The Word “Begotten,” Inheritance, and the Genealogy of Matthew’s Gospel

There is a pattern in most modern translations of the Bible to eliminate words that are very old. Here are three examples. The first is the word “bosom” that appears often in the KJV, but is now usually turned into another word, depending on the context:

  • And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. (Ruth 4:16 KJV)
  • Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. (Ruth 4:16 ESV)

Likewise, the word “behold” is also eliminated from some Bible translations:

  • And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; (Genesis 9:9, KJV)
  • I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you (Genesis 9:9, NIV)

This pattern also applies to a different word that is the subject of this post. That word is “begotten”:

  • The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the congregation of the Lord in their third generation. (Deuteronomy 23:8, KJV)
  • Children born to them in the third generation may enter the assembly of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 23:8, ESV)

My thoughts on this pattern are mixed. Eliminating words and changing translations might be good for a word like “bosom,” which is a rather strange category of place that we do not have a modern category to render. I do not like this idea for the word “behold,” because the Hebrew word הֵן (hane) and the Greek word ἰδού (idou) literally mean “Check it out.” Publishers trying to become “modern” are missing a HUGE opportunity.

However, this post is about the specific word “begotten” in scripture. My point is that it is a bad to eliminate the word “begotten” from Bibles and from our theological understanding. Unfortunately, we have almost forgotten what the word means at all. Contrary to popular belief, the word “begotten” does not mean “fathered” and it does not mean “born.” Instead, it is a word with no modern equivalent, but it is still a very important word with serious effects on theology and our understanding of God and the Bible.

Explanations of “Begotten” Outside of Scripture.

One of the most famous explanations of what the word “begotten” means comes from C.S. Lewis. Here is what Lewis says about the word “begotten” in the Nicene Creed in Mere Christianity:

We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget it to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set — or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue.
. . .
Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.

I’d like to challenge C.S. Lewis on two points here. The first is quite easy. It is NOT TRUE that everyone knows what “begotten” means. That’s the point of this blog post.

To prove C.S. Lewis wrong, I think I just need to go straight to scripture and give enough examples of how “begotten” is such a unique and important word, only then will you understand why it is so important and so unique. I’ll also show you what this means for the two different genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke.

Example 1: Adam and His Progeny

One of the first and most important uses of the term “begotten” is in Genesis 5, which tells of the descendants of Adam

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: and the days of Adam after he begat Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters. And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. (Genesis 5:1-5, ASV)

Here is where things get complicated. We should note here that Adam has fathered a child. That child’s name is Seth. It explicitly says that Adam BEGAT Seth. That Hebrew word is יָלַד (yalad). That is the word that is translated as “begat” or sometimes “bare/bore.” Something to remember, however, is that Seth is not the only son of Adam. He had two other sons, Cain and Abel. Let’s look at what it says about those children.

And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man with the help of Jehovah. And again she bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. (Genesis 4:1, ASV)

That Hebrew word for “bare” is also yalad, which is the same as “begat” and “begotten.” So, we can say that Eve “begat” Cain, and she also begat Abel. For some reason that I cannot confidently say, the word “begat” is never applied to the relationship between Adam and Cain. Instead, the only thing we read is that Adam begat Seth.

Additionally, we can see what happens to the descendants of Cain:

And Cain went out from the presence of Jehovah, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. (Genesis 4:16-17)

Now, all of the bolded words are the same Hebrew yalad, which is “begotten.” However, this is where things get weird. What we must recognize is that Cain did not “beget” Enoch. Instead, we read that it was Cain’s wife who “bare” Enoch, and in Hebrew, that verb is conjugated as a FEMININE verb. It is the woman who is doing the begetting. In fact, this same verb treatment is applied to what we read about Adam and Eve’s third child, Seth:

And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For, said she, God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel; for Cain slew him. And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enosh. Then began men to call upon the name of Jehovah. (Genesis 4:25-26)

Likewise, in this passage, we see that Adam “knew his wife,” which means that Adam had sexual relations with Eve. However, it is Eve (not Adam) who yalad the son named Seth. That Hebrew verb is in the feminine form. This does not say that Adam is begetting Seth at this point. It only says that Eve did. Next, we see that to Seth “was born” (yalad) a son, and that is masculine. The same pattern applies to the line of Cain. We see the following shift in his descendants:

And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael; and Mehujael begat Methushael; and Methushael begat Lamech. And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents and have cattle. And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and pipe. And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron: and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
(Genesis 4:17-22)

Something to notice is that Cain “begets” no one. Instead, he builds a city. It is the wife of Cain who “begets” (feminine) Enoch. However, Enoch “begets” (masculine) Irad, who does the same to Mehujael, who does the same to Methushael, who does the same to Lamech. Lamech takes two wives, and the wives are the ones who “beget” (feminine) Jabal and Jubal and Tubal-cain. There is no male “begetting” relationship between Lamech and anyone else.

We can also see the importance of the male and female “begetting” when it comes to Adam, too, who only “begat” Seth in Genesis 5:

And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: and the days of Adam after he begat Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters. (Genesis 5:3-4)

As I’d like to show, the male and female begetting is a separate thing. Even if it is not technically a separate “occurrence” or “event,” it is at least something that the Bible reader believes needs to be clarified. In Genesis 5, the verb yalad as it applies to Seth appears in the masculine form. Before, in Genesis 4, it appeared in the feminine form.

Therefore, we can see some relationships of “begetting” that is as follows in Genesis:

The diagram above is consistent not only with Genesis 5, and Genesis 10, it is also true for 1 Chronicles, which also has detailed genealogies. It is also consistent with the genealogies of Jesus, because the genealogy of Luke, which goes back to Adam, does not use the term “beget.” Instead, it uses “son of,” which is not the same idea. It is only the genealogy of Matthew that uses “begot.”

Here, we notice that there is no male “begetting” that goes to Cain or Abel. Likewise, there is no male begetting between Cain and his son Enosh. We also see that there is no “begetting” between Ham to Cush, though there is begetting of Cush to Nimrod. Also, strangely, there is no begetting anywhere at all between Japheth and his sons or the sons of Japheth and their sons. Additionally, there is no male begetting between Lamech and his sons. Instead, there is only female begetting. Additionally, Naamah is the daughter of Lamech through Zillah. There is no ‘begetting” language at all that is used in relation to her.

What can explain these odd patterns? There is a clue in the language of Genesis 9:26-27. We see that Noah says:

Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem;
And let Canaan be his servant.
God enlarge Japheth,
And let him dwell in the tents of Shem;
And let Canaan be his servant.

Here’s the key: Begetting from male to male involves inheritance, ownership, and authority. This can explain why Japheth, who is blessed, yet “dwells in the tents of Shem” doesn’t beget anyone. This is why women rarely ever in the entire bible ever “beget” anything from a man. The only time I have found this on one occasion:

(Bethuel fathered Rebekah.) These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. (Genesis 22:23)

Instead, the much more common pattern is what we see in the “begetting” genealogy of Jesus, where we read the following:

Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah and his brethren . . . and Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth and Obed begat Jesse; and Jesse begat David the king. And David begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Uriah . . . and Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:1, 5-6, 16)

In this passage, we have the Greek word γεννάω (gennaó), which is the equivalent of yalad, and the Greek grammar doesn’t include a gendered conjugation. However, it does switch back and forth between “active” and “passive.” In all of the “begetting” between Abraham and Joseph, the “begat” is Aorist Indicative Active, meaning in the past, describing the state of things, and the subject is the one acting on the object. In other words “Abraham begat Isaac” means that in the past, Abraham actually did something (“begat”) to Isaac. In contrast, “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus” includes the verb “begat,” but it is Aorist Indicative Passive. In other words, something was done to Jesus (“begat”), but this passage does not say it was Mary or Joseph who did it.

See where this is going?

Example 2: Inheritance and “Begetting” in the Bible

When we understand the importance of the inheritance, ownership, and authority of “begetting,” this makes some rather strange things make sense. For instance, there are twelve tribes of Israel, right? Each of them inherited land, except for the tribe of Levi, who are the priests, and therefore got no land. That’s why the twelve tribes of Israel are:

  1. Reuben
  2. Simeon
  3. Levi
  4. Judah,
  5. Zebulun
  6. Issachar
  7. Naphtali
  8. Dan
  9. Asher
  10. Gilead
  11. Benjamin
  12. Ephraim
  13. Manasseh

Except…. wait a minute.

That’s 13 names. Why do we keep saying the 12 tribes of Israel? The issue is that Ephraim and Manasseh are “half tribes,” and they are the sons of Joseph. Except… …wait, why don’t we simply have a tribe of Joseph? Well, this is where “begotten” has a very important meaning. Look at what we read in Genesis, when Jacob is blessing his children:

And it came to pass after these things, that one said to Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, and said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a company of peoples, and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. And now thy two sons, who were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh, even as Reuben and Simeon, shall be mine. And thy issue, that thou begettest after them, shall be thine; they shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance. And as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when there was still some distance to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way to Ephrath (the same is Beth-lehem). (Genesis 48:1-7)

What is going on here? The answer has to do with inheritance. Jacob is making the point that Joseph’s two sons will “inherit” from Jacob just like Joseph’s other brothers. On the other hand, this means that Joseph does not. (But don’t feel too bad about Joseph for this. He was literally in charge of all of Egypt, and doing just fine.) Jacob is saying that the oldest two sons “shall be mine” when he begets his inheritance, but the children of Joseph after Ephraim and Manasseh “shall be [yours].” So in a sense, Joseph doesn’t beget Ephraim and Manasseh.

But wait…. Joseph doesn’t “beget” Ephraim and Manasseh? That’s crazy, right? Well, if “beget” ONLY means “fathered,” then yes, that is crazy. But it is WAAAY more complicated than that. This is what we read in a previous chapters about Joseph and his two children:

And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls. And he gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same. And Joseph laid up grain as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left off numbering; for it was without number. And unto Joseph were born two sons before the year of famine came, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bare unto him. And Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh: For, said he, God hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath made me fruitful in the land of my affliction. (Genesis 41:46-52)

There is something important to notice about this masculine “beget” yalad between Joseph and his sons through a feminine “beget” yalad of his Egyptian wife. Here’s the important part: this masculine verb is in the PERFECT verb tense. Why is this important? Because of what happens later. That passage above is BEFORE Joseph is reunited with his family. Later, we read what the description is AFTER Joseph has been reunited with his family and father Jacob.

And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-phera priest of On, bare unto him. (Genesis 46:20)

What is strange is that in this appearance in Genesis 46:20, the verb “beget” yalad is in the IMPERFECT tense.

Okay, I understand that might not make sense, so let me explain. A verb is “perfect” if the action is complete: “The man walked to the store.” A verb is “imperfect” if the action is incomplete: “The man was walking to the store.” The strange thing here is that in this story, yalad is PERFECT as it relates to Joseph and his children, but then strangely, it becomes IMPERFECT later. How?

That is because “beget” (yalad) involves BOTH birth AND inheritance.

This difference also applies to the use of yalad in the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 10 and in 1 Chronicles, as well, because those verbs also differ in the perfect and imperfect depending on whether they correspond to a birth or the succession in the genealogy. Whenever a male “begets” a child and it is equated with their birth, that verb yalad is in the IMPERFECT tense. When a male “begets” another male, and that is in a genealogy, the verb yalad is in the PERFECT tense.

This is why Joseph, alone in Egypt was able to “perfectly” beget his children Ephraim and Manasseh in Egypt, but this CHANGED when Joseph was reunited with his family. In Egypt, he had no inheritance from Jacob because he was separated. Once he was reunited, his children were now “imperfectly” begotten: they were “fathered,” but they had not inherited what was theirs to inherit.

When Jacob approaches Joseph’s two sons, he is saying that these two sons will have an inheritance just as good as Reuben, his first born, or Simeon, his second born. Jacob is making a very important and radical inheritance claim of these “grandchildren.” They get extra-dibs on the inheritance of Jacob. In other words, though it looks like Joseph got “cut out” of the inheritance (because his name isn’t one of the 12 tribes), he actually got EXTRA DIBS on the inheritance through a double-portion.

That is why it is so important to see that the way the Bible uses the term “beget” is intimately tied to “inheritance.”

Point 4: Jacob and Esau

There is a very important story in Genesis that gives some important insight into what it means to “beget” someone, and it confirms that there is an “inheritance” involved in the idea of “begetting.” For example, we know that Isaac had two children, Esau and Jacob (who was later renamed Israel). This is how their birth is described:

And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac: and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian, to be his wife. And Isaac entreated Jehovah for his wife, because she was barren: and Jehovah was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, wherefore do I live? And she went to inquire of Jehovah. And Jehovah said unto her,

Two nations are in thy womb,
And two peoples shall be separated from thy bowels:
And the one people shall be stronger than the other people;
And the elder shall serve the younger.

And when her days to be delivered (yalad ) were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came forth his brother, and his hand had hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare (yalad) them.
(Genesis 25:19-25)

The verb “to beget” here is in the infinitive, meaning it has no inflection or conjugation. It’s just a plain verb, and has no gender. (In English, we have to put the preposition “to” in order to put a verb in the infinitive, such as “to be.”) However, what is clear is that the only person who “begot” Jacob and Esau was Rebekah. Isaac hasn’t done any “begetting” here at all. This is a very important plot point in the book of Genesis.

Here’s why. Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Easu was a manly man who was a hunter. Jacob was a sissy man who cooked in a tent. However, God did not like Esau because once, when Esau was hungry and Jacob was cooking, Esau gave him his birthright in exchange for some soup. This really upset God, and we get commentary on that in the book of Hebrews:

Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord: looking carefully lest there be any man that falleth short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby the many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one mess of meat sold his own birthright. For ye know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place for a change of mind in his father, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Hebrews 12:14-17)

Because Rebekah wanted Isaac to “beget” Jacob, while Isaac wanted to “beget” Esau, Rebekah helped Jacob disguise himself as Esau before his blind father right before Isaac was about to do the important act of “blessing” his children:

Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said,“See, the smell of my son
    is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed!
May God give you of the dew of heaven
    and of the fatness of the earth
    and plenty of grain and wine.
Let peoples serve you,
    and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
    and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
    and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”
(Genesis 27:26-29)

In case you were wondering, that was an ancient fraud on the “last will and testament.” It controls who is “begotten” by whom. Amazingly, once Isaac figures out what happened, he DOESN’T UNDO IT. “Begetting” has a strong legal effect, you see.

Most people know that story very well, but what they do not recognize is how it is reflected later in the Bible with the word “beget.” Look what we read in the book of Chronicles:

And Abraham begat Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau, and Israel. (1 Chronicles 1:34)

That word for “the sons of Isaac” is NOT the Hebrew word yalad. Isaac didn’t “beget” Esau. The Bible uses one word to describe the relationship between Abraham and Isaac and Jacob/Israel, and a completely different word to describe the relationship between Isaac and Esau. This stays consistent in other places, too:

Remember his covenant for ever,
The word which he commanded to a thousand generations,
The covenant which he made with Abraham,
And his oath unto Isaac,
And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a statute,
To Israel for an everlasting covenant,
(1 Chronicles 16:15-17)

O Jehovah, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee; (1 Chronicles 29:18)

Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah and his brethren (Matthew 1:2)

The Bible NEVER says that Isaac “begat” Esau, even though it is entirely clear that Isaac fathered Esau and loved him. Instead, we read crazy stuff like this:

Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. (Romans 9:13)

Point 5: Begetting and the Genealogies of Jesus

There is a lot of confusion over the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke. People believe that one of them must have gotten something wrong. Some say that one is the genealogy of Joseph while another is the genealogy of Mary. Both of these are wrong, because both of the genealogies are 100% correct and quite explicit and clear. The confusion comes because we do not know what the word “begetting” means.”

Remember that in Genesis, there are two entire chapters of Jacob dividing his inheritance (which he received from God himself at Luz, which he renamed Bethel, in Genesis 28) to his children. That is why we get the following start to the “begotten” geneology of Jesus:

Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah and his brethren (Matthew 1:2)

This is also why the genealogy of Jesus differs between Matthew and Luke. Notice who begat who when it comes to King David down to Joseph and Jesus:

and Jesse begat David the king. And David begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Uriah. . . and Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:6)

On the other hand, notice who Jesus is “the son of” when comes to King David down to Joseph and Jesus:

And Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, . . . the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, (Luke 3:23, 31-32)

That seems like a direct contradiction, right? How does this work?

The key difference is the word “beget.” This is why Matthew’s “begotten” genealogy starts with Abraham (who received a promise from God) and has a break at David (who received another promise from God). This is also why there is a gap at the time of the deportation to Babylon. Why? Because there was nothing to inherit when Babylon burned everything down.

We should also notice that the genealogy in Matthew states the following:

So all the generations from Abraham unto David are fourteen generations; and from David unto the carrying away to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the carrying away to Babylon unto the Christ fourteen generations. (Matthew 1:17)

That means, we should have 14 plus 14 plus 14, and therefore 42 names. But when you actually add up the number of names in this list, you actually get only 41:

  1. Abraham
  2. Isaac
  3. Jacob
  4. Judah
  5. Perez
  6. Hezron
  7. Ram
  8. Amminadab
  9. Nahshon
  10. Salmon
  11. Boaz
  12. Obed
  13. Jesse
  14. David
  15. Solomon
  16. Rehoboam
  17. Abijah
  18. Asa
  19. Jehoshaphat
  20. Joram
  21. Uzziah
  22. Jotham
  23. Ahaz
  24. Hezekiah
  25. Manasseh
  26. Amon
  27. Josiah
  28. Jechoniah
  29. Shealtiel
  30. Zerubbabel
  31. Abiud
  32. Eliakim
  33. Azor
  34. Sadoc
  35. Achim
  36. Eliud
  37. Eleazar
  38. Matthan
  39. Jacob
  40. Joseph
  41. Jesus

That doesn’t seem right. Even if we add “Jesus” into the number inclusively, we still don’t get three sets of 14. Something is off.

How is this explained? This is explained by the crazy kingly happenings around the time of the exile, because we read the following in the genealogy:

and Josiah begat Jechoniah and his brethren, at the time of the carrying away to Babylon. (Matthew 1:11)

But there is SO MUCH going on at this time, it deserves a diagram.

Because, when you list the number of ACTUAL KINGS OR LEADERS who ACTUALLY HAD SOMETHING TO BEGET, then you get a new number of “generations” in the genealogy of Jesus:
  1. Abraham
  2. Isaac
  3. Jacob
  4. Judah
  5. Perez
  6. Hezron
  7. Ram
  8. Amminadab
  9. Nahshon
  10. Salmon
  11. Boaz
  12. Obed
  13. Jesse
  14. David
  15. Solomon
  16. Rehoboam
  17. Abijah
  18. Asa
  19. Jehoshaphat
  20. Joram
  21. Uzziah
  22. Jotham
  23. Ahaz
  24. Hezekiah
  25. Manasseh
  26. Amon
  27. Josiah (Who reigned for 31 years, and killed by Pharaoh-necoh)
  28. Jehoahaz (Who reigned for 3 months, and deposed by Pharaoh-necoh)
  29. Jehoiakim (Who was the re-named brother of Jehoahaz, who reigned for 11 years)
  30. Jechoniah (Son of Jehoiakim, but not son of Josiah, who reigned for 3 months, deposed by Nebuchadnezzar)
  31. Zedekiah (Uncle of Jechoniah, made king by Nebuchadnezzar)
    –no Sheatiel in this numbered list, because he was never a king or ruler–
  32. Zerubbabel (first governor of Judah under Cyrus)
  33. Abiud
  34. Eliakim
  35. Azor
  36. Sadoc
  37. Achim
  38. Eliud
  39. Eleazar
  40. Matthan
  41. Jacob
  42. Joseph

Do you see how it works? The “begat” line of Matthew, which starts with Abraham, is a line of INHERITANCE and RULERSHIP. It is NOT a list of who “fathered” whom. This should be clear when we see that Josiah WAS NOT the father of Jechoniah, who is listed after Josiah in this list. Instead, Jechoniah was merely the longest living one of these kings who was grouped together after Josiah. This is probably because Jechoniah stayed in Babylon with the people of Judah for the longest time. The real sons of Josiah have funny names, and even more confusing, they are given two different names in different places, so we’ve gotten confused and never noticed the difference:

And the sons of Josiah: the first-born Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum.  (1 Chronicles 3:15, ASV)

Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? In his days Pharaoh-necoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and Pharaoh-necoh slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him. And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulchre. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father’s stead.

Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign; and he reigned three months in Jerusalem: and his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, according to all that his fathers had done. And Pharaoh-necoh put him in bonds at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem; and put the land to a tribute of a hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold. 

And Pharaoh-necoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father, and changed his name to Jehoiakim: but he took Jehoahaz away; and he came to Egypt, and died there.(2 Kings 23:28-34)

In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him. And Jehovah sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of Jehovah, which he spake by his servants the prophets. Surely at the commandment of Jehovah came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did, and also for the innocent blood that he shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood: and Jehovah would not pardon. Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers; and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead. And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land; for the king of Babylon had taken, from the brook of Egypt unto the river Euphrates, all that pertained to the king of Egypt.

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign; and he reigned in Jerusalem three months: and his mother’s name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, according to all that his father had done. (2 Kings 24:1-9)

At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged . . . and Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. . . . And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon; and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the chief men of the land, carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. . . . And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s father’s brother, king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.

Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: and his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For through the anger of Jehovah did it come to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence.

And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. (2 Kings 24:10, 12, 15, 17-20)

And that’s where the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew gets messy. But the list starts counting again when we have a new RULER, not when we have a new SON. The next “ruler” is Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, who became governor of Judah under king Cyrus of the Persians (who appointed Darius the Mede as king in Babylon).

In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: (Haggai 1:1)

This Zerubbabel is the RULER of Judah. That’s why he “begets” things down to Joseph through Jacob. Notice also that JACOB “begat” Joseph, even though Joseph’s father was someone different:

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, (Luke 3:23)

Jesus’s paternal grandfather (as was supposed) was named Heli. Even though he is listed in Matthew’s genealogy, Jacob wasn’t Joseph’s father. Heli was Joseph’s father. This is where the term “beget” becomes very important. Heli doesn’t “beget” anything to Joseph, because Heli doesn’t have any ruling authority to hand over. Jacob, on the other hand, DID have something to “beget,” but either he did not have any children, or he did not have any male children. Therefore, it was Joseph who was “begotten” by Jacob, even though his father was Heli.

Remember what we read about Joseph:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. (Luke 2:1-5)

Here’s the key, guys: “house and lineage” are two completely different things. The genealogy of Luke describes who is the “son of” whom. In contrast, the genealogy describes who “begot” whom.

See how it works?

Conclusion

So, now that we’ve explained what “begetting” means and solved the issues with the genealogies of Jesus, I think that’s good enough for this post. The next post will describe how this applies to Jesus, who is “the only begotten Son of God,” but not at all God’s only son. This has serious implications for theology, and should eliminate a good bit of confusion.

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