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The Messiah’s Descent

New York, March 5, 1649.*

To the Editor of the Occident.—Rev. Sir:—Though I have long delayed, I trust that it is not too late to furnish you with a reply to your article in the January number, on the Messiah’s Descent. The highly attractive politeness with which you, as an Editor, have already treated me, enables me to hope that you will give this reply a place in your periodical; and though not an Editor myself, I will promise my best endeavours to secure the publication in Christian papers of the same amount of matter received from you for the use of Christians, which you will publish for me, and thus to repay your readers at least four-fold. Is not this a fair offer?

*The delay in printing this has been unavoidable; other articles also had to wait, and are still awaiting their turn; our space does not permit us to do more than inserting papers when there is a vacancy for them.

The Evangelist Luke carries his genealogy down through many of the ancestors of all nations to the first of men, and thus proves Jesus Christ the relative of all men. Matthew does of carry back his descent farther than Abraham, and his great object was to prove him the son of Abraham and of David. Its was necessary to prove him the son of Abraham, that in the history of Christianity we may acknowledge the grand fulfillment of the promise that in Abraham’s seed all the families of the earth should be blessed. It was equally necessary to prove him the son of David, that in the extension and establishment of his kingdom we may recognise the certainly promised and long expected universal extension and glory of the kingdom of David. At this point the inquiry is appropriate, What were those Divine promises, so often spoken of, which concern all nations, which are a sufficient and undying light to guide our faith through the darkness of all coming ages,—which at the same time concentrate all their light in one dazzling halo around the crown of David? In answer to this question, we might transcribe a great portion of the Bible; but we must confine ourselves to only a few <<126>>verses. 2 Sam. 7: 12-16, God says to David, “I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: but my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.” Ps. 2:6-8, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Ps. 89:27-29. “Also I will make him my first born, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.” 2 Chron. 21:7. “Howbeit the Lord would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he promised to give a light to him and to his sons for ever.” Jer. 23:5, 6. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely, and this is his name whereby he shall be called, the Lord our righteousness.”

Mark here the security and destiny of the throne of David. It was the duty and privilege of every one who came on this throne to contribute to the fulfillment of these promises. No son of David who was not a believer and follower of the God of Israel, was fit to sit on his throne. At the same time, these promises clearly point out a future occupant, distinguished above all others. Matthew, writing especially for the Jews, found it proper in the beginning, to prove that the family of Joseph could trace their descent through David and all the subsequent kings whose right had been owned by God.

We commence with Matthew from Abraham, and pass on over the first fourteen generations to David, and find every <<127>>name precisely in its place, according to the record of the Old Testament.

We then follow up the line through the next fourteen generations from David to the Captivity, and, though we do not find here every name which we find in the Old Testament, yet we find here no new name. Here let the principle be remembered, which we may always apply in the removal of such difficulties, that the Hebrew genealogists did not hold it essential to insert every father and son in their registers. To give one instance out of many, in the genealogy in the First Book of Chronicles, four persons are called the sons of Shem, who, according to Genesis, were the sons of Aram, and only grandsons of Shem. In a closer examination, we find that Matthew has omitted just three names between Jehoram and Uzziah which naturally come in there,—the names of the three kings Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah. There may, however, be a sufficient reason for the exclusion of these persons from the successors of David and from the Messiah’s line. No one of those who preceded them could be omitted, as every one was appointed and owned by God as the rightful successor of David. This was the case with Solomon, Rehoboam, Jehoshaphat and the others; even the wicked Jehoram was acknowledged in the kingdom, because the Lord would not put out the light of the house of David. These three, on the contrary, were never acknowledged by God as the rightful successors of David; they were of the posterity of Ahab which was to be utterly cut off, were abandoned idolaters, and utterly unworthy of the throne of David. Ahaziah was altogether worthy of his maternal descent from the house of Ahab, was always joined with this house, and perished with it. His mother, Athaliah, then possessed the throne of Judah, six years; surely we will not call her a rightful successor of David. Joash, the son of Ahaziah, forsook the God of David, patronized idolatry, and put to death the inspired priest, who was his honest reprover. His son and successor, Amaziah, brought the gods of the conquered children of Seir into Judah, bowed himself before them and offered incense. These men were not only unworthy of the royal dignity, but even of the name of Israel. The curse alone, that rested on the house of Ahab, extending through three generations, was probably sufficient to blot out <<128>>their names from the Messiah’s decent. Leaving out these names, we now carry on the line of descent, beginning with Uzziah, who, with all his sins, was no idolater, through fathers and sons, all of them kings, most of them expressly owned by God, as the rightful successors of David, until we come to Josiah.

Here a similar difficulty again occurs. Matthew passes from Josiah to his grandson, Jeconiah, without placing Jehoiakim in the intermediate generation, where he naturally stands. Some deny that Jehoiakim is omitted, and assert, that as Jeconiah is mentioned twice, it denotes in the first place, Jehoiakim, whose two brothers* also reigned, and who may have had two names, and, in the second instance, Jeconiah, the father of Salathiel. Some suppose that Jehoiakim is omitted on account of his abandoned character: no Jew was allowed, upon his death, to say, “Ah my brother,” he was cast forth from Jerusalem and received the burial of an ass. The learned Turrettinus suggests, that this omission is probably an error of transcribers, and mentions the authority of the ancient Codex, which R. Stephanus and Henricus used, and which Stapulensis and Bucerus commend, for the insertion of Jehoiakim in the line. What appears to me of great weight in support of this view, is, that we cannot make out the second fourteen generations without Jehoiakim. The first fourteen generations begin with Abraham, and include David. The second fourteen, beginning with Solomon, are complete with the name of Jehoiakim after Josiah. The third fourteen, beginning with Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, do not become complete, until we count Jesus himself. Is not this conclusive that Matthew counted Jehoiakim?

*Jechonias and his brethren. Matt.

We now come to the last fourteen generations, where we still have the infallible guide and perfect concurrence of the Old Testament, as far as Zerubbabel. Only nine names intervene between this and Joseph himself. It strikes us that those who speak of existing family resisters, extending back to Saul, Levi, and others, ought to be willing, other things being equal, to trust this brief list of nine.

Another difficulty is, that Zerubbabel is here called the son of <<129>>Salathiel, while in the first Book of Chronicles, he is recorded as the son of Pedaiah. Jews have an equal interest with Christians in the answer of this objection, as Zerubbabel is generally, in the Hebrew Scriptures, called the son of Salathiel. The probability is that Pedaiah and Salathiel, two brothers, took in succession the same wife, and that her first son, Zerubbabel, was the natural offspring of the second husband, and at the same time the successor and heir of the deceased brother. Kimchi thinks, that Zerubbabel was the son of Pedaiah, and grandson of Salathiel, and that he is called the son of Salathiel according to a common scriptural usage.

M. R. Miller.

(To be continued.)