Summary: The main and clear significance of Jesus’ genealogy that the author wants to show is that Jesus is “the son of Abraham”, as well as “the son of David”.
The Significance of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ Matthew 1:1-17
Matthew 1:1-17 listed the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ and summarized it in verse 17: “So then, there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, and fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen from then to the birth of the Messiah (GNB)”. This summary of Jesus’ genealogy emphasized the “14 generations”. Two probable ideas can be pursued on this emphasis. First, the number “14” communicates that Jesus’ birth is a fulfillment of a certain prophecy. Number “14” is divisible by number “7” which is a number, among Jewish apocalyptists, of completeness or perfect timing or a time of rest from work or an end from all seeking and waiting. But also, the emphasis on “14 generations” shows the miraculous coincidence of the list of the key persons in Jesus’ genealogy without any intention by the author to deduce anything about it. In this idea, Apostle Matthew was just copying from an available source.
Key Persons in Jesus’ Genealogy
From Abraham to David: (1) Abraham, (2) Isaac, (3) Jacob, (4) Judah (and his brothers) with wife Tamar, (5) Perez (and Zerah), (6) Hezron, (7) Ram, (8) Amminadab, (9) Nahshon, (10) Salmon, (11) Salmon with wife Rahab, (12) Boaz with wife Ruth, (13) Obed, (14) Jesse.
From David to Exile in Babylon: (1) David with Bathsheba, (2) Solomon, (3) Rehoboam, (4) Abijah, (5) Asa, (6) Jehoshaphat, (7) Jehoram, (8) Uzziah, (9) Jotham, (10) Ahaz, (11) Hezekiah, (12) Manasseh, (13) Amon, (14) Josiah.
From Exile in Babylon to Jesus’ Birth: (1) Jehoiachin (and his brothers), (2) Shealtiel, (3) Zerubbabel, (4) Abiud, (5) Eliakim, (6) Azor, (7) Zadok, (8) Achim, (9) Eliud, (10) Eleazar, (11) Matthan, (12) Jacob, (13) Joseph with wife Mary, (14) Jesus - the Christ.
However, the main and clear significance of Jesus’ genealogy that the author wants to show is that Jesus is “the son of Abraham”, as well as “the son of David” (verse 1). Here we can see the significance of Jesus’ genealogy, i.e., Jesus Christ realized God’s promises to Abraham and David.
A. Both Abraham and David Received A “Son-Centered Prophecy”.
1. “Son-Centered Prophecy” of God to Abraham. Abraham was already 75 years old when God called him to go out of Haran to the Land of Canaan. God promised him that he will have “many descendants” and they will be “a great nation” (Genesis 12:2). God confirmed to him that his own son will be the heir of all his property and God’s covenant with him (Genesis 15:4). Abraham seemed to have settled that his heir would be Ishmael, his son through Hagar, at the age of 86 (Genesis 16:15, 17:18). However, God revealed to him that his heir was not Ishmael but would be coming from Sarah (Genesis 17:19). At last, Isaac was born when Abraham was already 100 years old (Genesis 21:5) during the time when Sarah who at that time had already stopped having her monthly periods (Genesis 18:10).
The center of God’s covenant with Abraham which his son and his descendants will be doing is to be God’s instrument to “bless all the nations” (Genesis 12:3c). This is even the essence of God’s covenant with Moses and the nation Israel at Mount Sinai. God said to them, “Now, if you will obey Me and keep My covenant, you will be My own people. The whole earth is Mine but you will be My chosen people, a people dedicated to Me alone, and you will serve Me as priests” (Exodus 19:5-6).
2. “Son-Centered Prophecy” of God to David. David’s problem is not the same with Abraham who has a barren wife. David’s problem came about when he was forbidden to build God’s Temple. Instead, God promised that “When you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will make one of your sons king and will keep his kingdom strong. He will be the one to build a temple for me and I will make sure that his dynasty continues forever. I will be his father and he will be my son. I will not withdraw my support from him as I did from Saul, whom I removed so that you could be king. I will put him in charge of my people and my kingdom forever. His dynasty will never end” (I Chronicles 17:11-14). This son-centered prophecy, like that of Abraham which was fulfilled through Isaac, was fulfilled through Solomon. Solomon built the Temple of Jerusalem during his reign.
However, the center of God’s covenant with David was God’s promise that one of his sons will be king “in charge of God’s people and His kingdom forever” (I Chronicles 17:14a). The emphasis is not just on the length of this Son of David, but above all to the quality of his rule – “I will be his father and he will be my son”.