Just as Son of David implies far more than that Jesus is merely David’s descendant, so Son of Abraham implies far more than that Jesus is merely born of Abraham’s line. The title Son of David indicates that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with David. Similarly, as Son of Abraham, Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham. He is Abraham’s promised seed. Son of David implies that Jesus is like David in many remarkable ways. As the Son of Abraham, Jesus is a new Abraham, the Founder of a new chosen people. He will fulfill a role in God’s plan similar to the one fulfilled by Abraham himself.
Matthew could have easily traced Jesus’ ancestry all the way back to Adam, as Luke does in his genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23–38). By beginning the genealogy with Abraham, Matthew places Abraham in a position of special prominence. Furthermore, the fact that Abraham begins the first set of fourteen generations, while David begins the second set of fourteen generations in the genealogical configuration of three sets of fourteen generations, suggests that Abraham and David serve similar purposes in Jesus’ genealogy, as the parallel titles Son of David and Son of Abraham already imply.
Although some suggest that the purpose of beginning the genealogy with Abraham is to present Jesus as a true Jew, later statements in Matthew’s gospel make this reason unlikely. A crucial element of the preaching of John the Baptist is the denial that descent from Abraham ensures enjoyment of God’s special favor. Matthew 3:9 warns, “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” John warns the Jewish people that they should not presume to be true Jews belonging to God with no need to repent simply because they are descendants of Abraham. In light of this, Jesus’ identification as the Son of Abraham must serve a purpose other than marking him as a true Jew. Most likely, Son of Abraham identifies Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham, as the One through whom all nations on earth are to be blessed.
This excerpt is taken from A Theology of Matthew by Charles L. Quarles. Copyright © 2013 by P&R Publishing Company, P.O. Box 817, Phillipsburg, New Jersey 08865-0817.