“So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” Matthew 1:17 ESV
Through the Bible: Matthew 1, Luke 2
In the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, there is a fourteen point silver star embedded in the floor at the spot where, according to tradition, Jesus was born.
You have to go down a set of marble stairs to get to the place. It is a low-ceilinged cave over which the entire church was built nearly 1700 years ago. And there is an altar built over the silver star, so the only way to see it is to kneel in front of the place.
The first time I went to Israel, the church was so crowded it would have been a 2-3 hour wait to get down the steps and into the cave where it’s thought Joseph and Mary laid Jesus in the manger. But when i went back in 2022, we were one of the first tour groups post-Covid, and the church was completely empty except for our group. Not only did I get to see the star, I got to touch it. I know no one can say for sure that is the actual spot. But to be in the exact same spot where pilgrims have knelt since 323 AD was one of the most profound experiences of my life.
The star has fourteen points because of the genealogy we read today. Fourteen generations from Abraham to David. Fourteen from David to the exile. Fourteen from the exile to Christ.
But the bigger question is why the text went to such great lengths to emphasize the number fourteen. In today’s podcast, Tara-Leigh pointed out that the number of the generations in Matthew’s genealogy may not have been exact, but may be selectively symbolic. She suggested that fourteen is a doubling of 7, the number of completion in Hebrew. Which is certainly possible. A doubling of the number of perfection would mean that Jesus is perfectly perfect. Times three.
however, I came across another possibility that fascinates me. First, as TLC pointed out, Matthew’s purpose is to present Jesus as the Messianic king—the son of David, and the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to establish the house of David forever (see 2 Samuel 7). So here’s how the number 14 may have served this purpose:
Hebrew names had numerical value based on the order of their consonants in the alphabet (Hebrew doesn’t have vowels). So David would be DVD—
Daleth, the fourth letter;
Vav, the sixth letter;
Daleth, the fourth letter.
4 + 6 + 4.
So the three repetitions of “fourteen” in verse 17 might as well have been a siren, blaring out “DA-VID! DA-VID! DA-VID!”
It’s details like this that remind us of the perfection of God’s word. If you slogged through the Old Testament, you might have groaned a little when you got to Matthew 1, thinking “Ugh! I thought we were done with genealogies!” But Matthew’s genealogy gives us four beautiful truths about God’s priorities:
- Women matter to God. No other genealogy in the Bible mentions a single woman. But Jesus’ genealogy lists five: Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, Bathsheba, Mary)
- Gentiles matter to God Ruth and Rahab were both Moabites. But here they are in the Jewish Messiah’s family tree. Because Jesus is not just the Messiah for the Jews. He’s for us too!
- Scandal doesn’t matter to God (Judah, David and Solomon all had their scandals. None of that mattered in God working out His purposes. In fact Judah’s scandal with Tamar and David’s scandal with Bathsheba were actually part of the plan.
- Every word in God’s Word matters for us. Even the genealogies. There is no wasted word in the Bible. Not even in the genealogy.
I hope this journey through God’s Word has left you awestruck this year. I hope you have been driven to your knees time and time again at the perfection of God’s Word, and the sinless savior to which it points.
Because if you are going to touch that fourteen pointed star, you have to be on your knees.
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