Advent: Women in the genealogy of Jesus Christ
Please read: Matthew 1: 1-17
In my earlier post, I pointed out the vital significance of the genealogy of Jesus and that it is so inviting and empowering for ordinary people like you and me. In continuing our reflection on the genealogy, today, I want to bring your attention to the women mentioned in the genealogy by Saint Matthew.
You see, Jewish society was a patriarchal society. Women did not enjoy an equal status with men. Therefore, with rare exceptions, only male line used to be traced in the ancestry as only the father’s line was considered vital for the lineage. According to the Talmud, “A mother’s family is not to be called a family.” This explains why only the names of men appear in most genealogies. Whenever the names of women appear, they’re mentioned in passing. However, Matthew, even though he wrote for a Jewish audience, breaks with the Jewish tradition as he mentions four women beside Mary in his genealogy in chapter one. The mention of these four women is conspicuous: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. I think Matthew selected these four women to offer his readers four case studies of the grace of God in action. All four of these women experienced the grace of God in a special way and show us examples of the justification and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s economy of salvation.
- The first woman, Tamar, seduced her father-in-law for an incestuous offspring (Genesis 38).
- Rahab, a Canaanite woman, was a prostitute from the city of Jericho. Due to her act of helping Joshua and the people of Israel take over the city of Jericho (cf. Joshua 2 and 6), she’s not only mentioned in Jesus’ ancestry but also included in “the hall of faith” in Hebrews 11: 31.
- Ruth, a virtuous Moabite woman, followed her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, to Israel after the death her Jewish husband. She got married to Boaz whose father Salmon himself had married a Canaanite woman (Ruth 1-4).
- The fourth woman, Bathsheba, was the wife of Uriah, a soldier in the army of King David and with whom David later committed adultery (2 Samuel 11).
The reference to these women in the genealogy of Jesus is to show us that God’s grace is abundant and available for sinners and saints alike. No matter how wicked, sinful, and ignoble our past may be, God’s mercy can make us part of his Kingdom. God’s mighty work of grace can make life beautiful for us as well as for others. God’s forgiveness and abundant grace can save women like Rahab and use them for the sake of his Kingdom and make them part of his Son’s genealogy. This should encourage many of us today who might be in a similar situation or had a dishonorable past life. Trust in God’s forgiveness as you turn to him today in nothing but repentance and faith. Matthew insists that if prostitutes and children of adultery, harlots, and incest can be forgiven, justified, sanctified, and used by God for his purposes; then, certainly God can use you today for his glory if you are available for him. Glory to God!