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: Deuteronomy 20:7; Judges 14:7, Judges 14:8. 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 Asiatic missionaries.
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 Deuteronomy 22:25, Deuteronomy 22:28. 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 rabbins.
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 honor, 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, Deuteronomy 22:23, Deuteronomy 22:24, and had her stoned to death.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ - The circumstances attending his birth.
Was on this wise - In this manner.
Espoused - Betrothed, or engaged to be married. There was commonly an interval of ten or twevle months, among the Jews, between the contract of marriage and the celebration of the nuptials (see Genesis 24:55; Judges 14:8; Deuteronomy 20:7), yet such was the nature of this engagement, that unfaithfulness to each other was deemed adultery. See Deuteronomy 22:25, Deuteronomy 22:28.
With child by the Holy Ghost - See the note at Luke 1:35.