Just to add some thought on the women of Matthew’s genealogy.
Matthew seems to have a penchant for women with colourful pasts. In addition to his interest in Rahab, he singles out Ruth, Tamar and “the wife of Uriah” (i.e. Bathsheba).
He could have mentioned more famous women from Israel’s history — Sarah, Rebekah, or Rachel, for example. Instead, he has chosen Tamar who seduced Judah, Rahab the prostitute, Ruth who seduced Boaz, Bathsheba the adulteress, and Mary — Mary who got pregnant without a husband. According to some Jewish traditions, she had shacked up with a Roman soldier named Panthera, and claims that Jesus had been the son of prostitute were circulating in the second century (Cf. Tertullian, De Spectaculis 30.6). Did this rumor already exist when Matthew wrote his Gospel? If so, he might have wanted to deflect such negativity, not only with a virgin birth story, but by pointing out the essential role in Israel’s history played by unchaste women.
Not all scholars agree with this interpretation, but I think it is interesting to consider.
Did Ruth actually seduce Boaz? I just reread Ruth 1-4. She certainly put herself out there but I saw nothing scandalous here. She breaks the mold of four scandalous women. Rahab was a prostitute but she she went from harlot to heroinne and there is nothing to suggest her union was anything other than sinless. I don’t think her historical claim to fame is her early way of life.
First, we have to ask critical questions. How does he determine who the most popular women in the Old Testament stories in Matthew’s specific Sitz Im Leben? How does he know at the end of the first century, after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, when Matthew is writing, what names and stories are the most popular? These four names were well known and probably were chosen for a reason. So we can ignore the author’s uncritical generalization and claim to have more knowledge than he actually does.
“Instead, he has chosen Tamar who seduced Judah” (Genesis 38)
Why Tamar over Sarah? Tamar ensures the proper Abrahamic and David lineage of Jesus and invokes the concept of sin.
In Genesis 24 Abraham makes his servant swear that his son Isaac will not marry a Canaanite wife. The servant travels and procures Rebekah for Isaac. In turn, Isaac told Jacob the same thing (Gen 28). Jacob then travels and procures Leah and Rachel (apparently a pure bloodline is more important than monogamy). This is a theme here. Judah, had a Canaanite wife. That is a problem. She died. Enter Tamar to fix the problem. She keeps the Abrahamic lineage of Jesus intact. Now in Matthew’s Gospel it seems that Judah also starts the direct Davidic line.
In the story Judah’s two sons die then he with-holds his third son so Tamar acted and he states, “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not lie with her again."
“Matthew emphasizes that Judah is the origin of the Messianic Davidic king as he adds “land of Judah” to his combined quotation of Mic 5,1 and 2 Sam 5,2.” The Narrative Roles of the Women in Matthew’s Genealogy, John Paul Heil
Tamar fills a duel role in preserving both the Davidic and Abrahamic ancestry of Jesus. There is certainly sin involved in the stories of Judah and David but Mary and Jesus are the reversal of that. Tamar recalls that sin has been involved in the Davidic ancestry since its beginning. Rahab and Ruth may be meant to give hope in the list but then we know how it all turns out with David.
It is quite possible Jesus was an Israelite of suspect paternity (mamzer) and this sparked such stories and Matthew is doing clever damage control with Mary’s reputation but as far as the two women in the middle, there was nothing scandalous about their unions with their husbands and what did Ruth do that was so scandalous? There are cogent explanations for the names of the four women that don’t require a sexual scandal based solely on tenuous evidence.