Matthew’s opening verses are more than just a mere genealogy. They are a carefully crafted family tree that proclaims the message of the Gospel as it unfolds in the history of redemption.
His main goal seems to be to trace Jesus’ ancestry back to both Abraham to David (v. 1, 17) as this frames this section. By referring to Abraham and David, he also evokes powerful echoes of the Abrahamic and Davidic blessings recorded in Genesis 12:1-3 and 2 Samuel 7:11-14. He reminds his Jewish readers that the bearer of the promise to bless all the word and the heir to the kingdom of God has arrived.
But he does more. He includes women in the genealogy. But not just any women, but Gentile women. Tamar and Ruth (v. 3, 4). This was unusual for Jews to do. Tamar represents a story of sin and rebellion, while Ruth speaks of God’s saving kindness. Both come together in Jesus, who saves not only ethnic Israel but all who believe in him.
Even more, Matthew structures this genealogy of Jesus in three sections: Abraham to David, David to exile, and exile to Jesus. This is important because it illustrates both Israels calling and their failure to accomplish it. Even the great King David, was an adulterer and his dynasty eventually spiraled down all the way to the deportation. It’s also a subtle reference to the fact that this Christ is the solution to the exile. He is the trajectory that goes through the entire Old Testament from Abraham to David, to the exile, and to Christ.
For Matthew then, the Old Testament tells the story which Jesus completes. Through Jesus, Gentiles are grafted into the kingdom, failure is blotted out by victory, and the promises God made to restore all things are being fulfilled.
Matthew’s lineage of Jesus from Abraham to Christ is a powerful reminder of the faithfulness and covenant love of God amidst a failing and falling people. Through Jesus, all the people of the earth can be under the saving and blessing rule of God, no matter what their own history looks like.