Jesus’ genealogy is referenced repeatedly throughout the Bible. He is called the “son of David,” and known by many to be the child of Mary. There are only two places in the Bible, however, that give a more or less full accounting of Christ’s lineage. One is in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the other is written in the third chapter of the Gospel of Luke. The genealogies are often skipped over in favor of reading the more interesting part of the Christmas story. This, however, means that many people forget exactly who all is included in the list of Jesus’ ancestors. Most people are aware that Jacob, Abraham, Isaac and David are all among the notable figures that shared blood with Christ, but beyond that, the majority of Christians could not list off more than a few other names from Christ’s bloodline. As such, there are always a few surprises when a person truly reads the genealogy and pays attention to the names rather than simply skimming it. Here are six people you forgot were related to Jesus.
Given that Jesus is a descendent of Jacob, it follows that he must be related to one of Jacob’s sons. That said, most people do not give much thought to which of the 12 sons is the ancestor of Christ. Truthfully, most Christians would probably assume that Jesus was from the line of Joseph given that Joseph is the son of Jacob who is given the most attention in the Book of Genesis. Instead, however, Jesus is descended from Judah, Jacob’s third son.
When Jacob blesses his sons shortly before his death, he tells Judah, “your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you…The scepter will not depart from Judah nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until He to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be His.” Jesus is still many generations away from being born, but Jacob knows that it is Judah’s distant descendant that will be the greatest to ever walk the Earth.
Luke and Matthew give different genealogies for Christ. Matthew follows the paternal line, the line that would give Jesus a legal claim to David’s throne. Luke, meanwhile, traces Jesus’ maternal line, the line that shows that David’s throne belongs to Christ by right of blood. In both cases however, Luke and Matthew followed the traditions of the time and focused on the male relatives of Christ. As such, may people are completely unaware of the many women with whom Christ shared blood with the notable exception of Mary.
One of Jesus’ distant female relatives is none other than Tamar, the clever widow who tricked Judah into marrying her as was required by ancient law. Though Tamar was the righteous one in the situation, and Judah even admitted it in Genesis 38:26, but modern interpreters tend to skip over the line where Judah states “She is more righteous than I,” and quietly shuffle Tamar into the background of Jesus’ ancestry.
Rahab appears in the Book of Joshua when Joshua sent two spies to investigate Jericho. Instead of doing their job, however, they decided to stay at the house of a prostitute. That prostitute was Rahab. Thankfully for the spies and the Israelites who were waiting for their report, Rahab helped the foolish men when they were discovered. “She [took] them up to the roof and [hid] them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof” before the guards who were pursuing the spies could find them. In return for saving their lives, Rahab asked that her family be spared when the Israelites conquered Jericho. The spies agreed, and Joshua upheld the agreement when Jericho fell. Rahab and her family were “put…in a place outside the camp of Israel…and [Rahab lived] among the Israelites.” In fact, she married a man named Salmon whom tradition holds is one of the spies that she hid. Their son was named Boaz, and both he and Salmon are listed in the genealogy of Christ. As such, one of Jesus’ great-grandmothers was none other than the prostitute who saved the Israelite invasion of Jericho.
Ruth is one of the very few women in the Bible to act as the main character in a book of the Bible. She is, however, held up as an example to women everywhere. She was brave, loyal and righteous. She was also the great-grandmother of David.
It is interesting to note that in the bloodline of Christ, there are several foreigners. In fact, Ruth is the second foreigner in two generations to marry into the family that would become the ancestors of David, and later, Jesus. Ruth married Boaz who was himself the son of Rahab. The Israelites had once been warned to avoid intermarrying for fear of being tempted into idolatry, yet several of the most righteous women recorded in the Bible were foreigners. Neither Ruth, Rahab or Tamar were from the Israelite people. Tamar was a Canaanite woman, Rahab was from Jericho and Ruth was a Moabite by birth.
Everyone remembers that Christ is descended from David. After all, “son of David” is one of Jesus’ titles and is used throughout the New Testament. Most people even remember that Christ was descended from David’s favorite and most famous son, Solomon. What seems to slip most people’s minds, however, is that Solomon did not spring from the ground fully formed as David’s son. He was born to Bathsheba, the woman that David raped.
Like Tamar, Bathsheba tends to have a poor reputation among modern Christians that she never earned. She is painted as a temptress when in reality she was the victim of rape. Both her unfair status as adulteress and her reality as victim of sexual assault are ignored when speaking about the ancestry of Jesus, although either identity could be used to highlight what Christ Himself taught when he was on Earth. Sadly, those opportunities are as ignored as Bathsheba.
Oddly enough, many people seem to forget that Jesus was descended from a long line of royalty. Many of the names listed in Luke and Matthew were the kings of Israel or Judea. Among them was Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was one of the few kings that upheld the Law. He “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his [ancestor] David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles…He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah.” Unlike most of the kings that came after David, Hezekiah did not give into idolatry, but “held fast to the LORD and did not stop following Him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses.” It was this faith that allowed Hezekiah to pray and convince God to spare Jerusalem when Sennacherib moved against Judah.
Christ’s lineage is not something to which most people pay much attention. The majority of people tune out the long list of names when it is read aloud and either skim it or skip it entirely when they read the Bible themselves. This, in many ways, in understandable. A long list of names does not hold a modern Christian’s attention in the way it would have in the ancient world where a person’s bloodline meant so much more. There are, however, interesting tidbits hidden inside that list of names. Christ was not just the descendent of righteous men and women. There are terrible sinners in His lineage. Yet, He remained sinless and did wonders none of His ancestors could ever have imagined. Moses may have conquered the Red Sea and Joshua may have led the conquest of Canaan, but Christ conquered nothing less than death itself.