The words 'son' and 'beget'.
In Scripture both these words have far more extended uses than we usually apply to them. We must in some places apply these usages to see the meaning of certain passages where they occur. The Hebrew and Greek languages, having far more restricted vocabularies than we now possess, needed to use the same word to cover a wide range of circumstances. But today we have a variety of words that can be specifically applied.
This word is, of course normally regarded as referring to a male child of either, or both of its parents. In Scripture its meaning is frequently broadened to include more distant relationships. Thus it is employed to denote grandchildren and offspring in general even when not in the direct line of descent. It is also used of persons apart from the particular family.
Being used of 'heirs' or 'descendants', it is applicable to a king's successor. I believe this is what the word is used to designate in I Chron. 3:17, where referring to Jechoniah, we read: 'Salathiel his son'. That Salathiel was merely his heir, or successor, would fit the facts more logically. It would also agree with Luke, who shows him to be Neri's son.
It has been applied to a subject rendering obeisance to a king or his lord, as if to a father. It was in this sense that Ahaz, King of Judah, addressed the King of Assyria, when he said, "I am thy servant and thy son." (2 Kings 16:7). We also find 'son' used of a foster-son. This is seen in Exod. 2:10, where Moses is described as being 'the son of Pharaoh's daughter'.
In both the Old and New Testaments, Jacob's descendants are termed 'the sons of Jacob' and 'the children of Israel'. (In the latter expression the word 'children' has been selected to translate both the Hebrew ben and the Greek huios, each of which denotes 'a son'. Hence in either language 'son' is used to denote remote descendants, irrespective of sex.
In Luke's genealogy we are informed that Jesus was 'as was supposed' the son of Joseph, and 'supposedly' the son of Matthat (i.e. His supposed great grandfather) etc. At the end of the list He is 'supposed' to be the son of Abraham, and finally of *God. This final relationship turns out to be the only true relationship of Jesus in the entire list.
In the first verse of Matthew our Lord is referred to as being a 'Son of David', and a 'Son of Abraham'. In the strict literal sense of the word this is impossible, but if we read huios as meaning a descendant, the difficulty vanishes.
There is a vast array of other ways in which this word is used in Scripture, and I have selected only a few, with which to illustrate its possible values in this study.
This is an archaic form of 'begot'. It is the past tense of the verb 'to beget', 'begotten' being its past participle. Like the word 'son' this word has a variety of applications, but it does not occur to anything like the same extent as 'son'. Consequently its use other than for the immediate biological action of a father producing a child, is not so well realised.
The Greek word for 'to beget' is gennao. In the lexicons it is defined as:
'to beget, generate: of women to bring forth, bear: passive to be born, produced. Met. to produce, excite, give occasion to, effect, II Tim.2:23. From the Heb. to constitute as son: by implication to be a parent to anyone. Passive to be a son or child to anyone. John 1:13, I Cor. 4:15, et al.'
The number of times the word occurs in the New Testament and the ways it is translated in the A.V are instructive. These are:
'To bear (2), be delivered of (1), beget (49), bring forth (1), gender (2). This does not include its use in the passive, where it is usually applied to a woman and rendered 'to be born'.
Of the 49 occasions where it is represented as 'beget', 39 are in this first chapter of Matthew. Of the other ten cases, in only four is it used of the direct production of a child by its father.
A look at a few of the occurrences of gennao will demonstrate something of how it is applied, and may help us to understand its use in Matthew 1:16, etc.
'I beseech thee for my child Onesimus, whom I begat in my bonds'. Onesimus was not related to Paul.
I Cor. 4:15.
'For though ye may have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet ye have not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, I have begotten you through the gospel.'(A.V)
As in the previous examples have begotten 'rnay also be rendered 'I begat'. Surely this cannot be seen as an actual begettal by Paul. An alternative translation, which I consider is more in line with the overall teaching of Paul is:
'For though ye may have ten thousand instructors in an anointed people (A.V = 'Christ'), yet not many fathers, so in respect to an anointed people belonging to Jesus, I begat you by the good news.'
2 Tim. 2:23.
'But decline to receive foolish and ignorant questions, knowing that they do beget quarrels.' (A.V 'they do gender strifes'.)
Clearly this has nothing at all to do vAth the usual biological begettal.
It has been observed, that in this and other Biblical genealogies, there are some omissions. This need not concern us, for the lists are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and are therefore sufficient for our needs. However we can sometimes learn from such omissions. In Matthew's list three names are omitted between Joram and Ozias.
In verse 8 we read that 'Joram begat Ozias'. The real situation was that Jorarn begat Ahaziah, who begat Joash, who begat Amaziah, who then begat Ozias (or Uzziah as he is known in the O.T.). Hence Ozias was not the son, but the great, great, grandson of Joram. Yet the simple term 'begat' is used by Matthew to denote their relationship. It may be significant in regard to the names omitted by Matthew, that all were idolators.
At times whole races and districts of people are said to have been begotten. Thus we are told in I Chron. 1: 11,12 that:
'Mizraim begat Ludim, and Abamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim, and Pathrusim, and Casluhim out of whom came the Philistines, and Caphtorim.'
We can now apply some of these facts about the words 'son' and 'beget' to the passages that concern us in Matthew and Luke.
As there can be little doubt that Salathiel was actually the son of Neri (Luke 3:27), the word 'begat' in Matthew 1:12 can only indicate that Jechoniah 'begat' him, not as a son, but as an heir, or successor. Likewise we can see the begettal in Matthew 1:16 as being an indirect begettal brought about by the marriage of Jacob's daughter with Joseph. Hence Jacob begat (or 'got') Joseph, not as his son, but as his son-in-law.