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December 12, 2004

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.

Matthew 1:16, 17

Jesus has perhaps the most complete and documented genealogy of anyone on earth! It is presented in two places in the Scriptures: in Matthew 1:1-17 and in Luke 3:23-38.

Some of the differences of the two accounts are that Matthew traces Christ’s lineage back to Abraham. It goes from the past, forward to the birth of Christ. Whereas Luke traces Christ’s lineage from Joseph, the husband of Mary, going back and ending with Adam, the son of God.

The Matthew account also gives some noteworthy details. For instance, it lists some of the mothers in Jesus’ line, which wasn’t the custom of the day. Those listed are: Rahab, Ruth and “her that had been the wife of Urias”, that is, Bathsheba. Also, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is listed.

One surprising thing about this list of women is that three of the four women are not what you would think of as “the norm”. Rahab was a prostitute from Jericho who hid the two Israelits spies and helped them escape.  The spies made a deal with her. Her house happened to be located so that it had at least one window in the thick walls that surrounded the city. The agreement was that she and her family would be rescued when Israel came against them. The sign was that Rahab would hang a red cord out the window so the Israelites could identify her house. True to their word, they spared her and her family when the walls of Jericho fell!

The red cord is similar to the blood the Jews put on their door posts at the first Passover. An angel of death passed over all the homes with blood on their doors and no one died. Rahab and her family were the only ones who were rescued from Jerico.

After this, Rahab lived among God’s chosen people, the Israelites. You might call her a “converted Jew”. She married Salmon, a Jew, and gave birth to a son, Boaz.

He becomes the hero in the love story, “Ruth”. (Ruth is also listed in the genealogy.) Again, this is interesting as Ruth was not Jewish. She was a Moabite. So how does she get listed in Jesus’ Who’s Who?

Ruth becomes Jewish through marriage. But it’s more than cultural. When Ruth’s husband died, her mother-in-law, Naomi, left Moab to spend the rest of her life in Bethlehem, her native town. Ruth left her parents, a sister-in-law, her country of Moab and the gods of Moab to join Naomi. She left with no guarantee of being accepted. But she committed herself to Naomi and the God of the Jews.

The end of the story is that godly Boaz married Ruth and they were blessed with a son, Obed. Obed then was blessed with a son, Jesse. Jesse was blessed with a son, David. And 28 generations later, Mary was blessed with Jesus—the only begotten Son of God!

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