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King Joseph

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The Bible says nothing about any king named Joseph. The Jews had 23 kings, beginning with Saul and ending with Zedekiah. The ten tribes that broke away had 20 kings, beginning with Jeroboam and ending with Hoshea. Many foreign kings are mentioned by name. None of these kings is named Joseph.


But there is one person in the Bible who had the right to call himself King Joseph.


Matthew’s gospel begins with a three part genealogy. The first part begins with Abraham and show that David was his descendant. The second part lists the descendants of David who succeeded him as king.


And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

Matthew 1:6-11 ESV


The last king, Jechoniah, was deposed by the Babylonians and taken into exile, but he had a son and the royal line continued.


And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

Matthew 1:12-16 ESV


Joseph was in this royal line and should have been King Joseph, but none of Jechoniah’s descendants was ever king. The only one who ever held any position of authority was Zerubbabel, who was governor of Judea under the Persians.


Historically there is a simple explanation for this fact. Except for a brief period of independence under the Maccabees the Jews had been controlled by foreign nations since the reign of Jechoniah. They had been ruled by the Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks and in Joseph’s time were part of the Roman Empire. Their king, Herod, was a Roman appointee and not a descendant of David.


This subjection to foreign powers was the method God used to keep any of Jechoniah’s descendants from ruling. The reason was a curse he had placed on Jechoniah.


“As I live, declares the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off and give you into the hand of those who seek your life, into the hand of those of whom you are afraid, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of the Chaldeans. I will hurl you and the mother who bore you into another country, where you were not born, and there you shall die. But to the land to which they will long to return, there they shall not return.”


Is this man Coniah a despised, broken pot,

a vessel no one cares for?

Why are he and his children hurled and cast

into a land that they do not know?


O land, land, land,

hear the word of the LORD!

Thus says the LORD:


“Write this man down as childless,

a man who shall not succeed in his days,

for none of his offspring shall succeed

in sitting on the throne of David

and ruling again in Judah.”

Jeremiah 22:24-30 ESV


To be the lawful king of the Jews Jesus had to be the son of Joseph but if he were Joseph’s son the curse placed on Jechoniah would keep him from ever actually occupying the throne. Here is how God solved this dilemma.


Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.


But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:18-21 ESV


Under Jewish law a betrothal was as legally binding as the marriage itself. Because Mary was the wife of Joseph her son was legally considered to also be Joseph’s son. This meant that the kingship was legally passed on to him. Because he wasn’t Joseph’s biological son the curse was not.


(Mary was also a descendant of David, through his son Nathan. This meant that Jesus was a biological as well as a legal descendant of David. The genealogies of Jesus )


After Jesus began his public ministry Mary and his brothers are mentioned several times but Joseph is not. This shows that Joseph must have died. The fact that Joseph was the rightful king explains why his death was necessary. As long as he was alive he, rather than Jesus, was the rightful king. It was only when he died that Jesus had the right to publicly begin exercising his role as king and Messiah.



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