But if we look back into the Old Testament lists of the ancient kings of Judah who were among the ancestors of Jesus, we find that Matthew actually omits three individuals between the kings Jehoram and Uzziah (Matthew 1:8): Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:25), Joash (2 Kings 12:1) and Amaziah (2 Kings 14:1). In other words, there were actually seventeen known generations between David and the exile, rather than fourteen as Matthew states.
How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction in the Scriptures? First, we must understand that Matthew follows a common ancient practice in structuring the genealogy he gives into clear units which were more easily remembered and taught. That Matthew omits some individuals in order to accomplish this pattern is not surprising because if we look back to the very first verse of his Gospel, he does that to an even more striking degree in saying “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham” – where the practice of “jumping generations” is clearly utilized to make his point: to stress that Jesus was the descendant of David (who is actually named first, before Abraham).
When we remember Matthew’s stress – both here and throughout his Gospel – on Jesus being the son of David, we can consider another fact. The Jewish audience for whom Matthew primarily wrote had no numerals of the kind we use today. Instead, the Jews gave numerical values to certain letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In this way, a given word could have a numerical value as well as a phonetic one. “David” was written with the letters dalet (4), vav (6) and dalet (4), giving a total numerical value of 14. So fourteen was a number associated with the name of David, and it is certainly possible that Matthew structured his genealogy of Jesus in a pattern of fourteen generations in order to stress, in a literary or symbolic manner, the connection between David and Jesus, the “Son of David.”
We must remember that precisely because Mathew wrote to a Jewish audience, he knew that his readers were familiar with the king lists of the Hebrew Scriptures and that they would understand he was “jumping generations” in Matthew 1:8 in exactly the same way he did in Matthew 1:1.
We can see this fact in another way. Ancient genealogies usually omitted women in their reckoning, but Matthew includes four women who were Gentiles or had Gentile connections (Matthew 1:3, 5-6), even though he did not include the four great matriarchs of the biblical tradition – Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel. The reason is clearly because another theme of Matthew’s Gospel is the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan for humanity.
Matthew adjusted the details of his genealogy of Jesus in order to make the points that were vital for his story. So, rather than contradicting Old Testament accounts, Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is carefully constructed to stress Jesus’ descent from David and from Gentile ancestors – which gave him the genealogy to be not only the King of the Jews, but also the King of all mankind.