Christ’s Family Tree in Matt 1:6b-17

Posted by R. Fowler White

In my previous post about Christ’s family tree from Abraham to David, we noticed that the tree was an amalgamation of Israelite and Gentile branches. Now we turn to the branches from King David through the exile to Christ Himself (Matt 1:6b-17), and once again we realize that this is no ordinary list of names. These branches carry the history of not just a nation but also a royal lineage, both reeling from the travesty of David’s sins with the wife of Uriah and against Uriah himself. Having laid bare the root of Israel’s division into ten northern tribes and two southern tribes, Matthew would show us again how God’s grace overruled the moral chaos in and among His people to keep the line of Christ alive.

The Evangelist opens this segment of the family tree by casting a knowing glance toward King David’s affair with the woman-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned. She was the wife of the faithful and elite Gentile warrior Uriah, whom David conspired to get killed in an effort to cover up his tryst. The effects of David’s sins on his family and on the nation of Israel were catastrophic. We’d prefer to remember David as a war hero and conquering king, but the Evangelist pushes us to face the reality of who Christ’s ancestors really were and what they really did.

Matthew wants us mindful of how David yielded to sexual indulgence and excessive ambition … how he so badly mismanaged the raising of his children that he sired not only insurrectionists but an incestuous sex offender. Later in life, David was presiding over the nation when it collapsed, and he was responsible for his family when it fell apart. Embedded in the names of 1:6b-11 we find the conflict among his sons and the revolt they led against him. We recall too the revolt of the ten northern tribes of the twelve that made up the nation. Do we remember just how bitter the fruit of David’s sins was not only in his family’s history but in the whole nation’s history? Yet the fruit here is not only bitter. As we turn from King David to his descendants, the names in Matthew’s genealogy remind us how God brought hope to the nation: hope in the midst of failure during the divided kingdom and during the southern kingdom’s final years.

For Matthew, it seems, this hope-amidst-failure was epitomized in David’s son Solomon himself, whose divided heart led to a divided nation and bore a spiritually divided lineage. We track these divisions in the four royal father-son combinations that Matthew mentions after his brief glance at Solomon. We’re to remember that bad father Rehoboam begat bad son Abijah, and bad father Abijah begat good son Asa. Then good father Asa begat good son Jehoshaphat, while good father Jehoshaphat begat bad son Joram. Clearly, Solomon’s divided heart begat a divided lineage. And as we reach the final branch in Christ’s pre-exilic family tree, we stumble on Jeconiah and his brothers. Remember them? No? No, not so much. They’re David’s descendants who were taken prisoner by Nebuchadnezzar, enduring the shame of being the last royal family of Judah before the exile. So, what was going on among Christ’s ancestors from Solomon to Jeconiah and his brothers? Despite bad royal seed, God raised up good royal seed and, in the midst of failure, He was giving hope. Though King David’s sins wrecked the purity and peace of his family, his descendants, and his nation, God’s grace was finally irresistible, preserving the line of the Messiah.

There’s one last segment of Christ’s family tree for Matthew to cover: he walks us from the exile to Christ’s birth in 1:12-17. Having given us three selective groups of fourteen generations to aid our memories, Matthew informs us that even through the deportation God preserved the line of Christ. Made obscure by the exile, only two names in the final group stand out. The first mentioned, Zerubbabel, was heir to David’s throne and governor of Judah after the return from exile. Then we reach the last name, that of Joseph, only to notice that once more Matthew departs from the standard genealogy formula and recounts a most extraordinary event. Matthew states only that Mary was Christ’s mother. Wait. What? Though Joseph is the last natural branch that links Jesus to David, Matthew indicates that he was not Jesus’ biological father. How, then, was Joseph a link between David and Jesus? The facts of how Joseph got into Jesus’ genealogy may rattle our cages.

On the authority of Matthew’s account, we learn that it was through the power of the Holy Spirit that Mary became the mother of Jesus, and it was therefore not through ordinary biology but through adoption that Joseph, a son of David, became the father of Jesus and Jesus the son of David. Furthermore, however, Matthew would have us reckon with the world-altering fact that Jesus, conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit, is truly David’s God as much as He is truly David’s son! He is the eternal Son of God in the flesh, God-with-us, Immanuel! And it was Heaven that mandated that His parents give Him the name Jesus because He had come to save sinners from their sins!

Christ’s family tree is no mere registry of names, is it? No, these names carry indelible memories of God’s power in His grace to overcome the sin that destroys both individuals and nations. Is it not transparent from this genealogy, then, that we must confess on bended knee that God, from all eternity, did—by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will—freely and unchangeably ordain whatever comes to pass? Moreover, must we not confess that He was pleased, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, to be the mediator between God and man? Knowing Christ’s family tree as Matthew has given it to us, let us be sure to confess Him as the God-man, son of David and son of Abraham, who came to save us sinners from our sins.

Christ’s Family Tree in Matt 1:1-6a

Posted by R. Fowler White

The family tree of Jesus Christ as Matthew presents it, and the window that it gives us into His human origins, is as intriguing as it is startling. When we review it closely, the lessons are arresting. One means that Matthew seems to use to give us clues to his lessons is when he adds phrases to the standard genealogy formula of “X was the father of Y.” Notice, for example, these three listings: “Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers,” “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,” and “Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary.” Additions such as these, and even omissions of certain names, seem to be among Matthew’s tactics to focus our attention where he wants it to go. Let’s see what we can find.

The Evangelist presents to us, first, the branches of Christ’s family tree that came from Abraham to King David (Matt 1:1-6a). Strikingly, here we see that certain natural branches (i.e., Israelite descendants) were selected and cut off from the line of the Christ, while unexpected unnatural branches (i.e., Gentile descendants) were grafted in. Check out the details.

Matthew begins with a summary of his message about Jesus’ human origins: He is the son of David and the son of Abraham. His family tree starts with His lineage from David and Abraham (notice the reversed chronology), evidently and primarily because of the covenant promises God gave to each. What makes this the more interesting is to recall the events in each man’s life that gave rise to the promises they received. One event that made David’s reputation (before his tragic fall into sin with Bathsheba) was his victory over Goliath, the enemy of God’s people. It was a victory that adumbrated his future subjugation of the foreign enemies that remained in the land after the conquest under Joshua. God rewarded David’s faith with the promise that his son would be better than he and would have the better, final victory over the enemies of God’s people. In fact, in the narratives that follow the family tree, Matthew will show us that Jesus is indeed better than David. He is, in fact, the obedient Royal Son who defeats the greatest enemies of God’s people: sin and death, the devil and the world!

But what of Abraham? Two events stand out in Abraham’s saga as preludes to God’s promises to him. At the beginning, we remember that it was by faith that Abraham left his home in Ur to go to a land of which he knew nothing other than that God would show it to him. Let that reality sink in for a moment. Later, toward the end of his story, by faith Abraham offered up his unique son Isaac in sacrifice to God, and God delivered Isaac from death. On both occasions, God rewarded Abraham’s faith with a promise to provide him a seed, a son in whom all the nations of the earth would find blessing. No wonder Matthew shows us by the end of his Gospel that Jesus launched a pan-national evangelistic campaign through His Apostles. This was the commission from none other than that Son of Abraham who, having offered Himself in sacrifice and been raised from the dead, brings the blessing of salvation from sins to all the nations!

With the summary of Jesus’ human origins before us in the headlines about David and Abraham, Matthew moves on to tell us that, from Abraham through David, God grew and trimmed Christ’s family tree. The Evangelist tells us that by grace God chose certain natural branches, but He cut off others. He included Isaac and Jacob, but cut off Ishmael and Esau. The Lord also included Judah, the natural branch who persuaded his brothers to sell their brother Joseph into slavery and was otherwise known in Scripture as a devious, conniving, promiscuous womanizer. Of course, He also included David the king, the war hero who fought God’s enemies; the king who reformed the nation and established its worship. This was David the poet, musician, and prophet in Israel; a friend to Jonathan, the firstborn son of none other than his nemesis Saul. This was David the adulterer, the accomplice to murder, the failed husband, the failed father. One message Matthew would have us get: in God’s determinations of Christ’s ancestors we do well to recognize His grace to the natural branches that He included and His severity to those that He excluded.

Matthew’s account of Christ’s family tree continues as he recites the names of those unnatural Gentile branches whom God grafted in by grace. God grafted in the sons of Tamar, the Gentile daughter-in-law of Judah. She is the woman who took the desperate step to save the coming Messiah’s lineage from extinction by posing as a prostitute to seduce negligent Judah to make her the mother of his twin sons, Perez and Zerah. God also grafted in the son of Rahab, the Gentile prostitute who believed in the God of Abraham, and was saved by Joshua and his spies from the destruction of Jericho. Further, God grafted in the son of Ruth, yes, even Ruth, the Gentile widow from the shamed line of Lot.

The family tree of Christ from Abraham up to David the king was quite an amalgamation, wasn’t it? It was a tree of natural Israelite branches and of unnatural Gentile branches. More than that, it was a tree husbanded by the singularly sovereign God who overrules sin for His own good purposes, even to bring His eternal Son into the world to save sinners.

Stay tuned for a meditation of Christ’s Family Tree in Matt 1:6b-17.

The King on David’s Throne

Matthew 1:1-17

Probably the very last thing you would ever be interested in is your family tree. You might know a few names. You might even know the names back to your great-grandfather. But you probably don’t know any names further back than that. My grandfather would be an exception to this general rule. He knows his relatives all the way back to the 17th century and the Mayflower. He has a computer program with over 1500 names in it. But even his interest in names is nothing compared with the interest that the ancient Jews had for names. If anyone desired to be a priest, he had to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that his ancestry came from Levi. If anyone came along claiming to be the Messiah, but his registry didn’t come from Judah, he would be laughed out of court. Matthew begins his history of Jesus by a genealogy.

Most of us probably skip over this part of Matthew when we read. We might think to ourselves, “What possible benefit does reading this genealogy give me?” We are going to see that the benefits of reading this genealogy are remarkable. Not knowing what Jesus’ ancestry was would be a real blow to our knowledge of Him.

Matthew’s book starts out by saying literally that this is the book of the genesis of Jesus Christ. There are two things that are remarkable about this. The first is that word “genesis.” It is as if Matthew is saying, “the Old Testament started with the old Genesis. The New testament era, characterized by Jesus Christ, starts with a new Genesis.” This is a translation of the formula used in Genesis, “these are the records of…” The second thing that is remarkable is that the name of Jesus Christ occurs here. Jewish genealogies always took the name of the first person on the list. So a Jew would have called this passage “the record of the genealogy of Abraham.” But Matthew, who is a Jew, knows this tradition well. Instead of putting Abraham’s name there, he puts the name of Jesus Christ. What he is saying by that is that all of the names in this list are over-shadowed by the name of Jesus Christ. All these names derive their significance from the fact that they were ancestors of Jesus Christ. The Jews thought the other way around: they thought that the last name derived its importance from the first name. But Matthew says that Abraham’s name derives its importance from Jesus Christ.

Notice also that Matthew divides Israel’s history into three periods: the time from Abraham to David; the time from David to the exile; and the time from the exile to Christ. Each section of Israel’s history has a shape to it. Abraham starts out small: Israel is not even born yet with Abraham. Yet God is with Abraham and with the people of Israel. The progress along this line is upwards, until we get to the pinnacle of the kingship: David. After that, in the second period, we see a decline. David is a “man after God’s own heart.” However, the rest of the kings decline in morality until we arrive at Jechoniah and the deportation to Babylon. So we see a big up-swing, and now a big down-swing. From the deportation to Babylon up until the time of Christ, there is another up-swing. God is faithful in preserving the line of David until Christ comes.

Now, I am not normally one to look at Bible codes, and see number combinations where there are none. But here Matthew has left us several clues as to what he means. First of all, each list has fourteen names in it. Now, if you look at the name David, it is the fourteenth in the list. In the Jewish alphabet, each letter could also stand for a number. If you look at the letters of David’s name, they are D, V, and D. D was 4, and V was 6. That gives you 4,6,4, which adds up to fourteen. I think that is too much of a coincidence. I believe that Matthew is saying by this that Jesus is the king who will sit on David’s throne.

There is another reason for this as well, and this gets us into the time-honored problem of the relationship between Matthew’s genealogy and Luke’s genealogy, which can be found in Luke 3. Previously, scholars have thought that maybe Matthew is giving us Joseph’s genealogy, while Luke gives us Mary’s line. This is not possible however, because of Luke 3:23, which says that Joseph was the son of Heli. A better explanation was given by D.G. Barnhouse in his Romans commentary. He says that Matthew gives us the royal line of those who actually sat on the throne, while Luke gives us the legal line of the eldest son. This is possible, and a better explanation than the first one. However, that still does not explain why Matthew does what he does with the genealogy. For one thing, Matthew leaves out many names. In the time between David and Christ, Matthew has 28 generations, while Luke has 43. Matthew has left out some generations so as to make the total come to fourteen in each section. It is certain that Matthew gives us the line of who was on the throne. Naturally, the listing of those who were on the throne would be a longer list than a list that gave us physical descent. The point of Luke’s genealogy is that Jesus is the new Adam, because he ends his list with “Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” That implies that the end of Luke’s genealogy is a new beginning. Therefore, the difference between Matthew and Luke is that Luke is giving us the physical line of descent of Joseph, whereas Matthew is giving us the royal line of those who sat on the throne, or those who would have sat on the throne, had there been a throne on which they could have sat. This difference also explains why Matthew goes from father to son (for that is how the kingship ran), whereas Luke goes from son to father (going back in physical lineage, this is the only way to do it).

The next thing we should see is that Matthew does not always mean physical son, when he says, “the father of.” That word is the same word God uses when he says, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.” When we think of begetting, we think of strict lineage of father to son. But that is not how the ancient world thought.

Genealogies like this were always meant to say something about the people in it. For instance, in verse 7-8, Matthew has literally “Asaph.” The NIV does us no favors here by translating the name “Asa.” That is not what Matthew said. Matthew knew his OT just as well, and much better than we do. Matthew meant to include the OT Psalmist Asaph. Often genealogies would include people who were thought to be important. Asaph makes his way into the genealogy, because he was famous only for being a Psalmist. This is Matthew’s way of saying, “Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT Psalms.” A little later, Matthew makes another play on words. In verse 10, he translates “Amon” as “Amos.” Again the NIV translates this as “Amon” without so much as a note explaining why. Matthew wanted to include Amos, because Amos was the OT prophet of destruction for Israel. Notice where he comes in the line: right before the captivity. Matthew is telling us in a subtle way with these two puns that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of OT prophecy and the Psalms.

The next thing we need to notice are the four women mentioned. These are not the four women we would expect. In any self-respecting Jewish genealogy of the time, if they included any women at all, which was rare, they would have include Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah. Matthew includes Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and “the wife of Uriah.” Finding out what these women have in common has not seemed to be easy for scholars. The story of Tamar is that she was the wife of Er, Judah’s first-born son. Er displeased the Lord, so the Lord took his life. Then Tamar was given to Onan, the next in line. Onan was supposed to perform the duty of a younger brother. He deliberately failed in his duty, so the Lord took him as well. Tamar then was supposed to be given to Shelah, the youngest son. However, Judah did not give her to him. So Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute, and seduced Judah. When Judah was informed that Tamar was pregnant, he was ready to have her stoned until he found out that it was his own child that she was carrying. Tamar was most likely a Gentile.

Rahab was the prostitute who hid the spies during the conquest of Canaan. She was obviously a Gentile, and an immoral one at that. But she was brought into the covenant community by Joshua when they invaded the land.
Ruth was a Moabitess, who showed faithfulness to her mother-in-law Naomi.

Matthew hesitates even to mention Bathsheba’s name. He calls her “the wife of Uriah,” thus proving both that David sinned in what he did with her, and also proving that Bathsheba was a Gentile.

All four women were Gentiles, and three of the four had rather checkered histories. Matthew is probably diffusing the controversy over Jesus’ birth. The Jews have always said that Joseph was Jesus’ father. Matthew says emphatically that Joseph was NOT Jesus’ father in verse 16. Instead of saying father, father, father, father, Matthew says “husband of Mary, of whom was born Christ.”

What Matthew is saying is that even David had “questionable” women in his ancestry, including Gentiles, and including sinners. The truth is that God by the power of the Holy Spirit made Mary conceive.

This brings us to another remarkable thing about this genealogy: there are only thirteen names in the third section. Count them. I believe that is because the true Father of Jesus is God, who is here unmentioned. God is the fourteenth “name” in the genealogy.

So Jesus is the King that will sit on David’s throne. We have seen that His lineage is undoubtedly from David, despite some interesting ancestors. Joseph, of course, is Jesus’ adopted father. Jesus was Joseph’s heir. That is why this genealogy is important at all. Joseph was from the line of David. Therefore, Jesus, though not born from Joseph, was Joseph’s heir, and therefore had the right of the throne, which Joseph had, according to Matthew.

Is Jesus King in your life? Is He Lord? It doesn’t matter what your past is, God can bring you into His kingdom, and He can use you for His purposes. That will give you a sense of belonging which you cannot get anywhere else. Maybe you had a checkered past. That does not mean that God cannot forgive you. If you think that God cannot forgive your sin, then you are sinning by undervaluing Christ’s sacrifice, which has infinite worth. Do not think that you are so completely unique in the annals of history, such that your case is so completely different from anyone else’s. Your past cannot be worse than Tamar, or Bathsheba, or Rahab. And yet, God used them, and brought them in. They were all Gentiles. This fact foreshadows the Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, which hangs over the Gospel like a great arrow, showing the way we must go. Matthew tells us that Jesus is king here at the beginning. At the end, Jesus says that all power and authority have been given to Him. That is why we must do the kingdom work. Because Jesus is the King who sits on David’s royal throne.

Esau, the Great

Genesis 36

It just doesn’t seem fair, does it? No matter how hard you work, no matter how honest you are, no matter how much you come to church, the unbeliever seems to do better. He is often dishonest, lazy, impious, and a complete jerk, and yet he prospers and you don’t. What is God thinking, you say. Well, there are several things that God might be thinking. Our passage, with its long list of names, actually has something to say about this issue. Why do the wicked seem to prosper, while God’s people suffer hardship?

First of all, we need to get our bearings here. We have finished the section dealing with Jacob, and are about to embark on the Joseph story. We saw the same kind of thing happen right before the Jacob story. After we had finished with the Abraham story, Moses gave us the genealogy of Ishmael. And now, after the Jacob story, but before the Joseph story, Moses again gives us the genealogy of the rejected family line of Esau.

But why is this genealogy here? It would seem to have absolutely nothing to do with us. It is not even the genealogy of the promised son Jacob. So why is it here in Scripture? It must have some use, since all of Scripture is inspired and is useful for instruction. First of all, it shows the glory of God. It would eventually take quite a bit of power from God in order to defeat this nation of Edom. Edom was so strong that only God could overpower it. The same is true of our own spiritual battles: only God is able to overcome.

The second reason this passage is give to us is that we learn an important lesson about our spiritual enemies: know them! Moses wrote this for the Israelites who were about to go into the promised land. Not only were the Edomites close relatives (the Israelites were told at the time not to harm the Edomites, since they were kinsmen), but also they would become bitter enemies of Israel. It is important to know one’s enemies. In our case, we must know how Satan works in order to be able to stand against him by the power of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that we should study his ways in order to become fascinated by them. That is very dangerous. But every general in combat learns about how his enemy thinks, so that he can make his move, and be sure that that move will accomplish what he wants it to do. In the same way, we must not be ignorant of how Satan tempts us, or we will have a very hard time resisting him. He will have all the trump cards. There have been two books written on the subject that extremely helpful in this regard. The first is called Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. In that book, Lewis has a senior demon write letters to his “nephew” demon, telling him how to tempt a human being. The writing is often funny, but more importantly, it gives us a good picture of how Satan tempts. C.S. Lewis is very careful not paint Satan in good colors. There’s no doubt who the bad guy is. This idea has been updated in a more recent book by Randy Alcorn, entitled Lord Foulgrin’s Letters. This is an equally helpful book, though I do not agree with everything in the book. It has a story to go along with the letters, and the story makes the spiritual battle very real. As Alcorn says, in this spiritual warfare in which we are engaged, most of us are pacifists. We should not be.

The third reason this passage is given to us is that we can see here God’s Providence working in the lives of His people, even with regard to foreign nations. Notice what happens in verses 6-8: Esau finds that the land will not hold him, and so he moves to Edom, to the hill country of Seir. He had been in the promised land, but now he moves out. This indicates that Esau really did despise his birthright, which consisted of the land of Canaan. But now the whole country is left wide open for the people of Israel to come in and take possession of it. God’s providence is further evident in verse 43, where the text says that it was the land they occupied. That word there means that God had commissioned them to occupy the land of Seir, and not the land of Canaan. God clears out a place for His people, in order that they might truly inherit the land. That happens with us as well. Jesus said that He is preparing a place for us. As it were, He clears away the ground, rids it of pests and worms and enemies, and makes the place livable for us. Such will be the new heavens and the new earth. We will not inherit it until Christ comes back. However, He is even now preparing that place for us. But it is not because of our own power and numbers that God prepares that place for us. As Deuteronomy 7:7 says: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and choseyou, for you were the fewest of all peoples.” God does not love us because we are so lovable. God loves us while we were still enemies of Him. While we were still enemies Christ died for us. That is the measure of God’s love for His people.

Notice in verses 20 and following that we have the genealogy of the Horites. They were the people that the Edomites drove out in order to possess the land of Seir. So there we see God’s providence in making a people for the Edomites to drive out, so that they would leave the Promised Land, so that Israel could inherit the Promised Land. God’s providence goes back even another layer to the people that the rejected people would drive out! That should amaze us.

Even though Esau was the rejected son, nevertheless, God had promised that Esau would become a mighty nation. God promised that Esau would throw off the yoke of his brother Jacob. In order to do that, he would have to be a mighty nation.

Eventually, we come in history to the Herods, who were Edomites. Herod the Great, who persecuted Jesus and tried to kill him, was an Edomite. He was a representative of the seed of the serpent. As we have seen in Genesis the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman constantly are fighting with one another. It is spiritual warfare, often physical, though now it is only spiritual.

So you look at other people, wicked people, and see them prospering. It makes you mad. What we have to remember when that happens is that our land that we will inherit is far better than what they will acquire. They may get land on earth, but they will not inherit heaven. They will not inherit the true Promised Land, the new heavens and the new earth. That is only for those for whom it has been prepared. We must be patient and realize that God is bringing it about. It may not happen on the time-table that we would like. However, it is happening.

To Abraham

Genesis 11:10-32
We have come to the end of a very important part of Genesis with this post. Just to let us know where we are, we are finishing the first eleven chapters today. That might seem like we are going to spend forever in Genesis, but that is not true. The first eleven chapters are quite a bit more dense than the rest of the book. Many sermons from now on will take a whole chapter at a time.

The first eleven chapters are all about God creating a world, that world falling into sin, and God judging the world, bringing grace along with judgment. Now today we are going to transition into the story of Abraham. Moses does this by way of a genealogy. Now, we have seen this kind of genealogy before, but this one is a little different, and in this case, the differences are wonderful for us.

In chapter 5, we will remember that the genealogy there started with the age of the patriarch when he had his first son, then it would say how many years after that he live, and mention the fact that he had other sons and daughters, and then he would die. There were ten generations from Adam to Noah. We saw that Enoch was in the seventh position, which is a position of honor in genealogies, as is the tenth spot in a genealogy. You will remember that there are two kinds of genealogies: those that go from father to son to son to son, and those that branch out. We have seen both of these kinds of genealogies in Genesis. The table of Nations in chapter 10 is a branching kind of genealogy, whereas our passage today is a straight-line genealogy from father to son. In this case, no special honor is given to the seventh spot, but there are ten generations, just as in chapter 5, and the tenth generation is something special: Abram is in the tenth generation. The chapter 5 genealogy ends in three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. Our genealogy here has ten generations, ending in three sons also: Abram, Nahor, and Haran. We can see that the Lord saw the wickedness of the world increasing over these ten generations, and at the end of the first ten generations, God judges the world. At the end of the second ten generations, God also acts, but this time with grace in the life of Abraham.

There is another very wonderful difference between chapter 5 and chapter 10. The chapter ten genealogy does not mention the fact that the patriarch died. In chapter 5, Moses wanted us to remember that we are mortal, and that all mankind dies, except for that bright spot in the genealogy, Enoch, who does not die. Here in this chapter, none of the patriarchs are said to die. Of course, they did die. But the fact that Moses does not mention that fact is significant: this is the line of promise, through which death will meet its own end. The promise of defeating death goes through the promised seed of Adam and the woman. That promise will eventually end in Jesus Christ.

But this is only the end of a long process that continues in our passage. Notice several things about this genealogy: the lives of the patriarchs get shorter and shorter. This fulfills what God had said about the lives of mankind in Genesis 6:3: “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

And again, there are some interesting overlaps in ages. Seth outlives his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson Abram by 35 years. Shem’s son Arpachshad dies when Abraham is 148 years old. Shem outlives all his descendents except Eber all the way to Isaac. Arpachshad’s sons Shelah outlives Abraham as well by 8 years. Shelah’s son Eber, the father of the Hebrews, also outlives Abraham. Peleg is the first descendent not to live all the way until Abraham is born. That was in the days when the Tower of Babel was built. Immediately after the Tower of Babel incident, the lives of people got much shorter. In fact, Peleg only lives a little more than half the number of years that his father Eber lived. God does this for the benefit of mankind.

Previously, mankind was allowed to live so long that they could become unbelievably wicked. Now, they will not live so long, and thus have to remember that they are mortal, and that their lives are like a drop in the bucket compared to eternity. We have to remember that in our own time as well. Especially young people have to remember that they are not indestructible. It is quite possible to live your life ignorant of the fact that you will die. We try to shove off that realization as long as possible. We only remember when someone dies, and then we get the uncomfortable realization that we could be next. We should remember our mortality more often, so that we will rely on God’s grace more often.

Notice something else that is interesting. Most of the patriarchs have children when they are about 30 years of age. That is not true of Abraham’s father Terah. Probably this is because Moses wants to tell us that the chosen family will always have trouble conceiving children. Every single one of the patriarchs has a barren wife. Sarah is barren, Rebekah is barren, Rachel is barren. They are all needy people. Barrenness was viewed as a sort of death in the Ancient Near East. Without children, you weren’t alive. That explains a lot of things in the OT. Rachel said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die.” What she really means is, “Make me alive, because right now, I’m dead.” Hannah was willing to completely give up her first-born son if the Lord would grant her request. Elizabeth in the NT was barren for a long time, until the Lord visited her, and granted her conception. Barrenness was death in that time period.

So being given a child was just like being resurrected from the dead. When God gives Sarah a child, the Lord is giving her new life. The same thing happens with Rebekah and Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth. They are given new life. It points to the resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ. That gives us new life from the dead. No longer are we spiritually barren. But we who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have received that new resurrection life within us.

We are in a position of deadness ourselves. We are just like Sarah, of whom it is said, “Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.” We do not have the Holy Spirit in us. We are dead in our trespasses and sins. We have no life in us. We are not merely sick. We are dead. Then God comes within us and makes us alive again. He gives us a new heart, a heart of flesh and not a heart of stone. God gives us the Holy Spirit. New life is conceived within us, just as God overcomes barrenness in the patriarchal family. The fruit of that in our lives is good works, just as the fruit of God’s work in Sarai was a new baby, a rather obvious fruit. We then are called to recognize that nothing that we do is going to make us alive, but we must trust in God as Abraham and Sarah did, in order to make us well.

So where does that leave us right now? It leaves in in a wandering situation. Terah and his family are going on a pilgrimage. The trouble is that they know where they are going, but never get there in Terah’s lifetime. They have to wait on God. Moses writes this in a way that any Israelite coming out of the Exodus would understand: namely, that Abraham’s position is exactly like the Israelites wandering in the desert. They have been saved from their spiritual barrenness, saved out of the land of Egypt, but they have not come to the promised land yet. This is the same situation that the church is in right now. We have been saved from death and sin, but we do not yet have our glorified bodies, and we do not yet live in the new heavens and the new earth, which is our promised land. Moses writes this to encourage the Israelites, because Abraham does eventually arrive at the promised land, just as the Israelites will eventually enter and take possession of the promised land. But they get discouraged while they are wandering. They sin, and get themselves into all sorts of trouble. They forget about God and His deliverance, just like we do. They grumble and complain, just like we do. The call is for us to remember what god has done in bringing us from death to life, remember how God has preserved us in our wilderness wanderings, and remember that God has saved a place for us in the new heavens and the new earth. Hebrews 11:8-10 says this: “And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” May we be just like Abraham in his faith.

The Last Word

Genesis 5
“The basic fact about human experience is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore.” Now that statement may be a bit of an exaggeration. However, there is a kernel of truth there. We get up in the morning, cook breakfast, eat breakfast, work, drive the kids to school, work, drive the kids home from school, work, cook supper, eat supper, put the kids to bed, go to sleep, and do the whole thing all over again the next day. Life seems like an unending cycle that cannot be broken. The cycle is monotonous and boring. There are yearly cycles too, especially in farming. They can get monotonous as well. Do you ever feel like screaming out at God that you want to get out of life? Life feels like this genealogy. So-and-so is born, lives until a certain age, has a son, lives another length of time, has other sons and daughters, and then dies. Sounds rather boring, rather like an unending cycle that never changes. There is nothing new under the sun. Underlying all of this boredom is the thought of death itself. That is what makes the cycle unbearable: after all this work and toil, the only thing that happens at the end is death. How boring. Does death have the last word? Is that the end of all our striving? Is all our striving losing?

It would seem that death reigned from Adam onward, as Paul says. Death reigned because of sin. The text starts out by a contrast between God’s creation and man’s creation. God creates mankind in His own image, in the image of God. Adam, though, has a son in his own image. That tells us that the Fall is going to perpetuate itself in the following generations. Seth is in the image of God. However, it is an image that is filtered by the distorted image of Adam. It is not a direct image of God. That is the point of the first five verses. That starts this seemingly unending cycle of birth and death.

But we notice one thing right away. These first human beings lived a very long time. This has caused some scholars to be exceedingly skeptical about whether these numbers are to be taken literally or not. They surprise us because the numbers are so large. However, once we consider that human beings were created to live forever, and that the life-span gradually gets shorter and shorter after the Flood, then we should not have any difficulty in taking Moses at his word. We need to notice two things about these long lives. First of all, we need to see that the ages of Cain’s descendents are not recorded for us. That is because all of Cain’s descendents will perish in the Flood. The other thing we need to know is that these numbers are actually small. The Babylonian tradition about the kings who existed before the Flood records some very interesting numbers indeed. There is a document called the Sumerian King List, which gives us the name of ten kings who reigned before the Flood. They reigned anywhere from 18,600 years to 43,200 years. Eight kings ruled for a total of 241,000 years. Beside these numbers, the Genesis account records very modest and small numbers. The point of the Genesis narrative is that no ancestor ever lived longer than 1000 years. Not even Methuselah lived that long. 1000 years is symbolic of eternity, or of a perfect period of time. The Bible says that 1000 years are like one day to God. Man never lives even as long as one of God’s days. This should give new meaning to Revelation 20, which says that Jesus Christ reigns for 1000 years. More on that later.

However long these men lived, there is the depressingly monotonous refrain at the end of every account, “and he died.” However, there is one example that is different from all the others. Enoch does not die. Enoch lives to be 365 years old, the number of days in a year. Have you ever noticed that? Notice also that twice in these brief verses, it says that Enoch walked wit God. What does “walking with God” mean? It means to have close fellowship with God. The Bible tells us that two cannot walk together unless they be reconciled. Methuselah then was saved. He believed in the promise of the Messiah, the one who would crush Satan’s head. Long life (which is what Enoch does not have) is not the most sacred and honorable blessing that can come from God. Enoch had something better. As Matthew Henry says, “As he did not live like others, so also he did not die like others.” Walking with God is the reason for the great reward that Enoch receives. Enoch does not die. In the place of that phrase that we would normally expect to see, there is this marvelous statement: “and he was not, for God took him.” From Hebrews 11 we learn that Enoch walked by faith such that God allowed him not to taste death. A little girl once told this story in a wonderful way: “Enoch and God used to take long walks together. And one day they walked further than usual; and God said, ‘Enoch, you must be tired; come into my house and rest.’” If there is faith, hope and love, these three, Enoch’s faith is what God turned to sight, and Enoch’s hope God turned to fulfillment.

What happened to Enoch would have been a tremendous boost of hope to all those living. Of all his ancestors, only Adam had died, and of his descendants, only Noah was yet to be born. It took place about half-way from creation to the flood. Death does not have the last word! Now remember that what Enoch went through is not the same as a resurrection from the dead. Hebrews makes it plain that Enoch did not taste death.

Enoch’s son is the longest living person in the Bible. He lives 969 years and dies in the year of the flood. The shortest lived ancestor is the father of the longest-lived ancestor. Enoch, though, did not provide complete freedom from death. Methuselah, though the son of Enoch still died. Another solution would be needed. Notice that Methuselah is the father of Lamech.

Now Lamech lives 777 years. Remember that Cain’s descendant Lamech was the seventh from Adam, and boasted of having a 77-fold revenge. Now the descendant of Seth lives 777 years. This is probably not coincidence. What Moses wants to do here is to compare the two Lamechs. There is no comparison. Lamech descended from Seth is a prophet, while the Lamech descended from Cain was a false prophet. What does Lamech say? He says that Noah will acquire relief from the work. Notice that it says “out of the ground.” The NIV gives us the impression that the ground is the cause of the painful toil. He ESV is better here when it says that Noah came out of the ground. In other words, from ground that the Lord had cursed, the Lord would also bring someone to relieve the curse of the ground. The next several chapters of Genesis will tell us whether Noah did in fact get a hold of that rest that Lamech was talking about.

Verse 32 is rather curious. Noah waited 500 years to have his three sons. This is quite remarkable. None of the other ancestors waited this long to have children. The only reason I can think of for this delay is that God providentially kept Noah from raising a family until Methuselah and Lamech were old enough such that they would die before the Flood. This goes to show us that God preserved the promised line of Seth such that not one of Seth’s line died in the Flood.

So how do we see Christ portrayed in these obscure verses from the Old Testament? Well, first of all we have to see that Enoch was just like Elijah, who was just like John the Baptist. Elijah was the second person that God took away without seeing death. Death has been cheated twice; once for Enoch, and once for Elijah. Enoch is another kind of John the Baptist. He precedes Noah, who is the type of Jesus Christ. The word “type” here means a person or a thing or an idea that is a shadow of the reality. A “type” points to something to come later on. A “type” corresponds in at least one recognizable way with that reality. Enoch corresponds to John the Baptist, because Enoch is a herald of Noah. He is the one who comes before. This means that Noah is the “type” of Jesus Christ. Just as all the world would be descended from Noah, so also all Christians would be descended from Christ. There would be one world family in Noah, and so there will be one world of Christians in Jesus Christ. Noah underwent a baptism in the ark, and Jesus underwent the baptism of his death and resurrection. The only way anyone could be saved in Noah’s day was by being inside the ark. The only way anyone can be saved now (normally) is by belonging to Christ’s body, the church. There is no ordinary possibility of salvation outside the true church of Jesus Christ. We will explore those connections in the weeks to come as we look at Noah.

So do we walk with God? Again, what does that mean? We have seen that it means an intimate relationship with God. That can only happen through Jesus Christ, who walked with man, and walked with His Father. Christ bridged the gap between God an man. Man had sinned. The result was death. Jesus came into that death situation in such a way that life was the result. Now, anyone can come into a relationship with God. One only needs to believe in Jesus Christ, that He took our sins on Himself, and gave us His righteousness. We can now stand before God clothed in Christ’s righteousness. We can now walk with God by walking in the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5 tells us what walking with God now looks like. Read Galatians 5:16-26. I believe that it is not too difficult to understand what the fruit of the Spirit is. The problem is doing them. As G. K Chesterton wrote, “Christianity is not a religion that has been tried and found wanting; it rather has been found difficult and never tried.” Certainly, we want to say that we cannot walk with God without the Holy Spirit to direct our steps. However, if we are Christians, then we are to walk. We have been reconciled, just like Enoch has been. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us now. How do we walk? We make use of the means of grace: we come to hear the Word of God, we partake of the Sacraments (and if you are not a member of a church such that you can partake, I would urge you to consider joining a church, or becoming a communing member, especially if you are a youth who has not joined yet), we pray, we read out Bibles, we have fellowship with other believers. We should not neglect any of these things. We should rather take every opportunity we have to do these things. That is part of what it means to walk with God. Walking with God also means that we are walking with our fellow believers. It is most definitely NOT true that we can just have a relationship with God, and not have one with the church. Christianity is never supposed to be this “God, the Bible, and me” sort of thing. Paul tells us not to neglect the gathering of the saints. I read Paul as saying that whenever the church meets we should try to be there, knowing of course that emergencies come up, and that we cannot be there every single time. But we should try to attend as much as possible. All of these things we do are not part of our becoming a Christian. They are the result of becoming a Christian.

When we walk with God, then God has promised that if we live until the time when Christ returns, then we will meet Jesus Christ in the air, and we will always be with Him. Enoch’s story promises that for us. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Enoch was tired, as the little girl said. So he went to Jesus, and Jesus gave him rest. He will do the same for you. Rest in Him.

Chronological Gaps in Genesis 5?

I am talking about a very limited subject, but one which has been constantly misinterpreted by the scholarly community. I am referring to the issue of whether there are gaps in the genealogy in Genesis 5.

In other genealogies, there do appear to be gaps. For instance, in Matthew 1, there are three kings that are deliberately left out in order for the number in each segment to equal 14. Matthew is making there the theological statement that Jesus is the Davidic king. But is the same thing true whenever we see genealogies in the Bible?

In Genesis 5, we see this formula: X lived Y number of years and fathered Z. After fathering Z, X had lived Y1 number of years (having had other sons and daughters). I would beg to ask those who favor a chronological gap in the geneaologies this question: how does one account for the word “after,” as in Genesis 5:4? Where exactly is the gap supposed to fit in this genealogy?

Furthermore, at the beginning and end of Genesis 5, it is obvious that there is no gap: Adam fathered Seth, and Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Are we to now suppose that there gaps in between the 2nd and 9th generations? Would it not appear more natural to interpret all the generations as having no gap, since the genealogy plainly starts and ends that way?

It is an inclusio, which is a fancy term that means “literary bookend.” The inclusio here is the no-gap genealogy of Adam-Seth and Noah-sons. Usually an inclusio means that whatever is in between is to be treated in a similar way. For instance, in Matthew 5, the Beatitudes start and end with Kingdom Beatitudes. Hence we can infer that all the Beatitudes in between also are referring to the Kingdom.

What is the importance of discussing this question? Well, it does have a bearing on whether Genesis can be made to fit with the theory of evolution. Evolution requires billions of years. Those scientists who require an old earth to fit their theories (which BY NO MEANS constitutes all scientists), but who also want to square their ideas with Scripture, tend to interpret these genealogies as having gaps. I wish to close that gap to these scientists. Just because there are gaps in some genealogies does not mean that there are gaps in all genealogies in Scripture.