Treasures in the Family Trees

Textual Surprises

So often in the Bible we encounter genealogies which, to most of us, aren't particularly exciting reading. And yet they often contain hidden treasures to reward the diligent.

The Book of Ruth

In the Book of Ruth, the joyous climax occurs when Boaz, the Kinsman-Redeemer and the hero of the narrative, redeems the land to Naomi and takes Ruth as his Gentile Bride. In addition to providing us a charming romantic story, we quickly discover that this brief little book holds numerous insights and background essential to understanding God's broader plan of redemption. (I feel that one cannot really understand Revelation Chapter 5 until they have studied this fascinating book.)

In the festivities during the wedding celebration of Ruth and Boaz, someone ostensibly toasts,

And let thy house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman.

Ruth 4:12

an apparent reference to the events of Genesis 38. (However, if you are familiar with that sordid episode, you might have been tempted to exclaim, "Same to you, fella!") But there's more to the tale.

Judah and Tamar

In Genesis 38, Tamar had married Judah's firstborn son, Er, who died without having any children. Under Mosaic law, Judah was expected to provide Tamar a brother to raise up issue and failed to do so.1 Tamar then resorted to posing as a prostitute and Judah unknowingly got her pregnant. When confronted with the evidence, he confesses that his sin was greater than hers.2 Tamar gives birth to two sons, Zarah and Pharez. Both are, of course, illegitimate. The Torah provides that a bastard results in being cast out of the congregation for 10 generations.3 The strange remark in Ruth 4:12 was, in fact, a prophecy: the tenth generation from Pharez was none other than David. And to emphasize this, the book closes with David's genealogy:

Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, And Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, And Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.

Ruth 4:18-22

The inheritance of David is here prophesied before the days of Samuel.4 But there's more.

The Hebrew Text of Genesis 38

One of the reasons that the sordid tale of Judah and Tamar has been included in the Scriptures is because this incident is included in the family tree of the Messiah.5 It is interesting that hidden within the text of Genesis 38, at 49-letter intervals, are the names of Boaz, Ruth, Obed, Jesse, and David-in chronological order! note that Hebrew goes from right to left, and the names are coded backwards.)

These names anticipate, five generations in advance, the next five generations climaxing in David, a total of ten generations. Here in the Torah we find the names of the principals of the Book of Ruth, and a delineation of their descendants leading up to the royal line. How did Moses know all this centuries before the fact? We know that Moses himself wrote the Torah: Jesus verified that very fact numerous times.6)

The presence of such features of the Biblical text is a profound demonstration of its supernatural origin. There is absolutely no way that these details could have been anticipated in advance except by Divine guidance and the control of the most subtle aspects of the recorded text-far outstripping any insights of the authors themselves. In addition to the astonishing specifics themselves, the discovery of these features underscores the confidence we may have in the precision of the text, and the overwhelming implications that it is a skillfully crafted integrated message-from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.

The unfortunate promotional sensationalism by some authors over the "Bible Codes" has caused many conservative scholars, as well as unbelieving skeptics, to disparage-and overlook-the many authentic treasures hidden underneath the Biblical text. Truly,

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the honor of kings to search them out.

Proverbs 25:2

This article has been excerpted from our Expositional Commentary on Genesis.

This discovery was first highlighted in an article by Daniel Michelson, "Codes in the Torah," B'Or Ha'Torah, Number 6, SHAMIR, Association of Religious Professionals from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in Israel, Jerusalem, Israel, 1987. For additional examples of similar "Hidden Treasures," see also Cosmic Codes.


  • 1.Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
  • 2. Genesis 38:26.
  • 3. Deuteronomy 23:2.
  • 4. Ruth 1:1.
  • 5. Matthew 1:1-11 (vv.5, 6).
  • 6. Matthew 8:4; 19:7,8; 23:2; Mark 1:44; 10:3,4; 7:10; Luke 5:14; 16:19, 31; 20:37; 24:27,44; John 3:14; 5:39,45,46; 6:32; 7:19, 22, 23.