Listen:  82 Question 4

There is actually very little known about Joseph.  Let’s start by reading Matthew 1:18-21, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.  And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”  We learn here that Joseph was a just, or righteous man.  When he found that his fiancé was pregnant, Joseph was willing to divorce her privately, so as not to bring shame upon her.  Under the law, Joseph would be able to put her away as we read in Deuteronomy 24:1, “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.”  Although Joseph and Mary were only engaged at this point, engagement was binding and a legal divorce could be used to end their engagement.  According to Old Testament custom a bill of divorcement would specify the causes for the divorce, and witnesses were also used to testify to the divorce. But in this case, it seems, Joseph just wanted to put her away without specifying the cause.  He was not willing to make her a public example.  After the angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph, he did not put Mary away, but kept her and eventually married her as we read in Matthew 1:24-25, “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”

We read of Joseph when the Lord Jesus was twelve years old.  Luke 2:41-49 says, “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”  This is a remarkable portion showing how the young Jesus was extremely knowledgeable about the Lord’s things, even at twelve years of age.  This is the last account of Joseph in the Bible.

We are not told what happened to Joseph, but I think we can make a learned assumption about him.  While hanging on the cross for our sins, we read this in John 19:26-27, “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”  As an act of care for His earthly mother, the Lord sent Mary home to John’s house to live after His death.  As the oldest son, the Lord Jesus took on the responsibility to make sure His mother was being taken care of after he was gone.  He didn’t send Mary to live with one of her other sons because they were unbelievers at that point.  John 7:5 tells us, “For neither did his brethren believe in him.”  Why didn’t Jesus just send Mary back home to Joseph?  If Joseph were still living that would have been the proper thing to do.  Being a just man, as we read in Matthew 1:18, Joseph would have never divorced Mary, so I think we can safely assume that Joseph was probably dead by this time.  The Bible doesn’t really tell us, so it would not be profitable to spend a lot of time concerned about this.  (82.4)