The six missing royals

Published 4:25 am Monday, February 19, 2024

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No one was happy about it. 

And the matter was going to get worse. Jesus had just eaten with tax collectors at Matthew’s house, raising the ire of Jewish leaders and probably the disdain of Peter and the rest. But the Lord had more to His plan — Jesus had also decided to take hated Matthew for the long haul. To be one of His twelve.

There was good reason. 

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Jesus moved day after day toward His crucifixion and resurrection, and someone would need to tell His story. Matthew had succeeded as a tax collector because he was literate, could keep accurate records, and routinely wrote Rome-worthy reports. 

Jesus needed a writer — a Jewish writer.

Matthew did not disappoint, beginning his story with what Jews wanted to hear—the genealogy of Jesus. The first nine words of Matthew’s Gospel read: “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah…” (Matthew 1:1)

Jewish people cared about their ancestry: The 2,000-year-old covenant with Abraham; the 12 sons of Jacob, who became the 12 tribes of Israel; the royal line that ran through Judah to David to Jesus. All of this was of immense importance.

Moreover, First Century A.D. Jews longed for the Messiah, waiting one generation to the next, suffering one oppression after another.

 So, Matthew’s opening words told Jews what they wanted to hear. But then something big happened. Eight verses in, Matthew quietly stepped off course, skirting one of the biggest scandals in Scripture. 

Herein lies the story of the six missing royals. A story of scandal. I wonder how long it took the once-hated Matthew to decide how to proceed. In the end, four kings and two queens are left out of Jesus’ genealogy. 

The unthinkable began some 850 years B.C. with the birth of a child. If you followed my recent columns on Ahab and Jehoshaphat, you’ll know the setting. If not, I’ll recap in one paragraph. 

After the death of King Solomon, civil war tore Israel into a Northern Kingdom, still called Israel, and a Southern Kingdom, called Judah. King Jehoshaphat of Judah, then made a treaty with King Ahab of Israel by marrying Jehoshaphat’s son to Ahab’s daughter. But understand that Ahab and his wife Jezebel were evil. They had murdered every prophet they could find in a quest to destroy the worship of God in Israel. “Ahab … did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.” (1 Kings 16:30)

When Matthew wrote the genealogy, he said, “David fathered Solomon … Solomon fathered Rehoboam (the 1st king of Judah after the Civil War), Rehoboam fathered Abijah (2nd king of Judah), and Abijah fathered Asa (3rd king). Asa fathered Jehoshaphat (4th king), Jehoshaphat fathered Joram (5th king), and Joram fathered Uzziah (9th king).” (Matthew 1:7-8) (annotations added)

Matthew didn’t lie. Joram is actually a distant father to Uzziah—his great, great grandfather. It’s easy to show who’s missing in Matthew’s genealogy because the book of Chronicles lays out the rulers: 

“Then Jehoshaphat lay down with his fathers and was buried … and his son Jehoram became king in his place … (When he died,) the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah, his youngest son, king in his place … (When he died,) Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah … reigned over the land … (When Athaliah died,) Joash was seven years old … and he reigned for forty years in Jerusalem … Then his son Amaziah became king in his place … (and when he died,) all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in place of his father Amaziah.” (2 Chronicles 21:1-26:1)

Matthew left out Ahaziah; his mother Athaliah; and Ahaziah’s son, Joash, and grandson, Amaziah. In truth, Matthew left out two more royals — Ahab and Jezebel. The last thing any Jew wanted was the blood of Ahab and Jezebel finding its way into the royal line from David to the Christ. But, thanks to Jehoshaphat, that’s what happened — Ahaziah was the child born to Jehoshaphat’s son and Ahab’s daughter. 

Matthew decided no one needed to know.

Jehoshaphat must have thought it was a great act of love when he married his son to Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter, stopping civil war between the two nations. But what Jehoshaphat did was wrong. Jehoshaphat dearly loved the Lord, yet even those who love Him can forget to consult the Lord before making decisions. 

God is your go-to at all times and in all things. Especially in matters of the heart.

Stay close to God.

The Rev. Mathews (BA, MDiv, JD) is a newspaper faith columnist and the author of Emerald Coast: The Vendetta. 

Copyright © 2024 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.