Matthew 1:1-17

The genealogies, or in Hebrew the toledoth, in Old Testament Scripture serve as the unbroken physical link to the New Covenant in Jesus of Nazareth. They provide proof that the promise of mankind's future salvation made in Genesis 3:15 through the "seed of the woman" is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. Among all the genealogies in the Old Testament and the two found in the New Testament in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Matthew's toledoth is unique. St. Matthew manipulates his list of the ancestors of Jesus of Nazareth to produce significant numbers of names and generations with his list.

In sacred Scripture numbers usually have more significance than their quantitative indicators. More often than not, even when a number is used to indicate a certain quantity the individual number given may point beyond the numerical value to a symbolic significance. At other times the number given is not to be taken literally and may represent an approximate value, a symbolic value, or may represent hyperbole. For example, the six day period of Creation may not be literal but may represent a symbolic period of time that was perfected on the seventh day when God rested - seven being one of the four "perfect" numbers. Or the number of the 144,000 heavenly souls marked with the "seal of the living God" in Revelation chapter 7. Bible scholars both ancient and modern have interpreted this number as reflecting the symbolic perfection of redeemed man in terms of the "perfect" number 12 which signifies perfection of government in Scripture multiplied by divine order (Ten signifies divine order in scripture). 144,000 is the square of 12 times the cube of 10.

In addition to the study of the symbolic significance of different numbers in Scripture is the study of the numbers formed by the letters of words or names which is known by the Greek word gematria. This is the study of the words formed of letters of the alphabet used as number figures. The Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and many other ancient peoples used their alphabets for numbers. The Hebrews used all 22 letters of their alphabet plus 5 finals. The Greeks used the 24 letter alphabet and 3 additional finals. The Romans only used 6 letters of their alphabet and their combinations to form numbers: I= 1, V = 5, X = 10, L = 50, C = 100, D = 500. The number 1,000 was formed by two D's (combined to form an M like figure). The Apostle John, writing during the time of the first great Roman persecution of Christians, recorded in the Book of Revelations that the number of the Beast was 666. Most ancient MSS (hand-written manuscripts) of the book of Revelation record 666 as the number while others have the number 616. Is it a coincidence that all 6 of the Roman letters which also had numerical value added together total 666 (excluding 1,000 which was not a separate letter/ number)? Is it also a coincidence that the gematria for Neron Caesar (an alternate Hebrew spelling of the Emperor's name in wide use in the 1st century) totals 666 while the Greek spelling of Nero Caesar totals 616? In the symbolism of numbers in Scripture, six is the number of the beasts and of man (both created on the 6th day). Six is also the symbolic number of man's rebellious nature resisting God's sovereignty and authority. Three is the number of perfect completion for the Jews, and for Christians the number three symbolized the perfection of the Godhead = Trinity. Eight is the number of salvation. It is the number of Christ, of rebirth, of the resurrection, and of the Second Coming of Jesus as Righteous judge and Bridegroom. The gematria of the name Jesus in Greek (the language of the Old Testament) is 888: a trinity of eights, the fullness of salvation! As a matter of fact, every name identifying the second person of the Trinity is a multiple of 8 in Greek: Jesus Christ = 1480 (8 x 185); Lord = 800 (8 x 100); Savior = 1,408 (8 cubed x 4); Emmanuel = 25,600 (8 cubed x 50); Messiah = 656 (8x 82); Son 880 (8 x110).

As a Levitical priest, the Apostle Matthew was intimately aware of the symbolic link between letters and numbers. He manipulated the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth to reflect the significance of the Hebrew gematria of King David's name which was the number 14 [D = 4, V= 6, D= 4; Hebrew was written only in consonants] and the significance of number symbolism in his division of the 42 generations from Abraham to David to Jesus the Messiah. Matthew's manipulation of the genealogy is reflected in the fact that he dropped the names of the 3 Judahite kings in Jesus' line: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah [see 2 Chronicles 36:1-13], doubled the use of the name of both King David in verse 6 and King Jechoniah in verses 11 and 12 in the beginning of his 2 and 3 sets, and added the name of Tamar's other son Zerah (not in the line of descent) to make his list reflect the symbolism he desired in the total number of names/ males, and to produce 3 sets of 14 generations for a total of 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus of Nazareth.

Significant numbers hidden in Matthew's Toledoth

  1. The Hebrew gematria for Abraham's name is 808
  2. The Hebrew gematria for David's name is 14 (double spiritual perfection)
  3. The Greek gematria for Jesus' name (language of New Testament) is 888 (8= salvation)
  4. Abraham's name is mentioned 7 times the Gospel of Matthew (spiritual perfection) and 3 times in Matthew's chapter 1 toledoth. 3 is fullness and completion and in NT trinity.
  5. David's name is mentioned 5 times in Matthew's toledoth. 5 is the number of grace.

Matthew's manipulation of the list of Jesus' ancestral line

Matthew manipulates the names of Abraham's descendants into 3 sets of 14 individual male descendants or as he tells us in Matthew 1:17 "The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ." He manipulates the list to get 3 sets of 14 generations each to create 42 names of the list of the descendants of Abraham to bring attention to the link between the names and the covenant promise to Abraham and David by Yahweh. David's name is # 14 in the list and the gematria of his name is the number 14. The number 42 also has significance. 42 divided by 12, the number of Israel, yields 3 . This is a prophetic number in both Daniel chapter 12 and in Revelation. See Daniel 12:1-13 (focus on verse 7 which adds up to 3 ). 3 is half of 7. It is an imperfect number. Note: both St. Jerome and Pope St Gregory the Great wrote extensively about gematria and its significance in Scripture. Sir Isaac Newton wrote more about gematria and numbers in Scripture than he did about the theory of gravity.

List of generations in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter One's "genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth":

Set #1

  1. Abraham fathered     Isaac  
  2. Isaac fathered     Jacob  
  3. Jacob fathered     Judah  
  4. Judah fathered     Perez  
      additional names of Zerah and Tamar (woman #1)
  5. Perez fathered     Hezron  
  6. Hezron fathered     Ram  
  7. Ram fathered     Amminadab  
  8. Amminadab fathered     Nahshon  
  9. Nahshon fathered     Salmon  
  10. Salmon fathered     Boaz  
      Rahab (woman #2)
  11. Boaz fathered     Obed  
      Ruth (woman #3)
  12. Obed fathered     Jesse  
  13. Jesse fathered    
  14. David      

There are 14 generations
         There are 27 total male names (repeats and counting Zerah's name)
         There are   3 names of gentile women
Total names:    30 names (note: it was necessary to add Zerah's name to make 30 names)

Set #2

      David fathered     Solomon Uriah's wife
(note: David's name is repeated)
  1. Solomon fathered     Rehoboam  
  2. Rehoboam fathered     Abijah  
  3. Abijah fathered     Asa  
  4. Asa fathered     Jehoshaphat  
  5. Jehoshaphat fathered     Joram  
  6. Joram fathered     Uzziah (3 missing kings)
  7. Uzziah fathered     Jotham  
  8. Jotham fathered     Ahaz  
  9. Ahaz fathered     Hezekiah  
  10. Hezekiah fathered     Manasseh  
  11. Manasseh fathered     Amon  
  12. Amon fathered     Josiah  
  13. Josiah fathered     [see #14]  
  14.Jechoniah     [deportation of Judah to Babylon]

            There are 14 generations (no repeats)
            There are 29 names of males total if you include Uriah
            There is      1 female mentioned but not counted because unnamed (the wife of Uriah- 4th gentile woman. 4 is the number of the earth)

Set #3 (after the deportation to Babylon; notice no restoration is mentioned)

1.Jechoniah fathered Shealtiel  
2.Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel  
3. Zerubbabel fathered Abiud  
4. Abiud fathered Eliakim  
5. Eliakim fathered Azor  
6. Azor fathered Zadok  
7. Zadok fathered Achim  
8. Achim fathered Eliud  
9. Eliud fathered Eleazar  
10. Eleazar fathered Matthan  
11. Matthan fathered Jacob  
12. Jacob fathered Joseph  
13. Joseph husband of Mary (the 5th woman) mother of
14. Jesus the Christ     (bringing true restoration to Israel)

Matthew manipulates the list by counting Jechoniah twice in order to get 14 generations in the final set. Jesus' name is the 14th generation but if you count all the names without repeats Mary's name is the 14th name with Jesus name coming after 6 sets of 7 as the 7th 7. There are 27 names total in this set.

Matthew lists 42 generations from Abraham to Mary and Joseph. In the significance of numbers in Scripture, the number 42 represents the unfolding of God's divine plan associated with tribulation or judgment. The total of all the names given in each set is 86. 8 is the number of salvation, 80 the number of salvation times divine order (10), and 6 is the number of man. Is Matthew's hidden message that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of David (represented by the number 14) and the King of Kings who has come as a man to bring salvation to Israel and to mankind but as a man who will suffer in order to bring to fruition God's divine plan for humanity? In truth, only St. Matthew knows.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2000, revised 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.