One of the reasons why most Jews do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth was — or is — the long-prophesied Messiah is their contention that Jesus was not descended from King Solomon. True, the genealogy of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 1:1-16 traces him back to King Solomon (see especially Verses 6 and 7). However, this genealogy is that of Joseph — Mary’s husband, who was not the biological father of Jesus at all.
As Verses 18-20 continue with the story, Mary had become pregnant with the child Jesus by the Holy Spirit before she and Joseph had sexual relations. Luke 1:35 testifies that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and through that power she bore Jesus who is called here “the Holy One” and “the Son of God.” Thus Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus has been considered His “legal” genealogy, Joseph having become His “stepfather” of some sort.
Jews grab hold of 2 Samuel 7:13-16 as proof that a royal descendant of King David has to be of the line of David’s son Solomon, whom God chose to build a house (or temple) for His name, and the throne of whose kingdom He would establish. 1 Chronicles 17:12-14 reinforces this: “He (Solomon) shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son; and I will not take My mercy away from him, as I took it from him (King Saul) who was before you (King David). And I will establish him (Solomon) in My house and in My kingdom forever; and his throne shall be established forever.” [See also 1 Chronicles 22:9-10; 28:5-7.]
Jews then point to Luke 3:23-38 being the biological genealogy of Jesus, as traced through His mother Mary. Here (Verse 23) Jesus is described as being supposedly the “son of Joseph, the son of Heli….” Matthew 1:16, however, plainly shows that Joseph’s father was Jacob, not Heli. Honest Bible students understand that, in order to resolve the seeming discrepancy between Luke’s and Matthew’s genealogies of Jesus, Joseph being “the son of Heli” has to mean, rather, that he was the son-in-law of Heli. The original Greek text does not contain the phrase “the son…” Thus the verse should better read: “son of Joseph, of Heli…” Joseph became a part of the house of Heli through his marriage to Mary. Verse 31 traces Mary’s ancestry back to “Nathan, …of David” — not back to Solomon! Thus most Jews do not believe that Jesus could have been the Messiah, since He descended from David’s other son Nathan and not from Solomon, to whom God had promised to establish his throne forever.
A hidden key
Now here’s an interesting bit of detail in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus that has escaped the eye of many. This is found in Luke 3:27. Here Luke lists Zerubbabel and Shealtiel as among Mary’s ancestors — exactly as Matthew’s genealogy of Joseph also includes these same names (see Matthew 1:12)!
However, in Luke 3:27, we find that Shealtiel is listed as “[the son] of Neri,” whereas Matthew 1:12 puts Jeconiah, not Neri, as Shealtiel’s father. This discrepancy seems confusing! But the apostle Paul assures us that “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). And Jesus said that God’s Word cannot be broken (John 10;35) by any alleged discrepancy.
How, then, can we explain this apparent discrepancy?
The clue here is in how Luke’s genealogy peculiarly features some fathers-in-law in reckoning Jesus’ ancestry, as we explained earlier about Heli, Mary’s father. It is thus reasonable to suppose that Neri was the father of Jeconiah’s wife, who bore Shealtiel. For the seeming discrepancy to make sense, Neri would have to have been Shealtiel’s father-in-law!
Jesus doubly David’s Son
This being the case, Jesus’ biological ancestry through Mary can thus be traced also all the way back to King Solomon and David (compare Matthew 1:12 with 1:6) — through Jeconiah. Further down from Neri, however, we find Mary’s ancestry to diverge from that of Joseph all the way back to David, through David’s other son Nathan (Luke 3:27-31). Thus Jesus was doubly the Son of David through both Nathan and Solomon, because their two lines cross in Jeconiah/Neri down to Shealtiel and Zerubbabel!
From Zerubbabel, we see another divergence between Joseph’s and Mary’s genealogies. Mary traces back to Zerubbabel’s son Rhesa and on up to Heli (Luke 3-23-27), Mary’s father. Joseph, on the other hand, traces back to Zerubbabel’s son Abiud and on up to Jacob, Joseph’s father (Matthew 1:13-16).
There are only 10 generations from Abiud to Joseph (Matthew 1:13-16), whereas there are 19 generations from Rhesa to Mary, through Heli (Luke 3:23-27). The difference has been explained by some Bible scholars as being due to Joseph’s genealogy here having been “truncated.” That means that some of Joseph’s ancestors have likely been omitted in the genealogical account of Matthew, for some reason that God will reveal in His own time.
In Zechariah 12:10-12 we have an interesting end-time prophecy about God pouring out on the house of David “the Spirit of grace and supplication” as they look on Him “whom they have pierced” — Jesus Christ, whom the Jews had had crucified and pierced by a spear (John 19:14-16, 34, 37), through the Roman authorities in their day. On the Day of Pentecost in A.D. 31 the apostle Peter told the company of Jews about them having crucified Jesus Christ (Acts 2:23). Revelation 1:7 also refers to the Jews, who “pierced” Christ, wailing at Jesus’ return.
Zechariah 12 is set in a future time — which, in fact, has already ticked for some time and will intensify in the weeks and months ahead! Ours is the time when Jerusalem has increasingly become a “cup of drunkenness” [or “cup of trembling,” KJV], as surrounding nations “lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem” (Verse 1). All nations will be “gathered against Jerusalem” (Verse 3).
It is then that the resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ will intervene graciously to save “the tents of Judah” and “the house of David” (Verses 4-10), whoever are left of David’s descendants, who will be many as Jeremiah 33:22 prophesies. When that happens, the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will “mourn for Him” [Jesus] — as Revelation 1:7 confirms.
Among the mourners Zechariah 12:12, curiously, mentions “the family of the house of Nathan and their wives…” Why not the house of Solomon?
We may not fully comprehend now the reason for this. But isn’t it significant that Jesus’ biological genealogy traces back to the “house of Nathan” through Heli/Mary and not back to the “house of Solomon?” God had warned Solomon that, should he turn his back on God’s ways — which he did! — God would cast him off forever (1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Kings 9:6-9; 11:4-12, etc.).
Regardless of what God has done with the house of Solomon, it should be clear from the testimonies about Jesus’ ancestry both by Matthew and Luke, that Jesus descended from the line of Solomon as well as that of Nathan. In this aspect, Jews (and other people, for that matter) have no reason to deny that indeed Jesus of Nazareth was — and is — the prophesied Messiah!
For more understanding about God’s dealings with the Jews and with Israel, see: God’s Kingdom and Israel, God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 1, God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 2, God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 3, The Great Wall, The Children of Abraham, and Two Goats Together.
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.