Several things are said about Joseph in Verse 19 of Matthew Chapter 1: he’s a “just man.” He doesn’t want to shame Mary yet decides to break off the engagement.

Regarding the first comment, one commentator observes, “this powerful statement says a great deal about the character of the man. It meant that he was devout. The phrase is used to describe an observant Jew. He was not only morally upright; he was a man who kept the law of God. Indeed there is one school of thought that has Joseph belonging to a Jewish group called the ‘Anwim’ or ‘poor ones,’ men and women who were devout and committed to living a life of holiness and obedience to the law; Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah were thought to be a part of the Anwim as well.”

But there’s another side to him. He doesn’t want to shame Mary. He has feelings for her and doesn’t want to hurt her. The religious leaders that Christ faced throughout his stay on earth had no such feelings for the woman caught in adultery. They drug her into the public square to shame her. Joseph wasn’t at all like the sect of the Pharisees. Usually those who live up to their own codes of conduct are often very critical and condemning of others who fail. But Joseph has strict behavior standards for himself and yet is compassionate towards others. Yet, there was no way he could maintain his standards and continue his engagement to Mary. Thus, his intention was to break it off, even though it would cost him personally.

It’s said Jesus loved the sinner, but hated the sin. So did Joseph. Like Father like Son, doesn’t apply to Jesus and Joseph. Yet, Jesus’ actions towards the adulterer who met with public disgrace at the hands of the religious leaders must have pleased his earthly father. Micah tells us that God wants three things from us: The live justly (have a strong code of ethical standards), to love mercy, (be gracious to sinners), and to walk humbly with your God.

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:19