Questions about the Genealogy of Christ (Mat 1:1-17) part 2

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.  





"And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar;" (Matthew 1:3)

What was Judas and Thamar’s relationship? Tell the circumstances of the conception. The even more important and marvelous circumstances of the birth of Phares and Zara are discussed in the next question.


Judas was the father in law of Thamar. He had a son, Er, who was Thamar’s first husband: "And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Thamar." (Gen. 38:6)

There were no children out of this union, as: "…Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him." (Gen. 38:7)

Thamar was then married to Onan, whose sin of selfish self-gratification has much to teach us:

"And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. {38:9} And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. {38:10} And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also." (Gen. 38:8-10)

Poor Thamar was now twice a widow, and had not "raised up seed for Israel". Judah told her to wait until his younger son Shelah was grown, and in the meantime, live in his house as a chaste widow:

"Then said Judah to Thamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Thamar went and dwelt in her father’s house." (Gen. "38:11)

In time, Judah’s wife Shuah died. Judah, perhaps not thinking clearly, went away with his shepherds, and did not mate Thamar with his son Selah, even though he was grown. This arrangement sets the stage for Thamar’s deception, and sin with Judah. The scripture tells the tale very clearly:

"And it was told Thamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep. {14} And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. {15} When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. {16} And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? {17} And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? {18} And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him." (Gen. 38:13-18)

Later, Judah became aware that Thamar was pregnant, not knowing that he had lain with her. He hypocritically wanted to punish her, but her craftiness (when she asked for a pledge before her harlotry) saved her, and was very instructive to Judah.

"And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Thamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. {25} When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. {26} And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more." (Gen. 38:24-26)

Marvelous are the works of God. Out of a sinful, incestual union is raised up the Son of God. The blood of harlots and fornicators beats in his heart. He has truly taken on all of our sins, and made everything clean, as even his genealogy shows.



"And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar;" (Matt 1:3)

Tell the story of Phares and Zara. How were they conceived? What is the theological significance of the way they were born?



Phares and Zara were born of harlotry, described in the question above. Their names are very significant, and are descriptive of the birth process, and the economy of God, and the salvation of man.

Zara, who was the first born, means "East", or "brightness". Phares, who was the second born, although he preceded his brother completely out of the womb, means "division" or "rupture" or "interruption", as Blessed Theofylact has it. Here is the story of the birth:

"And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. {28} And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. {29} And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? This breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Phares. {30} And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zara." (Gen. 38:27-30)

This story has great theological significance. If we were to read the scriptures in isolation, and try to glean meaning with little understanding, we would miss much of the significant meaning in passages such as this. Fortunately, we, who are not holy, have the holy Fathers, who have expressed wondrously the mind of the church, and helped illuminate the sometimes dark sayings of holy writ.

Phares was aptly named, as he interfered with the natural order. The babe who put his hand out of the womb first should have been born first. Zara first showed his hand and then withdrew it, and so to did the life of Christ appear in the holy ones who lived before the circumcision (such men as Adam, and Seth, and Enoch, and Noah, Job, Melchisedec, and the rest). When the law came, this way of life receded. Later, with the coming of Christ, it blossomed forth again, through the blood of Christ, which was prophesied by the scarlet thread.



"And Salmon begat Boaz of Rachab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;" (Matthew 1:5)

What sort of woman was Rachab? Tell the important story associated with her.



Rachab was a harlot, who dwelt in the pagan land of Canaan, in the city of Jericho. When Joshua, the son of Nun wished to conquer Jericho, he sent spies into the city to gather military intelligence. These spies stayed with Rachab.

"And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rachab, and lodged there." (Josh 2:1)

The king of the city became aware of their incursion, and Rachab put herself at great risk by protecting the men:

"And the king of Jericho sent unto Rachab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. {4} And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: {5} And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. {6} But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof." (Josh 2:3-6)

Rachab was a wise woman, who knew of the exploits of the Jews; this knowledge found a fertile place in her heart, and she, a pagan, believed in the true God.

"And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. {10} For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. {11} And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath." (Josh 2:9-11)

She therefore begged mercy of the two men, and they covenanted with her to save she and her household:

"Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have showed you kindness, that ye will also show kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: {13} And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. {14} And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee." (Josh 2:12-14)

They arranged a signal, using a scarlet thread:

"Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee. {19} And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. {20} And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. {21} And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window." (Josh 2:18-21)

When the city was taken, only Rachab and her family were saved:

"And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. {17} And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rachab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent." (Josh 6:16-17)

The scarlet thread points to the blood of Christ, which saves us from all sin, and protects all households that cleave unto Him. Rachab was a harlot who was made clean. Boaz took her to wife, indicating in a mystical way how Christ makes all things clean, and renews human nature. Of course, the holy Chrysostom says it best:

"Seest thou that it was not for few nor small causes that he brought to our remembrance the whole history concerning Judah? For this end he hath mentioned Ruth also and Rachab, the one an alien, the other an harlot, that thou mayest learn that He came to do away with all our ills. For He hath come as a Physician, not as a Judge. Therefore in like manner as those of old took harlots for wives, even so God too espoused unto Himself the nature which had played the harlot…" (Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, Homily 5, section 5)



"And Salmon begat Boaz of Rachab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;" (Matthew 1:5)

Who was Ruth? Tell of her life previous to meeting Boaz. What might we glean from her marriage to Boaz?



Ruth was a foreigner, from land of Moab, a pagan land. She was the daughter in law of Naomi, whose son she had married, and was left a widow at a young age. Naomi and her two daughters in law, Ruth and Oprah, journeyed from Moab into the land of Judah. Naomi, who was an Israelite, asked her daughters in law to return back to their land:

"And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. {9} The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept." (Ruth 1:8-9)

They with one voice demurred, but Naomi persisted, and broke the resolve of Oprah, who went to return to her own people in Moab:

"And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. {11} And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? Are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? {12} Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; {13} Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? Would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. {14} And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her." (Ruth 1:10-14)

Ruth was steadfast in her resolve, amazing Naomi. Ruth passionately declared her belief in the true God, and her fidelity to him. Do not her words stir the blood, even now?

"And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. {16} And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: {17} Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me." (Ruth 1:15-17)

Ruth and Naomi went to Jerusalem, where they were so poor they needed to glean the leftover wheat from the fields. God rewarded her steadfast faith, expressed not only in words, but also deeds, and found the stranger and pilgrim Ruth a husband.

"And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter." (Ruth 2:2)

Boaz saw her, and was kind to her.

"Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? {6} And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: {7} And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. {8} Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens: {9} Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. {10} Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? {11} And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been showed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. {12} The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust." (Ruth 2:5-12)

To make a long and compellingly beautiful story a little shorter, Boaz took Ruth to wife, and out of this union, born of fidelity and honor, and kindness, came forth Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David the king:

"So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son. {14} And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. {15} And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him. {16} And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. {17} And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David." (Ruth 4:13-17)

Although the answer is again become long, we cannot leave off the inspired words of the Holy Chrysostom, who aids us in marveling at the economy of God:

"See, for instance, what befell Ruth, how like it is to the things which belong to us. For she was both of a strange race, and reduced to the utmost poverty, yet Boaz when he saw her neither despised her poverty nor abhorred her mean birth, as Christ having received the Church, being both an alien and in much poverty, took her to be partaker of the great blessings. But even as Ruth, if she had not before left her father, and renounced household and race, country and kindred, would not have attained unto this alliance; so the Church too, having forsaken the customs which men had received from their fathers, then, and not before, became lovely to the Bridegroom. Of this therefore the prophet discourses unto her, and saith, "Forget thy people, and thy father’s house, so shall the king have pleasure in thy beauty." This Ruth did too, and because of this she became a mother of kings, even as the Church did likewise. For of her David himself sprung. So then to shame them by all these things, and to prevail on them not to be high-minded, he hath both composed the genealogy, and brought forward these women." (Homilies on Matthew, Homily 3, Section 5)



"And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;" (Matthew 1:6)

Who was the former wife of Urias? Why did she conceive a son by David?



The former wife of Urias was Bathsheba. She was a beautiful women, whom David saw bathing, while he was reclining in idleness. He lusted for her, and committed adultery, and was so taken with her that he arranged for her husband Urias, who was in battle, to be put at the front, so that he was killed. Thus was David guilty of both adultery and murder. Eventually, out of their union came Solomon, who continued the line of Christ.

How inscrutable are God’s ways! How great is his condescension! The God-man counts as his ancestors harlots and strangers, and adulterers and murderers. Can there be any doubt that there is no sin too great for His mercy to cover?



  1. Father, Bless,

    It is an amazing thing–not only that Christ’s genealogy includes these names associated with shameful stories, but in the case of David and Bathsheeba, lest anyone forget the story, we are specifically reminded of it “..of her that had been the wife of Urias”!

    This story has always amazed me. The ‘man after God’s own heart’, this righteous slayer of the mighty Goliath, falling into such grievous sin–not in his naive and ignorant youth, but after years of loving and serving the Lord. And Urias, whose wife he stole, was not just any man, but one of David’s closest men, a trusted and trusting friend–one of the thirty mighty men of David who hid out in caves with him and defended him when he was being pursued by Saul.

    Lust, adultery, betrayal, deception, murder and the death of an innocent baby– yet in the end a child is born from the married union of David and Bathsheeba, who we know as Solomon but whom God would call Jedidiah-‘beloved of God’ and who would become an ancestor of the Lord!

    Perhaps not in as outwardly dramatic ways, but I am no better than David. Self sees something it wants and cannot understand why, being king, it cannot have it. I take what is not mine and attempt to bend reality to my own will. I betray, I lie and commit adultery and murder in my heart, which the Lord tells us, has the same effect on our souls as committing these sins, outwardly.

    And, like David, who tried to cover his sin with Bathsheeba, first by trying to make it look like the child she was carrying was Urias’, then finally by setting Urias up to be killed in battle, I try to cover my sin and shame with self deception. I’m no more successful than David with his cunning and wicked plans or Adam with his fig leaves. Nothing can be hidden from the Lord and all things will be revealed.

    And yet, although there would be lasting consequences from this sin for David and his children, in the end, forgiveness, salvation and joy for the whole world came to and from the House of David.

    This gives me great hope.

  2. I just realized that I have omitted a very important part of the story. In this genealogy, between its reference to the terrible sin of David and its glorious conclusion with the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ, were many years of struggle and much shedding of tears–beginning with David’s many tears of conviction and terrible remorse, continuing with his pleading tears for his infant child who suffered and died as a result of his sin, and many, many more after that. But Glory be to God, who through our Lord Jesus Christ, has made sure that none of our tears, offered to Him, are shed in vain–“neither a teardrop nor part of a drop.”

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