Questions about the Genealogy of Christ (Mat 1:1-17) part 1

On the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ, we remember the Holy Fathers (the ancestors of Christ) and read the genealogy of Christ, from the Gospel of Matthew. There are many lessons in this genealogy, which may be gleaned by looking at it as a whole, and also examining the individuals mentioned.  



Why is the genealogy in the first chapter of Matthew of Joseph, since he was only the foster father of Christ? Or, as St John Chrysostom puts it:

"But whence is it manifest that He is of David?" one may say. For if He was not sprung of a man, but from a woman only, and the Virgin hath not her genealogy traced, how shall we know that He was of David’s race? Thus, there are two things inquired; both why His mother’s genealogy is not recited, and wherefore it can be that Joseph is mentioned by them, who hath no part in the birth: since the latter seems to be superfluous, and the former a defect." (Chrysostom – Homilies on Matthew, Homily 2. Section 7)



"Of which then is it necessary to speak first? How the Virgin is of David. How then shall we know that she is of David? Hearken unto God, telling Gabriel to go unto "a virgin betrothed to a man (whose name was Joseph), of the house and lineage of David." What now wouldest thou have plainer than this, when thou hast heard that the Virgin was of the house and lineage of David?"

"Now that the Virgin was of the race of David is indeed from these things evident; but wherefore he gave not her genealogy, but Joseph’s, requires explanation. For what cause was it then? It was not the law among the Jews that the genealogy of women should be traced. In order then that he might keep the custom, and not seem to be making alterations from the beginning, and yet might make the Virgin known to us, for this cause he hath passed over her ancestors in silence, and traced the genealogy of Joseph. For if he had done this with respect to the Virgin, he would have seemed to be introducing novelties; and if he had passed over Joseph in silence, we should not have known the Virgin’s forefathers. In order therefore that we might learn, touching Mary, who she was, and of what origin, and that the laws might remain undisturbed, he hath traced the genealogy of her espoused husband, and shown him to be of the house of David. For when this hath been clearly proved, that other fact is demonstrated with it, namely, that the Virgin likewise is sprung from thence, by reason that this righteous man, even as I have already said, would not have endured to take a wife from another race."(Chrysostom – Homilies on Matthew, Homily 2)



"Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren" (Matthew 1:2)
Who was the mother of Isaac? Why was Isaac so named?



Sarah was the mother of Isaac. He is so named because Abraham and Sarah both initially disbelieved when they heard that she would bear a child, and laughed. Isaac means laughter. Sarah was great in years, and had been barren, and according to all worldly wisdom, having a child was impossible. This is why they laughed.

"And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly." (Gen. 17:1-2)

"And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. {16} And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. {17} Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? " (Gen. 17:15-17)

Later, when the three angels appeared to Abraham, it was Sarah’s turn to laugh.

"And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. {10} And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. {11} Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. {12} Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? {13} And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? {14} Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. {15} Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. " (Gen. 18:9-15)

If God has raised a great nation out of barrenness, is this not a sign to us, that he will raise our barren souls up to the knowledge of Himself? This story is not merely a quaint tale, but a spiritual reality. We can indeed be raised up, and all that is barren in us can become fruitful, if only we truly believe, and struggle with ourselves.



What is Isaac a "type" of?



A "type" is a foreshadowing of something to come. For example, when Moses stuck his staff three times in the bitter waters of Marah, and they became sweet, this was a foreshadowing, or "type": of baptism. The burning bush, which burnt, but was not consumed, was a "type" of the Theotokos, who, being a mortal, bore divinity in her womb, and was not consumed. There are hundreds of "types" in the Old Testament.

Isaac is a type of Christ. Remember when Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac? Since Abraham was to be the father of many nations, so too was Isaac, as his progeny. So too is Christ the "Author and finisher of our faith" (Heb 12:2), and He sacrificed Himself for our sake. Our tradition tells us that Isaac did not resist his father, and would have gone willingly to his death, if the angel had not intervened.

"And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? {8} And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. {9} And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. {10} And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. {11} And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. {12} And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. {13} And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son." (Gen. 22:7-13)



"Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren" (Matthew 1:2)
Who is the mother of Jacob? Who were Jacob’s wives? How did he obtain them?

The Great canon of St Andrew of Crete attaches an important symbolic meaning to Jacobs’s two wives. What do they represent?



The mother of Jacob was Rebecca.

Jacob had two wives. They were both daughters of Laban, under whom Jacob whom Jacob worked for seven years, in order to marry the youngest, Rachel, whom he loved. The eldest was Leah. After Jacob did his service, on the wedding day, Laban tricked Jacob by substituting Leah for Rachel. This was possible because of veils! Jacob was allowed to marry Rachel also, after contracting for another seven years of service.

"And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. {17} Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favored. {18} And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. {19} And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. {20} And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. {21} And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her. {22} And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. {23} And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. {24} And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid. {25} And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? {26} And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. {27} Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. {28} And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also." (Gen. 29:16-28)

There is a mystical meaning to the two wives of Jacob. Leah had many children, and Rachel was barren for a long while. One must read the full story to see the mystical meaning. St Andrew of Crete, in his Great Canon (read during Great Lent), hymns:

Because of his crying need the Patriarch endured the scorching heat of the day, and he bore the frost of the night, daily making gains, shepherding, struggling, slaving, in order to make 2 wives.

By the two wives understand action and direct knowledge in contemplation; Leah as action, for she had many children, and Rachel as knowledge, which is obtained by much labor. For without labors, my soul, neither action nor contemplation will achieve success.

(The Great Canon of St Andrew for Monday, Ode 4)



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

Who was the mother of Judas (or Judah)(who is on the line of Christ?)

Who was the second to the youngest of Judah‘s brethren? He is also an important "type".



Leah bore the first many sons of Jacob, including Judah. Altogether, she bore six of the twelve patriarchs.

"And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. {32} And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. {33} And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon. {34} And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi. {35} And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing." (Gen. 29:31-35)

The penultimate son of Jacob, and the second youngest brother of Judas, was Joseph.

"And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. {23} And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: {24} And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son." (Gen. 30:22-24)



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