The New Testament begins with, of all things, a genealogy. Matthew, a former tax collector and one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, wrote his Gospel letter to a Jewish audience, to prove that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.
In that vein, he began his genealogy with Abraham – who the Jews considered their father – and included David, since the Messiah was to come through David’s line.
As with any group of people, some of Jesus’ descendants were prominent, such as Isaac, Jacob, Solomon, Jehoshaphat and Josiah. Some are unknowns. (Even among Jesus’ 12 apostles, we know quite a bit about a few of them, and not much about most of them.)
A few in this list were downright evil, including Joram (Jehoram), Ahaz and Amon. Yet they were ancestors of the savior of the world.
Each of these men had a purpose. I used a resource on my bookshelf, “Everyone in the Bible” by William P. Barker, copyright 1966 (history doesn’t change), to bring this genealogical list to life.
Abraham: The patriarch who was the father of the people of God … Promised a land and descendants, Abraham lived most of his life without either, having to live on trust. God entered into a covenant with Abraham, assuring him that He kept His word. Finally, in his old age, a son called Isaac was born to Abraham and his wife, Sarah. Abraham’s supreme test of faith came when God … ordered Abraham to sacrifice the boy. Abraham obediently prepared to carry out the orders, but was stayed at the last minute when God intervened … Appropriately, his name in Hebrew means “father of a multitude,” and he is revered as the spiritual ancestor of all Jews and Christians. Genesis 11-25
Isaac: Isaac accepted Rebekah as his wife after a trusted family servant brought her from Abraham’s home country to be his bride, and became the father of the twins, Esau and Jacob … Isaac became wealthy during his sojourn with the Philistines, and they became jealous … Isaac, in his old age, blind and feeble, was tricked by Jacob into bestowing his final blessing on Jacob, the younger son, instead of Esau, the older and Isaac’s favorite. Genesis 17-35
Jacob: Jacob – known later as Israel – was the father of the 12 sons whose families became known as the tribes of Israel. Jacob’s name means “supplanter,” and literally from his birth onward he tried to supplant his older brother, Esau … Esau, of course, was furious at his scheming brother, and Jacob fled for his life. During his flight, at Bethel one night, Jacob experienced the vision of God’s angels descending on steps to him – his first awareness of God’s plans for him … Jacob, with the many members of his family and his large flocks, journeyed toward Palestine. Jacob, however, remembered his past injustices to Esau and worried about the reception Esau would give him. After dividing his following into two forces, so that one at least might escape if Esau attacked, Jacob found himself alone. That night he dreamed that he wrestled with an angel … Shortly after, Jacob met his brother Esau, and was relieved to find that Esau held no grudge. Jacob then settled down to the quiet life of a family patriarch. Genesis 25, 27-37, 42, 45-50
Judah: Jacob’s fourth son, Judah was the progenitor of the tribe known by his name. He was involved with his brothers in selling Joseph into slavery … In Egypt, Judah pleaded that Joseph release their youngest brother, Benjamin, even offering to take Benjamin’s place, when Joseph pretended to frame his brothers with charges of non-payment for grain. Judah later received the privileges of the oldest son after his older brothers, Reuben, Simeon and Levi, disgraced themselves. Genesis 29, 35, 37 38, 43, 44, 46, 49
Perez: Judah’s older twin son through his incestuous relations with Tamar, his daughter-in-law, Perez was an ancient clan chieftain in the powerful tribe of Judah … Nothing of his life, however, is known beyond his parentage. Genesis 38:29, 46:12
Hezron: Hezron was a grandson of Judah and a son of Perez, and, according to the genealogies of both Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus. Genesis 46:12
Aram (Ram): He is mainly remembered because he was an ancestor of both David and Jesus. Ruth 4:19
Amminadab: A member of the tribe of Levi, Amminadab was the father of Elisheba, Aaron’s wife. Exodus 6:23 Perhaps the same (person, this) Amminadab was an ancestor of David, according to Ruth’s genealogy. Ruth 4:19-20
Nahshon: Aaron’s brother-in-law and a descendant of Judah, Nahshon was a “prince” of Judah who was an ancestor of David and of Jesus. He was also known as Naashon, Naasson and Naason. Exodus 6:23, Numbers 1:7, 2:3, 7:12, 17, 10:14
Salmon: A descendant of Caleb … he was the reputed founder of the town of Bethlehem. Although there seems to be some confusion in the accounts between Salmon and Salma, careful study seems to indicate that they were the same person: the husband of Rahab, the father of Boaz who later married Ruth, and the ancestor of both David and Jesus. Ruth 4:20, 21
Boaz: A well-to-do landowner of the tribe of Judah near Bethlehem, Boaz took pity on a young Moabite widow named Ruth who was working in his fields. The tender story of Boaz’s kindness and Ruth’s loyalty is the plot of the Book of Ruth. Ruth
Obed: Ruth’s mother-in-law by her first marriage, Naomi, looked after the young Obed. Obed was fondly remembered as the father of Jesse, David’s father, and an ancestor of Jesus. Ruth 4
Jesse: Jesse is best remembered as the father of the great King David. He was a prominent man, perhaps the leader, at Bethlehem, and the father of eight sons. During David’s outlaw days, Jesse and his wife were sent to relatives at Moab for safety. He was undoubtedly elderly by that time, and probably did not live to see his youngest son crowned as king of the united monarchy. Although in David’s day the term “son of Jesse” was spoken with a sneer, to call attention to David’s humble origins, in time it came to be used as a synonym for the expected Messiah. Ruth 4:17, 22; 1 Samuel 16, 17, 20, 22, 25
David: Israel’s most famous king, David was considered to be the ideal ruler and the prototype for the promised Messiah, in Jewish thinking … Sent to soothe the emotionally ill King Saul with his music, David rapidly advanced in Saul’s court until his popularity made Saul insanely jealous. David fled for his life, and became leader of a band of outlaws. After Saul’s death on Mount Gilboa, David returned home, was made the king of Hebron and waged a long but successful war against the Philistines … David made Jerusalem the religious center of the new nation by bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the capital … He extended the nation’s borders in all directions, and brought prosperity and prominence to his people. His later years were marred by a sordid affair with Bathsheba … Incest, murder, rebellion and plots within David’s own household turned his final days into ones of deep trial … Nevertheless, David’s deep trust in God, his sense of justice, and his personal attractiveness were apparent until nearly the end of his life. The nation fondly remembered his reign as its golden age. 1 and 2 Samuel
Solomon: David’s 10th son and his successor to the throne, Solomon came to power principally because of the intrigues of his mother, Bathsheba, during David’s senility … He introduced the system of forced labor gangs to furnish manpower for his ambitious building programs, and broke down the old system of tribal rule with his well-organized administrative districts … The great Temple was but one of his ambitious building projects. To finance all this opulence, Solomon taxed his subjects so oppressively that the nation simmered with revolt during his last days. Although his wisdom and piety were extolled by some Biblical writers, Solomon was a shrewd, overbearing, worldly, comfort-loving dictator. 1 Kings 1-14
Rehoboam: The stubborn, arrogant son of Solomon, Rehoboam succeeded Solomon as king of the nation in 937 B.C. … Rehoboam insisted on continuing Solomon’s policies. The northern tribes, never welded to the united kingdom, promptly seceded. Rehoboam, forced to retire in humiliation to Jerusalem, wanted to march against the 10 rebellious tribes, but was prevented by the prophet Shemaiah’s warnings and by Shishak of Egypt’s invasion. 1 Kings 11-12, 14-15
Abijah: Great-grandson of David, Abijah was the favorite son of Rehoboam. He ruled Judah for about two years at a time when Jeroboam had been king of the northern kingdom, Israel, for about 20 years. The Book of Kings states that Abijah continued all the sins of his ancestors. Chronicles, however, portrays him as a defender of the faith whose moment of glory came when he defeated Jeroboam’s larger army and captured three Israelite cities and great booty. 2 Chronicles 11-14, 1 Kings 14, 15
Asa: The king of Judah from about 918-877 B.C., Asa was one of the few rulers who tried to bring about some social and religious reforms. He was also an energetic builder, astute statesman and competent military leader. During most of his long reign, Judah enjoyed a breathing spell of prosperity, peace and morality. In his old age, however, Asa showed a lack of trust in the Lord by buying protection from the Syrian king, Ben-hadad, when Baasha, king of Israel, mobilized against Judah … Not long after, he contracted a painful foot disease, regarded as punishment for his failure to trust. 1 Kings 15-16, 22:41-46
Jehoshaphat: The king of Judah who was the son and successor of Asa, Jehoshaphat tried to be a model of piety and a guardian of the faith by sending teachers of the Law throughout the kingdom and closing down Baal shrines. Probably his biggest contribution was to stop the long-running feud between Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. However, when Jehoshaphat married his son to Athaliah, daughter of Israel’s notorious Jezebel and Ahab, he unwittingly brought trouble … His 25-year reign was considered a high point in Judah’s history. 2 Chronicles 17-22
Joram (Jehoram): The son and successor of King Jehoshaphat of Judah. To seal an alliance between his father and Ahab, king of Israel, Jehoram was given the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, Athaliah, as his bride. Athaliah dominated her husband, persuading him to reintroduce and encourage Baal worship in Judah. Jehoram even stooped to murdering his six brothers when he was crowned king. During his sorry reign, Libnah and Edom broke away from Judah. He was so loathed by his subjects that when he died they refused him burial in the royal tombs. 2 Chronicles 21:1-16, 22:1-11
Uzziah: Amaziah’s son and successor as king of Judah, Uzziah became king at the age of 16 and ruled 52 years. During his long reign, he successfully defended Judah against the belligerent Ammonites, Philistines and Arabians, developed a strong standing army, and rebuilt the nation’s fortifications … In spite of the continuation of cults, contemporary historians gave Uzziah high marks for his religious devotion. He was so crippled with leprosy toward the end of his reign that he was forced to turn over the government to his son, Jotham. 2 Kings 15, 2 Chronicles 26
Jotham: A contemporary of the prophets Hosea, Isaiah and Micah, Jotham ruled as de facto king during the last years of King Uzziah’s life, when Uzziah was ill. After the death of his illustrious father Uzziah, Jotham succeeded to the throne of Judah and proved to be an able administrator. He subdued the Ammonites, built the upper gate of the Temple, and was highly regarded by Hebrew historians. 2 Kings 15
Ahaz: Eleventh king of Judah, Ahaz was Jotham’s son and Hezekiah’s father. His 16-year reign (about 735 B.C. to about 720 B.C.) was the backdrop for the prophet Isaiah’s great career. Ahaz preferred to play international politics rather than heed Isaiah’s sound advice … Inevitably, Ahaz and Judah came out as losers, paying expensive “presents” to larger powers. A superstitious dabbler in idolatrous cults, Ahaz left his country weakened morally and financially. 2 Kings 15-17
Hezekiah: The famous reform-minded king of Judah, Hezekiah … successfully led his country through the frightening days when Assyria was sweeping over the world in the eighth century B.C. … Hezekiah heeded the prophet Isaiah’s advice and stood fast. The Assyrian King Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem suddenly and miraculously ended when a plague decimated the Assyrian army. Even today, visitors to Jerusalem can see Hezekiah’s tunnel, the conduit through rock which brought water into the city during the siege – one of many projects initiated by the energetic king. After the glorious deliverance from the siege, Hezekiah launched a long-needed reform of morals and religion in the nation. 2 Kings 16, 18-21
Manasseh: The son and successor of King Hezekiah of Judah, Manasseh became king at age 12, upon his father’s death. An anti-reform group used the boy to stop the reforms in worship and morals begun by Hezekiah. For many years, Manasseh outdid himself to accommodate cults and please their adherents. He even practiced human sacrifice, using his own son. The prophets attributed the fall of Jerusalem to the cruelty and superstition that was allowed to flourish during most of Manasseh’s 55-year reign … According to the Chronicler, Manasseh was taken prisoner briefly by the Assyrians in his later years, finally realized his disobedience to God, and was allowed by God to return to Jerusalem, where he mended his ways before he died. 2 Kings 20, 21, 23, 24, 2 Chronicles 33:1-23
Amon: The king of Judah who succeeded Manasseh, Amon reigned two years in a dreary repeat of his father Manasseh’s immorality, luxury and corruption. He was assassinated in a palace intrigue (639 B.C.), and died unmourned. 2 Kings 21
Josiah: The king of Judah whose reform staved off the collapse of the kingdom for a few years, Josiah was the son and successor of the notorious King Amon. He was crowned when he was only 8, after his father’s assassination, and began his active rule when he was 18. At the suggestion of the high priest Hilkiah, Josiah ordered the Temple repaired. During the repairs, a lost book of the Law was discovered (what we call Deuteronomy). When this was read to the King, he ordered its requirements observed, and took active steps to clean up the mess in Judah. Josiah effectively closed down the dozens of local shrines … and centralized all worship in Jerusalem … He died as boldly as he lived: When Neco, the Egyptian pharaoh, invaded northern Palestine, Josiah recklessly jumped into battle and lost his life at Megiddo. 2 Kings 16-34
Jechoniah (Jehoiachin): The son of King Jehoiakim of Judah, Jehoiachin was the last king of Judah before Nebuchadnezzar snuffed out the valiant but faithless little nation. Succeeding a father who left the kingdom in a hopeless condition, 18-year-old Jehoiachin ruled only three months … (He) was imprisoned during Nebuchadnezzar’s entire reign. He was finally released when Evil-Merodach replaced Nebuchadnezzar, and was kept under house arrest in Babylon for the rest of his life. 2 Kings 24:6-15, Jeremiah 22, 24, 28.
Salathiel (Sheatiel): A descendant of David and a son of King Jeconiah, Shealtiel was best remembered as the father of Zerubbabel. Ezra 3:2, 8.
Zerubbabel: The man who led the first group of dispirited exiles back to Jerusalem from Babylon, Zerubbabel was the governor of Jerusalem in the dismal days at the close of the Exile. Zerubbabel directed the resumption of worship, the rebuilding of the altar, and the foundation construction for the new Temple. A descendant of David, he was a member of the royal family. 1 Chronicles 3:19, Ezra 2:2, 3:2, 8, 4:2, 3, 5:2, Nehemiah 7:7, 12:1, 47.
Abiud: Mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus (and not elsewhere) as the son of Zerubbabel. https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/abiud/
Eliakim: An ancestor of Jesus, Eliakim is included in Jesus’ family tree by both Matthew and Luke. Matthew 1:13, Luke 3:30
Azor: One of Jesus’ ancestors, Azor was listed in Matthew’s genealogy as a grandson of Zerubbabel. Matthew 1:13-14
Zadok: An important “chief of the people” after the Exile, this Zadok was one of the leaders in Jerusalem who joined Nehemiah in signing the covenant promising to keep the Law. Nehemiah 10:21
Achim: One of Joseph’s distant ancestors, Achim is mentioned only by Matthew in his genealogical table. Matthew 1:14
Eliud: One of Jesus’ ancestors, Eliud is listed in the genealogy of Joseph by Matthew. Matthew 1:14-15
Eleazar: He was listed in Jesus’ family tree by Matthew as a son of Eliud, and Joseph’s great-grandfather. Matthew 1:15
Matthan: One of Jesus’ ancestors, according to Matthew’s list, Matthan is listed as Joseph’s grandfather. He is undoubtedly the same man as “Matthat,” whom Luke names as Joseph’s grandfather. Matthew 1:15
Jacob (Heli): The father of Joseph, who was the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus, Heli was also believed to be an uncle of Mary. Luke 3:23
Joseph: The kindly carpenter of Nazareth who agreed to go ahead with wedding plans although he knew his betrothed, Mary, was to have a baby, this Joseph was Jesus’ earthly father. He was a conscientious Jew who adhered faithfully to the Law, but was considerate enough to plan to spare Mary the indignities required by the Law. When he learned the Divine origin of her unborn Child, he immediately trusted God’s promise and married Mary. After the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the harrowing flight to Egypt to escape Herod’s slaughter of male babies, Joseph resettled his family at Nazareth and lived the quiet life of a village builder-repairman. He was the father of several other children, but apparently died before Jesus began His active ministry. Matthew 1:16-24, Luke 2:4-43
Jesus: Born at Bethlehem during the last years of Herod the Great, Jesus, at His birth, was acclaimed God’s Chosen One by shepherds … Luke 2:8-20