At Christmastime, most people skip the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. But a study of this genealogy yields many valuable insights, a number of which focus on the five women listed among Jesus’ ancestors: Tamar (v. 3), Rahab (v. 5), Ruth (v. 5), Bathsheba (v. 6), and Mary (v. 16). The first four were foreigners (not Israelites/Jews) and all five of them could have been accused by society of having questionable moral character. And yet God chose them to be part of the line that produced the Son of God in human form!
Tamar’s story is told in Genesis 38. It is a rather sordid tale, in which she (a Canaanite) is both victim and opportunist. She was victimized by her father-in-law Judah, who offered his three sons to her one after another and eventually fathered twin sons of his own with her. In order to achieve her desire for sons, Tamar dressed up as a prostitute and offered herself to him. Yet one of the twins went on to be in the lineage of Jesus.
Rahab’s story is told in Joshua 2 and 6. She was a Canaanite prostitute who gained God’s favor by welcoming and protecting the Israelite spies in Joshua 2 and by declaring her faith in Israel’s God in no uncertain terms (vv. 9-11).
Ruth’s story is told in the book of Ruth, and it is the opposite of Tamar’s—a beautiful story of family loyalty and God’s providential working out all things for good. And yet, like Tamar, Ruth was also a foreigner (a Moabite), and she too could have been accused by society of loose morals when she lay down at Boaz’s feet late at night and “uncovered his feet” (Ruth 3:8). (I do not think that anything untoward actually happened, but this would likely have raised eyebrows in Israel.)
Bathsheba’s story is told in 2 Samuel 11-12 (and later on). She was married to a Hittite man, Uriah—and thus was presumably a foreigner herself. She bathed herself in full view of King David’s royal abode, and David responded by taking her for himself. She cannot be faulted for David’s sin in forcing himself on her, but her actions that preceded this were questionable.
Mary, Jesus’ mother, was the only Jew among the five women, but she too was open to society’s condemnation, since she became pregnant while she was unmarried.
The potential lessons here are many, but I will only highlight this: God included women who were on the margins of Israelite/Jewish society (most were foreigners, and all would have been marginalized for their supposed poor morals) to accomplish one of the most important events in human history: the birth of God himself in human form. What a wonderful reminder of God’s grace and his inclusion of the marginalized in accomplishing his purposes!
David M. Howard, Jr., PhD
Professor of Old Testament
- Pray that we would have eyes to see and care for the marginalized among us.
- Pray for our students and their teachers as they enter the final weeks of the semester.
- Pray that God would begin to bring us the right students to join us in the Fall of 2022. Our admissions and recruitment efforts are underway, and we are taking applications.
- Pray for Serious Joy: The 34th Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, which we will be relaunching in February 2022. Our theme is Gravity and Gladness in a Groaning World. Pray for both our preparation and the pastors who will be joining us.
- Pray whether God might be calling you to begin, reactivate, or increase your support of the Serious Joy Scholarships which allow our students to graduate and launch immediately into life and ministry without a burden of student loan debt.