I am absolutely loving getting to know more about the women in Jesus’ genealogy. Are you?
Historically, Jewish genealogies rarely mentioned women, never mind women of questionable character. Yet Matthew reports four women with questionable reputations in the line of the Messiah (see Matthew chapter 1).
The first is Tamar. Genesis 38 tells us the story of how she ended up pretending to be a harlot and got pregnant by her father-in-law, Judah. Matthew did not need to mention her name. He could have simply written: “Judah begot Perez and Zerah, Perez begot Salmon…” but… he, being influenced by the Holy Spirit, put her name in intentionally.
The second is Rahab. Here, we come to an actual harlot. Joshua 2 tells us that this woman showed hospitality to the two spies that Joshua sent to Jericho. She saved the lives of those spies. Joshua 8 tells us that when Joshua destroyed Jericho, God spared Rahab and her family. In this true historical storyline, Rahab is called a harlot in Joshua 2:1; 6:17, 25. She is also called a harlot in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25. It is suggested that after she came to faith and was born again, she married Salmon and that she never played the harlot again. But it is true that she was not a person of high moral character before she came to faith. In addition to this, Rahab was not a Jew and though she married a Jew, she was a Gentile. Matthew easily could have left her name out of the line of Christ. He could have written, “Salmon begot Boaz, Boaz begot Obed…” but clearly, the Holy Spirit wanted her name in Jesus’ official family tree.
The third, whom we heard about last week, ‘Ruth’ is only of questionable reputation due to her birth. She was not Jewish, but she did marry a young Jewish man when he and his family were in Moab. She was born and raised in Moab. The Moabites had mistreated Israel when it came into the land, and they were not a blessed people. Moabites, though closely related to the Jews, were, nonetheless, Gentiles. Regardless, Ruth was clearly a woman of great character. Yet an orthodox Jew would likely have questioned both why God allowed her to be the grandmother of King David and why she would be included in a genealogy.
This Sunday, we look at the fourth; The Wife of Uriah. Matthew does not mention her by name. He writes, “David begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” Bathsheba committed adultery with King David, as recorded in 2 Samuel 11. She had been seduced by Israel’s greatest king, and to some extent, she was complicit, though as the powerful one in the ‘relationship’, David clearly carries the blame. David was a man after God’s own heart, but he was not sinless. He committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed in order to cover up his sin. He only repented when God confronted him via the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12). Regardless, “Uriah’s wife” too is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus… though, we might wonder, why she is not mentioned by name like Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth were? It’s possible, God wished to honour Uriah in the family tree. Even though he was not one of Jesus’ ancestors, he is mentioned by name and leaving out Bathsheba’s name brought added emphasis to Uriah’s name. Another reason might be to highlight the fact that she was not David’s lawful wife. She was the wife of another. Of course, she was David’s wife after Uriah died, but in a sense, she remained Uriah’s wife since she was taken by adultery and murder. Additionally, David had many wives, so, logically, Bathsheba would likely be the last of David’s wives to be in the line of Messiah, yet she is included.
Are you wondering why? Come along this Sunday to find out more.
This is the third week in our sermon series on the women in Jesus’ family line and I encourage you to read the short book of Ruth in your bible this week. It’s a wonderful, true, historical story about a noble Moabite woman who chose to be associated with the Israelites and their God rather than her own people. Her own people had descended from Lot after he escaped the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with his wife and two daughters (Read Genesis 19). His wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt, but Lot and his daughters found refuge in a cave. His daughters conspired to lure their father into sleeping with them. On successive nights they got Lot drunk and slept with him. Both sisters got pregnant and gave birth to sons; one named Moab, the other named Ammon. Those two boys, born of incest, grew up to found nations that would eventually become both incredibly evil as well as bitter enemies of Israel. The Jews hated the Moabites and Ammonites and wanted nothing to do with them. In this historical context, the book of Ruth reveals how a romance blossomed between Ruth the Moabitess and Boaz the Israelite. They were a very unlikely couple but in God’s providence they were brought together in marriage. They had a son named Obed who had a son named Jesse who had a son named David, thus, Ruth is King David’s great-grandmother. Come along this Sunday to hear more about Ruth, and how a person from the hated nation of Moab entered the line of the Messiah.
As we look over the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1, it is striking to see the names of 5 women. This was unheard of in the culture of that day. Women wouldn’t usually get a mention. What is even more striking is that these women mentioned are the most unlikely women we would expect to see in our Lord’s ancestry.
Last Sunday we heard about Tamar who tricked her father-in-law into laying with her to carry on the family line. This Sunday we will hear about Rahab, a Gentile prostitute who lived in the city of Jericho 1000 years before Jesus was born. Rahab’s story can be read in Joshua chapter 2. In summary, she had heard a little bit about the LORD and chose to be associated with God’s people rather than her own people, so she helped the spies sent in by Joshua. She then asked to be spared when the Israelites come and conquer Jericho in return for the help she gave them. The Israelite spies agreed that she and her household would be saved if she leaves a red cord marking her house. Do you hear the echoes of the blood covering on the door frames which saved the Israelite children on the night of the Passover in Egypt, before the exodus?
By hanging the red cord, and by acting in faith, and choosing to be associated with God’s people, Rahab was saved; despite being a prostitute who lied to her own king’s men. There’s much in this story for us to grapple with and learn. In particular, how God chooses to call and use, and love and save the most unlikely people. Rahab’s story shows us that God loves and has great plans for liars and prostitutes. This story may challenge our thinking as God doesn’t always seem to reward morality or punish what we think is evil, as we’d expect from a Holy God... But he consistently loves people and rewards when he sees real faith.
Rahab is not only included in Jesus’ genealogy; she gets 2 more mentions in the New Testament as well (James 2:25 and Hebrews 11:31). She is listed among those such as Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, and Joseph: commended for their faith and surrounding believers as a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 11-12:1). All of these people became righteous by God’s grace, through faith, just as we are. It is my prayer this week that we may all be moved to have even greater faith in the LORD, like the faith of Rahab.
Shalom (meaning the wholeness, peace, righteousness, goodness, and wellbeing, of God) is often seen in the most unexpected places. This week I’m taking a fresh look at the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38, and while the story is “messy”, it’s part of Jesus ancestry, and a real sense of Shalom shines through. This reminds me that God works within our messy lives and uses the most unlikely people for his purposes. God shows himself faithful, even in the lives of unfaithful people, and He can draw good out from bad and unjust situations.
In Tamar’s story, God comes to the agency and redeems a woman who lived in a culture where men dominated over women, often resulting in abuse or neglect. Even though Tamar poses as a prostitute and lays with her father-in-law to conceive a child, she is later declared to be more righteous than Judah who withheld his youngest son from her, leaving her destitute without a future.
In today’s culture, we might view Tamar’s resourcefulness as “morally wrong”. But in her day, the Hebrew concept of righteousness wasn’t divided morally into simple categories of right/wrong or good/bad. Rather, “righteousness” referred to what draws communities and people toward shalom. Tamar had acted to restore the rightful order and move Judah’s family lineage towards shalom. On realising this, Judah then recognized his own sin, and began to treat her rightly, declaring she is more righteous than he. After God humbled Judah through Tamar, he was transformed. We see evidence of this later, when Judah would confess his other sins before his long-lost brother “Joseph” in Egypt.
Through this story we catch a glimpse of God restoring the rightful order of things and bringing redemption to his people. Through this family line, God would bring about his ultimate plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, questionably born of a virgin, another messy story for another day.
This week, be reminded that God is with you in whatever mess you find yourself in.
I pray you will see and experience Shalom even in the most unexpected places.