The Sinful Women in the Genealogy Sequence
by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
Why did the evangelist neglect the names of some saintly women like Sara, Rebecca, and others, in the sequence of genealogies, while he mentioned adulterous women like Tamar, Rahab, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and Ruth who is a woman of a foreign race (a Moabite, one despised by the Israelites)?**
The evangelist wanted to annihilate the haughtiness of the Jews who boast about their grandfathers. He showed to them how their grandfathers had sinned. Judah committed adultery with Tamar, his son's widow, and engendered Perez and Zerah from her. David fell into adultery with the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Boaz, the great grandfather of David, was engendered by Salmon from the adulteress Rahab.
Even if their grandfathers were virtuous men, the virtue of their granfathers would not have been profitable to them; because the deeds of a person, not the deeds of his sons, are those which determine his destiny at the last day.
Saint John Chrysostom said about this matter:
"The Lord Christ did not come to run away from our disgraceful actions, but to obliterate them. He is not ashamed of any of our defects. And just as those grandfathers had taken adulterous women, in the same way our Lord and God has bethrothed for Himself our nature that had committed adultery."
The Church is like Tamar:
She was at once delivered from her wicked actions, and then she followed Him.
The condition of Ruth resembles our conditions:
Her tribe was a foreigner to Israel; and it went down to exceeding poverty. Nevertheless, when Boaz saw her, he did not despise her poverty, neither did he reject the vileness of her race. In the same way, the Lord Christ dit not reject His Church that was an alien, and poor as regards good deeds. And just as Ruth, if she had not left her people and her house, she would not have tasted that glory, in the same way, the Church about which the prophet said: "Forget your own people also, and your father's house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty" (Psalm 45: 10-11).
Our Lord mortified them with these matters, and made them realize how not to be haughty.
When the evangelist registered the genealogy of Christ, he mentioned those sinful women, because it is impossible for any of us to be virtuous by the virtue of his grandfathers, or to be wicked by the vice of his grandfathers. I rather say that the person whose grandfathers were not virtuous and became virtuous himself, then the honor of that person's virtue would have been great.
Let no one boast about his grandfathers, and be puffed because of them, when he thinks about the grandfathers of our Lord; and let him look at his own deeds, and even let him not boast about his virtues; because it is through such boasting that the Pharissee became less the the Publican. (Luke 18).
Do not then falsify your pains by vain talk. Do not lose all your effort after having covered a long distance; because your Lord knows the virtues which you have attained, better than you, because if you give a glass of cold water, God will not neglect that, and will not forget it. (Matt. 10:43).
** This article is a chapter of a larger work entitled "Questions and Answers on the Nativity" by His Holiness.
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