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We all know about Joseph and Mary, the Inn of Bethlehem, the shepherds, the star, and the wise men. They’re all part of the wonderful story we remember and tell this time of year. There’s more to the story, though. Obscure and often overlooked, buried in Matthew’s genealogy and leading up to the birth of Christ are four women.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 
(Matt. 1:1-6)
Most Christians don’t get excited about the genealogies; they are the sections of Scripture that we typically skim over. But there’s something very unique about the inclusion of these four women. It was not customary in those days for women to be a part of such listings. As a matter of fact, women then had little or no legal rights, and were merely the possession of their fathers or husbands.

Consider these four women—all ancestors of Jesus—that Matthew, inspired by the Holy Spirit, included in his Gospel:

Tamar (Genesis 38)

This woman was married to one of the sons of Judah. Her husband died, leaving her childless. She married his brother (according to a custom of that day), but he died, also leaving her childless. Judah told her to wait for his youngest son, but really had no intention of having them marry (he probably considered her to be “bad luck,” the cause of his first two sons’ deaths).

Tamar then posed as a prostitute and had a sexual encounter with Judah, her father-in-law. Another of Jesus’ ancestors (Perez) was born of this illicit act.


A Cannanite woman and a prostitute in Jericho. However, she came to recognize Jehovah as the true God, saved the Hebrew spies, and through faith, found the favor of God and became a part of God’s covenant people. She said, “…the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Josh. 2:11).

The “scarlet cord” she tied in her window to bring safety and deliverance to her family is considered to be a type of the blood of Christ (Josh. 2:15-21).

Rahab is listed in the great “Hall of Faith” (Heb. 11:31) and is also mentioned by James as an example of faith (James 2:25). Rahab later married an Israelite and became an ancestress not only to Jesus, but (according to rabbinic tradition), an ancestress to eight of Israel’s prophets, including Jeremiah.


A woman of Moab, a despised and outcast people. The Moabites and the Ammonites had their origin through incest when Lot’s two daughters got their father drunk and became pregnant by him (Gen. 19:30-37).

Deuteronomy 23:3 says, "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever…”

Though not part of the commonwealth of Israel, Ruth displayed courageous love and unshakeable loyalty (Ruth 1:16-17), became the great-grandmother of King David, and took her place in the lineage of Christ.


The woman David had an adulterous affair with before he put her husband, Uriah, to death. After marrying David, she became the mother of Solomon, and like the other women mentioned, is an ancestress of Jesus.

What is amazing is that Matthew made no attempt to cover any of this up! The Bible doesn’t “candy coat” the facts. Instead, he highlighted these four women in an age when women were typically ignored. Further, he neglected to mention any of the other women in Jesus’ lineage, even “respectable women” such as Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah.

William Barclay said of these four women, “If Matthew had ransacked the pages of the Old Testament for improbable candidates he could not have discovered four more incredible ancestors for Jesus Christ. But, surely, there is something very lovely in this. Here at the very beginning of the gospel we are given a hint of the all-embracing width of the love of God. God can find his servants amongst those from whom the respectable orthodox would shudder away in horror.”

Perhaps the very reason that these were included was to demonstrate the great mercy and grace of our God. The Heavenly Father may have been communicating to all of humanity: “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what matters is where you’re going. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, what matters is what you’re doing.”

I enjoy the trees and the lights and all the festivities of the season, but the true beauty of Christmas is not found in any of these. It’s found in the eternal fact that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

All through history, God has sought us. Even when our attitudes and actions were against Him, He was for us. When we were at our very worst, God gave us His very best!

Copyright © Tony Cooke Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Tony Cooke
Web site: Tony Cooke Ministries
Since 2002, Tony and Lisa have traveled full-time with an assignment of “Strengthening Churches and Leaders.” Tony’s passion for teaching the Bible has taken him to forty-six states and twenty-six nations. Tony, and Lisa reside in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and are the parents of two adult children, Laura and Andrew.

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