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.
18 Verse 18. Espoused to Joseph] The word μνηστευθεισης, from
μνηστευω, to contract, or betroth, refers to the previous
marriage agreement, in which the parties mutually bound themselves
to each other; without which, no woman was ever married among the
Jews. Among the Hindoos, a woman is espoused often a whole year,
and even longer before the marriage takes place.
Before they came together] The woman was espoused at her own,
or her father's house; and, generally, some time elapsed before
she was taken home to the house of her husband: ;
. This custom has been immemorially observed among
the inhabitants of Ireland, who have not only this, but many
Asiatic customs, which, added to various authentic historic
proofs, are collateral evidences that they received the Christian
religion, not from the popes of Rome, but through the means of
Among the Jews, the espousal, though the marriage had not been
consummated, was considered as perfectly legal and binding on both
sides; and hence a breach of this contract was considered as a
case of adultery, and punished exactly in the same way. See
. Nor could a contract of this kind, though there
was no cohabitation, be broken but by a regular divorce, as Mr.
Selden, in his Uxor Hebraica, has proved at large from the Jewish
She was found with child] Her situation was the most
distressing and humiliating that can be conceived. Nothing but
the fullest consciousness of her own integrity, and the strongest
confidence in God, could have supported her in such trying
circumstances, where her reputation, her honour, and her life were
at stake. What conversation passed between her and Joseph, on
this discovery, we are not informed; but the issue proves that it
was not satisfactory to him: nor could he resolve to consider her
as his wife, till God had sent his angel to bear the most
unequivocal testimony to the virgin's innocence. His whole
conduct, on this occasion, was exceedingly benevolent and humane.
He might at once have taken the advantage of the law,
, and had her stoned to death.