What is the significance that in Jesus' genealogy Joseph and Mary were both descendants of David, but Joseph was from Solomon and Mary from Nathan? (Matthew 1; Luke 3)
This question touches on an important issue that skeptics frequently point to when discussing Jesus’ claim as Messiah. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Solomon and Nathan were brothers, each sons of king David. However, God revealed to king David that the Messiah who would sit on the throne of David forever would also descend from his son Solomon:
But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever (1 Chr. 22:9-10).
Matthew’s gospel clearly indicates Joseph’s legal lineage from David through Solomon. Jesus’ biological lineage to David is established through Mary, as shown in Luke’s gospel, who was a descendant of David through his son Nathan. While this does not connect her to God’s promise that the Messiah would be born through David’s son Solomon, it does link her and Jesus biologically to the seed of David.
Related to all of this is a prophecy in Jeremiah that skeptics of Jesus’ claim as Messiah often raise. The prophecy is found in Jeremiah 22:3 which reads:
This is what the LORD says: “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.”
According to this prophecy, not one of the offspring of the wicked king Jeconiah, a descendant of Solomon in the Matthew genealogy, would ever sit on David’s throne. This would seem to disqualify Jesus. However, as Jesus was not Joseph’s biological son, he was also not biologically descended from Jeconiah. The virgin birth bypassed God’s curse on Jeconiah yet still permitted Jesus to be counted a legal heir of David's and Solomon’s throne—and biologically of the seed of David though Mary.
Once again, God is seen to fulfill all His promises, even when His own interactions with humanity would appear to put up walls impossible to scale. But, as Gabriel said to Mary, and as Jesus Himself would often remind His disciples, “nothing is impossible with God” (Lk. 1:37; cf. Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:27).
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