Have you ever had a job that you are just all too happy to leave off your resume?
For me, it’s a 6-month stint I did as an admin at a nonprofit consulting firm down in Boston.
Going in, I was super super stoked about the position. The mission of the firm was to help nonprofit organizations do their good work even better. Little did I realize, however, that the guy I would be working for had anger management issues. As in, he was in weekly therapy for his long ago identified issues with rage.
I don’t know how much he was paying his therapist, he was wasting his money. It wasn’t helping at all!
If I made any mistake, no matter how small, he would get literally red in the face and scream. I’d then get anxious and make more mistakes. He would scream louder. Then, I’d make even more mistakes. And down and down we’d spiral.
At the 6-month mark my wife and I both agreed we’d be better off eating Ramen noodles for every meal than having me come home a total mess night after night. So I resigned and never looked back.
You had better believe: that that job is NOWHERE to be found on my resume. I’m not proud of it nor the work I did there and want nothing more than to forget it. And if I’m completely honest, I don’t want anyone calling there for references!
If you’ve ever made a resumé, you’ve undoubtedly had the experience of nixing certain jobs that weren’t proud of while putting others up top in bold, italic, 54pt font.
What we do to our resumés today – hiding certain jobs and highlighting others – is what people in ancient times would do to their genealogies. Genealogies were the resumés of the ancient world.
1st-Century Palestinian society was not an individualistic society like ours. They were less concerned about what you had personally accomplished in your life and they more concerned about where you came from. It was believed that that would be truly indicative of the type of person you would turn out to be.
It’s for this reason, that the gospel writer Matthew, opens his book with a genealogy as a way of establishing Jesus’ bonafides.
And as far as genealogies go, the one that Matthew lays out is ridiculously impressive. It reads like a who’s who of the Old Testament. In fact, The crowning glory of Jesus’ genealogy, is none other than King David himself. If ever there was a person that a 1st-century Palestinian Jew would want to claim in their lineage it would be David!
David was revered as Israel’s greatest king. His reign ushered great prosperity into the region. He united the tribes of Israel into a single kingdom. He re-conquered Jerusalem from the Philistines and established it as his capital. He defeated enemy armies right and left. And, notably, David never strayed into idolatry as did most every other king that came after him.
Having King David in your lineage, would be the modern day equivalent of getting to list Jesus as a personal reference on your resume: very impressive, carries a lot of weight.
2 Samuel 11 (New Living Translation)
In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.
Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home. Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.”
Then David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent him to David. When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing. Then he told Uriah, “Go on home and relax.” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace. But Uriah didn’t go home. He slept that night at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard.
When David heard that Uriah had not gone home, he summoned him and asked, “What’s the matter? Why didn’t you go home last night after being away for so long?”
Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.”
“Well, stay here today,” David told him, “and tomorrow you may return to the army.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. Then David invited him to dinner and got him drunk. But even then he couldn’t get Uriah to go home to his wife. Again he slept at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard.
So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers.
Then Joab sent a battle report to David….. [T]he messenger went to Jerusalem and gave a complete report to David. “The enemy came out against us in the open fields,” he said. “And as we chased them back to the city gate, the archers on the wall shot arrows at us. Some of the king’s men were killed, including Uriah the Hittite.”
“Well, tell Joab not to be discouraged,” David said. “The sword devours this one today and that one tomorrow! Fight harder next time, and conquer the city!”
When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. When the period of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her to the palace, and she became one of his wives.
But even as Matthew goes to great lengths to establish Jesus’ pedigree and make him look impressive as possible, he does something kinda strange. Rather than putting King David’s name in bold, italic, 54pt font, he drops David’s name in a way that’s anything but straightforward.
Matthew describes dave as “the father of Solomon by THE WIFE OF URIAH”
So bible bad girl Bathsheba is making an appearance here in Jesus’ genealogy. However, she is referred to solely as
the Wife of Uriah. That is, the wife of a man other than David. While at first glance that might appear to be a slam on Bathsheba, in truth, it’s meant to be a slam on David!
After all, it was DAVID, who bears the culpability for EVERY nasty thing that happens in their relationship.
- It was David that had Bathsheba brought to his palace even after learning that she was the wife of his friend Uriah.
- It was David that chose to have sex with Bathsheba.
- It was David that then tried to lie and cover up his paternity when he learned Bathsheba was with child.
- And when that failed, it was David that conspired to murder Bathsheba’s husband Uriah simply that his dirty laundry wouldn’t get aired for the world to see.
So by calling Bathsheba “the Wife of Uriah,” what the gospel writer Matthew is doing is a) he’s naming and claiming Bathsheba as a relative of Jesus and b) he is at the same time calling to our minds the very worst things that King David did in course of his life.
So what we find in the genealogy of Jesus is a great leveling.
Far from hiding away certain potentially embarrassing ancestors and putting other, more prestigious ancestors, in bold, italic 54pt font, in the genealogy of Jesus mighty kings like David are brought down and raised up are women like Bathsheba who had no power, no privilege, no prestige to offer. Their names appear side by side.
Jesus proudly claims both Bathsheba and King David as family.
And the good news for us?
As Paul reminds us in Hebrews Chapter 2, Jesus is not ashamed to call US brothers and sisters. Which means that we’re not just inheritors of this genealogy but that OUR NAMES now appear on it.
And friends, you need to know that God doesn’t put anything on his resumé that God ain’t proud of.
Thanks be to God for that!