“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham . . .” (Matthew 1:1, NIV)
Two Gospels, Matthew’s and Luke’s, include genealogies of Jesus Christ. Luke traces Jesus back through Abraham, while Matthew provides the Messiah’s Davidic lineage. But another key difference between the lists is that Matthew’s, unlike most such lists in the first century, includes five women. And while many commentators view these women as examples of scandal and grace, Matthew probably intended something different.
With the first four—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife—Matthew shows Jesus’ fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that through Christ “all nations” would be blessed (Gen. 22:18). All four were Gentiles. The historian Philo (Virt. 220–22), who lived during Matthew’s time, said Tamar was from Syria Palestina, a Canaanite city. And we know Rahab was from Jericho. Ruth was a Moabitess. And the title “Uriah’s wife,” a phrase probably designed to remind readers of the word “Hittite,” indicates Bathsheba’s nationality. Mary, the fifth woman, was fully Jewish. Her inclusion demonstrates that Jesus is the promised son of David’s line. So together these five women show that Jesus is Lord of the nations and King of the Jews, the promised son of Abraham and the promised son of David.
Our Lord had to be both. To be the all-inclusive Messiah, Mary had to be Jewish, but Jesus also had to have Gentiles in his pedigree. And Matthew could not have made the case for Gentile inclusion with any of the men, as these all had to be descendants of Abraham. The only way to include Gentiles in our Lord’s pedigree was to include his Gentile foremothers.
This King is different from all others. Prior pedigrees of royalty in Israel stressed the king’s Jewishness through his male ancestors. But this pedigree, by including five women, establishes Jesus simultaneously as the king who sits on David’s throne and the ruler of all nations—King of kings and Lord of lords!