This article closes my series on Jesus’ genealogies, looking at Matthew 1, Luke 3, and related aspects of the Old Testament record at the time of the Babylonian exile. Today, we’ll look at “Jeconiah’s Curse,” from Jeremiah 22, and its relevance to the descent of Christ.
If you haven’t yet read the previous articles (The Genealogies of Christ — Summary, with links), this one may be of limited value. Also, this one is long for a blog post! Get comfortable and grab a cup of coffee! 🙂
Jeconiah And the Genealogies — Review
As we’ve looked at the two genealogies, we’ve seen the following:
- Matthew’s genealogy is the legal one (through his adoptive father Joseph) affirming our Lord’s claim to David’s throne. Because Jesus was virgin-born, it tells nothing of His biological descent.
- Luke’s listing is Mary’s lineage, showing Jesus’ biological descent from Adam and David, as prophesied. It probably includes at least two fathers-in-law, of Joseph and of Salathiel. If they had no sons, their daughters (and sons-in-law) would have been their heirs.
- Both lists include Salathiel and his son, Zerubbabel, who led the Jews returning from the Babylonian captivity.
- Salathiel was the son or grandson of King Jeconiah of Judah.
- Scripture, archaeology, and Jewish tradition all point to Salathiel and Zerubbabel as not only legal heirs of King Jeconiah, but also almost certainly his biological descendants.
- Since Salathiel and Zerubbabel are not only in Matthew’s genealogy, but also in Luke’s, this means our Lord was a physical as well as legal descendant of Jeconiah.
But now we come to “Jeconiah’s Curse” in Jeremiah 22, which seems to declare that no seed of Jeconiah will ever rule on David’s throne. If so, and Jesus is “of the seed” of Jeconiah, He would be disqualified! The rabbis of Jesus’ time never challenged Christ’s genealogies, but some Jewish scoffers do so today based on “Jeconiah’s Curse” — so we’ll give it a close examination.
24 As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence;
25 And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.
26 And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die.
27 But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return.
28 Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not?
29 O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD.
30 Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.
Verse 30 declares the curse. The Lord vows “this man” will be childless, will not prosper in his days, and will have no descendant on the throne of David and ruling in Judah. Because Jeconiah (“Coniah”) is named twice, the judgment appears to name him as the one “written childless” who will not prosper or have a son ruling.
The Royal Mess After Josiah
The background is found elsewhere in Scripture (mainly from II Chronicles 36 and the last three chapters of II Kings). When Josiah (who ruled well) died, his son Jehoahaz became king. Jehoahaz is also called Shallum in verse eleven of Jeremiah 22.
Jehoahaz (who was evil) only reigned three months before Pharoah took him prisoner and replaced him with his brother Jehoiakim, who reigned evilly for 11 years before being captured and killed outside Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Jehoiachin (or Jeconiah) his son reigned for 100 days, then took an involuntary and permanent trip to Babylon.
Jeconiah’s uncle (Jehoiakim’s brother), Zedekiah, became king and reigned for 11 years. He was the wicked final king before Israel’s Babylonian captivity, God’s judgment for their idolatry. Zedekiah saw his own sons killed, then was blinded (Jeremiah 52:10-11).
In total, three sons of Josiah ruled. Jehoahaz ruled three months, then his brother Jehoiakim reigned 11 years. Jehoiakim’s son (Josiah’s grandson) Jeconiah reigned for 100 days, and then the third brother Zedekiah / reigned 11 years.
This table shows the relationships, with each king’s father in parentheses and the order in which they ruled indicated by the numbers:
|1. Josiah (Amon)|
|2. Jehoahaz (Josiah)
||3. Jehoiakim (Josiah)
||5. Zedekiah (Josiah)
|4. Jeconiah (Jehoiakim)
The Curse Fulfilled?
God knows all things and does not lie. How can we explain “Jeconiah’s curse” in light of Jesus’ genealogies, which show Him descended from Jeconiah? But there are more problems with this curse on Jeconiah. Let’s look at its components, one by one.
1. “Write ye this man childless….”
I Chronicles 3:17
And the sons of Jeconiah….
Jeconiah was not childless.
2. “… a man that shall not prosper in his days….”
II Kings 25:27-28
27 And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the year that he began to reign did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison;
28 And he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon;
Jeconiah / Jehoiachin did have prosperity in his days.
3. “…no man of his seed shall prosper…”
Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
Zerubbabel of the seed of Jeconiah did prosper.
4. “…sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.”
Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;
Zerubbabel of Jeconiah’s seed did not sit on David’s throne, but he did rule in Judah.
5. From verse 27, “…thither shall they not return.”
1 Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city;
2 Which came with Zerubbabel:
Zerubbabel of the seed of Jeconiah did return.
The throne is obviously the key point, but why would God use so much other language which simply doesn’t end up being fulfilled in Jeconiah? Was the “curse” wrong, or overturned by a later act of God — or addressed to someone else?
An Unlikely Explanation
I mentioned earlier the possibility of Luke’s Salathiel / Zerubbabel pairing being different from the Salathiel / Zerubbabel pairing descended from Jeconiah. As I said, it is unlikely there would be a father / son pairing with identical names, both descended from David, at virtually the same time in history. It could have happened, and some think this solves “Jeconiah’s curse” — but it doesn’t really.
If the Zerubbabel in Mary’s line were a different one, it would mean Jesus was not “of the seed” of Jeconiah, having legal but not biological descent from him. If the curse only included the throne, that would solve our problems. But the wording is inconsistent with so many things about Jeconiah and the Zerubbabel who DID descend from Jeconiah that this explanation isn’t very satisfactory.
A Cancelled Curse?
The Jews knew the curse did not fit Jeconiah and his descendants. Some ancient rabbis taught that God reversed it. Rabbi Johanan taught the unbiblical idea that “exile atones for everything.” Others, more satisfactorily, taught that in captivity Jeconiah repented of his evil youth, so God cancelled the curse, just as He cancelled the declared destruction of Nineveh in Jonah’s time.
The final notes on Jeconiah in II Kings, describing his treatment in Babylon, certainly support the view that he repented. But God preserved a very direct curse in Scripture, calling all the earth to hear. Would He cancel it without telling us directly that He had done so, and why – especially if it related to the descent of Messiah? Perhaps, but it seems doubtful, especially if there is a better explanation. That brings us to the question of mistaken identity.
Is it Really Jeconiah? Part A, The Curse Itself
There is some basis, right in the text, for considering this “curse” a case of mistaken identity by those call it Jeconiah’s.
The Person Change in Verse 24
The NIV obscures this by supplying wording no other major translators use, so if you are looking at the NIV, set it aside for something better. 🙂
As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence;
The verse changes from talking about Coniah (third person), to talking to someone (second person). It might appear as if it is speaking to Coniah, but the change to second person fits with the idea that it could be someone else.
The Change to Past Tense
…yet would I pluck thee thence….
…wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not?
Verse 24 sounds like whoever will be “plucked thence” is still to be “plucked” (future) — but verse 28 speaks of Coniah and his seed as already cast out. Prophetic Scripture may use the past tense to indicate the certainty of a prophecy, but alternatively it may suggest that Coniah is already a captive, and the Lord is speaking to someone else.
The Name “Coniah”
Why is he called “Coniah” instead of “Jeconiah” or “Jehoiachin,” his names elsewhere in Scripture? Like “Jeconiah,” it comes from the Hebrew kun (“establish” or “uphold”) combined with “iah” (Jah) — a common abbreviation for “Jehovah” in Hebrew names. “Jeconiah” simply adds “Je” (for Jehovah) at the beginning of the name, too.
Coniah is not an insult, as Calvin suggested. It means “Jehovah has upheld” or “Jehovah will uphold.” Some scholars think “Jeconiah” (“Jehovah” at the beginning) means “Jehovah will uphold” while “Coniah” (with Jehovah only at the end) means “Jehovah has upheld.” Why would God, while cursing him, give an apparently new name affirming God as his upholder, perhaps even affirming that God has already upheld him? That makes no sense if the “curse” is against Jeconiah — but fits perfectly well if spoken against one who may have been trying strengthen his own grip on the royal house at Jeconiah’s expense.
Affirming Jeconiah’s Worth
Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not?
This verse, by asking why Coniah is cast out, implies he is not a despised, worthless vessel. It is as if God says Jeconiah is not worthless, yet has been set aside anyway.
It is hard to think of a parallel, where God affirms someone’s value while declaring an absolute and crushing repudiation and judgment. But if the Coniah reference is only to his exile, and is part of His message of judgment to someone else, it makes more sense.
Is It Really Jeconiah? Part B, Other Scripture
Hugo Grotius believed chapter 22 records a prophecy which was first given to Jehoiakim, which was repeated (and expanded upon) to Zedekiah. Verse 6, for instance, makes it clear that the message is for the “king’s house.” Others who have seen the curse as on Zedekiah include Thomas Scott and J Carl Laney. Is there any reason for believing that? Not only are there hints in the “curse” itself that it may not be addressed to Jeconiah (part A above), but there are other hints in Scripture which point rather to his uncle.
Later note: Dr Laney kindly tells me that his teacher, Stanley Ellisen, pointed him to Zedekiah rather than Jeconiah. I also had the privilege of sitting under Dr Ellisen’s teaching (his invaluable notes on the Life of Christ are always in reach on my desk). I did not know of his view of this chapter, but now see that Dr Ellisen wrote a paper on this for the ETS. If anyone knows how I can get a copy, I would appreciate it.
The Chronology of the Context
Jeremiah is not given to us in chronological order, so this is not compelling evidence on its own. But chapter 21 records a warning to Jeconiah’s uncle Zedekiah, who ruled after Jeconiah went to Babylon. Chapter 23 implies (verses 2-3) that the captivity is already advanced, but Jerusalem is not yet destroyed (verse 39) — Zedekiah’s reign. Chapter 24 is during the reign of Zedekiah. The “curse” chapter is sandwiched between prophecies of Zedekiah’s time, gives no explicit time for itself, and is addressed to a reigning king.
As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence;
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.
Jeconiah’s descendant Zerubbabel became God’s “signet” ring. This Hebrew word appears less than 15 times, and only these two clearly refer to the Lord’s signet. God chose the same word He applied to Jeconiah, one He had not used in a similar way before, to refer to one of his descendants. That doesn’t point to Zedekiah, but it certainly points away from the idea that Jeconiah and his lineage were “plucked hence” and cursed.
(The same word appears in a very different — and sad — context at a key point in the ancestry of Christ, in Genesis 38:18, but it seems to have no relevance to this passage.)
Who Was “Written Childless”?
Write ye this man childless….
II Kings 25:6-7
6 So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him.
7 And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.
“Write him childless” seems to imply more than “he will have no children.” It fits precisely Zedekiah’s future. He was not childless at the time of the prophecy, but became childless after God said of a king of Judah, “Write him childless.” Coincidence?
“Earth, Earth, Earth”
O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD.
Here is a very unusual three-fold call to the entire earth to hear God’s declaration — and there seems little to echo it in the life of Jeconiah. Usually the Lord announces judgment to His people, or to the individual himself, but this calls on the entire earth to hear. Yet, going forward just two short chapters, we find this:
8 …So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt:
9 And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them.
The earth is called by God to bear witness to the curse of “this man” — and all the earth will see Zedekiah, his princes, and those who follow him as “a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse.” By contrast, the earth will see Jeconiah exalted (II Kings 25).
Matthew’s Fourteen Generations
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.
As I said previously, the fourteen is not a precise count, but an intentional drawing of our attention to the dividing points. Perhaps, in addition to calling attention to Zerubbabel, there was a reason connected to Jeremiah 22.
Perhaps Matthew was telling Jewish readers, “Yes, Zedekiah was the last king, but remember, he was cursed. The true line, Jeconiah’s, through whom came Zerubbabel, is the line of Messiah — and the line of Jesus of Nazareth.” Why would Matthew omit generations, making each group fourteen long, to draw focus to a cursed king? It is easy to see why he would do so if the curse were Zedekiah’s (who was not in the line), but very strange if it were Jeconiah’s.
If Zedekiah ruled when Jeremiah 22 was written (as with chapters 21, 23, and 24), it read far differently back then than it does now at first glance, and many difficulties disappear. It was a message to the ruling king (verse 2), recounting his family history (note verse 6).
God would be saying to Zedekiah, “I judged Shallum / Jehoahaz for his wickedness” (verses 11-12). “Here is the judgment I pronounced on Jehoiakim, and it came” (18-19). “As I said to them, I say to you. Josiah your father ruled well, but you have not” (13-17). “Even the one Jehovah has upheld (Coniah), as David’s heir the very signet of My hand, I have cast into captivity, though he is not worthless” (24, 28), “and shall you escape? If I cast him away, I will certainly pluck YOU hence — your family relationship to him will not save you. You shall not escape, but will be a curse to the whole earth” (29-30).
If this prophecy came during his reign, it was a curse on Zedekiah, fulfilled completely in his very near future. All its difficulty to the genealogies of Christ, even the difficulty of Zerubbabel (who just doesn’t fit the curse), simply disappears.
There are aspects which do seem to fit better with a curse on Jeconiah, and the Lord did not see fit to tell us when it was written, nor to whom. He did not give a clear and unmistakable identification of “this man” who was written childless. We cannot be sure it refers to Zedekiah – and as noted, there are other possible, if unlikely, explanations.
The balance of the evidence points fairly strongly towards Zedekiah. The most likely answer is that the curse was not cancelled but misnamed by later commentators, who weren’t there when it was declared to Zedekiah, and misunderstood the references to Coniah. We would probably do better to call it “Zedekiah’s Curse” instead.
Back to the Genealogies of Christ
This is a very long article, even by my standards :). As with others in this series, we end up with more “probable” and “likely” on some questions than the certainty of “thus saith the Lord.” Sometimes in Scripture, that’s where we have to settle – God didn’t give us this Book to satisfy our curiosity about everything, after all.
But hopefully these articles demonstrate that the difficult questions can be faced and are not unanswerable. If God left us unanswered genealogical questions, He did not leave us without any possibility of answers. There are plausible solutions which fit the available evidence, even if we can’t always know for certain which is the right answer. There is nothing in the genealogies to shake our faith, nothing to make us doubt God’s Word.
Beyond that, in the genealogies we see the work of the great Architect of human events. Just as He sovereignly used a Roman emperor to relocate two humble descendants of David to David’s city for the birth of David’s great Son, so also we see Him conducting genealogical history. He covered every important base – physical descent (through Mary), legal royal descent (through Joseph), both descended from David.
God announced these things and fulfilled them all, bringing two lines through royal turmoil, casting down kings, exalting captives, preserving through the captivity, bringing the lines together at Salathiel and faithful Zerubbabel, then parting them again so there would be two lines.
It would likely have been disputed if a mother passed on the legal right to the throne, so a virgin-born King needed to inherit it from a human adoptive father. A virgin-born Messiah could not be a biological Son of David from His human adoptive father. Two separate lines were needed, and were perfectly brought together when the fulness of time was come (Galatians 4:4).
It was a genealogical symphony, played in perfect time, every note in tune. His Father planned it all — and blessed us by telling us about it.
Well, I would say this one is satisfying to me. I especially like your last few paragraphs.
The Levirate marriage suggestions have always seemed troublesome to me (from the earlier articles) – seems too easy a solution to the problem. Nevertheless, I am confident there is a solution to the problems, even if they are solutions we can’t figure out.
Thanks, Don. I appreciate your earlier comments on the topic, it challenged me to dig a little deeper, study it out a little more.
The only place where I really think a Levirate marriage might come into play is Pedaiah / Zerubbabel, based on Chronicles, and I don’t know, but think, that Luke’s genealogy probably excludes that.
You are correct, there are solutions, we can guess at what they probably might be, but we don’t have to know them all. That isn’t the purpose of the genealogies.
I read the paper of Stanley Ellisen on the curse and Zedekiah in the library at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Maybe they can furnish you a copy.
Kirby, thank you so much, I greatly appreciate it. I apologise for the delay in responding, work has been extremely heavy recently.
I will contact the school and ask them.
Sorry but the genealogies are worthless. If Jesus is born of Miriam then he is born into original sin( as described in the xtian writings) and cannot be what the xtian writings claim him to be (moshiach). If he isn’t born into original sin ( and not really human ) the he can’t inherit a throne created for a man with a certain human lineage!!!
Josef, I’ll clear this comment and answer it because I believe it may arise out of some confusion. But my comment policy requires respect for Christian belief, and I won’t clear any more comments that call any part of Scripture “worthless.”
As to your objection, there are different views as to the concept of original sin (it isn’t called that specifically anywhere in Scripture). But the differences on original sin are not relevant to this question.
The Bible teaches that the sin problem is inherited from the father. Jesus, being born of a virgin, did not have a human father, and thus had no original sin, whatever definition of original sin might be adopted.
If you wish to challenge the Humanity, Deity, and Messianic identity of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, you will have to find a different argument.
Original sin is a term first used in Augustine’s writings in 397 AD. Bible writers would not have known what it was since Gnostism only arose later. Augustine was influenced by Plato and Manicheeism.
Very helpful, Jon! The curse’s applicability to Zedekiah seems well-supported to me. But how do we handle the curse on Jehoiakim in Jeremiah 36:30-31? “He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David” would seem to preclude any further participation in the line by his son, Jeconiah, Zerubbabel, or anyone in Mary’s line?
Or did he in fact “have no one”:
— of his body, in Joseph’s physical line, and
— that “counted,” as Jesus’ line was through a woman?
Or am I missing something?
Hello, Joel. Sorry for the delay, this was buried in moderation while the blog was dormant. If you are still paying attention, this is a very good question.
I think we can safely say that Jeconiah’s three months on the throne didn’t invalidate verse 31, which talks of his seed and servants being punished for their iniquity. They certainly were punished. So really, the only problem would be if it invalidates the part of the curse that says, ‘He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David.’
I think it is quite clear that it does not. The Bible is very explicit that this is a curse on Jehoiakim, that Jeconiah is indeed his son, and that Jeconiah did rule. So why not? Well, the fulfilment is obviously future. Jehoiakim is in the fourth year of his reign at this time (verse 1) and he ruled for 11 years. So God is telling him, the time is coming when you will die an ignominious death, and the throne will be lost to your line forever. The last part of verse 30 is fulfilled 7 years later, the first part a mere three months after that.
I don’t see Zerubbabel as being a problem here because he was never on the throne of David.
As to the rest of the genealogy, my belief is that this line is the ‘legal right to the throne’ line, that the virgin birth was in part a judgment on the royal line (context of Isaiah 7:14), and that Mary was born of David through Nathan’s line, not the royal line. Thus, I don’t see Christ as being part of the royal line except legally, and thus the curse not applying to Him.
I hope that answers your question, if I’ve missed anything feel free to come back to me on it. It is, of course, possible I’m wrong on some of this. Parts of it are very clear, others are less certain. This is my best understanding of these interesting passages.
The conflicting genealogies of Jesus as found in Matthew and Luke
This as one of the very first conflicting stories in the biblical account; that challenged me as far as the veracity of the Bible. How can these 2 Gospel writers write different genealogies of the Bibles’ most important character, Jesus Christ?
I was always made to believe that Matthew wrote the Joseph’s bloodline. While Luke, (who probably interviewed Mary personally), wrote Mary’s bloodline. They both happened to be in the linage of David. This reasoning satisfied me during my early stages as a Christian. However, something in the back of my mind always bothered me about Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, who as a Levite.
I found out later, Jews did not record any of the genealogies of the women, only the men. So, Luke’s account cannot possible be that of Mary’s. Instead, Luke provides us with Elizabeth’s bloodline. Luke 1: 5 gives us the genealogy of John the Baptize. Both Zacharias and Elizabeth traced their ancestry to Aaron the high priest. Elizabeth was of the daughters of Aaron.
Luke 1:36, further describes that Mary was the cousin of Elizabeth. So, both Elizabeth and Mary shared a common grandfather. Since we all get two grandfathers; then there is a 50% chance that that grandfather was a high priest. Luke 1: 56 tells us that Mary abode with her (Elizabeth) for three months and returned to her own house. This little clue is priceless because it proves that Mary was partaking and eating the food solely dedicated for the high priest and their families. Zacharias and Elizabeth could not allow Mary to partake of their food unless; Mary was herself of the lineage of the high priest.
Leviticus 7: 31-38, Lev 2: 2-10, Lev 6: 15-29 and Deuteronomy 18: 1-8. These are some of the verses where it shows that the portion of the high priest was holy and was to be eaten by them and their families only. We can therefore conclude that Mary was of the daughters of Aaron.
Even 1Peter2: 9 confirms this in claiming that the inheritance that Jesus was giving us was a Royal Priesthood. Peter knew that Jesus’ linage included royalty (from God and Joseph) and Priest ( from Mary).
Now we know, that Mary traced her ancestry back to Aaron and was therefore from the tribe of Levi. However, this still leaves us even more perplexed. Here is in front of us an obvious conflict in the Bible. How can we claim that the Word of God is infallible?
Did Joseph have two fathers?
How can Luke not confer with Matthew? Or Matthew with Luke? I am sure there were plenty of books on genealogies in ancient Jerusalem before the Romans sacked and burned everything in 70 AD. Luke was written around 62 AD and Matthew around 50-65 AD
Turns out we are not that only ones who are perplexed by this
Julius Africanus explains that both these genealogies were true and accurate. Matthew tells us that Jacob begat Joseph. Luke tells us that Joseph, was the son of Heli. Jacob was the natural father of Joseph while Heli was the legal father of Joseph. Joseph indeed had two fathers.
Heli was married to Estha, but died before having any children. So, Jacob, Heli’s half brother, married the childless widow Estha and fathers an heir ( Joseph) for the family line of Heli. This was done in fulfillment of the Levirate marriage law written in Deuteronomy 25: 5-10
Africanus further supports this explanation by citing that Matthew chose the Greek word for “ begat” to show physical decent of Joseph , while Luke does not. Luke instead uses the Greek for “son of Heli” an accurate legal description for property inheritance purposes, but not the begotten son for actual parentage.
Jacob was the son of Mattan who traces their inheritance to David thru the royal line of Solomon. Heli the son of Matthat, traces his linage to David thru Nathan. Heli was first-begotten, his father Matthat died. His mother then remarried Mattan and begot Jacob. Therefore Heli and Jacob had the same mother but different fathers. They were however both from the linage of David and therefore had property inheritance around Bethlehem.
Africanus further explains the Herod the Great had ordered the destruction of all official Jewish lineage literature. Herod was not even a Jew; had no legitimate claim to his position by birth. So, it was easier to destroy all the records. It, therefore, became a practice that many Jewish families will keep their own personal records of their genealogies. The family of Jesus kept such records. Africanus was able to verify these after finding the descendants of Jesus’s half brothers ( Simeon, James, Jude, and Joses ) Matt 13: 55 These papers provided the explanation for these different genealogies.
You can find Eusebius in the 7th chapter of his book Church History writing about Julius Africanus and the same topic. You can even buy copies of books written by Julius Africanus thru Amazon
There are indeed no conflicting verses in the Bible.
Every Word of God is true
Hello, Joe, thank you for your long and thoughtful comment. The writings of Africanus / Eusebius are discussed briefly in the comments in this post: https://mindrenewers.com/2013/12/22/the-genealogies-of-christ-two-genealogies/. One of my comments gives, to my way of thinking, the biggest problem with Eusebius’ idea (we don’t actually have Africanus’ writings on this).
Your conclusion that there are no conflicting verses in the Bible is, of course, true. The question as to how verses fit together when they appear to be contradictory is of course not always obvious, but we do know that they do fit together. Fortunately, this is not a case where we absolutely have to know how this is resolved. As long as we trust the Lord that there is no contradiction, it doesn’t matter that much which way of resolving it we accept.
I appreciate the obvious study and effort that has gone into your comment, but I don’t think the evidence is strong for parts of it.
1. The food of the priests which was limited to their families was the sacrifices. The sacrifices were to be made at the temple in Jerusalem and Zacharias and Elisabeth were not in Jerusalem when Mary visited. Therefore, the food they ate during her visit would have come from other sources, such as the portion of the tithes that went to the Levites. That food was not limited strictly to their families.
2. The high priests in the years leading up to the birth of Jesus are known from Jewish historians and rabbinic records, and Zacharias, though descended from Aaron, was not a high priest.
3. We don’t even know that Mary and Elisabeth were first cousins, but even if they were, that does not prove Mary was Levitical. Elisabeth’s father, a priest descended from Aaron, may have married a non-Levitical bride (this was permitted) whose sister was Mary’s mother. In this case, Mary would not necessarily be descended from Levi at all, yet still be Elisabeth’s cousin. I believe Mary probably was descended from Levi as well as from David, but I believe that for theological reasons (it’s just the way God often works). I also think it can be argued that God told us of Elisabeth’s lineage because He wanted us to draw that conclusion — but He didn’t actually say anything that makes it necessary to do so. I don’t think I Peter 2:9 is conclusive on this because Hebrews makes it very clear that Jesus is not a priest of the Levitical priesthood, but of the order of Melchizedec, so Levitical descent was not necessary and is never explicitly claimed for Jesus. There would, however, be a theological symmetry to Jesus having maternal descent from Levi and having that descent “cancelled” by His divine descent from the Father, with a different priesthood resulting. So it is an interesting idea which I think is probably true, but not compelling in the discussion of the genealogies.
4. You said that the Jews did not record the genealogies of the women, but only that of the men. This is true, yet Elisabeth’s descent is known. And Luke may not have been a Jew and was not writing primarily for Jewish believers, but for Gentile believers. If the genealogy in Luke is Mary’s, it’s really the genealogy of Mary’s father, which certainly would have been recorded by the Jews.
5. If Jesus’ earthly family came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and we know that did happen, they would certainly have kept records to show His physical descent from David, as well as His legal descent as the heir to the throne. It is perhaps worth mentioning that there is no evidence that the Jews ever challenged Jesus on either of these points, either that He was physically descended from David or that He had the legal right to the throne. Because Jesus was virgin-born it would have been necessary to have two different genealogies to prove each of these points, which suggests, since they were never challenged, that such genealogies existed.
Hi Jon, Thanks for your enlightenment. I have a slightly different point of view.
I guess the need for 2 different genealogies for our Lord Jesus is due to His taking up the Threefold Office of King, Priest and Prophet which was first brought up by John Calvin. To do so, the Messiah needs to have a royal lineage, a priestly lineage and a non-royal lineage (for the prophet) at the same time. This is evidently conflicting. The Kingly Messiah should be a Judite or at least Davidic, the Priestly One a Levite and the Prophetic One, though could be Davidic or otherwise but surely non-Levite. That is why the Manual of Discipline 9:9b-11 of the DSS mentioned three messiahs, “the prophet and the anointed ones of Aaron and Israel”.
Normally a Judite could not be a Levite as they descended from two blood brothers, but there were incidents in the Bible that adoption and marriage to a female inheritance made it possible. Jair, who was a descendant of Judah (1 Chr 2:4, 5, 21, 22) had his grandfather Hezron married the daughter of Makir (1Chr 2:21) of the tribe of Manasseh (Num 32:39) led him to be called a Descendant of Manasseh instead of a Descendant of Judah (Num 32:41). Also Huram from Tyre (also called Huram-Abi from Tyrer in 2Chr 2:13) whose mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali (1Ki 7:13-14) was mentioned as the son of a woman from Dan (2Chr 2:13-14). Yet the Messianic inheritance made this impossible, as the author of the Book of Hebrews specifically mentioned in Heb 7:14 that in the tribe of Judah, Moses said nothing about priests. It was only that our Lord Jesus took up the priestly role from the Order of Melchizedek circumvented this limitation by not following the Order of Levi.
My otherwise view is that while the genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew was to show our Lord’s royal lineage, the one in the Gospel of Luke was not to show his descendance from David. This has already been shown in the one in the Gospel of Matthew, if adoption of Jesus by Joseph could fulfill the requirement of being “David’s descendant”. Doesn’t such descendance need to be biological. I guess not. Shealtiel was not the biological father of Zerubbabel. His brother Pedaiah was (1Chr 3:17-18), yet it was mentioned in the Matthean genealogy that Shealtiel bore Zerubbabel. It was possible that Zerubbabel gained the legal right to the succession of throne as the next of kin (Num 27:8-11). In addition, isn’t just the mentioning in Rom 1:3 already good enough to show that our Lord Jesus was a descendant of David according to the flesh as to otherwise need a rather unusual feminine genealogy to prove this? Moreover, would Joseph lose his legal right to the throne by being adopted into his father-in-law’s genealogy? In the O.T. times, a Levite who had married a daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite became a descendant of Barzilla (Ezra 2:61; Neh 7:63), and hence a descendant of Manasseh because Gilead was a descendant of Manasseh (Num 26:29, 27:1, 32:40; Dt 3:13; 1Chr 7:14, 17) and so lost his priesthood because he was no longer considered a descendant of Levi (Ezra 2:62; Neh 7:64).
So then what would necessitate the Lukan genealogy? My view is that there has to be a Messianic non-royal lineage as said above, and the Lukan genealogy was to satisfy this. From the O.T., the Israelites were also expecting a non-royal Messiah from the line of Nathan, as indicated by the names of Nathan, Levi and Shimei in the suffering Messiah verses of Zech 12:10-14 whose names may match with those in the Lukan genealogy as Nathan … Shimei and Semein (Lk 3:26, 30-32) having the same Greek translation.
I think God has planned that it is impossible to fulfill the Threefold Office except through the way our Lord Jesus did. The Messiah must have two different genealogies which are always conflicting but at the same time no genealogy if He has to follow the Order of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4) because Melchizedek being a gentile has no effective genealogy by default (Heb 7:3). Only Our Lord Jesus could resolve this Kingly Messiah-Priestly Messiah conflict (Zech 6:13). This Threefold Office requirement also necessitates the Sypnotic Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew to glorify the Kingly Messiah, the Gosepl of Luke the Prophetic One, and the Gospel of Mark the Priestly One, because by voluntarily being a servant, our Lord Jesus gave up His own identity as all slaves in those days did, and hence a servant becoming a member of the master’s family has no genealogy of his own.
One final point, if the Jeconiah curse was also meant as “childless” and not “from his seeds”, then would this curse be just on Shealtiel being childless, yet his adoption of Zerubbabel made it possible to get over this?
Sorry Jon, I missed mentioning one point. I conjecture the Lukan genealogy was the biological genealogy of Joseph instead and through being adopted by Jacob as listed in the Matthean genealogy (Mt 1:16), he gained the legal right to the throne. Since prophetship was not gained by inheritance, a king could still be a prophet as David did (Acts 2:30).
Hi, Michael. Thank you for the comments. Unfortunately I simply don’t have the time to think this through right now, so I’ll have to defer comment. But I’ve read enough to be able to tell that you’ve made a serious attempt to handle the Scriptures here so I’m clearing it through moderation. If I find out later that you’ve hidden heresy in here I’ll zap it later! 🙂 But I don’t expect to find that. I will try to get to this sometime in the next week or two. Blessings to you.
I understand you have recently done a big move with your family to a new home, so just take your time. I am not urging you for a reply.
This is not a response to your brief remarks, so there is no need to post this. Maybe you can treat the following as a dialogue between a pastor (your goodself) and an ordinary lay.
It’s only your warning of possible “hidden heresy” that made me do a reflection of what I had written and found several places of error. First, in the 2nd paragraph, I wrote the Threefold Office to be first discussed by John Calvin. I based this on Kim Riddlebarger’s message in his Ligonier Ministries webpage, but doing a further search on the Wikipedia showed that it was first discussed by Eusebius and only later refined by John Calvin. Second, in the 4th paragraph on Zerubbabel, the next of kin should refer to the levirate marriage or yibbum (Dt 25:5-10) and not the inheritance (Num 27:8-11). Third is a typo in the 5th paragraph, should be Nathan … Levi & Semein. So maybe you can help revise those in my previous post. Sorry for the mistakes.
The term “heresy” is quite threatening. I know discussion on biblical doctrine is dangerous, in particular on Christology. I have no theological training at all, but I understand what Arianism is by directly discussing on His nature, or what Arminianism is by indirectly discussing on His salvation. I think the doctrine of Threefold Office has been seriously undermined when compared to the other doctrines on His nature, such as Trinity, Duality, or His salvation such as TULIP. The term Threefold Office does not appear in either the OT or NT, similar to Trinity, Duality and can only be inferred to. But then the question is why did Christ need to take up all these Offices? Of course, the High Priesthood of the Order of Melchizedek would make the virgin birth a necessity. Yet, if not to fulfill Isa 7:14, this necessity would then be obviated. He might not need to be a High Priest in order to shed His blood. He just needed to be the Paschal Lamb. I began to think of this when coming across 1Pet 2:9. Why didn’t Peter just use the word “noble” instead, if he just meant us to be noble priests and not royal priests? If his intention is that we are not only priesthood of all believers but high priesthood of all believers (well the emphasis may now be shifted to wholly offering oneself as described in Rom 12:1), then I think I have crossed the TULIP line and approach the “heresy” as you mentioned.
In formulating a structure in applying the Threefold Office to explain some scriptural phenomenon, such as why only the ages of Below 2 (Mt 2:16); 12 (Lk 2:42), 30 (Lk 3:23), and 50 (Jn 8:57) were specifically mentioned about Jesus, I have wondered whether they referred to Prophethood (need to reach the age of maturity of at least 12 to be held accountable for false prophecy); Priesthood (Ages 30-50, Num 4:3) (And anointment by the Holy Spirit descending on Him during baptism at the age of 30, c.f. Acts 10:38) and of course Kingship with no age limit (Age below 2).
And there were only 3 times in the gospels the Father talked directly about Him, the first time during His baptism as mentioned above related to baptismal anointment of Priesthood at the age of 30, the second time during the Transfiguration which I interpreted to be related to sea of cloud anointment (1Cor 10:2) of Prophetship (Elijah the prophet to come, and Jesus’ fulfillment of the prophet like Moses in Dt 18:15) and the third time related to the oily anointment (Jn 12:3) when He entered Jerusalem in His Kingship and His Father’s declared His own name glorified (Jn 12:28). This will necessitate a different interpretation of the Transfiguration which most agree Moses and Elijah to represent the law and the prophet instead of just prophetship.
And there were only 3 times in the gospels recording the angels protecting and strengthening Him, first at His birth and worship as King (Lk 1-2) and helping Him to escape persecution, the second time at His temptation (Mt 4:11; Mk 1:13) being Prophet in delivering God’s words, in an environment similar to the Prophet Elijah (40 days in the wilderness with no food) and the third time in the Garden of Gethsemane when He executed His High Priesthood going to the cross (Lk 22:43) and at His resurrection.
Has Jesus been thinking of His Threefold Office all the time, so that in some of His teachings He applied these roles? The simple temple tax incident (Mt 17:24-27) can then be elaborated as His teaching on Kingship, not only Himself as King, but also His use of the word “sons”. As “sons” of God (Jn 1:12), whoever believes in Him are now members of God’s household (Eph 2:19), and so they needed not pay the tax. As King and as High Priest, there was no need for Him to pay the tax too. But as male Israelites, the Law still demanded all to pay such payment. To fulfill all righteousness, He as Prophet not only paid His own due, He also paid for Peter to demonstrate His redemption for all, with the money from His prophecy of a miraculous fishing.
I understand these interpretations are rather allegorical. The line between exegesis and eisegesis is very blurred to me when I hoped to go deeper into hermeneutics. I hope as a pastor, you can give me some guidance, at least on whether it is worthwhile to formulate something more on the doctrine of the Threefold Office.
Hello, Michael. I want to apologise for my comment about “hidden heresy” which was intended to be mostly light-hearted.
First, if I’d thought there was any such thing in your comment, I’d have just held it in moderation until I could carefully review it. A quick reading told me, “There are things I need to think about here” and “I think there are some things I don’t agree with” but none that made me think, “This is heresy.”
But neither did I want to give the impression to any other readers that I fully endorsed what you’ve written. I think there is much in what you’ve said but I think you’ve drawn some conclusions that are probably not well-founded. I would certainly like to write on the topic, perhaps here in response to you or perhaps even as an article on the front page of the blog. Perhaps later this week or sometime next week.
I will just say this for today. The Three-fold Office of Christ is clearly Biblical and predates Eusebius. I believe Jesus Himself clearly made claims to all of these offices, both directly and indirectly, and I’m sure Eusebius wasn’t the first one to notice. Peter clearly identified Him as the Prophet promised by Moses in Acts, and his use of “royal priesthood” in I Peter, in the immediate context of our identification with Christ as stones built upon the Living Stone, surely indicates that Peter also saw Him as a King and a Priest.
As I said, I’d like to write more on this later, Lord willing. Blessings to you.
Thanks for the clarification which is a relief to me.
Perhaps my previous statements complicated the matter. It may just be simplified as one sentence: “The existence of the two different genealogies of Christ is necessitated by His taking up the Threefold Office because they would require a royal genealogy for the Kingly Office, and a non-royal genealogy for the Prophetic Office”. That would be all.
I think the key thing is the intention of the authors of the two gospels. Were they aiming to present the legal right to the throne of the Messiahship, and also to validate that Jesus was not only a descendant of David but a bloodline descendant of David in order to have this claim? That was not mentioned in the gospels, so it’s argument from silence. However, to claim inheritance, one needs only be a descendant and not necessarily a bloodline descendant. Abraham allowed his butler or steward without blood relationship to be his descendant for the sake of inheriting his name and properties (Gen 15:2), so why insist on the Messianic descendant to be a bloodline descendant? And I saw from your other article on Shealtiel and Zerubbabel about the possibility of adoption. The existence of adoption in the Lukan genealogy cannot be ruled out, though again this is an argument from silence. Being the son of another person does not mean absolute direct bloodline father-and-son or grandparent-and-grandchild or grand-grand-parent and grand-grand-child etc. relationship, as in the case of Pharoah’s daughter adopting Moses as son (Ex 2:9-10) or Mordecai adopting his cousin Esther calling her his daughter (Esther 2:7), or more remotely Merab (or Michal daughter of Saul) who had no children to the day of her death (2 Sam 6:23) having 5 sons (2Sam 21:8) which points to the likelihood that they were adopted sons.
If the Lukan genealogy was to show Joseph was the son-in-law of Heli, why not use the word for son-in-law (Greek word gambros) instead of the word son? Or just to enter the name of Mary after Heli? The Matthean genealogy also includes some feminine names. Was the intention of Luke really to prove bloodline relationship using genealogy which I argue in the above to be much weaker than a simple statement that Jesus was a descendant of David by the flesh (Rom 1:3).
Hello, Michael. I’ll focus on this: “The existence of the two different genealogies of Christ is necessitated by His taking up the Threefold Office because they would require a royal genealogy for the Kingly Office, and a non-royal genealogy for the Prophetic Office.”
I agree that a royal genealogy was necessary to validate Christ’s claim to be King, and thus fulfil the kingly office. I don’t believe the non-royal genealogy was necessary for either the Prophetic or Priestly Office, because A) the office of prophet need not be inherited B) the office of Priest under the Melchizedekan Priesthood is specifically not a matter of physical descent (Hebrews 7:3) C) David and Solomon both functioned prophetically and yet Luke’s genealogy does not include Solomon but rather David’s other son, Nathan, who though named after a prophet there is no record of him fulfilling that role.
Luke’s genealogy goes all the way back to Adam. In Luke, we see an emphasis on Christ’s humanity. He is portrayed as the Perfect Man, the Son of Man, a human birth though born of a virgin, a child that grew. A genealogy that did not show Jesus’ human/physical descent would seem to me to be completely out of place with the whole theme of Luke.
So I don’t think the Lucan genealogy is a “prophetic lineage” as much as it is just a “human lineage” which is intended to show Him as human, as a man, and also as humanly / physically descended from David.
So I think I understand your point but I’m not persuaded by it. Perhaps indirectly — to be truly a priest and truly a prophet, He had to be human. Hebrews 2:14-18 and 4:14-16 make this point about the Priestly office, Deuteronomy 18:15 tells us that of the Prophetic. So to be truly the promised Prophet and Priest, He had to be fully man. A genealogy that showed His actual physical lineage would buttress that. A genealogy that showed the lineage of Joseph alone would not.
Thank you for the thought-provoking comments.
Your comments seem fair and logical.
To me, using genealogy to prove His true human descent is fine, but to prove physical descent is skeptical due to the possibility of adoption (appears not an impossibility as exemplified by Shalatiel and Zerubbabel), and even self-defeating if it was for the purpose of proving inheritance. If our Lord Jesus needs to be a physical descendant of David in order to inherit David’s kingdom, then by default He needs to be a physical descendant of Solomon in order to inherit Solomon’s throne (appears to be substantiated in 1Ki 9:5-6), yet He would have failed this. Even accepting Luke’s genealogy as the genealogy of Mary with no adoption down the line, He was only a physical descendant of Nathan, not Solomon.
Thanks again for taking the time to address this.
Hi, Michael. Thanks again for the thoughtful comments.
I don’t see I Kings 9:4-6 as compelling evidence that Messiah had to be descended from Solomon. There’s a condition there, a condition that Solomon himself violated, as we see in I Kings 11. Solomon DID turn from God to follow other gods, so the promise that Messiah would be descended from him was not in effect. It would only have been in effect if he had stayed true.
Sorry to have wrongfully cited 1Ki9:4-6 to support the case.
I guess the penalty in violating the condition in 1Ki 9:4-6 was only to chasten Solomon with the rod of men instead of terminating his physical descendants’ right to the Messianic throne, as in the case of Saul. The comparison seems to be illustrated in 2Sam 7:14-15. If the Messiah needed only be a physical descendant of David and not of Solomon likewise, then it won’t make sense to specifically show the Messianic royal lineage in the Gospel of Matthew. Just the genealogy in the Gospel of Luke will suffice to show that our Lord Jesus descended physically from David.
Hello, Michael. You are certainly right to bring II Samuel 7 into this, and I do believe the legal right to the throne descended through Solomon accordingly. I don’t, however, see anything there that requires physical descent through Solomon. And I believe Isaiah 7:14, which was not good news for Ahaz, but clearly condemnation, made it clear that the legal descent was not necessarily going to be physical descent. I don’t think we can leave that context out of our understanding of Isaiah 38, when Ahaz’ son, Hezekiah, who was still childless at the time, was told he was going to die, and I believe his understanding of the prophecy of chapter 7 was part of what lay beneath his prayer.
So I believe that at least by the time of Isaiah, it was known that Messiah would be born of a virgin rather than of the physical kingly line through Solomon. But there’s still the promise elsewhere that he would physically descend from David.
I do find this entire topic a fascinating study.
Thanks for the patience in responding to my question after question. I agree that there is no need for a prophetic genealogy. As a seed of David, I also agree that there is a need to show physical descent of the Messiah from him. The only thing that puzzled me is that while we earnestly hope that the Lukan genealogy should show physical descent from David generation after generation, we also know that the Matthean genealogy cannot show physical descent as proven by Zerubbabel not physically from Shalatiel, and also our Lord Jesus not physically from Joseph. So it seems to be double standard or arbitrary on when the physical descent rule should be applied. But other than this, I cannot find a good alternative explanation for the need for two genealogies, except perhaps that apart from descent from Solomon down the royal line as prophesized, our Lord Jesus might also need to descend from David through Nathan (Zech 12:10-14), but the verses are not too clear on this.
Hi, Michael. We do have to admit that there’s a lot we don’t know here. But there are a couple things we do know.
We do know that rabbinical writings claimed that they had good genealogical records in Jerusalem. Those were destroyed by the Romans. But if that is accurate then all the details that we’re discussing here and the exact answers to the questions we have were known.
We also know a couple other things. We know that the Jewish leaders, who would have loved to discredit Jesus, never claimed that He wasn’t heir to the throne. That suggests that one of these genealogies was both known to be accurate, and established that claim — otherwise, they’d have attacked on that point. We also know that they never attacked Him on the point of not being physically descended from David. So that suggests that His physical descent from David was firmly established and known by them.
Do these two genealogies establish those two things? I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty certain that those two things were generally known to be true, and I see no reason why these genealogies don’t establish that, and no reason to include both of them unless they do establish that. So it seems the only logical conclusion to draw, as far as I can see.
But in saying that, I must acknowledge that logical conclusions aren’t always right because we don’t always use logic perfectly, and there may be facts which we don’t know which would lead to other conclusions. And there’s nothing in Scripture that absolutely says, “You have this genealogy for this reason and that one for that reason.” So we do well to remain humble in our conclusions in such a case.
Blessings to you.
I was doing some research on this subject and came across your article. The curse of Jeconiah is still in effect today. No one has ever sat on David’s throne since. We are so focused on Jeconiah that we fail to see the curse was Israel’s God permanently stripped Israel of her sovereignty and made her a vassal state. Jeremiah 30:21 says their governors shall come from among them. Anyone after Jeconiah (Zedekiah, Daniel, Zerubbabel) would have been governors appointed by the ruling state. This continued all the way through Herod.
It is evident that Jeconiah’s curse invalidated Christ’s claim to the throne of David. It did not invalidate him from being the son of the living God. Even the son must uphold the word of the Father. It clarifies much for me. I often wondered why the son of the living God would tell his people to give unto Cesar what is Cesars. This also clears up the mystery of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-2, Isaiah 44:28, 45:1, Daniel 7:13). How does that impact the current state of Israel today?
Hello, Paul, I apologize for the long delay in clearing this from moderation.
Your view falls afoul of many prophecies of Christ reigning and the throne of David.
Christ’s statement about Caesar reflects the fact that He had not come to establish an earthly kingdom in His first coming, “else would my servants fight.” He also did not dispute Satan’s current rulership of the kingdoms of this world in Matthew 4, and Satan is still “the god of this world.”
That does nothing to invalidate Christ’s rightful claim to the throne of David nor the fact that it will be restored in the future.
That it has not been restored means that the current state of Israel is not the restored Israel discussed in prophecy, which is also evident by the continued unbelief and its ungodly government. Whether it is a precursor of that restored Israel, established now in the sovereignty of God in preparation for the final restoration, remains to be seen.