Today's Reading: Matthew 1, Luke 2:1-38
The book of Matthew is the gospel written to the Jewish Christians. Possibly, there are hidden meanings within which are Jewish symbols that many Gentile Christians would miss. In the genealogy of Christ, the author of Matthew makes a point of stating there are three cycles of fourteen in the generations from Abraham to Jesus.
Three in Christianity represents the trinitarian nature of God and the resurrection (in three days Christ rose from the dead.) In Hebrew understanding it represents God and limitless light.
Before we look at the three cycles of fourteen in the genealogy in Matthew it is important to note that the Matthean genealogy is not the only genealogy we have in the gospels. Jesus' genealogy in Luke begins with Adam and is quite different from the one in Matthew. Many believe the Lukan genealogy is Mary's genealogy and not Joseph's. The gospel of Luke is written to the Gentiles and speaks of salvation for all people. The genealogy in Matthew begins with Abraham and addresses "the children of Abraham" in its text.
It is important to note, both genealogies have David in the line. In the Hebrew language, every letter is assigned a numerical value. Since the Messiah was to be a descendant of David, it was important to trace Jesus back to the defining personality of the Hebrew people. Interestingly, the name David has the numerical value of fourteen (daleth = 4 and waw = 6 so the numerological value of David’s name is 4+6+4 = 14.)
Fourteen is also the number of years Jacob worked for his favorite bride, Rachel. His first wife, Leah, was not the one he had "bargained for" with his uncle Laban. He was tricked into marrying her. Rachel was his true love. She became the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, the two favored sons of Jacob, though Judah, the son of Leah, held the birthright for the Messiah. Some believe the number 14 points, then, to the two "brides" of Jesus, or the joining of the Jewish people with the Gentiles in order to bring the possibility of salvation to all God's people. Jesus is descended from Judah, but Joseph is seen as a foreshadowing figure of Jesus who was despised by his brothers, the Jewish people, but ended up saving them.
The meaning of fourteen is related to the Hebrew characters yod (10) and dalet (4). Fourteen is thus represented as: Yod dalet, the Hebrew word for “hand." Interestingly, there are 14 knuckles on a hand. Jewish tradition points to the number 14 as representing Moses who was the "strong hand" which received the Law and the Torah. In Matthew 5: 17, Jesus states he has come to fulfill all the Law and the Prophets. Thus three fourteens, the three cycles of generations in Matthew, could be pointing to the Godly (three) fulfillment of the strong hand (the Mosaic Law) in Jesus.
Fourteen is also the number of maturity. In Jewish tradition, a fourteen year old male was considered a man, fully grown. In Galatians 4:4-5, we read these words: "But when the time had fully come (matured), God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive adoption as heirs." Maturity equalled the idea of the fullness of time. Note that this passage in Galatians speaks to the incarnation, the law and the engrafting of the Gentiles into the Jewish line, God's chosen people.
It is interesting to note that the symbolism of the number fourteen was more important to the author of Matthew than the full accuracy of the ancestry. In order to preserve the symbolism, the author excludes three kings in the second group of fourteen (Ahaziah, Joash and Amaziah.)
One more side note, five women are listed in the Matthean genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the mother of Solomon who had been Uriah's wife (Bathsheba) and Mary. Five represents balance and divine grace. Each of these five women experienced divine grace in their lives, and their listing in the genealogy gives the patriarchal listing a balance of sorts.
Very interesting, yes?