Read: Matthew 1:1-17
The New Testament begins with a list of who’s who from the Old Testament, a very direct link to the past. The list of characters range from good to notoriously bad and even includes five women! As I tried to get through the first two chapters, I found myself digging into the details of these women. The text below briefly summarizes a lot of what I found, but it’s incredibly interesting that in a male-dominated culture that women would even be mentioned, let alone honored, in such a way.
Before diving into the details, I simply have to say I’m somewhat overwhelmed by the list of names of real people that lived through incredible times spanning so many years. Though I’ve glossed over this section other times, it seems prudent to look closely at the names, the people, and gain some appreciation for the role they played in the ancestry of Joseph, the man who raised Jesus as His earthly father. That alone is worth thinking about!
Side note: We’re began a series on Exodus at Hope Fellowship a few days ago, so it’s interesting that Moses is not mentioned here at all. Though his role was profoundly significant, his progeny was not required. Yet another idea for a post!
Five Women in the Lineage of Jesus
Obviously, there were a lot more women involved in the genealogy of Jesus, but these are the five named in Matthew’s account. Each is a story all by herself, but here are some thoughts from reading this morning.
Judah’s firstborn son was Er, a wicked son that God put to death (Genesis 38:6). But before this, Judah selected Tamar as his wife, so Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law. The crazy drama is covered in Genesis 38 where Judah tries to extend his bloodline by having another son sleep with Tamar. That doesn’t work, so he puts her aside and forgets about her. After some time, Tamar hears Judah is coming to town so she dresses up like a prostitute and Judah sees her and arranges to have sex with her, cuz that makes sense somehow! She has a plan and the deal is consummated. Later the men accuse Tamar of prostitution and call her out to be put to death. No punishment is mentioned about the man, only the woman, but Tamar is clever and produces evidence that Judah was the one who had sex with her, so the torches are set aside and Tamar has twins: Perez and Zerah, but Perez is first to be born, though Zerah got a hand out first (crazy story within a crazy story).
Joshua 2 provides the backstory for Rahab, the prostitute turned savior for Joshua and Caleb. Once again, the idea of a prostitute as a normal, everyday interaction is at best odd from our cultural perspective. I’m in no way trying to suggest we should think of prostitution as anything other than hedonistic and sinful, but it is challenging to read how casually it’s mentioned as part of the narrative. Rahab’s reward is to be welcomed into the family of Israelites after the fall of Jericho and she marries Salmon who gives birth to Obed.
The marriage of Rahab and Salmon is difficult to find explicitly, but the union of Ruth and Boaz is a wonderful story captured in the book of Ruth (some notes here). Ruth and Mary seem to be the only women of virtue, though it’s fair to say that Rahab must have changed her ways when she become part of the Israelites.
The story of lust, desire, adultery, and murder surround the legacy of David and Bathsheba (some notes here). David caves into his lustful desires for Bathsheba and, since he’s the king, she appears to go along with the plan, though there’s no implication that she knew anything about David’s ultimate plan to have Uriah killed in battle. Fast-forward, the son they had through adultery dies and she eventually gives birth to Solomon and the lineage of Jesus continues.
Mary is an incredible woman, revered by many, highly favored, the woman who bore Jesus. Ted Dekker casts a respectful and favorable light on Mary in his book A.D. 30. Honorable is the word that comes to mind. I can understand, in part, how the Roman Catholic church sees Mary as significant and important in her role as the woman who carried Jesus through childbirth, beyond the life of Joseph, and no doubt played a part in the early church as people knew who she was. Who knows, perhaps Mary is the one that really got James’ ministry started (complete conjecture on my part).
God’s master plan includes women from the very beginning of life on earth. It is His plan that man and woman would be joined and through that relationship the world is populated. We, the big we, have no doubt messed that up more times than we’ve got it right! Yet where would we be without the women in our lives? Our culture is still predominantly male-oriented, as if being male is somehow better than being female. That is crazy talk! It’s easy to support the concept that all are created in God’s image, all are equal, but our society tends to make some more equal than others.
From my perspective, especially as I prepare to teach a class on Spiritual Gifts, God is not bound by limits of our definitions or ridiculous musings. The Spirit gives gifts to those who call Jesus their Lord, their Savior. Those gifts could be incredible wisdom, knowledge, etc., and He can use women in roles of leadership and servanthood — there is no conflict in definition in my mind. We’ve seen great women role models in our time like Mother Teresa, Fortune 500 CEOs and Angela Merkel. Each gifted with leadership abilities that men follow without reservation. I would suggest they are not followed because of their gender, rather, they are followed because of their great example, for being who they were called to be without concern for conforming to a role imposed on them.
At the minimum we should embrace our calling in the body of Christ, figure out what that is by studying those who have gone before while praying for discernment and understanding as we learn from these examples given to us in Scripture.
Jesus, born of a woman, came from a line of men and women who didn’t get it right most of the time, yet did their part as best they knew how. I can’t wait to get into the New Testament and see how men and women served faithfully in sharing the Gospel by actions, through faith and deeds that changed the world for good!
- https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v05-n06/ the-genealogy-of-the-messiah