Friday, July 23, 2021

Who Was Zerubbabel's Grandfather?

 “And again the word of the Lord came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.” Haggai 2:20-23.

Zerubbabel and his father Shealtiel (Salathiel) are the only two individuals found in both Matthew's and Luke's genealogy of Jesus between David and Joseph the husband of Mary. Apart from those two, every other name listed within that span is different in the two gospel accounts. See Human Ancestry of Jesus for more on that.

Zerubbabel is an important character. He was the governor of Judah for over twenty years, supervising the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. The prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah were given to encourage him and Joshua the high priest in that important work. Haggai's messages to him personally have Messianic overtones, for their ultimate fulfillment would be realized in Zerubbabel's descendant, Jesus.

The question we are addressing here has to do with the differences in the biblical accounts of Zerubbabel's ancestry. 1 Chronicles 3:17-19; Matthew 1:12; and Luke 3:27 each give a different story.

The identity of Zerubbabel's father seems to clear. Ezra, Haggai, Matthew, and Luke all agree that Shealtiel (Salathiel) was Zerubbabel's father. Only the Hebrew text of 1 Chronicles lists Pedaiah as his father. The Greek Septuagint of 1 Chronicles lists Shealtiel as his father.

Jehoiachin (Jeconiah), who reigned as king in Judah for only three months and ten days, was taken to Babylon in 597 BC with the prophet Ezekiel and 10,000 other captives. He had a number of children, but none of them would ever reign as king (Jeremiah 22:30).

Our question is, was Shealtiel the son of Jehoiachin or the son of Neri? A number of possible explanations have been proposed. Shealtiel might have been the actual son of Neri (Luke 3:27), but the son of Jehoiachin (Matthew 1:12) by adoption. Or, if Jehoiachin's natural sons had all died, Jehoiachin might have chosen Shealtiel, the son of Neri, as his legal heir and successor. One other possibility is that Shealtiel was Jehoiachin's grandson--that Jehoiachin's daughter married Neri, and that Shealtiel was their son. With any one of these explanations, both Matthew's and Luke's accounts would be correct according to Jewish custom. Matthew, showing Jesus as a legal heir to Judah's throne, and Luke, possibly showing Jesus' actual blood line, are both correct.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Human Ancestry of Jesus

The Bible uses two different approaches to the family line of Jesus. The list given in Matthew Chapter 1 is almost entirely different from the list in Luke Chapter 3. Here is a suggested explanation for that difference:

Matthew's list is obviously incomplete. For example, Matthew 1:11 says, "Josias (Josiah) begat Jechonias (Jehoiachin)." In reality Jehoiachin was Josiah's grandson. Matthew's purpose was not to list every single link in the genealogy, but rather simply to present enough of the line to demonstrate that Jesus was in fact descended from David and from Abraham (verse 1). In Matthew 1:17 he says, "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations." This doesn't have to mean that that is all the generations that there were, but simply that that is all the generations he was listing to establish Christ's legitimacy as King of Israel.

Whereas Matthew shows Jesus to have descended through the line of Judah's kings via Solomon, Luke's list presents Jesus as having descended through Nathan, another son of David and Bathsheba. I favor the explanation that suggests Luke is presenting the literal blood line of Jesus through Mary, and that Matthew is showing Jesus' legally recognized patriarchal line through Joseph. Both lines go through David. It appears that Mary's husband Joseph was the son of Jacob (Matthew 1:16), and that Heli (Luke 3:23) could have been Mary's father. If Mary was Heli's only child, Joseph would have become Heli's legal heir by marrying her. According to this explanation, Luke's account shows how Jesus was an actual blood descendant of David through Mary, and Matthew's account shows that Jesus was the legal heir of Judah's royal line though his adoption by Joseph.

Luke 3:23 in the Greek doesn't actually say that Joseph was the son of Heli. The words "the son" in the KJV are italicized, indicating they were supplied by the translators. The Greek literally says, "And Jesus Himself was beginning to be about thirty years old, being, as was supposed, son of Joseph, of Heli." It was supposed that Jesus was the son of Joseph, but really he was "of Heli."

This is consistent with the fact that Matthew tells the story of Jesus' birth from Joseph's perspective, while Luke tells Mary's story. And in Matthew's account, when the angel appears to Joseph in a dream he addresses him as "Joseph, thou son of David" (Matthew 1:20). The genealogy in the first seventeen verses was given to show how that is so.

Luke tells us that Mary was a relative of Elizabeth (Luke 1:36) who was descended from Aaron (verse 5). It is possible that Mary's father was of the tribe of Judah and that her mother was of the tribe of Levi. In that way, Jesus could be the blood descendant of David through His maternal grandfather, and Mary could still be related to Elisabeth on her mother's side.