Matthew begins his Gospel with a genealogy, echoing the genealogies of the Old Testament. He thought of his work as a continuation of the Old Testament story of God’s gracious redemption of his wayward people. His genealogy begins and ends with three great names in Israelite history: Abraham, David, and Jesus (vv. 1, 17). Interspersed with the names of the great patriarchs that recount the progression from Abraham to Jesus are reminders of God’s acceptance of the sinful and marginalized.
Five women appear in the genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, “the wife of Uriah” (Bathsheba), and Mary, all of whom faced great social difficulty in life, but all of whom God treated mercifully and used to carry forward his saving purposes for his people. Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba were involved in sexual sin (Genesis 38; Joshua 2; 2 Sam. 11:1–12:23), a point that Matthew especially emphasizes when he calls Bathsheba “the wife of Uriah.” This phrase recalls the sordid story of adultery and murder that blighted Bathsheba’s relationship with David (2 Sam. 11:26–27; 12:9). Ruth was a desperately poor immigrant field-worker (Ruth 2:2), and Mary, although innocent of sexual wrongdoing, was thought to have been unfaithful to her fiancé, Joseph (Matthew 1:19).
Despite lives made difficult by poverty and sin (whether their own or others’), God aided these women and gave them important places in his plan to “save his people from their sins” (v. 21). This reminds believers that “the power of God for salvation” comes “to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16) and that “God shows no partiality” (Rom. 2:11). God “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5) and uses for his saving purposes those whom the powerful institutions of the unbelieving world have oppressed and marginalized (1 Cor. 1:26–30; 2 Cor. 12:9). The way in which God helps the needy person is most often through the generosity of those among his people who have themselves experienced his grace and who have the resources to help those in need (Ex. 22:21; 23:9; Deut. 10:19; Acts 20:35; 2 Cor. 8:1–6; Eph. 4:28).
This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.