Matthew, surnamed Levi, before his conversion was a publican, or tax-gatherer under the Romans at Capernaum. He is generally allowed to have written his Gospel before any other of the evangelists. The contents of this Gospel, and the evidence of ancient writers, show that it was written primarily for the use of the Jewish nation. The fulfilment of prophecy was regarded by the Jews as strong evidence, therefore this is especially dwelt upon by St. Matthew. Here are particularly selected such parts of our Saviour's history and discourses as were best suited to awaken the Jewish nation to a sense of their sins; to remove their erroneous expectations of an earthly kingdom; to abate their pride and self-conceit; to teach them the spiritual nature and extent of the gospel; and to prepare them for the admission of the Gentiles into the church.
The genealogy of Jesus. (1-17) An angel appears to Joseph. (18-25)
Verses 1-17 Concerning this genealogy of our Saviour, observe the chief intention. It is not a needless genealogy. It is not a vain-glorious one, as those of great men often are. It proves that our Lord Jesus is of the nation and family out of which the Messiah was to arise. The promise of the blessing was made to Abraham and his seed; of the dominion, to David and his seed. It was promised to Abraham that Christ should descend from him, Ge. 12:3 Ge. 22:18 ; and to David that he should descend from him, 2Sa. 7:12 ; Ps. 89:3 , &c.; 132:11; and, therefore, unless Jesus is a son of David, and a son of Abraham, he is not the Messiah. Now this is here proved from well-known records. When the Son of God was pleased to take our nature, he came near to us, in our fallen, wretched condition; but he was perfectly free from sin: and while we read the names in his genealogy, we should not forget how low the Lord of glory stooped to save the human race.
Verses 18-25 Let us look to the circumstances under which the Son of God entered into this lower world, till we learn to despise the vain honours of this world, when compared with piety and holiness. The mystery of Christ's becoming man is to be adored, not curiously inquired into. It was so ordered that Christ should partake of our nature, yet that he should be pure from the defilement of original sin, which has been communicated to all the race of Adam. Observe, it is the thoughtful, not the unthinking, whom God will guide. God's time to come with instruction to his people, is when they are at a loss. Divine comforts most delight the soul when under the pressure of perplexed thoughts. Joseph is told that Mary should bring forth the Saviour of the world. He was to call his name Jesus, a Saviour. Jesus is the same name with Joshua. And the reason of that name is clear, for those whom Christ saves, he saves from their sins; from the guilt of sin by the merit of his death, and from the power of sin by the Spirit of his grace. In saving them from sin, he saves them from wrath and the curse, and all misery, here and hereafter. Christ came to save his people, not in their sins, but from their sins; and so to redeem them from among men, to himself, who is separate from sinners. Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, speedily, without delay, and cheerfully, without dispute. By applying the general rules of the written word, we should in all the steps of our lives, particularly the great turns of them, take direction from God, and we shall find this safe and comfortable.
Matthew 1:1-17 . GENEALOGY OF CHRIST. ( = Luke 3:23-38 ).
1. The book of the generation--an expression purely Jewish; meaning, "table of the genealogy." In Genesis 5:1 the same expression occurs in this sense. We have here, then, the title, not of this whole Gospel of Matthew, but only of the first seventeen verses.
of Jesus Christ--For the meaning of these glorious words, circumcision ( Luke 2:21 ), was that by which He was familiarly known while on earth. The word "Christ"--though applied to Him as a proper name by the angel who announced His birth to the shepherds ( Luke 2:11 ), and once or twice used in this sense by our Lord Himself ( Matthew 23:8 Matthew 23:10 , 9:41 )--only began to be so used by others about the very close of His earthly career ( Matthew 26:68 , 27:17 ). The full form, "Jesus Christ," though once used by Himself in His Intercessory Prayer ( John 17:3 ), was never used by others till after His ascension and the formation of churches in His name. Its use, then, in the opening words of this Gospel (and in Matthew 1:17 Matthew 1:18 ) is in the style of the late period when our Evangelist wrote, rather than of the events he was going to record.
the son of David, the son of Abraham--As Abraham was the first from whose family it was predicted that Messiah should spring ( Genesis 22:18 ), so David was the last. To a Jewish reader, accordingly, these behooved to be the two great starting-points of any true genealogy of the promised Messiah; and thus this opening verse, as it stamps the first Gospel as one peculiarly Jewish, would at once tend to conciliate the writer's people. From the nearest of those two fathers came that familiar name of the promised Messiah, "the son of David" ( Luke 20:41 ), which was applied to Jesus, either in devout acknowledgment of His rightful claim to it ( Matthew 9:27 , 20:31 ), or in the way of insinuating inquiry whether such were the case Matthew 12:23 ).
2. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren--Only the fourth son of Jacob is here named, as it was from his loins that Messiah was to spring ( Genesis 49:10 ).
3-6. And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; 4. And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; 5. And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6. And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her of Urias--Four women are here introduced; two of them Gentiles by birth--Rachab and Ruth; and three of them with a blot at their names in the Old Testament--Thamar, Rachab, and Bath-sheba. This feature in the present genealogy--herein differing from that given by Luke--comes well from him who styles himself in his list of the Twelve, what none of the other lists do, "Matthew the publican"; as if thereby to hold forth, at the very outset, the unsearchable riches of that grace which could not only fetch in "them that are afar off," but teach down even to "publicans and harlots," and raise them to "sit with the princes of his people." David is here twice emphatically styled "David the king," as not only the first of that royal line from which Messiah was to descend, but the one king of all that line from which the throne that Messiah was to occupy took its name--"the throne of David." The angel Gabriel, in announcing Him to His virgin-mother, calls it "the throne of David His father," sinking all the intermediate kings of that line, as having no importance save as links to connect the first and the last king of Israel as father and son. It will be observed that Rachab is here represented as the great-grandmother of David (see Ruth 4:20-22 1 Chronicles 2:11-15 )--a thing not beyond possibility indeed, but extremely improbable, there being about four centuries between them. There can hardly be a doubt that one or two intermediate links are omitted.
7-8. And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; 8. And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias--or Uzziah. Three kings are here omitted--Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah ( 1 Chronicles 3:11 1 Chronicles 3:12 ). Some omissions behooved to be made, to compress the whole into three fourteens ( Matthew 1:17 ). The reason why these, rather than other names, are omitted, must be sought in religious considerations--either in the connection of those kings with the house of Ahab (as LIGHTFOOT, EBRARD, and ALFORD view it); in their slender right to be regarded as true links in the theocratic chain (as LANGE takes it); or in some similar disqualification.
11. And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren--Jeconiah was Josiah's grandson, being the son of Jehoiakim, Josiah's second son ( 1 Chronicles 3:15 ); but Jehoiakim might well be sunk in such a catalogue, being a mere puppet in the hands of the king of Egypt ( 2 Chronicles 36:4 ). The "brethren" of Jechonias here evidently mean his uncles--the chief of whom, Mattaniah or Zedekiah, who came to the throne ( 2 Kings 24:17 ), is, in 2 Chronicles 36:10 , as well as here, called "his brother."
about the time they were carried away to Babylon--literally, "of their migration," for the Jews avoided the word "captivity" as too bitter a recollection, and our Evangelist studiously respects the national feeling.
12. And after they were brought to Babylon--after the migration of Babylon.
Jechonias begat Salathiel--So 1 Chronicles 3:17 . Nor does this contradict Jeremiah 22:30 , "Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man (Coniah, or Jeconiah) childless"; for what follows explains in what sense this was meant--"for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David." He was to have seed, but no reigning child.
and Salathiel--or Shealtiel.
begat Zorobabel--So Ezra 3:2 , Nehemiah 12:1 , Haggai 1:1 . But it would appear from 1 Chronicles 3:19 that Zerubbabel was Salathiel's grandson, being the son of Pedaiah, whose name, for some reason unknown, is omitted.
13-15. And Zorobabel begat Abiud, &c.--None of these names are found in the Old Testament; but they were doubtless taken from the public or family registers, which the Jews carefully kept, and their accuracy was never challenged.
16. And Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus--From this it is clear that the genealogy here given is not that of Mary, but of Joseph; nor has this ever been questioned. And yet it is here studiously proclaimed that Joseph was not the natural, but only the legal father of our Lord. His birth of a virgin was known only to a few; but the acknowledged descent of his legal father from David secured that the descent of Jesus Himself from David should never be
who is called Christ--signifying "anointed." It is applied in the Old Testament to the kings ( 1 Samuel 24:6 1 Samuel 24:10 ); to the priests ( Leviticus 4:5 Leviticus 4:16 , &c.); and to the prophets ( 1 Kings 19:16 )--these all being anointed will oil, the symbol of the needful spiritual gifts to consecrate them to their respective offices; and it was applied, in its most sublime and comprehensive sense, to the promised Deliverer, inasmuch as He was to be consecrated to an office embracing all three by the immeasurable anointing of the Holy Ghost ( Isaiah 61:1 ; compare John 3:34 ).
17. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away--or migration.
into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon--the migration of Babylon.
unto Christ are fourteen generations--that is, the whole may be conveniently divided into three fourteens, each embracing one marked era, and each ending with a notable event, in the Israelitish annals. Such artificial aids to memory were familiar to the Jews, and much larger gaps than those here are found in some of the Old Testament genealogies. In Ezra 7:1-5 no fewer than six generations of the priesthood are omitted, as will appear by comparing it with 1 Chronicles 6:3-15 . It will be observed that the last of the three divisions of fourteen appears to contain only thirteen distinct names, including Jesus as the last. LANGE thinks that this was meant as a tacit hint that Mary was to be supplied, as the thirteenth link of the last chain, as it is impossible to conceive that the Evangelist could have made any mistake in the matter. But there is a simpler way of accounting for it. As the Evangelist himself ( Matthew 1:17 ) reckons David twice--as the last of the first fourteen and the first of the second--so, if we reckon the second fourteen to end with Josiah, who was coeval with the "carrying away into captivity" ( Matthew 1:11 ), and third to begin with Jeconiah, it will be found that the last division, as well as the other two, embraces fourteen names, including that of our Lord.
Matthew 1:18-25 . BIRTH OF CHRIST.
18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise--or, "thus."
When as his mother Mary was espoused--rather, "betrothed."
to Joseph, before they came together, she was found--discovered to be.
with child of the Holy Ghost--It was, of course, the fact only that was discovered; the explanation of the fact here given is the Evangelist's own. That the Holy Ghost is a living conscious Person is plainly implied here, and is elsewhere clearly taught ( Acts 5:3 Acts 5:4 , &c.): and that, in the unity of the Godhead, He is distinct both from the Father and the Son, is taught with equal distinctness ( Matthew 28:19 , 2 Corinthians 13:14 ). On the miraculous conception of our Lord,
19. Then Joseph her husband--Compare Matthew 1:20 , "Mary, thy wife." Betrothal was, in Jewish law, valid marriage. In giving Mary up, therefore, Joseph had to take legal steps to effect the separation.
being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example--to expose her (see Deuteronomy 22:23 Deuteronomy 22:24 )
was minded to put her away privily--that is, privately by giving her the required writing of divorcement ( Deuteronomy 24:1 ), in presence of only two or three witnesses, and without cause assigned, instead of having her before a magistrate. That some communication had passed between him and his betrothed, directly or indirectly, on the subject, after she returned from her three months' visit to Elizabeth, can hardly be doubted. Nor does the purpose to divorce her necessarily imply disbelief, on Joseph's part, of the explanation given him. Even supposing him to have yielded to it some reverential assent--and the Evangelist seems to convey as much, by ascribing the proposal to screen her to the justice of his character--he might think it altogether unsuitable and incongruous in such circumstances to follow out the marriage.
20. But while he thought on these things--Who would not feel for him after receiving such intelligence, and before receiving any light from above? As he brooded over the matter alone, in the stillness of the night, his domestic prospects darkened and his happiness blasted for life, his mind slowly making itself up to the painful step, yet planning how to do it in the way least offensive--at the last extremity the Lord Himself interposes.
behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph thou son of David--This style of address was doubtless advisedly chosen to remind him of what all the families of David's line so early coveted, and thus it would prepare him for the marvellous announcement which was to follow.
fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost--Though a dark cloud now overhangs this relationship, it is unsullied still.
21. And she shall bring forth a son--Observe, it is not said, "she shall bear thee a son," as was said to Zacharias of his wife Elizabeth ( Luke 1:13 ).
and thou--as his legal father.
shalt call his name JESUS--from the Hebrew meaning "Jehovah the Saviour"; in Greek JESUS--to the awakened and anxious sinner sweetest and most fragrant of all names, expressing so melodiously and briefly His whole saving office and work!
for he shall save--The "He" is here emphatic--He it is that shall save; He personally, and by personal acts (as WEBSTER and WILKINSON express it).
his people--the lost sheep of the house of Israel, in the first instance; for they were the only people He then had. But, on the breaking down of the middle wall of partition, the saved people embraced the "redeemed unto God by His blood out of every kindred and people and tongue and nation."
from their sins--in the most comprehensive sense of salvation from sin ( Revelation 1:5 , Ephesians 5:25-27 ).
22. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet--( Isaiah 7:14 ).
23. Behold, a virgin--It should be "the virgin" meaning that particular virgin destined to this unparalleled distinction.
shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is, God with us--Not that He was to have this for a proper name (like "Jesus"), but that He should come to be known in this character, as God manifested in the flesh, and the living bond of holy and most intimate fellowship between God and men from henceforth and for ever.
24. Then Joseph, being raised from sleep--and all his difficulties now removed.
did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife--With what deep and reverential joy would this now be done on his part; and what balm would this minister to his betrothed one, who had till now lain under suspicions of all others the most trying to a chaste and holy woman--suspicions, too, arising from what, though to her an honor unparalleled, was to all around her wholly unknown!
25. And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: and he called his name JESUS--The word "till" does not necessarily imply that they lived on a different footing afterwards (as will be evident from the use of the same word in 1 Samuel 15:35 , 2 Samuel 6:23 , Matthew 12:20 ); nor does the word "first-born" decide the much-disputed question, whether Mary had any children to Joseph after the birth of Christ; for, as LIGHTFOOT says, "The law, in speaking of the first-born, regarded not whether any were born after or no, but only that none were born