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Jesus' Genealogy

by Tim O'Hearn

If there is anything in the Bible that is read less than the Minor Prophets or the Song of Songs, it has to be the genealogies. The names, at least to the Western mind, are hard to read. For most of the people listed, this is their only mention in Scripture. Reading the book of Numbers or the genealogies of Jesus has been compared to reading the phone book. If, as the Sages say, there is no unnecessary word in scripture, what can we learn from these lists of names?

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews understood the value of Jesus’ genealogy. In proving the superiority of Jesus as our high priest, he (assuming the writer to be male) points out that Jesus could not be a priest in Israel because of his genealogy. “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.” (Heb 7:14)

Jesus, as Messiah, holds the triune positions of prophet, priest, and king. (Christ/Messiah means anointed, and these are the offices which are ordained by anointing.) The writer of Hebrews, in the passage noted above, showed what Jesus' lineage means concerning his priesthood. The prophets had no apparent genealogical requirement, although Amos 7:14-15 (I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son) seems to indicate some linear component. We can, therefore, learn nothing from Jesus’ genealogy concerning this aspect of his Messiahship. So, can we learn anything about his kingship from his lineage?

Actually, the lesson about his kingship is the same as the lesson in Hebrews about his priesthood. Specifically, the genealogies of Jesus found in Matthew and Luke establish beyond any doubt that Jesus could not be a king on David’s throne on earth. Granted, he was of the royal lineage from David, and many mistakenly think that establishes that he will return to reign on David’s earthly throne for a period of time (usually considered to be a millennium). However, it is just that royal lineage that disproves the millennial theory.

Matthew shows Jesus was descended from Jeconiah (Coniah) through Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. (Matt 1:11-12) Luke shows his line through Coniah’s son Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. (Lk 3:27) Jeremiah prophesied, with an oath from God (Jer 22:24) who can not lie (see Replacement Theory in the June 2000 issue of this bulletin) that Coniah’s line would be cut off from the throne. “Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? Is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? Wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” (Jer 22:28-30) Because of his lineage from Jeconiah, then, Jesus could not be king of Israel (or Jeremiah could not be a prophet of God).

Then how is Jesus the King of Kings (Rev 19:16)? In the same way he can be our High Priest! “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) Jesus is now, and will continue to be, reigning in heaven over a spiritual kingdom, the church. Paul says in Eph 6:12 that our battle is against spiritual powers. So our king must be a spiritual king.

I’m not sure of all the reasons God put the genealogies of Jesus in the Bible. It is amazing, though, how a couple of names in them, names which are often overlooked, can show how wrong many people can be. Perhaps God, who knows all, put them there just to show that his son is now and forever reigning in heaven.