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Joseph's Four Dreams Before Jesus Was Born

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


The Bible describes Joseph as “a righteous man.” He was a carpenter from Nazareth in Galilee. He was in the lineage of David through Abraham. He was betrothed to Mary, a young virgin.

Joseph was in the middle of something very big even though he did not know at the time that Mary was the chosen vessel to bear to give birth to the Messiah. One day Joseph was betrothed to Mary, and the next day he had to decide whether to obey the Jewish law and stone her because she was pregnant. Joseph knew the child was not his. Therefore, he had to make a decision about the situation.

God knew Joseph needed help to decide what to do. Therefore, He sent four messages to him through dreams.

1. Joseph's First Dream

The first dream Joseph had while he was sleeping is recorded in Matthew 1:19-25.

"Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus" (Matthew 1:19-25).

Joseph believed the angel and married Mary before Jesus was born, but the marriage was not consummated until after the birth of Jesus and Mary had been purified.


2. Joseph's Second Dream

After the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph stayed there and were living in a house while Jesus was growing into a young child. The wise men had been warned by God to return to their country another way because they might be followed by Herod who had sent out a decree to kill all boy babies up to the age of two. That's when Joseph received his second dream that is recorded in Matthew 2:13.

"Now when they [the wise men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."

Joseph obeyed the instruction he was given in his dream. He took his family and fled to Egypt to fulfill the prophecy found in Hosea 11:1 that God’s beloved Son would be called out of Egypt. They remained there until the death of Herod.

3. Joseph's Third Dream

While Joseph was in Egypt, Herod died. At the time, the wicked, ruthless Archelaus was ruling over Judea in the place of his evil father King Herod who failed at killing Jesus when he was a young child. Joseph's third dream is recorded in Matthew 2:19–20.

"After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

With the assurance that those who wanted to kill Jesus was dead, Joseph arose and took Mary and Jesus out of Egypt into the land of Israel known as Canaan.

4. Joseph's Fourth Dream

God warned Joseph in a dream not to go to Judea, according to Matthew 2:22-23. Instead, he was to take his family to Nazareth.

"But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene."

Mary and Joseph had come full circle from where they started before Jesus was born. Jesus grew up in the small village of Nazareth with a population of only a few hundred. People who lived in Nazareth were despised because the population was mixed, and those who lived there were not well educated. Even Nathanael, one of Jesus' disciples asked Jesus, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46).

Summary of Joseph's Dreams

Joseph's dreams give us a good idea of his travel schedule.

  • First Dream: Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife because was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20–21). Mary had been told the same thing except her message was not in a dream. Gabriel, the message angel visited her in her home and announced to her what would happen. This visit is known as the Annunciation in Luke 1:26–38. Mary did not understand all that she was told, but she agreed to conceive through the power of the Most High. Joseph agreed to take Mary as his wife instead of putting her to shame.
  • Second Dream: Joseph is warned to leave Bethlehem and flee to Egypt. (Matthew 2:13).
  • Third Dream: While in Egypt, Joseph is told that it is safe to go back to Israel (Matthew 2:19–20).
  • Fourth Dream: Joseph was warned in a dream not to go to Judea. Instead, when he woke up, he took his family to the region of Galilee (Matthew 2:22).

No Further Mention

Joseph played a major part in the birth of Jesus. The last mention of him in the Bible is when the family went to the temple in Jerusalem for the Passover when Jesus was 12 years old (Luke 2:41–51). Joseph is not mentioned after that story.

However, we know that Mary and Joseph had four sons and at least two daughters after Jesus was born, according to Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55–56. The sons were James, Joses, Jude, and Simon. James and Jude have books named after them in the New Testament. There were at least two sisters of Jesus who were not named in the Bible.