The Families of Prince Joseph, Princess Mary and the Birth of Prince Jesus (Isaiah 9:6,7)
The Benefits of Being Poor and Persecuted
Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. Isaiah 11:1
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33
Growing up, I got the idea from many pastors and teachers I knew that Joseph and Mary were just two poor Jews living around Jerusalem in mud huts until all of a sudden, the Holy Spirit intervened. Nothing could be further from the truth! I did not know that they were Davidian royalty and they had connections to Herod and to the Sanhedrin.
Researcher David Hughes’ book the “British Chronicles” has an excellent well-researched section on the ancestry of the Lord Jesus the Christ, which helped me gain a fuller idea of what was happening in Jerusalem during the first century. Another good book on the subject is “The Elite Knighthood” by Brian Daniel Star. So what was the family of Joseph and Mary really like?
Their lives would make a great secular movie full of politics, power and perversion. The motivations of people then are the same as they are today. I want to pass along three points. The Politics: Herod the Great, the local ruler, had to keep the rebellious Jews in line to keep his throne. The Power: The Jewish rulers wanted to please the Herod to keep their power because they were not entitled to it by heredity. Therefore, The Perversion, they colluded with the Romans to kill off or persecute the rightful heirs who happened to be the house and the lineage of King David.
Once I got this straight in my head, the nativity story grew more real and alive in my soul than ever before. I never understood how many people were related to each other.
To keep the Jews in line, Herod the Great wished to marry a Jewish Princess. Even today, powerful families intermarry to insure a certain amount of domestic tranquility and loyality. This was no different with Herod. The problem was that she was not recognized royalty. The House and the Lineage of David was quite polluted with foreign blood because of the Babylonian captivity. But, because of the fact the scripture requires a minimum of 10 generations and because the lineage of Kings is passed down through the father, the Sanhedrin recognized that part of the lineage of King David.
Miriamme was the wife of Prince Jacob ben Mattan from about 23 to 30 BCE. She was also wed to her second husband High Priest of Israel Simon IV Boethus, and lastly, to the King of the Jews, Herod the Great. What caught Herod’s eye the most, in addition to the link to the Jews, was the fact her mother was THE Cleopatra of Egypt. When she was brought to this area by Rome, she was given to Prince Jacob was the most prominent “eastern prince” in the around and Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Herod killed of Prince Jacob, but not before she had three sons Prince Joseph who was born about 29 BCE, and twin boys Ptolas and Clopas in 26 BCE. So politics makes strange bedfellows, Herod’s second wife was Prince Jesus’ earthly grandmother! It is not known how Prince Jacob’s first wife, Eucharia, died. Prince Joseph’s Uncle Clopas scholars think is the same person whom the Lord Jesus the Christ is talking to on the road to Emmaus.
“Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them…Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” Luke 24:13
The real power in keeping both Rome and the ruling Jews content was to keep the real contenders for the throne and the temple under control. As most Christians know, the church wields a lot of informal if not informal power. To keep the current crop of Chief priests in office who were put in place my the previous Jewish dynasty, they had to collude with Herod (or the current ruler) to keep the descendants of King David in line, even if they had to kill them, or persecute them. That is what happened to both Prince Joseph and Princess Mary.
The family of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, came from a family of royal Davidian princes. In contrast, Mary’s family was from a family dynasty of priests. Equally regal and powerful, they carried the mantle of spiritual power, while Prince Joseph’s family carried the regal mantle of temporal power. For many rulers in the middle east, spiritual power was more effective than the political power because it motivated people at an emotional level.
Princess Mary, was born to Prince Heli and Hannah, about the year of 20 or 19 BCE. Mary, was a Davidian on her father’s side, and a Zadokian priest heiress on her mother’s. Mary, means “bitter.” She was named that for a reason. Her father, Heli, a Davidic and Hasmonean prince, called Alexander III “Helios”, was apparently executed circa 15 BCE, by King Herod the Great to shore up his claim to both the throne and the temple. Her mother a few years later also died from disease. To add to her sorrow, her grandfather, High Priest Yeshua III, was executed in 23 BCE, for “sedition” against Herod the Great. The orphaned young woman was placed in the temple within the Order of the Temple-Virgins until she was eligible for marriage about the year of her bat Mitzvoth at 12-13 years of age
The upshot of all this is that the royal lineage of King David was perverted into poverty and persecution. Prince Joseph and Princess Mary were denied their legal and heredity rights as the head of the Jewish nation. Remember what satan does, he comes but to kill, steal and destroy. So it was with newlyweds Prince Joseph and Princess Mary who lived in the shadow of the splendid temple, but in reality started out life in poverty and shame, bearing a child before the official betrothal period ended.
I’m sure at the time it was devastating to them. But, God used this perversion of justice, not just to fulfill scripture, but for our benefit 2000 years later.
So what does this all mean for me? Think on these things.
Points to ponder:
- If Mary hadn’t come a family of priests, would she so quick to understood the significance of the Angel who asked her to be the world’s most blessed woman? (Luke 1:28) Remember, her cousin Elizabeth was going to have a miraculous baby, too, but her husband balked at the idea.
- Because they were poor and often in hiding from the government they were able to fulfill prophecy.
- If they had money, they would not have a problem getting room in the inn. (Luke 2:7) I really think that it was not an issue of over-crowding, but because of lack of money. If their relatives were not killed off, there would be people in Bethlehem to receive them and Jesus wouldn’t have been born in a stable.
- If they had power and influence, the shepherds would not have come to them. (Luke 2:8) They wouldn’t be let in their wealthy home. Because they were poor, perhaps in hiding, the shepherds could come and appreciate the Lord in a manger.
- If they had power and influence, the Magi would have known from the rulers in Jerusalem where the Christ child was. (Matthew 2:1) Instead, they were poor and in a modest home in Nazareth, and the Star had to guide them.
- The tragically, because they were poor and perhaps in hiding, the Herod the Great did not know where the Prince Joseph and Princess Mary was. Therefore they had the toddlers killed off all over the area.
- Because they were afraid of the continued legitimate bloodline being born, the Sanhedrin did not warn the people of the impending slaughter of the children. But the Angel of God warned the Magi not to go home the way they came because, I’m sure, they would have been captured and tortured to find the location of the Christ Child. (Matthew 2:12)
- Since they were poor and for certain in hiding now, they used the gifts of the Magi to finance their journey and stay in Egypt. (Matthew 2:13) They went to Egypt, yes to fulfill scripture, but both Mary and Joseph had ancestors there. Remember that Cleopatra woman.
- Now somewhat out of danger now that Herod was dead, they could return home. But Mary and Joseph had spent their endowment in Egypt. Mary had to bring two turtledoves to for Jesus’ dedication at the temple because they were still poor. (Luke 2:24)