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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 1

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Verses 1-17

Mat 1:1-17

Section I.
Genealogy of Jesus,
Matthew 1:1-17

J.W. McGarvey

Title of the List, Matthew 1:1

1. The book.—The expression with which this narrative opens—"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ"—is not the title of the entire narrative, for as such it would be inadequate; but it is the title of the genealogical list which follows. (See a similar use of the word book, Genesis 5:1.) The title shows both the nature of the list and its object. It is the genealogy of Jesus, and its object is to show that He is "son of David, son of Abraham." God had promised to each of these patriarchs that the Christ should be of his offspring, and Matthew shows by this list that Jesus is the offspring of both. The term book is without the article in the original, and should have the indefinite article in English. It is not called the book, as if there were no other, but a book. Another, differing materially from this, is preserved in the third chapter of Luke.

the generation.—The Greek term rendered generation (γνεσις) has here the unusual sense of genealogy. It designates the line of ancestry through which the fleshly nature of Jesus was generated. (Comp. Romans 1:3, in the original.)

First Division, Matthew 1:2-6. (Luke 3:31-34)

2. Abraham begat.—In pursuance of the object indicated in the title, Matthew proceeds first to reproduce from the Old Testament records the line of descent from Abraham to David. This he may have taken either from the list given in 1 Chronicles 1:34 to 1 Chronicles 2:15, or from the original history of the persons found in Genesis and Ruth. (See Genesis 21:1-3; Genesis 25:21-26; Genesis 19:35; Genesis 38:29; Ruth 4:18-21.)

3. of Thamar.—Contrary to the usual custom of omitting names of females from genealogical tables, Matthew here mentions Tamar as the mother of Pharez, and, in verse 5, Ruth, as the mother of Obed. He also states the fact, nowhere else mentioned in the Scriptures, that Salmon begat Booz of Rachab—that is, as understood by the commentators in general, of Rahab the harlot. (Comp. Joshua 2:1-21; Joshua 6:22-25.) These three females, together with Bathsheba (verse 6), are mentioned because of remarkable peculiarities in their history. The Gentile origin of Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth; the singular incest of the first (Genesis 38:12-26); the depraved life but subsequent remarkable faith of the second (Joshua 2:8-11; Hebrews 11:31); and the virtues of the third, so remarkable for one of heathen education, combined to render them objects of especial interest to the Jews when remembered as maternal ancestors of David and his royal offspring. It was equally worthy of note that Bathsheba, the guilty and unfortunate wife of Uriah (2 Samuel 11, 12.), became, in the mysterious workings of God’s providence, the mother of the heirs of David’s throne. That all of these women were among the maternal ancestors of Jesus, was equally worthy of notice, and is in keeping with his mission as the Savior of both Jews and Gentiles, and of the most sinful in both classes who can be brought to repentance.

5, 6. Salmon... David.—Commentators have long noted the singular circumstance that David is named as the fourth in descent from Salmon the husband of Rahab, although the time between the mention of Rahab and the birth of David is 366 years. The time is ascertained by the following calculation: From the departure out of Egypt to the founding of Solomon’s temple was 480 years. (1 Ks. 6:1.) Counting back from this event to the birth of David, we have four years of Solomon’s reign (1 Ks. 6:1.), the forty years of David’s reign (1 Ks. 2:11), and the thirty years of David’s life before he came to the throne (2 Samuel 5:4)—making an aggregate of seventy-four years to be deducted from the 480, and leaving 406. From this number we again subtract the forty years between the exode and Rahab’s appearance in the history, which leaves 366 years for the time between this event and the birth of David. Now if we suppose that Salmon took Rahab to wife during the same year in which she was delivered from the destruction of Jericho, and that Boaz was born the following year, we have 365 years to divide between three generations. This would require, on the supposition of a division about equal, that Boaz should have been 122 years old at the birth of Obed, Obed 122 at the birth of Jesse, and Jesse 121 at the birth of David. These figures are altogether improbable, unions we suppose a providence even more remarkable than that connected with the birth of Isaac when his father was 100 years old—a supposition not to be adopted in the absence of indubitable proof. Some writers, to avoid the difficulty involved in these figures, have suggested that the Rahab here mentioned may have been some other than the harlot of Jericho; but this affects not the case materially, for Salmon, being son of Nahshon, captain of the tribe of Judah at the beginning of the forty years of wandering (Numbers 1:7), must have been cotemporary with Rahab of Jericho; and if the Rahab of our text is a different woman, still the birth of her son Boaz must have occurred not much later than the time above mentioned. We think there is no reason to doubt the opinion of the best recent commentators, that some names are omitted in this place, the more noted ones alone being retained. This opinion becomes a necessity if, as is not unlikely, it be found that the true chronology of this period is that given by Paul in Acts 13:18-20. He makes it 450 years from the entrance into Canaan to the reign of Saul, and Saul’s reign commenced ten years before the birth of David. (Acts 13:21. Compare 2 Samuel 5:4.) This gives 460 years, instead of 366, between Rahab and David, all of which must be divided as above—making Boaz, Obed, and Jesse each 153½ years old at the birth of his son, unless we suppose some of the generations to have been omitted. If such omissions have occurred, they were made by the author of the book of Ruth. The bearing of omissions on the correctness of genealogies is considered below under verses 8 and 11.

Second Division, Matthew 1:6-11. (Luke 3:27-31)

The names in this division of the list are derived from the history of the persons as given in the two books of Kings and Second Chronicles, or from the list in 1 Chronicles 3:10-19. We know not that the Jews had any other records which could have furnished the information; and if they had, the Scriptures would still be naturally preferred by Matthew as being more accessible and more authoritative.

8. Joram begat Ozias.—Between Joram and Ozias, called in the Old Testament Uzziah and Azariah, Matthew omits three names which are in the text from which he copied. These are: Ahaziah, son and successor of Joram (2 Chronicles 22:1); Joash, son and successor of Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 22:11; 2 Chronicles 24:1); and Amaziah, son and successor of Joash (2 Chronicles 24:27). Thus Uzziah, here said to have been begotten by Joram, was actual son of Amaziah, and was in the fourth generation of descent from Joram.

This omission gives rise to three important inquiries: First. Does it vitiate the list? Second. How can it be true that Joram begat Uzziah? Third. Why was the omission made? We will discuss these questions in their order.

First. If it had been Matthew’s object to give a full list of the ancestry of Jesus, or if his object had required a full list, the omission would certainly impair the value of the list given, and would tend to shake our confidence in his accuracy. But neither of these suppositions is true. Matthew’s object was logical rather than historical Desiring to prove Jesus to be a son of David, he uses the history of David’s posterity exclusively with reference to this purpose. Now, in order to prove a man a descendant of a certain other, it is not always necessary to name all of the intervening persons in the line. If I could show, for example, by authentic records, that my grandfather was a grandson of Christopher Columbus, I would thereby prove my own lineal descent from the great discoverer, even though I should not be able to furnish the other two names in the list. Or if the entire line of descent were published in the history of my country, I would be at liberty, in stating my proof, to mention my connection with any one or more of the names, leaving my reader to test my accuracy, if he chose to do so, by means of the published records. This is Matthew’s case. In proving that Jesus descended from David, it is immaterial how many names he omits, provided those which he gives are correct: for the list from which he copied is three times repeated in the Jewish Scriptures, and the means of testing his accuracy were in the possession of every synagogue throughout the world. Any Jew who desired to see whether the names in this division of the list actually belonged to it, had only to open his own Bible, whether written in Hebrew or in Greek, and read for himself.

Second. As to the statement that Joram begat Uzziah, if we judge according to our own use of the term begat, we must pronounce it untrue. But the language of every nation and of every period must be understood in the light of its own peculiar usages. Now, it so happens that genealogical terms were used by the Jews in a much wider sense than by ourselves. For example, in describing Jacob’s family at the time of going into Egypt, Moses names the sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons of Leah, and then says: "These be the sons of Leah which she bore to Jacob in Padan-Aram." (Genesis 46:8-15.) Here the term sons is used to include persons of the second and third generations of descendants, and Leah is said to have borne persons who were actually borne by her daughters-in-law and the wives of her grandsons. These terms are used again in the same sense concerning the offspring of Zilpah, of Rachel, and of Bilhah (18, 22, 25). Again, in the twenty-sixth verse of the same chapter, it is said of the same offspring, "All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which come out of his loins, all the souls were three-score and six." Here all are said to have come out of Jacob’s loins, another mode of saying that he begat them, although grandsons and great grandsons are included. These are the most striking examples of the kind which I have been able to find in the Scriptures, but there are many others which show that all the terms expressive of kindred were used by the Hebrews in a wider sense than by us. For example, Laban calls Jacob his brother, whereas we would call him his nephew (Genesis 29:15); Jacob calls Abraham his father, whereas we would call him his grandfather (32:9); Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul, is called his son (2 Samuel 19:24; comp. 9:6); and Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, and granddaughter of Omri, is called the daughter of Omri (2 Chronicles 21:6; comp. 22:2). Such examples abound in the Old Testament, and are familiar to every careful student of the Scriptures. They originated from the sparsity of words in the Hebrew language, requiring that one word should serve a variety of purposes. The language had no such compound terms as grandson, granddaughter, etc., but used the simple terms son and daughter, leaving the reader to gather from the context the exact relationship. In like manner, as we have seen above, a woman was said to bear all who descended from her, and a man to beget all who descended from him. It is a singular circumstance, that although we have discarded this extended use of the word beget, we have never found a single word to substitute for it, but have to employ a periphrasis, and say a certain one was the progenitor or the ancestor of another. Matthew speaks strictly in accordance with the usage of his own nation, then, when he says, "Joram begat Uzziah;" and the statement is strictly true in the sense which he attaches to the term begat.

Third. Having thus far considered those objections to the omission which arise from a peculiar use of terms, and from a failure to notice the author’s exact purpose in giving the genealogy, we proceed next to inquire as to his object in making the omission. It certainly must have been made intentionally; for it is scarcely possible, leaving his inspiration out of view, that Matthew could have accidentally omitted three names in one group; and if he had done so, it is equally unlikely that the mistake would have remained uncorrected. Both friend and foe, so far as the Jewish Scriptures were known, would have detected the error, and have demanded a correction. It is equally certain that Matthew was not prompted to the omission by a desire to deceive, or by any other evil motive. He had no motive for deception, seeing that his object as regards the claims of Christ could have been secured as well, to say the least, by retaining the names as by omitting them; and even if he had had this, or any other evil motive, the omission was too easily detected to be ventured upon for an improper purpose. It is also a fact that he had a precedent for such omissions in his own Bible: for Ezra, in giving his own genealogy as proof of his descent from Aaron, omits six names in a single group. (Ezekiel 7:1-3; comp. 1 Chronicles 6:6-11.) The candid reader will now acquit Matthew of the slightest suspicion of having omitted these names in order to gain any improper advantage, or because he was not aware of their existence. Why, then, did he omit them?

The only answer we can give to this question is one which must appear somewhat inadequate to the modern mind, because we have been so differently educated, or rather because we have not been at all educated on the subject of genealogies. It is this: Seeing there were just fourteen names in the preceding division, that from Abraham to David, he desired, for the sake of aiding the memory, to have the same number in this division. By leaving out the three which we have been considering, and one yet to be mentioned (verse 11), he secured the requisite number. The importance of adopting all innocent devices to aid the memory is realized when we remember that the only means of learning the Scriptures which the masses enjoyed in that age was hearing them read in public. Moreover, the disciples had constant use in their disputations with the Jews for the genealogy of Jesus, and this furnished a special call for some aid to the memory in this case. If it be objected to this, that such a purpose could not justify a mode of writing which would puzzle Bible readers of subsequent ages, we reply that none are puzzled who approach the subject aright, and that God has seen fit to so construct the Bible as to call forth the best efforts of its readers in seeking to understand some of its parts. That he is wise in doing so is seen in the fact that such efforts are highly beneficial to those who make them, securing a blessing to every diligent student of the Bible which well repays him for all his toil.

11. Josias begat Jechonias.—Between Josiah and Jechoniah Matthew omits another name, that of Jehoiakim. When Josiah was slain in battle at Megiddo, the people elected his son Jehoahaz to be his successor, but Pharaoh-necho, who had then overrun Judea, removed him and put his brother Eliakim on the throne, changing his name to Jehoiakim. Jechoniah was the son and successor of Jehoiakim, and consequently was grandson to Josiah. (See 2 Kings 23:29-31; 2 Kings 24:6.) All that we have said above in reference to the omissions in verse 8 is applicable to this omission.

and his brethren.—These were probably not brethren of Jechonias, in our sense of the term, but the kindred of the young king, called in the text of 2 Kings his "princes," and here called his brethren in that broad sense of the term peculiar to Hebrew usage. (See 2 Kings 24:12.)

Third Division, Matthew 1:12-16. (Luke 3:23-27)

Only three of the names in this division of the list are found in the Old Testament, viz: Jechoniah, Salathiel, and Zerubbabel. This is because the Old Testament history terminated in the days of Zerubbabel, who was a cotemporary of Nehemiah, the latest historical writer of that Testament. True, there are a few items of history in Nehemiah’s book reaching down to a later period, but they were appended by a later hand, e. g., Nehemiah 12:22. It is also true that five sons of Zerubbabel are mentioned in 1 Chin. 19, 20, but Abiud, the son mentioned in this list, is not among them, unless he appears there under a different name. He was more likely a younger son, born after the latest additions to the list in Chronicles. All of Matthew’s list, therefore, from Abiud to the immediate ancestors of Joseph, who were known to Matthew without the aid of written records, was derived from records made subsequent to the close of Old Testament history. If we suppose that Jacob, the father of Joseph, was known to Matthew, the number which he derived from such records was eight, including Abiud and the seven between him and Jacob. That such records were kept is attested by Josephus, himself an enemy of Christ and therefore not to be suspected of manufacturing history to support the Christian Scriptures. In the first section of his autobiography, after tracing his ancestry back to his grandfather’s father, he says: "Thus have I set down the genealogy of my family as I found it described in the public records." He further asserts in his book against Appian (B. i. 8, 7), "We have the names of our high priests from father to son, set down in our records for the interval of two thousand years;" and still further, he says that when a priest proposed to marry, in order to be sure that his intended wife is of pure Jewish blood, "he is to make a scrutiny, and take his wife’s genealogy from the ancient tables, and procure many witnesses to it." This shows that not only the priestly family, but other families kept their genealogies; for if not, how could the priest trace the ancestry of any woman whom he might wish to marry? The necessity for keeping such tables grew out of the Mosaic law of inheritance, which transmitted landed estates from father to son throughout all generations, and which, even when lands were sold, restored them to the original owner every fiftieth year. (See Numbers 27:1-11; Numbers 36:1-12; Leviticus 25:23-28.) Joseph, indeed, was in the very act of continuing his family record when Jesus was born; for the journey from Nazareth was for the purpose of enrolment, not of taxation. (See Luke 2:4-5.) The public record in our own country of all marriages, and in Great Britain of both marriages and births, as also the private records kept in family Bibles, are modern substitutes for the ancient Jewish custom.

12. Jechonias begat Salathiel.—Jechoniah was on the throne at the time of the captivity, and in predicting his captivity the prophet Jeremiah used these words: "Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, or ruling any more in Judah." (Jeremiah 22:30.) Some have supposed from this that there is a contradiction between Jeremiah and Matthew. An attempt has been made to reconcile them by supposing that Neri, mentioned in Luke’s list as father of Salathiel, was his actual father, and that Matthew calls him the son of Jechoniah because Neri took Jechoniah’s widow, according to a provision of the law. and raised up seed i to his brother. But this is a labored attempt to remove a difficulty which has no real existence. Jeremiah does not say that Jechoniah should be literally childless, but he says, "Write this man childless," and then explains by the statement, "for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David or ruling any more in Judah." He was to be childless only in the sense of having no son to succeed him on the throne. It should also be observed that Matthew is not alone responsible for the statement that Jechoniah begat Salathiel, for the same statement is made by the author of Chronicles, who was, doubtless, Ezra, a cotemporary of both Salathiel and Zerubbabel. (1 Chronicles 3:17.)

Salathiel begat Zorobabel.—In 1 Chronicles 3:19, Zerubbabel is represented as the son of Pedaiah, and not of Salathiel, as Matthew here has it; but Ezra and Nehemiah both agree with Matthew; and their statements occur in historical passages which are not so liable to corruption through mistakes of transcribers, as are genealogical tables like that in Chronicles. (See Ezekiel 3:2; Nehemiah 12:1.) Luke also follows these two writers instead of Chronicles. (Luke 3:27.) This uniform agreement of all the parallel passages renders it almost certain that the passage in Chronicles has undergone an accidental change by the hands of transcribers, Pedaiah having been written in the place of Salathiel. The present reading of Chronicles is also that of the Septuagint version, made two hundred and eighty years before Christ which shows that the reading is quite an ancient one.

13. Zorobabel begat Abiud —As above stated, the name of Abiud is not given in the Old Testament, although five other sons of Zerubbabel are mentioned. Some writers have conjectured that Abiud is another name for some one of these, but the greater probability is that he was a younger son. At any rate, Matthew must have had a sufficient reason for giving us Abiud, seeing that either of the names mentioned in Chronicles would have suited him as well if it had been the true name.

The Divisions Stated, Matthew 1:17

17. fourteen generations.—We have already considered the list in three divisions, because Matthew himself so divides it in this verse. The divisions are not arbitrary, but altogether natural. The persons in the first, from Abraham to David, were Patriarchs, David being the first in the entire line who was both a patriarch and a king. (See Acts 2:29.) Those of the second were all kings, successors of David, Jechoniah being the last king of Judah in the direct line of descent from David, although his brother Zedekiah reigned eleven years after he and the chief part of the royal family had been carried into captivity. (2 Kings 24:15-18.) Those of the third division were all heirs of David’s throne, but none of them reigned except Jesus, who now sits on David’s throne according to the promise. (See Acts 15:15-17; Acts 2:29-35.) The manner in which Matthew counts fourteen in each division is somewhat singular. The first actually contains fourteen names. The second is made to contain fourteen, as we have seen above, by omitting four names. The third contains only thirteen new names, but is made to count fourteen by repeating, as the first of this division, the name of Jechoniah, which was the last of the second division. This is apparent to any one who will take the trouble to count. It deceives no one, because it lies on the very surface of the text; but it shows once more how careful Matthew was to have an even count in the divisions of his list. This circumstance also shows that there are no omissions in the last division; for if the actual number of generations had been fourteen or more, there would have been no occasion to repeat the name of Jechoniah.

Before closing our remarks on the genealogy it is proper to say something of the great difference between the forms of proper names in the Old Testament and in the New. This difference forces itself on the attention of the reader here more than anywhere else in the New Testament. The difference arises from three distinct causes: First, from the loss of certain letters by Hebrew names in passing through the Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written. The Greek has no h nor j, and it usually terminates masculine proper names with an s; so that Hebrew names with the former letters in them must be spelt in Greek without them, and those terminating in h, which is a very common Hebrew termination, must have h changed to s. Thus, Rehoboam becomes Roboam, Hezekiah becomes Ezekias; Elijah, Elias etc. Second, the Hebrews were much given to contraction of proper names: thus, Jehoshaphat is contracted into Josaphat, Jehoram into Joram, Azariah into Uzziah. This last name furnishes an example of the co-working of both these causes. Originally Azariah, it became by contraction Uzziah, and then, by the peculiar mode of spelling in Greek, it became Ozias, as in verses 8 and 9 above. Third, all living languages undergo some changes of pronunciation, and subsequent changes of spelling to suit the new pronunciation. Some of these differences are doubtless to be accounted for in this way, e. g., Salathiel, of Chronicles and Matthew, is Shealtiel in Ezra and Nehemiah; while Zerubbabel, of all these Old Testament writers, is Zorobabel in Matthew and Luke.

Argument of Section 1

Matthew’s chief object, as we have stated in the Introduction, § 5, is to prove the Messiahship and the divinity of Jesus, and every section of the narrative has some bearing on this question. His object in the genealogy, as the superscription sufficiently indicates (verse 1), is to show that Jesus is of the right lineage to be the Messiah. God had promised with an oath to David that he would raise up from his offspring the Messiah to sit on his throne. (Psalms 89:3-4.) This was well understood by both the friends and the foes of Jesus. (See Matthew 22:42.) The section shows that Jesus possessed this characteristic of the promised Messiah. It does not prove him to be of the blood of David; for the blood line, according to Matthew’s own showing in the latter part of this chapter, did not pass from Joseph to Jesus; but Jesus was born to Mary after her marriage with Joseph, and consequently, he was Joseph’s lawful heir, and inherited the throne through him. The argument does not prove that Jesus is the Messiah, but only that he is of the right lineage. It establishes one of the facts necessary to the proof of the Messiahship. Luke’s genealogy supplements Matthew’s by showing that Jesus, on his mother’s side, inherited the blood of David; but Luke does not follow the line of kings, and consequently he proves nothing as regards the inheritance of the throne, Thus we see that by a line of ancestry which brought Jesus no inheritance he received the blood of David, and by a line which established no blood connection he inherited the throne of David. We can but admire the providence which first brought about this striking coincidence and then caused it to be recorded in so singular a manner by two independent historians.

The Genealogy of Jesus - Matthew 1:1-17

Open It

1. Why do you think genealogical research is such a growing and popular hobby?

2. If you have ever researched your family tree, what can you tell the group about your heritage or about any especially interesting or famous ancestors?

Explore It

3. Whose genealogy is Matthew tracing? (Matthew 1:1)

4. What prominent ancestors of Christ are mentioned? (Matthew 1:1)

5. Who is listed first in the various sections? (Matthew 1:2; Matthew 1:6; Matthew 1:12)

6. What significant women were ancestors of Christ? (Matthew 1:5-6; Matthew 1:16)

7. Who is the only person in the record who is listed with his title? (Matthew 1:6)

8. How does Solomon figure into the genealogy? (Matthew 1:6)

9. The genealogical record is divided into what three periods? (Matthew 1:17)

10. What span of time does the genealogical record cover? (Matthew 1:17)

11. What important event and three people are used as a basis for marking the generations? (Matthew 1:17)

12. How many generations are cited in all? (Matthew 1:17)

Get It

13. Why do you think the Bible includes long genealogical lists like this?

14. Why do you think Matthew traces Christ’s ancestors back only to Abraham and not all the way back to Adam?

15. If God works sovereignly and graciously even when we sin and make poor choices, why should we make the effort to live righteously?

16. Why do you think God waited so many generations to send Christ?

17. How do ancestors and family histories affect who we are?

18. How might this passage encourage those who suffer from a dubious family history?

19. What can you do to minimize your family’s past mistakes and maximize your family’s potential in the future?

20. How important is family heritage to you?

Apply It

21. What actions do you need to take (or choices do you need to make) this week so that your descendants look back on your life as something to live up to and not something to live down?

22. How can you encourage a friend who is struggling in relationships with parents and/or children?

Verses 18-25

Mat 1:18-25

Section II.
Birth of Jesus, Matthew 1:18-25

J.W. McGarvey

Joseph’s Trouble, Matthew 1:18-23

18. found with child.—Matthew’s narrative is here elliptical. He omits the account of the angel’s visit to Mary, and of her immediate departure out of Galilee into Judea, where she remained three months with Elisabeth. (Luke 1:26-56.) It was doubtless very soon after her return into Galilee that her pregnancy was discovered by her relatives and by Joseph. Matthew does not mean by the statement, "she was found with child by the Holy Spirit," that her friends knew it to be from the Holy Spirit, for the next verse shows that Joseph knew it not.

19. to put her away.—Supposing that Mary had committed adultery, Joseph at once resolved to put her away; but he hesitated whether to expose her publicly or to put her away privately. According to the law a public exposure would have subjected her to the penalty of death by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23-24); but although, "being a just man," one who favored the execution of justice, he thought, of this course, he was unwilling to make a public example of her, so he resolved to take advantage of another statute which allowed an unconditional and unexplained separation at the will of the husband. (Deuteronomy 24:1.)

20, 21. appeared to him in a dream.—How those dreams in which God or angels communicated with the dreamers were distinguishable from those in which there was only an appearance of such visitations, is nowhere declared in the Scriptures. Certain it is, however, that God, who causes such visitations, can make the dreamer know their reality. The statement of the angel confirmed the story which Mary, no doubt, had already related, but which Joseph had regarded as incredible.

thy wife.—Mary is called the wife of Joseph, although the marriage had not been consummated, because she virtually sustained this relation to him, and was regarded as his wife in the eyes of the law.

Jesus.—The word means savior, and points to the chief purpose of the incarnation. Little did Joseph then realize what was meant by the statement, "he shall save his people from their sins."

22, 23. that it might be fulfilled.—The words here quoted from Isaiah are part of a prediction addressed to King Ahaz, concerning a threatened invasion of his territory by the kings of Israel and Syria. (Isa. 7:10-16; 8:11-4.) All of it was fulfilled within a few years except what is here quoted—that a virgin should conceive and bring forth a son, and that his name should be called Emmanuel. When the people of Isaiah’s time saw the fulfillment of part of the prediction they should have looked forward with confidence to the fulfillment of the remainder; and so should the succeeding generations of the Jews down to the time of Jesus. Had they done so they would have been more ready to believe the story here recited by Matthew.

The Marriage Consummated and the Child Born,

Matthew 1:24-25. (Luke 2:1-7)

24. took unto him his wife.—Joseph seems to have made no delay in obeying the voice of the angel; consequently the marriage occurred some months previous to the birth of the child. To marry a woman in Mary’s condition must have subjected Joseph to much obloquy. Mary’s explanation of her conception had already been discredited; and when Joseph excused himself for marrying her by telling of the visit and command of the angel, he had the appearance of inventing the story as an excuse for marrying a fallen woman. Under this cloud of ill fame the holy couple must have lived until the miracles attendant on the birth of the child confirmed their story, and the works of his life demonstrated that he was, as Mary had affirmed from the beginning, the actual Son of God.

25. knew her not.—The statement that Joseph knew not Mary (sexually) until she brought forth a son, implies that he did know her after this. The Romish assumption that Mary always remained a virgin, is inconsistent with what is here implied, and is unsupported by any other passage of Scripture. The reader should observe, however, that the term firstborn before son, which has been used to prove that Mary had other sons after Jesus, has been thrown out by the critics. It was probably interpolated to emphasize the fact of Mary’s previous virginity.

Argument of Section 2

In this section Matthew exhibits the fact that Jesus was actually born the Son of God, and that this was in fulfillment of a prediction long previously made by Isaiah. That the prediction had been in existence ever since the reign of Ahaz, was a fact well known to the Jews, both believers and unbelievers. It was equally well known that although Emmanuel was not the personal name of Jesus, he had claimed to be Emmanuel (God with us), and had demonstrated the claim both by the acts of his life and his resurrection from the dead. This part of the prediction, then, was certainly fulfilled in him, and the proof of this contains the proof that the other part was likewise fulfilled; for if we inquire how a being could come into this world at once unquestionably the Son of God and the Son of man, we find no other way in which the event could occur than by his being born of a virgin through the miraculous power of God, as declared by Matthew. Thus our historian, with his mind directed to the compound proposition first affirmed by Peter, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, proves in his first section that he is of the right lineage to be the Christ, and in the second that he is the actual Son of God.

The Birth of Jesus Christ - Matthew 1:18-25

Open It

1. What are the tabloid headlines this week?

2. Why is our society so drawn to gossip and scandal?

3. How do people typically react when facing embarrassing situations?

Explore It

4. What happened to Mary while she and Joseph were engaged? (Matthew 1:18)

5. What do you think Joseph initially thought upon hearing this news about his bride-to-be? (Matthew 1:18-19)

6. What positive character qualities did Joseph possess? (Matthew 1:19)

7. How did Joseph plan to handle this delicate situation? (Matthew 1:19)

8. How was Joseph’s ancestry significant? (Matthew 1:20)

9. Why did Joseph change his plans to divorce Mary? (Matthew 1:20)

10. If Joseph wasn’t the actual father of Christ, who was? (Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:20)

11. What did the angel command Joseph to name the child and why? (Matthew 1:21)

12. What significant mission in life would Mary’s child have? (Matthew 1:21)

13. Why is Mary’s virginal conception of Christ significant? (Matthew 1:22-23)

14. What does Immanuel mean? (Matthew 1:23)

15. How did Joseph respond to the angelic message? (Matthew 1:24)

Get It

16. How might you have responded in Mary’s situation?

17. What would have been your reaction had you been in Joseph’s situation?

18. How do you think a typical church might have handled Mary’s pre-marriage pregnancy?

19. How do you imagine the "grapevine" treated the Mary-Joseph situation?

20. How does it feel to be the victim of unsubstantiated rumors and gossip?

21. How does it feel to know that you are innocent and yet have people attacking your character and whispering behind your back?

22. How does our desire for approval or acceptance keep us from doing the right thing?

Apply It

23. What difficult, hard-to-swallow command of God do you need to obey today?

24. How will you respond the next time someone begins to tell you a juicy bit of gossip?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 1". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/matthew-1.html.
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