“After the Babylonian exile…”

Whenever I hear the long genealogy that begins the gospels (Mt 1:1-17), I’m always reminded of an important aspect of this list that was first highlighted for me by Scott Hahn.  It has to do with vv. 12-15 that begin with the headline.  Mitch and Sri (The Gospel of Matthew [Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture], Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010, 40) explain it well:

The last section of the genealogy sounds a note of hope, demonstrating that God continued to protect the royal line of David even though it was lying dormant in exile.  Jechoniah and Shealtiel were two Davidic heirs who lived during the Babylonian captivity, and Zerubbabel helped lead the first wave of Jews who returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile.

But the most exciting part of this genealogy is the remaining eleven generations that were not known in the Old Testament.  These names demonstrate the continuance of the Davidic line through centuries of Jewish suffering and oppression amid hope for a new son of David who would restore the kingdom.

What great joy for the early Jewish readers of Matthew — as it should be for us today — that the line of David continued through the great suffering of the Chosen People until the promised Messiah had come.  This is just one aspect, among many in this list, that should forever remove from our thoughts that this is simply a boring reading with many hard to pronounce names.  Rather, every person mentioned has a story to tell in his or her own right as well as in light of the promised Emmanuel.

A beautiful start to the “home stretch” of Advent.

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