Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Davidic Focus of Jesus' Genealogy

The genealogy of Jesus begins with King David, not Abraham, which seems unusual since Abraham preceded David by 800 years (v 1). Why the reversal? Most likely because David is the pivotal figure in the genealogy, which is divided into three sections. Section I covers the time from Abraham to David’s ascent to the throne (vv 2-6). Section 2 covers the time between David’s rule to the exile in Babylon (vv 7-11). Section 3 cover the years between the return from exile to the restoration of David’s dynasty through the Messiah Jesus (vv 8-16).

Matthew says each section consists of 14 generations (v 17). Yet, only sections 1 and 2 have 14 generations; section 3 has 13 generations. Why the discrepancy? Can’t Matthew add? Matthew must have something else in mind. Especially since section 1 covers 800 years, while sections 2 and 3 cover 400 and 575 years, respectively. Based on the time difference alone, the number of generations cannot be the same for each section. So what is Matthew’s point?

Most likely, Matthew is using a code system known as gematria (which assigns value to Hebrew letters) to say that each section is about David. Since the Hebrew alphabet is devoid of vowels, David’s name is D-V-D. Its value is D = 4, V = 6, D = 4, for a total of 14. Therefore, Matthew likely means each section is equivalent to 14 or is about D-V-D.

While the genealogy focuses on David, it ends with Jesus. It is his lineage (vv 1, 17). He is the Royal Messiah who ushers in the Kingdom of God. All the promises and hopes of Israel find their fulfillment in Jesus.

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