Many scholars believe that the gospel of Matthew was written to a Jewish audience with metaphor and symbolism based in the Old Testament. Matthew 1 as the first book and chapter of the New Testament could be seen as the opening New Testament argument that Jesus (Yeshua) was the messiah promised in the Old Testament.
The a close look at the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1 shows it is enigmatic demonstration of symbolism meant to demonstrate to the Jewish reader that Yeshua (Jesus) qualified as the promised redeemer. This proof was exemplified in several clever ways.
- By demonstrating a connection between the lineage of Yeshua and the Old Testament calendar.
- By numerically connecting Yeshua’s lineage to Abraham and David
- By emphasizing Yeshua relationship to the sacrificial redemptive rite of the Torah
- By showing Yeshua as the both the suffering servant and future king
- By connecting Yeshua chronologically to Adam and Abraham
(1.) It is important to note first off that the lineage of Yeshua in Matthew 1 was purposely arranged. As others here have noted, there are 4 missing kings in Yeshua’s lineage. That this was intentional only becomes apparent when the location where these kings were left out is shown relative to the list as described by Matthew.
First all, four kings are missing in the 2nd 14 generational grouping. Three of the missing kings were removed between the 6th and 7th generation, and the final king between the 13th and 14 generation. From a Jewish point of view (steeped in the Torah) this arrangement would have drawn their attention to the Biblical calendar which was lunar/solar. The solar side of the Biblical calendar, based upon the rising and setting of the sun, had as its primary cycle the 6 days of labor and it’s 7th day Sabbath rest. There were 52 of these cycles in each solar year, and they were further dividing roughly into 4 seasons of 13 weeks each.
The lunar side of the Biblical calendar was based upon the 29.53 day lunar cycle. This lunar cycle governed the 7 Biblical festivals throughout the year. These festivals or holy days, and their sacrificial redemptive rites were associated by the New Testament authors with Yeshua. For example, John described Yeshua as the “lamb of God which taken away the sins of the world.” Paul described Yeshua as the “firstfriuts of them that slept”. This Biblical and its associate holy days was regulated by the waxing and waning light of the 29.53 day lunar calendar. Each month there were 13 or 14 waxing days of visible light following by 13 or 14 days of visible waning light.
Since the Biblical calendar was given to Israel by Yahweh, these lunar/solar cycles of 13/14 and 6/7 have been the prophetic clock upon which Israel kept “time”.
Symbolically, it is also worth noting that the single name removed from between the 13th and 14 generation of 2nd grouping is Jehoiakim whose name means “Yahweh Raises Up”. Indeed from a New Testament point of view, it was Yeshua the 13th generation whom, Yahweh raised up to become the 14th generation that brought Yahweh’s salvation to mankind. (Yeshua in Hebrew means = “Yahweh’s Salvation”)
(2.) It is important to understand (as others have noted here) that Matthew 1 describes Yeshua’s generations as 14+14+14 generations or 42 generations from Abraham. As given though Yeshua’s generations are 14+14+13 or 41 in total. This is clearly intentional for a couple of reasons. The Old Testament talks of the coming messiah in terms of the kingship of David. In Matthew 1, king David is the 14th generation. David’s name also has the Hebrew numerical value of 14. Further the list shows that Yeshua is the 41st generation from Abraham. Abraham’s name also has a numerical value of 41.
(3.) By implying that Yeshua is the 14th generation but giving Him as the 13th, this would have in effect made Yeshua both the 13th and 14th generation. For the Jewish reader steeped in the Torah these two numbers would have naturally been associated with the sacrificial redemptive rites of the Torah.
In the Old Testament there are 7 special holy days that Israel was required to keep. During nearly every one of these holydays, Israel was required to make atonement with 13 or 14 sacrifices. This association with the sacrificial rites of the Torah and the coming messiah is spelled out in several Old Testament prophecies. Isaiah 53 is exemplar.
10 Yet it pleased YHWH to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of YHWH shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
(4.) By showing Yeshua as the 13th and 14th generation Matthew also demonstrated the two fold nature of the Messiah as both a suffering servant and future king. Yeshua as the 13th generation (6+7) was the God Man or HomoDeus, the atonement sacrifice for mankind’s sins. After His death and resurrection, he became the 14th generation and a king as exemplified by kind David as the 14th generation.
(5.) Showing Yeshua as the 41st generation from Abraham, Matthew made a larger chronological connection that his Jewish audience would have understood. According to the Hebrew version of the Old Testament chronology, there were 41 jubilee cycles between Adam and Abraham. According to a reasonable rendering of the OT chronology between Abraham and Yeshua there were also 41 jubilee cycles. In other words, Matthew, by arranging Yeshua’s lineage to show 41 generations, was showing that there was an underlying chronological connection between Abraham and Yeshua.
Yeshua the 13th generation, in the 41st jubilee cycle from Abraham came into this world as the suffering servant to pay the price for mankind’s sins. Yeshua, the 14th generation, in the 42nd jubilee cycle from Abraham, rose from the grave and become the Messianic king upon the throne of David.
In summary, it seems that Matthew 1 was meant to be much more than just a simple listing of Yeshua’s generations. This list appears to be designed by its author as a symbolic testimony or road map if you will, the goal of which was to prove that Yeshua of Nazareth was a fulfillment of the Old Testaments prophecies concerning the coming messianic redeemer.