In the genealogy of Jesus there are many names that are foundational to the nation of Israel and even to our own faith in Christ — names like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, Solomon, Joseph, and Mary.
But near the end of the list of names in Matthew, there are a series of people about whom we know nothing. We read their names, but their history is lost to us (Mt. 1:13-15). Zerubbabel, Abihud, Eliakim, Azor, and the rest mentioned in those verses are anonymous to us (some of the names may sound familiar, but the identity of these men are different than others with the same name — like the Zerubbabel in this verse).
In that sense, this genealogy is no different than many of the lists in the OT history books. Read through chunks of Genesis, Numbers, and Chronicles and you will find many lists of names without an accompanying history. There is no genealogical record to search to gather more information. The internet doesn’t stretch backwards quite that far to be useful for research.
We might ask the question, “What is the value of keeping these names?” What is the significance of keeping track of names when there is no corresponding revealed identity. And what is the value of anonymity in the Messianic line? Wouldn’t it be more helpful if God had preserved the history of all these men.
We don’t know why God saw fit to hide the identity of these men, but there are still several lessons that we can learn from their anonymity.
First, we should remember that there are many unknown names in Scripture, but no one is unknown to God. The One who knows even fallen sparrows and every hair on every head knows every individual who has ever lived — all have been created by Him, in His image and for His glory. They might be forgotten by history but they are not forgotten by God. [And that also serves as a reminder that those who do not love Him will not escape His wrath because of any deficient memory on His part.]
Secondly, the lists of hundreds of unknown names are a reminder that God often accomplishes His purposes with “ordinary” people just being faithful to Him. Just because someone is not famous does not mean he is not useful to God’s purposes. If God can use “ordinary” people in the Messianic lineage, then He can use ordinary people in our lives to accomplish significant works — and He can use all of us ordinary people to accomplish great works. That implies that we should also learn to be faithful in small things when no one is watching and no one knows. God is watching, God knows, and God is using us for His purposes.
Finally, these lists also remind us of our dependence on others. Several times the lists of the chronicler mention that people were given for the purpose of helping and assisting others (e.g., 1 Chron. 11:10ff; 12:1, 17, 23). No man lives in isolation and without need of others. Even mighty King David was dependent on the support and help and ministry of others! The lists of anonymous names remind us of the essential nature of each person; from a human perspective, even the appearance of the Messiah was “dependent” on the faithful work of others. [We do understand that God is sovereignly orchestrating these things according to His will.]
Names and faces and people may appear to be “ordinary” — but these are the very kinds of people that God uses to accomplish His purposes — even purposes like bringing the Messiah. He is a great, sovereign, majestic, and glorious King. And He is accomplishing His purposes through ordinary, common, often-anonymous, clay vessels (2 Cor. 4:7) — like you and me.
Yes. He is a great King — the only great King. But He is a great King who uses ordinary people — so we are graced and He is glorified.
Photo by Andy Dutton on Unsplash.