The Prince, the Princess and the People Problem
How the House and the Lineage of David Almost Died Off
The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:11-13
But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. Galatians 4:4
The Jews had a problem. So did Mary’s family. So did Joseph’s family. So did the Chief Priest and Scribes. Which in turn gave the Roman rulers a problem. Which ultimately made it God’s problem.
What was the problem? Legitimate heirs. Some Christians are not aware of this fact: the five different branches of the family line of David the King was about to die out! Which meant that no one could legitimately occupy the royal throne of King David. That was a problem that couldn’t easily be fixed.
When your very existence as a Jew or a ruler of the Jews is wrapped up in your earthly heritage, you gotta make sure you leave some acceptable heirs around. This was the crushing issue the generation before the Lord Jesus Christ was birthed on this earth.
So what? Every Bible study and sermon boils down to “so what?” God promised to King David in 2 Samuel 7: 11-13 that his family line would be established forever. The last members of the Davidic family was dead or did not have an acceptable heir. This had major political implications not just for Mary and Joseph, but for the High Priest. These implications are the reasons why the rulers of the Jews hated Jesus and wanted Him dead. Also, the reason why people wanted Jesus as their king. If you understand the real world predicament the Jews were in just prior to the first century, you will rejoice to know what “in the fullness of time” really means (Galatians 4:4).
The genealogies of Jesus to the modern-day reader is irrelevant. You can play the numbers game of fourteen generations here and there. And you can see there are some black sheep in the family. But the real meaning to the Jews was they had to have legitimate heirs if they were to continue to be the dominate religion and hold on to power against the Romans.
The best $10 I ever spent in ministry is hanging behind my desk. It is a 38X68 inch poster with the genealogy of the Adam and Eve, 12 tribes of Israel all the way down to Joseph and Mary all with scripture references.
When you look at it, you can see the problem right away. Joseph’s side of the family coming from King Solomon, is a mess of arrows and parenthesis pointing to various non-direct descendants because of political intrigue and sordid affairs. The biggest problem resulting from that is there is no direct descendant from King David. Other family lines must then be factored in by the scribes. Joseph’s side of the family was really a combination of some five ancestral lines which was corrupted by various non-Jews. That made them legally ineligible for ruling and in some cases ineligible to be a Jew at all.
Joseph’s family was the kingdom in exile. His great-great grandfather several times over, King Jeconiah and others were the carried off to captivity in Babylon. King Jeconiah’s family was cursed so that none of his descendants would ever sit on the throne of Israel.
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.'” Jeremiah 22:28–30
If there was a time when satan and his angels in hell were giving each other high-fives this would be the time. God just cursed His own people and King David’s family line! In exile, King Jeconiah’s family inter-married. Joseph’s family line was corrupted and cursed. What to do?
Mary, though, is a clean line all the way from a son of King David named Prince Nathan. Mary’s problem was that there was no male heir from her side of the family. Mary’s womb was barren and was going to be for the foreseeable future.
This is why, in my opinion, Mary got her name. Mary, is the English derivation of the root word “mara” which means bitter. But how could the woman who found favor with God, who rejoiced in having God the Saviour, represent bitterness? Because her family line was about to die out. Her family is bitter. Has God forgotten His promise? Perhaps her father Helio wanted a boy. But that wasn’t going to happen. To complicate matters further, her father was dead. There was no one to speak for her or arrange a marriage. She became a ward of the temple. What to do?
King Herod’s Problem and the Sanhedrin Problem
King Herod wanted to marry a Jewish princess Mariamme who was part of the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty. The problem was that she wasn’t a real Jewish princess from recognized line of King David. Mariamme just happened to be part of the despised line of King Jeconiah which was corrupted by the foreign blood of Babylonians, Persians and Greeks. But, she was part of the family of the Hasmoneans (and later the Maccabeans) who put the Sanhedrin in power. But, because her family line was so corrupt, they had to meet to legally recognize it.
So the Sanhedrin reasoned. In one way you can say the blood line was cursed and corrupt. In another way, you can say that the blood of Persian emperors ran through his veins. That is they way the scribes wanted to look at it. Ezra, determined centuries before that to be a Jew, your mother had to be Jewish. And, you could not enter the assembly of the people for 10 generations if you had a corrupt blood line. (Deuteronomy 23:3) So they agreed there were enough Jewish mothers for Mariamme to be a princess.
So the Sanhedrin legitimized the her family line which included Joseph. For the ruling Jews, this solved several problems. First, the marriage gave the Sanhedrin credibility with Herod and cemented their continued service in the temple. Second, for Herod, that marriage would hopefully keep the rebellious Jews under control.
The Sanhedrin really hated to legitimize her family line because that showed they were not the true hereditary rulers of the Jews. The Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus were illegitimate rulers of the Jews and the temple. To show how illegitimate they were, Mariamme’s only brother, Aristobulus III was made the high priest of the temple. Therefore they were not direct descendants of King David or the hereditary High Priest families of Zadok or Levi.
This also solved another problem that Joseph and Mary had. It made them a legitimate prince and princess!
But God still had a problem. He made a promise. He said that there would always be someone to sit on the throne of King David. But how was that to be? He cursed King Jeconiah and the family line was corrupted. In the natural, the lineage of David was over. Mary’s side which was called “Rhesiate” line and Joseph’s side was called “Abiud” line. Mary had no viable male heirs and Joseph’s side was fractured. In addition, heirs of the house and lineage of King David have been murdered and persecuted into poverty and obscurity. What to do? But bitter Mary found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Luke 1:30) This is why Isaiah said:
“Sing, O childless woman, you who have never given birth! Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem, you who have never been in labor. For the desolate woman now has more children than the woman who lives with her husband,” says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:1
So “when the fullness of time had come,” when the last man and woman of the house and lineage of David needed a miracle heir to carry on the family name, God provided. God supernaturally intervened in the life of a Mary and Joseph and produced an heir. Jesus was born from the first “artificial” insemination in history.
Three learning points about the lineage of Jesus.
First, Jesus was a threat to the Sanhedrin not just because He was the Son of God and performed miracles. He was a threat because He was a legitimate heir to the Throne of David, and the Sanhedrin were not. This is why Jesus had a royal purple robe with Him at the crucifixion, a seamless robe so beautiful the Roman guards decided not to tear it, but gamble for it.
Second, Jesus was a threat to the Sanhedrin because He survived the massacre of the innocents. Remember, the Sanhedrin themselves legitimized Joseph’s and Mary’s bloodline. This royal blood continued to survive in Jesus threatening their relationship with Herod (remember the illegitimate Mariamme Herod’s second wife?) Did you ever wonder why the Sanhedrin didn’t warn the parents of the toddlers who were slaughtered by the Romans? They needed Jesus dead so the Davidic lineage would die.
Third, we as western Christians need to elevate the Lord Jesus Christ in our teachings in church to His full honor as Prince. Not just in heaven, but Prince Jesus on earth, the Prince of Peace. Prince Jesus was born full fledged royalty. Ezra the scribe decreed four hundred years before the nativity, long before anyone would believe that the house and lineage of David would be on the verge of extinction, that you were a Jew if your mother was a Jew. In the nativity narrative, we are dealing with Prince Joseph, Princess Mary and Prince Jesus. But most Christians have never been taught that.
So now, as Paul Harvey would say, and know, you know the rest of the story.