Joseph, Then and Now; a Righteous Man, 2 of 10

Updated: December 24, 2023

Matthew 1: 19, “. . . a righteous man.”

Saint Joseph was a devout observer of Mosaic Law. He discovered his betrothed was pregnant; probably when Mary returned from visiting her cousin Elizabeth. This was a gross violation of moral law. Therefore, he wished to dissolve his pledged union with Mary.Yet, he was merciful. Unwilling to expose her to shame. Deuteronomy 22: 21-23 required death by stoning. But as his son would later teach: mercy rejoices against judgment.I don’t know if such a form of capital punishment was observed in Joseph’s day but we do know that Joseph, for mercy’s sake was not interested in scandal or punishment.

He, as a good son, would observe the law and still show mercy. He “decided to divorce her quietly.”

As he slept on his decision to get the pregnant Mary out of his life the angel of the Lord spoke to the son of David in a vision. He told him not to be afraid. “. . . do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.”

So the angel reminded Joseph of his lineage; honored by calling him Son of David; and pinpointed his problem as fear. Joseph was afraid he’d been cuckolded before his marriage had been consummated. He had a fear of embracing immorality. Of entering into a lifelong commitment with Hosea’s wife. (Hosea the prophet married a loose woman whose child he called “Not Mine.”) The fear of gossip and rumor. The fear of raising a child not his. The fear of his own anger, regret and humiliation.

To calm those fears the angel gave him astonishing news. God is the father of Mary’s child, “For it is through the Holy Spirt that this child has been conceived in her.” The angel foretells the child’s sex and his mission.

Joseph was aware of the messianic prophesies. The sect of the Pharisees was largely a result of apocalyptic and messianic expectations that were embraced throughout Israel and the diaspora.

The band of brothers that John the Baptist may have joined, the Essenes of the Dead Sea Scrolls fame, was a messianic sect of observant Jews. Messianic expectations loomed large among the 1st Century Jews.

“She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph would share in the honor of naming the child Jesus. Joseph was given the honor of naming his son, Jesus.

For in the brief time that we see Joseph in the Scripture record the indication is he was a strong protective presence beside Jesus and Mary. And, that he was prompt to act upon the Holy Spirit’s commands.

He was indeed a righteous man and a merciful Son of David.

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