|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:18-25 Let us look to the circumstances under which the Son of God entered into this lower world, till we learn to despise the vain honours of this world, when compared with piety and holiness. The mystery of Christ's becoming man is to be adored, not curiously inquired into. It was so ordered that Christ should partake of our nature, yet that he should be pure from the defilement of original sin, which has been communicated to all the race of Adam. Observe, it is the thoughtful, not the unthinking, whom God will guide. God's time to come with instruction to his people, is when they are at a loss. Divine comforts most delight the soul when under the pressure of perplexed thoughts. Joseph is told that Mary should bring forth the Saviour of the world. He was to call his name Jesus, a Saviour. Jesus is the same name with Joshua. And the reason of that name is clear, for those whom Christ saves, he saves from their sins; from the guilt of sin by the merit of his death, and from the power of sin by the Spirit of his grace. In saving them from sin, he saves them from wrath and the curse, and all misery, here and hereafter. Christ came to save his people, not in their sins, but from their sins; and so to redeem them from among men, to himself, who is separate from sinners. Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, speedily, without delay, and cheerfully, without dispute. By applying the general rules of the written word, we should in all the steps of our lives, particularly the great turns of them, take direction from God, and we shall find this safe and comfortable.
Verse 19. - Then Joseph her husband; and (Revised Version). The thought is slightly adversative (δέ); though this was "of the Holy Ghost," yet Joseph was about to put her away. Being a just man; righteous (Revised Version); i.e. who strove to conform to the Divine precepts manifested for him in the Law (cf. Luke 1:6; Luke 2:25). And not willing; i.e. "and yet not wishing," though the Law, which he was striving to follow, seemed to inculcate harshness. This clause has been taken in the opposite sense equivalent to "and therefore not wishing," because the spirit of the Law, which he had learned to understand, was in reality against all unnecessary harshness. The negative used (if it can be at all insisted upon; cf. Simcox, 'Language of the New Testament,' p. 188) is in favour of the former interpretation. To make her a public example; rather, to proclaim her ("Wold not pupplische her, Wickliffe); avery αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι (cf. Colossians 2:15). The thought is of public proclamation of the fact of the divorce, not that of bringing Mary herself forward for public punishment, and so making her a public example ( παραδειγματίσαι). Was minded (ἐβουλήθη). The tense indicates the resolution come to as the result of the conflict between duty and wish implied in the preceding clause. To put her away secretly. Adopting the most private form of legal divorce, and handing the letter to her privately in presence of only two witnesses, to whom he need not communicate his reasons (cf. Edersheim, 'Life,' 1:154). Observe in this verse Joseph's insistance on his personal and family purity, and yet his delicate thoughtfulness for her whom he loved.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then Joseph her husband,.... To whom she had been betrothed, and who was her husband, and she his wife according to the Jewish law, Deuteronomy 22:23 though not yet come together,
being a just man, observant of the law of God, particularly that which respected adultery, being wholly good and chaste, like the Patriarch of the same name; a character just the reverse of that which the Jews give him, in their scandalous (b) book of the life of Jesus; where, in the most malicious manner, they represent him as an unchaste and an unrighteous person:
and not willing to make her a public example, or to deliver her, i.e. to the civil magistrate, according to Munster's Hebrew edition. The Greek word signifies to punish by way of example to others, to deter them from sinning; and with the ancients it (c) denoted the greatest and severest punishment. Here it means either bringing her before the civil magistrate, in order to her being punished according to the law in Deuteronomy 22:23 which requires the person to be brought out to the gate of the city and stoned with stones, which was making a public example indeed; or divorcing her in a very public manner, and thereby expose her to open shame and disgrace. To prevent which, he being tender and compassionate, though strictly just and good,
was minded to put her away privily: he deliberately consulted and determined within himself to dismiss her, or put her away by giving her a bill of divorce, in a very private manner; which was sometimes done by putting it into the woman's hand or bosom, see Deuteronomy 24:1. In Munster's Hebrew Gospel it is rendered, "it was in his heart to forsake her privately."
(b) Teldos Jesu, p. 3.((c) A. Gellii Noct. Attic. l. 6. c. 14.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
19. Then Joseph her husband—Compare Mt 1:20, "Mary, thy wife." Betrothal was, in Jewish law, valid marriage. In giving Mary up, therefore, Joseph had to take legal steps to effect the separation.
being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example—to expose her (see De 22:23, 24)
was minded to put her away privily—that is, privately by giving her the required writing of divorcement (De 24:1), in presence of only two or three witnesses, and without cause assigned, instead of having her before a magistrate. That some communication had passed between him and his betrothed, directly or indirectly, on the subject, after she returned from her three months' visit to Elizabeth, can hardly be doubted. Nor does the purpose to divorce her necessarily imply disbelief, on Joseph's part, of the explanation given him. Even supposing him to have yielded to it some reverential assent—and the Evangelist seems to convey as much, by ascribing the proposal to screen her to the justice of his character—he might think it altogether unsuitable and incongruous in such circumstances to follow out the marriage.
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