From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871).
Mt 1:18-25. Birth of Christ.
18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise—or, "thus."
When as his mother Mary was espoused—rather, "betrothed."
to Joseph, before they came together, she was found—discovered to be.
with child of the Holy Ghost—It was, of course, the fact only that was discovered; the explanation of the fact here given is the Evangelist's own. That the Holy Ghost is a living conscious Person is plainly implied here, and is elsewhere clearly taught (Ac 5:3, 4, &c.): and that, in the unity of the Godhead, He is distinct both from the Father and the Son, is taught with equal distinctness (Mt 28:19; 2Co 13:14). On the miraculous conception of our Lord, see on Lu 1:35.
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.
20. But while he thought on these things—Who would not feel for him after receiving such intelligence, and before receiving any light from above? As he brooded over the matter alone, in the stillness of the night, his domestic prospects darkened and his happiness blasted for life, his mind slowly making itself up to the painful step, yet planning how to do it in the way least offensive—at the last extremity the Lord Himself interposes.
behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph thou son of David—This style of address was doubtless advisedly chosen to remind him of what all the families of David's line so early coveted, and thus it would prepare him for the marvellous announcement which was to follow.
fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost—Though a dark cloud now overhangs this relationship, it is unsullied still.
21. And she shall bring forth a son—Observe, it is not said, "she shall bear thee a son," as was said to Zacharias of his wife Elizabeth (Lu 1:13).
and thou—as his legal father.
shalt call his name JESUS—from the Hebrew meaning "Jehovah the Saviour"; in Greek Jesus—to the awakened and anxious sinner sweetest and most fragrant of all names, expressing so melodiously and briefly His whole saving office and work!
for he shall save—The "He" is here emphatic—He it is that shall save; He personally, and by personal acts (as Webster and Wilkinson express it).
his people—the lost sheep of the house of Israel, in the first instance; for they were the only people He then had. But, on the breaking down of the middle wall of partition, the saved people embraced the "redeemed unto God by His blood out of every kindred and people and tongue and nation."
from their sins—in the most comprehensive sense of salvation from sin (Re 1:5; Eph 5:25-27).
22. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet—(Isa 7:14).
23. Behold, a virgin—It should be "the virgin" meaning that particular virgin destined to this unparalleled distinction.
shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is, God with us—Not that He was to have this for a proper name (like "Jesus"), but that He should come to be known in this character, as God manifested in the flesh, and the living bond of holy and most intimate fellowship between God and men from henceforth and for ever.
24. Then Joseph, being raised from sleep—and all his difficulties now removed.
did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife—With what deep and reverential joy would this now be done on his part; and what balm would this minister to his betrothed one, who had till now lain under suspicions of all others the most trying to a chaste and holy woman—suspicions, too, arising from what, though to her an honor unparalleled, was to all around her wholly unknown!
25. And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: and he called his name JESUS—The word "till" does not necessarily imply that they lived on a different footing afterwards (as will be evident from the use of the same word in 1Sa 15:35; 2Sa 6:23; Mt 12:20); nor does the word "first-born" decide the much-disputed question, whether Mary had any children to Joseph after the birth of Christ; for, as Lightfoot says, "The law, in speaking of the first-born, regarded not whether any were born after or no, but only that none were born before." (See on Mt 13:55, 56).
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