Matthew’s genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17), the royal “family tree” of Jesus, is a poetic, numeric defense of Christ’s right to the throne of David. He employs the number 14, the total numeric value of the consonants in the Hebrew name David (D=4, V=6, D=4), to accurately, though not exhaustively, list the people in the line of Christ. How? By using 14 names in each of his three sections, thus making the genealogy memorable in 42 names.
But there’s more underneath the 42 names than simple chronology. There is beautiful theology. Deep doctrine. Yes, not only does Matthew give us a wide-angle view of Israel’s history through the names, but he also provides us with solid truths about the God of Israel’s history.
Let me explain.
The first set of 14 names takes us from Abraham to David and illustrates God’s sovereign grace. What else would be the reason for the call of Abraham, the rescue of Rahab, or the inclusion of Tamar and Ruth in this genealogy? Why should “outsiders” become “insiders?” The answer is undeniable: because of the sovereign grace and divine purpose of God!
The second set of 14 names carries us from David to the exile in Babylon and illustrates God’s preserving power. Judah’s spiritual demise did not prevent the line of Christ from continuing. Truly, those he elected he also protected, even in the worst of times such as captivity and plunder by Nebechednezer. God was still preserving a royal seed that would culminate in the coming of Jesus Christ.
The third set of 14 names goes from the exile to Jesus and illustrates God’s singular purpose, namely, the restoration of his people. But far more is in sight than physical restoration. Spiritual restoration is God’s supreme aim, and he will accomplish that through a person—Jesus the Christ, the unique and ultimate end of the genealogy in Matthew!
But how will Jesus Christ accomplish that reconciliation? Ah, that’s the final eight verses of Matthew 1 (1:18-25). By “saving his people from their sins.” As the final section of Matthew 1 declares, God the Father revealed himself to us in God the Son by the power of God the Spirit, bringing final fulfillment to everything he had promised. The long-awaited Messiah has arrived, and his name is Jesus.