Matthew 1

Structure

Title and Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah (1:1–17)

Title (Mt. 1:1)

Genealogy from Abraham to King David (Mt. 1:2–6a)

From David to the Exile (Mt. 1:6b–11)

From the Exile to Jesus the Messiah (Mt. 1:12–16)

Summary (Mt. 1:17)

Birth of Jesus the Messiah (1:18–25)

A Demonstration that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah: Five Scriptural Proofs (Mt. 1:18–2:23)

Mary’s Embarrassing Circumstances (Mt. 1:18)

Joseph’s Plan (Mt. 1:19)

The Angel’s Surprising Announcement (Mt. 1:20–21)

The Basis in Biblical Pattern (Mt. 1:22–23)

Joseph’s Obedience (Mt. 1:24–25)[footnote]Turner, D. L. (2008). Matthew (p. 63). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.[/footnote]


The theme of chapter one can be defined as:

  • Quis (Who?) Jesus’s identity as son of David, son of Abraham (Mt. 1:1–17)
  • Quomodo (How?) Jesus is son of David through virginal conception by the Holy Spirit and by adoption into a Davidic family (Mt. 1:18–25)
  • Ubi (Where?) Jesus the son of David is born in David’s city, Bethlehem, yet as son of Abraham he is visited by the gentile magi (Mt. 2:1–12)
  • Unde (Whence?) Opposition to Jesus the son of David from King Herod leads him from Bethlehem through Egypt to Nazareth (Mt. 2:13–23)

Theme

God the King is coming down to His people with good news of salvation, through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. He is the Son of David, and the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesy, and will set His people free from the bondage of sin and misery.

Exposition of the verses

Title and Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah (1:1–17)

Verse 1 Title

These are the beginnings/origin of Jesus Christ (γένεσις, genesis). How to translate γένεσις is a matter of discussion. If γένεσις is translated narrowly as “genealogy,” only Mt. 1:2–17 is characterized as the record of Jesus’s origin, but then it is hard to explain the occurrence of γένεσις again in Mt. 1:18, describing the miraculous details of Jesus’s birth. Thus it seems that at least 1:1–25 should be viewed as the account of Jesus’s beginnings. Some say that βίβλος γενέσεως is the title of the book. βίβλος would refer to ‘a book’ and Jesus would be seen as the new beginning in God’s creation. The LXX frequently uses a different formula, namely “these are the generations” (αὗται αἱ γενέσεις) to address genealogies. We would argue that the title is not just addressing the genealogy. The account of his origin and birth is in view in this first chapter, yet it is about the implications of his birth, more than the event itself.
The name “Jesus” (see the discussion at Mt. 1:21) is no doubt meant to be viewed as a personal name, Χριστός (Christos, Christ; Mt. 1:1, 16, 17, 18; Mt. 2:4; Mt. 11:2; Mt. 16:16, 20; Mt. 22:42; Mt. 23:10; Mt. 24:5, 23; Mt. 26:63, 68; Mt. 27:17, 22) should be viewed as a title that indicates Jesus’s supreme role and office in God’s plan. Both Χριστός and its Hebrew equivalent, מָשִׁיחַ (māšîaḥ, Messiah), are related to the ceremony of anointing a king or priest for office in recognition of God’s approval (Exod. 28:41; 1 Sam. 9:15–16; 10:1; 16:3, 12–13; 1 Chron. 29:22). In Matthew, Χριστός has a strong role in fulfilling the eschatological hope of the people. That the Messiah would come to deliver them from the enemies.
“Son of David” is frequently a messianic title (Matt. 1:1, 6, 17, 20; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:9, 15; 22:42, 45; cf. Rom. 1:3). “Son of Abraham” occurs in Matthew only in Mt. 1:1, but does occur in further passages. Paul stressed in his epistles that Christians are the genuine children of Abraham (Rom. 4:9–17; Gal. 3:6–14, 29). The promise is fulfilled that all the nations would be blessed through Abraham (Gen. 12:1-2), and this happened through Jesus Christ.

Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah (1:1–17)

The genealogy is structured, spoken of in Mt. 1:17. It traces fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen generations from the exile to the Messiah. Turners structure of the genealogy is explained as follows:

The three sections of the genealogy pivot on King David and the exile to Babylon. David represents one of the highest points of the biblical narrative, and the exile represents one of the lowest. It is likely that in Jesus the son of David, Matthew sees one who will restore a new Israel from an exile even more deplorable than the Babylonian exile. Matthew has evidently chosen fourteen generations to structure his genealogy because David is the fourteenth name in the genealogy and fourteen is the numerical value of “David” in Hebrew. Consonantally, דוד (dwd) is 4 (d) + 6 (w) + 4 (d) when the places of the consonants in the numerical order of the Hebrew alphabet are added together. This gematria, which assigns numerical values to letters, stresses the centrality of David in Jesus’s background as well as the centrality of great David’s greater son, Jesus, for Matthew’s readers.[footnote]Turner, D. L. (2008). Matthew (p. 58). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.[/footnote]

The aorist active verb ἐγέννησεν (egennēsen, begot, was the father of) occurs thirty-nine times in Mt. 1:2–16 before the abrupt shift to the aorist passive form ἐγέννησεν (egennēthē, was born) in Mt. 1:16, describing Jesus’s birth. Though Matthew speaks of three sets of fourteen generations, ἐγέννησεν occurs fourteen times only in the second set (Mt. 1:6b–11). It occurs thirteen times in the first set (Mt. 1:2–6a) and twelve times in the third (Mt. 1:12–16) which means that he realized that some names were missing. So ἐγέννησεν was to be understood as “was the ancestor of,” not “was the father of.”

Verse 2-6a Genealogy from Abraham to King David

These first verses cover the time from Abraham to David. Matthew uses sources of 1 Chronicles 2:1-15 and Ruth 4:18-22 for his data. There is overlap between the verses 1 and 2, Mt. 1:1 mentions Abraham in its conclusion and Mt. 1:2 starts with him. Abraham stands at the start of Israel (Gen. 12:1-3) and also of God’s people (Mt. 3:9; 8:11).
The fact that Judah’s name is mentioned shows the Jewish interest in the twelve patriarchs though only one is mentioned in the genealogy. Judah is the one whose tribe bears the scepter (Gen. 49:10; cf. Matt. 2:6; Heb. 7:14).
Matthew has a strong emphasis on women in this genealogy. Tamar has a special contribution to the royal line (mentioned in Ruth 4:12). She is the first woman mentioned in vv. 3-6. 1 Chronicles 2 mentions fourteen mothers, and Tamar is mentioned in the genealogy of Ruth as an important figure in the royal line of the Messiah. Matthew mentions Rahab (Josh. 2:1-21; 6:17, 22–25; Heb. 11:31; James 2:25) without giving further explanation, which might suggest that the name was well known. Matthew most likely mentions these women for one of the reasons that all four were non-Israelite (Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites, Ruth a Moabite, and Bathsheba the wife of a Hittite), and none of these women are fitting into the story of sexual morality. Some might wonder if they are mentioned according to the pregnancy before marriage, like Mary (Mt. 1:18–25) but all these women were considered heroines so there is not much proof for this.

Verse 6b-11 From David to the Exile

Mt. 1:6-11 follow the royal rule of Judah from David to the exile. Bathsheba is mentioned as “The one who had been Uriah’s wife” which is a strange way to refer to her. Hinting at the fact that Salomon’s mother was a Gentile, (Uriah was a Hittite) is the most likely explanation. Comparing Mt. 1:8 with other biblical passages (2 Kings 8:24; 1 Chron. 3:11; 2 Chron. 22:1, 11; 24:27) indicates that Matthew has left out Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah between Joram and Uzziah. The “brothers” which Matthew mentioned are a reference to 2 Kgs 23:30–24:20, three brothers (Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah) who reigned all for a short period of time but not mentioned by name. According to 2 Kings the three omitted rulers were not Jehoiachin’s brothers, but his father and uncles, but 2 Chr 36:10 (also 1 Chr 3:16) says Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s “brother” (though LXX has “father’s brother”), so whether they were brothers or not, Matthew uses “brothers” in the broader sense of “relatives.”

Verse 12-16 From the Exile to Jesus the Messiah

The last set of 14 generations cover the time of the exile to the birth of the Messiah. In this section there is no OT source to support the names mentioned. Jeremiah 22:30 speaks of Jehoiachin as “childless,” referring to anyone who will “sit on the throne of David.” Matthew follows 1 Chr 3:17 in giving Shealtiel as Jehoiachin’s son, but according to the same source Zerubbabel was Shealtiel’s nephew, not his son (though LXX has him as his son). In all other OT references Zerubbabel is described as son of Shealtiel.
Joseph as the name of Jesus’ human father is firmly established in the Christian tradition (Luke 1:27; 2:4, 16; 3:23; 4:22; John 1:45; 6:42) By introducing him here as the “husband of Mary” rather than the father of Jesus Matthew prepares for the explanation of Jesus’ actual parentage in 1:18–25. Mary will be named again in 1:18, 20; 2:11; 13:55, while in 2:13, 14, 20, 21; 12:46 she will appear simply as Jesus’ mother. No indication of her family background is given. Regarding Joseph, he is a passive agent here, as the active verb ἐγέννησεν is replaced by the passive ἐγεννήθη (was born). Matthew speaks of Joseph ἐξ ἧς (from whom – prepositional phrase) Jesus was born. So it is clear that Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus for he did not “beget” Him. Jesus was born from Mary.
The summary is given in verse 17. It is introduced by the conjunction οὖν (then, therefore), and the conclusion is drawn from the first verses of the chapter. First of all, Jesus is the outworking of God’s promises, from the line of David. Secondly, Israel declined under the judgment of God. The genealogy is a work of art.

A Demonstration that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah: Five Scriptural Proofs (1:18–2:23)

Verse 18 Mary’s embarrassing situation

Both Luke and Matthew who mention Jesus birth from Mary, mention explicitly that she was a virgin and that the conception was from the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:34, 35; Matt 1:18, 21, 23, 25). So Jesus was not Joseph’s son, but son of Mary, whose husband was Joseph. Jesus’ adoption by Joseph made him “son of David.” Without this adoption, Jesus would not have been David’s son. This verse is the first time that Matthew mentions the Holy Spirit. He involved the conception of Jesus, His empowerment (3:16; 12:18, 28), and His leading of Christ (4:1). In the Spirit, He will be baptized later, the Spirit will come in believers, and it is the Spirit of whom Jesus later will say, who will comfort and help in persecution.

Verse 19 Joseph’s Plan

Joseph planned to divorce Mary in secret, in order to keep her dignity and not publically put her to shame. The relationship between Joseph and Mary was like an engagement. Engagement or betrothal frequently occurred when girls were twelve years old. When the groom had completed his obligations to the bride’s father according to the marriage contract, the bride came under the authority of her husband, but she did not necessarily move to her husband’s house at that time. It was evidently common for a year or so to pass between the betrothal and the marriage proper, when cohabitation began. Apparently, the situation in 1:18 includes all but the final stage of the process (cf. 25:1–12; R. Brown 1993: 123–24). Joseph has become engaged to Mary and has assumed authority over her. He is already her husband (ἀνήρ, anēr) and plans to divorce Mary to solve his problem (1:19; cf. Deut. 22:23–24). But 1:18 adds that Joseph and Mary have not yet “come together” (συνελθεῖν), meaning not yet living together as husband and wife.

Verse 20-21 The Angel’s announcement to Joseph

The call to Joseph to take Mary as his wife was through a dream. As we know from the Scriptures, revelation through dreams occurs repeatedly in Matthew (2:12, 13, 19, 22; 27:19; cf. Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17). Not only does the angel tell Joseph to take Mary as his wife, but also instructs him about the name that their son should be given.
Matthew notes that both Mary and Joseph name Jesus (Ἰησοῦς), a Greek form of the biblical name Joshua (יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, Yĕhôšūaʿ). The word יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, sometimes shortened to יֵשׁוּעַ (Yēšûaʿ). Jesus came to save His people from their sins (ἁμαρτία). The angel makes an allusion to Ps. 130:8 which seems to mean that “his people” stands for “Israel.” It is for those who need a physician to whom Jesus came, which is the part of Israel who repents and the Church that is engrafted in them.
By using both Jesus and Immanuel as name of God, (Immanuel meaning “God with us”), Matthew emphasizes the incarnation of God. Salvation has come by God taking on human form. God with us is how the book starts, but also how it closes, with the words “I am with you always” with reference not to a continuing life on earth but a spiritual presence (Mt. 28:20).

Verse 22-23 The basis in Biblical pattern

Mt. 1:22 provides a connection to the Old Testament, and an explanation of which prophesy has been fulfilled. Matthew uses the perfect-tense verb γέγονεν, “now all this has happened.” This passage links the Old and the New Testament together, and is important to understand and apply Scriptures, just like 2 Pet. 1:19–21 and 2 Tim. 3:16.
The passage explained is Isaiah 7:14, about Mary’s virgin birth. Matthew speaks of “and they will call” (καὶ καλέσουσιν), and the LXX speaks of “and you will call” (καὶ καλέσεις). The Hebrew speaks of “and she will call” ( וְקָרָאת ). Turner speaks of an impersonal plural. All the people whom Jesus saves will call Him “Immanuel,” for God is with them.

Verse 24-25 Joseph’s Obedience

Matthew 24-25 speak of Joseph’s obedience. He does not question or hesitate to the angel’s message but obeys. Matthew does not explain Joseph’s abstinence from a sexual relationship with Mary, but it could have been said for the reason to take away any doubt as to the supernatural origin of Mary’s child. Jesus ad “brothers and sisters” so a “perpetual virginity” is out of the question (see Matt. 13:55–56; Luke 2:7). Jesus later on speaks of His family, and Mary His mother is presented as a woman who yes, was loved by God, but also struggled through life, even doubting Jesus’ divinity. Turner says about this: “Mary is best honored as a model believer if she is given the normal role of wife and mother.”[footnote]Turner, D. L. (2008). Matthew (p. 75). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.[/footnote]