Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. The book of the generation--an expression purely Jewish; meaning,
"table of the genealogy." In
the same expression occurs in this sense. We have here, then, the
title, not of this whole Gospel of Matthew, but only of the first
of Jesus Christ--For the meaning of these glorious words, see on
"Jesus," the name given to our Lord at His circumcision
was that by which He was familiarly known while on earth. The word
"Christ"--though applied to Him as a proper name by the angel who
announced His birth to the shepherds
and once or twice used in this sense by our Lord Himself
(Mt 23:8, 10;
--only began to be so used by others about the very close of His
(Mt 26:68; 27:17).
The full form, "Jesus Christ," though once used by Himself in His
was never used by others till after His ascension and the formation of
churches in His name. Its use, then, in the opening words of this
Gospel (and in
Mt 1:17, 18)
is in the style of the late period when our Evangelist wrote, rather
than of the events he was going to record.
the son of David, the son of Abraham--As Abraham was the first
from whose family it was predicted that Messiah should spring
so David was the last. To a Jewish reader, accordingly, these
behooved to be the two great starting-points of any true genealogy of
the promised Messiah; and thus this opening verse, as it stamps the
first Gospel as one peculiarly Jewish, would at once tend to conciliate
the writer's people. From the nearest of those two fathers came that
familiar name of the promised Messiah, "the son of David"
which was applied to Jesus, either in devout acknowledgment of His
rightful claim to it
(Mt 9:27; 20:31),
or in the way of insinuating inquiry whether such were the case (see on
2. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas
and his brethren--Only the fourth son of Jacob is here named, as it
was from his loins that Messiah was to spring
3-6. And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom;
and Esrom begat Aram; 4. And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat
Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; 5. And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab;
and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6. And Jesse begat
David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her of Urias--Four
women are here introduced; two of them Gentiles by birth--Rachab and
Ruth; and three of them with a blot at their names in the Old
Testament--Thamar, Rachab, and Bath-sheba. This feature in
the present genealogy--herein differing from that given by Luke--comes
well from him who styles himself in his list of the Twelve, what none of
the other lists do, "Matthew the publican"; as if thereby to hold
forth, at the very outset, the unsearchable riches of that grace which
could not only fetch in "them that are afar off," but teach down even to
"publicans and harlots," and raise them to "sit with the princes of his
people." David is here twice emphatically styled "David the king," as
not only the first of that royal line from which Messiah was to descend,
but the one king of all that line from which the throne that Messiah was
to occupy took its name--"the throne of David." The angel Gabriel, in
announcing Him to His virgin-mother, calls it "the throne of David His
father," sinking all the intermediate kings of that line, as having no
importance save as links to connect the first and the last king of
Israel as father and son. It will be observed that Rachab is here
represented as the great-grandmother of David (see
--a thing not beyond possibility indeed, but extremely improbable,
there being about four centuries between them. There can hardly be a
doubt that one or two intermediate links are omitted.
7-8. And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat
Asa; 8. And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram
begat Ozias--or Uzziah. Three kings are here
omitted--Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah
(1Ch 3:11, 12).
Some omissions behooved to be made, to compress the whole into three
The reason why these, rather than other names, are omitted, must be
sought in religious considerations--either in the connection of
those kings with the house of Ahab (as LIGHTFOOT,
EBRARD, and ALFORD view it);
in their slender right to be regarded as true links in the theocratic
chain (as LANGE takes it); or in some similar
11. And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren--Jeconiah was Josiah's
grandson, being the son of Jehoiakim, Josiah's second son
but Jehoiakim might well be sunk in such a catalogue, being a mere
puppet in the hands of the king of Egypt
The "brethren" of Jechonias here evidently mean his uncles--the chief
of whom, Mattaniah or Zedekiah, who came to the throne
as well as here, called "his brother."
about the time they were carried away to Babylon--literally, "of their
migration," for the Jews avoided the word "captivity" as too bitter a
recollection, and our Evangelist studiously respects the national
12. And after they were brought to Babylon--after the migration of
Jechonias begat Salathiel--So
Nor does this contradict
"Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man (Coniah, or Jeconiah)
childless"; for what follows explains in what sense this was
meant--"for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne
of David." He was to have seed, but no reigning child.
and Salathiel--or Shealtiel.
But it would appear from
that Zerubbabel was Salathiel's grandson, being the son of Pedaiah,
whose name, for some reason unknown, is omitted.
13-15. And Zorobabel begat Abiud, &c.--None of these names are found
in the Old Testament; but they were doubtless taken from the public or
family registers, which the Jews carefully kept, and their accuracy was
16. And Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born
Jesus--From this it is clear that the genealogy here given is not
that of Mary, but of Joseph; nor has this ever been questioned. And yet
it is here studiously proclaimed that Joseph was not the natural, but
only the legal father of our Lord. His birth of a virgin was known only
to a few; but the acknowledged descent of his legal father from David
secured that the descent of Jesus Himself from David should never be
questioned. See on
who is called Christ--signifying "anointed." It is applied in the Old
Testament to the kings
(1Sa 24:6, 10);
to the priests
(Le 4:5, 16,
&c.); and to the prophets
--these all being anointed with oil, the symbol of the needful
spiritual gifts to consecrate them to their respective offices; and it
was applied, in its most sublime and comprehensive sense, to the
promised Deliverer, inasmuch as He was to be consecrated to an office
embracing all three by the immeasurable anointing of the Holy Ghost
17. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen
generations; and from David until the carrying away--or migration.
into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into
Babylon--the migration of Babylon.
unto Christ are fourteen generations--that is, the whole may be
conveniently divided into three fourteens, each embracing one marked
era, and each ending with a notable event, in the Israelitish annals.
Such artificial aids to memory were familiar to the Jews, and much
larger gaps than those here are found in some of the Old Testament
no fewer than six generations of the priesthood are omitted, as will
appear by comparing it with
It will be observed that the last of the three divisions of fourteen
appears to contain only thirteen distinct names, including Jesus as the
last. LANGE thinks that this was meant as a tacit
hint that Mary was to be supplied, as the thirteenth link of the
last chain, as it is impossible to conceive that the Evangelist could
have made any mistake in the matter. But there is a simpler way of
accounting for it. As the Evangelist himself
reckons David twice--as the last of the first fourteen and the first of
the second--so, if we reckon the second fourteen to end with Josiah,
who was coeval with the "carrying away into captivity"
and third to begin with Jeconiah, it will be found that the last
division, as well as the other two, embraces fourteen names, including
that of our Lord.
18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise--or, "thus."
When as his mother Mary was espoused--rather, "betrothed."
to Joseph, before they came together, she was found--discovered to be.
with child of the Holy Ghost--It was, of course, the fact only that
was discovered; the explanation of the fact here given is the
Evangelist's own. That the Holy Ghost is a living conscious Person is
plainly implied here, and is elsewhere clearly taught
(Ac 5:3, 4,
&c.): and that, in the unity of the Godhead, He is distinct both from
the Father and the Son, is taught with equal distinctness
On the miraculous conception of our Lord, see on
19. Then Joseph her husband--Compare
"Mary, thy wife." Betrothal was, in Jewish law, valid marriage. In
giving Mary up, therefore, Joseph had to take legal steps to effect the
being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example--to
expose her (see
De 22:23, 24)
was minded to put her away privily--that is, privately by giving her
the required writing of divorcement
in presence of only two or three witnesses, and without cause assigned,
instead of having her before a magistrate. That some communication had
passed between him and his betrothed, directly or indirectly, on the
subject, after she returned from her three months' visit to Elizabeth,
can hardly be doubted. Nor does the purpose to divorce her necessarily
imply disbelief, on Joseph's part, of the explanation given him. Even
supposing him to have yielded to it some reverential assent--and the
Evangelist seems to convey as much, by ascribing the proposal to screen
her to the justice of his character--he might think it
altogether unsuitable and incongruous in such circumstances to follow
out the marriage.
20. But while he thought on these things--Who would not feel for him
after receiving such intelligence, and before receiving any light from
above? As he brooded over the matter alone, in the stillness of the
night, his domestic prospects darkened and his happiness blasted for
life, his mind slowly making itself up to the painful step, yet planning
how to do it in the way least offensive--at the last extremity the Lord
behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying,
Joseph thou son of David--This style of address was doubtless advisedly
chosen to remind him of what all the families of David's line so early
coveted, and thus it would prepare him for the marvellous announcement
which was to follow.
fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived
in her is of the Holy Ghost--Though a dark cloud now overhangs this
relationship, it is unsullied still.
21. And she shall bring forth a son--Observe, it is not said, "she
shall bear thee a son," as was said to Zacharias of his wife Elizabeth
and thou--as his legal father.
shalt call his name JESUS--from the Hebrew meaning "Jehovah the
Saviour"; in Greek
JESUS--to the awakened and anxious sinner sweetest
and most fragrant of all names, expressing so melodiously and briefly
His whole saving office and work!
for he shall save--The "He" is here emphatic--He it is that shall save;
He personally, and by personal acts (as
WILKINSON express it).
his people--the lost sheep of the house of Israel, in the first
instance; for they were the only people He then had. But, on the
breaking down of the middle wall of partition, the saved people embraced
the "redeemed unto God by His blood out of every kindred and people and
tongue and nation."
from their sins--in the most comprehensive sense of salvation from sin
22. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken
of the Lord by the prophet--
23. Behold, a virgin--It should be "the virgin" meaning that
particular virgin destined to this unparalleled distinction.
shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call
his name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is, God with us--Not that
He was to have this for a proper name (like "Jesus"), but that He should
come to be known in this character, as God manifested in the flesh,
and the living bond of holy and most intimate fellowship between God and
men from henceforth and for ever.
24. Then Joseph, being raised from sleep--and all his difficulties now
did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his
wife--With what deep and reverential joy would this now be done on his
part; and what balm would this minister to his betrothed one, who had
till now lain under suspicions of all others the most trying to a chaste
and holy woman--suspicions, too, arising from what, though to her an
honor unparalleled, was to all around her wholly unknown!
25. And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son:
and he called his name JESUS--The word "till" does not necessarily
imply that they lived on a different footing afterwards (as will be
evident from the use of the same word in
nor does the word "first-born" decide the much-disputed question,
whether Mary had any children to Joseph after the birth of Christ; for,
as LIGHTFOOT says, "The law, in speaking of the
first-born, regarded not whether any were born after or no, but
only that none were born before." (See on
Mt 13:55, 56).