The book of Matthew opens with a stylized genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 1:1-17). Matthew presents the list in three parts—from Abraham to David, from David to the captivity in Babylon, and from the captivity to Christ—each with fourteen generations. The genealogy is perfectly correct in every way.
What Matthew records is not Christ's biological ancestry but His legal one. Verse 16 gives the proof: "And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ." It is Joseph's family tree! Remember, Christ was not begotten of Joseph but of the Holy Spirit. Legally, Christ could trace his ancestry back to David through his "father" Joseph, though He had not one drop of Joseph's—or Jehoiachin's—blood!
We must remember a major purpose of Matthew's gospel: to present Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah to the Jews. The Jews were, and still are, very particular about genealogies. Anyone claiming to be the Messiah would have to present a bona fide, airtight ancestry back to David if he were to be taken seriously (see Psalm 110:1; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; etc.). Matthew does just that in introducing Jesus in the first verses of his book.
Thus, Jesus, untainted by Jehoiachin's curse (Jeremiah 22:30), has a legal claim to the throne of David through His stepfather, Joseph. Such a thing was legally acceptable under Jewish law.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Matthew divides his genealogy into three groups of fourteen names. The first group begins with Abraham and ends with David. The second group begins with Solomon and ends with Jeconiah, the son of Josiah. The third group begins with Shealtiel and ends in Jesus Christ.
A comparison of Luke's list with Matthew's finds that Luke runs in the opposite direction, backwards, beginning with Jesus Christ and ending with Adam. Unlike Luke, Matthew includes four ladies in Jesus' line: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. His genealogy thus contains the names of 42 men and four women, all of whom were ancestors of Jesus, but they varied considerably in personality, spirituality, and experience. Some of these people were heroes of faith, like Abraham, David, and Ruth. Some of them were ordinary personalities, like Ram and Nahshon, while others had spotted reputations, like Tamar and Rahab. Some were downright evil like Manasseh and Abijah. Two of the ladies were definitely Gentiles, and perhaps another was a Gentile, Tamar, because her name is not Israelitish. The fourth lady, Bathsheba, married a Gentile, Uriah the Hittite, and was probably considered by the Israelites to be Gentile by association as a result.
God is showing us that He is not limited by human imperfections. To carry out His will, He can work through anybody He desires, even the shady characters in the ancestry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Three Kings Are Missing From Matthew 1
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 1:16:
1 Chronicles 22:10