This Week's Focus Passage

‘Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab, and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth.’

Focus Passage: Matthew 1:5

‘Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab, and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth.’

It was recently asked of me, ‘why are the women, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and ‘her that had been the wife of Uriah,’ included in the lineage of Christ here recorded in the ‘Gospel of Matthew’? We read in this lineage that there are fourteen generations times three involved in this generation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So all the generations from Abraham unto David are fourteen generations; and from David unto the carrying away to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the carrying away to Babylon unto the Christ fourteen generations. —Matthew 1:17

Until we learn of Mary in the third triad of these generations, we have absolutely no record of any of the mothers involved in these generations apart from Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and her that had been the wife of Uriah. Why is this so? Why is it that we are told of these particular women who were ‘mothers in Israel,’ yet not of any others? Indeed, just what is it that sets these women apart from the many others? One would at least imagine that there exists some common denominator among these four mothers; what might that be? Is there some common thread winding through the lives of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bath-sheba, that has eluded our detection? Perhaps it has eluded our interest. There are presumably forty-two generations involved in this lineage. Among forty-two generations, or forty-two mothers, why is it that only this small number of four is specifically named? What, if anything, have these four ladies in common with one another? Is it connected with their Gentiles heritage? That might do well for Rahab and Ruth. Rahab was among those at Jericho. She hid the spies that Joshua had sent out before the conquest of Jericho; those spies that were hidden by Rahab under the flax on her roof. And it is well known that Ruth was a Moabitess. So then at least two of these women are from among the Gentiles. But what of Tamar and Bath-sheba? What is their lineage, or ancestry? Indeed, were they, either one or both, of Gentile blood? Or were they, in fact, each of them, of the lineage of Abraham? Having conceded the ancestry of Rahab to be of Jericho, and the ancestry of Ruth to be of Moab, what about the ancestry of Tamar and Bath-sheba? The short answer to our initial question as to why the names of these women are recorded by Matthew in his lineage of Christ might be that they are human ancestors of Jesus, the Christ. But the immediate response to that would seem to be, then why is it they alone and none of the names of the wives in the thirty-eight remaining unions of men and woman in our Savior’s human ancestry? These four women seem conspicuously to have been singled out. So who were they, and why? Another short answer could well be that each of these women might have been of Gentile extraction and as Matthew was primarily written to Jews perhaps this was to point out that the number promised to Abraham included many outside of Abraham’s physical seed. But do we actually know that Tamar and Bathsheba were of Gentile ancestry as were Rahab and Ruth? That is the question.

So then, who was Tamar? What was her origin? And who was Bathsheba? What was her origin? We first consider the woman Tamar. Besides this single New Testament reference found in Matthew, there are only half a dozen allusions to this woman in the Old Testament, four of which are in Genesis 38, and one each in Ruth and 1st Chronicles which refer us back to the Genesis account. And in Genesis 38, there are powerful suggestions that this Tamar was very likely of Gentile origin. The beginning of the chapter informs us that Judah went down from his brethren. This would indicate that as he went down from his brethren, he necessarily went down to a people other than his brethren, where he saw a daughter of a certain Canaanite. Judah’s three sons were born to him of this Canaanite whose father’s name was Shua. We read a little later of Judah’s friend, Hiram the Adullamite. An Encyclopedia of the Bible speaks of Adullam as being ‘first mentioned in Genesis 38:1-2 when Judean clans spread out by establishing friendly relationships with the Canaanite cities of the district.’ This goes a long way to explain Judah’s friendship with Hirah. Not only so, but also certainly suggests that Judah, during this period of time, was living in the midst of Canaanites; Gentiles outside of the people of God. There seems to be sufficient information to yield a presumption, at least, that Tamar was very likely of the Gentiles.

Then there is Bathsheba. We are told very little about her, but even in the account under our view this week, she is referred to as the wife of Uriah. We know this Uriah to be Uriah the Hittite. Who were the Hittites? There are many references to Hittites in the Pentateuch. They are associated with the great numbers of peoples that God had determined to cast out of the land in order to make room for His own chosen people. Again and again we read of the Hittites being grouped together with the many other ‘outsiders’ in the land. This was the case complained of in Ezra 9:1;

The people of Israel, and the priests and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.

Uriah the Hittite, husband of Bathsheba, was possibly what we might consider today to have been a mercenary soldier in the service of king David. Yet, his faithfulness to his king appears to have been extreme. Whatever his allegiance was to David, he was an exemplary servant and soldier, yet he was a Hittite. There is little, or nothing, to help us in determining, with any certainty whatever, the ancestry of Bathsheba. Were she of the people of Israel, would she have married a Hittite? We have nothing to warrant a supposition that she would not have done so. Nonetheless, we confess, with some admitted bias toward our Gentile answer; that they were set in place for the purpose of pointing out to proud Israel that God’s grace encompasses outsiders and not just only physical descendants of their patriarch, Abraham.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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