth of which was Judah. The first three sons (Reuben, Simeon, and Levi) lost the chance at being the seed by their own actions.[2] Regardless, at the end of Jacob’s life, he gave blessings and predictions about each of his children. Judah (whose name means “praise”) received this specific blessing:

Judah, you whom your brethren shall praise. Your hand will be in the neck of your enemies. Your father’s children will bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp. From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stopped down, he crouched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes shall be red with wine; his teeth white with milk.

Remember, as part of the reiteration of God’s promise to Abraham, God told Jacob, “kings will come through your loins.” Jacob now clearly says that promise is going through Judah.


Matthew mentions Judah’s son s Pharez and Zerah (twins), as well as their mother, Tamar. That whole situation is filled with brokenness, as Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law who pretended to be a prostitute to get him to impregnate her.[3] We aren’t told specifically which child the promise would go through, but we are definitely given a hint when Pharez’ descendants are named, but Zerah’s are not (Genesis 46:12; Numbers 26:20-21).

Hezron, Ram, and Amminidab

Outside of their names, and that they are the next three generations after Pharez, we know very little about three men. Ram’s name only appears in genealogies—if not for them, we wouldn’t even know he existed!

We know one very interesting fact about Amminidab, however. He was the father-in-law of a very famous Israelite—Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, and also Moses’ brother (Exodus 6:23).

It is pretty safe to assume that Amminidab was considered an important man in the tribe of Judah.


Nahshon was chosen by God to stand with Moses as they began to number the people (Numbers 1:1-4, 7). He was called “captain of the sons of Judah” (Numbers 2:3). He was the official representative of Judah in offering sacrifices to God, called a “prince” by God, and selected to be the first of all Israel to bring the sacrifices and offerings (Numbers 7:10-17).

It is pretty easy to see the promise went through Nahshon.


Given who his father was, it is probable that Salmon was well-respected and a leader in Judah. The only fact we know about Salmon (outside of strict genealogical details) is that he married a Canaanite woman—a (former) prostitute named Rahab. We can presume from this that Salmon was not racist, and that he understood God’s law against intermarriage with Gentiles to be a reference to heathen Gentiles, not to Gentiles who wholeheartedly turned to God.

Here we need to bring up an important fact: the Old Testament doesn’t say Salmon was married to Rahab. Matthew is the only biblical writer to mention this fact. But this had to be something the Jews already knew (via tradition, at the very least), otherwise Matthew damages his own credibility by seeming to make up something, trying to insert a new name into the story that really doesn’t help his cause any.

As Salmon is the only named son of Nahshon, the Jews would (rightly) assume the seed promise goes through him.


Boaz first appears as a wealthy, older man who is very caring. And like his father, he does not view all non-Jews as filthy, unclean enemies. He is not just willing to marry Ruth, a Moabite widow, but announces it publicly before the city leaders, even though he risks another man taking her by doing so.[4]

As Boaz is the only named son of Salmon, the Jews would (rightly) assume the seed promise goes through him.


We know nothing about Obed, except for where he fits in the geological line. But as he is the only named son of Boaz, the Jews would (rightly) assume the seed promise goes through him.


As the only named son of Obed, Matthew’s Jewish readers would (rightly) assume the seed promise went through him. Outside of being a shepherd, and being a father of several sons, nothing else is known about him.


David was the youngest son of Jesse, but the one whom God chose to be king after Saul, because David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:13-14; 16:7, 11-13). God promised Jacob kings would come from him. Jacob prophesied “the scepter shall not depart from Judah.” And now we finally have the first king from the line of Judah. Therefore it is abundantly clear that the promise to Abraham goes through David.

God promised David:

“When your days are complete and you are buried with your fathers, I will raise up your seed after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

Through this promise, God made it clear His promise to Abraham went through David, and through the royal descendants who would rule on the throne.

Solomon through Jechoniah (Matthew 1:6b-11)

Matthew breaks down his genealogy into three sections (Abraham to David; David to the captivity; the captivity to Jesus—see Matthew 1:17). And since we’ve already discussed David, let’s move on to his son.

David fathered Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon fathered Rehoboam, Rehoboam fathered Abijah, and Abijah fathered Asa. Asa fathered Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat fathered Joram, and Joram fathered Uzziah. Uzziah fathered Jotham, Jotham fathered Ahaz, and Ahaz fathered Hezekiah. Hezekiah fathered Manasseh, Manasseh fathered Amon, and Amon fathered Josiah. Josiah fathered Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.


The man with the most wisdom in the Old Testament almost didn’t become king. In fact, his very existence should not have happened. David basically raped a married woman, got her pregnant, tried to hide what he did by having her husband come back from war (but he refused to go home when his fellow-soldiers were still fighting), then finally ordered her husband’s death, then married her. To say David sinned with Bathsheba seems to cheapen the word “sin.”

It is from this new should-never-have-happened marriage that Solomon was born. Near David’s death, another of his sons tried to take the throne. It took a death-bed pronouncement from David to seat Solomon (then quite young) on the throne.

God appeared to Solomon, asking him to make a request. Solomon didn’t ask for money or fame, but for wisdom and understanding so he could rule well and judge rightly (1 Kings 3:5-9). While Solomon had wisdom and understanding, and could apply it well to the people, he didn’t apply it to himself. Like Salmon and Boaz, Solomon was not racist. Unlike Salmon and Boaz, Solomon didn’t care about the religious convictions of his wife—oops, I mean wives (700 of them, not counting his concubines). He let his wives (Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Zidonians, Hittites, and Egyptians) lead him into worship of false gods—and Solomon even built temples to these gods in Jerusalem![5]


Rehoboam was a prideful young man who refused to listen to the counsel of the older, wiser counsellors who said Lower the taxes, and the people will be with you. Instead, he listened to his ignorant friends who told him to Raise the taxes and show them you (as the government) are in charge! Because of this, the kingdom of Israel split, leaving Rehoboam with just two tribes under his authority: Judah and Benjamin.


Abijam’s reign was short (three years), and he was wicked. But, because of God’s promise to David, the line was not cut off—showing the promise was still remembered by God, and was still going through the royal line.[6]


Asa reigned longer than Saul, David, or Solomon. He reigned 41 years, and started out well. He removed the sodomites from the land, destroyed the idols his fathers (which would include Solomon) had made, and even removed his mother from a place of power because she had made an idol. But when the northern kingdom of Israel erected a blockade against him, he took treasures from the temple and sent them to Syria to buy their help—instead of seeking help from the Lord. God sent a prophet to Asa to chastise him for not relying on God—so Asa threw him in prison. Then in his 39th year as king, he got a painful disease in his feet, but refused to ask God for help, replying only on doctors.

But God apparently had mercy on him and gave him grace, for we are told, “Asa’s heart was perfect with the LORD all his days” (1 Kings 15:14) and “[Jehoshaphat] walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:32).


Surprisingly, there is a lot written about Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles, extolling his faithfulness to the LORD. My personal favorite statement is: “his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 17:6). He organized a kingdom-wide Back-to-God movement, sending princes and Levites across the nation of Judah to read and explain the Law of Moses to the people (2 Chronicles 17:7-10). These reforms caused Judah to gain great power and prestige and peace.

It is interesting that we are only told of one thing that displeased the LORD. And it wasn’t that he teamed up with the super-wicked king Ahab to go to battle against Syria. It was that he joined himself with Ahaziah (Ahab’s son) to make ships to go get gold. It was because of Ahaziah’s wickedness, and Jehoshaphat’s willingness to still work with him that the ships were destroyed—neither of them prospered in that venture.[7]


Jehoram was the firstborn son of Jehoshaphat, but he did not follow his father’s example. After taking the throne, he murdered all of his brothers. He then married Ahab’s daughter, built new high places of pagan worship, and “he wrought that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.”[8]

It was so bad that God sent Elijah (who normally just worked in the northern kingdom of Israel) to tell him off and prophecy bad things for him.

Thus says the LORD God of David your father, “Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, nor in the ways of Asa, king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and have also murdered your brothers of your father’s house, who were all better than you—Behold, the LORD will smite the people, and your children, and your wives, and all your possessions with a great plague. And you will have great sickness because of a bowel disease, until your bowels fall out because of the sickness, day by day.”

All the enemies Jehoshaphat had put down started to rise up, and God smacked Jehoram with an incurable bowel disease that lasted two years.

But you want to know how awful Jehoram was? Check this out:

So he died of horrible diseases. And his people made no fire for him like they did for his fathers. He was 32 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem for eight years, and departed with no one’s regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not with the kings (2 Chronicles 21:19-20).

But even with all this, “the LORD would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant he had made with David, and because He promised to give a light to him and to his sons forever” (2 Chronicles 21:7).

The Missing Kings…

It is guessed that Matthew was trying to make things easy to memorize, by dividing the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus into three groups of 14. But by doing so, he had to skip some of the rulers of Judah. It’s important to note that he isn’t saying these people didn’t exist. But as his readers would have already known their history, he could easily skip some generations and the point would still be made: The promised King came through this line. They knew that Uzziah was the great-great grandson of Jehoram.

In case you’re curious, Matthew skipped Ahaziah (a wicked king who died after a year in power), Athaliah (Ahaziah’s mom, who tried to kill off all the royal seed so she would have no challengers to the throne), Joash (the kid who became king after the priests killed Athaliah—he started off good, but his story is heart-breakingly bad at the end), and Amaziah (who “did what was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart,” 2 Chronicles 25:2).


Uzziah started reigning at 16 years old, and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 26:4). Zechariah the prophet was a very positive influence on the young king (who reigned a massive 51 years). His reign was marked by faithfulness to God and victory over Judah’s enemies. Until Uzziah got too big for his britches. He let the victories and the blessings from God go to his head.

I think (note: that means this is my opinion) Uzziah, out of gratitude and a heartfelt desire to show God praise, did what got him in trouble. He went into the temple, because he wanted to personally offer incense to God on the altar of incense—inside the temple. Azariah the priest, along with 80 warrior-priests, went in to stop him. They pointed out to him, You aren’t authorized by God to burn incense to the LORD. Only the consecrated priests are.[9]

As a result of his presumptuous worship (doing what God had not authorized), he was stricken with leprosy all the way to his head, and was “thrust out” by the priests. He died as a leper.


Jotham only reigned 16 years (dying at age 41), but was faithful to God. I love how the writer of 2 Chronicles puts it:

And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah did, except he didn’t enter into the temple of the LORD… Jotham became mighty because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God (2 Chronicles 27:2, 6).


Ahaz was a wicked king who built new idols, sacrificed to false gods, and even burnt his children alive in pagan sacrifices (2 Chronicles 28:1-4). Under his reign, Judah was subjugated to Israel, got whipped by Edom, invaded by the Philistines, and when he tried to get Assyria to help (with a large cash bribe), they came and distressed Judah instead. (2 Chronicles 28:16-21). Even in the face of all this, he refused to turn to the LORD, instead going after the gods of Syria (2 Chronicle 28:22-23).


Hezekiah made great reforms in Judah, destroying the pagan shrines and altars, and pushed people to worship the one true God. In the midst of an Assyrian invasion, he trusted in God and prayed for deliverance, which God granted. He restored proper worship at the temple, and caused the people to once again celebrate the Passover.

After several years, Hezekiah became sick, and was told by Isaiah that it was terminal. Hezekiah prayed to God, and asked for healing based on his faithfulness to God. His prayer was granted, and Isaiah returned to tell him he had 15 more years of life. During those 15 years, Hezekiah seemed to start taking the LORD for granted. When emissaries from Babylon came to congratulate him on getting well, Hezekiah showed them all the gold and the armory, and took all the credit for the wealth and power of Judah—ignoring God in the process. As a result, God promised (through Isaiah) that Babylon would come wreck Judah and take Hezekiah’s descendants captive.[10]


If you only read the account in 2 Kings, Manasseh is clearly the most wicked king Judah ever had. Starting from when he became king at age 12, he tried to undo every reform his father had enacted.

[He] did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like the abominations of the heathen, who the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. For he built the high places again which his father, Hezekiah, had broken down, and he built up idols for Baals, and made Asherim, and worshiped all the hosts of heaven, and served them. Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem shall my name be forever.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom. Also, he observed times and used divination, used witchcraft, practiced sorcery, and dealt with mediums and spiritualists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke Him to anger” (2 Chronicles 33:2-6).

He “shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other” (2 Kings 21:16). Because of this, God said:

Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah that whoever hears of it, both their ears will tingle. And I will… wipe Jerusalem like a man wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside-down (2 Kings 21:12-13).

Manasseh was taken captive by Assyrians, who carried him chained to Babylon. But during this time of humiliation and distress, Manasseh finally woke up from his spiritual stupor to see what he had been doing. He prayed in humility to God, and the LORD brought him back to Jerusalem, where Manasseh worked feverishly to undo everything he had done, removing the idols and chucking them out of the city, rebuilding the altar of the LORD, and offering sacrifices and thank offerings to the LORD. The influence of the king was enough to get the people to leave behind idol worship, and to exclusively worship the LORD, but it wasn’t enough to get them to forsake the high places where they used to offer pagan worship.[11]


Amon wasn’t a fan of his dad’s repentance. When Amon took the throne, he reenacted all the pagan worship his father tried to destroy. Thankfully, his reign was short, as the Jews were so disgusted by his actions that they assassinated him after two years.


Josiah may be the best king Judah ever had—including David. He destroyed all the idols and places of pagan worship in Judah—including leveling the high places. He ordered repairs be made to the temple. And when in the process they found the Law of Moses (how do you lose that?!?), they brought it to him, and he immediately called for national repentance and rededication. His leadership, enthusiasm, and instructions had amazing results: “All his days, they [the Israelites] did not depart from following the LORD, the God of their fathers” (2 Chronicles 34:33).

They celebrated the Passover properly, and Josiah provided all of the Passover lambs for each family present.

There was no Passover like it in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; nor did any of the kings of Israel keep such a Passover as Josiah did, with the priests, Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 35:18).

Sadly, Josiah was killed in battle with Pharaoh Necho.

The Other Missing Kings…

Matthew sees no need to include Jehoahaz, son of Josiah, who reigned 3 months before being deposed by Egypt. Eliakim, another son of Josiah, changed his name to Jehoiakim and reigned 11 years before being taken captive to Babylon.


Also known as Jehoiachin and Coniah, Jeconiah reigned three months before Babylon took him captive. When this happened, God declared the end of the Kingdom of Judah—so far as an earthly king goes. God through Jeremiah said:

Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar? Or is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out And cast into a land that they had not known? O land, land, land, Hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the LORD, “Write this man down childless, A man who will not prosper in his days; For no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah” (Jeremiah 22:28-30).

Jeconiah died in Babylonian captivity, but was treated well, and ate at the king’s table. Though the throne was no more, the promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David still remained.

From Captivity to Jesus (Matthew 1:12-16)

After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah fathered Shealtiel, and Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel fathered Abihud, Abihud fathered Eliakim, and Eliakim fathered Azor. Azor fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Achim, and Achim fathered Eliud. Eliud fathered Eleazar, Eleazar fathered Matthan, and Matthan fathered Jacob. Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

The last section of the genealogy would only have a few familiar names to the Jewish readers, but the rest could easily be verified at the temple, where genealogical records were kept. Additionally, it is not outside the realm of probability that people would have known who was a part of the “royal” descendants, as heritage was a huge deal for the Jews.


The only times Shealtiel’s name is mentioned in the Bible is describing his relationship with someone else. He is the son of Jehoiachin (Jechoniah), and father of Zerubbabel.


Zerubbabel, as part of the royal line, was installed as governor of Judah after Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to their land. He worked together with Jeshua the high priest to rebuild the temple (from the foundation to the completion)[12] and encourage the people to worship God (Ezra 2:3, 8; 5:2). He is mentioned by Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah—all of whom he worked with.

He served God faithfully, and a prophecy was made by Haggai which shows the promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David went through him.

Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, saying, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another. On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,” declares the LORD, “and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,” declares the LORD of hosts (Haggai 2:21-23).

For more interesting reading on Zerubbabel, check out Zechariah 4.

The Rest of the Names through Jacob

Outside of the fact that they are the royal line, nothing is known about these men. But that they are the royal line is absolutely important.


Joseph was a righteous man. He had to be to be chosen by God to raise His only begotten Son, Jesus. We will discuss him more in depth in a later lesson. But suffice it to say, he was a kind, thoughtful man who followed God faithfully. Certainly he sinned, but not with rebellion or with knowledgeable intent.

It is important to note that the genealogy says “Jacob fathered Joseph, the husband of Mary…” This is not a genealogy of Mary. This is not a genealogy tracing how Jesus got His physical DNA, his features, etc. This is a genealogy showing the legal claim of Jesus to be the heir of David, the King of the Jews, the Messiah. Jesus was, legally, the son of Joseph, and was regarded as such, even by Mary (Luke 2:48). Thus He had the legal, legitimate right to claim to be King of the Jews, heir to the throne of David.

What does this mean for us today?

Perhaps most strikingly, it shows God can use flawed, broken, and even wicked people to bring about His desired will. That doesn’t mean the wicked people will be honored, but that God can and will keep His promises, even in spite of those wicked people.

It shows God can use you to accomplish His will. If He can use the crazy, broken, sinful folks listed above, he can certainly use you!

It shows God has always been willing to accept those who turn to Him in faithful repentance and obedience–whether Jew (like Manasseh) or Gentile (Rahab, Ruth). That means you can come back to Him.

It shows Jesus has the absolute legal claim to the promise given to David, which was based on the promise given to Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham.

It shows that genealogies can be interesting!

[1] See Lesson One for more information on this.

[2] Reuben had sex with his father’s concubine, Bilhah (Genesis 35:22). Levi and Simeon slaughtered the inhabitants of Shechem after the prince of that city raped their sister (Genesis 34). Jacob’s final words bears this out (Genesis 49: 1-7).

[3] The sad and disconcerting story takes place in Genesis 38.

[4] Read the short book of Ruth for the details.

[5] 1 Kings 11:1-8.

[6] 1 Kings 15:1-5.

[7] 2 Chronicles 20:35-37; 1 Kings 22:48.

[8] 2 Chronicles 21:6

[9] 2 Chronicles 23:17-18.

[10] This is told in Isaiah 38-39.

[11] 2 Chronicles 33.

[12] Zechariah 4:9-10.