Some say that you can find Jesus Christ on every page of the Bible, even in the strangest stories which seem to make no sense. In Numbers 27 we find such a story which turns out to be much needed for Jesus. Even more, without it Jesus would not have been… well, just read the post…
In Jeremiah 22:30, the LORD says, “Write this man down childless, a man who will not prosper in his days; For no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.” This man is Jeconiah (or Jehoiachin) and as it was promised that the Savior would ulimately come from the tribe of Judah and sit on the throne of David, this poses a problem.
We read in Matthew 1 the genealogy of Jesus’ legal father Joseph, which takes a path through David and Solomon and then we read in verses 11-12 the name of Jeconiah (on which there is a blood curse announced and on all his decendants, including Joseph, the legal father of Jesus). We read in Luke 3:23, in Luke’s rendering of Jesus’ genealogy, that Joseph was the son of Heli (which is strange as Matthew says that Jacob was the father of Joseph in Matt. 1:16). When we dig a little further in Luke 3:23 we read that the Greek says ‘hōs nomizō’ which can be translated as ‘reckoned as by law.’ In other words, Joseph was the son-in-law of Heli! This genealogy also takes a right turn after David through Nathan (instead of Solomon) thereby bypassing Jeconiah and thus the bloodcurse.
In Numbers 27:1-11 we read the story of the five daughters of Zelophehad and how they stood before Moses to explain that their father died in the wilderness without leaving any sons, and how these daughters don’t want the name of their father (and thus the possession) to be withdrawn from among his family. Moses checks with God, who says that they will get their hereditary possession and will transfer the inheritance of their father to them (Num. 27:7). And says then that “If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.” (Num. 27:8). Although instituted here, it is applied to them by Joshua in Joshua 17:3-6.
In other words, Joseph, the father of Jesus, had both a legal father (Heli) and a biological father (Jacob), through a Levirate marriage. The theory suggests that Joseph’s grandfathers (Matthan according to Matthew; Matthat according to Luke) were brothers, both married to the same woman, one after the other. This would make Matthan’s son (Jacob) Joseph’s biological father, and Matthat’s son (Heli) Joseph’s legal father. Matthew’s account would trace Jesus’ primary (biological) lineage, and Luke’s record would follow Jesus’ legal lineage. Matthew’s account follows the lineage of Joseph, while Luke’s genealogy is that of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This means that Jacob was Joseph’s biological father, and Heli (Mary’s biological father – as mentioned in the Jewish Talmud Chagigah 77:4) became Joseph’s surrogate father, thus making Joseph Heli’s heir through his marriage to Mary. If Heli had no sons, this would have been the normal custom. Also, if Mary and Joseph lived under the same roof with Heli, his “son-in-law” would have been called “son” and considered a descendent.
Now what does this all mean? In fact, the curse on the royal bloodline was side-stepped by the virgin birth and a specific exception in the Torah, which was associated with the daughters of Zelophehad. The legal line descended through Solomon (the first surviving son of Bathsheba) to Joseph, but he was not the biological father of Jesus. Mary was of the line of David, but through Nathan (the second surviving son of Bathsheba), not Solomon. Applying the provisions of the Zelophehad exception, Heli, the father of Mary, properly adopted Joseph as his son-in-law. Thus meaning that Jesus was indeed from the tribe of Judah yet not affected by the blood curse through the male line.
Amazing, isn’t it!