Because creation lasted six days and god rested on the seventh, the number “seven” is perhaps the most sacred in the Old Testament. Likewise, multiples of seven are part of what Old Testament writers regarded as a “divine arithmetic.” Thus, one speaks of a “week” of days, or a “week” of years (seven years). The prophet Daniel, for example, predicted that there would be a period of seventy weeks (490 years) from the end of the Babylonian exile until the coming of the messiah (Daniel 9:24-27). Randel Helms, author of Gospel Fictions (Prometheus Books, page 46-47), explains why Matthew at 1:1-17 lists three groups of fourteen descendents stretching from Abraham to Jesus:
Fourteen equals two "weeks" of generations, and three two week periods (14 +14+14) equal six 'weeks' of pre-Christian generations in the royal line of Israel; thus, with Jesus begins the seventh, the 'sabbath' week of Jewish monarchical history--the kingdom, restored under Christ.
As we shall see below, Matthew, apparently in a misguided belief that Jesus' genealogy should contain a prophetic numerical pattern based on divine "weeks," forced the second group to have two weeks (fourteen) of names by simply omitting three names. Before I show Matthew’s list at 1:1-16, I’ll show a partial list of descendents from 1 Chronicles 3:9-15. Three of the names are underlined; I will refer to these later.
(1 Chronicles 3:9-15)
Now, here is Matthew’s fake list; note the absence of the names underlined above:
A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac…the father of [skip ahead to David…]
Jeconiah…at the time of the exile to Babylon
Thus there were fourteen generations in all….from David to the exile to Babylon.. (Matthew 1:1-17)
The Old Testament shows that from David until the carrying away into Babylon are seventeen generations, not fourteen. The three names underlined in the 1 Chronicles genealogy seem to have been deliberately snipped out to fit the imagined or hoped-for prophecy pattern. Apologists sometimes argue that Matthew did what apologists mistakenly and hopefully think was “common” in those days—omitting descendents who were “unimportant.” However, even if this practice was common (it wasn’t), it is not as if these men were not important; all three of them were kings, and all three were in the line of descendency to the son of God—if you can believe Matthew. How could these three not be important?
We will perhaps never know whether Matthew deliberately omitted the three names from his genealogy, or whether the sources upon which he based his writings were incomplete or corrupted. Either way, it is evident that there were not fourteen generations from David to the time of the exile into Babylon; there were seventeen.
Once again, we see that the Bible is in error.
By the way, the problem with Matthew’s list is more severe
than what is described here, but I’ve chosen to simplify the
argument so that apologists might better be able to focus their
attention on one problem at a time. Experience teaches that apologists
seize every opportunity to obfuscate when they find they’re
unable to harmonize a Bible difficulty, and the more complicated
the skeptic’s argument is, the more hiding places there are
for the Bible believer.