Once, I was asked to teach the gospel of Matthew to a Bible study group. I was given a lesson plan that began at Matthew 1:18; the first 17 verses were excluded. When asked about the omission, the organiser told me that there was nothing for me to teach since this passage is taken up by a long list of unfamiliar names. He didn’t want me to bore the class with the lengthy genealogy.
What do we do with the many genealogical records in the Bible (e.g., 1 Chronicles 1–9; Matthew 1:1–17; Luke 3:23–38)? Many of us would skim through or skip them altogether. It’s hard to see the relevance of these long lists of names.
However, since they are God’s Word and the Holy Spirit has specifically included them, there must be something we can learn from them (2 Timothy 3:16). Biblical genealogies tell us that God carries out His plans and purposes through real people living in the real world. These names show that God cares about history, about families, and about individuals. They show that God uses imperfect people to carry out His plans and fulfil His purposes.
“This, then, is the family line of Perez” (Ruth 4:18). Perez’s story is told in Genesis 38. We have already considered the scandalous past that plagued his birth, and the reason why he was mentioned in the prayers of the townsfolk (4:12, see Day 24). Besides the go’el guardian-redeemer and levirate marriage connection, there is a third reason why this genealogy is traced back to him.
On his deathbed, Jacob, Perez’s grandfather, had prophesied that a king would come from this family line: “The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet”; and that this kingly line will continue “until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his” (Genesis 49:10). Perez, Judah’s son, therefore connects this prophecy concerning Judah to the love story of Boaz and Ruth. There will indeed be kings in the family line. Boaz and Ruth are the great-grandparents of King David.
This prophecy is still being fulfilled. The Davidic dynasty continues. The day will come when David’s greater Son, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David”, will rule the nations (Genesis 49:9; Revelation 5:5), when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10–11 NLT).
The story of Ruth tells the story of King David, and the story of the King of Kings.
Do you agree that biblical genealogies are meaningless for Christians today? Why or why not?
How can you meaningfully apply this genealogy of David (Ruth 4:17–22) to your life today?