Here’s an Advent piece that I originally wrote for the Catholic Evidence Guild of Guam, which I’ve dusted it off a bit and shortened:
How many times during Advents past have you heard that looooong list of names recited from the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew and wondered, “What’s with that?”
I’m talking about the list of Jesus’ ancestors as recorded in Matthew 1:1-17, which we hear at Mass once during Advent every year and once again at the Christmas Vigil Mass. I’ve often wondered about the names on the list, so I decided to research them.
It’s a soap opera, for sure!
We see some women’s name in this list, and there is scandal associated with four of the five women mentioned: Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes, and Bathsheba was an adulteress. If that weren’t bad enough, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba were all foreigners too. The final woman on the list is Mary, the one we look up to as our spiritual mother and the perfect example of a Christian.
If that weren’t enough, check out some of the kings in the list. One brought prostitutes into the temple, and another burned his son alive as an offering to idols. Of course, there are several godly men in the list too.
This genealogy shows us several things, I think.
- that God can “write straight with crooked lines”. We see that He can bring great good out of evil. This history shows that God raised up good and godly kings to help undo the damage caused by the evil ones. And weren’t the women on this list the types of women that Jesus befriended and redeemed?
- God saw fit to give key role to Gentiles, and even women in salvation history, so salvation is available to all.
- God made himself known to his Chosen People, the Jews, and brought about an awesome revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus.
|This is the list of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, who was a descendant of Abraham: From Abraham to King David, the following ancestors are listed:|
|Abraham,||Abraham, lived about 4000 years ago in a city called Haran. While his townmates were busy worshipping the moon and sacrificing their children, he was worshipping the real God of the Universe, who promised to make him the father of millions. He was a man of great faith. His name means, “Father of a Multitude“.||Gen 12|
|Isaac,||Abraham’s wife, Sarah, bore him a son Isaac when she was 90 years old!||Gen 21|
|Jacob,||Jacob was a trickster who once tricked his brother Esau out of his Father Isaac’s blessing by putting on sheepskin and pretending he was Esau.||Gen 27|
|But he too was a prayerful man of great faith. He had two wives and two concubines, and became the father of twelve sons. God renamed him Israel, which means, “Ruling With God” and his descendants are called Israelites.||Gen 32:28|
|Judah and his brothers;||Judah was Jacob’s fourth son, and he was the one who came up with the bright idea of selling Joseph his brother as a slave to the Ishmaelites. Then he dipped Joseph’s coat into goat’s blood and told Jacob that a wild animal had eaten him!||Gen 37|
|then Perez and Zerah (their mother was Tamar),||Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law. She married Judah’s eldest son, Er, but he died because of his wickedness. She then married Judah’s second son, Onan, but he died because he deliberately spilled his seed on the bed when they were having sexual intercourse. Judah tried to trick her out of marrying third son. She took matters into her own hands: she pretended to be a prostitute and had sexual intercourse with Judah when he was on his way back from shearing his many sheep.When Judah found out that she was pregnant (he still did not know that he was the father of the child), he wanted to have her stoned. Tamar then confronted Judah with the seal, cord and staff that Judah had given her for having sex with him and Judah repented and apologized.||Gen 38|
|Hezron, Ram. Amminidab, Nahshon , Salman,|
|Boaz (his mother was Rahab,||When Joshua sent to spies to Jericho, Rahab the prostitute helped them escape. In return they saved her family when Joshua attacked the city. She acknowledged that the God of the Israelites was the true God.||Joshua 2|
|Obed (his mother was Ruth),||Ruth was a gentile married to the son of a woman from Bethlehem. To make a long story short, her father-in-law died, and her husband too. She then pledged her loyalty to her Jewish mother-in-law, saying, “Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God” She went back to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law and caught the attention of a man named Boaz. They got married and lived happily ever after.||Ruth|
|Jesse, and King David.||Jesse had 8 sons, one of whom was David. When David was just a boy, he led the Israelite army to victory over the Philistines by killing a giant of a man named Goliath.||1 Sam 16,17|
|From David to the time when the people of Israel were taken into exile in Babylon, the following ancestors are listed: David,Solomon (his mother was the woman who had been Uriah’s wife),||One day, David was standing on the roof of his palace when he saw a beautiful woman taking a bath. David already had two wives…The woman, Bathsheba, was married to Uriah,, one of David’s best soldiers. King David called for her, and got her pregnant. To cover things up, he called for Uriah from the front lines. But Uriah, out of loyalty to David, said that he could not sleep with his wife because his men were still on the front line.So David had his general, Joab, put Uriah in the heat of the fighting. Uriah was killed, and David took Bathsheba as his wife.||2 Sam 11|
|Solomon was a very wise King. When he first became king, God told him to ask for anything, and God would give it to him. He asked for an understanding heart so that he could rule his people well.But Solomon loved women too. In fact he eventually had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And his heart eventually turned from God and he worshipped the idols of his many wives.||1 Kings 61 Kings 11|
|Rehoboam||Rehoboam was a very cruel king. He was so cruel that the kingdom split into two: the kingdom of Israel in the north, and the Kingdom of Judah in the south. He didn’t listen to his father’s advisors and listened to his friends instead.He instituted male temple prostitutes and Asherah poles in Judah.||1 Kings14:21-311 Kings 12|
|Abijah,||Evil king of Judah.||2 Chron 13:21|
|Asa,||Asa was the King of Judah for 41 years, and he got rid of the male temple prostitutes and renovated the Temple. He renewed the people’s covenant with God.||1 Kings 15:11|
|Jehoshaphat,||Jehoshaphat was a good king, his name means “God is Judge” in Hebrew|
|Jehoram||Jehoram was an evil king of Judah, killed his brothers upon taking the thrown. All of his bowels came out before he died.||2 Chron 21:4-6,19|
|Uzziah,||Uzziah was originally a good king. His power went to his head and he took incense into the Holy of Holies. He became a leper.||2 Chron 26:18-21|
|Jotham,||Jotham was a good, godly, and prayerful King.||2 Kings 15:34|
|Ahaz,||Ahaz, an evil king, burned his son alive as a sacrifice to his false gods, desecrated the Temple, and gave its treasures away to the King of Assyria in return for protection.||2 Kings 16|
|Hezekiah,||Hezekiah was a good, prayerful king. When over 200 thousand Assyrians were surrounding Jerusalem, ready to attack, he went to his room and fasted and prayed. The next morning, 180 thousand Assyrians lay dead outside the city walls, and the rest had run away. His name means, “God is my Strength”||2 Kings 18-20|
|Manasseh,||Manasseh became king when he was only 12 years old, reigned for 55 years. While he made idols and had the people worship them, he eventually repented.||2 Chron 32, 33|
|Amon,||Amon was evil, and reigned as king of Judah for only 2 years. He was assassinated by his advisors.||2 Kings 21|
|Josiah,.||Josiah was 8 years old when he became king of Judah. He reigned 31 years and was very godly – he got rid of all the idols and let the people in worshiping God. He reestablished the celebration of the Passover.||2 Kings 21, 23|
|and Jehoiachim and his brothers.||Jehoiachim and most of the other residents in Jerusalem got shipped off to Babylon as slaves. This is called the Babylonian Exile. He was said to be an enemy of Jeremiah the prophet.||2 Kings 21, 23|
|From the time after the exile in Babylon to the birth of Jesus, the following ancestors are listed: Jehoiachin, Shealtiel,|
|Zerubbabel||Zerubbabel was the Governor of Judah after the Babylonian exile – he started to rebuild the Temple after coming back to Jerusalem.||Hag 2|
|Abiud,||His name means “Father of Honor” in Hebrew.|
|Zadok,||His name means “Righteous” in Hebrew.|
|Eleazar,||His name means “God is our Helper” in Hebrew.|
|Matthan, Jacob, and Joseph, who married Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was called the Messiah.||Mary, the one we look up to as perfect example of a Christian, and Joseph her faithful husband.|
|So then, there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David and fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen from then to the birth of the Messiah.|