Updated: Apr 19
A reader asks whether Jesus' bloodline is cursed if Mary is Jeconiah's blood descendant.
In “On Matthew and Luke’s Contradictory Genealogies,” I argued that the original, now-lost text of Matthew 1 traced Jesus’ biological descent through Mary. Among other arguments, I pointed to the fact that at least two early church fathers referred to Matthew's Gospel as providing a blood genealogy “of Mary.”
A reader writes in with the following concern, slightly edited:
I have a question about this article you wrote about Matthew's genealogy being Marian. This was really good, but it left one important question unanswered that I feel is the only obstacle to me accepting your theory. Jeconiah is listed in Matthew's genealogy, but Jeremiah 22:30 curses his lineage to prevent any descendant from sitting on David's throne. The common way around this is that since Matthew's genealogy is giving Joseph's ancestors—the traditional view—Jesus isn't a physical descendant of Joseph, which allows him to get pass the curse. I'm curious what the solution would be to this problem if Matthew is giving Mary's genealogy?
Here was my response:
Good question. While I don't have the definitive answer for you on this, the first thing to note is that there's just no way out of Jesus being a blood descendant of Jeconiah. If there’s one person besides David and Mary that we absolutely know Jesus was a blood descendant of, it’s Zerubbabel. Both Matthew 1 and Luke 3 include Zerubbabel. I'd even say Jesus alludes to Zerubbabel. And Zerubbabel was definitely a descendant of Jeconiah. Look at the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 3, for example.
In fact, Zerubbabel's descent from Jeconiah seems to be a big part of the reason he became the post-Exile leader of Judah. That's why Zerubbabel is called the "son of Shealtiel" everywhere: he is the heir of the legitimate prince of Judah. Technically Zerubbabel seems to have been the nephew of Shealtiel and been adopted as his heir, but that doesn't change the fact that he was from the bloodline of Jeconiah.
So if this is a problem, it's not unique to my theory. You can't get out of it with the typical Luke-as-Marian theory. As far as Africanus goes, even if you're willing to bite the bullet on the problems I pointed out, you're still going to need to posit some kind of interpolation or error to explain things like why Shealtiel has two different fathers in Matthew and Luke.
Still, the problem of the curse in Jeremiah just isn’t very troubling to me, whatever the answer is. When I first discovered this issue of the genealogies, I was really struck by the thought that—unless there has been interpolation—then it seems that either Matthew or Luke flat-out lied and invented an almost completely bogus genealogy in bad faith, in which case we need to discount one of the Gospel authors as a source.
But the Jeremiah curse just isn’t a problem of that kind. It doesn’t require us to impute bad faith to any biblical author. At worst, it just leaves us with kind of a minor confusing mystery.
Just to suggest one possible solution off the top of my head, though: the ESV translates Jeremiah 22:30 as “offspring.” And Jeremiah looks to be the only place where translators sometimes render “mizzarow” as “descendants.” Compare to Leviticus 20:2, where it seems to just mean “children.”
Consider the whole Jeremiah passage in the ESV:
Thus says the Lord: “Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days, for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah.”
Literally, this is what happened. Jeconiah did not succeed in his days: he was taken into captivity by the Babylonians, and none of his sons sat on the throne of Judah. The throne was lost until the time of Zerubbabel.
And now that you’ve got me thinking about it, there’s a really strong point in favor of this theory. In Jeremiah 22:24, God curses Jeconiah by saying “though Coniah [that is, Jeconiah] the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off.”
In contrast, how does the Lord bless Zerubbabel’s rule over Judah? He calls him the Lord’s signet ring. Haggai 2:23 says “’I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord of hosts.”
This looks like the Lord specifically declaring that the interregnum caused by the curse on Jeconiah’s children has ended. Jeconiah was cast off of the Lord’s hand, but Zerubbabel—who is a type of Christ—is worthy to be put on the Lord’s hand. What do you think?