For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24, ESV)
Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Five diverse women, but one thread holds them together. Each is named in Matthew’s listing of the genealogy of Jesus. That within itself is amazing as women were not usually included in a genealogy. Who were these women and what was their background?
Tamar was the widow of Er, son of Judah. Genesis 38 tells her tragic story of how she resorted to deception to remind her father-in-law of his failure to care for her as promised. We may think her way of handling the problem was wrong, but she was desperate. It was a messy family situation, but the son she conceived through Judah placed her in the lineage of Jesus.
Rahab was the Canaanite prostitute in Jericho who hid the two Israelite spies and helped them escape (Joshua 2-6). She later married Salmon, an Israelite, and became the mother of Boaz. One would not expect a former prostitute to be in the lineage of Jesus or found in the roll call of faith (Hebrews 11:31). But her faith in the God of Israel placed her there.
Ruth was the Moabite widow of an Israelite man. She followed her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Bethlehem, the family home. This Gentile young woman willingly left behind the familiar to embrace Naomi’s people and Naomi’s God. There she met Boaz, the kinsman redeemer—and Rahab’s son. Marriage to him put her in Jesus’ lineage. (Read her love story in the Book of Ruth.)
Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, the Hittite, who caught the eye of King David. There is much we do not know about what happened between her and David. Was she complicit or was she powerless? We do know she lost her husband, Uriah, and lost the child she conceived through David (II Samuel 11-12). She was the mother of Solomon, who was in the lineage of Jesus.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a young Jewish maiden, probably in her early to mid-teens. The gospels tell us little about her background except she lived in Nazareth, was engaged to a man named Joseph, and had an older cousin, Elizabeth, who was expecting a miracle child. Although Mary must have been overwhelmed at the words of the angel Gabriel, she willingly said, “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).
Five women, five amazing stories. We might question why God chose these women and placed them in the Lord’s lineage. Rahab and Ruth were Gentiles. Bathsheba may have been a Hittite. Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba all had questionable reputations. Mary, while virtuous, probably endured whispers and speculations about her baby’s untimely birth.
The genealogy of Jesus shows us that no one is beyond the love, hope, mercy, and redemption of God. It contains smudged (even scandalous) reputations, Gentiles, and women in difficult, even messy situations. But when we are willing, God can step in and create beauty from the chaos of messy lives.
With Jesus, our past does not define our future. He looks beyond ruined reputations, dysfunctional families, misunderstood actions, and how others might view us. The Lord has a beautiful plan for each of our lives. It’s not because of our perfection; it’s because of His grace. God’s grace—His abounding, marvelous grace—places us in His family.
“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20, ESV)