Joseph - A Dreamer 
The Lesson of His Life Jackson Snyder revised December 6, 2001

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Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV) Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

Marriages were mostly arranged. Engagement was for any period of time - a year or more. Mary and Joseph had had no marital relations in this period (as was the custom then).

{19} Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

Here’s what the Bible says about his relationship with Mary. Joseph is known the husband through the engagement period. Their marriage was a "done deal."

Here’s what the Bible says about his character. He was a righteous man. That means, he was

a. virtuous: fair, noble, honest, good, ethical, moral, and upright;

b. devout: pious, faithful, devoted, reverent, holy, and saintly;

He was a righteous man! Because these traits are mentioned in scripture, Joseph's righteousness, virtue, and devotion was not necessarily evident in the eyes of man, but certainly so in the eyes of God.

{20a} But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream...

Here’s what the Bible implies about Joseph's age. The angel appears in a dream. The reference is to:

Joel 2:{28} Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

This is the first of Joseph's three dreams. Herod also dreams, and the Wise Men dream. The epiphanies in Matthew come in the form of dreams. These are all ‘older’ men, Matthew implies.

{20b} and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

The formula of the angel - "Don't be afraid..." Why would he be afraid? "Afraid" is part of an angelic formula when appearing in three dimensions

He is to take mother and child. Although Matthew mentions five women in his genealogy of Jesus, in his nativity account, the mother and child are secondary. Joseph is the main character. Not so in Luke's version. All we know from Luke is that:

Luke 3:{23b} [Jesus] was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli ...

{21} She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

Jesus (English), Iesus or Ioshua (Latin), Iesous (Greek), Yeshua (Aramaic), Yahshua (Hebrew): "Yahweh Will Save" from sin. WWJD? He’d call himslef by his right name - Yahshua!

{22} All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: {23} "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore Yahweh will give you a sign. Look, the young woman (alma in Hebrew or parthenos in the LXX) is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

It has been argued that Miriam (Mary) was not necessarily a virgin because of the Hebrew work used in the Bible was alma, which means a young lady. However, the passage was translated into Greek long before the time of Jesus, and the scholars of that day clearly saw the prophecy to refer to a virgin birth by using the Greek word parthene, which means a chaste person. "Immanuel" does not mean "God with us," it means "a divine person" (an ‘el’) with us. So here we find that in naming the boy, we have the given name "Yahshua" and the family name "Elohim." The family of Elohim are the sons of Yahweh Elohim, the Almighty One.

{24} When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife...

Joseph was known as the father of Jesus, as per:

John 1:{45} Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth."

In this scriptural glimpse into his life, we find the righteous Joseph is in conflict, struggling to make a moral choice: To whom would he be loyal? To the tradition of his day or to the Angel of Yahweh who had given him his instructions. a. Joseph must have been in moral turmoil over Mary's pregnancy. There must have been the desire for revenge. b. The prescription of the law was clear: If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death (Lev 20:10). c. But through the message of the angel in a dream, Joseph knew that, though Mary may have been found guilty in the eyes of the law, she was innocent in the eyes of Heaven: The scripture was clear on that.

Hos 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

{25} but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Roman Catholic theology tells us that the word until does not imply that they had relations after the birth of Jesus. They believe that Mary is a perpetual virgin.

Jesus is born, and the Wise Men have visited ...

Matthew 2:{13} Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."

This is Herod the Great was a paranoid despot who killed many members of his own family out of fear. Herod was half Jewish and half Idumeian, the great architect of the Jerusalem Temple, the Herodium, and many pagan temples as well - he reigned until his death in 4 B.C. He was the author of the slaughter of innocents, for he had the occult fear that his own dynasty would be disrupted if the prophets were correct about a new king being born.

{14} Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, {15} and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."

Hosea 11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

There were many Jews living in Egypt, especially in what was Alexandria (III Macabees is all about the persecution there). Egyptian Jews were much more cosmopolitan than those from Palestine. Joseph or Mary probably had kin there, as is reported by ancient historians.

Matthew 2:{19} When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, {20} "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." {21} Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. {22} But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. {23} There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean."

In Matthew’s account, there is no census, and Joseph and Mary are living in Bethlehem (we suppose) where the child is born in a house. The story of "no room at the inn" does not fit well in this account. Because Herod’s sone Archelaus ruled in his father’s stead, Joseph takes the family north to Galillee, which was, at this time, a Roman protectorate.

This is Joseph's final dream; and Matthew gets him to Nazareth. It was still reported by Helen, the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine, that Jesus' blood kin could be found in Nazareth three hundred years after he was born. As for the prophecy of Jesus being called a Nazarene, there is no prophecy in our Bible to account for this. The closest is

Isaiah 11:1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch (nazor) shall grow out of his roots.


What we do know: Joseph's father's name was either Jacob (in Matthew) or Heli (in Luke). He was a distant relative of both King David and Judah, the patriarch. He worked as a tradesman, a technon (builder). He lived in Nazareth of Galilee. His wife was Miriam and he had several children by her, including James and Jude the Bible authors. People supposed him to also be the father of Jesus Christ. He traveled once to Egypt and once to Bethlehem. And he probably died before Jesus became well known. And that is all we know about Joseph, except...

Joseph had been given supernatural insight into the situation that faced he and his wife. Now the choice had to be made - for the ways of the world, or the ways of Heaven. Reminiscent is his son's later saying,

No one can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will be loyal to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Mat 6:24)

The same dialectic holds true today. To serve God in spite of the world involves conflict, austerity, and a discipline that is in many ways more ascetic than the military. The consequences for heavenly choices often include persecution, rejection, confusion, and being made sport of. But successful endeavors in Kingdom economics bring incredible and often exponential benefits in this world and in the parallel universe we call Heaven. Friends, we must make God's will our priority; everything else must be secondary.