Matthew 1

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Jesus is Born (18-24)

Compared to Luke's account, this is a very pared down description of Jesus' birth, not even recording where they were when it happened. The emphasis instead is on Joseph and Mary's marriage relationship. The parallel account is found in Luke 2:1-7.


Verse 18: 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. (NRSV)

  • ”Now” is tying this section with the genealogy of the previous paragraph (Newman 20). That list was God working with people in the past, and this is what God is doing “now.”
  • The original text does not imply that this happened as soon as they became engaged, but that they were already engaged when Mary became pregnant.
  • ”Lived together” is a modern euphemism, not a statement of living arrangements or full marital status. The original means “come together” is used as both a sexual and marriage euphemism. Either could be dominant here, but both implications are probably implied.
  • ”Found” here indicates the time that others discovered she was pregnant, not time of conception.
    • As public disgrace is still something that can be avoided in the next verse, what is envisioned here is probably her family and Joseph finding out.
    • This is a passive verb, and so is not about Mary finding for herself, but others finding out about Mary.
  • We don't know where this discovery fits in with Mary going to Elizabeth or some of the events in Luke's account.


Verse 19: Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. (NRSV)

  • ”Husband” is misleading given the previous verse's statement that they weren't married yet. More literally it says “her man” and can indicate any primary male-female relationship.
  • ”Righteous” is a rather vague term here. It can mean being upright with the law, but seems unlikely. It can also mean following God or being holy or kind. “Compassionate” or “does what is right” seems to fit the context best here (Newman 22).
  • ”Disgrace” is something added by the translators. The Greek simply says “expose her publicly,” or “make an example of her,” “disgrace her” (Arndt 172).
    • This could be public humiliation, but the traditional proscription against adultery (which being engaged, this would count) is publicly stoning the woman to death.
    • Joseph appears to be trying to save Mary's life, not just her reputation.
    • There were two ways of divorcing her. He could either publicly present charges against her, or do a quiet divorce with two witnesses (Newman 22).
  • ”Dismiss” is the normal word for “loose” and is about releasing Mary from her contract of marriage. What she would have done after this is unclear, probably stay with her family in seclusion.


Verse 20: But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream 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. (NRSV)

  • An angel also appears to Mary in Luke 1:26-28. But strikingly, the angel simply comes to Mary apparently in the flesh, while Joseph only sees the angel in a dream.
  • By the angel referring to Joseph's ancestor David, he is reminding Joseph of David's relationship with God as well as David's kingship. This is encouraging Joseph to act like the man that he claims as his ancestor.
  • ”Do not be afraid” is a standard phrase for an angel to say to people. But normally the angel is telling someone not to be afraid of the angel, and is a command.
    • Here, it is not a command, but subjunctive, which indicates a possibility, much less forceful, almost pleading even. “You don't have to be afraid.”
    • The fear here is not about the angel, either, but about marrying Mary. It shows Joseph's fear that he is more worried about his marriage than an angel appearing, even if in a dream.
  • The Holy Spirit as an entity is not a big player in the OT, so it is unclear whether Joseph knew this as part of God, or as a spirit (supernatural being), which is holy and came to Mary.


Verse 21: She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (NRSV)

  • Joseph's role in this baby's life is made clear here. The father gets to name the baby, and Joseph is told what the baby's name should be. He is to act as the father for Jesus.
  • Jesus was not a unique name, or even that uncommon.
    • It is the Greek version of the Hebrew “Joshua,” and so was a name already made famous by the biblical hero.
    • ”Jesus/Joshua” means “The LORD Saves” (Blomberg 59).
  • ”Save” can have the concept of rescue or redeem, like buying someone from slavery (Newman 25). Already, Jesus' life is being brought into focus.


Verse 22: All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: (NRSV)

  • The emphasis here is not on any foretelling of the future by the prophet, but that the prophet passed on words from God.


Verse 23: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (NRSV)

  • The quote here is from Isaiah 7:14, from the Septuagint version. This version specifically mentions “virgin,” while the Hebrew is vaguer and can just mean “young woman” (Newman 27-28).
  • The original context of this quote is quite interesting and deserves careful study as it appears to have been fulfilled within 15 years of its' original speaking.


Verse 24: When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, (NRSV)

  • Taking Mary as his wife implies finalizing the wedding so that they would be married by the time the baby arrived. This would put some of the social stigma on Joseph, but remove much of it from Mary, especially in the long run.
  • This verse proves what the author had previous said about Joseph being righteous. He followed God's direction even when it must have been difficult and he did it immediately.


Verse 25: but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. (NRSV)

  • More literally, he did not “know” her until after she gave birth. This is a standard sexual euphemism in the Old Testament.


Message Ideas/Scripts/Liturgy That Use This Chapter

 VerseDirectionTopicAudienceOccasionCategory
His Name is Jesus18-25Jesus means God saves and in the hardest times that's just what God does.Salvation
Trials
AdultsChristmasMessage Idea
Jeshua - Savior18-25Jesus brought all we need, embodies all we need as a savior.JesusGeneralAdventMessage Idea