J.C. Ryle begins his commentary on Matthew 1: 1-17 this way-
The Gospel of Matthew begins with a long list of names. Sixteen verses are taken up with tracing a pedigree from Abraham to David, and from David to the family in which Jesus was born. Let no one think that these verses are useless. Nothing is useless in creation. The least mosses, and the smallest insects, serve some good end. Nothing is useless in the Bible. Every word of it is inspired. The chapters and verses which seem at first sight unprofitable, are all given for some good purpose. Look again at these sixteen verses, and you will see in them useful and instructive lessons.
Learn from this list of names, that God always keeps His word. He had promised, that in Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. He had promised to raise up a Savior of the family of David. (Gen. 12:3; Isaiah 11:1.) These sixteen verses prove, that Jesus was the son of David and the son of Abraham, and that God’s promise was fulfilled. Thoughtless and ungodly people should remember this lesson, and be afraid. Whatever they may think, God will keep His word. If they repent not, they will surely perish. True Christians should remember this lesson, and take comfort. Their Father in heaven will be true to all His engagements. He has said, that He will save all believers in Christ. If He has said it, He will certainly do it. “He is not a man that He should lie.” “He remains faithful–He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13.)
Learn next from this list of names, the sinfulness and corruption of human nature. Observe how many godly parents in this catalogue had wicked and ungodly sons. The names of Rehoboam, and Joram, and Amon, and Jechoniah, should teach us humbling lessons. They had all pious fathers. But they were all wicked men. Grace does not run in families. It needs something more than good examples and good advice to make us children of God. Those who are born again are not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, (John 1:13.) Praying parents should pray night and day, that their children may be born of the Spirit.
Learn lastly from this list of names, how great is the mercy and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Think how defiled and unclean our nature is; and then think what a condescension it was in Him to be born of a woman, and “made in the likeness of men.” Some of the names we read in this catalogue remind us of shameful and sad histories. Some of the names are those of people never mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. But at the end of all comes the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though He is the eternal God, He humbled Himself to become man, in order to provide salvation for sinners. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.”
We should always read this catalogue with thankful feelings. We see here that no one who partakes of human nature can be beyond the reach of Christ’s sympathy and compassion. Our sins may have been as black and great as those of any whom Matthew names. But they can not shut us out of heaven, if we repent and believe the gospel. If Jesus was not ashamed to be born of a woman, whose pedigree contained such names as those we have read today, we need not think that He will be ashamed to call us brethren, and to give us eternal life.
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