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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. 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. 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. 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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) 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!
 See Lesson One for more information on this.
 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).
 The sad and disconcerting story takes place in Genesis 38.
 Read the short book of Ruth for the details.
 1 Kings 11:1-8.
 1 Kings 15:1-5.
 2 Chronicles 20:35-37; 1 Kings 22:48.
 2 Chronicles 21:6
 2 Chronicles 23:17-18.
 This is told in Isaiah 38-39.
 2 Chronicles 33.
 Zechariah 4:9-10.