What does Matthew 1 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve original disciples. He was a tax collector, meaning he would have been despised by many fellow Jews for working with the occupying Roman government. Matthew does not hide the fact that he belonged to the category of "tax collectors and sinners" when Jesus called him to "follow me" (Matthew 9:9–13). Matthew became an apostle who received from Jesus the commission to "go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19–20).

This telling of the life of Jesus—the Gospel of Matthew—was one of the ways he fulfilled that command from Jesus. Matthew keeps his Jewish brothers and sisters firmly in mind as he writes, demonstrating how Jesus is the fulfillment of many prophecies about the promised Messiah.

To that end, Matthew begins by showing that Jesus is both a son of Abraham—a true Hebrew—and the legal and legitimate heir to the throne of Israel's great King David. That mattered because all faithful Jewish people would have been aware of God's promise to David that his descendants would sit on Israel's throne forever (2 Samuel 7:12–13). Matthew's genealogy does not include every "link" in the chain of generations from Abraham to Jesus. Instead, he groups those mentioned into three sets of 14 ancestors: Abraham to King David; David to Josiah and the deportation of Israel to Babylon; and Jechoniah to Jesus (Matthew 1:1–17).

Matthew mentions some unlikely names in his genealogy. This includes five women, several people famous for immorality, and more than one unfaithful king. Matthew's book never hides the sins of Israel's past, choosing to emphasize instead that Jesus came to save Israel from sin.

Having established Jesus' legal right to be Israel's king, Matthew transitions to telling the story of His birth. Luke, in his Gospel, tells that story mostly from Mary's point of view. Matthew looks at it through the eyes of Joseph, Mary's husband.

Joseph discovers that the woman he is betrothed to marry is pregnant, presumably by another man. Betrothal in Jesus' day was far more binding than engagement in modern times. Joseph and Mary were considered legally married, even though they had not yet lived together or had sex. Since Mary was found to be pregnant, Joseph was legally free to divorce her, though he wanted to do so as quietly as possible to avoid needlessly shaming her (Matthew 1:18–19).

God intervened in Joseph's plan, however. He sent an angel to visit Joseph in a dream. The angel told Joseph that Mary was still a virgin and the child was from God's Holy Spirit. God wanted Joseph to go through with the marriage and name the baby "Jesus," which means "Yahweh saves," because He would save His people from their sins. Matthew connects this moment to the fulfillment of a prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 that a virgin would give birth to a son who will be called Immanuel, "God with us" (Matthew 1:20–23).

In a great display of faith, Joseph obeyed God and took Mary home as his wife right away. He didn't consummate the marriage, however, until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:24–25).
Verse Context:
Matthew 1:1–17 begins the apostle Matthew's long Gospel with a short genealogy of Jesus Christ, beginning with Abraham. Matthew does not include every generation, but instead creates three groups of fourteen names: Abraham to King David; David to Josiah; and Jechoniah to Jesus. Matthew shows that Jesus is the direct descendant of both Abraham and David, qualifying His legal right to sit on Israel's throne. Matthew would not need to have listed the women, blatant sinners, or evil kings that he does, but the point of his Gospel is that Jesus has come to save His people from their sins. As a former tax-collector, hated by fellow Jews, this idea would have resonated strongly with Matthew.
Matthew 1:18–25 tells the story of the birth of Christ from the perspective of Joseph. This man is betrothed to be married to Mary, but finds out she is pregnant. He does not realize, yet, that this child is Christ, and that she is pregnant by a miracle of the Holy Spirit. God interrupts Joseph's honorable plans to divorce Mary, and tells him through an angel in a dream not to fear taking her as a wife and that the child is from God. Jesus will fulfill Isaiah's prophecy that Immanuel, ''God with us,'' will be born to a virgin. Joseph obeys, demonstrating his faith in God.
Chapter Summary:
The apostle Matthew begins his telling of Jesus' life with a genealogy. This is meant to show that Jesus is directly descended from both Abraham and King David, making Him a legal heir to the throne of Israel. He then tells the story of Jesus' birth from the perspective of Joseph, Mary's husband. Joseph had planned to divorce the woman he was betrothed to marry, once he found out she was carrying a child that wasn't his. God interrupts this plan. An angel tells Joseph in a dream that the child is from the Holy Spirit and commands Joseph to name Him Jesus, since He will save His people from their sins. Joseph obeys.
Chapter Context:
One of the original twelve disciples, Matthew begins his telling of Jesus' life with a genealogy and Jesus' birth. The listing of Jesus' ancestors shows how Jesus is directly descended from both Abraham and King David, but it also includes then-unlikely inclusions, such as women, blatant sinners, and evil kings. Instead of divorcing Mary, Joseph obeys God and takes her home. Isaiah's prophecy of the virgin birth of Immanuel, a term meaning ''God with us,'' is fulfilled. This sets the stage for pivotal events in Jesus' infancy, such as the arrival of wise men and the family's escape into Egypt.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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