Character Bible Study Background and Lessons – Joseph Father of Jesus

Character Study Key Verse: Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 1 Corinthians 10:6

Character’s Name: Joseph

Meaning of Name: He will add

His Ancestry and Family Life: Born of the line of Judah to Jacob; lived in Nazareth of Galilee

When and Where He Lived: He lived from 20-30 B.C. and died before Jesus was crucified, and probably before Christ’s ministry began.

Circumstances of Birth: Probably born around 20-30 B.C.

Training He received and His Occupation: He was a carpenter. This was a classic blue collar job at that time and one that Jesus was later trained in.

Place in History: Husband of Mary, foster father of Jesus (coincidentally the first recorded foster father). Instrumental in fulfilling some of the prophecies of Jesus, including that He would be of the line of David, born in Bethlehem, come from Egypt, lived in Nazareth.

Special traits: First (and only) man to marry a woman who was both a virgin and pregnant.

From the kingly line of Judah, but not eligible for the throne because of the curse on Jeconiah stating that none if his descendants could ascend to the throne ever. Because Jesus was not of Joseph’s blood, but still his heir, He could inherit the royal bloodline, but the curse bypassed Him.

Spoken to by an angel of The Lord 4 times.

Foster father of Jesus Himself.

Poor, as indicated by the circumstances of Jesus’ birth and the minimal sacrifice they were able to afford when they went to the temple.


Presumptuous; assumed that Jesus was with His mother, thus left Him behind – (L2:43-44)

Anxious- (L2:48)


Righteous, used to describe true believers in God- (M1:19)

Merciful, could have stoned Mary at this “evidence of adultery”- (M1:19)

Gracious, could have obtained a divorce, but he remained married to her- (M1:19)

Listened to God- (M1:20-21)

Obedient – (M1:24)

Humble, almost everyone would believe that by his taking Mary as his wife after her pregnancy was discovered that he was the father and they’d been together before marriage – (M1:24)

Self-controlled, he was married to Mary, but did not sleep with her until after Jesus was born- (M1:25)

Provided for his family; when the magi came, the family was in a house, not the stable- (M2:10)

Didn’t procrastinate; he arose while it was still night to obey (M2:4)

Protective of his family- (M2:14-15)

Pure- (L1:27)

Conscientious towards the government – (L2:1-5)

Resourceful; though there was no room for them in the inns, he found them a shelter to stay in that was warm and safe- (L2:7)

Careful to keep God’s law- (L2:21;22-24, 39, 41)

Important Acts and Events:

Betrothed to Mary- (M1:18)

Discovered she was pregnant- (M1:19)

Angel came to him in first dream- (M1:20-21)

Married Mary – (M1:24)

Went to Bethlehem for the census – (L2:4)

Jesus was born – (M1:25)

Angel came to him in second dream- (M2:13)

Flight to Egypt- (M2:14)

Angel came to him in third dream- (M2:19)

Returned to Israel – (M2:21)

Warned by God in 4th dream – (M2:22)

Went to live in Galilee, specifically Nazareth – (M2:22-23)

How He Died: It doesn’t say, beyond the fact that he was apparently already dead by the time Jesus was crucified, and likely before the beginning of His ministry.

Lessons from His Life:

We don’t have to have a central, “starring” role to serve The Lord and fulfill His plan. God can and has greatly used quiet, steady, faithful people like Joseph to help bring about His will.

Humility doesn’t need to be noticed and admired for things that are done. It is perfectly happy to be in a supporting role. Jesus, and even Mary, had much more central roles in the gospels, but Joseph was an unheralded but still very valuable figure in all of it.

Self-control is an often under-appreciated fruit of the spirit. Imagine if Joseph hadn’t controlled himself, had slept with Mary (who was, after all, his wife; it was his right to sleep with her?, and she was no longer a virgin? How might that have disrupted God’s plan?

Sometimes God withholds something from us just for a time, for our good, before giving it to us at the right time. Joseph had to keep Mary pure for a time (again, even though it was his right as her husband to sleep with her), but then the Bible later records that they had 4 other sons, and daughters, as well. Perhaps that time of self-control was difficult (or perhaps God made it easy; we don’t know), but it was well worth it.

As a parent, be sure to start your child out right. Jesus was the fulfillment of all of the laws, including the one for circumcision at 8 days old and purification sacrifice at 40 days, and observance of Passover. Joseph’s adherence to the law of God helped assure that Jesus also fully fulfilled it.

God uses governments for His plans, even their seemingly senseless decrees. Because Joseph obeyed his government’s command to go to his hometown and be counted, even though the timing seemed bad with Mary about to give birth, Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the prophecy was fulfilled.

God provides for our needs, even for emergencies, though sometimes the provision is not what we hoped for or expected. Mary needed a place to give birth, and baby Jesus needed shelter, so Joseph found them a place (perhaps a cave where animals were kept or a stable) that was simple, but worked. On the other hand, God sent the wiseman with rich gifts to give to this poor family, and then Joseph only days later had to obey The Lord and flee to Egypt to save Jesus’ life. I’m sure the gifts helped finance their trip. We don’t know how God will provide…only that He will.

Joseph obeyed God immediately. When the angel first told Joseph to take Mary as his wife because she was carrying Jesus, he awoke and did just that. When he was told to flee to Egypt, he took his family while it was still night. When we know the right thing to do, we should do it immediately, without delay.

By all appearances, Joseph’s betrothed (a relationship the same as being married, only they didn’t live together) was pregnant illegitimately. According to the law, he could have stoned her (for adultery), or at least divorced her. His first reaction was the more merciful of the two legal options. However, he obeyed The Lord and was more merciful still, marrying her and adopting the child as his own. When we have the option to retaliate, even if its legitimate, consider mercy.

It doesn’t matter what other people think of us, as long as we are right before God. By marrying his pregnant fiancé, Joseph was practically declaring that the child was his. Everyone they knew naturally would have assumed impurity on both of their parts. However, Joseph was willing to accept that stigma so that he could obey The Lord and provide legitimacy, respectability and protection to Mary and her Son.

Don’t just assume that someone else is going to do something. Ask and make sure, or else take responsibility for it yourself. Traveling back from Jerusalem after the Passover, Mary and Joseph were with a large caravan. Traditionally, the women travelled together, and the men travelled together, and they were likely separated by some distance. Probably, Joseph assumed Jesus was with Mary and she assumed Jesus was with him, when they had really left Him behind. Much anxiety and time could have been saved if they had asked to make sure. From presumption comes nothing but strife.

Just because an emotion is natural and reasonable, doesn’t mean that it’s warranted. Joseph and Mary were anxious when searching for Jesus, but He was the Messiah, God’s one and only Son. Of COURSE God was going to take care of Him, and Jesus was going to react to the situation by doing the wisest thing (that is, going to a safe, public place where there are trustworthy people and waiting for His parents to find Him).

Joseph was the first recorded foster parent, taking legal responsibility to provide and care for Jesus. Obviously, if Jesus Himself had a foster/adoptive father, it’s something that is good and precious in the sight of God.

Adopted kids are not less valuable/important/significant than their biological counterparts. How many of you can even name Jesus’ four other brothers (James, Joses, Judas and Simon)? I realize this is an extreme example, since He was God’s Son, but I think it’s worth noting that He was not less worthy just because of his adopted status.

Joseph was known by his trade, shown because in Mark 6:3, Jesus was called the  son of a carpenter. A man’s work is very important to him, and often integral to his identity. We need to realize and respect this, whether in our father, or our boyfriend, or one day in our husband.


Matthew 1-2

Luke 1-2

John 2:1-12

John 19:25-27

Acts 1:14

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