Joseph, the Foster Father of Jesus
JEHOVAH God, through his active force, the holy spirit, supervised the recording of the historical facts found in the Scriptures. No doubt for good reasons he did not see fit to have much written down regarding Joseph, the foster father of His human son Jesus. In striking contrast to apocryphal lore which is replete with details regarding Joseph’s life, the Bible contains very little regarding the humble though vital role that Joseph played in the early life of Jesus.
Joseph was a descendant of David through the line of Solomon. He was the son of one Jacob, the son-in-law of one Heli. (Matt. 1:16; Luke 3:23, margin) He was a carpenter and lived in Nazareth of Galilee. (Matt. 13:55; Luke 2:4) Without doubt, Joseph was a meek and humble Jew, one who had faith in God and who desired to do what is right. The few incidents of his life that are recorded in the Scriptures show that he was ever obedient to God’s commands, whether such were given to him directly by means of angels or were contained in the law of Moses.
Joseph was engaged to marry a maiden by the name of Mary. “During the time . . . Mary was promised in marriage to Joseph, she was found to be pregnant by holy spirit before they were united. However, Joseph her husband, because he was righteous and did not want to make her a public spectacle, intended to divorce her secretly. But after he had thought these things over, look! Jehovah’s angel appeared to him in a dream, saying: ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife home, for that which has been begotten in her is by holy spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you must call his name “Jesus”, for he will save his people from their sins.’ Then Joseph woke up from his sleep and did as the angel of Jehovah had directed him, and he took his wife home. But he had no relations with her until she gave birth to a son; and he called his name ‘Jesus’.”—Matt. 1:18-21, 24, 25, NW.
In obedience to the law of God Joseph presented Jesus at Jerusalem with an offering, as was required for all male firstborns. There he and Mary wondered as they heard Simeon utter his prophecy of the great things that Jesus would do. “So when they had carried out all the things according to the law of Jehovah, they went back into Galilee to their own city Nazareth.”—Luke 2:23-39, NW.
In the meantime three wise men, astrologers or magi, from the east were directed to Bethlehem to bring gifts to the child Jesus while there. “After they had withdrawn, look! Jehovah’s angel appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying: ‘Get up, take the young child and its mother and flee into Egypt, and stay there until I give you word; for Herod is about to hunt the young child to destroy it.’ So he got up and took the young child and its mother by night and withdrew into Egypt, and he stayed there until the decease of Herod.”—Matt. 2:1-15, NW.
Upon the death of Herod an angel of Jehovah again appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying: “Get up, take the young child and its mother and be on your way into the land of Israel.” However, hearing that Herod’s son Ar·che·laʹus was reigning in his father’s stead, he feared to return to Judea, and “being given divine warning in a dream, he withdrew into the territory of Galilee, and came and settled in a city named Nazareth”.—Matt. 2:19-23, NW.
In some things it seems that Joseph let his wife Mary take the initiative. Thus we find that when he and Mary returned to Jerusalem for the boy Jesus, whom they found in the temple, it is Mary and not Joseph who rebukes Jesus. Mary’s reference to Joseph as “your father” is in striking contrast to the boy Jesus’ own words: “Did YOU not know that I must be in the house of my Father?” (Luke 2:48, 49, NW) As Jesus grew up Joseph, no doubt, taught him the carpenter trade, for Jesus was known not only as the son of a carpenter but also as “the carpenter, the son of Mary”.—Mark 6:3.
The Scriptures are silent as to the death of Joseph, but that statement at Mark 6:3 indicates he was then dead. Also it is not likely that he survived Jesus, for had he done so Jesus would not have commended his mother to his favorite disciple and apostle John, “whom he loved,” as he hung on the torture stake.—John 19:26, 27.
Joseph will be among the countless dead that will hear the voice of the Son of man and come forth to a resurrection. (John 5:28, 29, NW) Hearing of God’s provision for eternal life, doubtless he will gladly avail himself of it and will be an obedient subject of the great King, Christ Jesus, even as he was an obedient servant of God when he was the foster father of Jesus more than 1900 years ago.