Matthew 1:2
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
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(2) The omission of the names of Ishmael and Esau is explained by the fact, that they were not only not in the line of succession, but were outside the covenant with Abraham—“In Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Genesis 21:12); and Esau had forfeited both the birth-right and the blessing. The brethren of Judah are named, on the other hand, because all who were descended from them had an equal interest in the Messiah.

Matthew 1:2. Abraham begat Isaac — “The evangelist here opens his history with our Lord’s genealogy by Joseph, his supposed father. Luke gives another genealogy of him, thought by many to be Joseph’s also, but without foundation; for the two genealogies are entirely different, from David and downward. It is true, some have attempted to reconcile them by alleging, that they exhibit Joseph’s pedigree, the one by his natural, the other by his legal father. But, had that been the case, the natural and legal fathers would have been brothers, which it is plain they were not, Jacob, Joseph’s father in Matthew, being the son of Matthan, the son of Eleazar; whereas Eli, the father supposed to be assigned him by Luke, was the son of Matthat, a different person from Matthan, because the son of Levi.” Besides, on this supposition, we should be altogether uncertain whether our Lord’s mother, from whom alone he sprang, was a daughter of David, and consequently could not prove that he had any other relation to David than that his mother was married to one of the descendants of that prince. Let the reader judge whether this would come up to the import of the passages of Scripture, which tell us he was made of the seed of David. See Romans 1:3; Acts 2:30. But this important difficulty is easily removed by supposing that Matthew gives Joseph’s pedigree, and Luke, Mary’s. See Macknight. But, taking it for granted that Luke gives us our Lord’s real pedigree, and Matthew that of Joseph, his supposed father, it may reasonably be inquired why Matthew has done so? To this it may be answered, that he intended to remove the scruples of those who knew that the Messiah was to be the heir of David’s crown; a reason which appears the stronger, if we suppose, with the learned writer last quoted, that Matthew wrote posterior to Luke, who has given the real pedigree. For, “though Joseph was not Christ’s real father, it was directly for the evangelist’s purpose to derive his pedigree from David, and show that he was the eldest surviving branch of the posterity of that prince, because, this point established, it was well enough understood that Joseph, by marrying our Lord’s mother, after he knew that she was with child of him, adopted him for his son, and raised him both to the dignity and privileges of David’s heir. Accordingly, the genealogy is concluded in terms which imply this: Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus. Joseph is not here called the father of Jesus, but the husband of his mother, Mary; and the privileges following this adoption will appear to be more essentially connected with it, if, as is probable, Joseph never had any child. For thus the regal line of David’s descendants by Solomon, failing in Joseph, his rights were properly transferred to Joseph’s adopted son, who, indeed, was of the same family, though by another branch. Matthew, therefore, has deduced our Lord’s political and royal pedigree, with a view to prove his title to the kingdom of Israel, by virtue of the rights which he acquired through his adoption; whereas Luke explains his natural descent, in the several successions of those from whom he derived his human nature. That the genealogy, not only of our Lord’s mother, but of his reputed father, should be given by the sacred historians, was wisely ordered; because the two taken together prove him to be descended of David and Abraham in every respect, and consequently that one of the most remarkable characters of the Messiah was fulfilled in him; the principal promises concerning the great personage, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed, having been made to those patriarchs, in quality of his progenitors; first to Abraham, Genesis 22:18, then to David, Psalm 132:11-12.” And accordingly Matthew begins this genealogy with a plain allusion to these promises: for he evidently intended it, not so much as an introduction to his history of Christ, as to show that, according to the flesh, he was the son of David and the son of Abraham, as it was often foretold the Messiah should be. If it be inquired whence Matthew had this genealogy, there being nothing of it to be found in Scripture, Dr. Whitby answers, “From the authentic genealogical tables kept by the Jews, of the line of David: for, it appears from the taxation, mentioned Luke 2., that they had genealogies of all their families and tribes, since all went to be taxed, every one to his own city, Matthew 1:3, and Joseph went to Bethlehem, the city of David, because he was of the house and lineage of David. And this is certain, touching the tribe of Levi, because their whole temple service, the effect of their sacrifices and expiations, depended on it. And, therefore, Josephus, being a priest, not only confidently depends on these genealogical tables for the proof of his descent, ανωθεν εξ ιερεων, in a long series from priests; but adds, that all their priests were obliged to prove, εκ των αρχαιων την διαδοχην, their succession from an ancient line; and if they could not do it, they were to be excluded from officiating as priests, and that, in whatsoever part of the world they were, they used this diligence. And again, Christ being promised as one who was to proceed out of the loins of David, and therefore called the son of David, it was absolutely necessary that the genealogy of the house and lineage of David should be preserved, that they might know that their Messiah was of the seed of David, according to the promise. Hence the apostle says to Timothy, Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, 2 Timothy 2:8. And Eusebius, (Eccl. Hist., lib. 1. cap. 6,) from Africanus, says, according to the version of Ruffinus, ‘That all the successions of the Hebrews were kept in the secret archives of the temple, and thence they were described, εκ της Βιβλου των εμερων, from their ephemerides, by the kinsmen of our Saviour.’ It therefore, doubtless, was from these authentic records that Matthew had his genealogy, for otherwise he would have exposed himself to the cavils of the Jews. And hence the author of the epistle to the Hebrews represents it as a thing evident to the Jews, that our Lord sprang out of Judah, Hebrews 7:14.”

As to some difficulties which occur upon comparing this genealogy with that of Luke, the reader is referred to the notes on them both. We must observe, however, that if we could not satisfactorily remove some, or even any of those difficulties, it would not affect the credit of the evangelists, for it would be a sufficient vindication of them to say, that they gave Christ’s pedigree as they found it in the authentic tables, preserved among the Jews in the temple registers. Upon this subject Bishop Burnet observes, that had not this genealogy been taken with exactness out of those registers, the bare showing of them would have served to have confuted the whole. For, if those registers were clear and uncontroverted in any one thing, they were so with respect to the genealogies; since these proved both that the Jews were Abraham’s seed, and likewise ascertained their title to the lands, which, from the days of Joshua, were to pass down either to immediate descendants, or, as they failed, to collateral degrees. Now, this shows plainly, that there was a double office kept of their pedigrees; one natural, which might probably be taken when the rolls of circumcision were made up; and the other, relating to the division of the land; in which, when the collateral line came instead of the natural, then the last was dropped, as extinct, and the other remained. It being thus plain, from their constitution, that they had these two orders of tables, we are not at all concerned in the diversity of the two evangelists on this head; since they both might have copied them out from those two offices at the temple; and if they had not done it faithfully, the Jews could easily have demonstrated their error in endeavouring to prove that Jesus was entitled to that well-known character of the Messiah, that he was to be the son of David, by a false pedigree. Now since no exceptions were made at the time when the sight of the rolls must have ended the inquiry, it is plain they were faithfully copied out; nor are we now bound to answer such difficulties as seem to arise out of them, since they were not questioned at the time in which only an appeal could be made to the public registers themselves. See Burnet’s Four Discourses, p. 16.

Abraham begat Isaac, &c. — Matthew, being a Jew, brings Christ’s genealogy down from Abraham, for the comfort of the Jews, who deduced all their genealogies from him, because God had taken him and his seed into a peculiar covenant; Luke, a Gentile, and a companion of the apostle of the Gentiles, carries Christ’s pedigree upward unto Adam, for the comfort of the Gentiles, who were not lineally of the seed of Abraham. Jacob begat Judas and his brethren — The words, his brethren, are added, probably, because they were patriarchs and heads of the people from whom the Messiah was to proceed, and to show that he was related to all the tribes as well as to that of Judah, and to comfort those of the dispersion, (many of whom were not returned out of captivity, as Judah was,) in their equal interest in the blessings of the seed of Abraham. Judah is particularly named in preference to any of them, both because it was from him our Lord came, and because to him the extraordinary promise was made, that his brethren should praise and bow down to him, and that his descendants should continue a distinct tribe, with some form of government among them, till Shiloh, who was to spring from his loins, should come.

1:1-17 Concerning this genealogy of our Saviour, observe the chief intention. It is not a needless genealogy. It is not a vain-glorious one, as those of great men often are. It proves that our Lord Jesus is of the nation and family out of which the Messiah was to arise. The promise of the blessing was made to Abraham and his seed; of the dominion, to David and his seed. It was promised to Abraham that Christ should descend from him, Ge 12:3; 22:18; and to David that he should descend from him, 2Sa 7:12; Ps 89:3, &c.; 132:11; and, therefore, unless Jesus is a son of David, and a son of Abraham, he is not the Messiah. Now this is here proved from well-known records. When the Son of God was pleased to take our nature, he came near to us, in our fallen, wretched condition; but he was perfectly free from sin: and while we read the names in his genealogy, we should not forget how low the Lord of glory stooped to save the human race.These verses contain the genealogy of Jesus. Luke also Luke 3 gives a genealogy of the Messiah. No two passages of Scripture have caused more difficulty than these, and various attempts have been made to explain them. There are two sources of difficulty in these catalogues.

1. Many names that are found in the Old Testament are here omitted; and,

2. The tables of Matthew and Luke appear in many points to be different.

From Adam to Abraham Matthew has mentioned no names, and Luke only has given the record. From Abraham to David the two tables are alike. Of course there is no difficulty in reconciling these two parts of the tables. The difficulty lies in that part of the genealogy from David to Christ. There they are entirely different. They are manifestly different lines. Not only are the names different, but Luke has mentioned, in this part of the genealogy, no less than 42 names, while Matthew has recorded only 27 names.

Various ways have been proposed to explain this difficulty, but it must be admitted that none of them is perfectly satisfactory. It does not comport with the design of these notes to enter minutely into an explanation of the perplexities of these passages. All that can be done is to suggest the various ways in which attempts have been made to explain them.

1. It is remarked that in nothing are mistakes more likely to occur than in such tables. From the similarity of names, and the different names by which the same person is often called, and from many other causes, errors would be more likely to creep into genealogical tables than in other writings. Some of the difficulties may have possibly occurred from this cause.

2. Most interpreters have supposed that Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke that of Mary. They were both descended from David, but in different lines. This solution derives some plausibility from the fact that the promise was made to David, and as Jesus was not the son of Joseph, it was important to show that Mary was also descended from him. But though this solution is plausible, and may be true, yet it wants evidence. It cannot, however, be proved that this was not the design of Luke.

3. It has been said also that Joseph was the legal son and heir of Heli, though the real son of Jacob, and that thus the two lines terminated in him. This was the explanation suggested by most of the Christian fathers, and on the whole is the most satisfactory. It was a law of the Jews that if a man died without children, his brother should marry his widow. Thus the two lines might have been intermingled, According to this solution, which was first proposed by Africanus, Matthan, descended from Solomon, married Estha, of whom was born Jacob. After Matthan's death, Matthat being of the same tribe, but of another family, married his widow, and of this marriage Heli was born. Jacob and Heli were therefore children of the same mother. Heli dying without children, his brother Jacob married his widow, and begat Joseph, who was thus the legal son of Heli. This is agreeable to the account in the two evangelists. Matthew says that Jacob begat Joseph; Luke says that Joseph was the son of Heli, i. e., was his legal heir, or was reckoned in law to be his son. This can be seen by the plan on the next page, showing the nature of the connection.

Though these solutions may not seem to be entirely satisfactory, yet there are two additional considerations which should set the matter at rest, and lead to the conclusion that the narratives are not really inconsistent.

1. No difficulty was ever found, or alleged, in regard to them, by any of the early enemies of Christianity. There is no evidence that they ever adduced them as containing a contradiction. Many of those enemies were acute, learned, and able; and they show by their writings that they were not indisposed to detect all the errors that could possibly be found in the sacred narrative. Now it is to be remembered that the Jews were fully competent to show that these tables were incorrect, if they were really so; and it is clear that they were fully disposed, if possible, to do it. The fact, therefore, that it is not done, is clear evidence that they thought it to be correct. The same may be said of the acute pagans who wrote against Christianity. None of them have called in question the correctness of these tables. This is full proof that, in a time when it was easy to understand these tables, they were believed to be correct.

2. The evangelists are not responsible for the correctness of these tables. They are responsible only for what was their real and professed object to do. What was that object? It was to prove to the satisfaction of the Jews that Jesus was descended from David, and therefore that there was no argument from his ancestry that he was not the promised Messiah. Now to make this out, it was not necessary, nor would it have conduced to their argument, to have formed a new table of genealogy. All that could be done was to go to the family records - to the public tables, and copy them as they were actually kept, and show that, according to the records of the nation, Jesus was descended from David. This, among the Jews, would be full and decided testimony in the case. And this was doubtless done. In the same way, the records of a family among us, as they are kept by the family, are proof in courts of justice now of the birth, names, etc., of individuals. Nor is it necessary or proper for a court to call them in question or to attempt to correct them. So, the tables here are good evidence to the only point that the writers wished to establish: that is, to show to the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was descended from David. The only inquiry which can now be fairly made is whether they copied those tables correctly. It is clear that no man can prove that they did not so copy them, and therefore that no one can adduce them as an argument against the correctness of the New Testament.

2. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren—Only the fourth son of Jacob is here named, as it was from his loins that Messiah was to spring (Ge 49:10). The evangelist reckoneth the genealogy of our Saviour by three periods, reckoning thrice fourteen descents. The first period began in Abraham, Genesis 21:2,3 and ended in David. The second began in Solomon, and ended in Jehoiachin. The third began with Jehoiachin, and ended in Christ. Luke (as we shall see in its place) fetcheth our Saviour’s line from Adam. From Abraham to David there is no difference between Matthew and Luke, they both reckoned up the same fourteen persons, Luke 3:32-34. But Luke repeating our Saviour’s pedigree by his mother’s side, and Matthew by his supposed father’s side, Joseph, after David they must differ, Mary descending from David’s family by his son Nathan, Joseph descending from him by Solomon. All interpreters agree that there are great difficulties about the genealogy of Christ, especially in reconciling Matthew and Luke; and the enemies of Christianity have in all times made their advantage of them, to weaken our faith as to the gospel: but Christians ought to consider,

1. That the Jews had without doubt perfect genealogies, and were more especially exact in keeping them as to the royal tribe of David, which was Judah, and the priestly tribe of Levi, that they might have a right king and high priest; and it cannot be expected that after seventeen hundred years almost we should make out genealogies as they could.

2. That they were very apt to make strifes about words and endless genealogies; as appears by the apostle’s cautioning both Timothy and Titus against it, 1 Timothy 1:4 1 Timothy 6:4 Titus 3:9.

3. That it had been a sufficient exception against Christ if they could have proved he had not lineally descended from David.

4. That though they cavilled at Christ for many things, yet they never made any such cavil.

5. That we are forbidden strife and endless labour about genealogy. And therefore it is the most unreasonable thing imaginable for us to make such little dissatisfactions grounds for us to question or disbelieve the gospel, because we can not untie every knot we meet with in a pedigree.

But in this first period no such difficulties occur; both the evangelists are agreed, and the Old Testament agrees with both. That Abraham begat Isaac (when he was an hundred years old) we are assured by Moses, Genesis 21:2,5; that Isaac begat Jacob he also telleth us, Genesis 25:26. So also that Jacob begat Judah and his brethren, Genesis 29:35. Judah was Jacob’s third son by Leah, and that son of whom dying Jacob prophesied, That him should his brethren praise, and to him should his father’s children bow down. That the sceptre should not depart from Judah, nor the lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh came; and unto him should the gathering of the people be, Genesis 49:8-10. Though Saul, who was the first king of Israel, (given them in wrath), was of the tribe of Benjamin, 1 Samuel 9:21; yet David was of the tribe of Judah, in whose line the kingdom held unto the captivity.

And his brethren: the brethren of Judah are here mentioned, being the heads of the Jewish nation: Christ descended from Judah.

Abraham begat Isaac,.... The descent of Christ from Abraham is in the line of Isaac; Abraham begat Ishmael before Isaac, and others after him, but they are not mentioned; because the Messiah was not to spring from any of them, but from Isaac, of whom it is said, "in Isaac shall thy seed be called", Genesis 21:12 and who, as he was a progenitor, so an eminent type of Christ; being Abraham's only beloved son; and particularly in the binding, sacrifice and deliverance of him.

Isaac begat Jacob. The genealogy of Christ proceeds from Isaac, in the line of Jacob. Isaac begat Esau, as well as Jacob, and they two were twins, but one was loved, and the other hated; wherefore no mention is made of Esau, he had no concern in the Messiah, nor was he to spring from him, but from Jacob, or Israel, by whose name he is sometimes called, Isaiah 49:3

Jacob begat Judas and his brethren. The lineage of Christ is carried on from Jacob in the line of Judah; the reason of which is, because it was particularly prophesied that the Messiah, Shiloh, the prince and chief ruler, should be of him, Genesis 49:10 1 Chronicles 5:2. And it is evident beyond all contradiction, that our Lord sprung from his tribe, Hebrews 7:14. The reason why the brethren of Judah, who were eleven in number, are mentioned, when the brethren of Isaac and Jacob are not, is, because though the Messiah did not spring from them, yet the promise of him was made to the twelve tribes, who all expected him, and to whom he was sent, and came. These made but one body of men, and therefore, though the Messiah came from the tribe of Judah, yet he is said to be of them all, Romans 9:4.

Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
Matthew 1:2-3. Κ. τ. ἀδελφοὺς αὐτ.] “Promissiones fuere in familia Israelis,” Bengel.

Matthew 1:3. These twin sons of Judah were illegitimate, Genesis 38:16-30. The Jews were inclined to find a good side to the transgressions of their ancestors, and alleged here, e.g., that Thamar entertained the idea of becoming an ancestress of kings and prophets. See Wetstein and Fritzsche. The reason why Thamar is here brought forward, as well as Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba in Matthew 1:5-6 (for οὐκ ἦν ἔθος γενεαλογεῖσθαι γυναῖκας, Euth. Zigabenus), is not “ut tacitae Judaeorum objectioni occurreretur,” Wetstein; for the reproach of illegitimate birth was not raised against Jesus in the apostolic age, nor probably before the second century (see Thilo, ad Cod. Apocr. I. p. 526 f.), and would be very indelicately referred to by the naming of these women; nor the point of view of exactness (Fritzsche), which would not explain why these women and no others were mentioned; least of all the tendency to cast into the shade the Jewish genealogical tree (Hilgenfeld). In keeping with the whole design of the genealogical register, which must terminate in the wonderful one who is born of woman, that reason cannot, without arbitrariness, be found save in this, that the women named entered in an extraordinary manner into the mission of continuing the genealogy onwards to the future Messiah, and might thereby appear to the genealogist and the evangelist as typi Mariae (Paulus, de Wette, Ebrard; comp. Grotius on Matthew 1:3), and in so doing the historical stains which cleaved to them (to Ruth also, in so far as she was a Moabitess) were not merely fully compensated by the glorious approval which they found precisely in the light in which their history was regarded by the nation (Hebrews 11:31; Jam 2:25), but far outweighed and even exalted to extraordinary honours. See the numerous Rabbinical passages, relating especially to Thamar, Rahab, and Ruth, in Wetstein in loc., and on Hebrews 11:31. Olshausen is too indefinite: “in order to point to the marvellous gracious leading of God in the ordering of the line of the Messiah.” Luther and some of the Fathers drag in here what lies very remote: because Christ interested Himself in sinners; Lange, more remote still, “in order to point to the righteousness which comes, not from external holiness, but from faith;” and Delitzsch (in Rudelbach and Guericke’s Zeitschrift, 1850, p. 575 f.), “because the sinless birth of Mary was prepared throughout by sin.”

Matthew 1:2-16. The genealogy divides into three parts: from Abraham to David (Matthew 1:2-6 a); from David to the captivity (Matthew 1:6 b–11); from the captivity to Christ. On closer inspection it turns out to be not so dry as it at first appeared. There are touches here and there which import into it an ethical significance, suggesting the idea that it is the work not of a dry-as-dust Jewish genealogist, but of the evangelist; or at least worked over by him in a Christian spirit, if the skeleton was given to his hand. To note these is the chief interest of non-Rabbinical exegesis.

Matthew 1:2. Ἀβραάμ, Abraham) St Matthew, in enumerating our Lord’s ancestors, adopts the order of descent (though he employs that of ascent in Matthew 1:1), and begins also from Abraham, instead of Adam, not however to the exclusion of the Gentiles (cf. Matthew 28:19), since in Abraham all nations are made blessed.—καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ, and his brethren) These words are not added in the case of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, though they also had brethren, but only in that of Judah: for the promises were restricted to the family of Israel.

Verse 2. - Abraham begat Isaac. From Abraham to David the genealogy in St. Matthew agrees with that in Luke 3. In the other two sections, from Solomon to Zerubbabel, and from Zerubbabel to Christ, there is some difficulty in accounting for the variations, which are considerable. The natural descent of each son from his father is emphasized by the repetition of the word "begat" at every stage (cf., however, ver. 8, note) till we come to Jesus, and then the phrase is varied, "Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus." Judas ( Judah, Revised Version) and his brethren. The addition of these words seems very natural here, because the twelve sons of Jacob were the fathers of the tribes of Israel, and as descended from Abraham were heirs of the promises; and although Judah was the tribe from which the Messiah was to spring, he was to be the glory of the whole of Israel. The same words, "and his brethren," are, however, found in ver. 11, where there is no such reason to account for them. Matthew 1:2
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