Matthew’s genealogy, in a break with tradition, listed four unlikely women in Jesus’ forebears, three of them women of non-Jewish descent—“sheep from another fold,” as Jesus might have said of them. The fourth woman is not listed by her own name, but by the name of her honored, and honorable husband.
Wife of Uriah the Hittite
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,
Matthew 1:6 (NRSV)
She is more well-known by the name of Bathsheba.
Hers is a tragic, heart-wrenching story. We know from scripture God considered her the innocent victim of a rapacious man.
And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him,
“There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him.
Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.”
Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan,
“As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. . .”
Nathan said to David,
“You are the man! . . . Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.”Nathan to King David, 2 Samuel 12:1-9 (NRSV)
In God’s eyes, Bathsheba had all the innocence and vulnerability of a gentle ewe lamb. She carried not one shred of responsibility for what had happened. She was the victim of rape.
And God brought about Bathsheba’s vindication. Eventually, she became David’s most influential wife, and through her Israel’s next king was born, celebrated for his wisdom. Solomon set a throne for his mother Bathsheba right beside his own throne on the royal dais, and prophets and princes came to her for counsel.
God’s Blessing on the Women
Despite how awful her first two husbands were, despite Judah’s mistreatment of her, even upon threat of execution, Tamar was willing to do whatever it took to be linked with God and God’s people
A Canaanite woman who had only heard reports of God’s glory nevertheless had such a reverence for God, and awe of God’s power, that she believed completely in God’s victory.
“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.
Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”Rahab to the two Hebrew spies, Joshua 2:9-13 (NRSV)
She wanted to be saved along with the people of God.
Being the Moabite widow of a Jewish man, Ruth’s Hebrew mother-in-law knew there could be no life for Ruth back in the village of Bethlehem, in the heartland of Judah. But Ruth was not to be dissuaded.
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”
When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.Ruth to Naomi, Ruth 1:16-18 (NRSV)
She was dealt heavy blows young in life, in the space of just a few months her innocence, her husband, her home, and finally her firstborn child were all torn from her in a series of calamities that would have left many permanently broken.
But her faith and trust in God did not seem to waver. Ultimately,
God honored both Uriah and Bathsheba in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace Upon Grace
Though Matthew also named some godly men, the patriarchs and good kings, many of the men in this list were not what we would call good men. They sinned, they were selfish, even cruel, wicked, rebellious against God, idolaters. But through them Messiah was born.
I wonder if Matthew, ex-tax collector and publican that he was, identified with these women and men at some level. Through this record God is displaying God’s grace to all people, victims and perpetrators. Even in this genealogy Matthew was already giving us a clue there is something unique and earth-shaking about Jesus.
Expect the unexpected!
Carried along in the Spirit, the apostle Matthew was showing how God in Christ was taking down the barriers of sin and its curse.
Each video is designed to offer background scholarship on the topic, including setting, culture, original language, and archaeology, as well as a theological study.
The “Broken, Searching, Trusted, Powerful” video series is a companion to the book, available on Amazon, and published by Wipf and Stock.