"Abraham fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers...”(Matthew 1:2, CSB). This is the beginning of the genealogy of Jesus listing the great, great, great... grandfathers of our Lord.
Abraham is listed in the genealogy, not because he was a super-hero and practically perfect, but because God is abundantly gracious. God chose Abraham, and then his son, Isaac. Isaac is listed in the genealogy because God faithfully keeps His promises.
Jacob comes next in the list of patriarchal forefathers, and as we will see, he wasn’t chosen for his exemplary character qualities.
Jacob was a cheater who infamously lied to his blind, old daddy, and underhandedly swindled his twin brother out of his birthright and blessing (Genesis 27).
“Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. And Esau determined in his heart ... ‘I will kill my brother Jacob’ ” (Genesis 27:41, CSB). So, Jacob, with his mother’s assistance, ran away from home and didn’t return for more than twenty years. Upon his return, the cowardly Jacob openly bribed his brother to defuse any confrontation.
Furthermore, Jacob was a polygamist, defying the direction that God had given in the Garden of Eden. “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, ESV). Notice that God was clear... wife, singular... not wives, plural. Jacob spit in God’s eye and took four wives. Four wives... what was he thinking? (Ok, it was really just two wives plus the two concubines that bore him children. Two plus two equals three too many!)
Jacob could have written a book about how NOT to have a happy home-life. In his home, there was never enough love to go around. He played favorites with his four wives, and he played favorites with his twelve sons. Jacob actually gave his exclusively-loved favorite son a multi-colored coat that screamed, “Dad loves me best!” Can you believe that?
Jacob created such a divisive home-life that ten of the sort-of-loved sons plotted to murder his favorite son. Mercy prevailed, and in lieu of murdering him, they sold him as a slave and then reported to their dear daddy that a wild animal had mauled him to death.
Could it get any worse? Yes. Reuben, Jacob’s oldest son, and the heir apparent, disgraced himself and his father by having a sexual liaison with one of his father’s concubines (Genesis 35:22). Yuk! What a messed-up mess!
Are you seeing the picture? Jacob didn’t earn a spot in the genealogy of Jesus. He wasn’t worthy. He wasn’t righteous and holy.
So why is he listed as a member of the Messiah’s family?