Summary: Joseph Ben Matthias was a wealthy merchant who lived in the small town
of Arimathea. Joseph is first mentioned in scripture as being included among a group
of the Sanhedrin who were sent from Jerusalem to determine if John the Baptizer was
truly a prophet of God. After conversing with John, the men left perplexed, choosing
to take a neutral stance in their report of the Essene (Y:1:25-48).
Years after the exchange with John, Joseph met Yeshua on the road from Joppa to Judea.
Hearing Yeshua was among the caravan, Joseph sought him out, hoping to determine
whether or not he was ‘come from God or some other’ (Y:27:7-10, 48). Deeply moved
by his conversation with Yeshua, Joseph wrote a letter to Nicodemus, a leader of
the Sanhedrin, expressing his belief that Yeshua was indeed a prophet of God (Y:27:44-53).
Prior to leaving for Samaria (Y:34:35), Yeshua stayed for ‘many days’ at the house
of Joseph while healing and teaching in Arimathea (Y:34:21-32). Joseph is not mentioned
again in scripture until the crucifixion event, after which Joseph petitioned Pilate
for the body of Yeshua (Y:47:64-65).
Azrael’s Commentary - Joseph of Arimathea
The son of Matthias, Joseph was the richest man in Israel. During the famine of 37-41
CE, Joseph paid Israel’s tax burden to Rome out of his own pocket. However, while
Joseph was generous enough to do such a thing, the rulers and priests of the temple
were not so generous. They still demanded that worshippers at the temple still pay
their temple tax during the time of famine. This caused a great deal of resentment
against the religious leaders of Jerusalem.
Joseph of Arimathea was one of the most devoted disciples of Yeshua. He freely gave
to the poor, and he used his vast wealth to finance the missions of Paul, Silas,
Barnabas, Cephas and Matthew. In 67 CE, as Jews began to foment rebellion in Israel
against Rome, Joseph moved to Joppa; and then at the invitation of Claudia Procula,
he moved to Caesarea. With the fall of Jerusalem, and the taking captive of the Jewish
population to be sold into slavery by their Roman conquerors, Joseph began buying
back the Jews who were being sold in the slave markets of Caesarea. He spent his
entire fortune in buying back some four thousand Jews. To each of these, Joseph gave
the legal documents needed to proclaim them free persons, as well as giving to each
of the four thousand enough money to get started somewhere else.
Joseph of Arimathea died in 79 CE, a poor and broken man who was deeply loved by
those he tried to help.
Azrael’s Commentary - Arimathea
A small town six miles northwest of Jerusalem, whose most famous resident was the
richest man in Israel, Joseph Ben Matthias. Through the certain influence of Joseph,
the town of Arimathea became one of two towns in all Judea where Yeshua was both
welcome and protected.
It would not be an overstatement to say that of the twelve hundred people who lived
in Arimathea, almost all of them believed that Yeshua was the Anointed One. This
was due to Yeshua’s warm and caring personality and also through the efforts of Joseph
in promoting the teachings and sayings of Yeshua whenever Yeshua was absent from
45. ‘To Nicodemus Hyrcanus, prince of Israel, from Joseph Ben Matthias: greetings
and peace be upon you and your house for ever.
46. Seeing that all Israel is filled with expectations concerning that one of whom
John spake in the wilderness, I thought it seemly that I should write unto you a
word concerning him.
47. For when I journeyed upon the way from Joppa unto Arimathea I heard how this
Yeshua of Galilee was come among us;
48. And being learned in both the Law and the prophets, I went seeking him that perchance
I might know from whence he was come, whether he was come from God or some other.
49. What then shall I say concerning him, for by his word alone am I all undone,
and the wealth and fame of all my house are become as chaff which the wind does carry
50. For when I see the works of his hand, and hear the words of his mouth, I am filled
51. Surely some great prophet is come again unto Israel. Take care among those which
rule in Jerusalem concerning him. Lest by contending against him, you fight against
52. And Nicodemus, when he read these things, went and told many which were of the
Sanhedrin concerning all which Joseph reported concerning Yeshua.
53. And there were many which believed the words which Joseph wrote, and together
did they elect that Nicodemus should go and speak privily with the Master, lest they
which ruled in the temple take some measure against them.