Tag Archives: 1 Kings

Matthew 1: 1-17 How the Story Begins

Jesse Tree Window from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Matthew 1: 1-17

1 An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4 and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

This is not the way we would begin a story today. If you are like most modern readers when you reach the numerous genealogies in the bible you either skip them entirely or skim them quickly and move along but I want to invite you to slow down a dwell here for a little bit. The way we tell our stories matter. As a person who has grown up during the end of the twentieth century and has lived much of my adult life in the twenty first, I grew expecting stories to tell me about the person who crafted their own path through life. Our stories are of self-made men and women who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and though they may be aided by others along their heroic quest for a position, power, wealth, the love of a man or woman, or in the realm of both fiction and occasionally nonfiction to save the world, we follow the development of the man (frequently) or woman (less frequently) as they encounter struggle, as they grow and develop their identity and in most of our stories overcome the incredible odds stacked against them to succeed. The stories we read also shape the way we understand our own lives and the culture in which we live in profound ways.

It wasn’t very long ago, in the realm of history, that people thought very differently about their stories. There has been a massive philosophical shift in the way we understand who we are and how we construct our lives. One of the great gifts of my job is getting to listen to people’s stories and over the last fifteen years as a pastor I’ve had the opportunity to hear many stories of people from across the spectrum of experiences and from the past several generations. We are losing the last generation of people believed their stories were handed on to them by their parents and by the expectations of the society around them. Particularly women of that generation had very few opportunities to choose from: their main choices included being a mother, teacher, secretary or nurse. I can celebrate that my own daughter will have a seemingly endless set of possible career and lifestyle paths before her, and many of these new choices came through decades of struggles of women (with some men as allies) trying to break through many of the barriers set before them. Yet, there is a psychological toll that has come from the new responsibility that people feel in creating their own stories.

We once received our identity from our parents and from the society around us. Modern beliefs in social mobility where we are capable of charting our own paths and creating our own future are modern beliefs, they are not timeless. One of the struggles of people today is spending our lives attempting to figure out who we are and searching for a life that is worth living, rather than accepting that our parents and grandparents would pass on to us the life we would live. My father was a firefighter and my mother worked for a bank, my parents were both very intelligent but neither had the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree out of high school. They both would work their way up through their respective workplaces and through life, but the life they pursued would be very different from the life that I would have. Another change I experienced, partially due to education and career choices, was frequently moving to new areas of the country. My parents once they settled in San Antonio continued to work there throughout their adult lives. My son grew up living in Louisiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and finally graduated high school in Texas. The days where most employees will work for one company throughout their careers or only hold one type of job until they retire are nearly gone. Companies no longer offer the type of guarantees they once did for their employees, the technological landscape has changed things dramatically to where workers will be continually expected to learn new skills throughout their lives and most critically the responsibility for navigating all of this has been increasingly placed on the individual in the workforce rather than the employer.

Why this matters to hearing the story Matthew’s gospel wants us to hear is highlighted at the very beginning of the gospel. How we begin a narrative gives the reader a clue to the story we are about to tell. If I begin a story, ‘once upon a time’ you know I am most likely beginning a fairy tale, or if the first thing you see is a date and place you might suspect I am going to narrate a historical tale (December 7, 1941 in Hawaii might be used to start a story with the United States involvement in World War II). Beginnings matter and each of the four gospels has their own unique way of beginning the story. Mark’s gospel simply announces, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” launches into a composite quotation of scripture and then launches into the story with John the Baptist appearing in the wilderness. Luke’s gospel begins with an address to a reader, Theophilius (who may be a real or fictional reader, Theophilius means ‘friend of God’) letting us know that what is to come is an orderly account of the life of Jesus received from eyewitnesses and then begins by fixing the time telling us we are in the time of King Herod of Judea. John’s gospel begins with the poetic prologue, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ John’s poetic introduction wants us to understand the significance of the one referred to throughout the gospel. Matthew’s gospel begins with a genealogy.

Although there is a rediscovered fascination with genealogy, for most of us we look at the first seventeen verses of Matthew’s gospel and wonder why the story would begin this way. We may rush forward to the second half of the chapter where we move towards the birth of Jesus but I want to encourage us to slow down and listen to the story being told by the beginning of the gospel in the way Matthew chooses. There are things that this beginning gives us important information about that will shape the way in which the rest of the story is to be heard. Remember that for most of history identities have been inherited. The people we are is due to the life that our parents and grandparents lived. As Matthew begins his story he enters into a story that has been woven for dozens of generations, it is a story of the Jewish people. From the very beginning this is a Jewish gospel and we are placed into the long running story that Matthew chooses to begin with Abraham. It is a story of struggle, triumph and failure, of faithfulness and unfaithfulness. It is not a perfect story but it is the story of the relationship between God and the people of Israel, and in particular Judah, and even though we enter a critical juncture in the story what comes from this point forward is related to what came before.

Before I enter into the genealogy itself, I want to state that I believe there is a lot to learn from this way of telling a story. Although we may celebrate stories of self-made men and women they rarely are what they appear. To use the example of the last two stories of the men who were elected President of the United States: one was incredibly wealthy and told his story in a way that he started with a loan from his father which he turned into a vast empire, one was the son of a divorced mother who would study at Columbia University and then Harvard Law School and move from community organizing into politics. The reality is that both of their stories is far more complex than this and both received assistance form their extended family networks in starting and continuing their stories. In my own case my parents made it possible for me and for my sisters to start our careers by attending college and they would assist each of us in various ways throughout the beginning of our adult lives. Our families may provide a more secure launching point and supporting role in our lives than we often acknowledge. On the other hand, families will pass on disfunction from one generation to another as well. You don’t have to spend very long looking into Family Systems models of understanding therapy to see patterns emerge that often go unseen. Values and biases are handed down, often unconsciously, from generation to generation. Our families can be sources of great support or they may damage us psychologically, and often they are a mixture of both. The social situation our families grow up within also dramatically shapes our values and ways at looking at the world. None of this even begins to approach the cultural, religious and social ways that school systems, communities of faith, neighborhoods, and countless other factors imprint upon our identities their values and beliefs. Our stories are far more complex than the narratives we often try to place them within. Our story began long before we took our first breath, it depends upon the family we are born into and the world we encounter even before we take our first breath.

Matthew reminds us of this Jewish story and the way he narrates this genealogy is important. On the one hand he structures the genealogy in patterns of fourteen to communicate that at each juncture there is a critical event in the story and the story of Jesus is the next crucial event in this running narrative. If we tell the story of our family we often do it in a way that highlights the best aspects of that family to bring honor and glory to ourselves and we often bury the portions that embarrass us. Sometimes this inability to talk about the unspoken secrets in the family does unspeakable harm because the patterns that emerge are never discussed, and so I find the way that Matthew relates the story of Jesus’ heritage refreshing. Matthew not only brings up the family secrets in these verses they are highlighted.

The Genesis of Jesus the Messiah

Beginning with verse one we have a linkage back to the very beginning of the story of God and God’s people. Throughout the genealogy we will be given a clue that the story that comes afterwards will be a Jewish story but one told within the expansive horizon of the call of Abraham (Abram) expressed in Genesis 12: 1-3:

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The linkage with the story of Abraham isn’t only highlighted by Abraham’s primary position within the genealogy but also by the language of verse one which uses the Greek word genesis for genealogy. In this story not only will the children of Abraham or the children of Israel, his grandson, be blessed but this is a narrative in which all the families of the earth shall be blessed. This blessing is highlighted by an unusual addition to the normal patterns of genealogies.

The Women of Matthew’s Genealogy

The role of women in the society continues to change. Although we still have a long way to go in giving women an equal voice, the status of women in modern society is viewed much higher than would’ve been imagined in most ancient societies. The role of women in the Hebrew scriptures is complex: there are times where women occupy positions of extremely high positions, the women in the early stories in Genesis often are incredibly influential in how the stories are told, in Exodus women are often instrumental in resisting the decrees of Pharaoh, and there are stories, like those highlighted in the genealogy, where women boldly act to secure their own future and their own part of the story. Yet, the assumed role of women in the Hebrew scriptures is that they are the property of their fathers and then their husbands. When their voice is heard it is the exception, not the rule. In Matthew’s genealogy they will also be the exception, not the rule, but as it is throughout the remainder of Matthew’s gospel when they appear they are the outsider making a place for themselves among the promises of God. Like the Canaanite woman they refused to allow their circumstances to determine their future, they forced the men of the story to acknowledge their claim and they made a space for a more expansive reading of the boundaries of God’s promises to the people.

The narrative begins with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Although Matthew doesn’t mention the women of most of the story of Genesis (Sarah and Hagar, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah) Jewish people would know these stories. Yet, as we enter the story of Judah we encounter our first woman mentioned in the genealogy: Tamar. Matthew could have chosen to not mention this woman, he chose to exclude Sarah, Rebekah and Leah before her, especially as he links Jesus to the line of Judah, but he does. He highlights this lesser know story of Tamar and Judah, an odd story of a woman who refuses to be left out of the story.

The story of Judah and Tamar is told in Genesis 38. Tamar is most likely a Canaanite woman, like Judah’s wife who bears his first three sons, who is given to be the wife of Er the first son of Judah. Er does not live long enough to pass on an heir through Tamar, Genesis makes the theological claim that Er was wicked in the eyes of the LORD and the LORD caused his early death. According to custom Judah’s second son, Onan, was now to take on the role of husband for her and to continue the family line for his brother through her. Yet Onan refused to get Tamar pregnant because the inheritance would pass to his brother’s line instead of his and again Genesis tells us that this displeased God and that God caused him also to have an early death. Judah, fearing to give his last son to this woman who was probably viewed as cursed in some manner, promised her that when his last son was an adult she would be his wife but the promised union never came and she remained a widow in her father’s household. After Judah’s wife, the unnamed daughter of Shua, dies Tamar takes actions into her own hands. She sees that the final son, Shelah, had grown and she was not given to be his bride so she puts aside her widow’s garments, places a veil upon her face and waits. Judah, passing through the area, assumes she is a prostitute and sleeps with her giving her his signet and cord and staff as a guarantee of payment. Then Tamar returns to her father’s home, takes up her widow’s garments and Judah is unable to find the person he assumed was a prostitute to pay her the promised young goat from the flock. Three months later when it is discovered she is pregnant Judah goes to demand that she is punished for her infidelity by burning her, but through her father-in-law she produces the signet and cord and staff indicating that Judah is the father. Judah’s acknowledgment that, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her my son Shelah.” She would bear Perez and Zerah who the line of Judah would pass through. Like the one who will enter Matthew’s gospel in Matthew 15: 21-28, who is told that there is no place in the promise for her she will claim her own place, her own righteousness, her own promise. It may not be a story that brings great honor to Judah, yet it highlights the way in which the promise will be extended to her and she becomes the first of the women highlighted in Matthew’s story of Jesus heritage that points to an inclusive vision of what this story might become.

The genealogy continues through four more generations as we move through a time where the story of these generations disappear. Hezron, Aram, Aminadab, and Nahshon are a part of the lost generations from the time in Egypt and the first generation of the Exodus. One thing to understand about the genealogy is that it doesn’t necessarily include every piece of the story and it is possible that some of these generations truly were lost in the four hundred thirty years that the Israelites are recorded living in Egypt from when Joseph brought his brothers down until Moses liberated the people. While there is a lot that happens in the story of Israel through Moses, Aaron, and Miriam the lineage of Jesus’ father Joseph does not pass through the line of Levi but through the line of Judah. We will see how Jesus takes up the mantle and story of Moses and the Exodus shortly in Matthew’s gospel, but currently we are following the line of the kings of Judah, their story and the story that Jesus narrative is a part of.

As we exit these lost generations we come to Salmon and Rahab in this long line that is introducing us to the family story of Jesus. Once again, a woman is mentioned and once again she is an outsider. Rahab, in Joshua 2, is a recorded as a prostitute who welcomes the two unnamed spies of Joshua into her home and hides them from servants of the king of Jericho. Salmon may be one of these unnamed spies but the narrative of Joshua is silent on his name but records Rahab’s. She hides the two spies among the flax laid out on the roof but she is recorded relating to them:

I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. As soon as we heard it our hearts melted and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. (Joshua 2: 9-11)

In return for hiding them from the king’s servants, sending the king’s servants in the wrong direction to pursue them and providing them with a way out of the city and a way to avoid capture the two men promise to preserve her and her family if she ties a crimson cord in the window she let them escape through. When the Israelites come to the city of Jericho, Joshua instructs the two young men who were spies to bring Rahab and her household out, which they do, and they are spared. They are initially set outside the camp, but they come to be a part of Israel. As Joshua reports, “Her family has lived in Israel ever since.” (Joshua 6: 25)

Scholars have since debated whether Rahab was a prostitute or whether she kept an inn and there is within some Christian circles a discomfort with accepting the possibility of a prostitute being an integral part of the story of the people of God. Yet, throughout the gospel, Jesus will be accused of associating with the wrong type of people. Prostitution was also looked upon differently in the ancient world than we do today. If you ask most Christians what they think adultery is they will tell you it is, ‘sex outside of marriage’ but it is much more complicated than that in ancient Judaism. Adultery in the Hebrew Scriptures is related to sex with someone who belongs to someone else, whether a husband, a betrothed, or even a father and while prostitution was considered an occupation that a father was not to sell his daughter into, it was an accepted part of society. Prostitutes may have been considered ‘sinners’ and there are certainly portions of the bible that use prostitution as a metaphor for what is wrong in the worship or life of Israel, the metaphor works because the practice is well known. Still, to have Rahab, an outsider and one recorded in both the Hebrew Scriptures and in the two additional places she is mentioned in the New Testament (Hebrews 11: 31 and James 2: 5) as a prostitute who is highlighted in the lineage of Jesus’ family and story and like Tamar she creates a path for her story to be joined to the story of the people of Israel and ultimately to the story of Jesus.

Our story resumes with the mention of another woman, another outsider, and yet a story which has its own book dedicated to it in the scriptures. Boaz is the son of Nahshon and Rahab, a Canaanite former resident of Jericho, and he will end up marrying Ruth the Moabitess. Ruth’s story is better known than Tamar or Rahab, and yet it also is somewhat scandalous. Ruth has to create a place for herself within the story of Israel and within the family line of Judah. Ruth is a widow and a daughter-in-law of Naomi. Naomi and her husband Elimelech move during a famine to Moab to survive. While they are there they are apparently met with hospitality and arrange marriages for their two sons to Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Elimelech dies and ten years late Naomi’s sons Mahlon and Chilion (whose names may be symbolic in the story since they come from Hebrew roots for ‘sickness’ and ‘destruction’) also die leaving their wives widows as well. Naomi encourages her daughters-in-law to return to their family but Ruth refuses and returns with Naomi, now renaming herself Mara (bitter), and both Naomi and Ruth seem to have no future. Ruth uses the provision in the law which requires the leavings of the field to be available for the poor and goes out to glean during the barley harvest where she is seen and noticed by Boaz who extends his protection and ensures that she has an adequate gleaning. In his words he is returning the kindness she has shown for Naomi and he blesses her for seeking refuge under the wings of the LORD, the God of Israel. Naomi plots with Ruth to attempt to secure a future for them both after the conclusion of the harvest by having Ruth go and observe where Boaz lies down after threshing, eating and drinking. Ruth is putting herself at Boaz’ mercy and Ruth propositions Boaz, asking for him to extend his cloak over her and symbolically bringing her into his house as his wife. Boaz settles the matter the next day, takes over the role of not only kinsman-redeemer but husband of Ruth. Ruth the Moabitess, like Tamar and Rahab before her, would make a place for herself in the people of Israel and in the line of Judah that would lead to her great-grandson, King David.

The line from Boaz and Ruth to David is listed in both the book of Ruth and here in Matthew. David’s role within the Hebrew Scriptures transcends his individual story because he becomes almost an Arthurian character in the imagination of the people, a once and future king. King David’s dynasty would be near the apex of a very short period where the people of Israel were a unified people and they were active players on the world stage. The Son of David will be one of the titles often used for Jesus indicating his royal status. Yet, David’s story is full of drama, far more than can be mentioned in this brief coverage, but one critical moment is highlighted by the introduction of our fourth woman in this genealogy, a woman the genealogy doesn’t name directly but rather indirectly in a way that highlights the scandal of David’s action against both Uriah and Bathsheba.

David’s notice of Bathsheba bathing upon the rooftops and the set of deceptions and betrayals his lying with her leads to is one of many troubling parts of David’s story. Uriah the Hittite is one of several outsiders who fought in David’s army and Bathsheba may have been a Hittite as well or may have been of another group or even a part of Israel, yet she was the wife of this warrior in David’s army and presumably (by the location of his house so close to the house of David) one of his well respected warriors. Bathsheba has often been portrayed as a temptress attempting to seduce David, but this probably is not accurate. David as king had the power to have her brought to him and she presumably had little ability to resist the king’s desires. Whether the union was rape or consensual the scriptures place the responsibility completely on David’s shoulders. When David is unable to cover up his part in Bathsheba’s pregnancy due to the honorable action of Uriah the Hittite, David gives orders for Uriah to be killed in battle by positioning him in the hardest portion of the fight and then abandoning him for his enemies to overwhelm him. Yet, Bathsheba will later ensure that the kingship will pass from David to her son Solomon instead of Adonijah. Bathsheba may not have had any choice about being brought into the story of King David, but once she was a part of that story, she refused to allow the line of kings to pass through anyone other than her son. She may have been an outsider and her place within the story certainly illustrates one of the scandalous portions of David’s rule as king, and yet she too would ensure that the story would not forget her or her original husband.

For the first fourteen generations listed in Matthew, I have included where their story is referenced in the Hebrew Scriptures here.

The Line of Kings and the Line of Nobodies

The first fourteen generations led us from Abraham to King David and even though there are some lost generations in this portion of the genealogy we enter the remaining two sections that I will refer to as the line of kings and the line of nobodies. David’s son, Solomon, will oversee what is recorded as the height of power of the United Kingdom of Israel but this will not last. Solomon is known by many Christians for his wisdom and the construction of the temple, yet all throughout 1 Kings’ narrative of Solomon’s reign there is an underlying criticism of Solomon’s drift away from faithfulness to the LORD the God of Israel. 1 Kings makes a theological judgement that it is God who is behind the increasing resistance at the end of Solomon’s reign. When Solomon’s son, Rehoboam is asked for relief from the heavy burdens placed upon the people during Solomon’s reign and he responds in a way that indicated he would increase the burdens on the people the kingdom splits in two with most of Israel following Jeroboam and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remaining under Rehoboam and the Davidic line of kings.

The story of the kings of Israel and Judah can be a little challenging to follow and Matthew doesn’t list every king who would be in the family line of Jesus, there is also a theological point Matthew wants to make about God’s time and the orderliness of the number fourteen gives the genealogy its structure, but the kings that are listed are representative of the best and worst of the kings of Judah. I have provided a quick guide to the line of the kings of Judah here linking both to the narrative tellings of their reigns in 1&2 Kings and the parallel narratives in 1&2 Chronicles and, when applicable, to which prophets were ministering and writing during their reign. Although the Davidic line of kings will be a focal point in the hope of the book of Psalms, the prophets and the narrative of the scriptures, the kings of Judah will be deposed by Babylon and we will enter the line of nobodies.

The final fourteen people in the genealogy have no reference in scripture other than in this genealogy, they are a part of the lost generations who lived in exile in Babylon and who, at least in part, returned to Judea and Galilee in the years after Cyrus the Great of Persia allows for the remnant of Judah to resettle Jerusalem and the surrounding area. We simply do not know their stories, perhaps people in Matthew’s community may have known some of their stories but they are a line of nobodies in the remembrance of scripture. Yet, these nobodies and kings, patriarchs and the women who forced their way into the story make up the back story that Matthew sets his story within.

Luke 3: 23-28 also lists a genealogy for Jesus but it is not a parallel to Matthew’s genealogy. Luke’s genealogy starts earlier but also traces a different path from David to Joseph. Ultimately, there is no way to historically verify which genealogy is closer to the parentage of Jesus and both ultimately serve the story that each gospel writer wants to tell. For Matthew the linkage to the stories of Abraham, the women mentioned, and the line of David are important, where Luke wants us to understand Jesus’ linkage of God and all of humanity. Also, for Matthew the orderly pattern of fourteen allows us to see that Jesus is a closing of the chapter of exile and powerlessness that begins with he deportation into Babylon and the beginning of a new chapter for the people of God.

The Line of Kings in Matthew compared with the Hebrew Scriptures

Giovanni Francesco Barberi (il Guercino), King David (1651)

United Kingdom of Israel

David (1010-970 BCE)

Replaced Saul,

Narrative of David runs from 1 Samuel 16-1 Kings 1 in the 1 &2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It runs from 1 Chronicles 11-22 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. David is attributed as the author of much of the book of Psalms and is mentioned frequently throughout the scriptures as a model of what a king should be and as a figure from which the hope for the people will come.

 

  1. Solomon (970-922 BCE)

Narrative of Solomon is told in 1 Kings 3-11 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It runs from 1 Chronicles 11-22 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Solomon is the attributed author of some of the Psalms, the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs (although he is probably not the author of these varied works as judged by the language). Builds the first temple, initially favored by God but there is an underlying critique of Solomon’s reign in the scriptures and he eventually turns away from the way of the Lord.

Kingdom of Judah

  1. Rehoboam (922-915)

Narrative of Rehoboam is told in 1 Kings 12, 14:21-31 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It runs from 2 Chronicles 9-12 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. He is viewed as an unwise and unfaithful king whose arrogance causes a split in the nation of Israel.

 

  1. Abijah (Abijam) (915-913)

Narrative of Abijah (Abijam)is told in 1 Kings 15: 1-8 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It occurs in 2 Chronicles 13 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Kings and Chronicles have a very different view of Abijah, Kings narrates that he continued in the sins of his father (Rehoboam) while Chronicles narrates him as a heroic figure that defies the king of Israel.

 

  1. Asa (Asaph in Matthew) (913-873)

Narrative of Asa is told in 15: 9-24 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It runs from 2 Chronicles 13-16 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. His 41-year reign is viewed positively in both chronicles and he is viewed as a person who does what is right in the sight of the LORD. His only other mention is as the creator of the cistern into which the prophet Jeremiah will be thrown into (long after Asa’s death)

 

  1. Jehoshapat (873-849)

Narrative of Jehoshapat is told in 1 Kings 22: 41-50 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It runs from 2 Chronicles 17-20 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. His 25 years reign is also viewed positively in both narratives.

 

  1. Jehoram (Joram in Matthew) (849-843)

Narrative of Jehoram is told in 2 Kings 8: 16-24 the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It occurs in 2 Chronicles 21 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Viewed as a king who betrayed the reforms of his father and grandfather and returned the people to worshipping other gods. Elijah the prophet enters the narrative during the reign of Jehoram.

 

Ahaziah (843-842) neglected in Matthew’s genealogy

Narrative of Ahaziah is told in 2 Kings 8: 23-29, 9:27 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It occurs in 2 Chronicles 22 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. His one-year reign is viewed negatively in both narratives and he is killed by Jehu son of Nimshi. With only reigning one year it is perhaps an understandable negation from Matthew’s line, but the genealogy would go through Ahaziah.

 

Athaliah (842-837) neglected in Matthew’s genealogy

Mother of Ahaziah, seizes the throne after her son’s murder. Narrative of Athaliah is told in 2 Kings 11 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It runs from 2 Chronicles 22:10-23:21 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Joash is preserved in the line of kings after she orders the death of royal family of Judah.  Since Athaliah was a queen rather than a king this wouldn’t normally appear in a genealogy. However, Matthew did include several women previously who would normally be overlooked.

 

Joash (837-800) neglected in Matthew’s genealogy

Narrative of Joash is told in 2 Kings 11:4-12, 17-21 and 12: 1-21 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It occurs in 2 Chronicles 24 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Joash is kept alive and mentored by the priest Jehoiada and for most of his life did what was right in God’s sight. He is famous for repairing the temple but Chronicles states that late in his life, after Jehoiada dies and under the influence of the nobles of Judah, he returns to the ways of the unrighteous kings. This is perhaps the most unusual negation.

 

Amaziah (800-783) neglected in Matthew’s genealogy

Narrative of Amaziah is told in 2 Kings 14: 1-22 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It occurs in 2 Chronicles 25 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Amaziah is listed in 2 Kings as one who did what was right in the site of the LORD but the major event in both narratives is his failed battle with Israel where the wall of Jerusalem is breached and the gold and silver from the temple and the king’s house are stolen. Another unusual negation.

 

  1. Uzziah (Azariah in 2 Kings) (783-742)

Narrative of Uzziah/Azariah is told in 2 Kings 15: 1-7 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It occurs in 2 Chronicles 26 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Uzziah did what was right in the site of the LORD with some qualifications in both 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. In 2 Chronicles he is afflicted with leprosy after attempting to offer a sacrifice himself instead of through the priests.  Uzziah’s reign is also at the beginning of Isaiah’s time as a prophet (or first Isaiah, Isaiah 1 and 6 mention Uzziah) as well as the time of Amos and Hosea. Also, the prophet Zechariah mentions an earthquake in the time of king Uzziah (Zechariah 14:6)

 

  1. Jothan (742-735)

Narrative of Jothan is told in 2 Kings 15: 32-38 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It occurs in 2 Chronicles 27 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Jothan is listed as a king who did right in the eyes of the LORD but who did not eliminate the practices of the people that were displeasing to God in the view of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. His reign is described as prosperous and peaceful. The ministries of Micah and Hosea occur in part during the reign of Jothan.

  1. Ahaz (735-727 or 715)

Narrative of Ahaz is told in 2 Kings 16 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It occurs in 2 Chronicles 28 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Ahaz is a king who did not do what was right in the site of the lord in the narratives and is oppressed by Israel, the Edomites and the Philistines. Ahaz appeals to Assyria for help and attempts to bribe Assyria with items from his house and the officials in tribute, but Assyria rebuffs their call for aid. Isaiah 7 is during the reign of King Ahaz and Isaiah 14:28 begins an oracle in the year of Ahaz’ death.

 

  1. Hezekiah (727 or 715 to 687)

Narrative of Hezekiah is told in 2 Kings 18-20 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It occurs in 2 Chronicles 29-32 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Hezekiah is a righteous king and reigns during an important transition in the region. The Assyrian empire conquers Israel and marches on Judah, but their conquest is stopped, and Judah survives. King Hezekiah is attributed with ensuring that Proverbs 25-29 are preserved. Isaiah records the Assyrian invasion by King Sennacherib of Assyria and the dialogue between God, Isaiah, and Hezekiah as well as a later illness of Hezekiah and Hezekiah’s interaction with envoys from Babylon in Isaiah 36-39. The prophets Hosea and Micah also conclude their ministries during Hezekiah’s reign.

 

  1. Manasseh (687-642)

Narrative of Manasseh is told in 2 Kings 21: 1-18 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It runs from 2 Chronicles 33: 1-20 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Manasseh is listed as one of the kings who did evil by adopting the practices of the surrounding nations and worshipping other gods. Jeremiah 15:4 lists the evils of Manasseh as the reason for the judgment against Judah.

 

  1. Amos (Amon) (642-640)

Narrative of Manasseh is told in 2 Kings 21: 19-26 in the 1 &2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It runs from 2 Chronicles 33: 21-25 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. He also did what was evil in God’s sight and was killed by the servants in his house or the people of the land depending on whether you read Chronicles or Kings.

 

  1. Josiah (640-609)

Narrative of Josiah is told in 2 Kings 22:1-23:30 in the 1 & 2 Kings telling of Israel’s story. It runs from 2 Chronicles 34-35 in Chronicles telling of Israel’s story. Josiah is remembered as the great reformer king who reintroduced the law to Judah. He dies in a battle against Pharaoh Neco, which seems to have been an unnecessary battle. Josiah’s reign is a time of great hope in Judah and there are even hopes of a new Israel, this is after the northern kingdom is conquered by Assyria, which practices the law and worships at the temple in Jerusalem. The optimism of the reforms of King Josiah are the context for the beginning of Jeremiah’s long ministry. Jeremiah soon sees the reforms are not changing the people and begins to warn that judgment is coming.

 

Jehoahaz (609) neglected in Matthew’s genealogy

Jehoahaz’ three-month reign is told in 2 Kings 23: 31-35 and 2 Chronicles 36: 1-4. He is enthroned by the people but deposed by Egypt and Egypt replaces him with his brother Eliakim who changes his name to Jehoiachim. Judah is now caught between the rising empire of Babylon in the north and Egypt in the south. Jehoahaz would not be in the genealogy of Jesus as Matthew traces it.

 

Jehoiachim (Eliakim) (609-598)

Jehoiachim’s reign is told briefly in 2 Kings 23: 36-24:7 and 2 Chronicles 36: 5-8.  In the eleven years he reigned Judah is caught between Babylon and Egypt. Jehoiachim serves Babylon for a time but then rebelled and was taken in chains to Babylon. Many of the proclamations of the prophet Jeremiah occur during the reign of Jehoiachim. The removal of Jehoiachim also sets the context for the beginning of the book of Daniel, where Daniel is among the young nobles brought to Babylon.

 

  1. Jehoiachin (598-597)

The son of Jehoiachim who is only eight or eighteen during his brief reign. His reign is told in 2 Kings 24: 8-18 and 2 Chronicles 36: 9-10. At the end of the reign is the deportation to Babylon of the officials, warriors, artisans, smiths and anyone who might exercise leadership among the people and a weak administration under his uncle Mattaniah, renamed Zedekiah. Jeremiah refers to Jehoiachin as Coniah.

 

Zedekiah (597-586)

Zedekiah is placed in his position by Babylon to attempt to retain peace among the remnant of Judah. His reign and the fall of Judah is told in 2 Kings 24: 18-30 (includes the governorship of Gedaliah) and 2 Chronicles 36: 11-21. More of Jeremiah’s proclamations come during the time of Zedekiah, in the final gasps of Judah and Jerusalem before Babylon’s final invasion and exile, than at any other time. Jerusalem is destroyed in 586 and more of the population is brought into exile in Babylon. There is a final rebellion during the governorship of Gedaliah) but the remnant of Judah that survives goes into exile in Babylon. The book of Jeremiah narrates the collapse of Judah in Jeremiah 34-44 and 52.

Jeremiah 26 The Prophet, the Temple and the Elders

Jeremiah 26: 1-19 The Prophet, the Temple and the Elders

Ilya Repin, Cry of the Prophet Jeremiah on the Ruins of Jerusalem (1870)

Ilya Repin, Cry of the Prophet Jeremiah on the Ruins of Jerusalem (1870)

At the beginning of the reign of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came from the LORD: 2 Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word. 3 It may be that they will listen, all of them, and will turn from their evil way, that I may change my mind about the disaster that I intend to bring on them because of their evil doings. 4 You shall say to them: Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, 5 and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently– though you have not heeded– 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.

 7 The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. 8 And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! 9 Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.

                10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the LORD and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the LORD. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”

 12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “It is the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. 13 Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you. 14 But as for me, here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the LORD sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”

 16 Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.” 17 And some of the elders of the land arose and said to all the assembled people, 18 “Micah of Moresheth, who prophesied during the days of King Hezekiah of Judah, said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’ 19 Did King Hezekiah of Judah and all Judah actually put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and entreat the favor of the LORD, and did not the LORD change his mind about the disaster that he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great disaster on ourselves!”

This passage is traditionally linked with the ‘Temple Sermon of Jeremiah’ in Jeremiah 7 and into chapter 8 based on the dating and the circumstances lined out in the first lines. Jeremiah goes into the temple, the heart of the royal and priestly justification of the people’s favored status and compares the temple to Shiloh, which was an earlier site of the tabernacle site in the time of 1 Samuel. The prophet calls the people back to the two sided covenant of Deuteronomy, ‘If you will do these things, then you will be blessed, if you will not do these things you will be cursed.’ Since the construction of the temple by Solomon there has been a critique of the possibility of relying solely on the temple for maintaining the people’s status with God. For example when God answers Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 9, it relates the answer as this:

2 the LORD appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 The LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you made before me; I have consecrated this house that you have built, and put my name there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 4 As for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, 5 then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised your father David, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.’

 6 “If you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut Israel off from the land that I have given them; and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight; and Israel will become a proverb and a taunt among all peoples. 8 This house will become a heap of ruins; everyone passing by it will be astonished, and will hiss; and they will say, ‘Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this house?’ 9 Then they will say, ‘Because they have forsaken the LORD their God, who brought their ancestors out of the land of Egypt, and embraced other gods, worshiping them and serving them; therefore the LORD has brought this disaster upon them.'” (1Kings 9:2-9)

Yet in the time of King Jehoiakim this way of understanding the covenant with God is either forgotten or neglected. For the prophet claims of obedience to God’s law/Torah are more important than any human authority. This undercuts the certitude of not only Jehoiakim, but particularly here the priests in the temple where Jeremiah makes his proclamation. Their lives are invested in the maintaining of the centrality of the temple worship and the proclamation of the prophet threatens not only their temple with its words but their livelihood. The react quickly and harshly demanding the death of Jeremiah because he has spoken against the temple and the city and bring him before the leadership of the city. It is a tense picture painted where the priest and temple authorities and the crowd have surrounded the prophet and the city leaders quickly move to bring calm to the situation and hold judgment in the case of this troublesome prophet.

For his part, Jeremiah denies nothing that he is accused of and yet he claims his role as a prophet of God speaking on God’s behalf and still in the hope of both the prophet and God that the people will hear and turn from their ways. What the priests have heard as condemnation is from Jeremiah’s perspective a hope for turning and rescue by God, but the words have fallen on unreceptive ears.  Jeremiah knows that his life rests in these officials’ hands and yet he warns them that if they take his life they will be liable for innocent blood.

The elder’s rely on the precedence of Micah, one of the examples of intertextuality in the Bible. This instance refers back to the prophet Micah who a century earlier had spoken harsh words against the city, and yet Micah was not killed by the leadership then. The ‘elders’ override the ‘priest’ and the historical memory of prophetic witness and Torah piety hold out in this case and the elders too are able to see this as an opportunity for repentance rather than a certain doom. Unfortunately for the people the repentance does not come as the priestly and royal authority are hostile to this message that Jeremiah proclaim.

Jeremiah 26:20-24 The Risk of the Prophetic Challenge

 

                20 There was another man prophesying in the name of the LORD, Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim. He prophesied against this city and against this land in words exactly like those of Jeremiah. 21 And when King Jehoiakim, with all his warriors and all the officials, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death; but when Uriah heard of it, he was afraid and fled and escaped to Egypt.22 Then King Jehoiakim sent Elnathan son of Achbor and men with him to Egypt, 23 and they took Uriah from Egypt and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who struck him down with the sword and threw his dead body into the burial place of the common people.

 24 But the hand of Ahikam son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah so that he was not given over into the hands of the people to be put to death.

King Jehoiakim is not receptive to Jeremiah’s message, and while Jeremiah apparently has some protection from Ahikam son of Shaphan another prophet, Uriah son of Shemaiah does not. The words of Uriah infuriate the king enough to send men into Egypt to capture, bring the prophet to the king and then to be killed by the king. This is not a welcome time for prophets and death and torture are real possibilities to ensure the message of King Jehoiakim is the dominant message heard.

The Place of Authority: A Brief History Part 2: King, Temple and the Prophetic Critique

David and King Saul, Rembrandt

David and King Saul, Rembrandt

 So Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8.10-18

 

At roughly 1,020 BCE a decisive change takes place and Israel enters the time of monarchy.  Power becomes consolidated briefly under King Saul.  Two men, King Saul and Samuel, whose title before had been that of a judge but functioned as a mouthpiece for God at this point, hold the religious and political authority.  Israel begins to act as a powerful actor in the region, constantly moving from one conflict to another, but internal conflict emerges when David emerges on the scene.  Without getting bogged down in the story or trying to parse out what happened historically  by 1000 David would unify his power as king and Israel became for a brief shining moment a power player on the world stage, Jerusalem becomes the capitol, and then perhaps decisively for this era the temple is established under Solomon.   Especially for the Southern Kingdom of Judah this is decisive because the monarchy and the temple become linked as the dominant secular/religious authority. There is a prophetic voice within that critiques the monarchy and temple, but for the most part the people give up a portion of their freedom for the relative security, power and identity of being a part of the unified kingdom of Israel.  That is not to say that family, clan and tribe have lost their power or authority, but that the people become much more linked to the kings and temple than at any previous point in their history.

This is probably a good point for a fun interlude, it is hard for us to imagine being bound in systems where our autonomy is defined so externally.  We don’t have any experience of a monarchical system and so our reaction might be somewhat like the peasants in this scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Even a romanticized king when we look from our perspective seems like a tyranny or despot.

Even though King David is often looked upon romantically like the King Arthur of legend, one of the incredible things is that the recorded memory of David includes many ugly situations, many family struggles, many times where he is at odds with the prophetic voice of the time.  The whole Bathsheba and Uriah episode (2 Samuel 10-12), incest within the royal family (2 Samuel 13) and eventually the usurpation of the throne by his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15-19) as well as other internal rebellions are a part of David’s roughly forty years of consolidated rule.  Even though the King amasses incredible authority previously unattainable in anyone’s imagination the constant warfare and internal struggles begin to wear on the people.  By the time Solomon, David’s son, ascends to the throne it is a relatively peaceful time but the energy is directed internally on large building projects, the temple, but also many houses and palaces for Solomon and his entourage. The temple becomes, at least for a large group of people, the central focus of worship, and yet again just like with the idea of consolidating power with a king there is a large amount of space dedicated to the critique of the temple

 King Solomon conscripted forced labor out of all Israel; the levy numbered thirty thousand men. He sent them to the Lebanon, ten thousand a month in shifts; they would be a month in the Lebanon and two months at home; Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. Solomon also had seventy thousand laborers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hill country, besides Solomon’s three thousand three hundred supervisors who were over the work, having charge of the people who did the work. At the king’s command, they quarried out great, costly stones in order to lay the foundation of the house with dressed stones. So Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites did the stonecutting and prepared the timber and the stone to build the house.  1 Kings 5.13-18 NRSV

This is a huge commitment of people and resources which are directed internally.  In fact it is such a strain that immediately upon Solomon’s death when Rehoboam takes power the people come and plead for relief:

Your father made our yoke heavy.  Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke that he placed upon us and we will serve you. 1 Kings 12.4 NRSV

To which the narrative has Rehoboam reply three days later in our language, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet, you think my father made things hard on you?  Well prepare to be screwed!’ Most translations clean this up significantly…but the little thing that is thicker than his father’s loins is probably not a finger (see 1 Kings 12: 6-15 particularly v.10) Things are not nearly as clean in the Bible as we sometimes want to make them.  The people are offended, the kingdom splits apart and now there are two kings, two places of worship, a prophetic voice that continues to grow louder…but even with this prophetic voice within the Kingdom of Judah in the South and the Kingdom of Israel in the North growing stronger the fate of both nations is linked to the actions of kings and the worship at the temple in Judah and the worship at various sites in the North.  Particularly for the Southern Kingdom of Judah, so long as there is a Davidic king and the Temple who they are as the people of God seems secure.  Yet this too will change….

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