סֵפֶר תּוֹלְדוֹת יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ בֶּן־דָּוִד בֶּן־אַבְרָהָם

“The book of the genealogy of Yeshua the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Matthew 1:1

Many common objections against the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth are based on His genealogies, as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In fact, the genealogies of the entire Bible, both Tanakh and New Testament present a number of difficult challenges. However, it is important to note, that when we approach Biblical genealogies, we must be careful to review the text line by line, carefully examining the names, the historical circumstances, manuscripts and potential solutions to the issues.

This is a complex task, so most anti-missionaries and skeptics grasp only a superficial understanding of the text, without exerting the effort to understand the meaning and implications of the passages. Moreover, without the component of Jewish tradition, understanding these passages becomes extremely difficult. They can be resolved though diligence and careful study. We will be presenting a series of articles on this subject. In this first article, we will focus on perhaps the most difficult argument surrounding the genealogies:

 “If Yeshua is born of a virgin,
he cannot be the Son of David,
since Mary descends from Nathan, not Solomon.”


SOLOMON OR NATHAN?

According to the Tanakh, one of the requirements of the King Messiah is that he must be a Son of David.

“Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name by which he shall be called: HaShem our righteousness.”
Jeremiah 23:5-6

The Tanakh lists David’s sons as follows:

“Now these were the sons of David, who were born to him in Hebron: the firstborn, Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; the second, Daniel, of Abigail the Carmelitess; the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah of Abital; the sixth, Ithream by Eglah his wife: six were born to him in Hebron; and there he reigned seven years and six months. In Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years; and these were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimea, and Shobab, and Nathan, and Solomon, four, of Bathshua the daughter of Ammiel.”
1 Chronicles 3:1-5

Of the ten sons of David listed, Solomon is singled out:

“Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his enemies all around; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.”
1 Chronicles 22:9-10

So, if the throne of “his kingdom” is Solomon’s, how can Yeshua be Messiah, since, according to Luke’s genealogy, he is not physically from Solomon? Luke’s genealogy records Miriam’s line as opposed to Matthew’s genealogy which records Joseph’s line. According to Luke, Miriam descends from Nathan, the son of David, not Solomon. (We will explain and examine the differences and reasons between these two genealogies in a future article in this series.)

HEPHZIBAH AND MENACHEM

The Zohar makes an incredibly fascinating statement,

מְבַשֶּׂרֶת צִיּוֹן, דָּא אִיהִי חֶפְצִי בָּהּ, אִתְּתָא דְּנָתָן בַּר דָּוִד. אִימָּא אִיהִי דִּמְשִׁיחָא, מְנַחֵם בַּ”ר עַמִּיאֵ”ל, וְאִיהִי תִּיפּוּק וּתְבַשֵּׂר,וְאִיהִי בִּכְלָלָא דִּמְבַשֶּׂרֶת צִיּוֹן

“You that bring good tidings to Zion” is Hephzibah, the wife of Nathan son of David, who is the mother of Messiah, Menachem son of Amiel, WHO WAS HER DESCENDANT. She shall go out and bring the tidings ABOUT REDEMPTION and she is part of the general meaning of: “You that bring good tidings to Zion.”
Zohar III:173b, Parashat Shlach Lekha 45:298, Zohar.com 

In Jewish Aggadah, the mother of the Messiah is named “Hephzibah” which means, “My Delight is in Her.” This is apparently based on the passage applying to Israel,

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall your land any more be termed Desolate: but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah (married); for HaShem delights in you, and your land shall be married.”
Isaiah 62:4, cf. 2 Kings 2:11

Sefer Zerubavel makes an interesting comment,

“This is the Messiah of the Lord who is hidden here until the time of the End, and his name is Menahem son of ‘Amiel, and he was born in the days of David king of Israel, and the spirit carried him and hid him here until the time of the End.” And I asked Metatron and he said to me: “The Holy One, blessed be He, will give the staff of salvation to Hephzibah, the mother of Menachem, and a star shall shine before her…”
Sefer Zerubavel, cited in The Messiah Texts by Raphael Patai, Wayne State University Press, pg 125

The text goes on to describe the role that Hephzibah will play in the end times. The name “Menachem ben Amiel” for the Messiah is interesting. ‘Menachem’ in Hebrew means “comforter”, and is apparently based on this verse,

“For these things I weep; my eye, my eye runs down with water;
Because the comforter who should refresh my soul is far from me:
My children are desolate, because the enemy has prevailed.”
Lamentations 1:16

It is remarkable that the Zohar, out of the ten sons of David, focuses on Nathan, just as the Gospel of Luke does. Chabad.org notes the brilliant commentary of R’ Reuven Margolies on this difficult passage in the Zohar:

“The famed 20th-century Jewish scholar and kabbalist Rabbi Reuven Margolies explains that the Zohar is careful to describe the Moshiach as being a descendant of Nathan’s wife, rather than of Nathan himself. Nathan had passed away childless, and Solomon his brother married his widow, according to the laws of yibum, levirate marriage. In a levirate marriage, the firstborn son of the widow and the brother of the deceased is considered to be a continuation of the dead husband’s line. Therefore, Moshiach is referred to here as “offspring” of Nathan, even though he is a descendant of King Solomon.”
Chabad.org, Is the Messiah a Descendant of King Solomon, Yehuda Shurpin

Tzemach David

Miriam is a direct physical descendant from Solomon, although it is legally counted to Nathan. Yeshua descends not only legally from David and Solomon through Joseph, but also physically. Yeshua is indeed the Branch of David who will wear the crown and restore Israel and the world to perfect peace. In the Siddur, the following prayer is part of the Shemoneh Esrei, the Eighteen Benedictions,

אֶת צֶמַח דָּוִד עַבְדְּךָ מְהֵרָה תַצְמִיחַ וְקַרְנו תָּרוּם בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ
כִּי לִישׁוּעָתְךָ קִוִּינוּ וְצִפִּינוּ כָּל הַיּום
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, מַצְמִיחַ קֶרֶן יְשׁוּעָה

“Speedily cause the Branch of David, Your servant, to flourish,
and let his horn be exalted by Your salvation,
because we wait for Your salvation all the day. Blessed are you HaShem,
who causes the horn of Salvation to flourish.”
– Prayer for the Davidic Reign, The Amidah


 

REFERENCES

  1. Is Messiah a Descendant of King Solmon, Chabad.org