QUESTION: Why are four women mentioned in the genealogy according to Matthew? It does not seem necessary to have included them in establishing that the Lord Jesus descended from the promised seed through Abraham and King David.
ANSWER: This is a good question. As we look at these four women we will find that each one seems to point to something about salvation. Let's notice the first one that is mentioned. Her name is Tamar. As we read about her in Genesis 38 we find nothing about her that would commend itself to us as good. Disguising herself as a harlot, she tricked her father-in-law, Judah, and had twin sons by him. What was it that put her into the genealogy? It was her sin. Why then is her name included here? I believe it is to remind us that Jesus Christ came into the world not to save good people (because there are none), but sinners of whom Paul said he was chief (1 Timothy 1:15).
The second woman mentioned is Rahab. She lived in the city of Jericho (Joshua 2:1-22; 6:25). It was a wicked city and God was going to destroy it. Joshua had sent two spies to that city and Rahab hid them from the king of Jericho and saved their lives. She believed what the spies had told her about the coming judgment and followed their directions. Her life and the lives of her family were spared. What was it that saved her? We find the answer in Hebrews 11:31. "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not."
The third woman mentioned is Ruth. She was from the country of Moab, and the Bible plainly declared that: "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever" (Deuteronomy 23:3). But, because of God's grace, the law does not keep Ruth out. Her child of the third generation, David, sits upon Israel's throne. So the law is set aside. "The righteousness of God without the law is manifested" (Romans 3:19-24).
There is one more woman in this genealogy to look at. She is listed as "the wife of Urias," but we know her better as Bathsheba. Along with her name another name comes to mind. It is David, the sweet psalmist of Israel. This was the David that said, "The Lord is my shepherd." It is David, the man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). Yes, it is the same David fallen, and fallen so low that it has caused even the Lord's enemies to speak evil of the Lord and His people. David had Urias, a faithful soldier in his army, murdered in order to hide his own adultery. How could it be? It is a solemn reminder to each believer that though all our sins—past, present and future—have been forgiven, we still have the flesh in us and are capable of letting the desires of the flesh control us. Did King David lose his salvation? His cry to God was: "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation" (Psalm 51:12). David did not lose his salvation but he did lose the joy of it. However, though we do not lose our salvation, we do reap what we sow. As a result of King David's sin he lost four sons.
So in the four women's names in this genealogy we find that salvation is for sinners (that's Tamar), by faith (that's Rahab), apart from law (that's Ruth), and we can never lose it (that's Bathsheba). All praise and glory to our God and the Son of His love!
—John D. McNeil