On Genealogy of Jesus (Part 2 of 3): Did Matthew count the number of generations from Abraham to Jesus incorrectly?4 min read

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Saint Matthew stated that: “all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations” (Matt. 1:17). But when we count them, we find them to be 41 only, not 14 × 3, which is 42. Did Matthew count the number of generations incorrectly?  


Patrilineage of Jesus according to Matthew
  1. Abraham
  2. Isaac
  3. Jacob
  4. Judah and Tamar
  5. Perez
  6. Hezron
  7. Ram
  8. Amminadab
  9. Nahshon
  10. Salmon and Rahab
  11. Boaz and Ruth
  12. Obed
  13. Jesse
  14. David and Bathsheba
  1. Solomon
  2. Rehoboam
  3. Abijah
  4. Asa
  5. Jehoshaphat
  6. Jehoram
  7. Uzziah
  8. Jotham
  9. Ahaz
  10. Hezekiah
  11. Manasseh
  12. Amon
  13. Josiah
  14. Jeconiah
  1. Shealtiel
  2. Zerubbabel
  3. Abiud
  4. Eliakim
  5. Azor
  6. Zadok
  7. Achim
  8. Eliud
  9. Eleazar
  10. Matthan
  11. Jacob
  12. Joseph
  13. Jesus

Patrilineage of Jesus according to Matthew 

 The reason Matthew reached a count of 42 rather than 41 is that Jeconiah was double counted in two fourteens. Saint Ambrose of Milan said that historically, there were two Jeconiah: 

 “Again, from Jeconiah to Joseph are computed twelve generations; yet he afterwards calls these also fourteen. But if you look attentively, you will be able to discover the method by which fourteen are reckoned here. Twelve are reckoned, including Joseph, and Christ is the thirteenth, and history declares that there were two Joakim’s, that is, two Jeconiahs, father and son. The Evangelist has not passed over either of these but has named them both. Thus, adding the younger Jeconiah, fourteen generations are computed.” 

This is also supported by Rainer Albertz in Israel, in exile.  

Year  Event 
609 BCE  Death of Josiah 
609–598 BCE  Reign of Jehoiakim (succeeded Jehoahaz, who replaced Josiah but reigned 11years ) Began giving tribute to Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BCE. First deportation, purportedly including Daniel. ”  Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zebudah the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah ” (2 Kings 23:36, NKJV)  
598/7 BCE  Reign of Jehoiachin (reigned 3 months only). Siege and fall of Jerusalem.
Second deportation, 16 March 597 ” Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother’s name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.” (2 Kings 24:8, NKJV). 



 Jeconiah (Hebrew: יְכָנְיָה Yəḵonəyā [jəxɔnjaː], meaning “Yah has established”;Greek: Ιεχονιας; Latin: Iechonias, Jechonias), also known as Coniah and as Jehoiachin (Hebrew: יְהוֹיָכִין Yəhōyāḵīn [jəhoːjaːˈxiːn]; Latin: Ioachin, Joachin). 

Listing the generations in fourteens gives a great analogy for the state of Israel. Saint John Chrysostom explained that:  

“Having enumerated the generations from Abraham to Christ, he divides them into three divisions of fourteen generations, because three times at the end of fourteen generations, the state of the people of the Jews was changed. From Abraham to David, they were under Judges; from David to the carrying away into Babylon under Kings; from the carrying away to Christ under the High Priests.”   

Jesus and Jeconiah 

“Is this man, Coniah, a despised, broken idol? A vessel in which there is no pleasure? Why are they cast out, he and his descendants, and cast into a land that they do not know? O earth, earth, earth, Hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord: ‘Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.’ ” (Jeremiah 22:28-30, NKJV) 

According to Jeremiah prophesying The Lord’s words, no descendant of Jeconiah can sit on the throne of David, yet Matthew listed Jeconiah in the genealogy of Christ. 

Fulfilling the Prophecy 

According to Matthew’s genealogy, Joseph had the blood of Jeconiah in his veins. He was not qualified to sit on David’s throne. He was not the heir apparent. This would also mean that no real son of Joseph would have the right to claim the throne of David. Therefore, if Jesus were the real son of Joseph, he would have been disqualified from sitting on David’s throne. Neither could he claim the right to David’s throne by virtue of his adoption by Joseph, since Joseph was not the heir apparent. 

The Purpose of Matthew’s Genealogy 

The purpose of Matthew’s genealogy, then, is to show why Yeshua could not be king if he were really Joseph’s son. The purpose was not to show the royal line. For this reason, Matthew starts his gospel with the genealogy, presents the Jeconiah problem, and then proceeds with the account of the virgin birth, which, from Matthew’s viewpoint, is the solution to the Jeconiah problem. This shows that Matthew didn’t count the number of generations incorrectly. 

In summary:  

Matthew deduces that if Jesus were really Joseph’s son, he could not claim to sit on David’s throne because of the Jeconiah curse, but Jesus was not Joseph’s son, for he was born of the virgin Miriam (Matthew 1:18-25). 

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