In the genealogy of Jesus as presented in the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we read at least five names of women. The Jewish people lived in a patriarchal society, so it is really intriguing why these women were included in the narration. Is there any lesson we can learn from the passage? Let’s take a brief look at the stories of the first four women. We shall leave out the story of Mary for a more lengthy discussion later.
The first woman to be mentioned was Tamar. You can read her sordid story in the book of Genesis chapter 38. Hers was anything but beautiful. She was married to Judah’s eldest son who maltreated her and who died without leaving an heir. The culture of the people then was for the woman to marry the dead person’s brother in order to provide an heir and to be cared for. So Tamar married the second son but the same thing happened. Judah then vowed to give his third son to her in marriage when he grows up. Alas Judah had no intention of fulfilling his promise.
In her quest for justice, Tamar did the unthinkable. She dressed up as a prostitute and to make the story short, bore a son with Judah himself as the father. At the end of her story, Judah exclaimed, “she is more righteous than I am.”
The next woman in the genealogy was a harlot named Rahab. She was an Old Testament personality whose immense faith and courage was recorded in the book of Joshua chapter 2. It was she who hid the two spies sent by Joshua to view the city of Jericho. Though she was a prostitute by profession, with faith she declared, “For the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Eventually, she married Salmon and bore a son named Boaz.
The third woman was Ruth. Her book in the Old Testament recounts how she remained faithful to her mother-in-law Naomi. Like Tamar, Ruth lost her husband without any heir. Naomi lost her own husband previously and another son. Discouraged and deeply hurt, Naomi decided to send Ruth back to her family and village. But Ruth never wanted to leave behind her grieving mother-in-law. Her words are now immortalized in a song that is sung in many occasions especially weddings: “Wherever you go, I shall go. Wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.”
After she followed her mother-in-law back to Bethlehem, Naomi instructed Ruth to “sleep” with the latter’s well-to-do relative Boaz. Eventually, the two bore a son who was to become the grandfather of King David.
The name of the fourth woman is not specifically mentioned in the gospel passage but we all know that the wife of Uriah was Bathsheba. She was a very seductive woman in the eyes of King David and the two ultimately begot a son named Solomon. But before King David committed adultery, he plotted the death of Uriah the Hittite who was an elite soldier in his own kingdom.
As we can see from the stories of the four women, life indeed has its twists and turns. Who could have imagined that such broken lives would later bring forth the Messiah? That’s the foremost lesson that we can learn from the genealogy passage. We can never tell what the future beholds to a particular person no matter what his or her situation in life at present.
In short, never judge your neighbor. Instead, let’s follow the commandment: love one another and love yourself too. Secondly, let us never lose hope. Whatever situation we are in now, there is always the possibility that tomorrow or the next decade will be better.
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