Jesus the Messiah was the son of a righteous and godly woman named Mary, through whom he had many ancestors discussed in the Hebrew Bible. Among those were several remarkable women. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog, Camille Fronk Olson discussed some of the women in the genealogy of Jesus. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.
In the interview, Camille Fronk Olson noted that: “We each have some spicy characters in our ancestry,” and Jesus was no different in that regard. Among those were some of the women that Matthew mentions in his genealogy of Jesus. As Camille wrote:
Matthew surprises us because he did include women—specifically women who were tainted with at least a hint of sexual scandal in their day. I resonate most with the explanation that Matthew did this to remind Jews of his day that all four of these Old Testament women were later deemed as rescuers of Judah’s descendants and royal lineage.
By remembering how Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba had previously been misjudged, Matthew could prepare his audience to avoid misjudging Mary, a young girl who became pregnant before she married Joseph.
So there is some rhyme to the reason for including the women that Matthew does in preparing the way for Mary’s story.
It is likely that he felt the need to do this because Mary and Jesus would have faced a degree of stigma in their culture due to the nature of his birth. As Camille observed:
The scriptures are silent as to how much and when the people of Nazareth learned of Mary’s pregnancy. One hint comes in John 8:41 when some of the Jewish leaders tried to belittle Jesus by saying, “We be not born of fornication,” suggesting that a rumor had circulated about Mary’s “premature” pregnancy.
We can only surmise the false accusations that Mary faced throughout her mortal life.
Hence the inclusion of the women that were chosen to show in Jesus’s lineage.
One particularly interesting story from the Hebrew Bible that is referenced is that of Tamar and Judah. However, there does seem to be more than first meets the eye going on in this story:
Tamar’s actions appear questionable only if you apply today’s customs and laws to her day. However, in her day when she married Judah’s eldest son, she in essence married all the men in Judah’s family.
When Tamar’s husband died before Tamar bore a child, another male in Judah’s family was expected to marry her and have a child by her as proxy to Tamar’s first husband. When Judah could see that he would lose his sons if he married each of them to Tamar, he and his remaining son stayed away from her leaving her without any hope for a life.
Tamar’s actions in going out in disguise to meet Judah were not illegal or wicked. The fact that Judah mistook her for a harlot and propositioned her reveals his immoral character while saying nothing about hers.
After learning that he was the father of her unborn children, Judah himself proclaimed, “She hath been more righteous than I.”
So, while I felt like the story was one of the best justifications for why Davis County was right to exclude the Bible from elementary school libraries, Judah is more the problem in the story than Tamar.
An interesting question that came up in the interview was about women serving as types and shadows of the Christ. In her response, Camille wrote that:
As with many of the prophets and other male disciples of Christ, we may find ways that female disciples typify the Savior. None, however, are perfect shadows of Him.
Abigail in I Samuel 25 is one of the clearest types of Christ. She was prepared to give her life to save all of the men in her household when she did no wrong. Rather than pointing her finger at her foolish husband who created the danger, Abigail took his wrong upon her in a small way foreshadowing how Jesus took upon Him the sins of ALL of us.
She does give more examples, but I found that one to be the most interesting.
For more on the women in the lineage of Jesus, head on over to the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk and read the full interview.