Sunday, February 6, 2011

Matthew 1:1-17 - Abraham, David and Jesus Christ

Do you see the New Testament as the beginning of something new, a continuation of something old, or a combination of the two?

I love to read the Word of God, particularly when I see a new or different interpretation of the Bible. I have been studying the book of Matthew with the idea that someday this study might become another book. (See for a list of current books). One of the things I enjoy in particular is looking at the literary structure of the text to see what it reveals.

Many people have looked at the introductory words of Matthew 1:1-16, seeing them as a lineage that points from Abraham to Christ with some imperfect people such as Rahab and Tamar – and that is how I looked at these verses as well. But my spiritual eyes have been trained to look for the chiasms and literary structure in the Bible, so once I spotted the pattern, I immediately had to ask, "Okay Lord, I see the repetitive pattern; now why is it here?"

Matthew 1:1 begins, "The book of generations of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.". After the presentation of the lineage from v2-16, Matthew identifies the fourteens in verse 17:
  • Fourteen generations from Abraham to David
  • Fourteen generations from David to Jeconiah (representing the exile)
  • Fourteen generations from Jeconiah to our Messiah

While the fourteens are repetition in themselves, there appears to be a deeper presentation in the lineage:

Have you heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words? In the lineage of fourteen generations from Abraham to David, Ram and Amminadab are the center point. Ram was Caleb's brother (1 Chronicles 2:9) and his son Amminadab assisted Moses in taking a census (Numbers 1:7). Both Ram and Amminadab would have died in the desert because only Joshua and Caleb were the only ones to go into the Promised Land.

Likewise, Jechoniah was the last king prior to the exile, and his son Shealtiel is listed as the first son of the captive Jechoniah (1 Chronicles 3:17). The point is that to the Jew reading these first verses from Matthew, the double reminder of desert wanderings and exile were times of severe tribulation, but the times of victory would be that of Abraham, David and Christ. That is why Matthew 1:1 begins as it does: in grace, our Messiah has taken the position of Abraham and David and has overcome the dual punishments.

In presenting David in this light, we can begin to see Matthew as a sequel to 1 and 2 Chronicles. The author of Chronicles portrays David as the Lord's favored king, but that book ends by describing the fall of the Jewish people in 586BC. There was one set of hard times which had the wanderings in the desert as the low point. The second low point was even more severe for it results in the exile of most of the Jewish people. But with this lineage, we see Matthew describing how David and his kingdom have been replaced by an even greater king, that of Jesus Christ.

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