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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 1

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Verses 1-17


If we describe a person, we can do so from different angles. For example, we can highlight someone as the father of a family. In addition, a description of the same person is possible as a colleague in a company or as a neighbor. In this way we see how four evangelists – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – report the life of the Lord Jesus during His stay on earth. In the four biographies we have in the Bible, the Gospel according to Matthew declares the Lord Jesus as King, Mark presents Him as Servant, Luke describes Him as true Man and finally John writes about Him as the eternal Son of God.

In this Gospel we see the Lord Jesus as King. This includes the call: “Behold, your King” (John 19:14) which is chosen as the subtitle for this book. Whoever reads this Gospel with the desire to see Him as King will “see the King in His beauty” (Isaiah 33:17).

Ger de Koning
Middelburg, April 2019

Purpose of the Gospel according to Matthew

The purpose of this Gospel is to present the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, the King anointed by God Who comes to His people Israel. This Gospel has rightly been placed as the first book after the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, time and again, a King is announced Who will liberate His people and make them head of all nations.

Matthew makes it clear that with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ the King has come. This is underlined by the fact that in this Gospel we find more Old Testament quotations about the life and death of Christ than in the three other Gospels put together. This also makes clear to whom this Gospel is primarily addressed: the Jews.

This Gospel can be called ‘the gospel of the kingdom of heaven’. Matthew recounts the history and discourses of Christ especially with a view on the establishment of that kingdom.

The writer Matthew

The writer is Matthew. Matthew is a Jew, but a despised Jew because he was a tax collector. As a Jew, he is the appropriate instrument that the Holy Spirit has been able to use to write what is important to the Jews. Because this Gospel is not only about the Lord Jesus as the King for the Jews, but also about the kingdom of heaven, this Gospel is also of great and current significance for the Christians. That will become clear.

Record of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ

Matthew begins his Gospel with the “record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham”. Through this genealogy, the Holy Spirit shows that He wants to present Jesus Christ in this Gospel as the Fulfiller of the promises to Israel and of the prophecies regarding the Messiah. This also answers the Jews’ questions as to whether Jesus really is the Messiah.

The genealogy is that of Joseph. That means that we have the legal genealogy here. This establishes that Joseph is the rightful heir of the throne of David and therefore Christ as well. This has never been questioned by the Jews.

In Matthew 1:1 David and Abraham are mentioned together because all of Israel’s hope is connected to what has been revealed to these two men. First, the Lord Jesus is the “Son of David” (cf. 1 Chronicles 17:11), God’s chosen King. That is why the royal crown belongs to Him. The son of David referenced here is Solomon. The Lord Jesus is the true Solomon Who will bring righteousness and peace.

He is subsequently the “Son of Abraham” (cf. Genesis 22:18), God’s chosen vessel of the promises. Therefore, He is entitled to the land and all the promised blessings. The Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises made to Abraham and which He will fulfil as King (2 Corinthians 1:20). The son of Abraham referenced here is Isaac. The Lord Jesus is the true Isaac, the Son Who has gone through death. His death and resurrection are the basis for His reign in righteousness and peace.

From Matthew 1:2 follows the genealogy that starts with Abraham. Every Israelite would begin with him. Out of all the sons of Jacob only Judah is mentioned by name. This shows that among all the other descendants of Abraham, the royal tribe (Genesis 49:10) is preeminent. However, the mention of “and his brothers” indicates that God has not forgotten them now that the coming of the Messiah is imminent.

Four women appear in this genealogy of the Lord Jesus: Tamar (Matthew 1:3), Rahab (Matthew 1:5), Ruth (Matthew 1:5) and the wife of Uriah (Matthew 1:6). Each of these four women is linked to something humiliating. God shows His grace through this. If God deems it worthy to have His Son born into this line, in which these four women are connected, then there is hope for the greatest sinner.

The genealogy ends with Joseph (Matthew 1:16). It’s about him. He is the man who has the right to the throne. As the legal Son of Joseph, this gives Christ the legal right to the throne too. Moreover, in Joseph we see the decay of the royal line. The one who had the right to the throne is a simple carpenter.

It is important to see that the Lord Jesus was not begotten by Joseph, while He was born of Mary. He is begotten by God the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) and is therefore in His nature in truth the Son of God. So He is legally the Son of Joseph and truly the Son of Mary.

Forty-two generations are given from Abraham to the Messiah which are divided into three groups of fourteen (Matthew 1:17). The first group of fourteen generations, “from Abraham to David”, bridges the history of Genesis 12 to 2 Samuel. That period gives a full account of the origins and development of men, during which we see through their history that God reveals Himself to them in different ways. We are taken through the time of the patriarch until the days of David, the king. David is the great figure in the period of prosperity in the land and a splendid picture of Him Who is the center of all of the nation’s hope.

In the second group of generations, “from David to the deportation to Babylon”, we see the decay and downfall of Israel. The kingdom begins in its highest glory after which that glory declines and ends in the breakdown of the kingdom in the time of Zedekiah. The splendor of Solomon’s reign is the pinnacle of the nation’s history. His father David caused the name of Israel to be feared and respected everywhere.

Then the decline sets in and the royal glory makes way for the prophetic witness, when men like Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, etc. – the greatest figures in history – do their service. But, regrettably, Israel’s behavior goes from bad to worse, until all must leave the land. The period that began with such rich promise in the construction of the temple, ends with its destruction, together with the breakdown of the kingdom, while Lo-Ammi, ‘not my people’ (Hosea 1:9), is written upon the people.

Little of the third part of the history of these generations, “from the deportation from Babylon to Christ”, is reported in the inspired Scriptures. In His grace, God opens the way for the return of a remnant of the people through Cyrus, the heathen monarch. We see a clear picture of a revival in their return to the city, the temple and the worship of God.

But after a while everything starts to decline again. We learn from the prophets of that period that, although a remnant remains faithful, the people themselves come under the power of Persia and Greece.

When then the New Testament begins, we see that the people find themselves under the iron yoke of Rome.

Verses 18-25

The Birth of Jesus Christ

These verses are a combination of mystery, dignity, simplicity and beauty. In the time that the house of David has sunk into disregard and poverty, heaven begins to move in relation to the promises. The events are described in a way that impresses the heart and leads to worship. The Eternal One becomes Man and is presented here as the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham. He does not come in the splendor of Solomon, nor with countless holy angels in His entourage. He makes Himself nothing and takes the form of a slave because He comes to serve.

At the birth of the Lord Jesus it is striking that the Holy Spirit is the origin (Matthew 1:18) and that He works in accordance with the Word (Matthew 1:22-Isaiah :). The Spirit and the Word always work together. They are always in agreement and harmony with each other. They are never separate from one another and impossible to be in conflict with one another.

Although Joseph is betrothed to Mary, he is still called “her husband” (Matthew 1:19; cf. Matthew 1:20: “your wife”). This indicates that ‘betrothed’ is practically equivalent to being married as far as the connection is concerned. The official marriage, however, has yet to take place, which means that there may be no sexual intercourse while betrothed. When Joseph then notices that Mary is pregnant, this can mean nothing other to him than that she has committed fornication. This gives him the right to divorce her (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9).

Joseph does not act impulsively, but “considers” the situation. This fits with the characteristic described of him. We read of him that he is “righteous”. This gives the Lord the opportunity to clarify the situation to Joseph. Through an angel sent by Him, he explains to Joseph in a dream what has happened and what is yet to happen.

Because Joseph is the important person here in view of the law, the angel appears here to him. In the Gospel according to Luke it says that the angel appears to Mary (Luke 1:28). Also, the angel comes to him here in a dream and not as with Mary during the day and visible.

Joseph is emphatically addressed by the angel as “son of David”. This underlines the legitimate right of the Lord Jesus to the throne of David, for according to the law He is Joseph’s heir. The angel also speaks of the fact that the Son who was conceived in Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit. That is to say, He is the Son of God, for the Holy Spirit is God.

Joseph is commissioned to give Mary’s Son the name “Jesus”. That name means ‘Yahweh the Savior’, or ‘Yahweh is salvation’. That name declares Who He is: Yahweh, the God of the covenant, and what He is: Savior or salvation. From that follows what He will do: He will save His people from their sins. How perfectly the Lord Jesus lived up to this great and glorious Name!

Then come the first quotations from the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:8Isaiah 8:10). They are introduced here by the words “to fulfill”. In what Matthew says here, it becomes apparent that it was not Isaiah who prophesied, but God through Isaiah. The first quotation points to the extraordinary circumstance that a virgin becomes pregnant without the involvement of a man. The second quotation comes from the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which is written mainly in Hebrew. This second quotation gives the special name “Immanuel” with the impressive meaning that God is coming among His people.

In the Lord Jesus, God and man are brought together. The fulfillment of the prophecy lies seven hundred years after its pronouncement. God delivers on His promises, even though their fulfillment seems to take a long time.

Joseph has no doubt whatsoever about what God has revealed to him. He obeys without contradiction out of love for Him and out of love for Mary. Instead of divorcing his wife, as he had initially intended, he takes her to himself. He is married to her, but has no sexual intercourse with her until the Son is born. Everything revolves around the arrival of the Son on earth. To this end, Joseph renounces what in itself would be permitted. Everything shows that he has his own relationship with God. God can address him directly. Joseph gives the Child the name Jesus.

After the Lord Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary do have sexual intercourse. Mary does not remain a virgin. There is talk of brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus (Mark 6:3). Divine intervention in this special case does not set aside the institution of the Creator (cf. Genesis 1:28).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Matthew 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/matthew-1.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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