The women of Matthew’s genealogical

God doesn’t choose according to righteousness under the Mosaic Law. Matthew takes great care to point this out in his genealogical record by purposely including the names of four women through whom the Messiah came – all of whom would have been ‘disqualified’ if God’s calling depended upon the righteousness of the Law.

a. Tamar
Mtw 1:3

Gen 38:11-30 informs us that Judah’s daughter-in-law, deprived of a promised husband (the last of Judah’s sons), impersonated a harlot. She enticed Judah to lie with her and from that illicit union came two sons – Perez and Zerah. And from Perez sprung Boaz, David and ultimately the Christ.

Moses’ Law speaks out against such a union and pronounces the death sentence upon both individuals. Lev 20:12 records the command as

‘If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; they have committed incest, their blood is upon them’

We’ve already looked at this incident under the person of ‘Perez’ in part one where we noted that Tamar had acted righteously by doing what she did. However, in this instance the Law makes no allowance for the intention of the heart and can only judge the situation by what has actually taken place.

b. Rahab
Mtw 1:5

Because Rahab had given friendly welcome to the spies, she’d exercised faith in the spies’ God (Heb 11:31). She believed that Jehovah was about to destroy Jericho and give Israel Canaan, so she petitioned the spies to spare her (Joshua 2:9-13).

Having entered into a covenant agreement with her (Joshua 2:14,17-20), she tied a red cord in the window, demonstrating her faith (belief in action) and was saved by Jehovah who didn’t let her habitation in the wall be destroyed (Joshua 6:25). Though the NT writer James had something positive to say about the entire incident (James 2:25) as did the writer to the Hebrews quoted earlier, the Law – which had already been given and was in effect at this time – has something very different to say.

In Deut 7:1-5 we read that YHWH told Israel to utterly destroy everything in the land of Canaan in their campaign of war when God gave them victory (Deut 7:2). Neither were they to enter into covenant relationship with any of them as Joshua 9:3-27 shows – the scheme of the Gibeonites (see also Exodus 23:32, Deut 20:16-17).

Entering into a covenant relationship with Rahab, sparing her life and allowing her to enter the assembly of the Lord (the nation of Israel) was in opposition to what was plainly set out in the Law of the Lord. Yet she became the mother of Christ.

Notice that Rahab was known as ‘the harlot’ (Joshua 2:1) although Matthew doesn’t use the title. It also has obvious implications with regard to Deut 5:18 (‘neither shall you commit adultery’). The Law of Moses made no provision for mercy to be shown to the inhabitants of Canaan. Indeed, the Law makes no provision for faith and the righteousness that comes by it when this is opposed to its legal demands.

c. Ruth
Mtw 1:5

Ruth 1:16 notes Ruth’s decision that

‘Your God [shall be] my God’

and Boaz notes in Ruth 2:12 that YHWH was the God

‘…under whose wings you have come to take refuge’

Ruth forsook the god of her fathers and of her nation and married herself to the living God of Israel. She exercised faith by recognising that Jehovah is the true God and by turning to Him from idolatrous (and maybe even immoral) types of worship (see Numbers 25:1-3, 6-8). It seems, therefore, that apart from the entire race of the Gibeonites (Joshua chapter 9), the first two freewill conversions to the Jewish ‘religion’ were both women.

Even though this ‘conversion’ caused the Israelites to welcome her as part of the Israelite line, the Law had less flattering things to say about her.

Ruth was a Moabitess (Ruth 1:4) and, under the Law (Deut 23:3-6), it was an eternal statute that they were to never enter the assembly of YHWH (that is, Israel the nation. The phrase ‘even to the tenth generation’ implies a figurative amount of time which is shown in Deut 23:6 to be ‘forever’).

Yet it’s plain from Scripture that Ruth not only came under the wings of Jehovah but that she settled amongst the nation in the land of Israel. From her marriage union with Boaz, David came and the greater Son of David, Jesus (David, strictly speaking, was the third generation from Ruth, well within a literal ‘ten’ generations but see the discussion and quote from Ruthmor in part one under Ram and Admin about the lineage being compressed at this point).

d. Bathsheba
Mtw 1:6

Through the incident of II Sam 11:1-12:25, David broke at least four of the ten commandments.

i. He coveted his neighbour’s wife – II Sam 11:2
ii. He committed adultery (or, perhaps, rape) – II Sam 11:4
iii. He committed murder – II Sam 11:14-21
iv. He stole Bathsheba to be his wife – II Sam 12:4

There are various other passages in the Law that comment on the incidents recorded in II Samuel, especially the ones dealing with sexual sin (such as rape) and loving God.

The child who was conceived through that adulterous act was smitten by God and died, but the union of husband and wife was, after repentance, blessed by God and from the marriage came Solomon, David’s heir.

But the Law’s remedy for such an occurrence was the death of both the man and the woman (Lev 20:10). It wasn’t possible to ‘sanctify’ an adulterous relationship (see also Deut 22:23-27 where the Law regarding rape is given which also demands that both parties be put to death – there are, however, uncertainties by comparison to declare the incident as one of rape).

Notice that, by writing ‘the wife of Uriah’ instead of ‘Bathsheba’, Matthew is deliberately bringing out the sinfulness of the union and hints at his intention of naming these four women. What’s been true of the first three women is equally true here – that while the Law condemns such actions, YHWH still accepted the individuals into the line of the Messiah.

We’ve discussed above in part one that the heir according to the flesh came probably through Nathan’s line and not via Solomon. But the point here made is equally relevant as both Solomon and Nathan had Bathsheba as their mother – and that after the adulterous relationship.