4 unexpected women in Jesus’ family tree & what it reveals
Do you know what the first thing recorded in the New Testament is? It’s the family tree of Jesus. Before the details about the first Christmas we have a record of the human ancestry of Jesus. Yet, in this family tree, from which came the Savior of humanity, there is something unexpected—four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (see Matthew 1:1-17). It was a rare occurrence to include the names of women in a Jewish genealogy, but the fact that they are mentioned reveals some important things about God.
Tamar (see Matthew 1:3, Genesis 38) was a twice widowed woman. Her first husband was the firstborn son of Judah. When he died she married the second-born son. When he died, she was forgotten and forsaken, living a lonely life, one aching day at a time. With her biological clock ticking, she learns that her father-in-law’s wife has died, and she disguises herself as a prostitute, seduces Judah, gets pregnant, and gives birth to twins, one of whom is Perez, who becomes the ancestor of Jesus. What does this teach us? God is a God of redemption. He takes the mess and can bring good out of it. Tamar was a forsaken unloved woman, but we can be confident that in Jesus no one is forsaken. In Christ, we are accepted and loved. The prelude to the Christmas story reminds us that God calls the lonely, the forsaken, and the unloved to come to Him.
Rahab (see Matthew 1:5, Joshua 2 & 6) is the second woman mentioned in the family tree of Jesus. When we are introduced to her the book of Joshua, she is Canaanite prostitute living in fear. Yet, there is hope. She ends up hiding the Israelite spies sent to scout out the city of Jericho. Though she had a pagan background, she came to trust in the God of Israel. She is mentioned in Hebrews 11:31 as someone who had saving “faith” in the Lord. It is so encouraging to know that God takes people like Rahab and can transform them from a person of fear to a person of faith. She is a reminder that no matter what our background is, we are forgiven and made new “by faith” in the Lord Jesus.
Ruth (Matthew 1:5) is the third woman mentioned in Jesus’ family tree. Ruth was a Moabite, a member of the race that had proved to be an enemy and oppressor to Israel. Her first husband was an Israelite man who came to live in Moab. But, when he died, Ruth decided to align herself with the God of Israel, the one true God, the God of her mother-in-law, Noami. As a result, she goes with Noami from Moab to the land of Israel. By God’s providence, she ends up meeting Boaz, a righteous man. Boaz and Ruth get married and Ruth becomes the grandmother of king David. Just as Ruth was a foreigner who was redeemed by a righteous man and became a friend of Israel, so in Christ, we who were once far from God have been redeemed and are now his friends. (see Romans 5:10).
Bathsheba (Matthew 1:6, 2 Samuel 11) is the fourth women in the family tree of Jesus. She isn’t mentioned by name. She is listed as “Uriah’s wife.” Her story is also a messy one. One day, King David noticed her from his palace. David invites her over. She is married. He is married. They commit adultery. She gets pregnant. David, in an attempt to cover it up, goes through great lengths, eventually murdering Uriah. After months, God sends the prophet Nathan to David, which leads to David confessing and repenting of his sin (see Psalm 51). However, there are major consequences. The child of Bathsheba and David dies several days after birth. But in his graciousness, God permits Bathsheba’s second child, Solomon, to live. It is through Solomon that the Messianic line continues. Bathsheba’s story reminds us that God’s plan of salvation came neither through perfect people, nor for perfect people.
These 4 women are in the family tree of Jesus, not because of what they share in common with Jesus, but what they share in common with us! Like them, we are broken and sinful. Like them, we have nothing to merit our inclusion with Jesus. Yet, God in his grace offers us to be included in Christ’s eternal family line! The way to do so is through faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9). What a God of grace. What a Savior we have. In the words of the Christmas hymn, therefore, “O Come let us adore Him! Christ the Lord!”