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Nave's Topical Bible - Emmanuel; Faith; Immanuel; Jesus, the Christ; Jesus Continued; Joseph; Miracles; Prophecy; Quotations and Allusions; Virgin; Scofield Reference Index - Christ; Thompson Chain Reference - Genealogies of Christ; Immanuel; Virgins; The Topic Concordance - Jesus Christ; Name; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Christ Is God; Prophecies Respecting Christ; Titles and Names of Christ;
Verse Matthew 1:23. Behold, a virgin shall be with child — We have already seen, from the preceding verse, that this prophecy is taken from Isaiah 7:14; but it may be necessary to consider the circumstances of the original promise more particularly. At the time referred to, the kingdom of Judah, under the government of Ahaz, was reduced very low. Pekah, king of Israel, had slain in Judea 120,000 persons in one day, and carried away captives 200,000, including women and children, together with much spoil. To add to their distress, Rezin, king of Syria, being confederate with Pekah, had taken Elath, a fortified city of Judah, and carried the inhabitants away captive to Damascus. In this critical conjuncture, need we wonder that Ahaz was afraid that the enemies who were now united against him must prevail, destroy Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Judah, and annihilate the family of David! To meet and remove this fear, apparently well grounded, Isaiah is sent from the Lord to Ahaz, swallowed up now both by sorrow and by unbelief, in order to assure him that the counsels of his enemies should not stand; and that they should be utterly discomfited. To encourage Ahaz, he commands him to ask a sign or miracle, which should be a pledge in hand, that God should, in due time, fulfil the predictions of his servant, as related in the context. On Ahaz humbly refusing to ask any sign, it is immediately added, Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son; and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, c. Both the Divine and human nature of our Lord, as well as the miraculous conception, appear to be pointed out in the prophecy quoted here by the evangelist: - He shall be called עמנו־אל IM-MENU-EL literally, The STRONG GOD WITH US: similar to those words in the New Testament: - The Word which was God-was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth: John 1:1; John 1:14. And, God was manifested in the flesh: 1 Timothy 3:16. So that we are to understand, God with us, to imply God incarnated-God in human nature. This seems farther evident from the words of the prophet, Isaiah 7:15. Butter and honey shall he eat - he shall be truly man, grow up and be nourished in a human, natural way; which refers to his being WITH US, i.e. incarnated. To which the prophet adds, That he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good: - or rather, According to his knowledge, לדעתו le-daato, reprobating the evil, and choosing the good. This refers to him as GOD; and is the same idea given by this prophet, Isaiah 53:11: By (or in) his knowledge (the knowledge of Christ crucified, בדעתו be-dadto) shall my righteous servant sanctify many; for he shall bear their offences. Now this union of the Divine and human nature is termed a sign or miracle, אות oth, i.e. something which exceeds the power of nature to produce. And this miraculous union was to be brought about in a miraculous way: Behold a VIRGIN shall conceive: the word is very emphatic, העלמה ha-almah, THE virgin; the only one that ever was, or ever shall be, a mother in this way. But the Jews, and some called Christians, who have espoused their desperate cause, assert, that "the word עלמה almah does not signify a VIRGIN only; for it is applied, Proverbs 30:19, to signify a young married woman." I answer, that this latter text is no proof of the contrary doctrine: the words דרך גבר בעלמה derec geber be-almah, the way of a man with a maid, cannot be proved to mean that for which it is produced: beside, one of De Rossi's MSS. reads בעלמיו be-almaiu, the way of a strong, or stout, man (גבר geber) IN HIS YOUTH; and in this reading the Syriac, Septuagint, Vulgate, and Arabic agree, which are followed by the first version in the English language, as it stands in a MS. in my own possession - the weie of a man in his waring youthe; so that this place, the only one that can with any probability of success be produced, were the interpretation contended for correct, which I am by no means disposed to admit, proves nothing. Beside, the consent of so many versions in the opposite meaning deprives it of much of its influence in this question.
The word עלמה almah, comes from עלם alam, to lie hid, be concealed; and we are told that "virgins were so called, because they were concealed or closely kept up in their fathers' houses, till the time of their marriage." This is not correct: see the case of Rebecca, Genesis 24:43, and my note there: that of Rachel, Genesis 29:6; Genesis 29:9, and the note there also: and see the case of Miriam, the sister of Moses, Exodus 2:8, and also the Chaldee paraphrase on Lamentations 1:4, where the virgins are represented as going out in the dance. And see also the whole history of Ruth. This being concealed, or kept at home, on which so much stress is laid, is purely fanciful; for we find that young unmarried women drew water, kept sheep, gleaned publicly in the fields, c., c., and the same works they perform among the Turcomans to the present day. This reason, therefore, does not account for the radical meaning of the word and we must seek it elsewhere. Another well known and often used root in the Hebrew tongue will cast light on this subject. This is גלה galah, which signifies to reveal, make manifest, or uncover, and is often applied to matrimonial connections, in different parts of the Mosaic law: עלם alam, therefore, may be considered as implying the concealment of the virgin, as such, till lawful marriage had taken place. A virgin was not called עלמה almah, because she was concealed by being kept at home in her father's house, which is not true, but literally and physically, because, as a woman, she had not been uncovered - she had not known man. This fully applies to the blessed virgin: see Luke 1:34. "How can this be, seeing I know no man?" and this text throws much light on the subject before us. This also is in perfect agreement with the ancient prophecy, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent," Genesis 3:15 for the person who was to destroy the work of the devil was to be the progeny of the woman, without any concurrence of the man. And, hence, the text in Genesis speaks as fully of the virgin state of the person, from whom Christ, according to the flesh, should come, as that in the prophet, or this in the evangelist. According to the original promise, there was to be a seed, a human being, who should destroy sin; but this seed or human being must come from the woman ALONE; and no woman ALONE, could produce such a human being, without being a virgin. Hence, A virgin shall bear a son, is the very spirit and meaning of the original text, independently of the illustration given by the prophet; and the fact recorded by the evangelist is the proof of the whole. But how could that be a sign to Ahaz, which was to take place so many hundreds of years after? I answer, the meaning of the prophet is plain: not only Rezin and Pekah should be unsuccessful against Jerusalem at that time, which was the fact; but Jerusalem, Judea, and the house of David, should be both preserved, notwithstanding their depressed state, and the multitude of their adversaries, till the time should come when a VIRGIN should bear a son. This is a most remarkable circumstance - the house of David could never fail, till a virgin should conceive and bear a son-nor did it: but when that incredible and miraculous fact did take place, the kingdom and house of David became extinct! This is an irrefragable confutation of every argument a Jew can offer in vindication of his opposition to the Gospel of Christ. Either the prophecy in Isaiah has been fulfilled, or the kingdom and house of David are yet standing. But the kingdom of David, we know, is destroyed: and where is the man, Jew or Gentile, that can show us a single descendant of David on the face of the earth? The prophecy could not fail-the kingdom and house of David have failed; the virgin, therefore, must have brought forth her son-and this son is Jesus, the Christ. Thus Moses, Isaiah, and Matthew concur; and facts, the most unequivocal, have confirmed the whole! Behold the wisdom and providence of God!
Notwithstanding what has been said above, it may be asked, In what sense could this name Immanuel be applied to Jesus Christ, if he be not truly and properly GOD? Could the Spirit of truth ever design that Christians should receive him as an angel or a mere man, and yet, in the very beginning of the Gospel history, apply a character to him which belongs only to the most high God? Surely no. In what sense, then, is Christ GOD WITH US? Jesus is called Immanuel, or God with us, in his incarnation. - God united to our nature - God with man - God in man. - God with us, by his continual protection. - God with us, by the influences of his Holy Spirit - in the holy sacrament - in the preaching of his word - in private prayer. And God with us, through every action of our life, that we begin, continue, and end in his name. He is God with us, to comfort, enlighten, protect, and defend us in every time of temptation and trial, in the hour of death, in the day of judgment; and God with us, and in us, and we with and in him, to all eternity.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 1:23". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-1.html. 1832.
7. Birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:18-25)
Joseph and Mary were not yet married, when Joseph was shocked to learn that Mary was pregnant. Since Mary had been promised to him in marriage, Joseph had the right, according to Jewish custom, to report the matter to the authorities and have Mary dealt with for marital unfaithfulness. Joseph was a morally upright man but he was also compassionate. Instead of acting spitefully towards Mary, he tried to protect her from public shame by breaking the engagement secretly. God then intervened to show Joseph that Mary’s pregnancy was miraculous, pure and of the Holy Spirit. The son to be born to her would be Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, whose mission was not to save his people from foreign domination but to save them from sin (Matthew 1:18-21).
Being a person of faith, Joseph believed God. He took Mary as his wife, though he had no sexual relations with her before the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:22-25).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 1:23". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/matthew-1.html. 2005.
Behold, a virgin shall be with child - Matthew clearly understands this as applying literally to a virgin. Compare Luke 1:34. It thus implies that the conception of Christ was miraculous, or that the body of the Messiah was created directly by the power of God, agreeably to the declaration in Hebrews 10:5; “Wherefore, when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.”
And they shall call his name Emmanuel - That is, his name shall be so called. See the notes at Isaiah 7:14. The word “Immanuel” is a Hebrew word, צמנוּאל ‛immânû'êl; cf. Ἐμμανουήλ Emmanouēl, and literally means “God with us.” Matthew doubtless understands it as denoting that the Messiah was really “God with us,” or that the divine nature was united with the human. He does not affirm that this was its meaning when used in reference to the child to whom it was first applied, but this is its signification as applicable to the Messiah. It was suitably expressive of his character; and in this sense it was fulfilled. When first used by Isaiah, it denoted simply that the birth of the child was a sign that God was with the Jews to deliver them. The Hebrews often incorporated the name of Yahweh, or God, into their proper names. Thus, Isaiah means “the salvation of Yah;” Eleazer, “help of God:” Eli, “my God,” etc. But Matthew evidently intends more than was denoted by the simple use of such names. He had just given an account of the miraculous conception of Jesus: of his being begotten by the Holy Spirit. God was therefore his Father. He was divine as well as human. His appropriate name, therefore, was “God with us.” And though the mere use of such a name would not prove that he had a divine nature, yet as Matthew uses it, and meant evidently to apply it, it does prove that Jesus was more than a man; that he was God as well as man. And it is this which gives glory to the plan of redemption. It is this which is the wonder of angels. It is this which makes the plan so vast, so grand, so full of instruction and comfort to Christians. See Philippians 2:6-8. It is this which sheds such peace and joy into the sinner’s heart; which gives him such security of salvation, and which renders the condescension of God in the work of redemption so great and his character so lovely.
“Till God in human flesh I see,
My thoughts no comfort find,
The holy, just, and sacred Three
Are terror to my mind.
But if immanuel’s face appears,
My hope, my joy, begins.
His grace removes my slavish fears.
His blood removes my sins.”
For a full examination of the passage, see Barnes’ notes at Isaiah 7:14.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 1:23". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-1.html. 1870.
23. His name Immanuel The phrase, God is with us, is no doubt frequently employed in Scripture to denote, that he is present with us by his assistance and grace, and displays the power of his hand in our defense. But here we are instructed as to the manner in which God communicates with men. For out of Christ we are alienated from him; but through Christ we are not only received into his favor, but are made one with him. When Paul says, that the Jews under the law were nigh to God, (Ephesians 2:17,) and that a deadly enmity (Ephesians 2:15) subsisted between him and the Gentiles, he means only that, by shadows and figures, God then gave to the people whom he had adopted the tokens of his presence. That promise was still in force, “The Lord thy God is among you,” (Deuteronomy 7:21,) and, “This is my rest for ever,” (Psalms 132:14.) But while the familiar intercourse between God and the people depended on a Mediator, what had not yet fully taken place was shadowed out by symbols. His seat and residence is placed “between the Cherubim,” (Psalms 80:1,) because the ark was the figure and visible pledge of his glory.
But in Christ the actual presence of God with his people, and not, as before, his shadowy presence, has been exhibited. (111) This is the reason, why Paul says, that “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” (Colossians 2:9.) And certainly he would not be a properly qualified Mediator, if he did not unite both natures in his person, and thus bring men into an alliance with God. Nor is there any force in the objection, about which the Jews make a good deal of noise, that the name of God is frequently applied to those memorials, by which he testified that he was present with believers.
For it cannot be denied, that this name, Immanuel, contains an implied contrast between the presence of God, as exhibited in Christ, with every other kind of presence, which was manifested to the ancient people before his coming. If the reason of this name began to be actually true, when Christ appeared in the flesh, it follows that it was not completely, but only in part, that God was formerly united with the Fathers.
Hence arises another proof, that Christ is God manifested in the flesh, (1 Timothy 3:16.) He discharged, indeed, the office of Mediator from the beginning of the world; but as this depended wholly on the latest revelation, he is justly called Immanuel at that time, when clothed, as it were, with a new character, he appears in public as a Priest, to atone for the sins of men by the sacrifice of his body, to reconcile them to the Father by the price of his blood, and, in a word, to fulfill every part of the salvation of men. (112) The first thing which we ought to consider in this name is the divine majesty of Christ, so as to yield to him the reverence which is due to the only and eternal God. But we must not, at the same time, forget the fruit which God intended that we should collect and receive from this name. For whenever we contemplate the one person of Christ as God-man, we ought to hold it for certain that, if we are united to Christ by faith, we possess God.
In the words, they shall call, there is a change of the number. But this is not at all at variance with what I have already said. True, the prophet addresses the virgin alone, and therefore uses the second person, Thou shalt call But from the time that this name was published, all the godly have an equal right to make this confession, that God has given himself to us to be enjoyed in Christ. (113)
(111) “ Mais quand Christ est apparu en sa personne, le peuple a eu une presence de Dieu veritable, et non pas ombratile comme paravant.”— “But when Christ appeared in his person, the people had a real presence of God, and not shadowy, as before.”
(112) “ Somme, pour faire et accomplir toutes choses requises au salut du genre humain;” — “in a word, to do and accomplish all things requisite for the salvation of the human race.”
(113) “ Il appartient a tous fideles d'advouer et confesser que Dieu s'est communique et baille a nous en Christ;” — “it belongs to all believers to own and confess that God has communicated and made over himself to us in Christ.”
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 1:23". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-1.html. 1840-57.
Let's get into the Gospel According To Matthew.
Matthew was a tax collector in Capernaum before he was called by Jesus Christ to be a disciple. He was also called Levi. And he opens his gospel by giving to us the genealogy of Jesus Christ back to Abraham, as he said in chapter one, verse one,
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham ( Matthew 1:1 ).
Now the Lord had promised to Abraham, "through thy seed shall all of the nations of the earth be blessed"( Genesis 22:18 ). By that was understood that from Abraham's seed the Messiah would come, the one who would be a blessing to all of the nations of the earth. So anyone who would seek to lay claim as the Messiah, would first of all have to be able to prove that he was a descendant of Abraham because God had made that special promise to Abraham.
Later on God promised to David that He would build David's house and that his seed would sit upon the throne forever ( 2 Samuel 7:12 ). And from that promise, David understood that God was promising that the Messiah should come through his line, through his genealogy. And after David, there were many prophecies that referred to the Messiah as, "the branch out of the root of Jesse," and, of course, He is referred to as, "Sitting upon the throne of David." So it would be necessary for one who would seek to lay claim to being the Messiah to be able to prove that he is a descendent both of Abraham and also of David.
Now it is interesting to me that no longer do the Jews have any accurate genealogical records; so that there is not a Jew in the world today who can actually prove by the genealogical records that he is a descendent of David. They have lost all their books of generations, but no problem because the Messiah has already come. And Matthew points out here that He does fulfill both of the requirements, being a son of Abraham and a son of David, and so he seeks to trace Jesus back to David and to Abraham.
You say but wait a minute; is not this the genealogy of Joseph? And if Jesus was virgin-born, then why would it be necessary to trace Joseph's genealogy? And it is true when we get to verse sixteen, "And Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ". Notice that it does not say that Joseph was the father of Jesus, but he was "the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ".
Now you are familiar with the fact that in the New Testament we have another line of genealogy that traces the genealogy of Christ back to Adam. And as you read the genealogies in Matthew and in Luke, you'll find that there are differences in the genealogies. In Matthew's genealogy we are tracing the line of Jesus back to David through Solomon, but as you read Luke's genealogy you'll find that it traces the genealogy, actually not of Joseph but of Mary. She also goes back to David and to Abraham, but she comes through the son Nathan, of David. So that Mary also was of the tribe of Judah and a descendant of David, but not through Solomon and his line, but through David's other son Nathan and his line.
But in Matthew's gospel, Joseph is actually a descendant of David through the kingly line. And as you read the kings of Judah, you find that they are listed in the descendants of Joseph, and actually he was of the royal seed of David, and as such, an heir to the throne in Israel. However, there is a real problem to Joseph being king in Israel because his line goes back through the kings of Israel, which includes Joconiah, of whom the Lord cursed through Jeremiah the prophet, saying that "none of his seed would sit upon the throne of Israel forever" ( Jeremiah 22:30 ). So that kingly line that came through Solomon was disallowed from sitting on the throne because of Joconiah's sin there in Jeremiah 22:30 . So that Jesus, being the son of Mary, still has a claim to the throne of David, but not through Joconiah who was cursed as not being able to rule, or any of his descendants to rule upon the throne.
So if Jesus were the son of Joseph, He could not reign upon the throne of David because of that curse in Jeremiah 22 . But being the son of David through Nathan, and through a different line, He has the right to the throne, coming from Mary. And yet, as far as the Jewish nation would be concerned, they would recognize Joseph as the kingly line, and thus the eldest son of Joseph, considered to be the eldest son of Joseph, though He was born of the Holy Spirit, would then have a right to the throne. So the Lord put the two things together and it's quite fascinating the way it happened.
Now there are some interesting things, and I told you, you can skip the first seventeen verses because reading these names can become laborious to a person who is not familiar with the names, and you spend your whole time just trying to pronounce them and they become rather meaningless. But rarely were women named in the genealogical lines, but in tracing Joseph back, there are four women that are mentioned. And it is interesting to me the four women that are mentioned, because they were not, with the exception of one, really virtuous kind of women.
The first woman that is mentioned is Thamar. And in verse three,
And Judah begat Phares and Zara of Thamar ( Matthew 1:3 );
Now Judah had a son who married Thamar, but his son died before he had any children. So his brother did what was the accepted thing in that culture; he took her as his wife. But he also died before he had any children.
Now Judah had another son. And it was the obligation of the other son to marry her and to raise up a seed, a descendent. But Judah having had two sons die as a result, I don't know if it was a result of her cooking, but I mean he was suspicious anyhow, was not willing to let the third son marry her and he kept stalling her. He said, Oh, he is too young, he's too immature, and he kept on stalling her off until it became quite obvious to her that Judah had no intention of allowing his third son to marry her.
So she put on the attire of a prostitute and sat in the path. And when Judah came by he propositioned her, which she accepted. And she said, What will you give me? He said, I'll give you a goat out of my flock. She said, Well, you don't have it with you. He said, Well, I'll give you my ring as a guarantee and I'll send the goat back. And so he went in unto her. She had a veil on; he didn't recognize her and she became pregnant by Judah.
Now when word came out to Judah, Thamar, your daughter-in-law is pregnant, he said, put her to death. So she sent his ring. The next day the servant came back with the goat and the gal was gone. And so he said to the people around there, Where is the prostitute that was sitting here? They said, There's no prostitute here. So the fella came back to Judah and said, Hey, I couldn't find her; I've still got the goat. Judah said, Oh well, let it go. Well, when he found out Thamar was pregnant and ordered her to be put to death, then Thamar sent the ring and she said, The man who owns this ring is the one responsible for me being pregnant. And so Judah was trapped. But isn't it interesting that Thamar appears in the lineage of the royal seed of David, that God has chosen Thamar with these untoward circumstances?
The second is Rahab. Now when the children of Israel were ready to come into the land that God had promised them, the first city that they came to was Jericho. And they sent spies into Jericho to take a look at the defenses and all. And when the people of Jericho realized that there were spies within their city from the Israelites, they sought to find them to put them to death. But Rahab who was a prostitute, hid them under some sheaves on her roof. And then she let them down over the wall saying, Please, when you take the city, spare my family and myself. And so they said, You let this scarlet cord hang down, and when we take the city everyone that's in your house will be saved. So the city of Jericho was taken, but they respected Rahab who had sheltered the spies, and those that were within her house were not killed, they were spared ( Joshua 2:1-15 ).
Rahab then married Booz, what we know as Boaz; who was, of course, the one who married Ruth, the Moabitess. And Ruth is the third one that is mentioned. Now Rahab did not come from the line of Israel, but she was of Jericho, a Canaanitess, a prostitute, that the Lord also put in the line.
The next one mentioned is that of Ruth, who was a Moabitess, who were under an eternal curse of God. A Moabite could not come into the temple of the Lord to the tenth generation, or forever, as God had placed a curse on Moab. And yet by the grace of God, Ruth became the wife of Boaz; whose son was Obed, whose son was Jesse, whose son was King David. And so God brought Ruth the Moabitess into the line.
And then, the fourth woman that is mentioned is that one, and it doesn't name her, but we know who she is.
who was wife of Urias ( Matthew 1:6 );
So Bathsheba is the fourth woman that is brought into the record. And she is the one who had the illegitimate relationship with David, whose husband was subsequently put to death by a conspiracy of David, and then became David's wife. And from her was born Solomon, who became the king over Israel, and the line comes through Solomon.
So the Lord has put into the genealogy of the line of Joseph these four women, in order to display the grace of God, in order that any of us, through our failures, can still identify with God's plan of grace and love for men. None of us are excluded. God has already included in His program people who had made a mess out of their lives, people who had had great personal failures in their lives, people who had immoral stains in their lives and still God used them in His total plan. And thus, it encourages us who also have stains, who also have failures, that God can still use us in His plan. And so to me it's exciting to see the inclusion that God makes in this line coming to Christ.
Now Matthew divides the generations.
fourteen from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the carrying away into Babylonian captivity, and fourteen from the Babylonian captivity unto the time of Christ ( Matthew 1:17 ).
However, it is quite obvious that Matthew has left out some of the names so that, it is in order that he might, to set them in couplets of seven, three couplets of seven, but deliberately leaving out some of the names. And some of the names that are left out, which are quite obvious, in verse eight, Ahaziah. If you go back in the record in Chronicles you'll find that Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah are left out.
Who were Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah? They were the sons of Athaliah, who was the daughter of Jezebel and Ahab; that wicked king and queen of the Northern Kingdom, whose sin actually sealed the fate of the Northern Kingdom. And Athaliah had sought to kill all the royal seed of David, but one of the children escaped and, of course, later became king. But the descendants of Athaliah are left out of this record and I am certain deliberately so by Matthew.
There are other omissions, but the purpose of Matthew was to set it up in fourteen generations, and surely it was deliberate. I cannot believe that Matthew just made a mistake, but it was a deliberate omission on Matthew's part in writing the genealogies, because he has the same records that we have of the Old Testament. And He knows good and well these other names fit in there but he deliberately omitted them. And if you want to make a study of the omissions and those persons omitted, I'm sure that you can find the reasons why Matthew chose to omit those names.
Now we get in verse sixteen,
And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ ( Matthew 1:16 ).
So this is the little transition verse. It's a necessary transition verse, because he is giving the genealogy to Abraham, to show that He comes from Abraham and from David. But yet, Jesus Christ was not born of Joseph, and he is going to explain that in just a moment.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened like this: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, [that is, before they had had physical intercourse,] she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit ( Matthew 1:18 ).
Now Luke's gospel gives to us a little further enlightenment of how that the angel Gabriel came to Mary and informed her of the process when she said, "How can these things be, seeing I've not had relations with a man?" ( Luke 1:34 ) The angel told her the process by which the child would be born, and we'll study that when we get to the Gospel of Luke.
It is necessary that we understand that in that culture there were three relationships that a couple had: first of all, the engagement; secondly, the espousal; and thirdly, the betrothal.
Now the engagement could take place at any time in that child's life, because marriage was by arrangement. And if your parents had friends, and they had a little daughter born about the same time that their son was born, and they were close friends, they could say, well, let's have your daughter marry our son. And they would strike an arrangement whereby your daughter would marry my son. Now your daughter may be two years old and my son is three years old, and because we made this arrangement that would constitute engagement. And so the little girl two, and the little boy three would be engaged to be married. So you'd go to kindergarten and you'd say, who's your girlfriend, oh, I'm engaged to her. So the engagement could come very early in life because marriage was by the arrangement of the parents.
But when they had come to that point of maturity where they could then get married, and usually it was in the early teens, fifteen, sixteen, when a girl was married; they would go through a year of espousal, when they were really separated to each other as far as relationship is concerned. And it is more like what we call engagement today, where they accept the arrangement of the parents, they accept each other, and they set themselves apart for each other for a year of preparation and planning for the marriage.
After the year of espousal, now during the time of espousal you were considered, in a sense, as being married; that is, to break an espousal actually took a writ of divorcement. You were considered to be married, but it was a year in which you were dedicated to each other without physical relationship, the espousal period. And that could not be broken, except by divorce.
After the year's espousal, then there would be the betrothal, the marriage itself. And on the wedding night the father would take the signs of his daughter's virginity and keep them in case there was ever any question of her being a virgin. You see, if later on the fellow said, Well, she wasn't a virgin when I married her, and sought to divorce her, then the father could bring the tokens of her virginity, and this louse of a husband could be prosecuted for falsely accusing his wife. So it was something that the father kept for the protection of his daughter, the tokens of her virginity, on the wedding night after the betrothal and the whole wedding ceremony and all, he would keep these tokens of her virginity.
So there was first of all, the engagement; secondly, the espousal; thirdly, the betrothal. And so it was during this period that Joseph and Mary were espoused, they were committed to each other, without the physical relationship, that suddenly this very difficult problem developed when Mary became pregnant.
Now under the Jewish law, this constituted infidelity, adultery, because they were in the period of the espousal. And under Jewish law she could be stoned to death for her betrayal of Joseph. And so this is the problem that Joseph faced when Mary, who no doubt was an extremely beautiful person, not necessarily physically, but spiritually. A young girl who was so pure, so righteous, that God chose her above all others to be the vessel through which His Son should be brought forth into the earth. Gave her such a high honor that from that time on, all people would call her "blessed". And so we refer to "the blessed mother of Jesus."
And the depth of her spirituality is reflected in the gospel of Luke when she met her cousin Elizabeth. And as they shared their experiences with the Lord and their two sons, John was in Elizabeth's womb, and Jesus was in Mary's womb. As they began to share the experiences of their pregnancies and all, and those miracles surrounding them, that Mary burst forth into the glorious Magnificat recorded in Luke's gospel, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice. For he hath regarded the low estate of his maiden" ( Luke 1:46 ). And she goes on, in this glorious outburst of praise unto God, which expresses really a depth of relationship that Mary had had with the Lord, beautiful in spirit, chosen by God for this high honor.
But Joseph was in a turmoil. He loved her. He didn't know what to do about it. He really could not in his mind stand the thought of publicly disgracing her by declaring that he was not responsible for the child. And to see her stoned by the angry mobs he could not bring himself to do that and so he was thinking, Well, maybe I can just ship her off someplace, put her away privately and she at least can be spared. And Joseph while he was going over these things in his heart and in his mind, notice that it says,
Joseph, being a just man ( Matthew 1:19 ),
Many times Joseph is pictured as sort of an oaf, but he was a man in contact with God also and the Lord spoke to him. Evidently Joseph died rather early in the life of Jesus. Because after their return from Egypt, the only reference Isa 6:42 ,"Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, the carpenter?" And no doubt he was there in Nazareth for a time, but by the time Jesus began His public ministry, Joseph has already departed the scene.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately. 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 ( Matthew 1:19-20 ),
We have already seen that he is a descendant of David.
Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife ( Matthew 1:20 ):
Because of their espousal she was considered his wife, though they had not yet been betrothed.
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 Yehshua JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins ( Matthew 1:20-21 ).
That is the interpretation of Yehshua. It means Yahweh is salvation. It is the Hebrew word for what we call Joshua, which is Yehshua and it is Jehovah, or Yahweh, is salvation. Thus, call His name Joshua, because He will save His people from their sins. So his name implies His mission that of the Savior.
Now all this was done, in order that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying ( Matthew 1:22 ),
Notice that Matthew accepts that the words of the prophets were actually inspired by God. One thing the New Testament recognizes all the way through and that is the divine inspiration of Scriptures. As we read, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" ( 2 Timothy 3:16 ).
Peter in referring to the writings of David said, "And David by the mouth of the Holy Spirit spake saying" ( Acts 1:16 ). The New Testament teaches and recognizes that God was behind the writing of the Scriptures, that God is actually the divine author of the Word. So here again is another confirmation that it might be fulfilled, that which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet. As Paul the Apostle said, "That which I have received from the Lord I also delivered unto you." The prophet Isaiah declared in Chapter seven, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" ( Isaiah 7:14 ), which being interpreted is, "God with us."
Now as we were talking about modern translations and all, and my difficulty with the modern translations, which seek to do away with the deity of Jesus Christ, this is one of those areas where I distrust and despise the Revised Version of the Bible. For when you go back to this prophecy in Isaiah where Isaiah prophesies, "The Lord said to the king Jehosaphat, Ask a sign and I will give it to you." And Jehosaphat said, "I will not ask a sign." And the prophet said, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" ( Isaiah 7:14 ), which being interpreted is God with us. There, the Lord was promising that the Messiah would be born of a virgin.
However, there is a scholar recognized by those biblical authorities, those men at least who establish themselves as such, who are much like the Pharisees, who established themselves as the biblical authorities that no one could understand or interpret Scriptures except for the Scribes and the Pharisees. And Jesus had much to say about them. We have our modern day Scribes and Pharisees, who sit in their little intellectual circles, looking down upon all of us poor ignorant folk. One of their scholars, Jansenius, who has written this dictionary and so forth, translated that Hebrew word, "alma," as "young maiden." And so these translators, of course, wanting to water things down, pick up Jansenius' "young maiden". They translate this, "Behold the Lord will give you a sign, a young maiden will conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel."
First of all, tell me what kind of a sign is it when a young girl gets pregnant. That's no sign; that happens all the time. There is nothing unusual or unique about that. It was obvious that the Holy Spirit intended the translation to be "virgin," and every other use of "alma" in the Old Testament is referring to a "virgin." But you know this scholar's reason for translating it "young maiden," instead of "virgin", now this is scholarship. He declared, "I do not believe in miracles, and for a young virgin to have a child would be a miracle, thus I reject it." And thus he translated it, "young maiden" instead of a "virgin." That's the kind of scholarship that I have absolutely no respect for, because it has already taken a presupposition that God doesn't really exist. That God isn't able to transcend the natural laws that He has established in the Universe. I thoroughly, totally reject such stupidity, and I don't have to accept it, thank God.
Now some two hundred years before Jesus was born, there were seventy scholars who felt that the people should have Scriptures in a language they could understand, because the Hebrew language was pretty much lost during the Babylonian captivity. And after they had returned from Babylon, the majority of the people did not speak Hebrew. It was a language then that was only for the biblical scholars in those days. The people had to depend upon the scholars to teach them the Scriptures, because they did not have them in their own language any longer.
And because of Alexander the Great's influence and the Grecian influence through that territory when Alexander the Great conquered, these men decided to translate the Hebrew Bible, Old Testament, into Greek, in order that the people might be able to read their own Scriptures. Because there were seventy scholars who gave themselves to this task of translation, they called the translation the Septuagint, for the seventy scholars. Thus, when you read of the Septuagint, it is a Greek translation made approximately two hundred years before the birth of Christ, in order that the people might have their Scriptures again in a language that they could read and understand for themselves.
So it is interesting that when these Greek scholars, two hundred years before Mary had this experience of bearing the child Jesus as a virgin, that these Greek and Hebrew scholars, understanding the prophecy of Isaiah when translating that Hebrew word "alma" into Greek, used then a Greek word that is only used of "a virgin". And of course, Matthew copies here in his Greek their translation from the Septuagint. And inasmuch as the New Testament is recognizing that the Old Testament is inspired of the Lord, and Isaiah, when he said this, was inspired of the Lord and it translates it "virgin"; it's really tampering with the Scriptures and blasphemous for man to take upon himself to translate that passage in Isaiah "a young maiden" by translating the passage, "a young maiden will conceive."
That's just one of my cases, of which I have hundreds, against the modern translations. That's why I am so glad that the Lord has finally provided us a new translation which sticks to the Majority Text and to the fundamental truths that God has declared. So that is just a little aside, but it is something that I am rejoicing in.
Then Joseph when he awoke from his sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took Mary as his wife: And he did not know her until she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name [Yehshua] ( Matthew 1:24-25 ).
The dogma that was developed in the Catholic Church of the perpetual virginity of Mary, is sheer poppycock. It is the invention of man who have sought to elevate Mary to the status of deity. The obvious is here, "And did not know her until," but obviously afterwards he did have the normal husband-wife relationships with Mary, or else the other sons that were born of Mary and the daughters were also virgin-born, and that throws the whole story in disarray. For Mark's gospel names the brothers of Jesus: James, Joses, Simon, and his sisters. So to declare perpetual virginity of Mary is not a scriptural truth. It is a dogma developed by the church without scriptural foundation, as is so much dogma. Beware of dogma. Jesus said, Beware of the dogs. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 1:23". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/matthew-1.html. 2014.
B. The King’s birth 1:18-25
The first sentence in this pericope (section) serves as a title for the section, as the sentence in Matthew 1:1 did for Matthew 1:1-17. Matthew recorded the supernatural birth of Jesus to demonstrate further His qualification as Israel’s Messiah. He wanted to show that Mary could not have become pregnant by another man. These verses show how Jesus came to be the heir of Joseph and thus qualified to be Israel’s King.
"Matthew ultimately is arguing that Jesus recapitulates the pattern of Israel’s experience while also presenting him as Israel’s hope." [Note: Bock, Jesus according . . ., p. 64.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 1:23". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-1.html. 2012.
The phrase plerothe to hrethen ("what was spoken . . . fulfilled" [NASB] or "to fulfill what . . . had said" [NIV]) occurs often in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17; Matthew 2:23; Matthew 4:14; Matthew 8:17; Matthew 12:17; Matthew 13:35; Matthew 21:4; Matthew 27:9; cf. Matthew 26:56). It indicates a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
Matthew worded this verse very carefully. He distinguished the source of the prophecy, God, from the instrument through whom He gave it, the prophet. For Matthew, the prophecy of Isaiah was God’s Word (cf. 2 Peter 1:21). The New Testament writers consistently shared this high view of inspiration (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).
The prophecy Matthew said Jesus fulfilled comes from Isaiah 7:14 (Matthew 1:23). It is a difficult one to understand. [Note: See Homer A. Kent Jr., "Matthew’s Use of the Old Testament," Bibliotheca Sacra 121:481 (January-March 1964):34-43; and Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13, pp. 20-21.]
The first problem concerns the meaning of "virgin" (Gr. parthenos). This noun usually refers to a literal virgin in the Greek Bible. [Note: M’Neile, p. 9; Carson, "Matthew," p. 78. ] One exception occurs in Genesis 34:3 in the Septuagint. It always has this meaning in the Greek New Testament. That Matthew intended it to mean virgin appears clear for two reasons. First, virgin is the standard meaning of the word and, second, the context supports this meaning (Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:20; Matthew 1:25).
A second problem is the meaning of the Hebrew word translated "virgin" (’alma) in Isaiah 7:14. It means an unmarried young woman of marriageable age. Thus the Hebrew word has overtones of virginity. Every use of this word in the Hebrew Old Testament either requires or permits the meaning "virgin" (Genesis 24:43; Exodus 2:8; Psalms 68:25 ; Proverbs 30:19; Song of Solomon 1:3; Song of Solomon 6:8; Isaiah 7:14). [Note: Willis J. Beecher, The Prophets and the Promise, p. 334, footnote; Toussaint, p. 45. This is a complete list of its occurrences in the Old Testament.] That is why the Septuagint translators rendered ’alma "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14. Matthew’s interpretation of this word as virgin harmonizes with the Septuagint translators’ understanding.
A third problem is, what did this prophecy mean in Isaiah’s day? At the risk of oversimplification there are three basic solutions to this problem.
First, Isaiah predicted that an unmarried woman of marriageable age at the time of the prophecy would bare a child whom she would name Immanuel. This happened in Isaiah’s day. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy in the sense that a real virgin bore Him, and He was "God with us." This is a typological view, in which the child born in Isaiah’s day was a sign or type (a divinely intended illustration) of the child born in Joseph’s day. I prefer this view. [Note: See also Toussaint, p. 46, and many commentaries on Isaiah.]
A second interpretation sees Isaiah predicting the virgin birth of a boy named Immanuel in his day. A virgin did bear a son named Immanuel in Isaiah’s day, advocates of this view claim. Jesus fulfilled the prophecy since His mother was a virgin when she bore Him, and He was "God with us." This is a double fulfillment view. The problem with it is that it requires two virgin births, one in Isaiah’s day and Jesus’ birth.
A third view is that Isaiah predicted the birth of Jesus exclusively. He meant nothing about any woman in his day giving birth. Jesus alone fulfilled this prophecy. There was no fulfillment in Isaiah’s day. This is a single fulfillment view. The main problem with it is that according to this view Ahaz received no sign but only a prophecy. Signs in Scripture were fairly immediate visible assurances that what God had predicted would indeed happen. [Note: For further discussion, see Carson, "Matthew," pp. 78-80. There are also many books on the subject of the virgin birth. One of the best of these is J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ.]
Some question exists about the sense in which "Immanuel" was Jesus’ name (and the name of a son born in Isaiah’s day) since the New Testament writers never referred to Him as such. There is also no record of a son born in Isaiah’s day of that name. Even though it was not one of Jesus’ proper names, it accurately described who He was (cf. John 1:14; John 1:18; Matthew 28:20). The same may be true of the son born in Isaiah’s day. Some believe this person was one of Isaiah’s sons, or the son of King Ahaz, who could have been King Hezekiah, or someone else. My guess is that Isaiah’s son Maher-shalal-hash-baz was the initial fulfillment and that "Immanuel" may have been his secondary name.
"He [Jesus] is Emmanuel, and as such Jehovah the Saviour, so that in reality both names have the same meaning." [Note: Arno C. Gaebelein, The Gospel of Matthew, An Exposition, 1:37.]
"The key passages Matthew 1:23 and Matthew 28:20 . . . stand in a reciprocal relationship to each other . . . . Strategically located at the beginning and the end of Matthew’s story, these two passages ’enclose’ it. In combination, they reveal the message of Matthew’s story: In the person of Jesus Messiah, his Son, God has drawn near to abide to the end of time with his people, the church, thus inaugurating the eschatological age of salvation." [Note: Kingsbury, pp. 41-42. Italics his.]
The angel’s instructions caused Joseph to change his mind. He decided not to divorce Mary privately but to continue their engagement and eventually consummate it (Matthew 1:24). Matthew left no doubt about the virginal conception of Jesus by adding that Joseph did not have sexual relations with Mary until after Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:25). [Note: See James P. Sweeney, "Modern and Ancient Controversies over the Virgin Birth of Jesus," Bibliotheca Sacra 160:638 (April-June 2003):142-58.] When Joseph called the child "Jesus," as the angel had commanded him to do (Matthew 1:20-21), he was taking Jesus as his son.
"In other words, Jesus, born of Mary but not fathered by Joseph, is legitimately Son of David because Joseph son of David adopts him into his line." [Note: Kingsbury, p. 47.]
Adoption in Israel was informal rather than formal (cf. Genesis 15:2; Genesis 17:12-13; Genesis 48:5; Exodus 2:10; 1 Kings 11:20; Esther 2:7; Luke 2:23).
Was Jesus’ virgin birth theologically necessary, or was it only a fulfillment of prophecy? If parents (specifically fathers) transmit sinfulness to their children in some literal, physical way (i.e., genetically, hereditarily, etc.), the virgin birth was necessary to guard Jesus from transmitted sin. However, there is no clear revelation that fathers pass down their sinfulness as they pass down other characteristics. Theologians debate the subject of whether God imputes sin to every individual at birth or whether our parents pass it on to us (creationism vs. traducianism). My view is that fathers do not pass down sinfulness physically. Human nature is not necessarily sinful, though every human being except Jesus has a sinful human nature that in some way connects to our parents.
In this first chapter the writer stressed the person of Jesus Christ as being both human (Matthew 1:1-17) and divine (Matthew 1:18-25).
"If Matthew 1:1-17 were all that could be said of His birth, He might then have had a legal right to the throne, but He could never have been He who was to redeem and save from sin. But the second half before us shows Him to be truly the long promised One, the One of whom Moses and the prophets spake, to whom all the past manifestations of God in the earth and the types, pointed." [Note: Gaebelein, 1:27.]
Matthew presented three proofs that Jesus was the Christ in chapter 1: His genealogy, His virgin birth, and His fulfillment of prophecy.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 1:23". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-1.html. 2012.
Behold, a virgin shall be with child,.... These words are rightly applied to the virgin Mary and her son Jesus, for of no other can they be understood; not of Ahaz's wife and his son Hezekiah, who was already born, and must be eleven or twelve years of age when these words were spoken; nor of any other son of Ahaz by her or any other person since no other was Lord of Judea; nor of the wife of Isaiah, and any son of his, who never had any that was king of Judah. The prophecy is introduced here as in Isaiah with a "behold!" not only to raise and fix the attention, but to denote that it was something wonderful and extraordinary which was about to be related; and is therefore called
אות a "sign", wonder, or miracle; which lay not, as some Jewish writers g affirm, in this, that the person spoken of was unfit for conception at the time of the prophecy, since no such thing is intimated; or in this, that it should be a son and not a daughter h, which is foretold; for the wonder lies not in the truth of the prediction, but in the extraordinariness of the thing predicted; much less in this i, that the child should eat butter and honey as soon as born; since nothing is more natural and common with new born infants, than to take in any sort of liquids which are sweet and pleasant. But the sign or wonder lay in this, that a "virgin" should "conceive" or "be with child"; for the Evangelist is to be justified in rendering,
עלמה by παρθενος "a virgin"; by the Septuagint having so rendered it some hundreds of years before him, by the sense of the word, which comes from עלם and which signifies to "hide" or "cover"; virgins being such who are unknown to, and not uncovered by men, and in the Eastern countries were kept recluse from the company and conversation of men; and by the use of the word in all other places, Genesis 24:43. The last of these texts the Jews triumph in, as making for them, and against us, but without any reason; since it does not appear that the "maid" and the "adulterous woman" are one and the same person; and if they were, the vitiated woman might be called a maid or virgin, according to her own account of herself, or in the esteem of others who knew her not, or as antecedent to her defilement; see Deuteronomy 22:28. Besides, could this be understood of any young woman married or unmarried, that had known a man, it would be no wonder, no surprising thing that she should "conceive" or "be with child", and "bring forth a son". It is added,
and they shall call his name Emmanuel. The difference between Isaiah and Matthew is very inconsiderable, it being in the one "thou shalt call", that is, thou virgin shalt call him by this name; and in the other "they shall call", that is, Joseph, Mary, and others; for, besides that some copies read the text in Matthew χαλεσεις "thou shalt call", the words both in the one and the other may be rendered impersonally, "and shall be called"; and the meaning is, not that he should be commonly known and called by such a name, any more than by any, or all of those mentioned in Isaiah 9:6, but only that he should be so, which is a frequent use of the word; or he should be that, and so accounted by others, which answers to the signification of this name, which the Evangelist says,
being interpreted is God with us: for it is a compound word of אל "God" and עמנו "with us", and well agrees with Jesus, who is God in our nature, the word that was made flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:14, and is the one and only Mediator between God and us, 1 Timothy 2:5 k. So the Septuagint interpret the word in Isaiah 8:8.
g Jarchi. in Isa. vii. 14. h Gaon. in Aben Ezra, in ib. i Kimchi & Aben Ezra in ib. R. Isaac Chizuk. Emun. p. 1. c. 21. k See more of this in a book of mine, called "The Prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, literally fulfilled in Jesus", ch. 5. p. 92, 93, &c.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 1:23". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-1.html. 1999.
|The Birth of Christ.|
18 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. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 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. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
The mystery of Christ's incarnation is to be adored, not pried into. If we know not the way of the Spirit in the formation of common persons, nor how the bones are formed in the womb of any one that is with child (Ecclesiastes 11:5), much less do we know how the blessed Jesus was formed in the womb of the blessed virgin. When David admires how he himself was made in secret, and curiously wrought (Psalms 139:13-16), perhaps he speaks in the spirit of Christ's incarnation. Some circumstances attending the birth of Christ we find here which are not in Luke, though it is more largely recorded here. Here we have,
I. Mary's espousal to Joseph. Mary, the mother of our Lord, was espoused to Joseph, not completely married, but contracted; a purpose of marriage solemnly declared in words de futuro--that regarding the future, and a promise of it made if God permit. We read of a man who has betrothed a wife and has not taken her,Deuteronomy 20:7. Christ was born of a virgin, but a betrothed virgin, 1. To put respect upon the marriage state, and to recommend it as honourable among all, against that doctrine of devils which forbids to marry, and places perfection in the single state. Who more highly favoured than Mary was in her espousals? 2. To save the credit of the blessed virgin, which otherwise would have been exposed. It was fit that her conception should be protected by a marriage, and so justified in the eye of the world. One of the ancients says, It was better it should be asked, Is not this the son of a carpenter? than, Is not this the son of a harlot? 3. That the blessed virgin might have one to be the guide of her youth, the companion of her solitude and travels, a partner in her cares, and a help meet for her. Some think that Joseph was now a widower, and that those who are called the brethren of Christ (Matthew 13:55; Matthew 13:55), were Joseph's children by a former wife. This is the conjecture of many of the ancients. Joseph was just man, she a virtuous woman. Those who are believers should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers: but let those who are religious choose to marry with those who are so, as they expect the comfort of the relation, and God's blessing upon them in it. We may also learn, from this example, that it is good to enter into the married state with deliberation, and not hastily--to preface the nuptials with a contract. It is better to take time to consider before than to find time to repent after.
II. Her pregnancy of the promised seed; before they came together, she was found with child, which really was of the Holy Ghost. The marriage was deferred so long after the contract that she appeared to be with child before the time came for the solemnizing of the marriage, though she was contracted before she conceived. Probably, it was after her return from her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she continued three months (Luke 1:56), that she was perceived by Joseph to be with child, and did not herself deny it. Note, Those in whom Christ is formed will show it: it will be found to be a work of God which he will own. Now we may well imagine, what a perplexity this might justly occasion to the blessed virgin. She herself knew the divine original of this conception; but how could she prove it? She would be dealt with as a harlot. Note, After great and high advancements, lest we should be puffed up with them, we must expect something or other to humble us, some reproach, as a thorn in the flesh, nay, as a sword in the bones. Never was any daughter of Eve so dignified as the Virgin Mary was, and yet in danger of falling under the imputation of one of the worse crimes; yet we do not find that she tormented herself about it; but, being conscious of her own innocence, she kept her mind calm and easy, and committed her cause to him that judgeth righteously. Note, those who take care to keep a good conscience may cheerfully trust God with the keeping of their good names, and have reason to hope that he will clear up, not only their integrity, but their honour, as the sun at noon day.
III. Joseph's perplexity, and his care what to do in this case. We may well imagine what a great trouble and disappointment it was to him to find one he had such an opinion of, and value for, come under the suspicion of such a heinous crime. Is this Mary? He began to think, "How may we be deceived in those we think best of! How may we be disappointed in what we expect most from!" He is loth to believe so ill a thing of one whom he believed to be so good a woman; and yet the matter, as it is too bad to be excused, is also too plain to be denied. What a struggle does this occasion in his breast between that jealousy which is the rage of man, and is cruel as the grave, on the one hand, and that affection which he has for Mary on the other!
Observe, 1. The extremity which he studied to avoid. He was not willing to make her a public example. He might have done so; for, by the law, a betrothed virgin, if she played the harlot, was to be stoned to death, Deuteronomy 22:23; Deuteronomy 22:24. But he was not willing to take the advantage of the law against her; if she be guilty, yet it is not known, nor shall it be known from him. How different was the spirit which Joseph displayed from that of Judah, who in a similar case hastily passed that severe sentence, Bring her forth and let her be burnt!Genesis 38:24. How good it is to think on things, as Joseph did here! Were there more of deliberation in our censures and judgments, there would be more of mercy and moderation in them. Bringing her to punishment is here called making her a public example; which shows what is the end to be aimed at in punishment--the giving of warning to others: it is in terrorem--that all about may hear and fear. Smite the scorner, and the simple will beware.
Some persons of a rigorous temper would blame Joseph for his clemency: but it is here spoken of to his praise; because he was a just man, therefore he was not willing to expose her. He was a religious, good man; and therefore inclined to be merciful as God is, and to forgive as one that was forgiven. In the case of the betrothed damsel, if she were defiled in the field, the law charitably supposed that she cried out (Deuteronomy 22:26), and she was not to be punished. Some charitable construction or other Joseph will put upon this matter; and herein he is a just man, tender of the good name of one who never before had done anything to blemish it. Note, It becomes us, in many cases, to be gentle towards those that come under suspicion of having offended, to hope the best concerning them, and make the best of that which at first appears bad, in hopes that it may prove better. Summum just summa injuria--The rigour of the law is (sometimes) the height of injustice. That court of conscience which moderates the rigour of the law we call a court of equity. Those who are found faulty were perhaps overtaken in the fault, and are therefore to be restored with the spirit of meekness; and threatening, even when just, must be moderated.
2. The expedient he found out for avoiding this extremity. He was minded to put her away privily, that is, to give a bill of divorce into her hand before two witnesses, and so to hush up the matter among themselves. Being a just man, that is, a strict observer of the law, he would not proceed to marry her, but resolved to put her away; and yet, in tenderness for her, determined to do it as privately as possible. Note, The necessary censures of those who have offended ought to be managed without noise. The words of the wise are heard in quiet. Christ himself shall not strive nor cry. Christian love and Christian prudence will hide a multitude of sins, and great ones, as far as may be done without having fellowship with them.
IV. Joseph's discharge from this perplexity by an express sent from heaven, Matthew 1:20; Matthew 1:21. While he thought on these things and knew not what to determine, God graciously directed him what to do, and made him easy. Note, Those who would have direction from God must think on things themselves, and consult with themselves. It is the thoughtful, not the unthinking, whom God will guide. When he was at a loss, and had carried the matter as far as he could in his own thoughts, then God came in with advice. Note, God's time to come in with instruction to his people is when they are nonplussed and at a stand. God's comforts most delight the soul in the multitude of its perplexed thoughts. The message was sent to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, probably the same angel that brought Mary the tidings of the conception--the angel Gabriel. Now the intercourse with heaven, by angels, with which the patriarchs had been dignified, but which had been long disused, begins to be revived; for, when the First-begotten is to be brought into the world, the angels are ordered to attend his motions. How far God may now, in an invisible way, make use of the ministration of angels, for extricating his people out of their straits, we cannot say; but this we are sure of, they are all ministering spirits for their good. This angel appeared to Joseph in a dream when he was asleep, as God sometimes spoke unto the fathers. When we are most quiet and composed we are in the best frame to receive the notices of the divine will. The Spirit moves on the calm waters. This dream, no doubt, carried its own evidence along with it that it was of God, and not the production of a vain fancy. Now,
1. Joseph is here directed to proceed in his intended marriage. The angel calls him, Joseph, thou son of David; he puts him in mind of his relation to David, that he might be prepared to receive this surprising intelligence of his relation to the Messiah, who, every one knew, was to be a descendant from David. Sometimes, when great honours devolve upon those who have small estates, they care not for accepting them, but are willing to drop them; it was therefore requisite to put this poor carpenter in mind of his high birth: "Value thyself. Joseph, thou art that son of David through whom the line of the Messiah is to be drawn." We may thus say to every true believer, "Fear not, thou son of Abraham, thou child of God; forget not the dignity of thy birth, thy new birth." Fear not to take Mary for thy wife; so it may be read. Joseph, suspecting she was with child by whoredom, was afraid of taking her, lest he should bring upon himself either guilt or reproach. No, saith God, Fear not; the matter is not so. Perhaps Mary had told him that she was with child by the Holy Ghost, and he might have heard what Elizabeth said to her (Luke 1:43), when she called her the mother of her Lord; and, if so, he was afraid of presumption in marrying one so much above him. But, from whatever cause his fears arose, they were all silenced with this word, Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife. Note, It is a great mercy to be delivered from our fears, and to have our doubts resolved, so as to proceed in our affairs with satisfaction.
2. He is here informed concerning that holy thing with which his espoused wife was now pregnant. That which is conceived in her is of a divine original. He is so far from being in danger of sharing in an impurity by marrying her, that he will thereby share in the highest dignity he is capable of. Two things he is told,
(1.) That she had conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost; not by the power of nature. The Holy Spirit, who produced the world, now produced the Saviour of the world, and prepared him a body, as was promised him, when he said, Lo, I come,Hebrews 10:5. Hence he is said to be made of a woman (Galatians 4:4), and yet to be that second Adam that is the Lord from heaven,1 Corinthians 15:47. He is the Son of God, and yet so far partakes of the substance of his mother as to be called the fruit of her womb,Luke 1:42. It was requisite that is conception should be otherwise than by ordinary generation, that so, so though he partook of the human nature, yet he might escape the corruption and pollution of it, and not be conceived and shapen in iniquity. Histories tell us of some who vainly pretended to have conceived by a divine power, as the mother of Alexander; but none ever really did so, except the mother of our Lord. His name in this, as in other things, is Wonderful. We do not read that the virgin Mary did herself proclaim the honour done to her; but she hid it in her heart, and therefore God sent an angel to attest it. Those who seek not their own glory shall have the honour that comes from God; it is reserved for the humble.
(2.) That she should bring forth the Saviour of the world (Matthew 1:21; Matthew 1:21). She shall bring forth a Son; what he shall be is intimated,
[1.] In the name that should be given to her Son: Thou shalt call his name Jesus, a Saviour. Jesus is the same name with Joshua, the termination only being changed, for the sake of conforming it to the Greek. Joshua is called Jesus (Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8), from the Seventy. There were two of that name under the Old Testament, who were both illustrious types of Christ, Joshua who was Israel's captain at their first settlement in Canaan, and Joshua who was their high priest at their second settlement after the captivity, Zechariah 6:11; Zechariah 6:12. Christ is our Joshua; both the Captain of our salvation, and the High Priest of our profession, and, in both, our Saviour--a Joshua who comes in the stead of Moses, and does that for us which the law could not do, in that it was weak. Joshua had been called Hosea, but Moses prefixed the first syllable of the name Jehovah, and so made it Jehoshua (Numbers 13:16), to intimate that the Messiah, who was to bear that name, should be Jehovah; he is therefore able to save to the uttermost, neither is there salvation in any other.
[2.] In the reason of that name: For he shall save his people from their sins; not the nation of the Jews only (he came to his own, and they received him not), but all who were given him by the Father's choice, and all who had given themselves to him by their own. He is a king who protects his subjects, and, as the judges of Israel of old, works salvation for them. Note, those whom Christ saves he saves from their sins; from the guilt of sin by the merit of his death, from the dominion 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; to purchase for them, not a liberty to sin, but a liberty from sins, to redeem them from all iniquity (Titus 2:14); and so to redeem them from among men (Revelation 14:4) to himself, who is separate from sinners. So that those who leave their sins, and give up themselves to Christ as his people, are interested in the Saviour, and the great salvation which he has wrought out,Romans 11:26.
V. The fulfilling of the scripture in all this. This evangelist, writing among the Jews, more frequently observes this than any other of the evangelists. Here the Old Testament prophecies had their accomplishment in our Lord Jesus, by which it appears that this was he that should come, and we are to look for no other; for this was he to whom all the prophets bore witness. Now the scripture that was fulfilled in the birth of Christ was that promise of a sign which God gave to king Ahaz (Isaiah 7:14), Behold a virgin shall conceive; where the prophet, encouraging the people of God to hope for the promised deliverance from Sennacherib's invasion, directs them to look forward to the Messiah, who was to come of the people of the Jews, and the house of David; whence it was easy to infer, that though that people and that house were afflicted, yet neither the one nor the other could be abandoned to ruin, so long as God had such an honour, such a blessing, in reserve for them. The deliverances which God wrought for the Old-Testament church were types and figures of the great salvation by Christ; and, if God will do the greater, he will not fail to do the less.
The prophecy here quoted is justly ushered in with a Behold, which commands both attention and admiration; for we have here the mystery of godliness, which is, without controversy, great, that God was manifested in the flesh.
1. The sign given is that the Messiah shall be born of a virgin. A virgin shall conceive, and, by her, he shall be manifested in the flesh. The word Almah signifies a virgin in the strictest sense, such as Mary professes herself to be (Luke 1:34), I know not a man; nor had it been any such wonderful sign as it was intended for, if it had been otherwise. It was intimated from the beginning that the Messiah should be born of a virgin, when it was said that he should be the seed of the woman; so the seed of the woman as not to be the seed of any man. Christ was born of a virgin not only because his birth was to be supernatural, and altogether extraordinary, but because it was to be spotless, and pure, and without any stain of sin. Christ would be born, not of an empress or queen, for he appeared not in outward pomp or splendour, but of a virgin, to teach us spiritual purity, to die to all the delights of sense, and so to keep ourselves unspotted from the world and the flesh that we may be presented chaste virgins to Christ.
2. The truth proved by this sign is, that he is the Son of God, and the Mediator between God and man: for they shall call his name Immanuel; that is, he shall be Immanuel; and when it is said, He shall be called, it is meant, he shall be, the Lord our righteousness. Immanuel signifies God with us; a mysterious name, but very precious; God incarnate among us, and so God reconcilable to us, at peace with us, and taking us into covenant and communion with himself. The people of the Jews had God with them, in types and shadows, dwelling between the cherubim; but never so as when the Word was made flesh--that was the blessed Shechinah. What a happy step is hereby taken toward the settling of a peace and correspondence between God and man, that the two natures are thus brought together in the person of the Mediator! by this he became an unexceptionable referee, a days-man, fit to lay his hand upon them both, since he partakes of the nature of both. Behold, in this, the deepest mystery, and the richest mercy, that ever was. By the light of nature, we see God as a God above us; by the light of the law, we see him as a God against us; but by the light of the gospel, we see him as Immanuel, God with us, in our own nature, and (which is more) in our interest. Herein the Redeemer commended his love. With Christ's name, Immanuel, we may compare the name given to the gospel church (Ezekiel 48:35). Jehovah Shammah--The Lord is there; the Lord of hosts is with us.
Nor is it improper to say that the prophecy which foretold that he should be called Immanuel was fulfilled, in the design and intention of it, when he was called Jesus; for if he had not been Immanuel--God with us, he could not have been Jesus--a Saviour; and herein consists the salvation he wrought out, in the bringing of God and man together; this was what he designed, to bring God to be with us, which is our great happiness, and to bring us to be with God, which is our great duty.
VI. Joseph's obedience to the divine precept (Matthew 1:24; Matthew 1:24). Being raised from sleep by the impression which the dream made upon him, he did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, though it was contrary to his former sentiments and intentions; he took unto him his wife; he did is speedily, without delay, and cheerfully, without dispute; he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Extraordinary direction like this we are not now to expect; but God has still ways of making known his mind in doubtful cases, by hints of providence, debates of conscience, and advice of faithful friends; by each of these, applying the general rules of the written word, we should, therefore, in all the steps of our life, particularly the great turns of it, such as this of Joseph's, take direction from God, and we shall find it safe and comfortable to do as he bids us.
VII. The accomplishment of the divine promise (Matthew 1:25; Matthew 1:25). She brought forth her first-born son. The circumstances of it are more largely related, Luke 2:1, c. Note, That which is conceived of the Holy Ghost never proves abortive, but will certainly be brought forth in its season. What is of the will of the flesh, and of the will of man, often miscarries but, if Christ be formed in the soul, God himself has begun the good work which he will perform; what is conceived in grace will no doubt be brought forth in glory.
It is here further observed, 1. That Joseph, though he solemnized the marriage with Mary, his espoused wife, kept at a distance from her while she was with child of this Holy thing; he knew her not till she had brought him forth. Much has been said concerning the perpetual virginity of our Lord: Jerome was very angry with Helvidius for denying it. It is certain that it cannot be proved from scripture. Dr. Whitby inclines to think that when it is said, Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born, it is intimated that, afterwards, the reason ceasing, he lived with her, according to the law, Exodus 21:10. 2. That Christ was the first-born; and so he might be called though his mother had not any other children after him, according to the language of scripture. Nor is it without a mystery that Christ is called her first-born, for he is the first-born of every creature, that is, the Heir of all things; and he is the first-born among many brethren, that in all things he may have the pre-eminence. 3. That Joseph called his name Jesus, according to the direction given him. God having appointed him to be the Saviour, which was intimated in his giving him the name Jesus, we must accept of him to be our Saviour, and, in concurrence with that appointment, we must call him Jesus, our Saviour.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Matthew 1:23". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/matthew-1.html. 1706.
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30