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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 1

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verse 1

This verse is obviously a title, but is it a title of the whole Gospel, a title for the prologue (chs. 1-2), or a title for the genealogy that follows (Matthew 1:1-17)? Probably it refers to the genealogy. There is no other ancient Near Eastern book-length document extant that uses the expression biblos geneseos (book or record of the generation) as its title. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 61.] While the noun genesis (birth) occurs again in Matthew 1:18, there it introduces the birth narrative of Jesus. In the Septuagint the same phrase, biblos geneseos, occurs in Genesis 2:4; Genesis 5:1 where in each case a narrative follows it, as here. Genealogies are quite common in the Old Testament, of course, and the presence of one here introduces a Jewish flavor to Matthew’s Gospel immediately.

"Each use of the formula [in the Bible] introduces a new stage in the development of God’s purpose in the propagation of the Seed through which He planned to effect redemption." [Note: Merrill C. Tenney, The Genius of the Gospels, p. 52.]

The last Old Testament messianic use of this phrase is in Ruth 4:18, where the genealogy ends with David. Matthew reviewed David’s genealogy and extended it to Jesus.

"The plan which God inaugurated in the creation of man is to be completed by the Man, Christ Jesus." [Note: Toussaint, p. 36.]

This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, and it means "Yahweh is salvation" (yehoshua, the long form) or "Yahweh saves" (Yeshua, the short form). The two major Joshuas in the Old Testament both anticipated Jesus Christ by providing salvation (cf. Hebrews 3-4; Zechariah 6:11-13).

"Jesus" occurs no fewer than 150 times in Matthew, but human characters never use it when addressing Jesus Himself in this book. Matthew evidently reserved the use of this name for himself to establish the closest possible association between himself as the narrator and Jesus so his point of view might coincide with that of Jesus. [Note: Kingsbury, pp. 45-46.]

The name Christ is the rough equivalent of the Hebrew "Messiah" or "Anointed One." In the Old Testament it refers generally to people anointed for a special purpose including priests, kings, the patriarchs (metaphorically), and even the pagan king Cyrus. It came to have particular reference to the King whom God would provide from David’s line who would rule over Israel and the nations eventually (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Psalms 2:2; Psalms 105:15; et al.). The early Christians believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ of the Old Testament. Because they used both names together, "Christ" became a virtual name for Jesus, a titulary (title turned name). Paul, for example, used it this way frequently in his writings.

Matthew introduced Jesus Christ as the descendant of David and Abraham. Why did he select these two ancestors for special mention, and why did he name David before Abraham?

Abraham and David are important because God gave each of them a covenant. God vowed that He would unconditionally provide seed, land, and blessing to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 12:7; Genesis 15; et al.). Abraham would not only receive blessing from God, but he would also be a source of blessing to the whole world. God’s covenant with David guaranteed that his descendants would rule over the kingdom of Israel forever. The house or dynasty of David would always have the right to rule, symbolized by the throne (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Thus Matthew’s reference to these two men should remind the reader of God’s promises regarding a King who would rule over Israel and the universal blessing that He would bring (cf. Isaiah 11:1). [Note: See J. Dwight Pentecost, "The Biblical Covenants and the Birth Narratives," in Walvoord: A Tribute, p. 262.]

"What is emphasized is the fact that the Messiah has His historical roots in Abraham and that He has come as a Davidic king in response to the promises to the patriarchs." [Note: Eugene H. Merrill, "The Book of Ruth: Narration and Shared Themes," Bibliotheca Sacra 142:566 (April-June 1985):137.]

"He is the Son of Abraham both because it is in him that the entire history of Israel, which had its beginning in Abraham, attains its goal (Matthew 1:17) and because he is the one through whom God will extend to the nations his blessing of salvation (Matthew 8:11; Matthew 28:18-20). . . .

"Just as the title ’Son of Abraham’ characterizes Jesus as the one in whom the Gentiles will find blessing, so the title ’Son of David’ characterizes Jesus as the One in whom Israel will find blessing." [Note: Kingsbury, pp. 47-48.]

The non-chronological order of David and then Abraham indicates that Matthew had more in mind than a simple chronological list of Jesus’ ancestors. As the Gospel unfolds, it becomes clear that the Jews needed to accept Jesus as the promised Son of David before He would bring the blessings promised to Abraham (cf. Matthew 9:27; Matthew 12:23; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:30-31; Matthew 21:9; Matthew 21:15; Matthew 22:42; Matthew 22:45). Jesus presented Himself to the Jews first. When they rejected Him, He turned to the Gentiles. Yet He explained that their rejection was only temporary. When He returns, the Jews will acknowledge Him as their Messiah, and then He will rule on the earth and bless all humankind (cf. Zechariah 12:10-14; Zechariah 14:4; Zechariah 14:9-11; Romans 11:26).

"Christ came with all the reality of the kingdom promised to David’s Son. But if He were refused as the Son of David, still, as the Son of Abraham, there was blessing not merely for the Jew, but for the Gentile. He is indeed the Messiah; but if Israel will not have Him, God will during their unbelief bring the nations to taste of His mercy." [Note: William Kelly, Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 14.]

"By this brief superscription Matthew discloses the theme of his book. Jesus is the One who shall consummate God’s program." [Note: Toussaint, p. 37.]

"First He is Sovereign, then Savior [in Matthew]." [Note: S. Lewis Johnson Jr., "The Argument of Matthew," Bibliotheca Sacra 112:446 (April-June 1955):143.]

"This introduction clearly demonstrates that Matthew’s purpose in writing the gospel is to provide adequate proof for the investigator that the claims of Christ to be King and Saviour are justified. For this reason, the gospel of Matthew was considered by the early church one of the most important books of the New Testament and was given more prominence than the other three gospels." [Note: Walvoord, p. 17.]

The Old Testament prophets predicted that the Messiah would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15), of the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:18), through the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and of the family of David (2 Samuel 7:12-13). Jesus qualified in every respect.

Verses 1-11


"Fundamentally, the purpose of this first part is to introduce the reader to Jesus on the one hand and to the religious leaders on the other." [Note: Jack Dean Kingsbury, Matthew as Story, p. 5. He believed the first major section of the book ends with 4:16.]

The first two chapters of this section prepare the reader for Jesus’ ministry. Consequently they serve as a prologue to the Gospel.

Verses 1-17

A. The King’s genealogy 1:1-17 (cf. Luke 3:23-38)

Matthew began his Gospel with a record of Jesus’ genealogy because the Christians claimed that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. To qualify as such He had to be a Jew from the royal line of David (Isaiah 9:6-7). Matthew’s genealogy proves that Jesus descended not only from Abraham, the father of the Israelite nation, but also from David, the founder of Israel’s royal dynasty.

Verses 2-6

In tracing Jesus’ genealogy, why did Matthew begin with Abraham rather than with Adam, as Luke did? Matthew wanted to show Jesus’ Jewish heritage, and to do this he only needed to go back as far as Abraham, the father of the Jewish race. Significantly, Matthew called him Abraham rather than Abram. The longer name connotes the covenant privileges that God made to Abraham when He changed his name.

The writer separated Judah and his brothers (Matthew 1:2) because the messianic promise of rulership went to Judah alone (Genesis 49:10). This allusion to the 12 tribes of Israel provides another clue that Matthew’s interests were strongly royal (cf. Matthew 8:11; Matthew 19:28).

Matthew also mentioned Perez’s brother (Matthew 1:3) perhaps because he was his twin. But he probably did so because Perez was a key figure in both the Old Testament genealogies (Ruth 4; 1 Chronicles 4) and in Jewish tradition.

"Jewish tradition traced the royal line to Perez (Ruth iv. 12, 18ff.), and ’son of Perez’ is a Rabb[inic]. expression for the Messiah." [Note: A. H. M’Neile, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, p. 1.]

The inclusion of Tamar (Matthew 1:3), Rahab (v.5), and Ruth (Matthew 1:5) as well as Bathsheba (Matthew 1:6 b) is unusual because the Jews traced their heritage through their male ancestors (until the Middle Ages). Matthew’s mention of each of these women reveals his emphases.

"Of the four mentioned two-Rahab and Ruth-are foreigners, and three-Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba-were stained with sin." [Note: A. Carr, The Gospel According To St. Matthew, p. 81.]

"Of these four, two (Tamar and Rahab) were Canaanites, one (Ruth) a Moabite, and one (Bathsheba) presumably a Hittite. Surely they exemplify the principle of the sovereign grace of God, who not only is able to use the foreign (and perhaps even the disreputable) to accomplish his eternal purposes, but even seems to delight in doing so." [Note: Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, p. 188. See also idem, "The Book . . .," p. 138.]

The writer had several purposes for including these women. First, he showed that Jesus came to include sinners in the family of God by seeking and saving the lost (cf. Matthew 1:21). [Note: A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, s.v. "Genealogies of Jesus Christ," by P. M. Barnard, 1:638.] Second, their inclusion shows the universal character of Jesus’ ministry and kingdom. [Note: Edwin D. Freed, "The Women in Matthew’s Genealogy," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 29 (1987):3-19.] After the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah, God opened the doors of the church to Gentiles equally with Jews. Matthew’s Gospel records the beginning of this change. Third, reference to these women prepares the reader for the significant role Mary will play in the messianic line though, of course, she was neither a great sinner nor a foreigner. [Note: Raymond Brown, The Birth of the Messiah, pp. 64-74.] All five women became partakers in the messianic line through strange and unexpected divine providence. Matthew may have mentioned these women to disarm criticism by showing that God countenanced irregular marital unions in Messiah’s legal ancestry. [Note: M’Neile, p. 5; M. D. Johnson, The Purpose of Biblical Genealogies, pp. 176-79.]

"The word ’King’ with ’David’ [Matthew 1:6 a] would evoke profound nostalgia and arouse eschatological hope in first-century Jews. Matthew thus makes the royal theme explicit: King Messiah has appeared. David’s royal authority, lost at the Exile, has now been regained and surpassed by ’great David’s greater son’ . . ." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 66.]

"The addition of the title, the king, marks the end of this period of waiting, and points forward to Jesus, the Son of David, the Christ, the King of the Jews." [Note: J. C. Fenton, Saint Matthew, p. 38.]

A fourth reason was apparently to highlight four Old Testament stories that illustrate a common point. That point is that in each case a Gentile showed extraordinary faith in contrast to Jews, who were greatly lacking in their faith. [Note: John C. Hutchison, "Women, Gentiles, and the Messianic Mission in Matthew’s Genealogy," Bibliotheca Sacra 158:630 (April-June 2001):152-64.]

"The allusions to these stories accomplish four theological purposes.

"First, they demonstrate God’s providential hand in preserving Messiah’s line, even in apostate times. This naturally led to Matthew’s account of the virgin conception, through which God brought the Messiah into the world.

"Second, they demonstrate God’s heart for godly Gentiles and the significant role of their faith at crucial times in Israel’s history.

"Third, they demonstrate the importance of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants in understanding Messiah’s mission, with a focus on faith and obedience, not a racial line.

"Fourth, they call Matthew’s readers to repentance and humility, and to accepting Gentiles into the body of Christ, thereby affirming an important theme of Matthew’s Gospel." [Note: Ibid., p. 164.]

Verses 6-11

Matthew did not refer to Solomon or the other kings of Israel as kings. Probably he wanted to focus attention on David and on Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises God gave to David. Solomon did not fulfill these promises.

The writer’s reference to Bathsheba is unusual (Matthew 1:6 b). It draws attention to the heinousness of David’s sin. Perhaps he wanted to stress that Uriah was not an Israelite but a Hittite (2 Samuel 11:3; 2 Samuel 23:39). Evidently Bathsheba was the daughter of an Israelite (cf. 1 Chronicles 3:5), but the Jews would have regarded her as a Hittite since she married Uriah.

Five kings do not appear where we would expect to find them. Three are absent between Joram and Uzziah: Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah (Matthew 1:8), and two are lacking between Josiah and Jehoiachin, namely, Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim. As we shall note below (Matthew 1:17), Matthew deliberately constructed his genealogy in three groups of 14 names. Why did he omit reference to these five kings? The first three were especially wicked. They all had connections with Ahab, Jezebel, and Athaliah. Moreover all of them experienced violent deaths. The second two were also evil, and Jehoiakim’s reign was very short, only three months. Matthew did not sanitize his genealogy completely, however, as his references to Tamar, Rahab, and David’s sin indicate.

"This man [Jehoiachin] is called Coniah in Jeremiah 22:24-30, where a curse is pronounced upon him. There it is predicted that none of his seed should prosper sitting upon David’s throne. Had our Lord been the natural son of Joseph, who was descended from Jeconiah, He could never reign in power and righteousness because of the curse. But Christ came through Mary’s line, not Joseph’s. As the adopted son of Joseph, the curse upon Coniah’s seed did not affect Him." [Note: The New Scofield Reference Bible, pp. 991-92.]

Jehoiachin’s brothers (Matthew 1:11), Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, also ruled over Judah. Zedekiah’s reign lasted 11 years, but he was a puppet of the Babylonians. The royal line passed through Jehoiachin.

"There is pathos in this second allusion to brotherhood [cf. Matthew 1:2]. ’Judah and his brethren,’ partakers in the promise (also in the sojourn in Egypt); ’Jeconiah and his brethren,’ the generation of the promise eclipsed." [Note: A. B. Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1:64.]

Verses 12-16

Most of the names in this section occur nowhere else in the Bible. Matthew probably knew them from oral tradition and or written sources.

"While no twentieth-century Jew could prove he was from the tribe of Judah, let alone from the house of David, that does not appear to have been a problem in the first century, when lineage was important in gaining access to temple worship." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 63.]

Matthew 1:16 contains careful and unusual wording. Matthew was preparing for what he later explained, the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:23). The phrase "who is called" (ho legomenos) does not imply doubt about Jesus’ messiahship. It just identifies the Jesus whose genealogy preceded. This is one of Matthew’s favorite expressions in this Gospel. It announces the names of persons or places 12 times (cf. Matthew 1:16; Matthew 2:23; Matthew 4:18; Matthew 10:2; Matthew 13:55; Matthew 26:3; Matthew 26:14; Matthew 26:36; Matthew 27:16-17; Matthew 27:22; Matthew 27:33). As this verse shows, Jesus was legally Joseph’s son even though He was virgin born by Mary.

Verse 17

Clearly the three groups of 14 generations Matthew recorded do not represent a complete genealogy from Abraham to Jesus (cf. Matthew 1:8). Luke recorded several names from the exile to Jesus’ birth that Matthew omitted (Luke 3:23-27). "All the generations" (NASB) then must mean all the generations that Matthew listed. The Greek text literally says "all the generations from Abraham to David . . . to Christ." Matthew’s summary statement does not constitute an error in the Bible. Jewish writers frequently arranged genealogies so their readers could remember them easily. Perhaps Matthew chose his arrangement because the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew consonants in David’s name total 14. In Hebrew the letter equivalent to "d" also stands for the number "4," and "v" represents "6." Matthew did not need to present an unbroken genealogy to establish Jesus’ right to the Davidic throne.

Before leaving this genealogy, note that each of the three sections ends with a significant person or event connected with the Davidic dynasty.

"In David the family [of Abraham] rose to royal power . . . At the captivity it lost it again. In Christ it regained it." [Note: Allen, p. 2.]

Moreover in each period covered by each section, God gave Israel an important covenant: the Abrahamic (Genesis 15), the Davidic (2 Samuel 7), and the New (Jeremiah 31). [Note: Johnson, cited by Toussaint, p. 41.] All came to fruition in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Generally Matthew’s genealogy shows that Jesus had the right to rule over Israel since He was a descendant of David through Joseph. Legally he was Joseph’s son. Specifically this section of the Gospel strongly implies that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

The differences with Jesus’ genealogy in Luke 3:23-38 are a problem that no one has been able to solve adequately. The problem is that Joseph’s ancestors in Matthew’s genealogy are different from his ancestors in Luke’s genealogy, especially from Joseph to King David. The theory that many scholars subscribe to now is that Matthew gave the legal line of descent from David, stating who was the heir to the throne in each case, and Luke gave the actual descendants of David in the branch of David’s family to which Joseph belonged. [Note: See I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text, pp. 157-65, for further discussion and advocates of this and other views.]

Verses 18-19

Jewish law regarded an engaged couple as virtually married. Usually women married at about 13 or 14 years of age, [Note: France, p. 50.] and their husbands were often several years older. Normally a one-year period of waiting followed the betrothal before the consummation of the marriage. During that year the couple could only break their engagement with a divorce.

". . . a betrothed girl was a widow if her fiance died (Kethub. i.2), and this whether the man had ’taken’ her into his house or not. After betrothal, therefore, but before marriage, the man was legally ’husband’ . . ." [Note: M’Neile, pp. 6-7.]

Joseph, being a "righteous" (Gr. dikaios) man, could hardly let his fiancée’s pregnancy pass without action since it implied that she had been unfaithful and had violated the Mosaic Law. Joseph had three choices concerning how to proceed. First, he could expose Mary publicly as unfaithful. In this case she might suffer stoning, though that was rare in the first century. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 75.] Probably she would have suffered the shame of a public divorce (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). A second option was to grant her a private divorce in which case Joseph needed only to hand her a written certificate in the presence of two witnesses (cf. Numbers 5:11-31). [Note: Edersheim, 1:154.] His third option was to remain engaged and not divorce Mary, but this alternative appeared to Joseph to require him to break the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 20:10). He decided to divorce her privately. This preserved his righteousness (i.e., his conformity to the Law) and allowed him to demonstrate compassion.

Verses 18-25

B. The King’s birth 1:18-25

The first sentence in this pericope (section) serves as a title for the section, as the sentence in Matthew 1:1 did for Matthew 1:1-17. Matthew recorded the supernatural birth of Jesus to demonstrate further His qualification as Israel’s Messiah. He wanted to show that Mary could not have become pregnant by another man. These verses show how Jesus came to be the heir of Joseph and thus qualified to be Israel’s King.

"Matthew ultimately is arguing that Jesus recapitulates the pattern of Israel’s experience while also presenting him as Israel’s hope." [Note: Bock, Jesus according . . ., p. 64.]

Verses 20-21

The appearance of an angel of the Lord in a dream would have impressed Matthew’s original Jewish readers that this revelation was indeed from God (cf. Genesis 16:7-14; Genesis 22:11-18; Exo_3:2 to Exo_4:16; et al). The writer stressed the divine nature of this intervention four times in the prologue (Matthew 1:20; Matthew 1:24; Matthew 2:13; Matthew 2:19).

The angel’s address, "Joseph, son of David" (Matthew 1:20), gave Joseph a clue concerning the significance of the announcement he was about to receive. It connects with Matthew 1:1 and the genealogy in the narrative. The theme of the Davidic Messiah continues. Joseph was probably afraid of the consequences of his decision to divorce Mary.

The virgin birth is technically the virgin conception. Mary was not just a virgin when she bore Jesus, but she was one when she conceived Him. The idea that Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life, the Roman Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, has no support in the text. Nothing in Scripture suggests that Mary bore Jesus’ half brothers and sisters supernaturally. This doctrine has gained credence because it contributes to the veneration of Mary.

The angel announced God’s sovereign prerogative in naming the child (Matthew 1:21). God named His Son. Joseph simply carried out the will of God by giving Jesus His name at the appropriate time (Matthew 1:25). As mentioned above, the name "Jesus" means "Yahweh saves" or "Yahweh is salvation." "Jesus" was one of the most common names in Israel at this time, so Jesus was often described more specifically as "Jesus of Nazareth." [Note: France, p. 34.] The angel explained the appropriateness of this name, Jesus (cf. Psalms 130:8). The Jews anticipated a Messiah who would be a political savior and a redeemer from sin. [Note: Gustaf Dalman, The Words of Jesus, p. 297.]

"There was much Jewish expectation of a Messiah who would ’redeem’ Israel from Roman tyranny and even purify his people, whether by fiat or appeal to law (e.g., Pss Sol 17). But there was no expectation that the Davidic Messiah would give his own life as a ransom (Matthew 20:28) to save his people from their sins. The verb ’save’ can refer to deliverance from physical danger (Matthew 8:25), disease (Matthew 9:21-22), or even death (Matthew 24:22); in the NT it commonly refers to the comprehensive salvation inaugurated by Jesus that will be consummated at his return. Here it focuses on what is central, viz., salvation from sins; for in the biblical perspective sin is the basic (if not always the immediate) cause of all other calamities. This verse therefore orients the reader to the fundamental purpose of Jesus’ coming and the essential nature of the reign he inaugurates as King Messiah, heir of David’s throne . . ." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 76.]

"The single most fundamental character trait ascribed to Jesus is the power to save . . ." [Note: Kingsbury, p. 12.]

Verses 22-25

The phrase plerothe to hrethen ("what was spoken . . . fulfilled" [NASB] or "to fulfill what . . . had said" [NIV]) occurs often in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17; Matthew 2:23; Matthew 4:14; Matthew 8:17; Matthew 12:17; Matthew 13:35; Matthew 21:4; Matthew 27:9; cf. Matthew 26:56). It indicates a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

Matthew worded this verse very carefully. He distinguished the source of the prophecy, God, from the instrument through whom He gave it, the prophet. For Matthew, the prophecy of Isaiah was God’s Word (cf. 2 Peter 1:21). The New Testament writers consistently shared this high view of inspiration (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).

The prophecy Matthew said Jesus fulfilled comes from Isaiah 7:14 (Matthew 1:23). It is a difficult one to understand. [Note: See Homer A. Kent Jr., "Matthew’s Use of the Old Testament," Bibliotheca Sacra 121:481 (January-March 1964):34-43; and Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13, pp. 20-21.]

The first problem concerns the meaning of "virgin" (Gr. parthenos). This noun usually refers to a literal virgin in the Greek Bible. [Note: M’Neile, p. 9; Carson, "Matthew," p. 78. ] One exception occurs in Genesis 34:3 in the Septuagint. It always has this meaning in the Greek New Testament. That Matthew intended it to mean virgin appears clear for two reasons. First, virgin is the standard meaning of the word and, second, the context supports this meaning (Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:20; Matthew 1:25).

A second problem is the meaning of the Hebrew word translated "virgin" (’alma) in Isaiah 7:14. It means an unmarried young woman of marriageable age. Thus the Hebrew word has overtones of virginity. Every use of this word in the Hebrew Old Testament either requires or permits the meaning "virgin" (Genesis 24:43; Exodus 2:8; Psalms 68:25 [26]; Proverbs 30:19; Song of Solomon 1:3; Song of Solomon 6:8; Isaiah 7:14). [Note: Willis J. Beecher, The Prophets and the Promise, p. 334, footnote; Toussaint, p. 45. This is a complete list of its occurrences in the Old Testament.] That is why the Septuagint translators rendered ’alma "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14. Matthew’s interpretation of this word as virgin harmonizes with the Septuagint translators’ understanding.

A third problem is, what did this prophecy mean in Isaiah’s day? At the risk of oversimplification there are three basic solutions to this problem.

First, Isaiah predicted that an unmarried woman of marriageable age at the time of the prophecy would bare a child whom she would name Immanuel. This happened in Isaiah’s day. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy in the sense that a real virgin bore Him, and He was "God with us." This is a typological view, in which the child born in Isaiah’s day was a sign or type (a divinely intended illustration) of the child born in Joseph’s day. I prefer this view. [Note: See also Toussaint, p. 46, and many commentaries on Isaiah.]

A second interpretation sees Isaiah predicting the virgin birth of a boy named Immanuel in his day. A virgin did bear a son named Immanuel in Isaiah’s day, advocates of this view claim. Jesus fulfilled the prophecy since His mother was a virgin when she bore Him, and He was "God with us." This is a double fulfillment view. The problem with it is that it requires two virgin births, one in Isaiah’s day and Jesus’ birth.

A third view is that Isaiah predicted the birth of Jesus exclusively. He meant nothing about any woman in his day giving birth. Jesus alone fulfilled this prophecy. There was no fulfillment in Isaiah’s day. This is a single fulfillment view. The main problem with it is that according to this view Ahaz received no sign but only a prophecy. Signs in Scripture were fairly immediate visible assurances that what God had predicted would indeed happen. [Note: For further discussion, see Carson, "Matthew," pp. 78-80. There are also many books on the subject of the virgin birth. One of the best of these is J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ.]

Some question exists about the sense in which "Immanuel" was Jesus’ name (and the name of a son born in Isaiah’s day) since the New Testament writers never referred to Him as such. There is also no record of a son born in Isaiah’s day of that name. Even though it was not one of Jesus’ proper names, it accurately described who He was (cf. John 1:14; John 1:18; Matthew 28:20). The same may be true of the son born in Isaiah’s day. Some believe this person was one of Isaiah’s sons, or the son of King Ahaz, who could have been King Hezekiah, or someone else. My guess is that Isaiah’s son Maher-shalal-hash-baz was the initial fulfillment and that "Immanuel" may have been his secondary name.

"He [Jesus] is Emmanuel, and as such Jehovah the Saviour, so that in reality both names have the same meaning." [Note: Arno C. Gaebelein, The Gospel of Matthew, An Exposition, 1:37.]

"The key passages Matthew 1:23 and Matthew 28:20 . . . stand in a reciprocal relationship to each other . . . . Strategically located at the beginning and the end of Matthew’s story, these two passages ’enclose’ it. In combination, they reveal the message of Matthew’s story: In the person of Jesus Messiah, his Son, God has drawn near to abide to the end of time with his people, the church, thus inaugurating the eschatological age of salvation." [Note: Kingsbury, pp. 41-42. Italics his.]

The angel’s instructions caused Joseph to change his mind. He decided not to divorce Mary privately but to continue their engagement and eventually consummate it (Matthew 1:24). Matthew left no doubt about the virginal conception of Jesus by adding that Joseph did not have sexual relations with Mary until after Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:25). [Note: See James P. Sweeney, "Modern and Ancient Controversies over the Virgin Birth of Jesus," Bibliotheca Sacra 160:638 (April-June 2003):142-58.] When Joseph called the child "Jesus," as the angel had commanded him to do (Matthew 1:20-21), he was taking Jesus as his son.

"In other words, Jesus, born of Mary but not fathered by Joseph, is legitimately Son of David because Joseph son of David adopts him into his line." [Note: Kingsbury, p. 47.]

Adoption in Israel was informal rather than formal (cf. Genesis 15:2; Genesis 17:12-13; Genesis 48:5; Exodus 2:10; 1 Kings 11:20; Esther 2:7; Luke 2:23).

Was Jesus’ virgin birth theologically necessary, or was it only a fulfillment of prophecy? If parents (specifically fathers) transmit sinfulness to their children in some literal, physical way (i.e., genetically, hereditarily, etc.), the virgin birth was necessary to guard Jesus from transmitted sin. However, there is no clear revelation that fathers pass down their sinfulness as they pass down other characteristics. Theologians debate the subject of whether God imputes sin to every individual at birth or whether our parents pass it on to us (creationism vs. traducianism). My view is that fathers do not pass down sinfulness physically. Human nature is not necessarily sinful, though every human being except Jesus has a sinful human nature that in some way connects to our parents.

In this first chapter the writer stressed the person of Jesus Christ as being both human (Matthew 1:1-17) and divine (Matthew 1:18-25).

"If Matthew 1:1-17 were all that could be said of His birth, He might then have had a legal right to the throne, but He could never have been He who was to redeem and save from sin. But the second half before us shows Him to be truly the long promised One, the One of whom Moses and the prophets spake, to whom all the past manifestations of God in the earth and the types, pointed." [Note: Gaebelein, 1:27.]

Matthew presented three proofs that Jesus was the Christ in chapter 1: His genealogy, His virgin birth, and His fulfillment of prophecy.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/matthew-1.html. 2012.
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