Biblical Doctrines

The Birth of Jesus and the Curse of Coniah

Matthew’s gospel is part of the Bible, and the Bible is the Word of God. Concerning the Scriptures, Billy Graham has correctly stated, “If you do not believe we have a revelation that is sufficient to give us an answer to our questions then you will never be satisfied, for all other discussion is speculative.” If we believe that the Bible is God’s final word to man, than all argument can stop. The priceless book can be opened, and wonderful truths can be discovered. In particular, there is the revelation of the most unique, and most wonderful Person in all the world, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we read about Him from Genesis to Revelation, we can prepare our hearts for the King of all kings. Some do not. They do not read the Bible, or do not read it carefully. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of our hearers do not desire to hear the whole counsel of God. They have their favorite doctrine, and would have us be silent. Many are like the Scotish woman who, after hearing a sermon said, ‘It was very well if it hadna been for the trash of duties at the HINNER end.’”

The story is told of a man who used to say to his wife: “Mary, go to church and pray for us both.” Mary went to church and prayed. But the man dreamed one night, when he and his wife got to the gate of heaven, Peter turned to Mary and spoke to her alone saying, “Mary, you can go in for both.” The man awoke and made up his mind that it was time for him to become a Christian on his own account. He had to prepare his own heart for heaven, and each one of us must do the same. Our studies in the gospel of Matthew will help in that effort, as we come to know Christ, the great and sovereign King.

In verses 1-17 of chapter one, we have the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. It is an impressive array of people, as Matthew traces the genealogy through Joseph who was the legal, but not the natural father of Christ. The purpose of this genealogy being traced is to establish the Lord’s claim, and right, to the ancient throne of David.

According to 2 Samuel, God had made a covenant with King David. The Lord promised that there would forever be a royal seed in his house. This promise was ultimately realized in the Person of Jesus Christ. That is why Matthew begins his work with the words, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

By referring to Jesus as the son of Abraham, the Holy Spirit moves the reader to remember that Jesus is to rule and to reign over the true seed of Abraham. This is a spiritual seed. All who have the FAITH of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are recognized as the true seed of God (Gal. 3:29).

In verses 3-4 of Matthew 1, we observe the dash of unclean blood which entered the royal bloodline through a man named Judah, and his incest with Thamar. It is not a pretty story that we are to remember, but the Word of God is realistic. Men are sinners by nature, and by choice. The perverted passions do break forth to bring sin and shame. Yet, Jesus is the Friend of sinners. Sordid sin does not keep a person from knowing the Savior, but only a willingness to continue in sin. Let the word go forth,

“Christ receiveth sinful men,
Even me with all my sin.
Purged from every spot and stain,
Heaven with Him I enter in.

Sing it o’er and o’er again,
Christ receiveth sinful men.
Make the message clear and plain,
Christ receiveth sinful men.”

Just how far Christ is willing to go to demonstrate this great truth, is revealed in verse 5 of Matthew chapter 1. Two women are mentioned in this verse: a Canaanite and a Moabitess. Both are Gentiles, which meant that Gentile blood is mingled with the Hebrew strain. Our King has come to break down the partition wall. In His kingdom there is no Gentile, nor Jew, no slave, nor freeman, but all are one. The harlot Rahab, and the country girl Ruth, shall both know the grace and mercy of the matchless Jesus.

Men need much mercy as verses 6-9 remind us. The record shows that David, the great king, was married to her that had been the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Centuries had passed, but the deed was done. The scars of the scarlet sin of adultery are not easily removed. Though God can, and does show much mercy and favor to the fallen, still the sharp reminder is there. We stand in amazement at the condescending grace of our great God, who would appoint our Lord such a genealogy that includes such sinners. Then we take hope, for if God had mercy on them, perhaps He will have mercy on us.

Sinclair B. Ferguson has noted that how a person views God determines the quality and style of their Christian experience. If God is seen as loving, and merciful, then great sinners can find a great Saviour. The kings that are recorded in Matthew 1:10 needed a great Saviour. Not one of them was perfect, and some of them were as bad as fallen nature can become. Still, they too are listed in the Royal Family. Truly, salvation is not of blood, nor of birth, but of the free grace of God’s sovereign, selective, redeeming love.

In verse 11, attention is given to those that were carried away to Babylon. This was a terrible time in Jewish history. God’s people in bondage. God’s people in chains. God’s people suffering the ravages of war, and the horrors of being conquered. Perhaps you know of someone who is bound with chains of an addiction. Perhaps you yourself can identify with those who were once carried away to Babylon. There is hope for deliverance. Jesus will come.

The line of genealogy continues in verses 12-16. With one or two exceptions, there are no great persons, and this too is significant. The prophets said that the Messiah was to be a “root out of dry ground.” From the glory days of King David and Solomon, the royal blood branch had withered, so that we find a family of low estate, and a humble carpenter named Joseph of Nazareth. It does not matter to Jesus. He cares not for pomp and ceremony. This King wants only what really matters, the hearts of His subjects. Have you given King Jesus your heart? Are you prepared for the Second Coming of Christ? Have you ever seen Him in all of His splendor and glory? He is not ashamed to be the Saviour of sinners. “For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise, took part of the same.”

Though true humanity, Jesus is truly the Messiah, the Prince, which was to come. In the providence of the Lord, preparation for the King began with Abraham, and ended with Joseph. The great, and the good, the wicked, and the wretched, the pure, and the profane, were united to bring forth the Royal King.

With that being noted, attention returns to Matthew 1:12 for a moment, to consider something very important, and that is the curse of Coniah. It would be easy to miss this story, for the text simply notes that after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, after the captives of Israel were brought to Babylon, “Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel.”

Jechonias is the Greek form of Jeconiah, also called Coniah, which is an altered form of King Jehoiachin (God will establish). Coniah was the nineteenth king over the separate kingdom of Judah. He reigned for three months and ten days in 597 BC. Though only 18 years old when he ascended to the throne, it was said of Coniah (Jeconiah) that he “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” Because of his sins, God pronounced a curse on him.

We read of the curse of Coniah in Jeremiah 22.

“As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence;…30 Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” (Jer. 22:24, 30)

Because of God’s curse, Coniah, and his male descendants would be providentially kept from inheriting the throne of Judah which is why God told Jeremiah, “Write ye this man childless.”

This does not mean that Coniah did not have any children. Both archaeological discoveries in Babylon, and Scripture, show that Coniah had sons and descendants (1 Chron. 3:17-18). One of his sons was Salathiel.

What the curse of Coniah does mean, is that his descendants were disqualified from inheriting the throne of David. It was as if Coniah (Jeconiah) had no sons in a royal, or legal, sense. It is much like an angry father saying to a rebellious and wayward son, “Get out of my sight! You are dead to me!”

The curse of Coniah becomes a tool for critics to use against Jesus from being the Messiah, because He is a descendant of Coniah (Jeconiah), whom God clearly said would have no descendants on the throne. There does seem to be a problem. “How can Jesus be the Messiah when His lineage is traced back to Coniah (Jeconiah), a man whose descendants are prohibited from taking the throne of David?”

There are three viable responses in considering the curse of Coniah.

First, it is possible that the curse was limited to the immediate offspring of Coniah (Jeconiah). The prohibition was limited to the king’s own children. None of the seven sons of Coniah reigned over Judah.

Second, it should be noted that while the descendants of Coniah (Jeconiah) eventually produced Joseph, he was not the biological father of Jesus. The royal line of Jesus came through his mother, Mary, who did not have Coniah (Jeconiah) as a relative. (Luke 3:31) Therefore, Joseph was the legal father of Jesus, but not His physical one. Jesus was of royal blood, which was necessary for the Messiah to have, through Mary. But the curse of Coniah (Jeconiah) stopped with Jesus, and was not passed on to Him. The prophesies of God are sure.

Third is a third understanding of the curse of Coniah and that is, it was reversed. The family curse was forgiven. Evidence for this might be indicated based on a passage in Haggai. A man named Zerubbabel, a grandson of Coniah, was blessed. “In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:23)

Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. This why there is joy to the world.

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.”

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