Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

One of the unique features of Jesus genealogy in the book of Matthew is the inclusion of four women, not counting Mary.

Matthew 1:3

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar

Matthew 1:5

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth

Matthew 1:6

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife

Matthew 1:16

and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Why does Matthew include these women and no others? Is there a common element that somehow distinguishes them for inclusion in Jesus' genealogy?

share|improve this question
This was my answer on what is exactly the same question over at Christianity.SE christianity.stackexchange.com/a/13702/1039 –  Affable Geek Jun 7 '13 at 19:26

2 Answers 2

In part, Matthew is laying the groundwork for the naming of Jesus, so named because "He will save His people from their sins" (Mt 1:21). In various ways, these women reveal the mess of the Messiah's own family tree.

Matthew is not of course implying that the women are the primary sinners in the stories they evoke. But the mention of David without Bathsheba could bring to mind a host of other aspects of his life. Instead, Matthew rubs our noses in it; he doesn't even say "Bathsheba," but "her of Uriah." Similarly, with Judah and Tamar. Rahab of course never gets her name mentioned without a reminder of the fact that she had been a harlot.

Another aspect of the genealogy may tie to the climax of the Gospel, where Jesus sends the disciples to disciple the nations, and of course the incorporation of the nations into Messiah has traces in His own family line, with Ruth in particular. But the connotations of sin are not absent in Ruth's story either; her mention evokes the events leading to her inclusion in Israel, events in which Israel had come under the judgment of famine due to their sins (as predicted in e.g. Deut 28).

share|improve this answer
Interesting; I was expecting the opposite, that these women were particularly meritorious. Tamar took matters into her own hands when Yehudah failed in his obligation; Rachav saw the truth of Israel's God and supported them against her own people; Ruth left her homeland to avoid abandoning her mother-in-law. That leaves Batsheva; it's not a perfect interpretation. :-) –  Gone Quiet Jun 7 '13 at 2:57

Each of these women recognized the expectation of the "Promised Seed" by faith in God's covenant with Abraham and David, respectively.

For an amplified discussion of Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, and their respective goal of the pursuit-and-capture of the "Promised Seed" by faith, please click here. (Please note however that Bathsheba is not mentioned by name in the Matthew genealogy, but only mentioned to show that the kingly right of Jesus to the Davidic throne was through Solomon.) And so finally it is Mary who is named and understands from the angel Gabriel that she was to be the actual mother of The Promised Seed (compare Luke 1:32 with the "help to Israel" mentioned by Mary in Luke 1:54-55), and so she provided her consent to the angel Gabriel to conceive (Luke 1:38).

In other words, the listing of these four women by name was to highlight how the "Promised Seed" was expected by them through their understanding and faith in the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. That is, they desired and therefore each had sought to conceive the Promised Seed by faith.

Last but not least, we must note that these four women plus Bathsheba were women of "shame": if she was not unattractive, then she was indeed a widowed wallflower (Tamar); another was the mother of Boaz, who was a Canaanite prostitute (Rahab); another widow was a cursed Moabite (Deut 23:3) that had married Boaz (Ruth); one was an adulteress (Bathsheba); and finally the last was a woman of abject penury and of no account (Mary). In other words, Jesus was not a man with a distinguished racial pedigree to his name.

share|improve this answer
I am intrigued by your insight about Ruth/Naomi and Tamar laying hold of the Promised Seed. Thank you for sharing. –  Sarah Dec 13 '13 at 18:00

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.