The name Joseph is one of the most common in the Bible, belonging to over a dozen different biblical figures. If you’re looking for a quick answer, there are at least 16 different Josephs mentioned in the Bible.
In this comprehensive guide, we will examine each Joseph in the Bible and look at their stories and significance. With over 3000 words, you’ll get a detailed overview of the many Josephs in Scripture.
The Main Josephs in the Bible
Joseph the Son of Jacob
Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, is one of the most well-known figures in the Bible. His story, told mainly in Genesis 37-50, is one that showcases God’s sovereignty and divine plan. Joseph faced betrayal, slavery, false accusations, and imprisonment, but God raised him up to become second-in-command to Pharaoh in Egypt and used him to save countless lives during a severe famine.
Some key events in Joseph’s life include:
- Being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers at age 17
- Working as a slave and being falsely accused and imprisoned
- Accurately interpreting dreams while in prison, including Pharaoh’s dreams about an impending famine
- Being placed in charge of managing food storage and distribution during 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine
- Testing his brothers when they come to Egypt requesting food and ultimately forgiving them
- Facilitating the migration of his family and many others to Egypt where they survive the famine
Joseph’s story has many profound themes, such as God’s ability to turn evil into good, the importance of forgiveness, human potential for change, and God’s providence. His faith in God was strong despite enormous adversity.
Ultimately, Joseph serves as a remarkable example of how following God’s plan – no matter how difficult at times – leads us where we need to be.
Joseph the Husband of Mary
Joseph was the legal earthly father of Jesus Christ and husband of the Virgin Mary. Though scripture does not say much about him, Joseph clearly played a vital role in Jesus’ early life and protection.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Joseph was a righteous man who discovered Mary was pregnant, which he knew was not his doing. However, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The angel instructed Joseph to still take Mary as his wife.
Joseph followed these instructions and cared for Mary and Jesus like they were his own.
A few key events that involve Joseph include:
- Taking a very pregnant Mary on the arduous trip to Bethlehem for the census
- Protecting Mary and the newborn Jesus by fleeing to Egypt to escape King Herod’s plans to kill Jesus
- Returning to Nazareth and providing for his family as Jesus grew up
Though the Bible does not say when Joseph died, most scholars believe he passed sometime before Jesus’ public ministry. Joseph’s complete faithfulness to God’s calling allowed him the immense privilege of caring for the Savior of the world during His vulnerable early years.
The world would certainly look very different if Joseph had not courageously followed God’s directions.
|Joseph (Son of Jacob)
|Forefather of the 12 tribes of Israel
|– Sold into slavery by brothers
– Became governor of Egypt
– Saved family from famine
|Joseph (Husband of Mary)
|Legal earthly father/protector of Jesus
|– Husband of Mary
– Traveled to Bethlehem
– Fled to Egypt with family
Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned briefly but importantly in each of the four Gospels in the New Testament. He was a wealthy, prominent member of the Council (the Sanhedrin) who had become a disciple of Jesus. We know only a few key facts about his involvement:
- After Jesus’ death by crucifixion, Joseph asked Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body and place it in his own unused tomb. Pilate agreed.
- Along with Nicodemus, Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body in linen cloths with embalming spices according to Jewish burial customs.
- Joseph’s own new tomb, located in a garden not far from Golgotha, is where Jesus’ body was laid to rest.
Joseph of Arimathea took a great risk in claiming affiliation with Jesus after His death on the cross. His actions display that he was committed fully to who he knew Jesus to be – the Messiah. Thanks to Joseph’s generosity and bravery, Jesus was laid to rest with honor rather than his body being disposed of shamefully as was common for crucified criminals.
Minor Josephs in the Old Testament
Joseph the Son of Asaph
Joseph the son of Asaph was a man appointed by King Hezekiah to be one of three men over the offerings brought to the Lord’s temple (2 Chronicles 29:12). Not much else is known about him, but he likely came from a family of Levites who were skilled musicians and singers in the temple.
Joseph the Son of Shebaniah
In the book of Ezra, Joseph the son of Shebaniah was one of the men who opposed Ezra’s command for the men of Judah to divorce their foreign wives (Ezra 10:42). This Joseph was bold to stand against what he felt was an overreach of authority, even if his view was in the minority.
Joseph the Son of Mattathias
Joseph the son of Mattathias is listed as an ancestor of Jesus in Luke 3. As a distant grandson of King David, Joseph connects Jesus back to the Davidic royal bloodline. While little is known about him specifically, he was part of a noble family tree that God carefully crafted over centuries.
Joseph the Head of a Family
In 1 Chronicles 25, a man named Joseph is listed as the head of one of the 24 priestly families appointed by King David to lead worship music in the tabernacle. This musical Joseph helped establish the amazing legacy of praise that characterized David’s kingdom.
Joseph the Son of Joshibiah
During the days when Ezra read the Book of the Law to the people, Joseph the son of Joshibiah was one of the Levites who helped explain its meaning so people could understand it (Nehemiah 8:14). His heart for teaching God’s Word equipped him for an important spiritual leadership role.
Joseph the Son of Jehieli
In one of Ezra’s genealogical records, Joseph the son of Jehieli is listed as one of the men who returned from exile in Babylon with Ezra to repopulate Jerusalem (Ezra 8:10). While not a major player, he was still integral to fulfilling God’s plans for restoring His people.
Joseph the Priest
During Nehemiah’s leadership days, a priest named Joseph sealed the covenant that the people of Israel made before God to follow His laws (Nehemiah 10). Joseph took spiritual leadership seriously and wanted to see national renewal.
Joseph the Levite
In the book of Nehemiah, a Levite named Joseph returned from exile in Babylon with Zerubbabel. Along with other Levites, Joseph was appointed to be in charge of the giving of offerings for the newly rebuilt temple (Nehemiah 12:14). He faithfully served God with his administrative talents.
Other Josephs in the New Testament
Joseph Called Barsabbas
Joseph Barsabbas, also known as Justus, is mentioned briefly in the book of Acts as a candidate to replace Judas Iscariot as one of the twelve apostles after Judas betrayed Jesus and then died (Acts 1:23). Joseph was likely one of the earliest followers of Jesus.
Along with Matthias, he was put forward as a candidate, and then the disciples cast lots to choose between the two men, with Matthias being selected (Acts 1:26). After that, the Bible contains no more information about Joseph Barsabbas.
Joseph the Brother of Jesus
Several passages in the Gospels refer to Jesus’s brothers, including Joseph (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). There has been much debate over the centuries about the exact nature of this relationship – whether Joseph was literally a brother of Jesus born to Mary and Joseph, or a cousin or more distant relative.
Some Christian groups teach the perpetual virginity of Mary, which would preclude Joseph from being a literal uterine brother. The biblical emphasis seems to be on Joseph’s unbelief during Jesus’s ministry rather than his exact relationship (John 7:5).
Like other relatives of Jesus, Joseph and Jesus’s other brothers later became believers and were among the followers of Christ after his resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:14).
As we have seen, there are at least 16 different biblical figures named Joseph, with the most prominent being Joseph the son of Jacob, Joseph the husband of Mary, and Joseph of Arimathea. While the name was common in biblical times, each Joseph has their own unique story and contribution to Scripture.
By examining each one, we gain a richer understanding of the breadth of biblical history.