Does Matthew 1:12 contain an error?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible says in Matthew 1:12: “And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;….” (These are the Greek forms of the original Hebrew names below, thus accounting for the spelling differences.)

Everything looks fine in Matthew’s record until we compare it to 1 Chronicles 3:15-19: “[15] And the sons of Josiah were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. [16] And the sons of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son. [17] And the sons of Jeconiah; Assir, Salathiel his son, [18] Malchiram also, and Pedaiah, and Shenazar, Jecamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah. [19] And the sons of Pedaiah were, Zerubbabel, and Shimei: and the sons of Zerubbabel; Meshullam, and Hananiah, and Shelomith their sister:….”

According to 1 Chronicles 3:19, Zerubbabel was Pedaiah’s son, Pedaiah being King Jeconiah’s son. However, in Matthew 1:12, Zerubbabel is said to have been Salathiel’s son. Is Matthew mistaken? No.

Zerubbabel is usually called “the son of Shealtiel,” as we see here:

  • Ezra 3:2: “Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.”
  • Nehemiah 12:1: “Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,….”
  • Haggai 1:1: “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,….”

Shealtiel/Salathiel is Pedaiah’s brother (1 Chronicles 3:17-18), and Zerubbabel is said to be the son of both men. This seems impossible but it really is not. Yes, only one of these men was obviously his biological father—Pedaiah being the most likely candidate (1 Chronicles 3:19). But, he could have had a second father too. How?

Two potential situations solve this dilemma. Firstly, Shealtiel/Salathiel could have adopted his nephew Zerubbabel. Secondly, Zerubbabel could be the product of a levirate marriage (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10). If a man died childless, God in the Law of Moses instructed the man’s brother to marry the childless sister-in-law and father children with her in the name of the deceased man. This was done so the blood lines of the tribes would not be lost, that the land/inheritance remain with its respective tribes. In this case, Zerubbabel would have been Shealtiel’s biological son but was raised as though he were Pedaiah’s son. (There was already a levirate marriage in Matthew 1:5, wherein Ruth married her dead husband’s near-kinsman [Boaz] and bore him a son [Obed]. See the Book of Ruth, especially chapter 4. Having a second levirate marriage in Matthew’s record is not a far-fetched idea after all.)

Matthew 1:12 contains no mistake!

Also see:
» Does Matthew 1:8-9 contain errors?
» Does Matthew 1:11 contain errors?
» Is Matthew 27:9 a mistake?