Is there a mistake in the gospel of Matthew 1:11
It is claimed by some that the Bible contains errors. One of those such “errors” can be found in the gospel of Matthew chapter 1 verse 11 where he states that Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren.
Matthew 1:11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;
However when we look at the actual father of Jeconiah we will see that it was in fact Jehoiakim and not Josiah as Matthew had stated.
1 Chronicles 3:15 And the sons of Josiah were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. 2 And the sons of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son.
It would seem then that Matthew has made a mistake. Josiah was the grandfather of Jeconiah and not his father. Jeconiah it would seem also had no brothers. It would appear that the correct name in this verse should be Jehoiakim.
So how do we reconcile this? Many people believe that there was a scribal error in an early copy of Matthew and that Matthew had originally included the name Jehoiakim instead of his son. In fact we do see in later manuscripts scribal “corrections” where scribes have tried to rectify this problem by inserting the name Jehoiakim into the margin.
However, I believe that there is a much more biblical answer to this “error” which I do not believe is an error at all. Although it would appear to be an error Matthew wrote Jechonias and he knew what he was doing when he did so even if it may not be a straightforward reason.
One of the most important things to note about Matthew’s genealogy of Christ is that Matthew does not actually use the term genealogy. Matthew uses the term generation
Matthew 1: 1The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Matthew breaks his “genealogy” down into 3 x 14 GENERATIONS. Mathew is working generationally.
Matthew 1: 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.
So it is very important to remember what Matthew’s aim is. He is focused not in literal genealogy, in fact Jehoiakim is not the only name that Matthew leaves out, Matthews focus is on the generations.
Now in order to understand why Matthew used Jechonias instead of his father in his list we have to understand a little about biblical history.
Jehoiakim was an evil man. Whatsmore, Jehoiakim was not actually his real name. His name was Eliakim. Eliakim was also not a real king in Judah. It was Pharaohnechoh the King of Egypt made him king of Judah and he also changed his name.
2 Kings 23:34 And Pharaohnechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim, and took Jehoahaz away: and he came to Egypt, and died there.
Jehoahaz was the first son of Josiah. He became king after the death of his father Josiah.
2 Chronicles 36: 1 Then the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and made him king in his father’s stead in Jerusalem.2 Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem.3 And the king of Egypt put him down at Jerusalem, and condemned the land in an hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold.
Jehoahaz reign lasted 3 months before, as we have seen, the King of Egypt came upon Jerusalem, took Jehoahaz away and made Jehoiakim/ Eliakim a puppet king in his place.
So Jehoiakim was never a real king in Jerusalem. He was also so evil that we even see that The LORD states that a son of Jehoiakim would not sit upon the throne of David.
Jeremiah 36:30 Therefore thus saith the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.
So Matthew, for the highlighted reasons, did not include Jehoiakim within his GENERATIONAL (not literal genealogy list).
So understanding thatMatthew’s list is generational not a literal genealogy, Matthew used Jechonias to refer to the generation that was taken away to babylon as It was Jechonias that was indeed taken by Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon.
Jeremiah 27:20 Which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took not, when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem;
Obviously we still have the problem of the term begat. The term begat would denote that a person had literally begat (brought forth) being the actual father of the person they are referred to as having begat. However this simply is not always the case.
In the book of Isaiah we find Isaiah prophesying to Hezekiah. Hezekiah had shown the Babylonians all the gold, silver, spices and treasures of his kingdom.
Isaiah 39: 1 At that time Merodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered. 2 And Hezekiah was glad of them, and shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.
Isaiah tells Hezekiah that because of what he had done that all the treasures would be one day carried off to Babylon and that the sons that he shall BEGAT would be eunuchs in Babylon.
Isaiah 39: 5Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD 7 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. 8Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days.
Hezekiah did not have sons plural. Hezekiah only had one son, Manasseh. Manassah did not go into captivity as per this prophecy and he was not made a eunuch.
Manassah did however go to Babylon, he was taken their by the king of Assyria:
2 Chronicles 33: Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.
But Manasseh besought the LORD and returned to Jerusalem
2 Chronicles 33: 12And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.
This is not the captivity that Isaiah had prophesied about which would come later during the reign of Jochenias.
Manasseh died and was buried in his own house. His son Amon reigned after him.
2 Chronicles 33: 20 So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.
When we go back and have a look at the passage in 1 Chronicles we that Amon’s son was Josiah
1 Chronicles 3: 13 Ahaz his son, Hezekiah his son, Manasseh his son, 14 Amon his son, and Josiah his son. 15 The sons of Josiah were Johanan the firstborn, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, and the fourth Shallum. 16 The sons of Jehoiakim were Jeconiah his son and Zedekiah his son.
So it was actually Hezekiah’s Great great great grandson Jechonias who was carried away to Babylon yet God referred to Jechonias as a son who Hezekiah would begat.
The term begat can then refer to a non literal but blood relative.
So having seen why Matthew would not include Jehoiakim in the list of the generations of Jesus we can also see that Matthews inclusion of Jechonias was both correct, as it was his generation that was carried away to Babylon and also the term begat would not be incorrect seeing that Jechonias was a literal blood descendant of his grandfather Josiah.
The Bible is never wrong. There are no mistakes. There are only misunderstandings which when correctly understood they simply disappear. There is always an answer and a purpose for why what is recorded is recorded in the way that it is.