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Matthew CHAPTER 1 Summary
Matthew 1:1-40.1.17 The genealogy of Christ from Abraham to Joseph.
Matthew 1:18-40.1.25 The miraculous conception of Mary: Joseph's doubts are
satisfied by an angel, who declareth the name and
office of Christ: Jesus is born.
The book of the generation signifieth no more than the writing containing the genealogy or pedigree; for the Jews called all writings books. Thus, Jeremiah 32:10,Jeremiah 32:11, the evidences of a purchase are called the book. So Isaiah 1:1; Mark 10:4, the writings called a bill of divorce are both in the Hebrew and the Greek called a book of divorce. Thus in ecclesiastical courts still, the term libel (which signifieth a little book) is used. So as these words are not to be looked upon as the title to the whole Gospel according to St. Matthew, but only to the following pedigree of our Saviour's ancestors.
Of Jesus Christ; of that person to whom the name of Jesus was given by the angel, as we shall hear further, Matthew 1:20,Matthew 1:21, because he should save his people from their sins (for Jesus, as also Joshua, signifies a saviour or deliverer); and who also was the Christ, or the Messiah, prophesied of by Daniel, Daniel 9:25,Daniel 9:26, expected by the Jews, as doth appear from John 1:41 (for Messiah and Christ denoted the same person, John 4:25); only Messiah was a Hebrew word, and Christ of Greek extraction, both signifying Anointed, and so God's designation of a person to the office of a priest, a prophet, or a king. The Christ signifieth a designation to all three.
The Son of David, the son of Abraham: not the immediate Son of either, but, by a long traduction, lineally descended from both. Abraham was long before David, but is here put after him, either because he was a king, or because the Jews expected Messiah was to be the Son of David; or because the evangelist's design was to begin the pedigree from Abraham, whom he therefore last mentions. Both are named, because both were concerned in the promise of Christ. It was made to Abraham, Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18; and to David renewed and enlarged, Psalms 89:36,Psalms 89:37. Hence it appeareth that the Jews looked that Christ should be the Son of David, Matthew 22:42; Mark 12:35. Hence the evangelist puts David in the front. From Abraham the Jews derived themselves, they usually gloried they had Abraham to their father. The evangelist, by proving Christ to have descended from Abraham by Isaac, proveth him an Hebrew of the Hebrews, and to be descended from the seed to whom the promise was made; and by proving him the Son of David, he proves him David's righteous Branch, or Branch of righteousness, mentioned Jeremiah 23:5,Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 33:15, and so to have descended from the royal family.
The evangelist reckoneth the genealogy of our Saviour by three periods, reckoning thrice fourteen descents. The first period began in Abraham, Genesis 21:2,Genesis 21:3 and ended in David. The second began in Solomon, and ended in Jehoiachin. The third began with Jehoiachin, and ended in Christ. Luke (as we shall see in its place) fetcheth our Saviour’s line from Adam. From Abraham to David there is no difference between Matthew and Luke, they both reckoned up the same fourteen persons, Luke 3:32-42.3.34. But Luke repeating our Saviour’s pedigree by his mother’s side, and Matthew by his supposed father’s side, Joseph, after David they must differ, Mary descending from David’s family by his son Nathan, Joseph descending from him by Solomon. All interpreters agree that there are great difficulties about the genealogy of Christ, especially in reconciling Matthew and Luke; and the enemies of Christianity have in all times made their advantage of them, to weaken our faith as to the gospel: but Christians ought to consider,
1. That the Jews had without doubt perfect genealogies, and were more especially exact in keeping them as to the royal tribe of David, which was Judah, and the priestly tribe of Levi, that they might have a right king and high priest; and it cannot be expected that after seventeen hundred years almost we should make out genealogies as they could.
2. That they were very apt to make strifes about words and endless genealogies; as appears by the apostle’s cautioning both Timothy and Titus against it, 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 6:4; Titus 3:9.
3. That it had been a sufficient exception against Christ if they could have proved he had not lineally descended from David.
4. That though they cavilled at Christ for many things, yet they never made any such cavil.
5. That we are forbidden strife and endless labour about genealogy. And therefore it is the most unreasonable thing imaginable for us to make such little dissatisfactions grounds for us to question or disbelieve the gospel, because we can not untie every knot we meet with in a pedigree.
But in this first period no such difficulties occur; both the evangelists are agreed, and the Old Testament agrees with both. That Abraham begat Isaac (when he was an hundred years old) we are assured by Moses, Genesis 21:2,Genesis 21:5; that Isaac begat Jacob he also telleth us, Genesis 25:26. So also that Jacob begat Judah and his brethren, Genesis 29:35. Judah was Jacob’s third son by Leah, and that son of whom dying Jacob prophesied, That him should his brethren praise, and to him should his father’s children bow down. That the sceptre should not depart from Judah, nor the lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh came; and unto him should the gathering of the people be, Genesis 49:8-1.49.10. Though Saul, who was the first king of Israel, (given them in wrath), was of the tribe of Benjamin, 1 Samuel 9:21; yet David was of the tribe of Judah, in whose line the kingdom held unto the captivity.
And his brethren: the brethren of Judah are here mentioned, being the heads of the Jewish nation: Christ descended from Judah.
That Judas begat Phares and Zara (they were twins begot of Thamar his daughter-in-law), the relict of his son Er whom God slew, Genesis 38:7, appeareth from Genesis 38:27-1.38.30. That
Phares begat Ezrom appeareth from Ruth 4:18; 1 Chronicles 2:5; and from the same texts appears also that
Ezrom begat Aram, Ruth 4:19; 1 Chronicles 2:9, where he is called Ram. Some may possibly be offended that amongst all the ancestors of Christ there are but three women named, and all of them such as had a great stain and blot upon their reputation. This
Thamar, the mother of Phares and Zara, was blotted with incest, and Phares was one of the children begot in that incest. Rahab also is mentioned, Matthew 1:5, whom the Scripture calleth an harlot, Joshua 2:1; and Bathsheba was stained with adultery. But we ought to consider:
1. That (abating original corruption, which we indeed all derive from our parents) no man derives any intrinsic badness from the vice of his parents, though he may derive a blot upon his honour and reputation from it.
2. That this was one degree of our Saviour’s humiliation.
3. That it was no way incongruous, that He who came into the world to die for great sinners, should be born of some that were such.
This exactly agreeth with the Old Testament, Ruth 4:19,Ruth 4:20; 1 Chronicles 2:10,1 Chronicles 2:11; only it is there said that
Naasson was prince of the children of Judah, Numbers 1:7; Numbers 2:3, and
Salmon is there called Salma.
This agreeth with Ruth 4:22; 1 Samuel 16:1; 1 Samuel 16:13. Here now ariseth the first difficulty we meet with in this genealogy, and it rather an appearance of a difficulty than a real one.
Salmon being the son of Aminadab, who was the prince of the children of Judah in Moses's time, Salmon cannot be imagined to have lived later than in the times of Joshua.
Boaz seemeth to have lived in Eli's time, which (if chronologers count right) was three hundred years after: here are but four men named to take up these years, Salmon, Booz, Obed, Jesse.
Answer. The world according to chronologers, wanted but five of two thousand five hundred years old, when the Israelites (under the conduct of Joshua) entered into Canaan: we will suppose Salmon to have then been a young man. Eli is by them said to have lived about the two thousand eight hundred and tenth. So that the distance is three hundred and fifteen years. David is said to have been born in the two thousand eight hundred and sixtieth. So as from Salmon to David are three hundred and sixty-five years. Admit Salmon, Boaz, Obed, and Jesse to have each of them lived a hundred years, or upward, in admitting this, if we consider the age and vigour of persons in that age of the world. Moses (though a man spent with travels and battles) lived one hundred and twenty years, Deuteronomy 34:7. Caleb at eighty-five years was strong and as fit for war as ever, Joshua 4:11-6.4.12. If we allow these four men the life of Moses they might live four hundred and eighty years, which might allow to each of them fifteen or sixteen years apiece for the concurrency of their lives with their parents, yet three hundred and sixty-five years might be well allowed for all their time: nor is it unreasonable for us to suppose, that God might allow those whom he intended thus to dignify a something longer life than the ordinary sort of men lived in that age of the world. So as the thing being neither naturally impossible (for in our age we see particular persons live upward of a hundred years) nor morally improbable, and directly affirmed in three or four texts, they must have a great mind to quarrel with a Divine revelation who question the truth of it upon such a pretence; especially considering that the lives of men in our declining and debauched age of the world, are no measures by which we can guess at the lives of extraordinary persons who lived near three thousand years ago.
David the king: possibly that term is added to distinguish the David here intended from others of the same name; or because he was the first king of the tribe of Judah, to whom the sceptre of Israel was promised, Genesis 49:10; or the first king not given to the Israelites in wrath, as Saul was upon their murmuring against Samuel: or to show that Christ descended from that family, to whom the promise of the Messias was made, Jeremiah 23:5, and a kingdom established for ever, Psalms 89:36-19.89.37. Thus our evangelist hath given us the names in his first period of fourteen generations: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judas, Phares, Esrom, Aram, Aminadab, Naasson, Salmon, Boaz, Obed, Jesse, David.
Solomon was not the eldest child of David by Bathsheba; that died, 2 Samuel 12:22-10.12.23. He was born after David had taken Bathsheba (who had been the wife of Uriah) for his wife, 2 Samuel 12:25, compared with 2 Samuel 11:27.
This exactly agrees with the history of the Old Testament, 1 Kings 11:43 (where he is called Rehoboam); he reigned but seventeen years, and died. 1 Kings 14:21,1 Kings 14:31. Abijam his son reigned in his stead; he is here called Abia; but we shall observe frequent alteration of names, both as to the final terminations, and where the quiescent letters in Hebrew fall into the name. Abia, or Abijam, reigned but three years, and was succeeded by Asa his son, 1 Kings 15:2,1 Kings 15:8. Asa reigned forty-one years, 2 Chronicles 16:13. So as these three princes reigned sixty years.
Jehoshaphat, here called
Josaphat, in the Greek, (they having no letter to express the Hebrew ה by), was the son of Asa, a good son of a good father, 2 Chronicles 17:1,2 Chronicles 17:2; he reigned twenty-five years, 1 Kings 22:42. Jehoram, here called
Joram, succeeded him in his kingdom: he slew his brethren; he walked in the ways of Ahab. 2 Chronicles 21:4,2 Chronicles 21:6; he reigned but eight years, lived and died wickedly, and was buried infamously, 2 Chronicles 21:19,2 Chronicles 21:20. But here ariseth another difficulty from what is said,
Joram begat Ozias. It is certain that he did not beget him immediately, for Uzziah was the fourth from Joram. Jehoram or Joram begat Ahaziah, he was his youngest son; he lived but one year as king, 2 Chronicles 22:1,2 Chronicles 22:2; then Athaliah usurped the kingdom for six years, not counting her usurpation. Joash the son of Ahaziah reigned forty years, 2 Chronicles 24:1. He dies, and Amaziah his son reigned in his stead, 2 Kings 12:21. He was the father of Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:1, called Azariah, 2 Kings 14:21. So that when it is said, that Joram begat Ozias, we must only understand that Uzziah lineally descended from Joram: thus, Matthew 1:1, Christ is called the Son of David, the son of Abraham. Thus the Jews said: We have Abraham to our father; and Elisabeth is said to be of the daughters of Aaron, Luke 1:5. But it is a greater question why the evangelist leaves out Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, who were all three lawful princes, and rightly descended from the family of David. To pass by various conjectures, the best account I find given of it is this.
1. It is manifest the evangelist had a design to divide all the generations from Abraham to Christ into three periods. The first of which should contain the growing state of the Jewish commonwealth, till it came at the height, which was in David’s time. The second should contain its flourishing state; which was from David’s time till the first carrying into captivity. The third should contain its declining state, from the first carrying them into captivity to the coming of Christ.
2. He designed to reduce all the generations in each period to fourteen; this appeareth from Matthew 1:17. Now although the first period contained exactly fourteen descents or generations, yet in the second there was manifestly seventeen, so as the evangelist was obliged to leave out three to bring them to the number of fourteen: now though it be a little too curious to inquire why the evangelist chose to leave out these three, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, rather than any other three, yet there is a probable good account of it given by learned men, who have waded into these speculations. Ahaziah was the son of Jehoram by Athaliah the daughter of Ahab, 2 Chronicles 21:6; Joash her grandchild; Amaziah her great grandchild. Now God had cursed the house of Ahab, and threatened to root out all his house, 1 Kings 21:21. This (as is supposed) made the evangelist, who was necessitated to leave out three to bring the generations to fourteen, rather to choose to leave out these princes, who were of Ahab’s half blood, than any others. If any say, Why then did he not leave out more? Besides that he was not obliged any other way, (than as he would keep to his number to leave out these), he knew God’s threatenings of children for the sins of parents usually terminate in the third and fourth generation.
That Jotham succeeded his father Uzziah, and reigned sixteen years, agreeth with 2 Chronicles 26:23, and that Ahaz his son succeeded him, agreeth with 2 Chronicles 27:9; he also reigned sixteen years, and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead, 2 Chronicles 28:27. Some here have cavilled at the truth of the history of holy writ, because it appeareth from 2 Kings 16:2 that Ahaz died at thirty-six years of age, and that Hezekiah began to reign at twenty-five years of age doth also appear from 2 Chronicles 29:1, whence it appeareth that Hezekiah must be born when his father was but eleven years of age, which they think improbable: but those who will question the truth of what we have so good a proof of as the revelation of holy writ is, are obliged not only to tell us of things in it that are improbable to their apprehensions, but either in nature impossible, or at least inconsistent with some other piece of Divine revelation. Of the latter sort, we hear of nothing objected in this case. Now though with us it be not ordinary for persons at that age to beget children, yet that it is not impossible in nature, nor more than hath happened in the world sometimes, Spanhemius hath largely proved in his Dubia Evangelica. Dub. 5, and that by no less authorities than those of Hierome amongst the ancients, and the learned Scaliger amongst the more modern writers. It is what may be. The Scripture telleth us it was so; that is enough for us, though it be not a thing very ordinary.
All this exactly agreeth with the Scriptures of the Old Testament. These three princes in a lineal descent immediately succeeded each other, Manasseh (2 Kings 20:21; 1 Chronicles 3:13) reigning fifty-five, Amon two, and Josiah thirty-one years, altogether eighty-eight years.
In this Jechonias 1 Chronicles 3:15,1 Chronicles 3:16 (whoever he was) determined the evangelist’s second period of fourteen generations. But there is much dispute, both about the Jechonias who is here mentioned, and the sons of Josiah as they are reckoned up 1 Chronicles 3:15, where it is said: The sons of Josiah were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. It is plain that Jehoahaz succeeded Josiah his father, 2 Kings 23:31; 2 Chronicles 36:1. It is certain that amongst the Jews it was very ordinary for persons to have two names; thus king Uzziah in the Book of Kings is called Azariah, 2 Kings 14:21. Most if not all of Josiah’s sons had two names: it is plain that Jehoahaz his eldest son is the same who in 1 Chronicles 3:15 is called Johanan; but he reigned but three months, probably set up by the people, and put down by Pharaoh-necho, in a battle against whom Josiah was slain; he pursuing his victory put him down and set up Eliakim his next brother, calling him Jehoiakim, as he is called 1 Chronicles 3:15. He reigned eleven years, 2 Chronicles 36:5. The king of Babylon puts him down, and setteth up Jehoiachin his son, who is also called Jeconiah, and Coniah. He reigned but three months and ten days, 2 Chronicles 36:9; and the king of Babylon fetcheth him away, and sets up his uncle Zedekiah, called also Mattaniah. He reigned eleven years, as appeareth by 2 Chronicles 36:11; then the whole body of the Jews were carried away captive into Babylon. 2 Kings 24:14-12.24.16; 2 Kings 25:11; 2 Chronicles 36:10,2 Chronicles 36:20; Jeremiah 27:20; Jeremiah 39:9; Jeremiah 52:11,Jeremiah 52:15,Jeremiah 52:28-24.52.30; Daniel 1:2 We do not read, either in the Book of Kings or Chronicles, that Shallum (Josiah’s fourth son) ever reigned, yet it should seem that he did, by Jeremiah 22:11. Some think that he was set up instead of Jehoahaz, when he was carried away. But the Scripture saith nothing of it, nor is it very probable that the conqueror should skip over the second and third son, and set up the fourth. But it is not my present concern to inquire after Shallum, but only after Jechonias mentioned in this verse, and the other Jechonias mentioned in Matthew 1:12, as the head of those generations which make up the last period. As to this Jechonias, the most probable opinion is, that it was Jehoiakim, who was also called Jeconiah, and that the Jechonias mentioned Matthew 1:12 was Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim. In this I find some of the best interpreters acquiescing, nor indeed is there any great difficulty in allowing Jehoiakim the father, as well as Jehoiachin the son, to be called Jeconiah (so near are the names akin, and the signification of both the same); but then the question is, how Josiah could be said to beget Jehoiakim about the time of the carrying into the captivity of Babylon; for it appeareth by 2 Chronicles 36:5, that Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years; and in his time was the first carrying into Babylon; so that there must be thirty-seven years betwixt the begetting of Jehoiakim and the first transportation into Babylon. The margin of our Bibles tells us of another reading, Josias begat Jakim, ( Jakim and Jehoiakim are the same), and Jakim begat Jechonias (that is, Jehoiachin). Beza thinks this the truest reading, taken out of an old copy of R. Stephens, magnified by Stapulensis and Bucer. But he thinks it should be thus, Josias begat Jakim and his brethren, ( for we know that Josiah had four sons), and Jakim begat Jechonias (that is, Jehoiachin) about the time of the carrying into the captivity o Babylon. For Jehoiachin or Jeconiah was not nine years old when himself was carried away, and his father was carried away before. About the carrying away into Babylon: the Greek preposition επι doth not signify any determinate certain time, but doth include sometimes many and distinct times, as it must do here; for Josiah began to reign at eight years old, and reigned thirty-one years, so that he died at thirty-nine years of age, 2 Chronicles 34:1. Jehoahaz (or Johanan) his eldest son succeeded him at twenty-three years old, so he must be born when Josiah was sixteen years of age; Jehoiakim began to reign at twenty-five years of age; Zedekiah at one and twenty; as appeareth from 2 Chronicles 36:2,2 Chronicles 36:5,2 Chronicles 36:11. So that Zedekiah must be but about nine years old when his father died, which was not twelve years before, Jehoiakim was carried into Babylon, as appeareth by the history, 2 Chronicles 36:1-14.36.23. Thus the persons in this period (which was the flourishing time of the kingdom of Judah) are fourteen: Solomon, Rehoboam, Abia, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoiakim; only here is no mention made of Jehoahaz’s reign, who was Josiah’s eldest son, who, it may be, is not mentioned by the evangelist, either because Jehoiakim (here called Jechonias) was a second son of the same father, or in regard of his short reign (for it was but three months and odd days); or, it may be, because in all probability he was tumultuously set up by the people, and not fixed in his throne before he was turned out by the conqueror Pharaoh-necho; nor do we read of any sons he left; to be sure he left none who could succeed him in the throne, for Jehoiakim was set up, and his son Jehoiachin succeeded him, as the history telleth us.
This Jechonias 1 Chronicles 3:17-13.3.19 is generally thought to be Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakin; he is called Jeconiah, 1 Chronicles 3:16, as well as Jehoiachin, 2 Chronicles 36:8; so also he is called Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah 24:1. That this Jechonias begat Salathiel Ezra 3:2; Ezra 5:2; Nehemiah 12:1; Haggai 1:1 appeareth from 1 Chronicles 3:17. It is here objected that God said concerning this Jeconiah, called also Coniah, Write ye this man childless, Jeremiah 22:30 how then did he beget Salathiel? But it is easily answered, for that verse. Jeremiah 22:30, will expound itself: 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: so as that text is plainly to be understood, without a child that shall actually succeed in the crown; for the text itself supposes that he should have seed, but none that should prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling in Judah, which the Scripture, 2 Chronicles 36:1-14.36.23 justifieth, for the king of Babylon set up Zedekiah his uncle in his stead, who was the last king in Judah, in the eleventh year of whose reign the Jews were all carried captive. This Jeconiah had eight sons, as we read, 1 Chronicles 3:17,1 Chronicles 3:18. Salathiel is there reckoned as his second son; possibly Assir died young, or at least childless, so as the right of the crown was in Salathiel, who is the person alone here named. But how
Salathiel is here said to have begat Zorobabel is yet a greater difficulty; for, 1 Chronicles 3:19, it is said, The sons of Pedaiah (not of Salathiel) were, Zerubabel, and Shimei. If Zorobabel were the son of Pedaiah, how could he be the son of Salathiel? Several answers are given to this. Some think that Zorobabel, because he descended lineally from Salathiel, is called his son, which were a sufficient answer if the supposition were true, that Zorobabel were lineally descended from Salathiel: but that it is not, for according to 1 Chronicles 3:18 Pedaiah was not the son, but the brother of Salathiel. Others think that Salathiel is here said to have begot Zorobabel, because Zorobabel succeeded him in the kingdom; but as that is a strange interpretation of the word begat, so neither was Salathiel a king, though possibly the title of the crown was in him as the great grandchild of Josiah, nor did ever Zorobabel assume the crown that we read of. Whereas others say, that there were two Zorobabels, and that this son was the adopted son of Salathiel: both these things are suggested without proof. The most probable opinion, which I perceive the best interpreters acquiesce in, is, that Salathiel dying without issue, Pedaiah his brother married his wife, according to the law of God, Deuteronomy 25:5, and begat Zorobabel of her that had been the wife of Salathiel; and thence it is said Salathiel begat him, Pedaiah so raising up seed to his brother according to the law aforesaid. To this it is objected by some, that the law was, that the child should succeed in the name of the brother that was dead: so that if this were the sense, it should not have been, Salathiel begat Zorobabel, but Salathiel begat Salathiel. The answer to this is not difficult; for, to succeed in the name of the brother that is dead, doth not signify, to be called by the very name with which he was called, but to be denominated his son, as if begotten by him. And this is evident from Ruth 4:10, where Boaz hath these words, Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren. Yet, Ruth 4:21, Boaz, having a son by Ruth, did not call his name Mahlon, by the name of his father, but Obed.
Here are divers objections made to this last part of the genealogy, and in a great measure caused from the difference between Matthew and Luke; but I shall not attempt any reconciliation of those differences till I come to Luke 3:23-42.3.38. There is no Abiud reckoned amongst the sons of Zorobabel, 1 Chronicles 3:19,1 Chronicles 3:20; and for the others named, we have no certain account of them in any part of the holy writ. From the time of Jehoiakim were above five hundred years to the birth of Christ, of which seventy were spent in the captivity of Babylon. Zorobabel was alive at the end of the captivity, Ezra 5:2, and, as it appears, the ruler of the Jews, though not under the title and style of king. For Eliakim, Azor, Sadoc, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, and Jacob, though we have no mention of them in any canonical books of holy writ but only this, yet Matthew’s credit in the church of God ought to out weigh any other writings, pretending any thing contrary to what he saith; we are therefore obliged to believe they all lineally descended from David, but, living in a private state and condition, and holy writ not extending its history beyond Zorobabel’s time, (the time when the Jews came out of Babylon), it is no wonder that we have no better means than we have from holy writ to know their lineal descent from the royal family. That Matthew in what he wrote was guided by the unerring Spirit, and that he had rolls of pedigrees which we want, we have reason to believe. This is enough for us Christians, who own the books of the New as well as the Old Testament to be wrote by persons Divinely inspired; so, as to them, we have nothing to do but to reconcile Matthew and Luke, both whom we own to have had the same infallible inspiration and direction. If Jews or pagans argue from any other topic than this, it is enough to tell them, that the Jews kept exact genealogies, and more especially as to the descents in the tribes of Judah and Levi, that they might never be at loss as to the Messiah, whom they expected as the Son of David, nor yet as to the true high priest. Though these records and rolls of genealogy be now lost, yet we have no reason to believe they were so in Matthew’s time; of which genealogies (as to this part) doubtless what Matthew saith was but a copy, directed by that Holy Spirit by which he was inspired.
How Luke cometh to make Joseph the son of Heli we shall inquire (if God please) when we come to his third chapter: but from this verse ariseth a very grave question, viz. How, or wherefore, the evangelist, in deriving the pedigree of Christ, bringeth the line down to Joseph, from whom our Saviour did not descend, being no flesh of his flesh. Christ being the promised Messias, the prophecy, Isaiah 7:14, must be and was fulfilled in him, A virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Now if Joseph were not the true, but only the legal or supposed, father of Christ, what had the evangelist to do with his genealogy? Many answers are given to this. Some think that the evangelist accommodates himself to the vulgar opinion; they took him generally for the true and natural son of Joseph; they said, Is not this the carpenter’s son? But then the Holy Spirit must have attempted to have proved a conclusion true from a medium that was false, which must by no means be allowed. Besides, neither could this be Matthew’s design, who afterwards relates the mystery of our Saviour’s incarnation plain enough; and tells us, Matthew 1:18, that Mary was found with child before Joseph and she came together. Others therefore say that amongst the Jews the genealogies of women use not to be reckoned. How universally true that is I cannot tell; generally it is, (very probably), it being usual almost with all nations to reckon descents from the males. It is granted by most that Luke derives the descent of Mary. In the present case, it seemeth of high concern that the genealogy both of Joseph and Mary should be counted. Though our Saviour’s being the Messias could not have been proved from his being the Son of Joseph, for then he could not have been the Son of a virgin, yet (admitting the Jewish error in that case, not knowing the mystery of Christ’s incarnation) Christ, by their own confession, was confirmed to be the Son of David because Joseph was so. On the other side, Luke deriving Mary’s genealogy from David, and affirming Christ to be born of a virgin espoused, confirmed him to all the world to be both the Son of David, descending from Mary a virgin, that was a daughter to one who was the son of David, and also the true Messiah, in whom the prophecy was fulfilled, of a virgin’s conceiving and bearing a Son. So that by the reckoning of the generation of two persons, both of which were lineally descended from David, he was proved to be the Son of David, both to the generality of the Jews, who could not deny but Joseph was so, and to all believers, both Jews and Gentiles, to whom God should give to believe the mystery of the incarnation by the conception of the Holy Ghost. This to me seems a sufficient reason for the reckoning up our Saviour’s descent from David both by father and mother. Which is advantaged by considering that Joseph was not only the reputed father, but the legal father of Christ; and although his being not the natural but the legal father of Christ will not prove him the Son of David, further than to the Jews who would have him to be the natural son of Joseph, yet the genealogy reckoned from Abraham to Joseph will prove Joseph the son of David; (whom they judged Christ’s natural father), so as they had nothing to say against that and the other parts of this Gospel; and this chapter indeed, with the genealogy of Mary, will prove that he was both the Son of David, and the true Messias, as a Son born of a virgin. Whereas some say that Mary was of the tribe of Levi, and think to prove it by her being cousin to Elisabeth, who is expressly called a daughter of Aaron, Luke 1:5; besides that Luke 3:23-42.3.38 plainly proveth her of the tribe of Judah, and of the family of David, the proof is by no means sufficient; for although the law, Numbers 36:8,Numbers 36:9, for the avoiding of a confusion of inheritances, commanded them to marry within their tribes, yet this law concerned not the daughters of the tribe of Levi, for that tribe had no inheritance as the rest. So as that kindred might easily be, though Mary was not of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah, as indeed she was. But leaving this question, let us come to the words of the verse. And Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary; that is, the espoused husband of Mary. Espousals make a marriage before God: the angel afterward saith to Joseph, (but yet espoused), Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife. And he was soon after the legal, actual husband of Mary.
Of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ; that person who was called Jesus is by the direction of the angel, as we shall by and by see, who was also called Christ, which, as we said, signifieth Anointed, and the same with Messiah. It is observed by some that the name Christ was given to kings of Judah (because of their anointing) before the captivity, but to none after, till he came who was the Christ; God by that providence (if the Jews would have understood it) pointing out to them, that the person was now come who was promised them under the notion of the Messiah, Daniel 9:25,Daniel 9:26, and whom they expected, as appeareth from John 1:41; John 4:25, and no longer to be expected.
The evangelist, for reasons which we cannot fathom, reduces our Saviour’s progenitors to fourteen in each period of the Jewish state; and in the first period, determining with David, there were no more. In the second, he leaveth out three kings descended from the daughter of Ahab. In the third, which was from the captivity to Christ, there were doubtless more; Luke reckoneth up twenty-four, (taking in Christ for one), and agreeth in very few with Matthew, who was forced to leave out some to keep to this number of fourteen. Nor doth Matthew speak any thing false, or contradictious to Luke, in saying there were fourteen though there were more. Besides, there might be many more progenitors of Mary than of Joseph, whose pedigree Matthew deriveth.
The evangelist prefaceth this extraordinary birth of our Saviour in this manner.
Now the birth or Jesus Christ was on this wise; not in the ordinary course and manner in which children are conceived and brought forth into the world (with child of the Holy Ghost Luke 1:35), but in this wonderful manner.
When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph. Betrothing, or espousing, was nothing else but a solemn promise of marriage made by two persons each to other, at such a distance of time as they agreed upon. It was a decent usage, approved of (if not ordained) by God, as appears by Deuteronomy 20:7. That we are obliged still to use it I dare not say; it might be a prudential order and constitution of that state. There was nothing in it typical, nothing to bring it under the notion of a carnal ordinance, as the apostle calls some of their ordinances relating to the worship of God. It seemeth equitable, that the parties to be married might have some convenient time to think seriously of the great change they are soon to make in their lives, and more solemnly seek unto God for his blessing upon them; as also that they might more freely discourse together about their household affairs, and the settlement of their families, than the modesty of the virgins of that age would otherwise have allowed them. It made them man and wife before God, though they came not together for some time after. The distance of time seemeth to have been left to the agreement of parties and parents. In this case we cannot certainly assert the distance, but it appeareth to have been such as that she was
found with child before they came together. Mary knew what the evangelist here asserts, that it was by
the Holy Ghost; for as she must know that she had not known man as she told the angel, Luke 1:34; so the angel had satisfied her, saying, Luke 1:35, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. It cannot be doubted but that she revealed this to some of her friends, but how it came to be found, or who found it, we are not told. Joseph as yet had no such revelation.
God would have his Son to be born of a virgin:
1. For the fulfilling of the promise, Isaiah 7:14.
2. Of the Holy Ghost, that the womb of the virgin being sanctified by the Spirit of holiness, there might be no traduction of original sin.
Of a betrothed virgin:
1. That he might not be under the reproach of illegitimacy.
2. Nor his mother subjected to the punishment of the Judaical law.
3. That Mary’s stock might be by her betrothed husband.
4. That Christ might have a guard in his infancy.
It was found she was with child, possibly herself or some of her friends told it to Joseph her espoused husband; it is plain from this text he came to the knowledge of it, for upon it, the evangelist saith, he
was minded to put her away privily. Had Joseph at this time heard and believed that the Holy Ghost had come upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her, being a good man, he would not have entertained thoughts of putting her away. But though she had before received this revelation, and might possibly have communicated it to some of her friends, yet it is manifest that her husband Joseph had not heard it, or at least was not easy to believe a thing of so unusual and extraordinary a nature. That she was with child was evident, how she came to be so was as yet hidden from him in nature, and so incredible a thing, as it had argued too much of easiness of belief for him to have believed, had not Joseph had (as afterward he had) a Divine revelation for it: he therefore receiving such a report, and finding it to be true, resolves to put her away in the most private manner he could, rather than to expose her to a public shame, or to be made a public example. Their being betrothed was a thing publicly taken notice of, and he could not put her away so privately but there must be witnesses of it; the meaning therefore must be, as privately as the nature of the thing would bear. Joseph in this case had the choice of three things:
1. He might, notwithstanding this, have taken her to his house as his wife, for the law of divorce, or putting away, was but a law giving a liberty in case of a discerned uncleanness to put away the wife, it did not lay any under an obligation so to do.
2. He might give her a bill of divorce, and leave her with her friends. Now those skilled in the Jewish writings tell us this might be done, either more privately before two or three witnesses, putting a writing of that import into her bosom; or more openly and publicly before the magistrate.
3. He might, according to the law, Deuteronomy 22:23,Deuteronomy 22:24, &c., have brought her forth to be examined, whether she had only suffered a rape, or had herself consented. If it was done with her consent, she was by the law to be stoned.
Of these Joseph, in his first thoughts upon the matter, and before he rightly did understand the thing, chooseth the second and the milder part, and resolves to put her away, but in the most private manner the law would in that case allow him. He did this (saith the evangelist) because he was
a just man, where the term δικαιος signifieth equitable, in opposition to severity and rigour; nor ought any to say Joseph in this showed himself an unjust man, because by the law she ought to have been stoned to death; for that is a mistake. Supposing she had been with child by man, yet if she had been forced the man only was to die, Deuteronomy 22:25,Deuteronomy 22:26; or she might have been with child before her betrothing, in which case she was only obliged to marry him that had so abused her. A kind and equitable man always presumes the best, especially in a case where life is concerned; besides that, no doubt Mary had by this time told Joseph the truth, and what the angel had said to her, to which (it being so incredible a thing as not to be believed but upon a Divine revelation) though Joseph was not obliged, having as yet no such revelation, to give a present easy faith, yet he might reasonably give so much credit as to resolve upon the mildest course he could take, though he was willing also to avoid the blot upon himself by taking her to him for his wife according to his contract. God will not leave so good a man long unresolved what to do.
What we have in this verse assures us, that Joseph was not only inclined, by the kindness and benignity of his own natural temper, and by his charity, to that moderate resolution he had taken up, but also more immediately influenced by God, who was now sending a messenger to him to tell him what he would have him to do in this case. Whether this angel was the angel Gabriel, who Luke tells us, Luke 1:26, was sent to Mary, to tell her that the power of the Most High should overshadow her, or some other angel, none can assert; an angel it was. He appeareth to Joseph while he was asleep, and in and by a dream. By dreams was one way by which God revealed his mind to people formerly, Hebrews 1:1; one of those ways by which God made himself known to prophets, Numbers 12:6; and not to prophets only, but to pagan princes sometimes, as appeareth by the instances we have in Scripture of the dreams which Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar both had. Dreams are either natural, or supernatural, or preternatural. How to distinguish the former from the two latter is not my work in this place, and possibly a difficult task, especially in our times, when God, having spoken to us by his Son, and given us his word as a perfect rule, hath left off ordinary speaking to his prophets by dreams and visions, though not limited himself but that he may sometimes so speak. We are assured of the truth of a Divine revelation to Joseph by this way of dreams, while his head was full of thoughts what he was to do in this case. God thinks of us when we sleep, and one way or other will not be wanting to our inquisition in sincerity to know his will, in the difficult cases of our lives. The angel saith unto Joseph,
Joseph, thou son of David; by which compellation he lets him know he was to be the supposed and legal, though not the natural, father of the Messias, who was by the confession of all men to be the Son of David.
Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; she that is thy betrothed wife, and so thy wife in my sight; thou hast espoused her, and called me to witness that thou wilt consummate this marriage with her in a due time, and take her to thine house. I see what hath happened which troubleth thy thoughts; possibly thou art afraid lest thou shouldest offend me, marrying one who appeareth unto thee to be defiled; or thou art afraid of bringing a blot upon thyself if thou shouldest consummate this marriage; but do not fear any of these things, but go on, and consummate thy marriage. She is not, as you supposeth, or mayest fear, defiled by man,
for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. That holy thing, ( as Luke speaks), that human body which is in her womb, is created in her, and is of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost, by his almighty creating power, hath supplied what is wanting from the help of the creature, as to ordinary productions of this nature.
When the usual time of women is accomplished,
she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall not be thy natural son, but he shall be her son, not begot by thee, but brought forth by her, so flesh of her flesh. His name shall be called Jesus by thee, or by his mother. It is the will of God thou shouldest give him that name.
For he shall save his people from their sins. It was the custom of the Jews (God’s ancient people) to give names to their children, either expressive of the mercy which God had showed them in giving them their children, or of the duty which their children did owe unto God. This name was given by God, expressing the mercy of God to his people in giving them this child;
for he shall save his people from their sins, saith the angel. Jesus comes from a Hebrew word, which signifies salvation. Joshua had his name from the same word, because he was to be a temporal saviour to save the Jews, the whole body of the Jews, from the Canaanites their enemies. This Jesus was to save his people, all that should believe in his name, whether Jews or Gentiles, from their sins. Hereby the angel hints the mistake of the Jews, in thinking the Messias should be a temporal saviour, who should save the Jews from their enemies, minding them that he was to save them, not from their bodily, but spiritual enemies, from their sins; the guilt of them, and the power of them, and from the eternal danger of them: and he alone should do it; There is none other name under heaven given among men, neither is there salvation in any other, Acts 4:12.
By these great acts of Divine Providence, that which was spoken and prophesied of by Isaiah, Isaiah 7:14, speaking by inspiration from God, was fulfilled. Though things are said in the evangelists to be fulfilled when the types have had their accomplishment in the antitype, and when something cometh to pass much like, or bearing some proportion to, something which before happened in the world, (as I shall show hereafter), yet I take the sense of being fulfilled here to be literally fulfilled; believing so much of that prophecy as is here quoted did literally concern Christ, and none but him. But we must take heed of interpreting the particle that as signifying the end of God’s action in this great work of Providence; for the end for which God sent his Son into the world was before expressed, to save his people from their sins, not to fulfil a prophecy.
That here only signifies the consequent of that act of Divine Providence, and the sense is but only this, By all this which was done, was fulfilled that which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, &c. But the Jews have so much clamouring against the application of that text Isaiah 7:14 to Christ, and some learned interpreters thinking the fulfilling mentioned to be no more than the fulfilling of a type in the antitype, it will be necessary that we make it appear that it was literally fulfilled. To which I know of but two prejudices:
1. That it could be no relief to Ahaz, nor to the Jews, against their sense and fear of their present danger, to tell them that Christ should be born of a virgin eight hundred years after.
2. That whereas it is added, Isaiah 7:16, Before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
Supposing those two kings to be Pekah king of Israel and Rezin king of Syria, who were at that time joined in a siege against Jerusalem, or at least preparing for it, and the child mentioned Isaiah 7:16 to be the son of a virgin promised Isaiah 7:14, it could be no relief to Ahaz, nor any great news for the prophet to have told Ahaz, that they should both leave the country before eight hundred years were elapsed. Let us therefore first consider the history to which that prophecy related. Isaiah 7:1,Isaiah 7:2 we are told, that in the time of Ahaz, Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it. And it was told the house of David, ( that is, Ahaz), saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind. The expedient which Ahaz thought upon in this distress, was to get Tiglathpileser, the king of Assyria, to join with and help him; which he afterward did, hiring him with the silver and gold found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house, as we find 2 Kings 16:7,2 Kings 16:8. This conjunction with idolaters was what the Lord had forbidden, and had often declared his abhorrence of. To prevent it, he sends his prophet Isaiah to him: Isaiah 7:3,Isaiah 7:4, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shear-jashub thy son, at the end of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field; and say unto him, fear not, neither be faint hearted, & c. In short, he assures him in the name of the Lord, that the counsel of these two kings should not stand, nor come to pass, that within threescore and five years Israel should not be a people, &c., Isaiah 7:7,Isaiah 7:8. Ahaz knew not how to believe this. Isaiah offereth him from God to ask a sign for the confirmation of his word, either in the depth, or in the height. Ahaz refuseth it under pretence that he would not tempt the Lord, as if it had been a tempting God to have asked a sign at his command. At this the Lord was angry, as appeareth by the prophet’s reply, Isaiah 7:13; And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Then he goeth on, Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin, & c. There was nothing more ordinary in the prophets than to comfort the people of God amongst the Jews in their distresses with the promise of the Messias; this we find they often did with reference to the captivity of Babylon, and in other causes of distress and trouble. And certainly that is the design of the prophet here, in these words: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel. Ahaz had refused to believe the promise God gave him, to defeat the counsel of these two kings; he had refused to ask a sign, for the confirmation of God’s word. Well, (saith the prophet), God shall give you that fear him a sign, he shall in his own time send you the Messias, whose name shall be called Emmanuel, and he shall be born of a virgin. Nor yet doth he leave Ahaz and his people comfortless, as to their present distress, for saith he, Isaiah 7:16, Before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. The Hebrew is הנער which I think were better translated this child, than the child, for ה seems not to be a relative, (referring to the child, mentioned in Isaiah 7:14), but a demonstrative, referring to the son of Isaiah, Shearjashub, whom God, Isaiah 7:3, commanded the prophet, going to meet Ahaz, to carry with him, who probably was a very young child. Saith the prophet: Here is a little child whom God hath commanded me to bring with me; before this child be much older, this land which thou art so much afraid of shall be quitted of both those kings who have now some possession of it; for at this time Rezin had taken Elath, a city of Judah, 2 Kings 16:6; and doubtless he and Pekah had taken divers places, for they were come up to Jerusalem itself. And indeed, if this be not the sense, it is very hard to conceive to what purpose God commanded Isaiah to take Shearjashub with him when he went upon this errand. Isaiah 7:3. So that Isaiah 7:14 remains as a prophecy respecting the Messiah only, and given not for any relief of unbelieving Ahaz as to his present distress, but for some relief to God’s people among the Jews, with reference to their posterity. This will appear a much more probable sense than theirs, who think that Mahershalalhashbaz is the son mentioned Isaiah 7:14, whom we read of Isaiah 8:3, who was born to Isaiah of the prophetess, (who some think was at this time a virgin), and was a type of Christ; for the Scripture doth not tell us whether that prophetess was a virgin or a widow, neither was it any great wonder that a virgin being married should conceive, and bear a son. Nor had this been any relief to Ahaz, as to his present distress, for this virgin (if she were such) was yet to be married, to conceive, and bear a son; so that, according to that notion, we must allow three or four years before Ahaz could have expected relief. This is further advantaged by that passage, Isaiah 8:18, Behold, I and the children which the Lord hath given me are for signs: not the child, but the children. Shearjashub was for a sign of God’s deliverance of the Jews from those two kings; Mahershalalhashbaz was for a sign of the destruction of the Israelites within five years, and also of Syria, which fell out afterward. Thus Isaiah 8:14 remains a literal prophecy of Christ. For the Jewish interpretation of it concerning Hezekiah, (born fifteen years after), it is too ridiculous to be mentioned.
The will of God (as we heard) was revealed to Joseph in a dream. It is God that giveth a power to sleep, and a power to awake; therefore it is said, being raised from sleep, he showed both his faith and obedience; his faith in the Divine revelation, a certainty of which he had doubtless by some extraordinary Divine impression, and his obedience to the Divine precept.
He took unto him his wife, that is, he took her unto his house, (for betrothed virgins used to abide at their own friends’ houses till the consummation of the marriage), and owned her as his wife, yet not fully using her as such, for the text saith he
knew her not (a modest phrase used from the beginning of the world, as appears from Genesis 4:1, to express the conjugal act)
till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. Some make a great stir in determining whether he knew her afterwards, yea or no. Some of the ancients were stiff in their opinion that he did not, so are the popish writers, and many protestant interpreters. Mr. Calvin I think determines best, that none will move such a question, but such as are unwarrantably curious; nor contend for either part, but such as are unreasonably quarrelsome. For as, on the one side, none can conclude that she had more children from the word
till, further than they can conclude, from Psalms 110:1, that Christ shall not for ever sit at his Father’s right hand, (the word until being a particle only exclusive of a preceding time, not affirming the thing in future time), nor doth the term firstborn conclude any born afterward; so, on the other side, there are no cogent arguments to prove that Mary had no more children by Joseph. We read of the brother of our Lord, Galatians 1:19, and of his mother and his "brethren," Matthew 12:47; and though it be true brethren may signify kinsmen, according to the Hebrew dialect, yet that it doth so in these texts cannot be proved. The Holy Ghost had made use of the virgin for the production of the Messias; why after this her womb should be shut up, and Joseph take her home to be his wife, and not use her as such I cannot tell, nor yet what reproach it could be to Mary or to our Saviour, marriage being God’s ordinance, and the undefiled bed honourable: and those who think our Saviour would have been dishonoured in any others lying in the same bed after him, seem to forget how much he humbled himself in lying in that bed first, and then in a stable and a manger. We know he knew her not till Christ was born, whether he did afterward or no we are willingly ignorant because God hath not told us.
And he called his name Jesus: this is added to declare his obedience to the command received by the angel. We shall meet with more circumstances relating to the birth of Christ when we come to the two first chapters of Luke.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 1". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent