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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 1

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

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Verses 1-15

Matthew 1:1-15

The book of the generation.

The lessons of Christ’s genealogy

1. It is a proof of the reality of Christ’s humanity.

2. It suggests the relation of Christ’s work to the whole human race.

3. It marks the importance of the birth of Christ as a historical epoch. Let it remind us also

(1) Of the shortness of human life;

(2) Of the subserviency of persons of every class and character to the purposes of God’s moral government. (G. Brooks.)

The double use of genealogies

1. A profane use for ostentation.

2. A holy use

(1) For the observing of judicial laws;

(2) For the distinguishing the church from those without;

(3) For the setting forth the pedigree of the Messiah, lest it should be thought that he were some obscure or secret person. (R. Ward.)

The old and new in Jesus

The first record is the book of the generation of Jesus Christ. What does this signify?

1. A man’s beginnings, a man’s ancestors, have something to do with both his character and his life.

2. Christ was the sacred heir of all the ancient world.

3. The genealogy reminds us how all the past was preparing for Jesus.

4. But more than all, the generations of Jesus Christ show us the birth of the new world, and the new time, and the new institutions, which are to end in the perfect glory of the Father and the perfect blessedness of the race. (W. H. Davison.)

The genealogy of Christ

1. There is much in good lineage.

2. Sin has tainted the blood of the best races of men, and frequently makes itself manifest.

3. God’s grace can flow through very crooked human channels.

4. No man stands alone.

Lessons of Christ’s genealogy

1. This table of our Lord’s genealogy, inserted in the beginning of the gospel, invests the book with an air of naturalness and reality, which probably nothing else could have done so well. No man writing fiction would have ventured to preface it with a dry list of obscure names.

2. It connects Jesus and His teachings with all God’s revelations and promises which had been given before. It binds up, as in one sheaf, all generations of the church in one uniform moral system.

3. The Lord’s ancestral roll serves to identify Him in closer connection and sympathy with the race whom, as their God, lie came to redeem.

4. The account of those who were Christ’s ancestry before His first advent suggest the anxious inquiry, whether our names are written in the Book of Life as members of His spiritual family. (J. B. Owen, M. A.)

Very man

1. He is a man.

2. He is a Jew.

3. He is a king.

(1) God’s purpose is to bless by a man;

(2) To teach by a man;

(3) To judge by a man;

(4) To rule by a man;

(5) To link earth and heaven together by a man. (Dr. Bonar.)

The text appears at first sight like a valley of dry bones without any life or fertility, or a rugged pass that leads to green pastures. Nevertheless, there are important lessons in it respecting the human race and its relation to the Lord Jesus Christ.

It shows the common origin of the race. St. Luke traces the ancestry of Jesus to Adam-the head of the race.

The physical connection of the race. Having sprung from a common head, there must be a physical connection between the various members.

(1) War seems doubly barbarous and unnatural.

(2) Men ought to sympathize with and promote one another’s welfare apart from Christianity, etc.

The common saviour of the race.

The moral distinction of the race. What a mixture of good and bad there is in the genealogy! (W. Edwards.)

Verses 16-17

Matthew 1:16-17

Joseph the husband of Mary.

Jesus the seed of the woman

1. Jesus is the Christ.

2. He has a human ancestry.

3. He has a Jewish ancestry.

4. He has a Gentile ancestry.

5. He has a royal ancestry.

6. He has a lowly ancestry.

7. He has a holy ancestry.

8. He has an imperfect ancestry.

9. He has a mortal ancestry.

10. He has an immortal. (Dr. Bonar.)

Joseph and Mary were one thing by right of inheritance, another by present condition. They were successors to the kingdom of Israel, but were poor. Why does God permit the righteous to be deprived of their right and to be brought to poverty?

1. Because thus He will prove them.

2. Because worldly abundance is not so fit for them.

3. That He may crown them with future blessedness more abundantly.

4. That He may let us see how careful He is of us when we are in need.

5. How content were Joseph and Mary in their low estate.

6. The way to heaven is by adversity. (R. Ward.)

Verses 18-20

Matthew 1:18-20

A just man.

An honest man’s dilemma

That troubles are irrespective of character.

That the mental perplexities of the good arise often from the want of insight into the divine movements. The cycles of God’s providence are too vast for our limited capacities.

That God graciously removes the honest scruples of the righteous. Joseph’s mental difficulties were removed

(1) By an angelic communication;

(2) By revealing the dignity of Christ’s birth;

(3) By showing the nature of His mission. Jesus was the only man born with special mission in reference to sin.

That this mysterious conception and noble birth came to pass in accordance with prophetic prediction (Isaiah 7:14-16).

Joseph’s belief in the angelic communication, and obedience to the divine command. Faith essential to willing and unreserved obedience, and to the removal of mental difficulties. (W. Edwards.)


1. His natural suspicion.

2. His merciful determination.

3. We need the tempering of justice with mercy, and mercy with justice. (R. Ward.)

Nothing so clearly discovers a spiritual man as his treatment of an erring brother. (Augustine.)

Verses 21-22

Matthew 1:21-22


The design of our Saviour’s coming

Consider this as an enemy.

1. Behold sin with regard to God.

2. Behold sin in its names.

3. Behold the effects of sin.

4. That Christ derives from this work His highest title.

Consider in what manner he saves his people from their sins.

1. He redeems them by price.

2. He saves them by power.

3. He saves from the guilt of sin.

4. He saves from the love of sin. (W. Jay.)

In old times God was known by names of power, of nature, of majesty; but His name of mercy was reserved till now. (Bishop J. Taylor.)

The name and work of Jesus

His name.

His work.

1. Whom He saves-“His people.”

2. From what He saves-“their sins.”

3. How He saves. By His atonement He saves them virtually; by His spirit, vitally; by His grace, constantly; by His power, eternally. Remarks:

(1) Jesus as a suitable Saviour;

(2) a willing Saviour;

(3) an all-sufficient Saviour. (E. Oakes.)

Christ a Saviour

The work he is to accomplish is a most great, glorious, and blessed one. “He shall save.” Another Scripture says, He shall destroy. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” These characters are consistent. He demolishes the works of Satan because they stand in His way as Saviour.

1. He eaves His people from the penalty of their sins.

2. From the dominion and practice of sin.

3. In the end He saves from the very existence of sin.

4. And from the painful remembrance of their sins.

The name our Lord is to bear in consequence of this work of salvation. Learn from this-

1. The character in which God most delights to regard His Son.

2. It shows us that He would have us regard Him chiefly as a Saviour.

3. This name may have been given to Christ to endear Him the more to our hearts.

4. We see here beyond all dispute the real nature and design of Christ’s religion. (C. Bradley.)

The name of Jesus

The name of Jesus.

1. The signification of the name.

2. The appointment of the name. Not left to men’s choice.

The reason for the name. Some would rather that He had come to save them from poverty, pains, death; not knowing that to save from sins is to save from all these. (J. Bennet, D. D.)

A work of most blessed purpose.

1. Sin is itself the greatest of all miseries. It is

(1) deeper;

(2) vaster;

(3) more abiding;

(4) the source of all other miseries.

A work of vast magnitude. Its magnitude realized by dwelling-

1. On the multitudes of the saved.

2. On the nature of the salvation.

3. On the fact that this salvation is wrought by Jesus personally. (U. R. Thomas.)

Jesus the Saviour

What the gospel shall, bring-Salvation from sins.

Jesus is the saviour and his work constitutes our salvation.

1. This word teaches us that salvation is Divine. Because Divine it is

(1) sufficient;

(2) unchangeable;

(3) infinite. It is illimitable, as the air to the bird.

2. He who gives this salvation stands in solitary grandeur-”He.” Nowhere else can we find salvation.

3. The name gives an immutable pledge that we shall be saved.

The text informs us of what this salvation consists. “From their sins.” Not from the wrath of God primarily.

1. From the guilt, curse, condemnation of sin.

2. From our love, habit, practice of sin.

3. It is not salvation from an abstraction, but from selfishness and self-will.

The character of the people of God. His people; peculiar, chosen, royal. Are you saved from sins? (J. Donovan.)

Jesus the Saviour

Jesus is an omnipotent Saviour.

1. The presumption of the fact from the infinite wisdom and goodness of God, who never provides a cause unequal to the effect.

2. The declaration of the fact, “He is able to save them to the uttermost,” etc.

Jesus is a willing Saviour.

Jesus is a living Saviour.

Jesus is a present Saviour.

Jesus is a personal Saviour.

Jesus is a sympathizing Saviour.” (G. H. Smyth.)

Let me call your attention to the Saviour. Jesus is Divine; He saves His people from their sins. Not the word, not the ordinances, but Jesus Himself saves.

Look at the salvation.

1. Jesus saves from sin by bestowing forgiveness-full forgiveness, free, immediate.

2. Jesus saves His people from the pollution of sin; not in their sins, but from their sins.

Let us look at the saved. “He shall save His people.” Who are His people? They must have been at one time in their sins. Therefore no one need despair. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Jesus only worthy of trust as a Saviour.

A Christian Hindoo was dying, and his heathen comrades came around him and tried to comfort him by reading some of the pages of their theology; but he waved his hand, as much as to say, “I don’t want to hear it.” Then they called in a heathen priest, and he said, “If you will only recite the Numtra it will deliver you from hell.” He waved his hand, as much as to say, “I don’t want to hear that.” Then they said, “Call on Juggernaut.” He shook his head, as much as to say, “I can’t do that.” Then they thought perhaps he was too weary to speak, and they said, “Now if you can’t say ‘ Juggernaut,’ think of that god.” He shook his head again, as much as to say, “No, no, no.” Then they bent down to his pillow, and they said, “In what will you trust?” His face lighted up with the very glories of the celestial sphere as he cried out, rallying all his dying energies, “Jesus!”

The name of Jesus.-“

This name Jesus,” said St. Bernard, “it is honey in the mouth, harmony in the ear, melody in the heart.” “This name Jesus,” saith St. Anselm, “it is a name of comfort to sinners when they call upon Him; “ therefore he himself saith, “Jesus, be my Jesus.” This name is above all names: first, for that it was consecrated from everlasting; secondly, for that it was given of God; thirdly, for that it was desired of the Patriarchs; fourthly, for that it was foretold of the Prophets; fifthly, for that it was accomplished in the time of grace, magnified in the Apostles, witnessed of Martyrs, acknowledged and honoured shall it be of all believers unto the world’s end. This name Jesus, it is compared to “oil poured out; “ oil being kept close, it sendeth not forth such a savour, as it doth being poured out; and oil hath these properties, it suppleth, it cherisheth, it maketh look cheerfully; so doth this name of Jesus, it suppleth the hardness of our hearts, it cherisheth the weakness of our faith, enlighteneth the darkness of our soul, and maketh man look with a cheerful countenance towards the throne of grace. (Christopher Sutton.)

Salvation from sin

You must be saved from sin not in sin as some seem to imagine. The latter is like saving a man from drowning by keeping him under the water which is destroying him; or like recovering a man from sickness by leaving him under the malady which constitutes the complaint. (W. Jay.)

Verses 23-25

Matthew 1:23-25


I. We remember that God came to us in that child. “God with us.” This should remove all dread of God.

That God can come to us in -the smallest things.

That the whole of life is sacred, and should be consecrated to God.

That great endings have little beginnings. (B. Preece.)



Christ came as god with man.

1. To live with man.

2. With man, to die for him.

3. With man, to rise from the dead for him.

4. With man, to ascend and intercede for him.

God is with his people.

1. He is with them in their lives.

2. In their labours.

3. In their trials and afflictions.

4. In their worship. In death and in glory. (C. H. Wetherbe.)

The birth of Christ

1. The importance of the event to which Isaiah looks forward, and which the evangelist describes as fulfilled.

1. The occurrence was of a preternatural character. To raise us from degradation Christ Himself must be sinless. Evil had descended. How was this fatal entail to be cut off? The virgin birth was the answer.

2. Christ’s birth marked the entrance into the sphere of sense and time of One who had existed from eternity.

3. No other birth has ever involved such important consequences to the human race.

The contrast between the real and the apparent importance of Christ’s birth. The kingdom of God had entered into history without observation. Caesar’s palace seemed to be more important to the world than the manger. The apparent is not always the real.

What is the practical meaning of this birth to us, and what relation have we to Him who, for the love of us, was born of the virgin? (Canon Liddon.)

Jesus Christ the centre of history

The world expected an Emmanuel.

God was preparing the world for the coming of Emmanuel.

The world could not produce the Emmanuel.

As the Emmanuel was the goal of ancient, so He is the starting-point of modern history. (J. C. Jones)

At an earlier age the Incarnation would have been meaningless

The mariner’s compass has been known in China for thousands of years; nevertheless, for the most part of that time it was but little better than a toy-the Chinese mind was not educated enough to estimate its value. Only a few centuries ago the compass became a blessing to mankind, because only a few centuries ago we attained the intellectual state requisite to apprehend its usefulness. And did the Incarnation take place in the days of Abraham, or of Moses, or of David, it would have been an idle, purposeless miracle, so far as its human aspect is concerned, and Christ would have died in vain. (J. C. Jones.)

The Man Christ Jesus

1. Humanity needed a Saviour.

2. The Mediator was to come in the purity and the power of sinless human character.

3. We, as a part of the human world, must join in this longing of human hearts for a Christ.

4. When this yearning of mankind was taken up into the guidance and inspiration of God it became prophecy.

5. These things are a declaration of the one fact which lies, central and life-giving, at the heart of all our Christian thoughts and hopes.

6. We come short of the full grandeur of the gospel when we take the clause, “God with us,” as signifying only one among us-a Deity moving among individuals, outside of them all, and, however friendly and gracious, still an external Person, saving them only by a work wrought all above them.

7. Then, too, it will begin to appear what Christ’s own people may be, acknowledging their membership, confirmed and alive in His body. (Bishop Huntingdon,.)

Let Him be one of us, that we may be one in Him. (J. C. Jones.)

Emmanuel, God with us

We know, in consequence of the revelations made by Christ, that God is so with us, so near to us, that our very existence is every moment upheld by him. We exist not by chance, etc.; but whatever subordinate causes may be employed, they all derive their efficacy from Him.

We know, too, from the incarnation and doctrine of Christ, that God is with us, not as individuals merely, but with our world, and that also in the way of special grace. He is in the world, not to exhibit His power merely, but that the world of men may be redeemed, etc.

In Christ we see that God was with us, in our very nature, to accomplish our redemption.

Though ascended into heaven, he is still “god with us,” by the invisible but mighty influence which He exerts.

God is with us, in condescension and special grace, during the whole course of discipline to which He subjects us. Is Christ our Emmanuel? (R. Watson.)

Influence gained by oneness of condition

A Moravian missionary once went to the West Indies, to preach to the slaves. He found it impossible for him to carry out his design so long as he bore to them the relation of a mere missionary. They were driven into the field very early in the morning, and returned late at night with scarcely strength to roll themselves into their cabins, and in no condition to be profited by instruction. They were savage toward all of the race and rank of their masters. He determined to reach the slaves by becoming himself a slave. He was sold, that he might have the privilege of working by their side, and preaching to them as he worked with them. Do you suppose the master or the pastor could have touched the hearts of those miserable slaves as did that man who placed himself in their condition, and went among them, and lived as they lived, suffered as they suffered, toiled as they toiled, that he might carry the gospel to them? This missionary was but following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who took on Him the nature of men, came among them, and lived as they lived, that He might save them from their sins. (Beecher.)

In what sense is Christ God with us? In His incarnation united to our nature-God with man-God in man. He is God with us to comfort, enlighten, protect, and defend us in time of temptation and trial, and in the hour of death, and God with us, and in us, and we with and in Him to all eternity. (A. Clarke. LL. D.)

Behold at once the deepest mystery and the richest mercy. By the light of nature we see the eternal as a God above us: by the light of the law we see Him as a God against us; but, by the light of the gospel, we see Him as a God with us, reconciled to us, at peace with us, interested for us, interceding in our behalf. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! (Dr. Hughes.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/matthew-1.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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