Under the old covenant a woman who had given birth was required to offer a sacrifice. This sacrifice could also determine how well to do or not so well to do she was

“and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons*, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.”” ‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭12:7-8‬ ‭

We understand that Mary offered the birds rather than the lamb

“And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:22-24‬ ‭

Later we see another Law of Moses being observed

“Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God.” ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭23:17‬ ‭

And males is my understanding meant males of age, not babies and children.

While the Bible doesn’t say the ages of Jesus’ half-siblings, it would not be unreasonable to assume that by age twelve had had one or more siblings but even if He didn’t, the journey to fulfill Feast of the Passover was costly, requiring only the males to partake. However...

“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:41‬ ‭

Going from affording only birds to taking a woman and at least one child, every year, with all the costs associated with the travels, would this not indicate a step up in economic status?

Did they come into money to be able to afford traveling with the whole family?

  • 1
    The overall impression from the gospels is of the normal progression of a family, from making ends meet whilst bringing up young children to a certain degree of very modest 'prosperity' (in a limited sense) as time went on. This is all very natural and the common experience of life.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 4, 2021 at 13:09
  • @NigelJ the impression is that, but this happened by age twelve and it says every year. They were only married thirteen years. How many of those thirteen does every year include? Thank you for your comment. Jun 4, 2021 at 13:12
  • 2
    All of Israel took these journeys (or should have done so) every year. It was not a measure of prosperity, for it would have cost (in terms of lost labour, and extra expenditure). It is a measure of their devotion and obedience that they made the necessary sacrifice to do so.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 4, 2021 at 13:15
  • Only men were required @NigelJ taking women and children only added to the cost. Unnecessarily if you were already limited financially. Jun 4, 2021 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


We are told very little about the economic circumstances of either Jesus life or Joseph's. However, there are a few little gems that are helpful:

  • Mary and Joseph were definitely poor at the time of Jesus' birth as the OP correctly points out (Luke 2:24)
  • The family was given very expensive gifts from the magi (Matt 2:11) with which they presumably financed (a) their trip to Egypt, Matt 2:14 (b) their stay in Egypt where construction work may have been limited for an alien (c) supported their remaining family in Palestine (d) return to Palestine, Matt 2:21 (e) reestablishing a construction business Nazareth, Matt 2:23
  • Since Nazareth was essentially construction town housing trades people building Caesarea, Joseph would have been able to earn a modest living and support his family.
  • The trip to Jerusalem for one of the three annual such trips (Luke 2:41) would normally only be attended by men as the OP points out. However, in this case, Jesus was twelve years old and it would have been the celebration of His bar-mitzvah. this would mean that as much of the family as could be spared, including the mother, would prefer to travel for this special occasion.

Therefore, I find it unsurprising that both Mary and Joseph traveled to Jerusalem with Jesus on the occasion recorded in Luke 2. How many more family members (eg, brothers) also went with them we are not told.

  • I like you answer, meticulously, carefully, intentionally balanced. It does say that they went EVERY or each year leading up to the twelfth year. Jun 4, 2021 at 22:19
  • Perhaps something of additional interest (Wikipedia): "Bar (בַּר‎) [meaning] 'son' (בֵּן‎, ben in Hebrew), while bat (בַּת‎) means 'daughter' in Hebrew, and mitzvah (מִצְוָה‎) means 'commandment' or 'law' (plural: mitzvot). Thus bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah literally translate to 'son of commandment' and 'daughter of commandment.'... This might then translate to '[one] who is subject to the law.'" Then, there's this: "The modern method of celebrating [bar] mitzvah did not exist in the time of the Hebrew Bible, Mishnah or Talmud.... [this celebration] is not mentioned until the Middle Ages."
    – Xeno
    Jun 4, 2021 at 22:26
  • @Xeno - I do not disagree. we do not know how bar-mitzvah was celebrated at the time but the very fact that we are told the Jesus was 12 years old is significant as a time when He would have been declared a "son of the law".
    – Dottard
    Jun 4, 2021 at 22:30
  • @Dottard Yes. I found the subject very interesting. Still learning... +1.
    – Xeno
    Jun 4, 2021 at 22:32

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