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Revelation to Joseph

B.W. Johnson Commentary on St. Matthew 1:18-25

From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891.

18. The birth of Jesus Christ. The word rendered here "birth" is the same in Greek that is translated "genealogy" in verse 1. Mary having been betrothed. Not married, but engaged. Betrothal [20] was, from the times of the patriarchs, a formal ceremony (Gen. 24:53), and was regarded a binding obligation. It generally lasted a whole year before marriage. After betrothal unfaithfulness was regarded adultery. Before they came together. Before marriage. She was found. The angel (Luke 1:26) predicted her conception, and when the prediction was verified she probably did not hesitate to reveal it. Her heart would be filled with joyous pride instead of shame. Holy Ghost. Correctly, Holy Spirit. The Divine power. Christ is the only example of such a birth in all history. His birth, like his life and his resurrection, is a miracle.

19. Joseph her husband. Betrothal, according to the law (Deut. 22:24), made him her husband before marriage. A righteous man. Just and humane. To put her away publicly was to expose her to the penalty of death. Probably she had made her defense to him, but her story was so wonderful that he was in doubt. Privily. Give her a bill of divorce. See Deut. 24:1.

20. While he thought. Reflected, still in doubt, perplexed. An angel. Gabriel appeared to Mary (Luke 1:26); the name of the angel is not here given. Angels are messengers; an angel of the Lord is the Lord's messenger. These messengers are usually superhuman, but not always. In a dream. Often messages were conveyed by impressions made in sleep. Three times revelations were thus made to Joseph. Thou son of David. It was fitting that he should now be reminded that he belonged to the family from whence the Messiah was to come. Fear not. His betrothed was pure.

21. Thou shalt call his name Jesus. That is, Savior. The Hebrew form is Joshua; the full meaning is Jehovah's salvation. Shall save his people. Not the Jewish nation, as Joseph probably supposed, but all who accept and follow him. From their sins. Not a temporal salvation, but from the curse of sin, condemnation and banishment from God's favor and heaven.

22. That it might be fulfilled. Matthew neglects no opportunity to show the Jews that their prophets described Christ. The prophecy will be found in Isaiah 7:14.

23. Behold, a virgin. Rather the virgin, as in the Revision. Isaiah had in view a particular virgin, the mother of the true Immanuel. Like many other prophecies, it had a double, a typical and a true, fulfillment. The first was in the reign of Ahaz, concerning a temporal deliverance, but the higher reference is to the spiritual Deliverer of the world. The first is the type, the second is the great event that inspired the message. Immanuel. This means "God with us," an appropriate title for Jesus among men.

24. And Joseph . . . did. He obeyed at once, a fitting example for all men. When the Lord's will is spoken there should be no delay in obedience. [21]

25. Knew her not. A Hebrew form for conjugal intercourse. The language of the verse does not imply the perpetual virginity of Mary.

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