From Babylon to Jesus. Studying the genealogy of Jesus

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. 
-Matthew 1:12-17

The Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy that is in three sections. It leads from Abraham to David, then from David to the Babylonian exile, and finally from the Babylonian exile to Jesus. 

The third group is the most cryptic. The first two sections are full of familiar Biblical names, but in the third section, most of the named people are mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. 

The Babylonian exile

After generations of sin in Israel and numerous prophets who had warned Israel and her kings, the two kingdoms fell. First the Northern kingdom. But Matthew’s genealogy focuses on the southern kingdom which was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. 

It was a divine judgment from God upon an unfaithful Israel. 

The Israelites lose the kingdom, they lose Jerusalem, the temple is destroyed. The people are deported to a foreign land. 

The darkest days in the history of Israel. 

But what this genealogy reminds us of is that even though the monarchy did not reign and the land was lost, that the line was not forgotten. When Jerusalem fell, that might have looked like it was the end. But God was still at work. 

That’s what all of this shows us. That God has been at work throughout time and history. 

When Jesus went to the cross. When the disciples saw their beloved teacher brutally crucified, they thought that it was all over. 

But it was only just the beginning. 

Throughout church history, people have tried to persecute the church, ban the Bible, kill Christians. Yet God’s word has been preached. His church has persevered. 

God continued to work through this line because the Lord is faithful to his promises. 

He was faithful to his promise to Abraham of providing offspring. He was faithful to to his promise to David by providing a future king whose kingdom would never end. 

And that’s what this third group reminds us of. 

In Matthew 1:12, the genealogy mentions Jeconiah, the last king before the exile. Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. 

Zerubbabel is significant because he would be appointed as a governor over the Israelites at the end of their exile and when they returned to the Holy Land. He’s found in five different Old Testament books. 

He’s also significant because he’s the last of the names in the genealogy that we know anything about until you get to Joseph. 

None of these people after Zerubbabel are named in the Old Testament. 

New testament sources

So where’d Matthew get the final names in the list from? 

There were genealogical records for at least some Israelites. We know this because such records are mentioned by ancient historians such as Josephus. 

Given the prominence of this line, it’s certainly plausible that they had records. 

Matthew ends this third genealogy by finally arriving at Joseph and Mary and then to Jesus. 

Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 

42 generations to get from Abraham to the Lord Jesus. 

We see the sovereignty of God. The faithfulness of God. We see the plan of God. 

And we see that the Messiah has come into the world. 

All throughout history, God has been at work. We see him at work in this genealogy that leads to the Lord Jesus. 

But that also points us to his mission for the world which is God’s redemptive purposes and gospel through Jesus Christ to redeem sinful and fallen. 

It is a major theme in Matthew’s gospel. It’s a major theme in Matthew’s Christmas story. 

But it’s also a major theme of the Bible itself. The Lord God working to restore fallen humanity. 

Christmas is a reminder of that. As God’s only Son, Christ Jesus came into the world. He came for a purpose. To go to the cross and to die for the sins of the world. 

And so it’s important to understand what God has done throughout history but also what God is doing in the world today. The Old Testament points forward to Christ. The Old Testament points forward to the king from the line of David. The gospels are the fulfillment of those promises in Christ.  

The church’s job today is to share that good news with the world. 

And so we look at this genealogy at the beginning of the New Testament. 

It’s not just a bunch of names to skip over so we can get to something more interesting. 

Rather, it’s a bunch of chapters in God’s story leading up to Christ and in his work of bridging redemption to the world.

Thanks for reading! If you liked it, please share and subscribe.