Then Joseph her husband
To whom she had been betrothed, and who was her husband, and she his wife according to the Jewish law, ( Deuteronomy 22:23 Deuteronomy 22:24 ) though not yet come together,
being a just man,
observant of the law of God, particularly that which respected adultery, being wholly good and chaste, like the Patriarch of the same name; a character just the reverse of that which the Jews give him, in their scandalous F2 book of the life of Jesus; where, in the most malicious manner, they represent him as an unchaste and an unrighteous person:
and not willing to make her a public example,
or to deliver her, i.e. to the civil magistrate, according to Munster's Hebrew edition. The Greek word signifies to punish by way of example to others, to deter them from sinning; and with the ancients it F3 denoted the greatest and severest punishment. Here it means either bringing her before the civil magistrate, in order to her being punished according to the law in ( Deuteronomy 22:23 Deuteronomy 22:24 ) which requires the person to be brought out to the gate of the city and stoned with stones, which was making a public example indeed; or divorcing her in a very public manner, and thereby expose her to open shame and disgrace. To prevent which, he being tender and compassionate, though strictly just and good,
was minded to put her away privily:
he deliberately consulted and determined within himself to dismiss her, or put her away by giving her a bill of divorce, in a very private manner; which was sometimes done by putting it into the woman's hand or bosom, see ( Deuteronomy 24:1 ) . In Munster's Hebrew Gospel it is rendered, "it was in his heart to forsake her privately."