Updated: Dec 14, 2019
The name of the book of Matthew should very well be “The Book of the generation of Yeshua HaMashiach” as most books of the Tanakh (Old Testament) are named by their opening sentence. See Genesis 5:1 which begins exactly the same way about the first Adam and this the second Adam.
Matthew begins with a genealogy, to show Yeshua's role in this genealogy. He quotes that he is “The Son of David” the rightful heir to the throne and He is “the Son of Abraham” thereby fulfilling all of the promises which have been made to Israel.
It could be argued that since Chronicles is the last book in the TaNaKh Canon, and has been since at least 200 years before Messiah, that Matthew is picking up where the writer of Chronicles left off. The closing chapter of Chronicles ends with the destruction of Jerusalem, the carrying away into Babylon, and then closes with the decree from Cyrus giving Judah the right to return to the land and to rebuilt the temple. Hence, Matthew would be like a sequel to Chronicles, since the land was left without a king at the end of Chronicles. Matthew seeks to make it plain that the rightful King has come, the perfect completion of all prophecies have now been fulfilled in Yeshua and He is the strong hand of Yahweh which will restore all things. The prophetic seed of the woman, first mentioned in Genesis, has now come.
Matthew is writing primarily to the Jews and thus begins by listing genealogy records which the Hebrews highly regarded. In fact, we are warned in Matthew and Timothy about debating or placing too much emphasis on genealogy. See Matthew 3:9 and I Timothy 1:4.
Matthew begins by dividing the records into 3 sets of 14 generations. Abraham to David, David to Babylon, and the Babylonian exile to Yeshua’s birth.
Why does he choose to do this division? Clearly, he is trying to make some kind of point that his Jewish readers would have understood. However, it is much harder for us to understand the point of all of this division. In fact, there is no way for us to be sure of exactly what his intentions were. We will discuss some of the possible explanations.
First, we must understand that there is no way that Matthew lists every first born male in his recording. Just 14 generations between each of these? No way! There is said to be approximately 750 years between Abraham and David, 400 years between David and the Babylonian exile and 600 years between the Babylonian exile and Yeshua’s birth.
Instead, what Matthew is doing is leaving out some “disqualified” generations. Some kings (and one Queen Athaliah) were disqualified, usually for wickedness; as commentators, both Christian and Jewish, have understood for centuries. For example, the son of Judah, Er, in Genesis 38, is omitted due to the fact that Yahweh killed him for his great wickedness. The seed of promise was not to come through him. So, this generation is left out in the first set of 14 generations from Abraham to David. In Hebrew “begot” or “son” did not have to be the very next biological offspring, but a grandson or great, great grandson of the line. Any descendant in the line would be a son. Matthew is showing us the generations that counted, the ones that carried on the promise that would come.
The second set of 14 leaves out 3 Kings of Judah and one Queen. Why? They were wicked kings, one was from the lineage of Ahab and Jezebel (Ahaziah). Queen Athaliah made herself Queen (she was the wicked daughter of Ahab and Jezebel - of the Kingdom of Israel) and the other two, Joash and Amaziah were very wicked and were even assassinated by their own kinsmen. Because of their great wickedness, Yahweh commanded the king of Israel, Jehu, to kill all the descendants of Ahab.
The Torah gives an explanation of blotting out the wicked, because they are cursed and do not repent; "Thou shalt not have foreign gods before me. ... Thou shalt not adore or serve them. I am the Lord thy God, powerful and jealous, visiting the iniquity of fathers upon their children unto the third and fourth generation of those that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands to those that love me and keep my commandments" (Ex 20:3-6). Some of the other kings were wicked but in many cases they repented or else their father was righteous so Yahweh did not curse their generation.
Why the set of 14’s? In Hebrew numbers mean everything. The number 7 means perfection, and 14, being a multiple of 7, partakes of its importance, and being double that number, implies a double measure of spiritual perfection. 14 is also said to be the number representing deliverance. (Passover 14th day) The 3 sets of 14 adds up to the number 42. Again, 42 being a multiple of 7 .(6x7 or 3 sets of 7x2) Six is the number of man and seven is the number perfection. Matthew begins his genealogy with Abraham who received the promise; counts 42 generations (7 x 6), and comes to the perfect (7) man (6), Messiah Yeshua. This could be one way of looking at it.
In Hebrew, the sages taught that the number 14 meant “strong hand”. Hand in Hebrew is yod dalet or yad, made up of the Hebrew numbers ten and four, or fourteen.
14 means “kingship” as derived from the name David in gematria, equaling 14.
The 3 periods of 14 generations show perfect completion in and of themselves: First, the period from Abraham to David completed a period of time wherein the chosen seed of Abraham became a nation with their own homeland.
Second the period from David to the Babylonian Exile completed a period of decline and ultimate judgment, where they were driven from the homeland for 70 years.
Third, the period from the return from Babylon (last words of Cyrus recorded in Chronicles) to the coming of the Jesus completed the long anticipated arrival of the Messiah (which Matthew sets out to prove that he is the long awaited one in the first verse, the son of David, the rightful heir, and the son of Abraham, the one to bring forth the promises made to Abraham).
We should be able to see that the groups of 14 give emphasis to the most notable people and events in Jewish history; Abraham (the father of the race), to David (the King); David the King to the exile in Babylon (from which no king has reigned in Judah), to the coming of the one who is the rightful heir, Yeshua The Son of David. This all fulfills the prophesied event, that they would be scattered in exile, without a king, until the One who comes whose right it is: See Ezekiel 21:26-27.
The third set of 14 leaves us with a perplexing problem in the English language. DID MATTHEW FORGET HOW TO COUNT HERE? If you count them up, you have 3 missing kings (Jehoahaz, Jehoakim, Zedekiah) and also you have only 13 generations, not 14. Now, if you refer to the Aramaic Peshitta, which came first and is a Semitic language, you will find the answer to the dilemma for only 13 generations.
In verse 16 it should read “and Jacob begot Joseph, the gowra of Mary of whom was born Yeshua…” The word gowra means “guardian or kinsman redeemer”. This would probably go back to the Levirite Law where if a man dies childless then his brother would take his widowed wife and bear a child to his dead brother. In Aramaic, the word for husband is “baalah” and is used many times in the New Testament in the Aramaic. In verse 19 we have this word used when it states that, “Then Joseph her husband (baalah) being a just man….” Apparently Mary’s Father and husband were both named Joseph, which is not uncommon, even today. Joseph was a popular Hebrew name. If we use this scenario we will find that the 12th generation was Mary’s Father, Mary herself was the 13th generation and Y'shua was the 14th generation, and the perfect completion of the sets. MATTHEW COULD COUNT AFTER ALL!!
If you take note, Matthew lists women in his recording, unlike Luke, and most other genealogy’s. Matthew lists Tamar (vs3), Rahab (vs5), Ruth (vs5), Bathsheba (vs6), and Mary (vs.16). He does this to show that Yeshua HaMashiach came from Mary, the seed of the woman, as prophesied in Genesis. Luke gives the genealogy of Joseph, who came from the son of David, Nathan, not Solomon. It was prophesied that the Messiah would come from David thru Solomon, not Nathan. Matthew is listing the genealogy of Mary, not Joseph.
Luke 3:33 states that “ Yeshua began His ministry at about the age of 30, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.” Clearly Luke is giving Joseph’s lineage all the way back to Adam. But Matthew goes only back to Abraham, as he is seeking to show that Mary came from Solomon, David, and then back to Abraham; as fulfilling all of the promises made to both.
Yeshua is the rightful heir that Ezekiel spoke about.
When we look at the three missing kings in Matthew 1:11 we need to go back to 2 Kings 23:31-25:30 and 2 Chronicles 36:1-23 as this is where we can find their information. One of the kings, the one listed in Matthew, Jeconiah, was cursed and this curse is recorded in
Jeremiah 22:24-30. (Also known as Coniah) However, his outcome is also recorded in the last chapter of Jeremiah 52:31-34. Apparently Jeconiah repented while in Babylon and he did have children for they are listed in I Chronicles 3:17-19. Ancient sages taught that Jeconiah did repent in Babylon and bear children.
Jehoichin or Jeconiah (Coniah) is listed in Matthew because apparently he was the rightful heir.
Matthew is only interested in rightful heirs.
It would appear that the Messiah could not come from David because the only surviving and rightful heir was cursed! Jehoachin was that heir. Jehoahaz was not the rightful heir, the people made him King, and he was the youngest son of Josiah. Jehoakim was not the rightful heir and Zedekiah certainly was not the rightful heir, but Jehoachin was and he was alive and well in Babylon. This is why Matthew lists him. What about the curse on the rightful heir, Jeconiah? How was the curse broken on the line of David?
Well, first of all Jehoichin apparently repented. We have a recorded incident of this with King Manessah who was very wicked, but repented, and God forgave him and all of his wickedness. Secondly, God does not punish children for the sins of their parents unless the children choose to walk in their parents footsteps. In Haggai 2:20-23 we read of the curse being lifted through Zerubbabel, the grandson of Jeconiah.