WHY ARE THE GENEALOGIES OF MATTHEW 1 AND LUKE 3 DIFFERENT?
by Shawn Brasseaux
There is one genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew, and there is another family tree of Him in Luke. Why are they not 100 percent identical? Let us find out! “For what saith the Scriptures?”
Specifically, Matthew 1:16 says, “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Luke 3:23 relates, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.” These verses teach Joseph had two fathers—Jacob (Matthew 1:16) and Heli (Luke 3:23). How is this possible? Could this be a mistake in the Bible? Of course not. Do we not have two parents, each with their own unique genealogy? Remember, likewise, Jesus had both a biological human mother (Mary) and a legal human stepfather (Joseph). Naturally, one genealogy is Joseph’s while the other family tree is Mary’s. The question is, which genealogy applies to whom? And again, why is Joseph listed in Scripture as having two fathers?
According to the Old Testament, one particular Israeli king was never allowed to have children sit on David’s throne. This man was so evil that God said he would write him “childless” as touching the throne of Judah. We read about that wicked monarch in Jeremiah chapter 22: “ But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return.  Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not?  O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD.  Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” Judaean King Jeconiah can never have any children sitting on David’s throne (he had children [1 Chronicles 3:17ff.], but they never served as kings of Judah). Yet, we find Jeconiah’s name listed in Matthew 1:11-12—the genealogy of Jesus Christ!
Let us review what we know thus far. There is a king in Jewish history (Jeconiah) who cannot have any children as heirs to David’s throne. Jesus Christ has this king in His genealogy. Therefore, Jesus Christ is disqualified from being king over Israel. This is a major problem because innumerable Bible verses describe how Israel will have Jesus Christ as her King forever. Several passages promise the LORD God will use a son of David to rule over Israel throughout the endless ages to come. Yet, Jeconiah’s “curse” disrupts that Davidic Covenant.
Second Samuel chapter 7 relates the Davidic Covenant: “ And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” And, Psalm 89: “ I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant,  Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah.” Finally, Psalm 132: “ For thy servant David’s sake turn not away the face of thine anointed.  The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.”
When Peter the Apostle delivered his famous sermon in Acts chapter 2, on the Day of Pentecost, he preached how Jesus was resurrected to sit on David’s throne: “ Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.  Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;  He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.  This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”
How can the Lord Jesus Christ inherit David’s throne when Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew chapter 1 lists a king (Jeconiah) whose descendants can never inherit David’s throne? The good news is Luke chapter 3 does not contain Jeconiah’s name. Whereas Matthew has the royal line passing through David, Solomon, and Jeconiah to Jesus Christ (1:6,7,11-12,16), Luke has the royal line going through David and Nathan to Jesus Christ (3:23,31). David’s bloodline through his son Solomon was canceled because their descendant Jeconiah was too evil for God to reckon his children as being worthy of David’s throne. However, there is a viable bloodline of David in Luke chapter 3—David’s bloodline through another son, Nathan. Jesus Christ’s literal bloodline is Luke chapter 3, and this is the only way He can qualify to become King of Israel. Otherwise, the Davidic Covenant cannot be fulfilled. The genealogy in Matthew is corrupted: Jesus cannot have this blood flowing through His veins. All of this leads us to conclude Matthew chapter 1 is Joseph’s genealogy. Joseph’s genealogy does not affect Jesus because Jesus is not Joseph’s biological descendant. (In God’s wisdom, the virgin birth, or more precisely, the virgin conception of Christ, has been protected!)
Joseph’s actual father was Jacob (Matthew 1:16) whereas Mary’s father was really Heli (Luke 3:23). Mary’s father evidently had no sons, so his inheritance went to her (see the case of the daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 26:33, Numbers 27:1-11, and Numbers 36:1-11). The bride’s father adopted the son-in-law; that is, Mary’s father, Heli, adopted his son-in-law, Joseph, as though Joseph were his own son (Luke 3:23). (See an interesting parallel in 1 Samuel 24:16 and 1 Samuel 26:17,21,25. Here, King Saul calls his son-in-law David “son.” It would therefore appropriate for Heli to see his own son-in-law Joseph as “son.”) Joseph was Jesus’ legal father: thus, through Joseph, Jesus inherits the legal (Solomonic) right to David’s throne. Through Mary, Jesus inherits the biological/blood (Nathanic) right to David’s throne. This makes the virgin conception/birth of Christ absolutely critical to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
SUPPLEMENTAL: SOME OTHER QUICK FACTS
Matthew’s Gospel Record presents Jesus as the King; Luke’s Gospel Record presents Jesus as the Man. Matthew emphasizes, “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). That is, Jesus is the fulfillment of both the Davidic Covenant (throne) and the Abrahamic Covenant (nation and land—Genesis 12:1-3). Matthew emphasizes “David the king” (Matthew 1:6; cf. Matthew 1:20; Matthew 9:27; Matthew 12:23; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:30-31; Matthew 21:9,15; Matthew 22:42)—Jesus’ royalty. Matthew chapter 1 goes back only to Abraham (verses 1-2). In contrast, Luke emphasizes Jesus’ humanity—Luke chapter 3 goes all the way back to Adam, the first man (verse 38). Fascinating!
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