Advent 6: A long list of names

They make up some of the bits in the Bible that we are tempted to skip, or at least to skim. What should we do with the various lists of names and genealogies that are dotted throughout various parts of Scripture?

Like Matthew 1.

Unlike John, who begins at the beginning of all beginnings, Matthew starts his story of Jesus with a genealogy.

While there are always people who enjoy tracing their family tree, I once came across an interesting story about the power of genealogy in another culture.

While reading the genealogy in Genesis 5:21-24 in his heart language, an Olo man from Papua New Guinea became excited.

“Now I know this book is true. No man would have written all this if he had made it up! But God wanted us to know that this is true and that these are real people who did these things.”

For this man in Papua New Guinea, God’s Story spoke through this genealogy – because in his culture, genealogies are very important!

Among the many names listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, several stand out. Two of them are Abraham and David. It was Abraham that God called and to whom God gave the promise that his offspring would be a source of blessing to the world. And it was David who was given the promise that God would build his house and that one of his descendants would reign forever.

One of the things the genealogy does is connect Jesus to both of those men, in particular, to David.

Matthew is very deliberate about his arrangement of the names and generations. Three groups of fourteen, covering three periods of Israel’s history. Close inspection shows that he has skipped some people out (perhaps with good reason – descendants of Ahab) and that the third group of fourteen looks suspiciously like thirteen.

Why fourteen? Because it’s twice seven and seven represents perfection? God’s perfect plan?

Or could it be that he is playing a Hebrew number game with us, wanting us to pick up on the fact that the numerical value of the letters in David’s name comes to fourteen?

This Jesus is the Son of David. At last, God’s promise is coming to fruition.

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