“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
The first verse of Matthew is easy to rush by. It seems like it’s a title or just introducing the genealogy that follows (that we also rush by).
But it’s actually packed with meaning. The author is telling us quite a bit about the subject of the genealogy and the rest of the book.
How do you unlock it? If your Bible has cross references, just follow them. If it doesn't, you can use something like the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge or a Bible dictionary. What does the author mean by "the son of David" and "the son of Abraham?" Quite a bit.
The Son of Abraham
God said to Abraham, the father of the Jews, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you ... and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:2-3) and “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (22:18).
Paul, writing years before Matthew, taught that the offspring God spoke of was not Abraham’s descendants in general but Christ Jesus (Gal 3:16).
The Son of David
God made similar promises to David, the great king of ancient Israel: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2Sam 7:16). The prophets expanded on that over time: “David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel” (Jer 33:18).
So David would always have a descendant on the throne. But it quickly becomes one descendant who would reign forever: “He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever” (Is 9:7).
This King of David’s line would usher in a time of safety and rest for Israel:
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,God promised that, under this King, Israel would follow the law and live in the Promised Land, and he would dwell among them forever. “I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever” (Ez 37:27-28).
“when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The LORD Our Righteous Savior.” (Jer 23:5-6)
“In that day,” declares the LORD Almighty,
“I will break the yoke off their necks
and will tear off their bonds;
no longer will foreigners enslave them.
Instead, they will serve the LORD their God
and David their king,
whom I will raise up for them.” (Jer 30:8-9)
This descendant will be a “light to the Gentiles,” just as God promised to Abraham, and would actually represent Israel: “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor” (Is 49:1-7).
Under this King, all the promises to Israel would be fulfilled: “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zec 9:9-10, cf Ez 37:24-28).
This Jesus that the gospel is introducing is not just some Israelite; he’s the Seed of Abraham. He’s not just one of David’s many descendants; he’s the Son of David.
The author begins by letting the reader know that all of God’s promises to Abraham, David, and Israel as a whole are going to be kept in and through this Jesus. It’s been a long road — almost 2000 years from the promises to Abraham, about 1000 from David — but God keeps his word.
And in the gospel that follows, more promises are made. From “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” to “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So it is important for us to know that God keeps his promises.
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