Joseph, "A Righteous Man"

Don R. Hastings

(Matthew 1:18-25)

In this article, we want to study what the Bible reveals about Joseph, the husband of Mary. While much has been said and written about Mary, very little attention has been given to Joseph. However, he was the head of the home where the Son of God grew from an infant into manhood. What a privilege Joseph enjoyed  watching and listening to the things Jesus said and did, as Jesus "advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52). What a responsibility he and Mary shared as guardians of God's only begotten Son! . . . he was not unworthy to fulfill the great trust that was imposed upon him by the Eternal Father" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. III: 1741).

Joseph was a carpenter who lived in Nazareth (Matt. 13:55; Luke 2:4). He taught Jesus the carpenter's trade (Mark 6:3). He was the "supposed" father of Jesus (Luke 3:23). He was the father of four boys and, at least, two girls (Matt. 13:55, 56). He was "of the house and family of David" (text; Luke 2:4). He was the son of Heli (Luke 3:23). In Matthew 1:16 we read, "and Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." The Pulpit Commentary explains the difference between these two Scriptures.

There are two ways in which these differing statements may be made to accord. The two sons of Matthan were Jacob the elder, and Heli the younger. It may be that Mary was the only child of Jacob, and Joseph the son of Heli. Then by marriage with his cousin, Joseph would be-come Jacob's son as well as Hells. Or it may be that Jacob died with-out children, and Heli, marrying his widow according to the Jewish us-age, became by her the father of Joseph, who hence would be called Jacob's son, that the elder brother's line might not die out (Vol. 15:4).

He probably died before the death of Jesus for he is not mentioned at Jesus' crucifixion, and Jesus commended the care of Mary to the disciple "whom he loved" (John 19:26, 27). We know nothing about the circumstances of his or Mary's death.

God calls Joseph "a righteous man" (text). Since God tells us that Joseph was righteous, or just, we know that he was. We would do well to imitate his righteousness that we might, also, be righteous in the eyes of God. Mary thought so much of him that she agreed to be his wife.

Joseph Was a Righteous Man in

His Relationship With Mary

He and Mary were betrothed. What all was involved in a betrothal is explained well by William Barclay in The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. I:9. "The Jews were usually betrothed ten or twelve months prior to the marriage. So sacred was this relationship, that unfaithfulness to it was deemed adultery, and was punishable by death  death by stoning (Deut. 22:23-28)" (Fourfold Gospel, by J.W. McGarvey, 22, 23).

It was while Mary was betrothed to Joseph that the angel, Gabriel, appeared unto her and told her she would give birth to the "Son of the Most High" (Luke 1:26-33). Mary did not understand how this could happen since she was a virgin (Luke 1:34). The angel told her, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee" (Luke 1:35). Mary went to see Elisabeth for about three months and then returned to her house (Luke 1:39-56).

Being a righteous man, Joseph knew that the child in Mary's womb was not his. To be righteous before God, one must not commit fornication or adultery (1 Cor. 6:9, 10, 18; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph.5:5). If you have committed fornication or adultery, you must comply with God's conditions for forgiveness of this sin. The sexual desire is to be fulfilled only between a man and a woman who are married to each other (Heb. 13 :4).

Joseph gave much thought to this serious problem. We, too, should think before we speak or act. He assumed Mary was unfaithful to him so he was "minded to put her away" (text; Deut. 24:1-4). "As a merciful man he did not wish to openly disgrace the one to whom he was so fondly attached. He wished to act justly toward his own reputation, and mercifully toward the reputation of Mary" (Ibid., 23).

The Lord sent an angel to inform Joseph of the miracle that had happened. What astonishing news for this had never happened before, or since! This event had been prophesied in Isaiah 7:14. How thankful we should be that God sent his Son, who was born of the virgin Mary, to save us from the penalty of our sins; this penalty being burning eternally in the fire of hell (Rev. 21:8). Jesus is God for his name is "Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us." " "In this world Jesus walked 'with us' in human form (John 1:14); and because he did so, we, in the world to come, shall walk 'with him' in divine form (1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 15:49). In a personal sense Jesus may fitly be called 'God with us,' for he was God and man united in one body" (Ibid., p. 26). One must have complete faith in the virgin birth of Christ to please God and to understand how Jesus could be both the Son of God and son of man! (Heb. 11:6; Matt. 12:40; 16:16).

Joseph Was a Righteous

Man for He Obeyed the

Lord's Command

1. To take Mary to be his wife. He did not question the truthfulness of the angel's message. Would you have believed this angel? Many still do not believe in the virgin birth of Christ!

2. To name Mary's baby, Jesus, and have him circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21; Gen. 17:12).

3. Concerning the purification after a birth (Luke 2:22; Lev. 12:2-6).

4. Concerning the redemption of the firstborn (Luke 2:22-24). "When God slew the firstborn of Egypt he spared the firstborn of Israel. For this reason all the firstborn of Israel were regarded as being peculiarly the Lord's (Exod. 12:29, 30; 13:2); and the firstborn male child of each family had to be redeemed with money (Exod. 13:11-15; Num. 18:15, 16)" (Ibid., 33). Simeon, a "righteous and devout man," saw the Lord's Anointed One when he saw baby Jesus (Luke 2:25-33).

5. To take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod's murderous plot (Matt. 2:13-15). Joseph immediately obeyed without questioning or complaining, even though, this was a long, hard journey to make with a baby (Matt. 2:14).

We like it when our children obey without complaining, don't we? It has been said, "Slow obedience is no obedience." God appreciates his children who obey without murmurings and questions" (Phil. 2:14, 15).

When Herod was dead, an angel of the Lord told Joseph to take his family home and he did (Matt. 2:19-23). In Nazareth, Jesus "grew and waxed strong" (Luke 2:40). "This verse contains the history of thirty years. It describes the growth of our Lord as a natural, human growth (compare Luke 1:80); for, though Jesus was truly di-vine, he was also perfectly man. To try to distinguish between the human and divine in Jesus, is to waste time upon an impracticable mystery which is too subtle for our dull and finite minds" (Ibid., 56).

6. To observe the Feast of the Passover every year in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41). The Passover was a memorial to remind the Jews how God had spared their firstborn in Egypt (Exod. 12:12-14). This is the only incident recorded about Jesus from the time he came to live in Nazareth until he was thirty years old. Joseph wept with Mary while they thought that Jesus was lost (Luke 2:48). We do not read about Joseph being alive anymore after this occasion.


Could God say of you that you are "righteous"? Do you keep yourself pure? Do you obey his commandments? Do you attend regularly with the saints to worship God (Heb. 10:25)? How can you be righteous be-fore God if you have not had your sins washed away by the blood of Christ in baptism (Matt. 26:28; Acts 2:38)? Are those of us, who have been baptized into Christ, living separate from this world (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1)?

Guardian of Truth XLI: 7 p. 12-13
April 3, 1997