As many people know when they read the New Testament, it’s very important that Jesus be connected to King David because it is supposedly a descendant of David who is the rightful heir to the thrown over the Jewish people, and by extension, their savior.
The Abraham-David-Exile-Jesus Genealogy
Bearing this in mind, we can take a look at the opening chapter and verses of the New Testament, Matthew 1, which begin with a genealogy. The genealogy is in three parts, starting with Abraham, a natural beginning, and ending in Jesus. Part one goes Abraham to King David; part two is David to the time of the Babylonian exile – when the monarchy came to an effective end; and then from the exile to Jesus, the period when the Jews desperately needed a savior.
In between each of these groupings are fourteen generations, a fact that is highlighted in Matthew 1:17: “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.”
Playing with Hebrew in the New Testament
Yeehaw, you might say. That’s great….but why are we being told this seemingly irrelevant fact? Well, this has to do with a fascinating linguistic trick with Hebrew, whereby each letter correlates to a particular number and the manipulation and analysis of those numbers reveals interesting facts.
So why 14 generations? Well, the name David (as in, King David), in Hebrew is three letters with the sounds D-V-D (vowels are not independent letters). D (or daled) is the fourth letter and so has a value of four, and V (or vav) is the sixth letter and therefore has a value of six. Thus, d-v-d correlates to 4-6-4 which has a total value of 14. David, then, equals 14. The fact that 14 generations each separate Abraham and David, David and the exile, and the exile and Jesus, when the object is to connect Jesus to David and David’s name equals 14, serves to reinforce the connection between Jesus and David.
What This Means
Now, do I think that the gematria proves that Jesus is the messiah? No – the rabbis were masters of manipulating letters and words to correlate them to other things in mesmerizing ways, and Jesus and those who told of his life are a product of this time. It is interesting, I think, that Matthew (or the person who wrote Matthew) does not mention this element of David and Jesus’ connection. Perhaps he is leaving it for us to figure out, but I find it more likely that by the time the story got to him, it no longer reflected its linguistically Semetic origins (that is, Aramaic, Jesus’ language, and Hebrew, a related tongue), but rather, was a story in Greek whose Semetic elements would have been lost on the writer and his audience. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that this element exists in the story, reminding us of how well-crafted the tale of Jesus was and how crystallized the notion of his messiahship was by the time this story was related to the author of Matthew.
Afterthoughts and Questions
What do you think about this genealogy? Do you have anything to add to what I’ve said? If you are a Christian who has ever discussed these verses in Church or religious study, has this fact come up and if so, how was it discussed and portrayed?
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Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Jesus, Religion | Tagged: Abraham, Aramaic, author, Babylonian Exile, Bible, gematria, Greek, Hebrew, independence, Jechoniah, Jesus, Jewish, Jews, King David, kingdom, languages, Matthew, messiah, monarchy, New Testament, savior, Semetic | 4 Comments »