Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The genealogy of Christ divided into three classes of fourteen generations each: The first fourteen, from Abraham to David, Mat 1:2-6. The second fourteen, from Solomon to Jechonias, Mat 1:7-10. The third fourteen, from Jechonias to Christ, Mat 1:11-16. The sum of these generations, Mat 1:17. Christ is conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary, when she was espoused to Joseph, Mat 1:18. Joseph's anxiety and doubts are removed by the ministry of an Angel, Mat 1:19, Mat 1:20; by whom the child is named Jesus, Mat 1:21. The fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah relative to this, Mat 1:22, Mat 1:23. Joseph takes home his wife, Mary, and Christ is born, Mat 1:24, Mat 1:25.
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ - I suppose these words to have been the original title to this Gospel; and that they signify, according to the Hebrew Phraseology, not only the account of the genealogy of Christ, as detailed below, hut the history of his birth, acts, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension.
The phrase, book of the generation, ספר תולדות sepher toledoth, is frequent in the Jewish writings, and is translated by the Septuagint, βιβλος γενεσεως, as here, by the evangelist; and regularly conveys the meaning given to it above; e.g. This is the book of the generations of Adam, Gen 5:1. That is, the account of the life of Adam and certain of his immediate descendants. Again. These are the generations of Jacob, Gen 37:2. That is, the account or history of Jacob, his son Joseph, and the other remarkable branches of the family. And again. These are the generations of Aaron and Moses, Num 3:1. That is, the history of the life and acts of these persons, and some of their immediate descendants. The same form of expression is also used, Gen 2:4, when giving the history of the creation of heaven and earth.
Some have translated βιβλος γενεσεως, The book of the genealogy; and consider it the title of this chapter only; but the former opinion seems better founded.
Jesus Christ - See on Mat 1:16, Mat 1:21 (note).
The son of David, the son of Abraham - No person ever born could boast, in a direct line, a more illustrious ancestry than Jesus Christ. Among his progenitors, the regal, sacerdotal, and prophetic offices, existed in all their glory and splendor. David, the most renowned of sovereigns, was king and prophet: Abraham, the most perfect character in all antiquity, whether sacred or profane, was priest and prophet: but the three offices were never united except in the person of Christ; he alone was prophet, priest, and king; and possessed and executed these offices in such a supereminent degree as no human being ever did, or ever could do. As the principal business of the prophet was to make known the will of God to men, according to certain partial communications received from Heaven; so Jesus, who lay in the bosom of the Father, and who was intimately and thoroughly acquainted with all the mysteries of the eternal world, came to declare the Divine nature and its counsels to mankind; see Joh 1:18. As the business of the priest was to offer sacrifices to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people; so Christ was constituted a high priest, to make, by the sacrifice of himself, an atonement for the sins of the whole world; see Jo1 2:2, and the whole Epistle to the Hebrews. As the office of king was to reign over, protect, and defend the people committed to his care by the Divine Providence; so Christ is set as a king upon Sion, having the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, Psa 2:6, Psa 2:8, etc. Of the righteousness, peace, and increase of whose government, there shall be no end, Isa 9:7. This three-fold office, Christ executes not only in a general sense, in the world at large; but, in a particular sense, in every Christian soul. He is first a prophet, to teach the heart of man the will of God; to convict the conscience of sin, righteousness, and judgment; and fully to illustrate the way of salvation. He is next a priest, to apply that atonement to the guilty conscience, the necessity of which, as a prophet, he had previously made known. And lastly, as a king, he leads captivity captive, binds and casts out the strong man armed, spoils his goods, extends the sway of the scepter of righteousness, subdues and destroys sin, and reigns Lord over all the powers and faculties of the human soul; so that As sin reigned unto death, Even so does grace reign through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom 5:21.
It is remarkable, that the evangelist names David before Abraham, though the latter was many generations older: the reason seems to be this, that David was not only the most illustrious of our Lord's predecessors, as being both king and prophet; but because that promise, which at first was given to Abraham, and afterwards, through successive generations, confirmed to the Jewish people, was at last determined and restricted to the family of David. Son of David, was an epithet by which the Messiah was afterwards known among the Jews; and, under this title, they were led to expect him by prophetic authority. See Psa 89:3, Psa 89:4; Psa 132:10, Psa 132:11, compared with Act 13:23, and Isa 11:1; Jer 23:5. Christ was prophesied of under the very name of David. See Eze 34:23, Eze 34:24; Eze 37:24, Eze 37:25.
Abraham begat Isaac - In this genealogy, those persons only, among the ancestors of Christ, which formed the direct line, as specified: hence no mention is made of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, nor of Esau, the son of Isaac; and of all the twelve patriarchs, or sons of Jacob, Judah alone is mentioned.
Phares and Zara - The remarkable history of these twins may be seen, Genesis 38: Some of the ancients were of opinion, that the evangelist refers to the mystery of the youngest being preferred to the eldest, as prefiguring the exaltation of the Christian Church over the synagogue. Concerning the women whose names are recorded in this genealogy, see the note at the end of the chapter, (Mat 1:25 (note)).
Joram begat Ozias - This is the Uzziah, king of Judah, who was struck with the leprosy for his presumption in entering the temple to offer incense before the Lord. See Ch2 26:16, etc. Ozias was not the immediate son of Joram: there were three kings between them, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, which swell the fourteen generations to seventeen: but it is observed that omissions of this kind are not uncommon in the Jewish genealogies. In Ezr 7:3, Azariah is called the son of Meraioth, although it is evident, from Ch1 6:7-9, that there were six descendants between them. This circumstance the evangelist was probably aware of; but did not see it proper to attempt to correct what he found in the public accredited genealogical tables; as he knew it to be of no consequence to his argument, which was merely to show that Jesus Christ as surely descended, in an uninterrupted line from David, as David did from Abraham. And this he has done in the most satisfactory manner; nor did any person in those days pretend to detect any inaccuracy in his statement; though the account was published among those very people whose interest it was to expose the fallacy, in vindication of their own obstinate rejection of the Messiah, if any such fallacy could have been proved. But as they were silent, modern and comparatively modern unbelievers may for ever hold their peace. The objections raised on this head are worthy of no regard; yet the following statement deserves notice.
St. Matthew took up the genealogies just as he found them in the public Jewish records, which, though they were in the main correct, yet were deficient in many particulars. The Jews themselves give us sufficient proof of this. The Talmud, title Kiddushim, mentions ten classes of persons who returned from the Babylonish captivity:
I. כהני Cohaney, priests.
II. לוי Levey, Levites.
III. ישראל Yishrael, Israelites.
IV. חלולי Chululey, common persons, as to the priesthood; such whose fathers were priests, but their mothers were such as the priests should not marry.
V. גירי Girey, proselytes.
VI. חרורי Charurey, freed-men, or servants who had been liberated by their masters.
VII. ממזירי Mamzirey, spurious, such as were born in unlawful wedlock.
VIII. נתיני Nethiney, Nethinim.
IX. שתוקי Shetukey, bastards, persons whose mothers, though well known, could not ascertain the fathers of their children, because of their connections with different men.
X. אסופי Asuphey, such as were gathered up out of the streets, whose fathers and mothers were utterly unknown.
Such was the heterogeneous mass brought up from Babylon to Jerusalem; and although we learn from the Jews, that great care was taken to separate the spurious from the true-born Israelites, and canons were made for that purpose, yet it so happened, that sometimes a spurious family had got into high authority, and therefore must not be meddled with. See several cases in Lightfoot. On this account, a faithful genealogist would insert in his roll such only as were indisputable. "It is therefore easy to guess," says Dr. Lightfoot, "whence Matthew took the last fourteen generations of this genealogy, and Luke the first forty names of his: namely, from the genealogical rolls, at that time well known, and laid up in the public κειμηλια, repositories, and in the private also. And it was necessary indeed, in so noble and sublime a subject, and a thing that would be so much inquired into by the Jewish people, as the lineage of the Messiah would be, that the evangelists should deliver a truth, not only that could not be gainsayed, but also might be proved and established from certain and undoubted rolls of ancestors." See Horae Talmudicae.
Josias begat Jechonias, etc. - There are three considerable difficulties in this verse.
1. Josias was not the father of Jechonias; he was only the grandfather of that prince: Ch1 3:14-16.
2. Jechonias had no brethren; at least, none are on record.
3. Josias died 20 years before the Babylonish captivity took place, and therefore Jechonias and his brethren could not have been begotten about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
To this may be added a fourth difficulty, viz. there are only thirteen in this 2nd class of generations; or forty-one, instead of forty-two, in the whole. But all these difficulties disappear, by adopting a reading found in many MSS. Ιωσιας δε εγεννησε τον Ιωακειμ· Ιωακειμ δε εγεννησε τον Ιεχονιαν. And Josias begat Jehoiakim, or Joakim, and Joakim begat Jechonias. For this reading, see the authorities in Griesbach. Josiah was the immediate father of Jehoiakim (called also Eliakeim and Joakim) and his brethren, who were Johanan, Zedekiah, and Shallum: see Ch1 3:15. Joakim was the father of Joachin or Jechonias, about the time of the first Babylonish captivity: for we may reckon three Babylonish captivities. The first happened in the fourth year of Joakim, son of Josiah, about A. M. 3398. In this year, Nebuchadnezzar, having taken Jerusalem, led a great number of captives to Babylon. The second captivity happened under Jechoniah, son of Joakim; who, having reigned three months, was taken prisoner in 3405, and was carried to Babylon, with a great number of the Jewish nobility. The third captivity took place under Zedekiah, A. M. 3416. And thus, says Calmet, Mat 1:11 should be read: Josias begat Joakim and his brethren: and Joakim begat Jechonias about the time of the first Babylonish captivity; and Jechonias begat Salathiel, after they were brought to Babylon. Thus, with the necessary addition of Joakim, the three classes, each containing fourteen generations, are complete. And to make this the more evident, I shall set down each of these three generations in a separate column, with the additional Joakim, that the reader may have them all at one view.
1 Abraham 1 Solomon 1 Jechonias 2 Isaac 2 Rehoboam 2 Salathiel 3 Jacob 3 Abia 3 Zorobabel 4 Judah 4 Asa 4 Abiud 5 Pharez 5 Josaphat 5 Eliakim 6 Esrom 6 Joram 6 Azor 7 Aram 7 Ozias 7 Sadoc 8 Aminadab 8 Joatham 8 Achim 9 Naason 9 Achaz 9 Eliud 10 Salmon 10 Ezekias 10 Eleazar 11 Booz 11 Manasses 11 Matthan 12 Obed 12 Amon 12 Jacob 13 Jesse 13 Josias 13 Joseph 14 david 14 joachim 14 jesus
In all forty-two generations.
Jechonias begat Salathiel - After Jechonias was brought to Babylon, he was put in prison by Nebuchadnezzar, where he continued till the death of this prince, and the accession of Evilmerodach, who brought him out of prison, in which he had been detained thirty-seven years, and restored him to such favor that his throne (seat) was exalted above all the kings which were with him in Babylon: Jer 52:31, Jer 52:32. But though he thus became a royal favorite, he was never restored to his kingdom. And, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah, Jer 22:30, no man of his seed sat upon the throne of David; yet the regal line was continued through his son Salathiel, who died in Babylon: but Zorobabel, his son, returned from captivity, and by him the race of David was continued, according to Matthew, by Abiud; and, according to Luke, by Rhesa. See on Luk 3:23 (note), etc.
The term carrying away to Babylon, μετοικεσια, from μετοικεω, to change a habitation, or place of residence, would be more properly translated by the word transportation, which is here peculiarly appropriate: the change was not voluntary; they were forced away.
Jesus, who is called Christ - As the word Χριστος Christ, signifies the anointed or anointer, from χριω, to anoint, it answers exactly to the Hebrew משיח mashiach, which we pronounce Messiah or Messias; this word comes from the root משח mashac, signifying the same thing. As the same person is intended by both the Hebrew and Greek appellation, it should be regularly translated The Messiah, or The Christ; whichever is preferred, the demonstrative article should never be omitted.
Priests, prophets, and kings, among the Jews, were anointed in order to the legitimate exercise of their respective offices. Hence the word Χριστος Christ, or משיח Mashiach, became a name of dignity, and often signified the same as king. See Isa 45:1; Psa 105:15; Lev 4:3; Lev 6:20; Sa1 2:10. The words משיח Mashiach and מלך melec, Χριστος and βασιλευς, Christ and king, are frequently interchanged. Sa1 2:10; Psa 2:2, Psa 2:6; Luk 23:2; and see the Scholia of Rosenmuller on this place. The reason of this may be seen in the following note, which I extract from the comment on Exo 29:7.
"It appears from Isa 61:1, that anointing with oil, in consecrating a person to any important office, whether civil or religious, was considered as an emblem of the communication of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. This ceremony was used on three occasions, viz. the installation of prophets, priests, and kings, into their respective offices. But why should such an anointing be deemed necessary? Because the common sense of men taught them that all good, whether spiritual or secular, must come from God, its origin and cause. Hence it was taken for granted,
1. That no man could foretell events, unless inspired by the Spirit of God. And therefore the prophet was anointed, to signify the communication of the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge.
2. That no person could offer an acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of men, or profitably minister in holy things, unless enlightened, influenced, and directed, by the Spirit of grace and holiness. Hence the priest was anointed, to signify his being divinely qualified for the due performance of his sacred functions.
3. That no man could enact just and equitable laws, which should have the prosperity of the community and the welfare of the individual continually in view, or could use the power confided to him only for the suppression of vice and the encouragement of virtue, but that man who was ever under the inspiration of the Almighty.
Hence kings were inaugurated by anointing with oil. Two of these offices only exist in all civilized nations, the sacerdotal and regal; and, in some countries, the priest and king are still consecrated by anointing. In the Hebrew language משח mashach signifies to anoint; and משיח mashiach, the anointed person. But as no man was ever dignified by holding the three offices, so no person ever had the title Mashiach, the anointed one, but Jesus, The Christ. He alone is King of kings, and Lord of lords: the king who governs the universe, and rules in the hearts of his followers; the prophet, to instruct men in the way wherein they should go; and the great high priest, to make atonement for their sins. Hence he is called the Messias, a corruption of the word המשיח ha-mashiach, The anointed One, in Hebrew; which gave birth to ὁ Χριστος ho Christos, which has precisely the same signification in Greek: of him, Melchisedeck, Abraham, Aaron, David, and others, were illustrious types. But none of these had the title of The Messiah, or The Anointed of God. This does, and ever will, belong exclusively to Jesus, The Christ."
Fourteen generations - See the note on Mat 1:11. The Jews had a sort of technical method of summing up generations in this way. In Synopsis Sohar, p. 132, n. 18, we have the following words; "From Abraham to Solomon were fifteen generations; and then the moon was at the full. From Solomon to Zedekiah were other fifteen generations; the moon was then in the wane, and Zedekiah's eyes were put out." That is, the regal state came to its zenith of light and glory in the time of Solomon; but decreased gradually, till it became nearly extinct in the days of Zedekiah. See Schoetgen.
Espoused to Joseph - The word μνηστευθεισης, from μνηστευω, to contract, or betroth, refers to the previous marriage agreement, in which the parties mutually bound themselves to each other; without which, no woman was ever married among the Jews. Among the Hindoos, a woman is espoused often a whole year, and even longer before the marriage takes place.
Before they came together - The woman was espoused at her own, or her father's house; and, generally, some time elapsed before she was taken home to the house of her husband: Deu 20:7; Jdg 14:7, Jdg 14:8. This custom has been immemorially observed among the inhabitants of Ireland, who have not only this, but many Asiatic customs, which, added to various authentic historic proofs, are collateral evidences that they received the Christian religion, not from the popes of Rome, but through the means of Asiatic missionaries.
Among the Jews, the espousal, though the marriage had not been consummated, was considered as perfectly legal and binding on both sides; and hence a breach of this contract was considered as a case of adultery, and punished exactly in the same way. See Deu 22:25, Deu 22:28. Nor could a contract of this kind, though there was no cohabitation, be broken but by a regular divorce, as Mr. Selden, in his Uxor Hebraica, has proved at large from the Jewish rabbins.
She was found with child - Her situation was the most distressing and humiliating that can be conceived. Nothing but the fullest consciousness of her own integrity, and the strongest confidence in God, could have supported her in such trying circumstances, where her reputation, her honor, and her life were at stake. What conversation passed between her and Joseph, on this discovery, we are not informed; but the issue proves that it was not satisfactory to him: nor could he resolve to consider her as his wife, till God had sent his angel to bear the most unequivocal testimony to the virgin's innocence. His whole conduct, on this occasion, was exceedingly benevolent and humane. He might at once have taken the advantage of the law, Deu 22:23, Deu 22:24, and had her stoned to death.
To make her a public example - Παραδειγματισαι, to expose her to public infamy; from παρα, near, and δεικνυμαι, I show, or expose; what is oddly, though emphatically, called in England, showing up - exposing a character to public view. Though Joseph was a righteous man, δικαιος, and knew that the law required that such persons as he supposed his wife to be should be put to death, yet, as righteousness is ever directed by mercy, he determined to put her away or divorce her privately, i.e. without assigning any cause, that her life might be saved; and, as the offense was against himself, he had a right to pass it by if he chose. Some have supposed that the term δικαιος should be translated merciful, and it certainly often has this signification; but here it is not necessary.
That which is conceived (or formed) in her - So I think γεννηθεν should be translated in this place: as it appears that the human nature of Jesus Christ was a real creation in the womb of the virgin, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The angel of the Lord mentioned here was probably the angel Gabriel, who, six months before, bad been sent to Zacharias and Elisabeth, to announce the birth of Christ's forerunner, John the Baptist. See Luk 1:36.
Jesus - The same as Joshua, יהושע Yehoshua, from ישע yasha, he saved, delivered, put in a state of safety. See on Exo 13:9 (note); Num 13:16 (note), and in the preface to Joshua.
He shall save his people from their sins - This shall be his great business in the world: the great errand on which he is come, viz. to make an atonement for, and to destroy, sin: deliverance from all the power, guilt, and pollution of sin, is the privilege of every believer in Christ Jesus. Less than this is not spoken of in the Gospel; and less than this would be unbecoming the Gospel. The perfection of the Gospel system is not that it makes allowances for sin, but that it makes an atonement for it: not that it tolerates sin, but that it destroys it. In Mat 1:1, he is called Jesus Christ, on which Dr. Lightfoot properly remarks, "That the name of Jesus, so often added to the name of Christ in the New Testament, is not only that Christ might be thereby pointed out as the Savior, but also that Jesus might be pointed out as the true Christ or Messiah, against the unbelief of the Jews." This observation will be of great use in numberless places of the New Testament. See Act 2:36; Act 8:35; Co1 16:22; Jo1 2:22; Jo1 4:15, etc.
By the prophet - Isaiah is added here by several MSS., versions, and fathers. The prophecy is taken from Isa 7:14.
Behold, a virgin shall be with child - We have already seen, from the preceding verse, that this prophecy is taken from Isa 7:14; but it may be necessary to consider the circumstances of the original promise more particularly. At the time referred to, the kingdom of Judah, under the government of Ahaz, was reduced very low. Pekah, king of Israel, had slain in Judea 120,000 persons in one day, and carried away captives 200,000, including women and children, together with much spoil. To add to their distress, Rezin, king of Syria, being confederate with Pekah, had taken Elath, a fortified city of Judah, and carried the inhabitants away captive to Damascus. In this critical conjuncture, need we wonder that Ahaz was afraid that the enemies who were now united against him must prevail, destroy Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Judah, and annihilate the family of David! To meet and remove this fear, apparently well grounded, Isaiah is sent from the Lord to Ahaz, swallowed up now both by sorrow and by unbelief, in order to assure him that the counsels of his enemies should not stand; and that they should be utterly discomfited. To encourage Ahaz, he commands him to ask a sign or miracle, which should be a pledge in hand, that God should, in due time, fulfill the predictions of his servant, as related in the context. On Ahaz humbly refusing to ask any sign, it is immediately added, Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son; and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, etc. Both the Divine and human nature of our Lord, as well as the miraculous conception, appear to be pointed out in the prophecy quoted here by the evangelist: - He shall be called עמנו־אל IM-MENU-EL; literally, The Strong God with Us: similar to those words in the New Testament: - The Word which was God - was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth: Joh 1:1, Joh 1:14. And, God was manifested in the flesh: Ti1 3:16. So that we are to understand, God with us, to imply God incarnated - God in human nature. This seems farther evident from the words of the prophet, Isa 7:15. Butter and honey shall he eat - he shall be truly man, grow up and be nourished in a human, natural way; which refers to his being With Us, i.e. incarnated. To which the prophet adds, That he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good: - or rather, According to his knowledge, לדעתו le-daato, reprobating the evil, and choosing the good. This refers to him as God; and is the same idea given by this prophet, Isa 53:11 : By (or in) his knowledge (the knowledge of Christ crucified, בדעתו be-daato) shall my righteous servant sanctify many; for he shall bear their offenses. Now this union of the Divine and human nature is termed a sign or miracle, אות oth, i.e. something which exceeds the power of nature to produce. And this miraculous union was to be brought about in a miraculous way: Behold a Virgin shall conceive: the word is very emphatic, העלמה ha-almah, The virgin; the only one that ever was, or ever shall be, a mother in this way. But the Jews, and some called Christians, who have espoused their desperate cause, assert, that "the word עלמה almah does not signify a Virgin only; for it is applied, Pro 30:19, to signify a young married woman." I answer, that this latter text is no proof of the contrary doctrine: the words דרך גבר בעלמה derec geber be-almah, the way of a man with a maid, cannot be proved to mean that for which it is produced: beside, one of De Rossi's MSS. reads בעלמיו be-almaiu, the way of a strong, or stout, man (גבר geber) In His Youth; and in this reading the Syriac, Septuagint, Vulgate, and Arabic agree, which are followed by the first version in the English language, as it stands in a MS. in my own possession - the weie of a man in his waring youthe; so that this place, the only one that can with any probability of success be produced, were the interpretation contended for correct, which I am by no means disposed to admit, proves nothing. Beside, the consent of so many versions in the opposite meaning deprives it of much of its influence in this question.
The word עלמה almah, comes from עלם alam, to lie hid, be concealed; and we are told that "virgins were so called, because they were concealed or closely kept up in their fathers' houses, till the time of their marriage." This is not correct: see the case of Rebecca, Gen 24:43 (note), and my note there: that of Rachel, Gen 29:6, Gen 29:9, and the note there also: and see the case of Miriam, the sister of Moses, Exo 2:8, and also the Chaldee paraphrase on Lam 1:4, where the virgins are represented as going out in the dance. And see also the whole history of Ruth. This being concealed, or kept at home, on which so much stress is laid, is purely fanciful; for we find that young unmarried women drew water, kept sheep, gleaned publicly in the fields, etc., etc., and the same works they perform among the Turcomans to the present day. This reason, therefore, does not account for the radical meaning of the word; and we must seek it elsewhere. Another well known and often used root in the Hebrew tongue will cast light on this subject. This is גלה galah, which signifies to reveal, make manifest, or uncover, and is often applied to matrimonial connections, in different parts of the Mosaic law: עלם alam, therefore, may be considered as implying the concealment of the virgin, as such, till lawful marriage had taken place. A virgin was not called עלמה almah, because she was concealed by being kept at home in her father's house, which is not true, but literally and physically, because, as a woman, she had not been uncovered - she had not known man. This fully applies to the blessed virgin: see Luk 1:34. "How can this be, seeing I know no man?" and this text throws much light on the subject before us. This also is in perfect agreement with the ancient prophecy, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent," Gen 3:15; for the person who was to destroy the work of the devil was to be the progeny of the woman, without any concurrence of the man. And, hence, the text in Genesis speaks as fully of the virgin state of the person, from whom Christ, according to the flesh, should come, as that in the prophet, or this in the evangelist. According to the original promise, there was to be a seed, a human being, who should destroy sin; but this seed or human being must come from the woman Alone; and no woman Alone, could produce such a human being, without being a virgin. Hence, A virgin shall bear a son, is the very spirit and meaning of the original text, independently of the illustration given by the prophet; and the fact recorded by the evangelist is the proof of the whole. But how could that be a sign to Ahaz, which was to take place so many hundreds of years after? I answer, the meaning of the prophet is plain: not only Rezin and Pekah should be unsuccessful against Jerusalem at that time, which was the fact; but Jerusalem, Judea, and the house of David, should be both preserved, notwithstanding their depressed state, and the multitude of their adversaries, till the time should come when a Virgin should bear a son. This is a most remarkable circumstance - the house of David could never fail, till a virgin should conceive and bear a son - nor did it: but when that incredible and miraculous fact did take place, the kingdom and house of David became extinct! This is an irrefragable confutation of every argument a Jew can offer in vindication of his opposition to the Gospel of Christ. Either the prophecy in Isaiah has been fulfilled, or the kingdom and house of David are yet standing. But the kingdom of David, we know, is destroyed: and where is the man, Jew or Gentile, that can show us a single descendant of David on the face of the earth? The prophecy could not fail - the kingdom and house of David have failed; the virgin, therefore, must have brought forth her son - and this son is Jesus, the Christ. Thus Moses, Isaiah, and Matthew concur; and facts, the most unequivocal, have confirmed the whole! Behold the wisdom and providence of God!
Notwithstanding what has been said above, it may be asked, In what sense could this name Immanuel be applied to Jesus Christ, if he be not truly and properly God? Could the Spirit of truth ever design that Christians should receive him as an angel or a mere man, and yet, in the very beginning of the Gospel history, apply a character to him which belongs only to the most high God? Surely no. In what sense, then, is Christ God With Us? Jesus is called Immanuel, or God with us, in his incarnation. - God united to our nature - God with man - God in man. - God with us, by his continual protection. - God with us, by the influences of his Holy Spirit - in the holy sacrament - in the preaching of his word - in private prayer. And God with us, through every action of our life, that we begin, continue, and end in his name. He is God with us, to comfort, enlighten, protect, and defend us in every time of temptation and trial, in the hour of death, in the day of judgment; and God with us, and in us, and we with and in him, to all eternity.
Her first - born son - Τον υιον αυτης τον πρω-οτοκον. Literally, That son of hers, the first-born one. That Mary might have had other children, any person may reasonably and piously believe; that she had others, many think exceedingly probable, and that this text is at least an indirect proof of it. However this may be, the perpetual virginity of Mary should not be made an article of faith. God has not made it one: indeed it can hardly bear the light of several texts in the Gospels.
He knew her not - Had no matrimonial intercourse with her - Till she had brought forth that son of hers, of whom the evangelist had been just speaking, the first-born, the eldest of the family, to whom the birthright belonged, and who was miraculously born before she knew any man, being yet in a state of virginity. See on Mat 13:55 (note). The virginity of Mary, previously to the birth of Christ, is an article of the utmost consequence to the Christian system; and therefore it is an article of faith: her perpetual virginity is of no consequence; and the learned labor spent to prove it has produced a mere castle in the air. The thing is possible; but it never has been, and never can be proved.
He called his name Jesus - This name was given by the command of God, see Mat 1:16, and was imposed on Christ when eight days old; for then, according to the Jewish law, he was circumcised: thus he had the name of Savior given when he first began to shed that blood without which there could be no remission of sins.
The goodness of God is manifested, not only in his giving his Son to save a lost world, but also in the choice of the persons who were his progenitors: among whom we find, First, Saints, to excite our courage: Abraham, remarkable for his faith; Isaac, for his obedience; and Jacob, for his fervor and constancy.
Secondly, Penitent Sinners, to excite our confidence: such as David, Manasses, etc.
Thirdly, Sinners, of whose repentance and salvation we hear nothing; to put us on our guard. Who can read the account of idolatrous Solomon, who, from the whole evidence of the sacred history, died In his sins, without trembling?
Four Women are mentioned in this genealogy: two of these were adulteresses, Tamar and Bathsheba; and two were Gentiles, Rahab and Ruth, and strangers to the covenant of promise; to teach us that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and that, though strangers to his people, we are not on that account excluded from a salvation which God has designed for all men. He is not the God of the Jews only; he is also the God of the Gentiles.
The state of the royal family of David, the circumstances of the holy virgin and her spouse Joseph, the very remarkable prophecy of Isaiah, the literal and circumstantial fulfillment of it, the names given to our blessed Lord, the genealogical scroll of the family, etc., etc., are all so many proofs of the wisdom, goodness, and providence of God. Every occurrence seems, at first view, to be abandoned to fortuitous influence, and yet the result of each shows that God managed the whole. These circumstances are of the greatest importance; nor can the Christian reader reflect on them without an increase of his faith and his piety.