How to Read a Biblical Genealogy

HOW TO READ (2).png

Good morning!

This post is one that came to me a few mornings ago…as I was thinking about difficult passages in the Bible. You know, I think as Christians–we are all too quick to pass up passages in the Bible that we find difficult to process. And I may be the chief of skipping the hard passages. So what should we do about it?

Don’t skip reading the passage! There is actually a profitable way to read these passages. My goal is to organize my thoughts on reading such passages , and sharing other peoples’  helpful tips as well.

So let’s talk genealogies.

Matthew 1:1-17

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[a] and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon,and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,[b] and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,[c] and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,[d] and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob,16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

This look familiar? It should. It’s one of the many genealogies I’ve skipped over before. It’s also the genealogy that I want to discuss today.

Tip #1: Read the passage through from start to finish. 

It sounds plenty easy, so why do we skip it? Well…sometimes I’ve personally skipped it because I didn’t get why it was important. Or I’ll think: “There are better passages to occupy my time.”. But I think it’s important for us to remember that the Bible is concerned with redemptive historical stuff. And lineage is important (if it’s in the Bible, I wouldn’t assume it’s unimportant. I am the worst when it comes to this!). In this particular genealogy found in Matthew one–it tells you the ancestors of Christ.

Tips #2: Make a mental or literal note of names you recognize.

Tip #3: Do the same for the ones you don’t recognize.

I might even try to write it down in a journal. It’s great if for your personal study you keep a notebook to jot down things.  It really helps me to think clearly, although obviously everyone’s different.

The names I knew.
The names I didn’t know.

Here’s a list of the one’s I recognized and identified right off the bat…

Names I know…                                                                Names I didn’t know…

  • Abraham                                                              *Hezron
  • Isaac                                                                     *Ram
  • Jacob                                                                     *Amminadab
  • Judah + brothers                                                * Nahshon
  • Perez & Zerah (twin brothers)                        * Salmon
  • Tamar                                                                   * Abijah
  • Boaz                                                                      * Asaph
  • Rahab                                                                   *Joram
  • Obed                                                                     *Uzziah
  • Jesse                                                                     *Jotham
  • David                                                                    * Ahaz
  • Solomon                                                              * Manasseh
  • Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite.            *Amos
  • Rehoboam                                                            * Jechoniah
  • Jehoshaphat                                                         * Shealtiel
  • Hezekiah                                                               * Zerubbabel
  • Josiah                                                                     * Abiud
  • Joseph & Mary                                                      * Eliakim
  • Christ Jesus                                                           * Azor
  •                                                                                  * Zadok (not the preist)
  •                                                                                  * Achim
  •                                                                                   * Eliud
  •                                                                                   * Eleazer (not Aaron’s son)
  •                                                                                   * Matthan
  •                                                                                   * Jacob (not the supplanter)


Tip #4: Look up the names you didn’t know on a Bible search or a concordance.

For this I would say watch out for the kings of Israel. I did this part of the genealogy with my friend Emily (from guest post) and we kept running into the wrong one. Just keep in mind that Jesus was descended from the tribe of Judah. So you’re looking for the kings of Judah. Another thing you ought to be aware of–is that some of the names are translated in a variated form. Meaning that some of the kings especially had a different variant of their names. Example: Joram was also called Jehoram. But most of you probably already know that.

Once we had looked up all the names, Em and I wrote snippets down about each of them. I won’t write the list we came up with here, because it would end up too long a post. Instead I’ll just share the photo I took of the notebook.


Tip #5: Look for strange characters or phrases in the genealogy.

Here are some simple examples:

a. Tamar’s inclusion. She acted as a prostitute! Now that should make us scratch our heads a little. Why is Tamar in the genealogy of the Christ? This should get the wheels turning. I won’t provide any fancy exposition on this (I wouldn’t know where to begin, and I’m not all that qualified 🙂 ) I would recommend going back and reading that passage found here. But I will mention to you that Judah at the end of that cringe-worthy narrative says something interesting:

 “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.”

~Genesis 38:26

And keep in mind that even sinful Judah was chosen as a type of Christ. Not to mention that his line was chosen for the Messiah! It just shows that God chooses the most unexpected ones as the means. And it pleases Him to do so.

b. Rahab’s inclusion. It is thought by many that Salmon (father of Boaz) married the same Rahab who hid the spies. If that is indeed the case, that is a ‘strange’ thing also. After all, Rahab was a harlot. Just like Tamar was.

And there are others (Ruth, Bathsheba, etc.).

So read the stories of these strange inclusions. And maybe try a commentary to go with each passage? 🙂


Well, I hope this post has been beneficial to you. I think it has helped me…now I should go compare this genealogy with the one found in Luke three. I just checked and it looks confusing.

Do you ever read a genealogy?

What do you do when you come across a tough passage?

Do you have any things which have made the tough passages easier to understand?

What do you think of the ‘strange’ inclusions in this genealogy?



I love comments, and profitable discussion. Feel free to comment, just please keep comments respectful and free of any profanity or bad language.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s