|Vol. VII, No. 4
Tamuz 5609, July 1849
The Messiah’s Descent
It may be objected, that there is an incredibility in the thirteen generations, from the captivity to Christ, as they cover a period of about 584 years, and furnish nearly 45 years, on an average, to each generation. The first list of fourteen, which is in precise accordance with the sacred record, covers a period of 917 years, and gives the greater sum of 65 to each name: the intermediate period of 416 years, furnishes nearly 30 to each name. These are the reckonings of Christians: the chronology at present current among the Jews, diminishes the period of the last fourteen nearly a century, and would, if admissible, contribute so much to the removal of the imagined difficulty. The genealogy of Zerubbabel, from Judah, gives 27 names: while the genealogy of Ezra, from Levi, extending over the same period, gives only 19 names, (Ezra vii. 1, 5;) yet neither Jew nor Christian ever thinks that there is any difficulty in these chronologies. We must not overlook the fact, which may have an important bearing on this subject, that in tracing the descent of a royal title, we may often find it transmitted in one person, over the period of two natural generations. David was the reigning king forty years, and transmitted the kingdom to one of his youngest sons, who reigned also forty years. Had the French line of royalty lain in the Orleans family, and the sceptre been given to Louis Philippe, upon his father’s death, the kingdom would have belonged to him considerably more than fifty years, and then, with one <<200>>natural generation left out, would have passed to his grandson, and here it might remain another half century, and then pass to another grandson. The point to which I wish to come, is precisely this, that Matthew’s great object was to trace the descent of the royal title, or to show how God always preserved among the .Jews a man who could prove his right to the sceptre of David, until finally Christ presented himself in his right.
The Jew himself, who, for special reasons, will not acknowledge the right of the last member, may still find in this genealogy much to interest him, and to strengthen his faith in the word of God. It is most deeply interesting to all of us to observe how the royal family, in which the promise rested, made so many hair-breadth escapes from being universally put to death, from being lost in other families, and from losing even its own consciousness of its origin, and, notwithstanding, was preserved from age to age. It was a dark day for the house of David, when forty-two of the brethren of the king, and, about the same time, the king himself, Ahaziah, were all put to death by Jehu; this day was still darker when Athaliah, the mother of the king, determined, upon his death, to destroy all the remaining seed royal, and thought that she had succeeded; yet God preserved the son of Ahaziah, and gave him a secure hiding-place for six years in the house of a priest. It was another almost desperate day for the house of David, when afflictions, like a flood, came upon the house of Josiah—when the first royal successor was taken to Egypt, and there doomed to hopeless exile, when the second son was taken to Babylon, where he lay in prison thirty-seven years, and when the remaining royal son was forced to see all his children slain, and was also made a blind exile. Behold the Omniscient watching over the seed of his anointed David, in the darkness of exile, and of the Babylonish prison; and mark this testimony of Matthew, that the rightful heirs of David, with all their obscurity under the second temple, always remained known. Behold there seventy heads of the sons of Ahab lying in baskets, and the whole house exterminated: see that glittering sword cutting down scores of the unworthy posterity of David, but, when it comes just to that point where it would cut the promise to David, it mysteriously retires: an unseen hand holds it. Who would not trust this faithful God?
Here the objection meets us, that our cause expires just at the last point, as we deny the natural descent of Jesus from Joseph. This, though not his natural, was his apparent descent; and Joseph, from the time of his espousing Mary, was, according to law, her husband and possessor. There was, at all events, no greater estrangement between Joseph and Jesus, than there was between a deceased brother and the heir whom a surviving brother gave him, according to the Jewish law. The Christian view gives special and tangible meaning to the promises of God, in relation to a future heir of David, that God should be his father; this possibly hints that there should rise up an heir in the family of David, who should be the son of God in a higher sense than that in which David himself was the son of God. It is a remarkable fact, that Isaiah points out the Messiah both as the Branch of God, and as a rod of David’s root: a tangible reality may be signified in both expressions. We may well fear that we indulge in unwarrantable presumption and unbelief, when we assert of any particular point in the fulfillment of God’s promises to David, that this is a point in which God cannot miraculously interpose. God did wonderfully interpose to give Abraham an heir; and <<202>>Christians only assert a miracle a little more independent of natural means.
The conception of Jesus Christ is not a mere miracle in Christian history, but an essential point in Christian theology. If all the human family have fallen, in the first parent, into a condition of sin and misery, it was essential that the great Deliverer should not be among the fallen. As the first Adam, the great representative, and in that station the destroyer of men, was the son of God,—so must the second Adam and representative, and in that representation the Saviour, also be the son of God. David was to have an heir, who should never experience the humiliation of David’s confession, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm li. 5.)
I commenced this letter, Mr. Editor, hoping to go over the genealogy of Luke also; but the subject has grown excessively on my hands. My best respects to your correspondent W.
Yours, most respectfully,
M. R. MILLER.
NOTE BY THE EDITOR.—According to our rule, we permit our former correspondent “Talmid” to state his objection to the letter of Mr. Dias, with respect to the discrepancy of the Evangelists Matthew and Luke, regarding the genealogy of Joseph, the putative father of Jesus of Nazareth. We will give Mr. Miller full credit for what he alleges, grant all he claims; but, to use a rabbinical phrase, “the difficulty comes back to its original place:” if Jesus was not the son of Joseph, he could not be a descendant from David, no matter how correctly soever the genealogy be traced. The question is, “Is the Messiah to be a son of David? Yes, or no?” If “yes,” a divine descent, a conception by the Holy Ghost, admitting its existence, is not a lineal descent from David: if “no,” then is there no occasion to establish, by genealogical tables, what is perfectly useless. Our correspondent has, therefore, not answered the Jewish objections to the conception, birth, parentage, and lineage of his Messiah, his second and integral part of the Christian godhead.