I. THE INFANCY NARRATIVE
The Genealogy of Jesus.
#The infancy narrative forms the prologue of the gospel. Consisting of a genealogy and five stories, it presents the coming of Jesus as the climax of Israel’s history, and the events of his conception, birth, and early childhood as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The genealogy is probably traditional material that Matthew edited. In its first two sections (Mt 1:2–11) it was drawn from Ru 4:18–22; 1 Chr 1–3. Except for Jechoniah, Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel, none of the names in the third section (Mt 1:12–16) is found in any Old Testament genealogy. While the genealogy shows the continuity of God’s providential plan from Abraham on, discontinuity is also present. The women Tamar (Mt 1:3), Rahab and Ruth (Mt 1:5), and the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba (Mt 1:6), bore their sons through unions that were in varying degrees strange and unexpected. These “irregularities” culminate in the supreme “irregularity” of the Messiah’s birth of a virgin mother; the age of fulfillment is inaugurated by a creative act of God. Drawing upon both biblical tradition and Jewish stories, Matthew portrays Jesus as reliving the Exodus experience of Israel and the persecutions of Moses. His rejection by his own people and his passion are foreshadowed by the troubled reaction of “all Jerusalem” to the question of the magi who are seeking the “newborn king of the Jews” (Mt 2:2–3), and by Herod’s attempt to have him killed. The magi who do him homage prefigure the Gentiles who will accept the preaching of the gospel. The infancy narrative proclaims who Jesus is, the savior of his people from their sins (Mt 1:21), Emmanuel in whom “God is with us” (Mt 1:23), and the Son of God (Mt 2:15). 1#a. [1:1] Gn 5:1 / 1 Chr 17:11 / Gn 22:18. The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.#The Son of David, the son of Abraham: two links of the genealogical chain are singled out. Although the later, David is placed first in order to emphasize that Jesus is the royal Messiah. The mention of Abraham may be due not only to his being the father of the nation Israel but to Matthew’s interest in the universal scope of Jesus’ mission; cf. Gn 22:18 “…. in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing.”
2#b. [1:2–17] Lk 3:23–38. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.#c. [1:2] Gn 21:3; 25:26; 29:35; 1 Chr 2:1. 3Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.#d. [1:3] Gn 38:29–30; Ru 4:18; 1 Chr 2:4–9. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 4#e. [1:4] Ru 4:19–20; 1 Chr 2:10–11. Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5#f. [1:5] Ru 4:21–22; 1 Chr 2:11–12. Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, 6#g. [1:6] 2 Sm 12:24; 1 Chr 2:15; 3:5. Jesse the father of David the king.
David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. 7#The successor of Abijah was not Asaph but Asa (see 1 Chr 3:10). Some textual witnesses read the latter name; however, Asaph is better attested. Matthew may have deliberately introduced the psalmist Asaph into the genealogy (and in Mt 1:10 the prophet Amos) in order to show that Jesus is the fulfillment not only of the promises made to David (see 2 Sm 7) but of all the Old Testament. #h. [1:7–11] 2 Kgs 25:1–21; 1 Chr 3:10–15. Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph. 8Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah. 9Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. 10Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos,#Amos: some textual witnesses read Amon, who was the actual successor of Manasseh (see 1 Chr 3:14). Amos the father of Josiah. 11Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile.
12#i. [1:12–16] 1 Chr 3:16–19. After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 14Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, 15Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 16Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations.#Matthew is concerned with fourteen generations, probably because fourteen is the numerical value of the Hebrew letters forming the name of David. In the second section of the genealogy (Mt 1:6b–11), three kings of Judah, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, have been omitted (see 1 Chr 3:11–12), so that there are fourteen generations in that section. Yet the third (Mt 1:12–16) apparently has only thirteen. Since Matthew here emphasizes that each section has fourteen, it is unlikely that the thirteen of the last was due to his oversight. Some scholars suggest that Jesus who is called the Messiah (Mt 1:16b) doubles the final member of the chain: Jesus, born within the family of David, opens up the new age as Messiah, so that in fact there are fourteen generations in the third section. This is perhaps too subtle, and the hypothesis of a slip not on the part of Matthew but of a later scribe seems likely. On Messiah, see note on Lk 2:11.
The Birth of Jesus.
#This first story of the infancy narrative spells out what is summarily indicated in Mt 1:16. The virginal conception of Jesus is the work of the Spirit of God. Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary is overcome by the heavenly command that he take her into his home and accept the child as his own. The natural genealogical line is broken but the promises to David are fulfilled; through Joseph’s adoption the child belongs to the family of David. Matthew sees the virginal conception as the fulfillment of Is 7:14. 18Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,#Betrothed to Joseph: betrothal was the first part of the marriage, constituting a man and woman as husband and wife. Subsequent infidelity was considered adultery. The betrothal was followed some months later by the husband’s taking his wife into his home, at which time normal married life began. but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. 19Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,#A righteous man: as a devout observer of the Mosaic law, Joseph wished to break his union with someone whom he suspected of gross violation of the law. It is commonly said that the law required him to do so, but the texts usually given in support of that view, e.g., Dt 22:20–21 do not clearly pertain to Joseph’s situation. Unwilling to expose her to shame: the penalty for proved adultery was death by stoning; cf. Dt 22:21–23. yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. 20#j. [1:20] 2:13, 19; Lk 1:35. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord#The angel of the Lord: in the Old Testament a common designation of God in communication with a human being. In a dream: see Mt 2:13, 19, 22. These dreams may be meant to recall the dreams of Joseph, son of Jacob the patriarch (Gn 37:5–11:19). A closer parallel is the dream of Amram, father of Moses, related by Josephus (Antiquities 2, 9, 3; (par.) 212, 215–16). appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. 21She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,#Jesus: in first-century Judaism the Hebrew name Joshua (Greek Iēsous) meaning “Yahweh helps” was interpreted as “Yahweh saves.” because he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23#God is with us: God’s promise of deliverance to Judah in Isaiah’s time is seen by Matthew as fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, in whom God is with his people. The name Emmanuel is alluded to at the end of the gospel where the risen Jesus assures his disciples of his continued presence, “…I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). #k. [1:23] Is 7:14 LXX. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.” 24When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. 25He had no relations with her until she bore a son,#Until she bore a son: the evangelist is concerned to emphasize that Joseph was not responsible for the conception of Jesus. The Greek word translated “until” does not imply normal marital conduct after Jesus’ birth, nor does it exclude it. and he named him Jesus.#l. [1:25] Lk 2:7.