JESUS THE CHRIST BY HUMAN ANCESTRY, (Parallel passage: Luke 3:23-38.)
The book of the generation. As St. Matthew was writing only for Jews, and they, by reason of their Old Testament prophecies, looked for the Messiah to be born of a certain family, he begins his Gospel with a pedigree of Jesus. In this he mentions, by way of introduction, the two points to which his countrymen would have special regard—the descent of Jesus from David, the founder of the royal line, him in whose descendants the Ruler of Israel must necessarily (2 Samuel 7:13-16) be looked for; and also from Abraham, who was the head of the covenant nation, and to whom the promise had been given that in his seed all the nations of the earth should bless themselves (Genesis 22:18; Genesis 12:3). After this he proceeds to fill up the intervening steps in the genealogy. The spelling of the names in the Authorized Version accords with the Greek, and so varies from the Old Testament orthography; but for the sake of the English reader it is certainly advisable to do what has been done in the Revised Version, viz. to conform the spelling to that of the Old Testament, and, where the Greek varies much, to put that form in the margin. It is better to write Rahab than Raehab, and Shealtiel than Salathiel. Those who read the Greek Gospels when these were first written read also the Old Testament in Greek, and so were in no confusion. The first verse of the Gospel is doubtless intended as a preface to what is contained in Matthew 1:2-17. It is, indeed, true that the phrase, "the book of the generation", might in itself point rather to events and works connected with the active life of him whose name it precedes (cf. the use of toledoth in Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1; even Genesis 2:4, et al.) , and thus might refer to the whole of Matthew 1:1-25. (Kubel), or even the whole of the First Gospel (Keil); yet the addition of the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, by summarizing the genealogy, limits the reference of Matthew 1:1 to this alone. Observe
Abraham begat Isaac. From Abraham to David the genealogy in St. Matthew agrees with that in Luke 3:1-38. In the other two sections, from Solomon to Zerubbabel, and from Zerubbabel to Christ, there is some difficulty in accounting for the variations, which are considerable. The natural descent of each son from his father is emphasized by the repetition of the word "begat" at every stage (cf., however, Luke 3:8, note) till we come to Jesus, and then the phrase is varied, "Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus." Judas (Judah, Revised Version) and his brethren. The addition of these words seems very natural here, because the twelve sons of Jacob were the fathers of the tribes of Israel, and as descended from Abraham were heirs of the promises; and although Judah was the tribe from which the Messiah was to spring, he was to be the glory of the whole of Israel. The same words, "and his brethren," are, however, found in Luke 3:11, where there is no such reason to account for them.
Of Thamar (Tamar, Revised Version). In this genealogy the only women mentioned beside the Virgin Mary herself, who must of necessity be introduced, are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, and many explanations have been suggested why these should be specially singled out for notice. The most plausible reasons put forward have been that they are introduced because of the sins with which all but one of them were stained, and because two were not of the race of Israel. Thus, it has been thought, St. Matthew would, in the outset of his Gospel, proclaim Christ as the Friend, even the Kinsman, of sinners, and the Saviour offered to Gentiles as well as to Jews. It is probably wiser not to put so deep a meaning on the appearance of these names, but to consider that they are here because in each case the circumstances were different from the ordinary steps of the genealogy. Had they been in the same position as all the other wives and mothers who are unnamed, they also would have been left unnamed.
And Naasson (Nahshon, Revised Version) begat Salmon. This line of descent, from Nahshon to David, is also given by St. Luke (Luke 3:31, Luke 3:32), and is derived from Ruth 4:18-22. But it has occasioned some difficulty, because it makes but five steps from Nahshon, who (Numbers 1:7) was one of the heads of fathers' houses at the time of the Exodus, to the days of David. According to the chronology added in the margin of the Authorized Version, this period extended from b.c. 1490 to b.c. 1056, i.e. more than four hundred and thirty years, thus making a generation to consist in each case of more than eighty years. And even according to the more accurate computation of the date of the Exodus the period would be two hundred and forty-eight years, thus making each generation nearly fifty years. Even this seems very long, especially in the East; so that it is probable that the genealogy in Ruth, merely adopted by the evangelists, recorded only the more important names.
Salmon begat Booz (Boaz, Revised Version) of Rachab (Rahab, Revised Version). That this was Rahab of Jericho has been generally received, and it is clear from the narrative in Joshua 2:11, where Rahab declares, "The Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath," that, whatever this woman's previous life and character may have been, she was then not unlikely to join herself to the Israelites. Moreover, her great services rendered to the spies, and the conspicuous way in which she and her house were singled out for preservation from all the rest of the city, may have marked her as not unfit to become the wife of a chief man in Israel. The Old Testament says nothing of this marriage, but there has been no endeavour made in the Bible to preserve every detail of the genealogies, the record of the successive fathers being all that for Jewish purposes was required. But that Rahab of Jericho was received among the people of Israel, not merely as one dwelling in their midst (Joshua 6:25), but to a place of honour among them, was an old tradition among the Jews; cf. T. B. Meg., 14 b (vide Lightfoot, 'Her. Hebr.'), where Neriah, Baruch, Seraiah, Maaseiah, Jeremiah, Hilkiah, Hanameel, and Shallum, and also Huldah, are all said to have sprung from her. Some also say that she was made a proselyte, and was married to Joshua—a tradition followed, as it seems, in the Midrash 'Koh.,' on Ecclesiastes 8:10.
David the king. The mention of David's royal position seems made here because at this point the line of the Messiah first becomes connected with the royal house. At the time when Saul was made king the people chose to have him in opposition to the Divine will; but giving them next as king a man after his own heart, God uses the offence of his people so that it shall become a channel of blessing, and from this king Christ himself shall be born. Of her that had been the wife of Urias. It is not easy to see why Bathsheba is spoken of thus indirectly, as her own name was certainly better known, and is more frequently mentioned in the Old Testament than Uriah's. The phrase seems to call attention most pointedly to David's sin. and that too in a sentence where his kingly dignity has just been markedly emphasized. The way in which God dealt with David and his sin is very parallel to that in which he dealt with the Israelites after their choice of Saul. David's first child, like the Israelites' first king, finds not God's blessing; but the second child is the pledge of peace with God (Solomon)—is Jedidiah, "the beloved of the Lord," as David the second king was the man after God's own heart. She that had been the wife of Uriah, after David's repentance becomes Solomon's mother. Up to this point the genealogies in St. Matthew and St. Luke have entirely accorded, but with the mention of Solomon we come upon a variation, which continues till the union of the two forms of the pedigree in Salathiel (Shealtiel, Revised Ver-zion), the father of Zerubbabel. In St. Matthew the line which is followed is the succession of the kings of Judah from Solomon to Jehoiachin (Jechonias) St. Luke mentions, after David, his son Nathan (of whom we find a notice in 1 Chronicles 3:5; 2 Samuel 5:14), and then passes on through a series of nineteen names, none of which is found in other parts of Scripture as belonging to the race of David. We have nothing, therefore, with which to compare them; but in number they correspond very nearly with the known descendants in the line of Solomon, so that, although we cannot verify the names, the list bears upon its face the appearance of being derived from some duly kept record of the pedigree of Nathan, the son of David.
And Joram begat Ozias (Uzziah, Revised Version). Between Joram and Uzziah the pedigree omits three names—Ahaziah immediately succeeded Joram (2 Kings 8:24), and was followed by his son Joash (2 Kings 12:1), and he by his son Amaziah (2 Kings 14:1). These were probably left out, that the number of generations might be reduced to fourteen. It is not likely that St. Matthew omitted them, but that they were absent from the form which he used. If we seek for a reason why these precise names are omitted, we may probably find it in the fact of their being descended from Jezebel; while the language of the second commandment would suggest that to the fourth generation the children' of that race would suffer for the sins of their parents. To the Jewish compiler of this genealogy no argument more forcible for the removal of these names could have been suggested. It will be seen that the word "begat" in these verses does not signify always the direct succession of son to father.
Josias (Josiah, Revised Version) begat Jechonias (Jechoniah, Revised Version). Here we come upon another omission. Josiah was the father of Jehoiakim, and he the father of Jechoniah (called also Jehoiachin); see 2 Kings 23:34; 2 Kings 24:6. The omission is supplied in some few manuscripts; but it may be only the case of a marginal note in a previous copy having found its way into the text. There is, however, something to be said in favour of its acceptance. The similarity between the names Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin is very great, especially in some of the Greek forms, so that they might easily be confused, and thus a verse be omitted in some very early text. Then Jehoiachin (Jechonias) apparently had no brethren (but see 1 Chronicles 3:16), whereas Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, had two or three (1 Chronicles 3:15). To make the whole pedigree agree with the Old Testament records some addition in this form would appear necessary; Josiah begat [Jehoiakim and his brethren, and Jehoiakim begat] Jechoniah about the time, etc. But manuscript evidence for this is extremely slight (vide Westcott and Hort, 'App.,' i,). Yet the supposition that the name of Jehoiakim has been omitted removes what has seemed to many another difficulty. As the list now stands, to make up the fourteen in the third as well as in the second section of the genealogy it is necessary to count Jehoiachin—a king whose reign lasted only three mouths (2 Kings 24:8)—twice over. He closes the second fourteen and begins the third. There is nothing like this found at the other division. To substitute Jehoiakim after Josiah would avoid this repetition of the name of such a very insignificant person, especially as the reign of Jehoiakim lasted eleven years (2 Kings 23:36). And to mention Jehoiakim as the father of Jehoiachin "at the time of the carrying away to Babylon" would be very appropriate, whereas to say Josiah begat his children at that date is not so strictly correct. It seems, then, probable that we have here some clerical error, which may have existed already in the list which St. Matthew used. About the time. The preposition in the Greek means rather, "at the time." The Authorized Version, however, gives the sense, for the birth of Jehoiachin must have been some years before the commencement of the Babylonish conquest, which may be said to have begun with Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of the land in Jehoiakim's days (2 Kings 24:1).
Jechonias begat Salathiel (Shealtiel, Revised Version). From Jeremiah 22:30 it has sometimes been thought that Jechoniah died childless, though the preceding context, which speaks of him and his seed, seems hardly to warrant the supposition; but clearly the words of the prophet there imply that none of his descendants should attain to a position such as was held by Zerubbabel, and that his family should soon come to an end. If we look at the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 3:17 we find Assir mentioned as the son of Jechoniah (cf., however, Revised Version, "Jeconiah the captive"), and Salathiel as his son; and in the next verse Pedaiah, a brother of Salathiel, is named as father of Zerubbabel. By St. Luke (Luke 3:27) Salathiel is called the son of Neri, and in Ezra 3:2; Ezra 5:2; and Haggai 1:1 Zerubbabel is called the son of Shealtiel. These are all the details we have, and to decide on how they are related to each other is very difficult. We.may, perhaps, be right in supposing that Pedaiah, the brother of Shealtiel, having died, his son Zerubbabel was adopted by Shealtiel. We must then suppose that, the royal line through Solomon having ended, and Jechoniah's only child, Assir (if he ever existed, vide supra) , having left no issue, the line of David is taken up through the family of the other son, Nathan, and that from him descended Neri, the father of Shealtiel, who takes the place of Jechoniah's issue, which has altogether failed.
And Zorobabel (Zerubbabel, Revised Version) begat Abiad. Here the two lines of pedigree in St. Matthew and St. Luke seem tc separate, and not to converge again till we come to Matthan (or Matthat), the grandfather of Joseph, which name is common to both. The Bishop of Bath and Wells has shown some reason for supposing that Rhesa, mentioned in St. Luke as Zerubbabel's son, is merely a title signifying "a chief," and also for identifying Hananiah, who is called a son of Zerubbabel (1 Chronicles 3:19), with Joanna, who follows Rhesa in St. Luke (Luke 3:27), and there being some relation between the Juda of St. Luke and the Abiud (i.e. father of Juda) given as Zerubbabel's son in St. Matthew. Except in these few particulars, the two lines show no connexion of names, and it seems likely that the family of David had fallen into low estate for several generations before the birth of Christ.
Eleazar begat Matthan. St. Luke makes Matthat (or Hatthan; the names are from the same root, and in some texts are identical), to be the son of Levi. This is probably the actual fact. St. Luke seems to have traced the genealogy from Zerubbabel through a younger, son, St. Matthew through an elder. But the elder line failing, Matthan, the son of Levi, of the younger branch, becomes heir to, and is called son or, Eleazar, of the senior line. As the promise of the Messiah was to the house of David, and this was known to every Jew, we need not be surprised to find the families descended from that king preserving most careful records of every branch of the family.
And Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary. St. Luke calls Joseph "the son of Heli." There are two ways in which these differing statements may be made to accord. The two sons of Matthan were Jacob the elder, and Heli the younger. It may be that Mary was the only child of Jacob, and Joseph the son of Heli. Then by marriage with his cousin, Joseph would become Jacob's son as well as Heli's. Or it may be that Jacob died without children, and Heli, marrying his widow according to the Jewish usage, became by her the father of Joseph, who hence would be called Jacob's son, that the elder brother's line might not die out. The points noticed above in respect of these varying pedigrees seem to be all those on which anything needs to be said with the view of comparing them. Their variety stands as a constant evidence of the independence of the two evangelists. Had either of them been conscious of the existence of the other's work. it is inconceivable that he would have made no effort to adjust the pedigree, for which he would possess means now lost for ever. They both design to give us the descent of Joseph from David, this being what a Sew would most regard. The descent of Mary from David is nowhere definitely mentioned in the Gospels, but that Jesus was sprung from David on the mother's side too we are warranted in concluding from the words of the angel to Mary (Luke 1:1-80 :82), "his father David" (cf. also Delitzsch, 'Hess. Proph.,' § 17). But though we ought not to spend vain labour in attempting to reconcile these two genealogies of Joseph, we can see, from what we know of Jewish customs, grounds enough for understanding how these variations came to exist. The same Jew, we find, was often known under two names; of this we have several examples in the lists of the twelve apostles. It is possible, therefore, that in these two pedigrees there may have been more points of union than we are able to detect. Then the rule, before alluded to, by which a man took the childless widow of his deceased brother for his wife and raised seed unto his brother, may also have led to much confusion of names, which we have now no means of unravelling. The evangelists drew each his own list from some authentic source, accessible to others beside themselves, and the record of which could be verified when the Gospels were set forth. This should satisfy us that those we have received were held by the Jews soon after Christ's time to be truthful records, and that each established from a Jewish point of view the descent of the putative father of Jesus from King David. Of whom was born Jesus. This name, which, through Jeshua, is the Greek form of Joshua (for which, indeed, it stands in the Authorized Version of Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8), signifies "Jehovah is help," and was not an uncommon name among the Jews, though given with marked significance at this time (see verse 21). We find, according to the best texts, that in Luke 3:29 this name occurs in the pedigree of Joseph (where the Authorized Version has Jose), and the Revised Version has adopted that reading. Who is called Christ. The evangelist here alludes merely to the well-known fact that Jesus was called by this name. The significance of the word, which is a translation of the Hebrew Messiah, is "anointed," and in the Old Testament it is given to priests (as Le Luke 4:3, Luke 4:5, Luke 4:16), to a king appointed by Jehovah (1 Samuel 24:6, 1 Samuel 24:10; 2 Samuel 19:21), also to King Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1), and to some unnamed representative of Jehovah (1 Samuel 2:10). It was subsequently applied to Jesus both in the Greek form and in the Hebrew (John 1:41; John 4:25). It must, however, be noticed (vide Bishop Westcott, Add. Note on 1 John 5:1) that it was not a characteristic title of the promised Saviour in the Old Testament, and was not even specifically applied to him, unless, perhaps, in Daniel 9:25, Daniel 9:26—a passage of which the interpretation is very doubtful.
Fourteen generations. To make the list more easy to remember, the names were so ordered that there should be the same number in each of the three divisions. Thus a means was afforded of checking the correctness of the enumeration, and the list became a sort of memoria technica. Unto Christ; better here, unto the Christ. For now begins the history which tells of this Jesus as the specially Anointed One of God, the true Messiah, of which all the previously anointed messengers had been but types and figures. The history which St. Matthew is about to give demonstrates that in Jesus were fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament which the Jews had constantly referred to the Messiah, for whose appearance the pious in Israel were ever looking.
JESUS THE CHRIST BY DIVINE ORIGIN. Recorded by Matthew only. The frequent similarity of language found in Luke 1:26-35 (vide 'Synopticon') is probably due to the fact that Joseph and Mary not unnaturally fell into the way of using the same words to express two messages of similar import.
The object of this paragraph is to show that Messiah was in origin not of man but of God. This fact was accepted even by his reputed father Joseph, who was only convinced of it after a special communication by an angel in a dream; giving him the facts of the case, and foretelling that a son would be born, and that this Son would be the expected Saviour; and also showing from prophecy that such union of God with man was no unheard-of supposition, but the fulfilment and completion of ancient thought suggested by God. Joseph at once accepts the communication and takes Mary home, avoiding, however, all cause for the supposition that the child was, after all, of human origin.
Now the birth (Matthew 1:1, note). γέννησις ("generation") of the received text refers to the causative act, the true reading ( γένεσις) to the birth itself (cf. Luke 1:14). Of Jesus Christ was on this wise. The Revised Version margin says, "Some ancient authorities read, 'of the Christ,'" but perhaps the reading, "of Christ Jesus" (B [Origen]), is even preferable, as in no good manuscript of the New Testament is the article elsewhere prefixed to "Jesus Christ," and the easy residing, "of the Christ," would hardly provoke alteration, while it might easily arise from assimilation to the preceding "unto the Christ" of Matthew 1:17 (cf. Dr. Hort, in Westcott and Hort, 'Appendix.' Bishop Westcott, however, seems to prefer the reading. "of the Christ," and so distinctly Irenaeus, Matthew 3:16). If the reading, "of Christ Jesus," be accepted, the evangelist purposely repeats his phrase of Matthew 1:17, and then identifies him with the historic Person. When as. The Revised Version omits "as" because obsolete; cf. "what time as." His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph; had been betrothed (Revised Version), the tense clearly showing that the betrothal had already taken place. Betrothal was and is with the Semitic races a much more formal matter than with us, and as binding as marriage; of. Deuteronomy 22:23, Deuteronomy 22:24; cf. also the words of the angel, "Mary thy wife" (Deuteronomy 22:20). Before they came together; including, probably, both the home-bringing (Deuteronomy 22:24) and the consummation (Deuteronomy 22:25). She was found ( εὑρώθη). Although Cureton shows that the Aramaic equivalent is used in the sense of "became," and wishes to see this weaker meaning in several passages of the Greek Testament (including, apparently, the present), the references that he gives (Romans 7:10; 2 Corinthians 5:3; 2 Corinthians 11:12) do not justify us in giving up the stronger and more usual sense. On εὑρέθη always involving more or less prominently the idea of a surprise, cf. Bishop Lightfoot on Galatians 2:17. Observe the reverent silence with which a whole stage of the history is passed over. With child of the Holy Ghost ( ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου; cf. Galatians 2:20, without the article in both cases). According to the usual interpretation of these words, "the Holy Ghost" refers to the Third Person of the Trinity, and "of" ( ἐκ) is used because the agent can be regarded as the immediate source (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:2). But the questions suggest themselves:
Then Joseph her husband; and (Revised Version). The thought is slightly adversative ( δέ); though this was "of the Holy Ghost," yet Joseph was about to put her away. Being a just man; righteous (Revised Version); i.e. who strove to conform to the Divine precepts manifested for him in the Law (cf. Luke 1:6; Luke 2:25). And not willing; i.e. "and yet not wishing," though the Law, which he was striving to follow, seemed to inculcate harshness. This clause has been taken in the opposite sense equivalent to "and therefore not wishing," because the spirit of the Law, which he had learned to understand, was in reality against all unnecessary harshness. The negative used is in favour of the former interpretation. To make her a public example; rather, to proclaim her ("Wold not pupplische her, Wickliffe); αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι (cf. Colossians 2:15). The thought is of public proclamation of the fact of the divorce, not that of bringing Mary herself forward for public punishment, and so making her a public example ( παραδειγματίσαι). Was minded ( ἐβουλήθη). The tense indicates the resolution come to as the result of the conflict between duty and wish implied in the preceding clause. To put her away secretly. Adopting the most private form of legal divorce, and handing the letter to her privately in presence of only two witnesses, to whom he need not communicate his reasons (cf. Edersheim, 'Life,' 1:154). Observe in this verse Joseph's insistance on his personal and family purity, and yet his delicate thoughtfulness for her whom he loved.
But while he thought on these things; when (Revised Version); ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐνθυμηθέντος. The tense lays stress, not on the continuance of his meditation (contrast Acts 10:19), but on the fact that the determination to which he had already come (vide supra) was already in his mind at the time when the following event happened. "These things;" his determination and its causes. Behold; unexpectedly. Though common in St. Matthew, it never lacks the connotation of surprise. The angel of the Lord; an angel of the Lord (Revised Version). In Mary's case it was the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26); but here not defined (so in Matthew 2:13, Matthew 2:19; Luke 1:11; Luke 2:9). (On angels, of especially Dorner, 'System.,' 2.96.) Appeared unto him in a dream. Joseph received his communications by dream (Matthew 2:13, Matthew 2:19, Matthew 2:22); to Mary, doubtless the more holy person, the vision was vouchsafed to her bodily eyes. If Joseph, as seems probable, was old, we here have a beginning of the fulfilment of the promise concerning Messianic times, "Your old men shall dream dreams" (Joel 2:28). Saying, Joseph, thou son of David. In reminding Joseph of the greatness of his ancestry, the angel probably desired
Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife (2 Samuel 7:15, note). For that which if conceived in her ("borun," Wickliffe; quod natum est, Vulgate); "Gr. begotten", for γεννηθέν generally refers to the father rather than the mother (yet see Matthew 11:11), and here lays special stress on the Divine origin. Is of the Holy Ghost. "Of Spirit (not flesh), and that the Holy Spirit ( ἐκ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἁγίου)" (2 Samuel 7:18, note).
The first half is almost verbally identical with the promise to Mary in Luke 1:31. It is, perhaps, hypercritical to see anything more than a coincidence when such common terms are used, but it was not unnatural that the communications of the angels to both Mary and Joseph should be purposely clothed in language similar to that used of Sarah (Genesis 17:19), and in measure to that used of Hannah. And she shall bring forth. Is the slight adversative force ( δέ) to be seen in the contrast of the physical birth to the spiritual origin? A Son. In this, at least, thou shalt be able to test the accuracy of my statement. And thou shalt call. Taking the position of his father; the child being thus recognized by all as of David's line (of. Kubel). In Luke Mary is told to give the name, but presumably the formal naming would be by Joseph. His name JESUS (cf. Ecclesiasticus 46:1, "Jesus the son of Nave … who, according to his name, was made great for the saving of the elect of God"). For he shall save; for it is he that shall save (Revised Version), equivalent to "He, and no other, is the expected Saviour." (For αὐτός in this sense of excluding others, cf. especially Colossians 1:16-20.) It may, however, here not be exclusive, but only intensive—he being what he is. The connexion will then be—the name Jesus will answer to the fact, for he himself, in his own Person (1 John 2:2), by virtue of what he is (John 2:24, John 2:25), shall save, etc. Jesus, equivalent to Jeshua (verse 16, note); he shall save, equivalent to Joshi' a. His people. Israel after the flesh (cf. John 1:11; Luke 2:10; contrast John 1:29; John 4:42), for whom deliverance from sins must be the first step to restoration to rightful position, and yet the last stage of result from acceptance of Christ. Comparative salvation from sin, due to acceptance of Christ, must precede that restoration which Joseph then desired, and all true Jews still ardently pray for; full salvation from sin will be the final issue of that restoration. From their sins. With a greater salvation, therefore, than that which Manoah's wife was told that her son should begin to accomplish ( 13:5). Observe that this promise of Christ as Saviour is given to Joseph, who had deeper experience of sin (verse 20, note), while to Mary, who is marked by promptness of personal devotion, is given the promise of Christ as King (Luke 1:32,Luke 1:33). Sate … from( σώσει … ἀπό) , not merely "out of" ( ἐκ, John 12:27), but from all attacks of sin considered as coming born without (but see Matthew 6:13, note).
Matthew 1:22, Matthew 1:23
The evidence of prophecy. ("Now all this was done .. God with us.") The Revised Version omits the marks of parenthesis. From a comparison of Matthew 26:56 (and perhaps also Matthew 21:4), this is not the utterance of the evangelist, but of the previous speaker, yet formulated by the evangelist (cf. Weiss). The thought, that is to say, is still part of the angel's encouragement to Joseph; the exact mode of expressing the record of that thought is the evangelist's; so also Tatian's 'Diattess.' (or perhaps only Ephraem's comment upon it; of. Zahn), Quod si dubitas, Isaiam audi.
All this; τοῦτο ὅλον (not ταῦτα πάντα). The birth of a Saviour, with the means by which it came about, by a virgin, and "of the Holy Ghost." Was done; is come to pass (Revised Version); i.e. in abiding effect ( γέγονεν). It is considered as having already taken place (cf. "the prophetic perfect" of the Old Testament). That it might be fulfilled. God's past utterance is looked at as necessitating a present action. Which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying; by the Lord through (Revised Version); i.e. the Lord is the Agent ( ὑπό), the prophet the means or instrument ( διά). The Lord; i.e. Jehovah, not "God," because the thought is of covenant promise.
Behold, a virgin (the virgin, Revised Version) shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son. The difficulty of this quotation from Isaiah 7:14 is well known.
(b) the promise was no real sign to Ahaz, and
(c) the context of the promise (according to which Rezin and Pekah were to perish in the lad's early childhood, Isaiah 7:15, Isaiah 7:16) has no apparent reference to the promise itself.
And they shall call. Men generally, in virtue of his true nature. His name Emmanuel (Revised Version. Immanuel, as Isaiah 7:14), which being interpreted is, God with us. St. Matthew emphasizes the interpretation in order to, bring out the fact that this Son, now to be born to Joseph, shall not only be Jesus, Saviour, but also God with us; he is the manifestation of God in our midst. The thought is parallel to that of John 1:14.
Matthew 1:24, Matthew 1:25
Joseph's threefold obedience—taking Mary, not consummating the marriage, naming the child in faith.
Then Joseph being raised; and Joseph arose (Revised Version); for the stress of the Greek is not on "Joseph," but ἐγερθείς. Immediately on arising, Joseph obeyed. From sleep; from his sleep (Revised Version); i.e. which he was then enjoying. No stress is laid on sleep as such. Did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife. "Bidden," in modern English, too much suggests "asking;" hence the Revised Version "commanded" ( προσέταξεν). Joseph's faith was seen in immediate obedience to commands received.
And knew her not. The tense ( ἐγίνωσκεν) brings out the continuance of Joseph's obedient self-restraint. "He was dwelling in holiness with her" (Tatian's 'Diatess.'). Till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. Thus the angel's promise is so far fulfilled. A son (Revised Version); "her firstborn," though found as early as Tatian's.' Diatess.,' having been added from Luke 2:7. Though no great stress can be laid on the word "till" ( ἕως [ οὖ], Basil refers to Genesis 8:7; comp. also Psalm exit. 8), nor even on "firstborn," which suggested to a Jew rather consecration (Luke 2:23) than the birth of other children; yet it is a reasonable inference from the passage as a whole that the οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν was not continued after the birth of the Son. Whether, however, other children were born to Mary or not, the true text of this passage gives no hint. And he called his name JESUS (Luke 2:21, note). Observe that this name had already occurred in Joseph's family (Luke 3:29). It is, however, now given in sign of Joseph's faith in him and his work.
I. THE TITLE.
1. It is a book; but it is not, like other books, the product of human thought. It presents to us a life not like other lives. That life stands alone in its beauty, purity, tenderness, in the glory of its unearthly holiness, in the majesty of its Divine self-sacrifice. It stands alone in its claims; it claims to be the great example, the one pattern life, the Light of the world. It claims to be a revelation of a new life; it offers a gift of power and Divine energy—a power which can lift men out of darkness into light, out of worldliness and selfishness into the life of holy love, into the clear light of the presence of God. The conception of that life is unlike any of the ideals of perfection to be found in ancient writers; there was never anything like it before. It has changed our estimate of various moral qualities; it has raised some that the world thought little of to a very high place of dignity; it has depressed others that once stood high in the thoughts of men to their proper level. That life has affected the modes of thought and feeling even of those who will not accept it as a revelation from God. It formed a mighty epoch in the history of thought; men cannot divest themselves of its influence; they cannot think now as they might have thought had that life never been lived on earth. It is impossible for us to put ourselves back into the mental attitude of those who had never heard of that life; it has exercised an influence so widespread, so deep-reaching, over the whole field of thought and feeling. But we can see that that life could never have been conceived by any human genius, least of all at the time when the Gospels were written. Compare it with any efforts of human imagination; there is not one that can even seem to endure the comparison. This history is unique. It has the stamp of genuineness, the ring of truth. Fictitious it cannot be; there never was man that could have invented it. Compare it with other religious writings of antiquity, whether Jewish or Christian; compare it with the apocryphal Gospels, or with the books of the sub-apostolic Fathers: this book stands absolutely alone; there is no other book like it; the gulf that parts it from all other books is wide, deep, immense. It is the book, the Bible—the book that speaks to the heart of man as no other book can, because it is God's book; it comes from him, and it speaks to the heart which is his handiwork, to the man whom he created in his own image, after his own likeness. It bears in itself the evidence of its Divine origin; we feel, as we read its sacred words, that it has a message for us, that it is God's voice calling us, telling us all that we need to know of himself, of his will, of his redemption of the human race from sin and death.
2. The subject of the book. It is "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ," the book which tells us of his birth, of his history. It opens with a tab!e of genealogy. He is" the Son of David, the Son of Abraham." In him was fulfilled the promise made to Abraham: "In thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." In him was fulfilled the faithful oath which the Lord had sworn to David: "Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne." The book gives us the history of a Person. Christianity presents to us not simply a code of morals, a system of theology, but a Person. The book describes his character, it relates the circumstances of his life upon earth. It is a history, but it is more than a history. "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." It sheds a light upon the way that leadeth to Christ; it shows us where to find him. For this history is not like other histories, merely a record of past facts of more or less interest. It is the revelation of a present Saviour. It has not done its work for us unless it is leading us to Christ himself, to a personal knowledge of the Lord. We may know the Gospel through and through, its language, history, geography, archeology,—that knowledge is of deep, absorbing interest; but if we advance no further, we miss the very end for which the Gospel was written. Indeed, it is no Gospel to us, no glad tidings, but only an ancient book, unless by its guidance we find Christ. The deepest biblical scholar, if he fails to find Christ, knows less of the real meaning of the Gospel than the humblest Christian who is living in the faith of the Son of God. It is not the knowledge of the facts of the Lord's history, but the living, personal knowledge of himself, that is eternal life. We must learn to abide in him, to live in that fellowship which is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Without this spiritual know]edge the Gospel is written in vain for our salvation: "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." The mere external knowledge of the Scripture can only increase the condemnation of those who have not sought by prayer and the gracious help of God the Holy Ghost to penetrate its inner meaning. That inner meaning, revealed to our hearts by the Holy Spirit of God, and brought to bear upon our inward and outward lives, giveth life, because it brings us to him who alone is the Life of men. The promise was that all the nations of the earth should be blessed in the Seed of Abraham; not in his history, not in the record of his life and teaching, but in that holy Seed himself, in his grace, in his abiding presence, in union with him.
II. THE GENEALOGY.
1. It begins from Abraham. St. Matthew was writing for the Jews in the first instance. He proves that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah whom the Jews expected, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. He was descended from the father of the faithful, born in the covenant, himself admitted by the rite of circumcision into the conditions of the ancient covenant. He fulfilled all righteousness, all the requirements of the Law. He lived as a Jew, he preached to the Jews. "I am not sent," he said," but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But even as he said tose words he healed the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman; it was an earnest of the world-wide range of his redemption. He died, "not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." Therefore through him the blessing of Abraham hath come upon the Gentiles. As St. Paul teaches us in Galatians 3:1-29., "The Scripture preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." "There is neither Jew nor Greek; for if we be Christ's, then are we Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Thus the first verse of the First Gospel preaches faith. Christ is the Son of Abraham, who "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." They which are of faith are the children of Abraham; they share the blessing of Abraham. Christ is theirs, and they are Christ's.
2. The genealogies in Genesis descend from Adam; this ascends to Christ. God made man in the likeness of God. Adam begat sons in his own likeness, after his image. The sting of the serpent infected the race: "Original sin is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam." The Spirit of the Lord indeed strove with man from the beginning; he was not left to die in his sin and misery; the first promise of a Redeemer follows close upon the first sin. God was never without a witness; in Cain and Abel we have the first sight of the field in which the wheat and the tares grow together unto the harvest. But corruption soon spread widely among the descendants of Adam; all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. As man receded further from the Divine origin of the race, the deeper became the taint of sin; the traces of the image of God grew ever fainter, the poison of the serpent deadlier and more loathsome. It repented God that he had made man upon earth; the Flood destroyed the ungodly. Then God established his covenant, first with Noah, afterwards with Abraham. The promise became clearer and more definite. The generations had descended from God; now they begin to ascend towards God again, towards the Christ, who is the Son of God, himself God incarnate. Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ; he saw it and was glad. Generation after generation looked for the promised Saviour; Simeon was "waiting for the consolation of Israel." The Jews inquired of John the Baptist whether he was the Christ that was to come—the Christ was to restore all things. In Adam all died, in Christ shall all be made alive; for the last Adam is a quickening Spirit, even the Lord from heaven. He came to restore the almost lost image of God. "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we must also bear the image of the heavenly." God hath predestinated his elect to be conformed to the image of his Son. As they draw nearer and nearer to Christ, imitating his blessed example, looking always unto Jesus, they are being renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created them. The generations ascend towards the Christ; so must each Christian strive in his own spiritual life to rise ever nearer to the Lord.
3. The variations of rank in the genealogy. The generations begin with patriarchs; they rise to kings; they descend again to private men. From Abraham to David the king; from David the king to Joseph the carpenter. Human ancestry, however illustrious, could add nothing to the dignity of the Son of God. But both his blessed mother and Joseph, his father by adoption, were descended from David. Apparently the Lord Jesus was, according to the flesh, the representative of David, the lineal heir to David's throne. But he lived in obscurity for the first thirty years of his earthly life. He was meek and humble in heart; he prided not himself on earthly rank. Indeed, what was rank to him? The difference between the greatest monarch and the humblest beggar is altogether inappreciable compared with the infinite descent from heaven to earth. When once he had emptied himself of his glory, and taken the form of a servant, it was as nothing that he chose the carpenter's shop rather than the royal palace. His earthly ancestors varied in rank. There were kings, there were private men; the reputed father of the Lord, the husband of his mother, was a carpenter. Honours, like wealth, are vanity; the one highest honour, the one loftiest title, is theirs to whom he hath given power to be called the sons of God.
4. The variations in moral and spiritual character. In the genealogy there are holy men like Abraham, there are wicked men like Ahaz, Manasseh, Amen. There is a Moabitish woman, pure indeed, and lovely in character, but of heathen blood. Others there are whose lives had been defiled with sin—Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba. The Lord indeed was born by a miraculous conception, without stain of human corruption; but sinners as well as saints are reckoned in his genealogy, lie was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, though he was without sin. His ancestry was not uniformly holy, any more than uniformly royal. The poorest have an interest in him as much as the noblest; the sinful have an interest in him as well as apostles and saints.
5. The genealogy, like all genealogies, shows the transitoriness of all things human. "Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat Judah." Man comes, and man goes; a man is born into the world; man goeth to his long home. Each man represents a long line of ancestors, a line which each generation lengthens, a line stretching back into the remotest past. Most of us know very little of those who have gone before us, not so much as their names. They are gone, and we must follow; we shall soon be but names in the memory of posterity; soon our very names will be forgotten. But God hath said, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Then the dead of ages past are living still; we speak of them as the dead, but they live unto God. Their number is incalculable; the world of the dead is infinitely more numerous than the world of the living. But they are all known, every one of them, to the all-seeing God. We shall soon be gathered to that countless multitude. It matters little now to them what their rank, their wealth, was in life. The patriarch, the king, the carpenter, are distinguished now only by their faith, their holiness. Many that once were last are first now, and the last are first. So will it be with us who are living now. "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven;" "Seek first the kingdom of God."
6. The genealogy shows the true manhood of Christ. According to the flesh he is descended, like ourselves, from a long line of human ancestors. His birth was miraculous; but on his mother's side he came out of Judah, Judah from Abraham, Abraham from Adam. He represents human nature; he is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; he was made in all things like unto us, yet without sin.
7. The genealogy shows his Divine