What do a prostitute, a Moabite, and an adulteress have in common? They were all women mentioned by name in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary were all unique women chosen by God to be in the lineage of His son incarnate.
Tamar, whose story is told in Genesis 38, is the first woman mentioned in the genealogy of Christ. Although there were women before her, she was the first one distinctly introduced. She was a widowed daughter-in-law of Judah, whose first two sons were wicked and struck to death by God. After promising Tamar his third son to have a descendant linked to her late husband, Judah fails to live up to his word. Desperate to have a child of her own, she takes matters into her own hands. She disguises herself as a prostitute, tricks Judah into sleeping with her, and as a result, conceives and gives birth to twins.
Tamar risked not only her reputation but also her life, as stoning was the punishment for women who committed adultery. Once all that happened was exposed, Judah surprisingly said the following, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” (Genesis 38:26) There she was, a woman once with no chance of descendants bearing a son to the tribe of Judah, the tribe Christ would be born from.
Rahab, a Gentile woman who was a prostitute, is the second mentioned. Joshua 2 and 6 speak of her story and bravery in hiding the spies from Israel who were assessing the city of Jericho. An act that would have labeled her as a trader and possibly led to her death. But this same act saves her life and those in her household. A transformation takes place in her heart, and she becomes part of God’s people.
In the famous chapter known as the faith hall of fame, the following is written about her, “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.” (Hebrews 11:31) Rahab married Salmon, a man from the tribe of Judah, which I imagine was no easy transition when the Jewish people might have still seen her as a Gentile prostitute. She then gives birth to Boaz, who would become the husband of the third woman mentioned in Matthew 1: Ruth.
Ruth has a heartbreaking story in the beginning of Ruth 1, but through her faithfulness and obedience to her mother-in-law and God, her story is transformed to a heartwarming one. Facing the death of her first husband and famine, she is unwilling to leave Naomi, her mother-in-law. She declared to Naomi, “Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16)
Ruth travels back to Bethlehem with Naomi and works hard for provisions for both of them to live by. The loyalty and kindness of Ruth to Naomi are seen by God and rewarded by Boaz’s kindness and generosity to Ruth. She marries Boaz, who gives birth to Jesse, the father of David the prophet.
Bathsheba, whose infamous story we all know, was the wife of King David as a result of an adulterous affair. Enticed by Bathsehab’s beauty, as David watches her bathing on the roof, he calls for her and has a child with her. His guilt leads him to arrange the death of her husband, Urriah. As punishment, their first child dies, but because of David’s repentance, God gives him Solomon as a son.
Although she is not mentioned by name in Matthew 1, but rather as “David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” (Matthew 1:6) Her story shows us how God’s redemption can take the worst of situations and transform them into something fruit. Here it is evident that God can transform tragedy into hope-filled newness.
St. Mary is the last of the women mentioned, the mother of God herself. Through her, Christ is born and sets out to redeem us and the entire human race. A young woman who was full of purity, meekness, humility, and obedience becomes entrusted with the Savior dwelling in her womb. Her obedience to carry a child as a virgin was no easy task, yet she chose to answer God’s calling. Her motherhood, full of love and heartbreak, becomes the ultimate example for all mothers to live by. She has become a mother and intercessor to many. May we learn what it looks like to bear Christ in our hearts and lives from her life.
Each of these women has a unique story. Some smeared with shame but redeemed by grace. Some overcame fear and stepped into bravery. Some wrapped in obedience and resilience. Despite their actions, they all had a part in the family tree of Christ, which is a high honor. Don’t ever underestimate the circumstances of your life or the consequences of your actions. God can still use you in marvelous ways for His glory. The question is, are you willing to be used by Him?
P.S. If you are intrigued by the stories of these women and enjoy reading biblical fiction, I recommend picking up a copy of Francine Rivers’ novel A Lineage of Grace. The stories she writes make the readers curious about their lives beyond what is mentioned in the Scriptures and able to see their humanity.