on Matthew 1 :17
Fourteen generations - See the note on Matthew 1:11. The Jews had a sort of technical method of summing up generations in this way. In Synopsis Sohar, p. 132, n. 18, we have the following words; "From Abraham to Solomon were fifteen generations; and then the moon was at the full. From Solomon to Zedekiah were other fifteen generations; the moon was then in the wane, and Zedekiah's eyes were put out." That is, the regal state came to its zenith of light and glory in the time of Solomon; but decreased gradually, till it became nearly extinct in the days of Zedekiah. See Schoetgen.
on Matthew 1 :17
So all the generations ... - This division of the names in the genealogical tables was doubtless adopted for the purpose of aiding the memory. It was common among the Jews; and other similar instances are preserved. The Jews were destitute of books besides the Old Testament, and they had but few copies of that among them, and those chiefly in their synagogues. They would therefore naturally devise plans to keep up the remembrance of the principal facts in their history. One method of doing this was to divide the tables of genealogy into portions of equal length, to be committed to memory. This greatly facilitated the remembrance of the names. A man who wished to commit to memory the names of a regiment of soldiers would naturally divide it into companies and platoons, and this would greatly facilitate his work. This was doubtless the reason in the case before us. And, though it is not strictly accurate, yet it was the Jewish way of keeping their records, and answered their purpose. There were three leading persons and events that nearly, or quite, divided their history into equal portions: Abraham, David, and the Babylonian captivity. From one to the other was about 14 generations, and by omitting a few names it was sufficiently accurate to be made a general guide or directory in recalling the principal events in their history.
In counting these divisions, however, it will be seen that there is some difficulty in making out the number 14 in each division. This may be explained in the following manner: In the first division, Abraham is the first and David the last, making 14 altogether. In the second series, David would naturally be placed first, and the 14 was completed in Josiah, about the time of the captivity, as sufficiently near for the purpose of convenient computation, 2 Chronicles 35. In the third division Josiah would naturally be placed first, and the number was completed in Joseph; so that David and Josiah would be reckoned twice. This may be shown by the following table of the names:
FirstDivision SecondDivision ThirdDivision Abraham David Josias Isaac Solomon Jechonias Jacob Roboam Salathiel Judas Abia Zorobabel Phares Asa Abiud Esrom Josaphat Eliakim Aram Joram Azor Aminadab Ozias Sadoc Naasson Joatham Achim Salmon Achaz Eliud Boaz Ezekias Eleazar Obed Manasses Matthan Jesse Amon Jacob David Josias Joseph 14 14 14
Carrying away into Babylon - This refers to the captivity of Jerusalem, and the removal of the Jews to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, 588 years before Christ. See 2 Chronicles 36. Josiah was king when these calamities began to come upon the Jews, but the exact time of the 70 years of captivity did not commence until the 11th year of Zedekiah's reign, or 32 years after the death of Josiah. Babylon was situated on the Euphrates, and was encompassed with walls which were about 60 miles in circuit, 87 feet broad, and 350 feet high, and the city was entered by 100 brass gates - 25 on each side. It was the capital of a vast empire, and the Jews remained there for 70 years. See Barnes' notes at Isaiah 13.
on Matthew 1 :17
1:17 So all the generations - Observe, in order to complete the three fourteens, David ends the first fourteen, and begins the second (which reaches to the captivity) and Jesus ends the third fourteen. When we survey such a series of generations, it is a natural and obvious reflection, how like the leaves of a tree one passeth away, and another cometh! Yet the earth still abideth. And with it the goodness of the Lord which runs from generation to generation, the common hope of parents and children. Of those who formerly lived upon earth, and perhaps made the most conspicuous figure, how many are there whose names are perished with them? How many, of whom only the names are remaining? Thus are we likewise passing away! And thus shall we shortly be forgotten! Happy are we, if, while we are forgotten by men, we are remembered by God! If our names, lost on earth, are at length found written in the book of life!