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A book by Rich Van Winkle

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An Amazing Life: Jesus and the Nozerim

Appendix VIII – Explaining Jewish Royal Lineage*

Having worked diligently trying to piece together the Davidian royal lineage(s), I have come to the realization that we are never going to have a complete picture of this puzzle. At best, we can assemble the pieces that we have, make a few rational guesses, and get an idea of what the picture might look like. But, as is usual here, it is probably necessary to look at some related issues before we begin.

First, we should understand that ancestry was (and still is) a very big deal to Jews[1]. For Jews having ties to important families, keeping records of such was both essential and routine. And, for Jews having any royal blood the family lineage was both individually critical and the most important heritage one could pass along to one’s descendants[2]. The significance of bloodline and ancestry is best reflected in the frequency by which it is mentioned in the Tanakh (Old Testament). (The word “son” occurs over 2000 times in the King James Bible). Even at the time of Jesus, important Jews kept detailed records of their ancestry, had their records verified officially, and had copies stored in the national archives.

Next, we should understand that Jewish law regarding ancestry, lineage, and inheritance is well evolved, complex, and less certain than Anglo-American law (which is hardly a model of clarity and certainty). We should bear in mind that a major cultural feature of Judaism is that the law (“Torah”) has been divinely given and is complete. Jews don’t need a “legislative body” to create laws – only scholars who can interpret and judges who can apply the already existing laws within scripture. Formal interpretations and extensions of the Torah (in the Talmud and other writings) form the halakhah (“the path to walk”)[3]. The Torah authorizes priests to make judgments about the law (Deut. 17:9-11) and their rabbinical laws are considered to be as binding as Torah laws. There are, however, differences in the way laws from the Torah ("d'oraita") and laws from the rabbis ("d'rabbanan") are applied or prioritized. (For a complete explanation, I recommend http://www.jewfaq.org/halakhah.htm).

Finally, we should remember that the Jews have a special focus on the Messianic promises and prophecies – many of which deal with specific tribal and ancestry requirements. It would be inconceivable for a rational Jew to make a Messianic claim or to be seriously considered as a Messianic contender unless there was some clear indication that they met the ancestry and tribal requirements for such. In addition, we can be assured that priests would have felt duty-bound to challenge any Messianic claim and to punish false claimants (probably with death by stoning). Meanwhile, they would not have allowed human machinations or corruptions to end the only royal lineage that could yield a Messiah. In other words, the priests would interpret the law in whatever manner needed to ensure some Messianic lineage.

A brief review of the literature and web resources will reveal the long, vigorous, and complex debate between Jews and Christians regarding the legitimacy of Jesus’ Messianic lineage. Much of that debate is heavily biased and unfounded – and most of the authors are simply repeating someone else’s position and argument without fully analyzing it or understanding it. Full review of the issue shows that both sides have good points – and not so good points. It is not the intent here to argue for or support either viewpoint. Similarly, there is little to gain by repeating the debate within the Christian community about the different genealogies offered in the gospels. Instead, here is a way in which to frame the analysis.

 To explain Jewish royal lineage as it would have applied to Jesus, we should start with the manner in which Jews think (or reason) in relation to such matters. A key Jewish cultural difference (with roots in Judaism) is midrashic thought[4] (as a hermeneutic[5]). In the time of Jesus, more than today, midrashic thought was prevalent or dominant. In essence, it is a core means by which rabbis form religious ideas and interpret the law[6]. Its essence is analogy[7] or comparison – deriving ideas and applicability based upon some previous example or analogous situation. The teachings of Jesus repeatedly reflect his midrashic thought and there are numerous examples in the New Testament where midrashic thought is obvious (Mat. 2:15 citing Hosea 11:1 and in Matthew’s genealogy for Joseph).

Our examination of the Jewish Royal Lineage as may have been applied to Jesus must begin with a review of events (or rulings) that occurred in the Torah or earlier in the lineage. From these we have a basis for a midrash.

The laws of Jewish descendancy are derived from both clear legal statements in the Torah and from less than clear examples. Since this is not intended to be a thorough examination of these laws, we will work from a few examples.

In Genesis 15:2, Abram is concerned that he has no heir and asks God what he should do – suggesting application of the common law of the time that would have one adopt[8] a son as their heir (often a servant such as Eliezer, Abraham’s servant). The passage indicates how all the rights and rank of a house can be transferred to a non-blood relative.

In Genesis 48: 5, Israel adopts Joseph's two sons, Ephriam and Manassah, who were to be considered equal with Joseph's brothers in inheriting the promises given to Israel (each was entitled to an equal portion of the land). This section also shows that the rights of the firstborn are less than absolute.

Per Genesis 38:8, when Er died without an heir, Judah told Er’s brother Onan to marry Tamar and “produce an heir for your brother” as the law required. This was an application of the Levirate[9] law later detailed in Deut. 25:5.

Deuteronomy 25:5 "When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. The firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.” The object of this custom (and law) was to ensure that a departed relative did not die without an heir when a blood relative could provide one. (But see below).

In the Book of Ruth there is a detailed example of the ancient custom termed “redemption”. When Naomi’s husband and two sons died (without an heir), she went to Bethlehem with her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth (wife of the deceased Mahlon). There, she hoped that a relative of her husband (Elimelech) might redeem Ruth. She targeted Boaz, who was not the closest relative, but he agreed to redeem Ruth (as her “goel”). But first, he had to seek out the closest relative in order to honor the closest relative’s right of first refusal  (advising him that he intended to redeem Naomi and Ruth). Because the closest relative declined the right of redemption, it was transferred to Boaz (signified by giving him a sandal). Thus, he gained all that belonged to Elimelech and his sons, including the right to marry Ruth and bear a son in Mahlon’s name. Thus, the name of the deceased continued and his inheritance (and birthrights) were maintained: Boaz (via Ruth) begat Odeb who begat Jesse who begat David – the first king of a united Israel and the forbearer of the Messiah.

In 1 Chronicles 2:34, Sheshan gave his daughter to his slave Jarha as a wife because Sheshan lacked male heirs. Judging by the precedent of the daughters of Zelophehad (below), Sheshan’s name and property would have passed to his son-in-law. Instead, after his daughter bore Attai, Sheshan made him the heir.

According to 1 Chronicles 23:22 Eleazar bar Mahli died without sons, but had daughters. Their brothers (or better, cousins), the sons of Kish bar Mahli then took them as wives and the lineage continued through their sons. This is one example of Levirate marriage to someone other than an uncle (per Deut. 25:5).

In Num. 36:6-9, the daughters of Zelophehad are told that they may marry anyone they like, as long as their husband is within their own ancestral tribe[10]. Any inheritance of land they may have must remain within its original tribe such that no grant of land may pass from one tribe to another and each tribe of Israel must keep its allotted portion of land. This shows that the daughters of Zelophehad inherited their father’s ancestral land and given the significance given to owning land, we should presume that they would have the right to inherit anything from their father[11]. (See also Num. 27:6, et seq.).

From Ezra (2:61) we learn about the sons of three priests: Habaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai. Barzillai had taken a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite (Num. 36; 2 Sam. 17:27, 19:32–39; 1 Kings 2:7), and he assumed his name for the sake of taking possession of her inheritance. It is clear that his contracting this marriage did not cause him or his descendants to renounce priestly privileges or status since, when his posterity returned from captivity, they laid claim to priestly status.

Numbers 27:6-11: "If a man dies and leaves no son, turn his inheritance over to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father's brothers. If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to be a legal requirement for the Israelites, as the LORD commanded Moses."

The Jewish laws of inheritance seem to align with Mesopotamian legal documents (Sumerian text Gudea statute B [c. 2150 b.c.]; Alalakh [eighteenth century b.c.]; Nuzi; and Emar). Matthews, V. h., Chavalas, M. W., & Walton, J. H. (2000). The IVP Bible background commentary : Old Testament (electronic ed.) (Nu 27:11). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Under the Jewish law relating to “adoption”, it is provided  that if a man teaches his adopted son a handicraft, the son is thereby confirmed in all the rights of heirship.” (Accord. Hammurabi's Code, section 188. See Talmage, Jesus the Christ: a study of the Messiah and His mission… (1906), p.90

The classical Jewish statement regarding adoption refers to Michal, the wife of King David: "Merab bore them and Michal brought them up, therefore they are called by her name. This teaches that whoever brings up an orphan in his home, Scripture ascribes it to him as though he had begotten him" (Sanhedrin 19b). However, if the adoptive father is a "Kohen" or "Levi" (priest), this status is not passed on to the adopted child. Conversely, if a Jewish baby whose biological father is a "Kohen" is placed for adoption, (theoretically) that child will always remain a "Kohen." If the baby is the firstborn of a Jewish mother, he requires a Pidyon HaBen (the ritual redemption of the firstborn), even if the adoptive parents have other children. As the Mishnah says, If a man says 'this is my son', he is to be believed.” (Baba Bathra 8:6).

Finally, we should note that it was contrary to Jewish practice to name women in a genealogy. The Talmud states, "A mother's family is not to be called a family." This raises the issue of how one would trace the lineage of a woman or trace a lineage that passes its titular right through a woman’s inheritance. The apparent answer is that you would have to use the name of her husband. (eg.  Ezra 2:61 and Nehemiah 7:63).


It is hard to generalize from these examples, but the one clear aspect shown is that Jewish law was flexible and interpreted reasonably as much as rigidly. Judgments were driven by both necessity and circumstance in conjunction with precedent. With this in mind, we may proceed to the real issue at hand, the royal lineage as it related to Jesus. We begin with the historical metaphors that guide our midrash.

At the time of the Babylonian exile (a critical juncture in the Messianic lineage) the Jews were led by a Davidian descendant - the cursed King Jechonias (aka Jehoiachin, Coniah)[12]. He was exiled in Babylon for almost 40 years and while there he was married to a daughter of Neri, a “princess” with some Davidian blood.  At the time she married the king, she seems to have been a widow who already had a son (by her deceased husband) named Pedaiah (1 Chronicles 3:18, the son of Jehoiakin/ Jechonias). By Jewish custom and law, Pedaiah would become the son of Jechonias either by rule or by acknowledgement. However, Jechonias had a son of his own, named Salathiel, by this widowed princess.

Salathiel would have been the rightful heir but was childless (although married). This means that the royal bloodline would have come to an end except that the actual title to the throne remained in the family through “levirate adoption”. According to the Levirate principle (Deut. 25:5,6), it was the duty of the closest male relative, Pedaiah, to marry the widow of Salathiel  (his step- brother) and to “raise up seed through her”. Their son would not be of Salathiel's blood line, but would legally carry the bloodline (and right to the title) as though he was Salathiel's son. His rights and title would pass to his descendants. Zerubbabel[13]  was the heir of Salathiel through this Levirate union.

“We thus have a remarkable chain of events. Jehoiakim has a son, Jechonias, who has a son, Salathiel, who by Levirate custom has a son named Zerubbabel. This son, Zerubbabel, has no blood line connection whatever with Jechonias, for he has no blood relationship with Salathiel. The blood relationship of Zerubbabel is with Pedaiah, and through Pedaiah with Pedaiah's mother, and through this mother with Neri. Thus Neri begat a grandson, Salathiel, through his daughter; and Salathiel "begets" a son, Zerubbabel, through Pedaiah.”  (From “The Seed of the Woman” by Arthur C. Custance).

In a genealogy table, the succession looks like this…

King Manasseh 12, who by his 2nd wife, Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah, became the father of;

King Amon 13, who by his wife, Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath, became the father of;


King Josiah 14, who by his wife, became the father of Princess Tamar IIIrd, who as the royal dynastic heiress, transferred the title of inheritance to her first husband, Prince Neriah, of the non-royal House of Nathan, the son of King David.


King Jeconiah 15, the 1st Exilarch, the adopted father of;

Prince of Israel Shealtiel 16, the 2nd Exilarch, the son of Prince Neriah of the non-royal House of Nathan who was married to Princess Tamar III of the House of Solomon, who was later adopted by King Jeconiah, and transferred the royal title of King David through the House of Solomon to the Prince of Israel Shealtiel.  Shealtiel became the father of;

Prince of Israel Zerubabbel 17, became the 3rd Exilarch, Persian Governor of Judea, and later as the 1st Patriarch of Jerusalem.


But, to make sense of this, we need to know that King Josiah married two wives, as follows:


            (1)  Zebidah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah and had two sons:

Prince Johanan (Yohannan) the oldest son and the crown prince first married an             unknown wife. Out of this marriage there were no sons, but one daughter;

Princess Tamar, the dynastic heiress of the Solomonic Lineage à Dynastic transfer of royal title to the adopted children of Queen Tamar by King Jeconiah.

Prince Eliachim became King Jehoiachim upon the death of King Josiah and     Prince Yohannan. His son, upon his death was;

Prince Jehoiachin became King Jeconiah when he ascended to the throne of David upon the assassination of his father, King Jehoiakim. He had no heirs and lineage became extinct.


            (2) Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremias of Libnah.  They had two sons:

King Jehoahaz, the 19th King of Judah) (aka Prince Shallum), who died with no   known descendants so the lineage became extinct.

King Zedekiah, the 22nd King of Judah (aka Prince Mattaniah), who was the last king of Israel.  All of his sons were killed by King Nebuchadnezzar but two      known daughters remained as potential dynastic heiress.  The male    lineages became extinct


From this first example, we can see some of the “legal” complexities of tracing the royal lineage. Along with legal issues, there are religious concerns…

At various times in scripture God makes someone king, anoints someone king, or promises that someone will be king. At other times, God takes away the title or “curses” someone and their family in regards to ruling. Within a few generations of King David, we have this sequence:

Beginning with 2 Samuel 7:11 (repeated in 1 Chron. 17:11), God promises David that He will establish him as king (his “house”) and that upon David’s death, a descendant of David’s will be “raised up” and will reign. This “Throne of David” will endure forever and God will act as the king’s Father – steering him in the ways of righteousness (along with blows inflicted by the people). Interestingly, God repeats the promise that the kingdom will endure forever and adds that He won’t “stop showing him my love as I did to Saul.” (See 1 Sam. 16:14).

David had a large number of children by numerous wives, but the clear successor (under traditional laws and customs) was to be Adonijah. But apparently, God didn’t favor the laws or customs and instead held:

 1 Chron. 22:9: But you will have a son who[se] name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign.

Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba and David had promised Bathsheba that Solomon would be the next king. David’s oldest son Adonijah thought little of this promise and upon David’s sickness declared himself king. David responded by having his servants to bring Solomon to the Gihon spring where Zadok[14] (the priest) anointed him.

Solomon faced opposition from the start of his reign: Joab bar Zeruiah (one of David’s closest advisors) and the rightful High Priest Abiathar sided with Adonijah in the continuing dispute over succession. Solomon sent an aide to kill Adonijah and he banished Abiathar to exile in the city of Anathoth. He then killed Joab and Shimei bar Gera (who David saw as a threat). By these means, Solomon overcame the major threats to his rule and he proceeded to appoint his friends to key governmental and religious posts. He also made sure that history recorded his succession as divinely ordained:

1 Chron. 28:5: [David speaking} And from among my sons--for the LORD has given me many--he chose Solomon to succeed me on the throne of Israel and to rule over the LORD's kingdom.

Solomon then sought reassurances from God…

I Kings 8:25: Now Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father the promises you made to him when you said, ´You shall never fail to have a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons are careful in all they do to walk before me as you have done!´

I Kings 9:2-7: “Now, if you walk before me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep my statutes and my judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father…

Unlike God’s unconditional promises to David, God’s promises to Solomon were highly conditional and it was only one generation later that the promise of an enduring/eternal “Throne of David” was rescinded.

Solomon’s son Rehoboam succeeded him as king and, under Rehoboam’s rule, Solomon’s empire was lost and the kingdom was divided (in part because ten of the twelve tribes refused to acknowledge Rehoboam’s succession. Obviously, Rehoboam had failed to meet the conditions of God’s promise. After Solomon, things just seemed to keep getting worse and worse for the Jews. The line of royal succession continued…


1.       David

2.       Solomon

3.       Rehoboam

4.       Abijah

5.       Asa

6.       Jehosaphat

7.       Jehoram

8.       Akhazya

9.       Yoash

10.   Amatsya

11.   Uzziah

12.   Yotam

13.   Ahaz

14.   Hezekiah

15.   Menasseh

16.   Amon

17.   Josias

18.   Jehoiakim[15]

19.   Jechoniah

20.   Shealtiel

21.   Pedaiah

22.   Zerubbabel


As we’ve already seen, things started getting really messy with King Jechoniah[16] and God made it clear that this successor of David was “cursed”[17]:

Jer. 22:30: Then said the Lord, ‘Write this man [Jechoniah] as childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days for no man of his seed shall prosper or sit upon the throne of David to ruling in Judah.’

Jechoniah was hauled off to Babylon (to begin the great exile) and once there, he had a son named Shealtiel (aka Salathiel), his successor.  The royal lineage remained contested during the exile and the issue became even less clear after the descendancy problems detailed above (where the direct lineage was broken).

With the execution of the sons of Zedekiah by Nebuchadnezzar II, several claimants of the royal house came forward to present their claims. Nebuchadnezzar II made Prince (“Nasi”) Gedaliah the governor (“Tirshatha” not king) of Judea -a Babylonian province. Thus, Gedaliah bar Ahikam[18] could claim to be the first of the Palestinian nesi’im. But then Gedaliah was assasinated by Prince Ishmael[19] - a royal competitor[20]. Meanwhile, back in Babylon, Jeconiah was being kept alive and he retained hope that he would be restored to the throne[21].

Zerubbabel  received permission from Cyrus (the Persian Shah) to lead the first colony of Jewish exiles back to Palestine and was named “governor” (“Pehah”) of Judea. His family remained behind in Babylonia with the majority of the Jewish “Diaspora”. As apparent heir to his ancestors’ old kingdom, Zerubabbel first married a Babylonian princess named Amytis and then married Rhodah (a Persian princess)[22]. These marriages followed the emerging custom in Jerusalem of marrying foreign wives. But Ezra the Prophet condemned the practice and created more confusion for the royal lines.

The exilarchate at Babylon and the patriarchate (or principate) at Jerusalem, represented separate rival branches of the Davidic Dynasty.  Ezra the Prophet initiated a series of reforms (c. 458 BCE – see Ezra 9 et seq.) that included rulings in favor of the “Jewish” descendants of Zerubabbel. Ezra held that “to be Jewish your mother had to be one” and therefore the descent-lines of Zerubabbel’s “foreign wives” were omitted from Chronicles (written by Ezra’s scribes).

Once Zerubabbel was made king, God was pleased and decided to honor the reverence and obedience of Zerubbabel by declaring: “I am with you, be strong, Zerubbabel. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, [but] from this day on, I will bless you; I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel[23], my servant and I will make you like a signet ring [symbol of the one who rules – the king], for I have chosen you." Haggai 2:1-24(compressed). (Similarly, Jeremiah (33:26) is told that God would restore the fortunes (promises) to the royal House of David and the priestly House of Phineas (Num. 25:13)).

The “official” lines of royal and priestly descendancy were set and those lines would continue for a couple of hundred years. However, the controversy and complexity was far from over…

Jeremiah 23:5-6: "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord, "that I will raise to David a branch of righteousness; a king shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called Jehovahtsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)."

As the Messianic prophecies increased and Messianic expectations grew, there was more and more focus upon ancestry amongst those who might qualify. This focus came from several directions:

  • The royal families of the House of David had obvious interest.
  • The leaders (such as Herod) – of non-Davidic descent – wanted to know who to watch out for.
  • The High Priests believed they had a special tie to the Messiah.
  • The non-royal families with Davidic blood and some claim to royalty were very interested.
  • Jewish “zealot” groups were anxiously awaiting their divinely appointed/anointed leader.
  • Non-Jewish rulers/occupiers actively sought to eliminate this source of rebelliousness.

Following the age of prophecy (the end of the Old Testament), the House of David became the holder of the exilarch lineage. They were not “kings” and served more as appointed governor of their people. Their function is generally described as “judges” (probably in the Sanhedrin) and they became known as the “princes” (nasi) of the Jews. The Davidians retained power, but the leader of the Jews was their High Priest. Thus, the Davidian lineage is no longer traced in the Old Testament beyond a dozen generations after David’s death[24].

The history of the High Priesthood is detailed in a different appendix, but the relevant part here is that its lineage was divided around 200 years before Jesus’ time and its title was corrupted as much as that of the House of David. With the Maccabean revolt and subsequent rule of the Hasmonean royal family (167-37 BCE), yet another layer of complexity was added to the royal claims. As we approach the time of Jesus, Judea is ruled by Herod, an appointee of the Romans. While he had no David blood and no claim to royalty, he and his family were “royal” and Herod worked diligently to bring royal blood within his lineage, to confuse the real lineages, and destroy anyone with a legitimate claim to the throne.

This sets the stage for the final part of this explanation: what was the state of the Jewish Royal Lineage at the time of Jesus’ birth?  That it was confused should be readily apparent. Despite their tradition of keeping detailed records of ancestry, it was widely accepted that some people had royal blood but lacked the records to support such. Others had records that couldn’t be confirmed. Ultimately, decisions regarding ancestry were left up to the judges and the greater the claim, the higher the authority needed to affirm it. Any claim to royal blood would be worthless without confirmation by the highest Jewish court – the Great Sanhedrin. The problem was that Herod manipulated the high court and controlled its actions. Claiming royal blood and asking the Great Sanhedrin for affirmation was tantamount to suicide.

Conversely, Herod was interested in establishing that his wives were Davidic and could confer unto his sons some legitimate claim to Jewish royalty. In this, he followed the practices of the Hasmoneans – who freely and frequently married into the lines of the Davidians and the families of the High Priests. Given the odd start of the Davidic lineage (as above), the subsequent exile, and the fifty or so generations of uncertain ancestry, there was no primary heir to the Davidic Jewish throne. All the main contenders were routinely killed, so whatever possible contenders remained were either obscure or hidden.

The “official” lineage of the House of David – as it was accepted when Herod became king followed this line (which bifurcates):

The Meshullamite Lineage (primary Davidian line):


   Meshullam, the oldest son of the Jewish Princess, Esthra


            Hattush, oldest of five brothers and approved by Ezra as heir of the House of Meshullam  

                  Anani (Hananiah) became the Prince/Patriarch of Judea in 425 BCE and was the father of                                            twin sons: Onaid and Tobit (See the Tobaidite lineages, below).         

                          Haggai was a co-ruler as the Governor of Judea of the Onaidite Dynastic Lineage with                                                          his Tobaidite cousin, Helias between the years of 365 to 360 BCE.

                                       Nadavah  became the Governor of Judea from the Onaidite Dynastic Lineage                                                                       between the years of 360 and 355 BCE. 

                                              Sirach, Governor of Judea  (Onaidite Dynastic Lineage) from 300 to 275 BCE.



                                                                  Joshua (Yehoshua)




                                                                                 Honaseh, Governor of Judea from 60 to 55 BCE. 

                                                                                                Alamyos, Governor until  50 BCE.

                                                                                                     Joachim[25] – had three daughters, no sons





The Tobiad Lineage (from Hananiah, above):



   Helias (Elijah)

      Simeon I the Just (Tzaddik) the Jewish Governor of Judea from 353 to 350 BCE

          Antigone Soko

              Zuraida (Zeredah)

                     Joazar (Joezer) and

           Yonah (Jonah), Jewish Governor of Judea from 349 to 345 BCE.

                Yoazar (Joezer) opposed by a rival, Yochanan, in the year 200 BCE

                                     Jose I (Yossei I or Joseph I)

                                           Shetah, brother of Salome - 1st wife of King Alexander Jannaeus (104 to 76 BCE)

                                                Simon IV[26]  - sister = Princess Shelzion - 2nd wife of Alexander Jannaeus.

                                                Jose II [or III] (killed without a son in 88 BCE)

                                               Pantherah married Bianca and had one daughter:

                                                                                Sarah (aka Doris of Jerusalem)

                                                                Matthias (Mattai) Beit Av Din of the Sanhedrin (75-70 BCE)

                                                                                                Jose III (Joseph III) executed in 35 BCE

                                                                                                Simon V of Perea executed in 4 BCE  – had been                                                                                                                               imprisoned by Herod had no children.


Thus, at the very time Herod became king and gained control of the Sanhedrin, both primary lines of the House of David lacked a prince. Herod married Sarah in the belief that she would be the primary line of descendancy and her male offspring would be the rightful Davidic heirs. But, there was a problem: the very reason that the Meshullamite Lineage was dominant was because of the “rule of Ezra” – that marrying a non-Jew corrupts one’s lineage. Herod’s mother was not a Jew (yet), so this created a difficult legal issue. Since Herod controlled the Sanhedrin, that shouldn’t have posed any problem.


We don’t know the details, but the effect of the Sanhedrin’s ruling was that Ezra’s rule was negated so far as David’s descendants were concerned. That gave Herod the opening he wanted but also opened the door for heirs among the other four lines of descent from David. Those lineages were as follows:


The Pelatiahite (Opposition) Lineage:





        …. (unknown – probably interlaces with Yeshaiahite line))


The Exilarch (Yeshaiahite) Line:













                      Akkub (Begins the Akkubite lineage as the 33rd male heir of the Davidic line)

                          Hezekiah (not the Biblical)                 David (d167),

                                Nahum                                                       Shlomo (d135), fought with the Maccabees

                                       Yohanna                                                       Shemaya[28] (d129)

                                             Delaiah                                                           David (100BC)

                                                    Anani                                                                              Schania

                                                         … (unknown)                                                   Hizkiah

                                                                 Ezrikam                                                               Shalom

                                                                        Anileus                                                                  Nathan (d 50 CE)


The Abiudite (Amytis) Lineage:


Shazrezzar ben Zerubabbel


      Nehemiah sent by Artaxerses to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

      Hananiah (Hanani) ben Hacaliah the brother of the prophet Nehemiah

            Ohel ben Hananiah 

                Hachiyah (Achiya)


                      Yehezquiyah  (Androtimus)

                        Neariah (Nearchus) 

                                Several sons including:

Abiud  (Nearchus  also named “Abiud ben Zerubbabel” in Matthew) the father of the Abiud Lineage of Prince of David. He married a “foreign” Princess, Barsine, who descended from the Persian royalty.  He became the Governor of Judea around 250 BCE and became the father of;

                                                Eliakim - the Governor of Judea around 200 BCE.


                                                                 Zadok (Sadocr




                                                                                            Matthan ben Eleazar (below)


The Rhesaite (Rhodogune) Lineage:


Zorababel ben Salathail


       Joanna ben Rhesa 















                                                               Matthan ben Levi (below)


In essence, two new bloodlines were suddenly re-linked to the Davidic throne. We should look at them closely…

The Abiudite line was the key beneficiary of the Sanhedrin’s new rule. Its descendants were viewed by many experts as the legal heirs of the Davidic throne and many of its “princes” had been in positions of power. The line was further enhanced by the fact that Nehemiah ben Hacaliah (he Biblical one) was in it. When Herod was made king, the Abiudite was headed by Matthan ben Eliezar. Matthan married Hazibah and had three powerful sons: Jacob the Patriarch, Hezekiah the Zealot, and Menahem the Zealot. They were made even more powerful by the Sanhedrin’s acknowledgement of their royal standing.

 Jacob the Patriarch (a titular name for the Governor of Jerusalem) married (2nd wife) the daughter of Cleopatra VII (the famous one) who was known as Cleopatra of Jerusalem (Cleopatra VIII). Prince Jacob avoided Herod’s pogrom by gaining favor with the king and participating in his rule. Even his marriage to Cleopatra was arranged by Herod to keep her close until Herod himself could marry her (she became his 5th wife in 19 BCE after Herod eliminated Jacob in 23 BCE). Jacob and Cleopatra had three children:

                Joseph (born 29 BCE)

                The twins Ptolas and Clopas[29] (born about 26 BCE)


Hezekiah and Menahem, the brothers of Jacob, avoided Herod’s pogrom by going in the opposite direction - they became “Zealots” or Jewish freedom fighters (whose deaths are mentioned by Josephus).  Joseph was then the heir of the Abiudite lineage and after Herod had his father killed (for “sedition”), he was forced to flee to Galilee.

The other group affected by the Sanhedrin’s rule was the Rhesaite lineage. Matthan ben Levi was the great-great grandson of the daughter of Simon bar Onias[30], wife of Joseph ben Mattathias (as in the lineage above). Matthan ben Levi was the father of Joseph (“of Arimathea”) and Heli (Alexander III) through different wives (Rachel and Elizabeth (aka Alexandra II), respectively). He was also married to Salome, the daughter of Aristobulus I and Salome Alexandra I, the last Hasmonean King and Queen. There is no better indication of the power of this man than the prominence of his wives and no better indication of the status of his descendants than the fact that Herod had his son, Alexander III Helios, executed (sometime between 20 and 13 BCE). We also know that his son Joseph (of Arimathea) was one of the richest men in Judea and held considerable power[31] - being a council or Sanhedrin member and confident enough to approach the Roman Procurator (Pilate) and ask for the body of a recently crucified man.

The total number of Davidic “princes” alive during the time of Herod was far greater than easily counted. Herod killed over a dozen soon after becoming king. During his reign, dozens more would fall and, soon after his death, others (such as Athronges) emerged to claim their throne – just to be killed. Some were exiled (and gained prominence later), some hid, and others were unable to support a claim – even if they had been foolish enough to state one. But what appears to be true is that two Davidian descendants became linked when Joseph bar Jacob married Miriam dau Heli. Their story is one of the most famous in human history and this examination of the royal lineage of David continues within separate appendices devoted to Joseph and Mary. Appendix VI (The Messiah) also has additional genealogical detail specifically related to prophecies about the Messiah’s lineage.


Note of Appreciation: While this word is derived from many sources, I am specifically indebted to David Hughes, Robert Mock, and Robert Killian from www.biblesearchers.com, www.biblestudymanuals.net, and the Loeb family for materials related to this Appendix.


Even more than other parts of this work, this section effort requires two warnings: (1) it is virtually impossible to pursue historical facts about Jesus without specifically and frequently conflicting with the Biblical accounts. For those who choose to accept those accounts as inerrant and historical, this work is not for you; and (2) because of Biblical prophecy there have been many through the centuries who have claimed Davidic lineage as a path to power and some have created corrupted lineages in order to support their claims. Because I personally do not accept Jesus as “the Christ”, I have no interest in supporting some false claim of royal heritage. Because I believe that the lineages offered in Matthew and Luke are useful does not imply that I think they are unflawed – indeed I am fully aware that both genealogies present historical and Biblical difficulties. Similarly, I make no personal claim of royal lineage and couldn’t care less whether any other person can show descendancy from David, Jesus, or his family.



[1] It was the custom of the Jews, to whom tribal and family descent meant so much, to keep copies of the genealogical records of the people in the public archives.  Josephus, in De Vita, §1,  draws his own lineage from the public archives; and cf. Contra Apion. I. 7.

[2] “A few of the careful, however, having obtained private records of their own, either by remembering the names or by getting them in some other way from the registers, pride themselves on preserving the memory of their noble extraction. Among these [we]re… the relatives of the Saviour according to the flesh [who] drew the aforesaid genealogy from memory and from the book of daily records as faithfully as possible.” The Church History of Eusebius (Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine)(7:14).

[3] The Torah (“Written Torah”) contains formal legal principles (called "Halakhah") and many other important moral and philosophical lessons (called "Aggadah"). The Talmud and related works ("Oral Torah") contain historical, narrative, and teaching material largely derived from the "Written Torah" by the method of interpretation known as "Midrash". The collection of works known as the "Midrash" summarize the non-Halachic material in the Talmud.

[4] See “The Midrashic Imagination: Jewish exegesis, thought, and history” by Michael A. Fishbane (1993).

[5] A method of interpretation.

[6] As opposed to the "Midrash": a work that summarizes the non-Halachic material in the Talmud.

[7] Another way to view midrashic thought is to form understanding based upon thematic recapitulation - where a pattern of events replays the same theme repeatedly.

[8] There is no equivalent to “civil adoption” in Jewish law, which requires the adopters to assume all rights and responsibilities towards the child, becoming the legal parents in every way. In fact, there is no word in classical Hebrew that means "adoption”. The word "ametz" ("a branch transplanted to another tree") is used in modern times (see Psalms 80:15-16).

[9] This is not a Hebrew word; it is from the Latin “levir" (a husband's brother) and refers to an ancient custom.

[10] The restriction involving marriage within one’s tribe concerned only heiresses and the penalty for choosing otherwise was merely forfeiture of their inheritance of tribal property  (cf. Josephus, Ant. IV. 7. 5).

[11] The debate regarding Mary’s inheritance and tribe is generally based upon an out-of-context misreading of this text. The land (and only the inherited land) had to remain within its original tribe because that division was ordained by God (and maintaining the integrity of tribal boundaries was at stake).

[12] 'Let the record show that this man Jehoiachin was childless. He is a failure and none of his children (offspring) will succeed him on the throne of David to rule over Judah.' (Jer. 22:30).

[13] In Matthew 1:12 and Luke 3:27, Zerubbabel is listed as Salathiel 's [legal] son, but is listed as the actual blood son of Pedaiah in 1 Chronicles 3:19.

[14] Abiathar, the High Priest, favored Adonijah to succeed David as king and refused to anoint Solomon – for which he was replaced by Zadok.

[15] Jehoiakim was the third son of Josias via Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. Thus he was the brother of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31, 24:17-18, 23:31, 24:17-18). His original name was Mattaniah (Heb. Mattanyahu), but when Nebuchadnezzar II made him the Exilarch, he changed his name to Zedekiah. (2 Kings 24:17).

[16] This Jechoniah is the same as Jeconiah/Jehoiachin/Jechonias/Joniah the son of Jehoiakim of 1 Chron.3:16, as well as Jehoiachin in 2 Chron. 36:8. He is called Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim in Jer. 24:1.

[17] Also note Ezekiel 21:18: "And thou profane wicked prince of Israel [Zedekiah, father of Jechoniah], whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, thus saith the Lord God; remove the diadem, and take off the crown [as did happen, through the first half of Jeremiah´s commission]: this [the crown] shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he comes whose right it is; and I will give it to him." God really knows how to rescind a promise!

[18] the son of Shaphan, the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Elkanah, son of Tabael, son of King Uzziah. But his records couldn’t be found and

[19] the son of Nathaniah, the son of Elishama, the son of Achbor, the son of Michaiah, the son of Azrikam, who descended in the ninth degree from Prince Shamariah, the son of king Rehoboam son of Solomon.

[20] Apparently, these “princes” were descendents from King David – most likely from the line of Nathan (David’s oldest son and the older brother of Solomon). Solomon’s claim to the throne was based upon “God’s choosing him” – a claim difficult to prove by his successors. Nathan’s descendents continued to claim the throne for many generations and it is easy to understand that a non-Jewish king, such as Nebuchadnezzar (whose throne was patrilineal) might select rulers from the customary lineage.

[21] He was released from prison and was allowed to establish residency in Nehardea (along the Ephrates), where he built the first synagogue.

[22] She later re-married a Persian prince and begot Reza (Rhesa) the half-brother through his mother of the Persian Shah, the ancestor of Mary’s Davidic line.

[23] The Hebrew Bible has conflicting texts regarding whether Zerubbabel is the son of Shealtiel or of Pedaiah. Several contemporaneous texts call "Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel" (Ezra 3:2,8; 5:2, Nehemiah 12:1, Haggai 1:1,12,14). The Seder Olam Zutta also supports that position. Surprisingly, 1 Chronicles 3:17-19 makes Zerubbabel a nephew of Shealtiel: King Jeconiah is the father of Shealtiel and Pedaiah, then Pedaiah is the father of Zerubbabel. But, see above.

[24] In 1 Chronicles 3:24, the seven sons of Elionenai are the last generation of the descendants of Solomon listed (around 420 BCE). In Ezra 2:45, Akkub bar Elionenai is given as the head of a family of Nethinim.

[25] He married JoAnna, the daughter of the High Priest Yehoshua III. Her sisters were Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah the Priest of the Order of Abijah  and Hannah, wife of Prince Alexander III “Helios”.

[26] He was later dispossessed by the Hasmoneans during a Maccabee pogroms against the Davidians.

[27] Declared himself King of Judea in 4 BCE and led a strong uprising. Later legend identified him with the leader of the insurrection, Abba Saḳḳara, the nephew of Johanan ben Zakkai.

[28] Reproved Hyrcanus II for illegally assuming the title "King" in 129BC, and was executed for his opposition.

[29] Ptolas was named after his uncle Ptolemy XIV, the last king of Egypt, while Clopas was named after his grandmother, Cleopatra VII. Ptolas married Escha, the daughter of Joachim and dynastic heiress of the Onaidite lineage.  Ptolas and Escha died premature deaths and their children were left in the custody of their Uncle Joseph.

[30] Simon I (the “Simon the Just” of Josephus) succeeded Onias I around 300 BCE. He was famous for many things including the saying: "On three things the world depends--the Law, worship, and showing of kindness." 

[31] The early Vulgate (Latin version) of Mark (15:43) and Luke (23:50) describe Joseph’s office as "Decurio" instead of "Council Member". This probably refers to a municipal title conferred or imposed upon wealthy citizens by the Romans and may have been the best Latin translation of βουλευτής (bouleutēs). Some speculate that this related to an official Roman office of metals provider “Nobilis Decurion” that coincides with legends of Joseph in Cornwall’s tin mining country.



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