Jesus’ Birth & Childhood
Validation of Jesus by Genealogy, Matt. 1:1-17
Matthew introduces “Jesus Christ.” “Jesus” is from the Greek Iesous which is a translation of the Hebrew name yehosua being translated in English as “Joshua.” It means “Jehovah saves”. The title given Jesus by Matthew is “Christ” from the Greek Chrestos meaning “anointed one.” The Hebrew term is masiah or Messiah. Jesus was of the seed of Abraham. God told Abraham, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Gen. 22:18). He was also to be of the seed of David (Ps. 89:4). And the “Son of David” therefore in line to be king. “Son of David” was considered by the Jews of Matthews day to be a Messianic designation.
For a millennium, Jews had been awaiting the fulfillment of these promises. What right and proof did Jesus have to claim the Throne of David and bless mankind? Matthew begins with a genealogy to offer documented proof.
Matthew’s genealogy is different from that of Luke’s. Whereas Luke’s family tree for Jesus ranges from Adam to Jesus, Matthew begins with Abraham. Luke begins with Jesus and lists his genealogy in descending order. The biggest difference is Matthew is dealing with Joseph’s side of the family tree while Luke focuses on Mary’s side.
Matthew arranges his imperfect genealogy into three groups of fourteen. This may have been used as a memory device. It was also for the purpose of organizing them into three distinct historical periods. The first fourteen were about patriarchs to the first King in the line of Judean kings related to Jesus, thus the mention of King David. The monarchy is the focus of the second set of fourteen. The third group of ancestors covers the period of history beginning with the captivity, exile, return and right up to the Roman period.
Matthew does not mention everyone in his genealogy. He cites those of importance to his message. The mention of Judah is of prophetic importance. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Gen. 49:10). David’s father, Jesse, also figures in Messianic prophecy (Is. 11:1,10).
In the first section of Jesus’ genealogy, Matthew mentions some of his more famous or infamous grandmothers: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Tamar was guilty of prostitution and incest with Judah. Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute who lied. Bathsheba was adulterous. Ruth was a Moabite widow and grandmother of David.
The list of the many known ancestors of Jesus with hard to pronounce names are by no means listed here for the Bible student to explore the lives of them one by one. However, an argument could be made that this list represents not just proof of Jesus claim to royalty but a genealogy of grace. Abraham did not trust in God when he left for Egypt or took Hagar as a second wife in hopes of helping God fulfill his promises. David was not a stellar father, committed adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, and a gave into the Devil’s temptation to number the people. Solomon married many forbidden foreign wives who turned his heart from God to idolatry. All the men and women in the list where sinners on need of a Savior. Even Mary (Luke 1:46-48) and Joseph needed a Savior. Jesus came from a long line of sinners and came for the purpose of saving them from their sin.
Joseph did not “begat” Jesus Christ. The term “begat” (Greek, gennao) means “fathered” or “fathering”. Joseph is not said to have fathered Jesus, but to have been married to Mary who gave birth to Jesus. Joseph is therefore not listed as a biological father of Jesus. This is in keeping with the fact that the prophecy that Jesus was to be born of the seed of woman (Gen. 3:15). Biologically it takes the seed of a man and a woman to produce a baby. Jesus was born without male seed (Gal. 4:4).
Virgin Birth of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, Matt. 1:18-25
Matthew has shown the biological lineage of Jesus. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows…” (1:18b). The term “birth” is from the same Greek term used for genealogy. Now he shows the divine/supernatural lineage of Jesus by way of the virgin birth
Joseph was betrothed to Mary when it was discovered she was with child. He was in a quandary in that he knew it was not his child. He would have suffered from a broken heart and devastated by the idea of painful betrayal. However, he must have respected and loved Mary and did not wish to publicly humiliate her or have her stoned to death for adultery (Deut. 22:23-25). One must understand that betrothal was a phase between engagement and marriage. Couples were engaged, that is had the marriage arranged by parents. Once a dowry was paid to the bride’s parents, a betrothal period set in for one year. During this time, they were as good as married but no sexual relations occurred. If she turned up pregnant or either proved to be unfaithful, the marriage was off, and the betrothal ended with a divorce. If all went well the couple would be married in a public ceremony.
While Joseph was contemplating whether to put her away (Greek apoluo, divorce) quietly, an angel appears to him. In a dream the angel tells him what is really going on with his bride. Mary was not pregnant or fathered by the Holy Spirit in a carnal like since. “Mary’s conception was not a divine seduction, but a miraculous conception” (Pope 44).
This is not just a random miracle but a fulfillment of prophecy The phrase “that is might be fulfilled” introduce the first of many prophecies fulfilled in Matthew giving proof to the King-Messiahship of Jesus. Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 concerning the virgin birth of Jesus.
There has been some question whether or not the Hebrew world alma means “virgin”. “Alma (Hebrew) is a more general term which refers to a young unmarried woman, while parthenos (Greek) speaks more directly to the virginity of the one in question. The fact that the LXX translated alma with parthenos (in Isaiah 7;14) shows that the ancients understood an alma to be a ‘virgin’” (Pope 48,49).
We do not know a great deal about the character of Joseph except that he is called a “just” or “righteous” man. But notice when he is told something by an angel, he responds immediately with obedience. He marries Mary. And he also protects her and God’s son. Joseph will have to endure the criticism of others by not putting Mary away, tolerate the judgmental comments about his and/or Mary’s premarital sexual relations, forego sexual relations with his new bride, and support and protect a child that is not his.
Joseph follows the angel’s command to name Mary’s son, “Jesus.” By doing so he was publicly and legally accepted Jesus as his own son.
Jesus was also to be known as “Emmanuel” meaning “God with us”. With the incarnation God is literally and physically with them in the first century.
Veneration of Jesus by Wise Men, Matt. 2:1-12
Who were these wise men seeking to worship the young King of the Jews? First of all, many legends are to be debunked by the facts before understanding who they were. We do not know specifically where they were from. Legend has it from the Middle Ages that they were from India, Persia and Arabia and named Dasper, Balthazar, and Melchoior. Their bones are said to be buried in Cologne, Germany. We do not know how many of them came. All we know is that they were bringing three types of expensive gifts.
The wise men were called Magoi or Magi. These were not necessarily pagan astrologers. They believed and followed God. God communicated with them, and they obeyed Him. This explains how they would have known about the coming of the “King”.
They were following a “star”. Many think this could not have been an actual star because it had recently appeared in the heavens (2:7); moved in the sky (2:9); and settled over the town of Bethlehem. In historical records found in China, there was a “comet” which appeared for several weeks in about the year 5 B.C. Others look to Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17 being fulfilled with this cosmic sighting by the Magi: “A Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel,” Calling upon the Chief Priests and scribes to help locate this little king, Herod is informed of the prophecy found in Micah 5:2. ““Ephrathah” is an older term for the area and by including it Micah distinguishes this Bethlehem from the one in Zebulun (Josh. 19:15). The wise men found the house where Jesus lived with his parents but did not return to Herod.
Violence Against Jesus by Herod, 2:13-18
When the magi did not return, Herod felt mock. Although that was not the intention of the wise men. They were simply obeying God.
The reaction of Herod the Great was just the opposite of that of the wise men. He did not want to worship Jesus. He wanted to wipe him out. Having the children two and under killed in Bethlehem was in keeping with Herod’s violent, murderous ways fueled by paranoia. He had his wife’s brother the high priest, Aristobluos drowned. He had his sons Aristobulous and Alexander strangled. He killed his wife, Mariamne and her mother Alexandra.
The genocide of the Bethlehem babies also fulfilled another Messianic prophecy in Jeremiah 31:15: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Ramah was the gathering point of Jews by the Babylonians as they planned to carry them off into exile. Rachel is figuratively seen as the mother representing all those mothers who sons were being carried off into Babylonian captivity.
Matthew records a second proof of Jesus’ being the promised Messiah in verse thirteen. Joseph and Mary fleeing with Jesus to Egypt from Herod fulfills Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.”
In fleeing to Egypt, they would have to live as fugitives. In a few months to a year, God sent yet another dream to command Joseph to return home. Herod the Great had died in 4 B.C. Archelaus took his father Herod’s place. He was fashioned in the same mold as his father. So, Joseph moved back home to Nazareth (Luke 2:4). This was also a proof of Jesus identity. He would be called a Nazarene. However, there is no such specific prophecy in the Old Testament.
– Daniel R. Vess