Besides his mother Mary, four women are mentioned in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ genealogy. The first, Tamar, was originally Judah’s daughter-in-law, being married to his two oldest sons. The Bible records that after their deaths, with Tamar widowed twice, she was engaged to Judah’s next son, but the marriage never occurred. So, after disguising herself as a prostitute, Tamar slept with Judah. Upon becoming pregnant, Judah condemned his daughter-in-law to be burned for her sin, not knowing she was pregnant by him. But after confronting him with proof, she was allowed to live and subsequently gave birth to twin boys, Perez and Zerah.

Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho during Israel’s conquest of Canaan. She hid two Israelite spies and helped them escape the city by sending their pursuers in a different direction. For her service to Israel, Rahab’s whole household was spared when Jericho was conquered, and she lived among Israel from then on. Her story is recorded in the book of Joshua.

Ruth is one of only two women to have a book of the Bible named after her. After her husband died, Ruth committed herself to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and they travelled back to Naomi’s homeland, Israel, even though Ruth herself was from Moab. Although widows in ancient Israel had nobody to provide for them, Ruth found favor with a man named Boaz, Naomi’s relative. Boaz was so impressed with Ruth’s character that he married her and took her and Naomi into his household.   

Finally, Bathsheba was originally the wife of Uriah, a warrior in King David’s army. However, while Uriah was away on campaign, David saw her bathing on a rooftop, sent for her, and slept with her. Upon finding out she was pregnant, David commanded Uriah to be abandoned in battle, leading to his death. David then took Bathsheba as his wife, but was soon confronted about his sin. Although he quickly repented, their child became sick and died. However, Bathsheba later bore him four other children, one of which, Solomon, went on to rule Israel after David. Her name isn’t explicitly stated in Jesus’ genealogy, but it’s certainly implied as “her of Uriah.”

In such a patriarchal world, it’s not insignificant that women were mentioned at all in a genealogy.