God’s Royal Seed—Luke’s Gospel
Luke 3:21-38 records the lineage of Jesus Christ from Adam through Mary. Prior to King David the lineage of the royal “Seed” is identical to that recorded in Matthew 1:2-17. However, Luke’s recorded genealogy from Joseph to David differs greatly from Jesus genealogy depicted in Matthew. Most theologians believe Luke’s genealogy is that of Jesus’ mother Mary, and Matthew’s genealogy describes Joseph’s lineage—that of Jesus’ legal father. It passes through Solomon and his royal kingly descendants thereafter. Jesus lineage through Mary passes from King David through his son Nathan and a different line of descendants. The two lineages join at Shealtiel and Zerubbabel.
Mary’s lineage in the Gospel of Luke records only several names other than Zerubbabel that have any familiarity to students of Scripture. Mattathias is listed several times in Luke’s genealogy and Nahum appears only once. This article will investigate Mattathias, his grandfather Nahum, and Zerubbabel—what little we know about these men.
The Line of Jesus Through Mary
Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God (Luke 3:23:38).
David had two sons who became progenitors of two branches of the lineage of Joseph and Mary, ending in the Royal Seed, Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Matthew depicts the genealogy of Joseph beginning with Abraham, connecting with King David, and progressing through King Solomon and his descendants. The Gospel of Luke records the lineage of Jesus through His mother Mary. It begins with Adam, progresses to Abraham, then to King David (in similar fashion as Matthew’s genealogy). It then forks through David’s older son with Bathsheeba, Nathan. Mary’s genealogy in Luke records mostly obscure names after David’s son, Nathan. Most of these are not recorded elsewhere in the Bible and historians have found scant information about them in extra-Biblical sources. The reason is these men were not in the lineage of Jewish kings that descend from King David. Zerubbabel, Mattathias, and Nahum stand apart as the only exceptions to the relative obscurity of the other personages.
Zerubbabel became a very prominent man in the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. Isaiah recorded an incredibly detailed prophecy over one hundred and fifty years before the birth of King Cyrus. The prophecy actually gave the name of this King and recorded he would issue a proclamation to free the Jewish people to return to their homeland and rebuild God’s temple in Jerusalem. This prophecy was given over a hundred years before the Jews were ever deported as slaves to Babylon. The Babylonian Empire did not even exist in Isaiah’s lifetime! The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the great temple Solomon had built for God. King Cyrus arose as the first King of the subsequent MedoPersian Empire. It conquered the Babylonian Empire and supplanted Babylon as the de-facto world superpower. King Cyrus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy shortly thereafter, issuing an edict to free the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the Jerusalem Temple. Zerubbabel led a contingent of Jews from Babylon along with the High Priest, Joshua (Jeshua—the same name as our Lord). They immigrated to Israel. Zerubbabel then governed the region of Jerusalem under the MedoPersian King Cyrus. Zerubbabel and Joshua directed the rebuilding of the Jewish temple on Mount Moriah.
Zerubbabel had several sons and one daughter (1 Chron. 3:19). It is not clear why God disqualified his sons from carrying the Royal Seed. However, their sister, Shelomith, was gifted the opportunity and carried the bloodline of Jesus. She passed it to her eldest son, Abiud, and then it continued ultimately through Mary to Jesus.
The name Nahum means, “comfort.” It is a short form of the name Nehemiah, which means “comfort of Yahweh.” King Artaxerxes dispatched Nehemiah to rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem in 446 B.C. during the MedoPersian Empire. This occurred several generations after Zerubbabel and King Cyrus.
The Biblical prophet Nahum lived about 200 years earlier than Zerubbabel, just prior to the fall of the Assyrian Empire. Yet his name is mentioned in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus several generations after Zerubbabel. This author believes the Nahum listed in Luke’s genealogy is a different man than the notable Biblical prophet who prophesied the downfall of the great Assyrian Empire. But the Bible does not mention this name anywhere else. It is probable Nahum listed in Jesus’ genealogy was named after the great prophet. The names of godly men of Israel were often used in subsequent generations.
Nahum 1: 1 states the original Nahum was an Elkoshite, which likely refers to his birthplace. Many have tried to locate the city or village of Elkosh, but its location has not been conclusively established. Some have linked a city in northern Iraq, Al Qosh, to Nahum’s birthplace or residence. This would place he or his parents among the Jewish exiles taken by the Assyrians into northern Iraq around 700 B.C. Capernaum was a famous town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, which became the center of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Capernaum means “the village of Nahum.” Biblical scholars attribute its name to this Biblical prophet. Perhaps Nahum was among the notable residents of this village before the Assyrians exiled him into northern Iraq. Some have theorized the original name of Capernaum was Elkosh and was later named Capernaum to commemorate Nahum. If this is true, he was originally a citizen of that city, then moved to Judah after the Assyrian invasion of Israel. Several other possibilities have been proposed, as well.
Nahum prophesied against Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, during their zenith of power. His ministry probably occurred before 626 B.C., but after 663 B.C., because he notes the fall of No-amon (Thebes) in Nahum 3: 8-10, which occurred in 626 B.C. Nahum probably wrote his book of prophecy during the reign of Manasseh, the wicked King of Judah (695-642 B.C.). It is also possible Nahum prophesied during the reign of Manasseh’s son, Amon, or his grandson, Josiah.
A century after Nineveh had repented from the Word of God spoken by the prophet Jonah it had fallen into idolatry and violence once again. The Assyrians had become absolutely brutal in their conquests. They frequently impaled their victims on spears and paraded them before citizens of cities they conquered. Assyrians also skinned their victims and adorned their tent walls with these skins. God was fed up with Nineveh’s arrogance and evil ways. It was judgment time, and Nahum detailed the methods of God’s judgment.
Nahum prophesied Nineveh would fall “with an overflowing flood.” This later occurred in 612 B.C. when the Tigris River overflowed enough to destroy a portion of the 100-foot wall surrounding Nineveh, allowing the Babylonian military to enter the city. Nahum prophesied Nineveh would be hidden. After the Babylonians destroyed it in 612 B.C., it was literally buried by desert sands. It was not rediscovered until 1842 A.D.—over 2,400 years later.
It is interesting the village of Capernaum was named after Nahum. That same town provided a home for Jesus and His Apostles during His earthly ministry. Many of Jesus’ most famous miracles occurred in Capernaum or its environs. Peter and his fishing buddies worked out of Capernaum. Peter’s wife and mother-in-law lived there. Capernaum was just several miles down the road from Nazareth, where Jesus grew up as a child. His parents had previously resided in Nazareth with their families. Could this very Nahum, after whom the village of Capernaum was named, be in the genealogy of Mary? In view of the fact it is closely located to Mary and Joseph’s hometown, this seems possible. But the supportive data is scant and we will have to wait till we reach heaven to hear the rest of the story. Some have conjectured the prophet, Nahum, is in Christ’s lineage. This author believes the Nahum in Jesus’ genealogy was named after the famous prophet. The 500-year duration between the prophet Nahum and Mattathias is a long stretch to make him grandfather of Mattathias (as portrayed in Luke’s genealogy). Also, recall Zerubbabel lived after the prophet Nahum, but is listed earlier in Luke’s genealogy. All this points to a different Nahum for each of the two Biblical listings. However, one of Nahum’s later descendants may have taken his name and appeared in the genealogy of Mary.
Luke’s genealogy lists the grandson of Nahum as Mattathias. It also lists his great grandfather as Maath and great, great grandfather as Mattathias.
Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel (Luke 3: 24-27).
Heli was father of Mary and father-in-law of Joseph. The names of men preceding Heli sound strange to modern ears, but four of eleven of these men were given the name Mattathias or a derivative of that name. The name Mattathias became very popular in the two centuries preceding Jesus Christ. In fact, the tax collector Matthew, called by Jesus as a disciple, was named after the most famous of these men, Mattathias. He was likely the earliest one listed in Jesus lineage.
Mattathias was a priest during and after the invasion of Israel by Antiochus Epiphanes 168-165 B.C. The Apocryphal Books of Maccabbees recorded his story. These books are not in the Bible, but are excellent historical references of the events of “the silent years” following completion of the Old Testament by Malachi’s prophetic work.
Many argue the Hasmonean priest Mattathias was indeed in Jesus lineage. Mattathias ministered as the senior Jewish priest in the city of Modin—just a short distance from the capital city of Jerusalem. He actively resisted the cruel edicts of Antiochus Epiphanes, a wicked Syrian King who had invaded and controlled Israel in that time. Mattathias became a hero of the Jewish people as a result of his resistance.
Antiochus Epiphanes ordered a pig sacrificed on the altar of the Jerusalem temple and had its blood sprinkled throughout the Holy of Holies. His men poured pig broth over the holy scrolls, then burned them to ashes. Syrian soldiers erected a statue of Zeus (the supreme god of the Greek pantheon) on the temple grounds that portrayed the face of Antiochus Epiphanes. Shock and horror spread throughout the Jewish people.
Antiochus Epiphanes continued his rampage, commanding all Jews who worshipped the God of Moses be executed. His soldiers snuffed out the life of countless circumcised Jewish infants by running them through with swords. The lifeless infants were then hung from their mothers’ necks until the corpses rotted. Women were tossed from the city walls. Entire Jewish families were executed if Biblical scrolls were found in house searches. Jewish rabbis were killed and Jewish citizens forced to eat pork, forbidden by the Mosaic Law. Jews were forced to decide between assimilation or annihilation.
Many Jewish believers gave their lives during this dark time. Syrian military detachments were sent throughout the land to enforce Greek culture and punish any dissidents. One detachment was dispatched to the tiny village of Modin, located 17 miles from Jerusalem. The Syrian soldiers ordered an altar erected to worship Zeus. They convened the village people and ordered the senior priest of the village, Mattathias, to sacrifice a pig to Zeus in honor of Antiochus Epiphanes. He adamantly refused to sacrifice the pig. But an apostate priest approached the altar and requested to perform the sacrifice. Mattathias tore the sword from the hand of the Syrian guard and killed him, then thrust the sword through the apostate priest preparing to sacrifice the swine. Mattathias, his five sons and their followers fled to the wilderness to hide from the Syrian army, who intended to capture and execute them.
Mattathias died shortly thereafter. On his deathbed he chose his son, Judah, to lead the revolt. The number of faithful rebels steadily grew, and they called themselves Maccabees, after a Jewish word meaning “hammer.” They waged terrorist warfare, ambushing Syrian troops by stealth and surprise. The rebellion raged for three years and gradually broke the Syrian occupation. Many newlyweds named their sons Mattathias from that time forward to commemorate the heroic actions of this man.
The most authentic ancient source of Mattathias genealogy is provided in the First Book of Maccabees: “Mattathias, the son of John, the son of Simeon, a priest of the sons of Joiarib, from Jerusalem; and he dwelt at Modin.” Simeon is also listed in Luke’s genealogy as father of the first Mattathias. The Jewish historian, Josephus, traces the genealogy back for another generation, mentioning Hasmonæus after Simeon. But Hasmonæus is not likely Mattathias’ great-grandfather, but rather a distant ancestor. The fact the names Mattathias, John and Simeon recur in the family lineage in subsequent generations after Mattathias, while the name “Hasmonæus” is not found in that period, lends proof that this man lived in a much earlier time in history. The name Mattathias recurs in the person of his grandson, a son of Simon. A derivative of this name also occurs several additional times in Jesus lineage as mentioned above.
This author cannot maintain with certainty this same Mattathias is in the direct lineage of Jesus through Mary. But many believe it is highly likely. If true, the genealogy of Jesus portrays the Kingly line from Judah, the priestly line of Levi, with prophets possibly in His lineage, as well! The Books of Genesis and Revelation depict Jesus as the Lion King who will reign forever over His creation. The Book of Hebrews portrays Jesus as the High Priest of the order of Melchizedek. Moses speaks of Jesus as the great prophet who is to come.
Zerubbabel, Nahum and Mattathias carried the ‘Royal Seed’ of Jesus Christ and passed it down to subsequent generations. God’s “Seed” finally arrived at its destination in a babe born in very impoverished circumstances. This babe was laid in a cow trough (a manger) and clothed in burial clothes. Normal parents of this time had low expectations that a child born in these conditions would even survive. Infant mortality was very high. But Jesus’ parents were not normal. God had planted great faith and hope in their hearts. They carried the Royal Seed of God’s only Son, begotten in human flesh for the sole purpose of paying the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind. This infant babe would later open the path to the Tree of Life and its heavenly environs for countless myriads of people. The path to this ordinary looking babe passed through very ordinary people, about whom we know very little. Most of these ordinary individuals were like us—not famous, wealthy, or of Kingly lineage. God used these ordinary people to bring forth His Son—His Royal Seed. God still uses ordinary people today to bring forth bounties of fruit from that Royal Seed. Are you one of those ordinary people?
 Isaiah 41: 2-4, 25; Isaiah 44: 28-45: 6; Ezra 1: 1-2; 6: 3
 2Kings 21: 1-18
 Nahum 1: 8
 Nahum 3: 11
 Mark 1: 21-31
 2Maccabees chapter 2
 I Macc. 2: 1
 Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. xii. 6, § 1
 I Macc. 16: 14
 Genesis 49: 8-12; Revelation 5: 5
 Hebrews 7: 17
 Deut. 18: 18; Matt. 21: 11; Luke 1: 76; Luke 7: 16