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Maybe

Aren Meier reports that a new article seeks to identify King Toi (or Tou), a contemporary of King David, with Tatais, King of the Neo-Hittite state of Palas(a)tin or Walas(a)tin, of which Hamath was a part. King Toi is mentioned in 2 Samuel 8:9-10 and 1 Chronicles 18:9-10. The article is by C. Steitler, “The Biblical King Toi of Hamath and the Late Hittite State of ‘P/Walas(a)tin,'” Biblische Notizen 146 [2010]: 81-99.

Not having read the article, I’ll withhold judgment other than commending Aren’s succinct commentary:

Needless to say, if this is so, this is quite a sensational discovery, since this would provide the first extra-biblical textual evidence, seemingly contemporary with the reign of David, of a historical figure mentioned in the biblical narrative regarding David. If this withstands the scrutiny of the scholarly world, this may be of outstanding significance for giving historical basis for at least some of the biblical narratives relating to the early monarchy in Israel. Thus, if the Tel Dan stele demonstrated that the kingdom of Judah and its founder, David, were known in the mid-9th century, this evidence may provide evidence of the existence of a king mentioned in the Davidic cycle, who was previously unknown from any other extra-biblical sources.

Very interesting and of potential immense importance for the understanding of the early monarchy in Israel. Can’t wait to follow the opinions about this – I’m willing to bet that this won’t be accepted by all (but on the other hand, there were those who refused to accept the Dan Stele for many years…).

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The Genealogy of Jesus 5

The Father of Zerubbabel

Matthew and Luke agree that Zerubbabel was the son of Shealtiel, 1 Chronicles 3:19, however, identifies Pedaiah as his father. Once again, appeal may be made to the Jewish customs of levirate marriage and Zelophehad adoption. Here, the simpler solution seems to be the correct one.

It should be noted that not only the Gospel genealogies but every Bible reference except 1 Chronicles 3:19 gives Shealtiel as the father of Zerubbabel (cf. Hag 1:1; Ezr 3:2). In fact, even the LXX version of 1 Chronicles 3:19 gives Shealtiel, not Pedaiah, as the father of Zerubbabel and his brother Shimei. Seder Olam also has Shealtiel as the father of Zerubbabel.

In the face of such evidence, I’m prepared to concede that the text of 1 Chronicles 3:19 has become corrupted at this point. Even so, some may choose to defend the reference based on theories of levirate marriage or the Zelophehad custom. At any rate, no one attempting to challenge Jesus’ pedigree in the first century would take exception to the claim that Zerubbabel’s father was Shealtiel. Whatever the true explanation of Pedaiah’s intrusion into the conversation, it can be safely disregarded for our purposes.

The Children of Zerubbabel

How are we to identify Rhesa and Abiud, whom Luke and Matthew identify as sons of Zerubbabel through whom Jesus’ lineage runs? Neither of these names appears in 1 Chronicles 3 as sons of Zerubbabel. Here there are a number of plausible solutions, but none that seems immediately and intuitively right.

First, as a general observation, we should note once again the possibility of gaps in the Gospel genealogies. This is especially the case in Matthew, who covers the time from Zerubbabel to Joseph—over 500 years—with only ten named ancestors! So Abiud need not be Zerubbabel’s son or even his grandson. All that is required is that he be a descendant of Zerubbabel. Having said this, let us consider the options available and some possible explanations.

Once again turning to the Loeb family tree, we find a Jewish tradition tracing five Davidic lines from Zerubbabel. Two of these lines derive from Zerubbabel’s foreign wives; the remaining three from the children of Zerubbabel and his Jewish wife:

  1. The line of Shazrezzar. Zerubbabel’s first wife was a Babylonian princess named Amytis. She was the mother of his firstborn son, Shazrezzar.
  2. The line of Reza. Zerubbabel’s second wife was a Persian princess named Rhodah. She was the mother of his second son, Reza.
  3. The line of Meshullam. Zerubbabel’s third wife was a Jewish princess named Esthra. Zerubbabel’s eldest son from this marriage was Meshullam. It is from this line that many of the post-exilic Nesi’im (“Princes”) of Israel are derived.
  4. The line of Hananiah. Hananiah was the second son of Zerubbabel and Esthra. His descendants became the post-exilic Exilarchs (rulers of the exiled community) of Babylonia.
  5. The line of Shelomith. Zerubbabel’s lone daughter also came from his union with Esthra. Shelomith married Elnathan, governor of Judea, and became the ancestor the Davidic line of Hillel the Great. Elnathan was himself a descendant of David through Shephatiah, a son by Abital, David’s sixth wife.

The idea that Zerubbabel even had foreign wives is extrabiblical, although apparently with some basis in rabbinic tradition. Daniel Loeb assumes that the lines of Shenazzar and Reza represent the ancestors of Joseph and Mary, respectively. This may or may not be the case, although it is worth considering the implications of such an arrangement. Assuming that the Evangelists intended their genealogies to be truthful statements of Jesus’ lineage, we must conclude that the Matthean and Lukan genealogies pass through one or two of these five lines, but which one(s)?

We must probably dismiss the line of Hananiah from consideration. This line is the most thoroughly documented, and in fact many Jews alive today trace descendancy from it. If either Matthew or Luke’s genealogy passes through Hananiah, it must be several generations down the line. Otherwise, there is no plausible way to identify the people named by either Matthew or Luke with known heirs of this lineage.

We can probably also disqualify the line of Shelomith and Elnathan. This line is also fairly well documented, at least as it applies to Hillel the Great. As with the line of Hananiah, there is little chance of harmonizing the known genealogy of this line with the names found in the New Testament.

The similarity of the names Reza and Rhesa (in Luke) immediately suggests the possibility that the line from Zerubbabel and princess Rhodah is in fact the lineage Luke described. (It is also possible, of course, that the tradition M. Loeb reports is the result of reverse-engineering a Davidic genealogy where none exists!) Rhesa is a plausible Hellenized form of the Persian name Reza. Given the strong stance of Ezra and Nehemiah against mixed marriages, it would not be surprising if any descendants of Zerubbabel from a non-Jewish mother would be omitted from a postexilic source like Chronicles.

This leaves three possibilities for the Matthean genealogy: (1) the line of Shazrezzar (if the rabbinic tradition of Zerubbabel’s foreign wives has historical validity!), (2) the line of Meshullam, (3) assuming gaps between Zerubbabel and Abiud, perhaps both Matthew and Luke are reporting divergent lines from the same source—either Reza (following rabbinic tradition) or even Hananiah. (For example, perhaps Matthew’s Abiud was the elder son of Luke’s Esli, while Luke’s Nahum was the younger son. Then the nine generations from Abiud to Jacob [Mt] would parallel the nine generations from Nahum to Heli [Lk].)

What little is known about these two lines leaves us in a quandary as to which to choose. If Matthew (and presumably God) agreed with Ezra about the impropriety of foreign wives, we are probably forced to find Abiud, Eliakim, and the rest somewhere down the line of Meshullam, with a gap of several generations between them and Zerubbabel.

Biblical history, however, itself suggests that having a foreign mother does not disqualify one from kingship of Israel. David himself had female ancestors who were Canaanite (Tamar, Rahab) and Moabite (Ruth). According to Deuteronomy 23:3, Moabites were to be excluded from the community of Israel “even to the tenth generation.” Since David was a fourth-generation descendant of the Moabite Ruth, his claim even to Jewish identity is remarkably flimsy! Thus a hypothetical non-Jewish wife (or two!) of Zerubbabel may plausibly have been a part of Jesus’ family tree.

Next: Joseph’s Two Fathers

The Genealogy of Jesus 4

The Lukan and Matthean accounts of Jesus’ genealogy diverge after David. Matthew traces Jesus’ line through Solomon (and thus traces the royal Davidic line as it is found in the Bible and in Seder Olam). Luke traces a line through Nathan, also a son of David by Bathsheba.

The two lines come together once more in the generations following the deportation to Babylon, where both lines include Shealtiel (Greek, Salathiel) and his son, Zerubbabel (Mt 1:12; Lk 3:27). The generations around Shealtiel and Zerubbabel mark the first major dilemma in untangling the genealogy of Jesus. Three problems may be noted:

  1. In Matthew, Shealtiel’s father is Jechoniah (aka Jehoiachin). In Luke, Shealtiel’s father is Neri.
  2. In both Matthew and Luke, Shealtiel is the father of Zerubbabel. In 1 Chronicles 3:19, however, the father of Zerubbabel is Pedaiah.
  3. Following Zerubbabel, the genealogies of Jesus once again diverge, with Matthew tracing a lineage through Abiud and Luke tracing a lineage through Rhesa. Presumably, these are two sons of Zerubbabel. In 1 Chronicles 3, however, the sons of Zerubbabel are listed as Meshullam and Hananiah.

Let us take these issues one at a time.

The Father of Shealtiel

As with Joseph himself, the Matthean and Lukan genealogies both purport to identify the father of Shealtiel, but the two lists disagree! Is Jehoiachin the father of Shealtiel, or is Neri? Seder Olam follows the Old Testament in describing Jehoiachin as the father of Shealtiel with no apparent need for any elaboration on the matter. Luke complicates matters by adding Neri son of Melchi (and his immediate ancestors) to the mix.

Is there any reason to question Jehoiachin’s paternity? Jereremiah 22:30 reports that Jehoiachin (called Coniah in this passage) was condemned to die childless:

Thus says the LORD:
Record this man as childless,
a man who shall not succeed in his days;
for none of his offspring shall succeed
in sitting on the throne of David,
and ruling again in Judah.

The early death of Jehoiachin’s son Zedekiah may well have been understood to be the fulfillment of this curse. But if Jehoiachin was childless, this fact at least raises the possibility that, while Shealtiel was the legal heir of Jechoniah, he was not his biological descendant. How can this be?

In Hebrew thought it was a terrible fate for a man to perish without sons to carry on his name. Therefore, several strategies are described in the Old Testament for avoiding this situation:

  • If a man died childless, the custom of levirate marriage provided for his widow to marry his brother. (Levir is the Latin word for “brother-in-law.”) The firstborn son of this union was legally reckoned to be the son of the dead man (Deut 25:5-6).
  • If a man had daughters but no sons, the custom of Zelophehad adoption permitted him to legally adopt the husband of his oldest daughter (Num 36:1-13), provided they marry within the tribe of their father. The children of this marriage would be considered the grandchildren of their mother’s father.
  • If a woman was unable to conceive, there was a custom in the patriarchal period whereby she would provide her husband with a female slave by whom to father children (Gen 16:1-2, 30:1-4). There is no evidence this custom prevailed into exilic or postexilic times.

In light of ancient marriage customs, there are a number of ways a son could be reckoned the legal heir of a man who was not his biological father. This include:

1. Levirate marriage. One possibility is that, once Jehoiachin was imprisoned in Babylon, his wife contracted a levirate marriage with Neri. The firstborn child of this union, Shealtiel, would legally be the heir of Jehoiachin. But one must then ask why there are six others also listed as sons of “Jechoniah the captive” in 1 Chronicles 3. By the levirate custom, the children after Shealtiel would be considered merely sons of Neri and would not appear in the 1 Chronicles genealogy at all.

2. Zelophehad adoption. By this theory, Neri was Shealtiel’s grandfather—the father of his mother. If Neri had no sons, the Zelophehad custom permitted him to adopt the sons of his eldest daughter. If this daughter were married to Jehoiachin, then Shealtiel could be called both the son of Jehoiachin and the son of Neri. By this theory, the line from Shealtiel back to Nathan (Lk 3) represents the ancestry of Shealtiel’s mother, while the line back to Solomon (Mt 1) represents that of his father.

3. Simple adoption. It is possible that Shealtiel was adopted by Neri after the death of Jehoiachin. Assuming he was a minor at the time, Neri may have taken him into his home and raised him as his son. Thus, though biologically the son of Jehoiachin, he became the legal heir of Neri, his distant relative. Alternatively, the adoption might have gone in the other direction. Although I cannot vouch for its accuracy, the Loeb family tree website, a compendium of ancient Jewish (and specifically Davidic) genealogy, offers the following explanation:

King Jeconiah…married Tamar, his cousin, her second marriage, the daughter of the late crown-prince, Johanan, his uncle [i.e., a previously unknown son of King Josiah—DJP], and begot Zedekiah, the crown-prince. The early death of the crown-prince was the fulfillment of “Coniah’s Curse”, placed on King [Je]Coniah’s off-spring by Jeremiah “The Prophet”.

The king adopted his step-sons, the sons of his wife, Tamar, by a previous marriage since they too were of the “royal seed”, that is, her first husband was a Davidic prince.

Some of the details of this report are questionable. Most blatantly, Zedekiah was the son of Josiah and thus the uncle of Jehoiachin, not his son! The remainder is logically coherent, although certainly not proven. For what it’s worth, this report makes Neri’s mother the first wife of a woman who went on to marry Jehoiachin. The king subsequently adopted Neri and Tamar’s children after the death of his own son, Zedekiah (presumably after his release from prison in Babylonia in 561 BC).

I leave it to the reader to decide which, if any, of these alternatives makes the most sense of the data.

Jehoiachin’s Curse

According to the book of Jeremiah, God pronounced a curse on Jehoiachin’s line. This is most clearly expressed in Jeremiah 22:28-30. There God declares that none of Jehoiachin’s offspring would ever sit on David’s throne. Jeremiah 36:30 makes a similar pronouncement concerning Jehoiachin’s father Jehoiakim. Some scholars take this pronouncement to describe a permanent condemnation of Jehoiachin’s line. Others believe that Jeremiah’s words were only intended for the near future—the lifetime of Jehoiachin himself.

The theory that the curse upon Jehoiachin was only temporary is buttressed by several facts recorded in the Bible and early Jewish tradition. First, Jehoiachin apparently repented while in exile. The last chapter of 2 Chronicles records how he was elevated from prison and given special honors at the Babylonian court. Although he was not permitted to return to Judah, he is recognized by the Jews as the first Exilarch or ruler of the exiled community in Babylon.

Second, there are also rabbinic sources that indicate God removed the curse on Jehoiachin, which they attribute to his repentance while in prison. For example, according to Leviticus Rabbah 19:6:

The Holy One, blessed be He, then said: “In Jerusalem you did not observe the precept relating to issues, but now you are fulfilling it,” as it is said, As for thee also, because of the blood of thy covenant I send forth thy prisoners out of the pit (Zech 9:11) [which means], You have remembered the blood at Sinai, and for this do “I send forth thy prisoners.” R. Shabbethai said: He [Jeconiah] did not move thence before the Holy One, blessed be He, pardoned him all his sins. Referring to this occasion Scripture has said: Thou art all fair, my love, and there is no blemish in thee (Song 4:7). A Heavenly Voice went forth and said to them: ‘Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backslidings'” (Jer 3:22).

Pesiqta Rabbati 47 records the following:

R. Joshua ben Levi, however, argued as follows: “Repentance sets aside the entire decree, and prayer half the decree. You find that it was so with Jeconiah, king of Judah. For the Holy One, blessed be He, swore in His anger, As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet on a hand, yet by My right—note, as R. Meir said, that it was by His right hand that God swore—I would pluck thee hence (Jer 22:24). And what was decreed against Jeconiah? That he die childless. As is said Write ye this man childless (Jer 22:30). But as soon as he avowed penitence, the Holy One, blessed be He, set aside the decree, as is shown by Scripture’s reference to the sons of Jeconiah”—the same is Assir—Shealtiel his son, etc. (1 Chron 3:17). And Scripture says further: In that day … will I take thee, O Zerubbabel…the son of Shealtiel…and will make thee as a signet (Hag 2:23). Behold, then how penitence can set aside the entire decree!

According to these sources, the curse was lifted because of Jehoiachin’s repentance. (See also b.Sanhedrin 37b-38a; Pesiqta de Rab Kahana; and Numbers Rabbah 20:20.)

In any event, the Bible is unanimous in casting Zerubbabel as the rightful heir and legal successor of Jehoiachin. Later rabbinic speculation insisted in no uncertain terms that the Messiah would be a descendant of Zerubbabel. The medieval Tanhuma Genesis states:

Scripture alludes here to the verse, “Who art thou, O great mountain before Zerubbabel? Thou shalt become a plain” (Zech 4:7). This verse refers to the Messiah, the descendant of David…. From whom will the Messiah descend? From Zerubbabel.

Any plausible claim on behalf of Jesus’ messiahship would have to involve descent from Zerubbabel (Hag 2:21-23), regardless of any irregularities surrounding the legacy of his grandfather Jechoiachin.

Next: Zerubbabel

The Genealogy of Jesus 3

Genealogy was serious business for Jews returning from exile in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. The first eight chapters of 1 Chronicles are taken up with genealogies beginning with those found elsewhere in the Bible (mainly in Genesis) and branching out into all twelve of Jacob’s sons. Some families receive more thorough coverage than others, and the most attention is paid to the priestly families and the descendants of David. These genealogies are clearly derived from different sources. Some give the names in descending order (like Matthew, beginning with the most ancient) while others list ancestors in ascending order (like Luke, beginning with the most recent). Occasionally the Chronicler will include a brief bit of history about one of his subjects (e.g., Jabez, 1 Chr 4:9-10), but mostly there are only lists of names.

In addition to Matthew and Luke, at least two Jewish sources purport to trace a line of descent from King David to contemporary times. The medieval Seder Olam Zuta (based on the earlier Seder Olam Rabbah, 2nd cent. BC) traces the descendants of Jehoiachin, the first “exilarch” or leader of the exiled community from the time of the exile down to the first or second century AD. From there, a genealogy of the seventh-century exilarch Bustanai continues this lineage for several more centuries.

Similarly, tradition traces the genealogy of Hillel the Great (d. c. AD 10) from David’s son Shephatiah. This line includes Rabban Gamaliel, who advised tolerance of the early Christian movement according to Acts 5:34. The great medieval scholar Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki (Rashi) claimed descent from this line.

We thus have four genealogies purporting to trace a lineage from the time of David to the first century: Seder Olam, the Hillel genealogy, Matthew 1:1-17; and Luke 3:23-31.

From Adam to Abraham, Luke’s genealogy parallels those found in Genesis 5 and 10 with the exception of inserting Cainan (Lk 3:36) between Arphaxad and Shelah (cf. Ge 10:24; 11:12-13). Cainan is found in the LXX in both Genesis passages although he is absent from the Masoretic Text. Clearly, Luke was basing his genealogy on the LXX.

The New Testament genealogies run parallel to each other from Abraham to David. (Except for a few omissions on Matthew’s part, his genealogy also runs parallel to the Seder Olam from David to Zerubbabel.) The only exception comes in the generation(s) between Hezron and Aminadab, where Matthew has one name, Ram, and the manuscripts of Luke 3:33 go in several directions:

  • Alexandrinus, Bezae, Old Latin, and the Syriac Peshitta have the same generational sequence as Matthew: Aram – Aminadab.
  • The original reading of Sinaiticus and the Sahidic Coptic version has Arni – Admin – Adam.
  • A few Greek uncials, along with the Bohairic Coptic and Ethiopic versions, have Joram – Aram – Aminadab.
  • Papyrus P4 (apparently—the text is not entirely legible) and the second corrector of Sinaiticus has Arni – Admin – Aminadab.

This is a thorny text-critical puzzle. The Editorial Committee of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament eventually decided to follow P4, but only with some difficulty. In Metzger’s Textual Commentary, he includes the following explanation:

Faced with a bewildering variety of readings, the Committee adopted what seems to be the least unsatisfactory form of the text, a reading that was current in the Alexandrian church at an early period (Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, corrected edition [UBS, 1975] 136).

Some scholars assume that Arni is to be identified with Ram (or Aram), but this is not at all certain. At any event, there is ample room in both genealogies at this point to accommodate some skipping of generations.

It is in fact likely that both accounts of Jesus’ genealogy skip generations here and there. This is not entirely unheard of in ancient genealogies in general and in Jewish genealogies in particular. A generation might be skipped for any number of reasons. Most obviously and mundanely, the genealogist simply may not have had the necessary data to include every generation. Another mundane explanation may be that a person’s father died young, perhaps even during the son’s formative years. In that case, a man might be reckoned “the son” of someone who was actually his grandfather. It must be noted, of course, that in Hebraic thought one’s “father” need not be one’s immediate male ancestor—any male ancestor up the line can qualify for that title. That is why Matthew can call Jesus both “son of David” and “son of Abraham.”

Some have suggested there are gaps in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew in order to reproduce the pattern of “fourteen generations” to which the author explicitly calls attention (Abraham to David, David to the Exile, the Exile to Christ). This phenomenon may be related to the numerical value of the name David, the sum of whose Hebrew letters (דוד) add up to fourteen. Although less often suggested, Luke’s list of seventy-seven names might have been intended to represent eleven sets of seven names each. According to Metzger, with a reading for Luke 3:33 that involves three names rather than two, Luke’s genealogy

falls into an artistically planned pattern, even more elaborate than Matthew’s (cf. Mt 1:17); thus, from Adam to Abraham, 3 x 7 generations; from Isaac to David, 2 x 7 generations; from Nathan to Salathiel (pre-exilic), 3 x 7 generations; from Zerubbabel (post-exilic) to Jesus, 3 x 7 generations, making a total of 11 x 7, or 77 generations from Adam to Jesus (Ibid.).

This phenomenon might be compared to the Seder Olam Zuta, where there is a pattern of five sets of ten generations from Adam to Jehoiakim. By any of these approaches, it might have been deemed desirable to omit mention of less noteworthy ancestors in the service of some mnemonic or symbolic arrangement.

Finally, and especially in the biblical context, a generation might be passed over due to moral or spiritual failure. This is almost certainly a factor in Matthew, where four generations are omitted from the descendants of King David. The first three omissions come in a row as the descendants of Joram: Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah. Joram’s wife was Athaliah, daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who ruled briefly—and is remembered none too fondly—as queen of Judah after Joram’s death. It is probable that Matthew omitted the next three names as a statement of God’s judgment “to the fourth and fifth generations” on the deeds of that wicked couple. The fourth omission is Jehoiakim, a king associated with the sins that eventually brought about the Babylonian exile. Once again, moral stigma may have been responsible for deleting his name from the list of the ancestors of the Messiah. Indeed, perhaps Jechoniah himself was only grudgingly included to bring in the detail of the exile.

Below the fold you can see the four genealogies in tabular form. (more…)