Joseph’s Life in Egypt (Genesis 39:1 – 41:57)

Joseph’s Life in Egypt (Genesis 39:1 – 41:57)

This remarkable ‘Joseph’ window tells almost the entire story of the lives of both Joseph and St Joseph, the foster-father of Christ. Various events from the life of Joseph are paired with similar events in the later life of St Joseph. This is because one was understood to foreshadow the other. The window, which is by Hardmans, dates to 1882 and is found within the rosary shrine of Our Lady & St Dominic, London.

The window is large and consists of two panes, so I’ve broken it down into sections. The two scenes at the very top of the windows are:

  • The home life of Joseph in Canaan, showing him wearing his ‘coat of many colours’. Paired with this scene is that of the home life of St Joseph, with the Virgin and the Christ child (Genesis 37:1-4; Luke 2:51-52);
  • The later death of Joseph in Egypt, accompanied by his wife and two sons. Paired with this is the death of St Joseph, with Christ and the Virgin Mary to comfort him. (Genesis 50:24-26)



In the middle of the windows are:

  • Joseph being taken as a slave into Egypt by the Ishmaelite merchants, paired with the Flight into Egypt of St Joseph and the Holy Family (Genesis 37:16; 39:1; Matthew 2:13-15);
  • The exit of Joseph’s coffin from Egypt to Canaan, as per his deathbed instructions. Paired with this we see the Holy Family, led by St Joseph, leaving Egypt to return to Bethlehem (where the other Joseph had grown up) (Genesis 50:24-26; Matthew 2:19-23);


Leaving Egypt2_Fotor.jpg

The lower scenes of the windows are:

  • (Left, upper) Joseph’s chastity in fleeing Potiphar’s wife (who wanted to sleep with him), paired with righteous and chaste St Joseph being told in a dream that it was OK to marry Mary (Genesis 39:6-20; Matthew 1:18-21);
  • (Left, lower) Joseph’s enemies depicted symbolically as archers, waiting to destroy him, while the power of God ‘breaks the bows’ of those who would do both Joseph and St Joseph harm. (Genesis 49:22-24)
  • (Right, upper) Joseph being lowered into a well by his brothers, while his oldest brother Reuben protests about their plans to kill him. Paired with this is the innkeeper at Bethlehem, by contrast doing a good deed for Joseph and Mary (Genesis 37:12-30; Luke 2:1-7);
  • (Right, lower) Finally, the wedding of Joseph to Asenath in Egypt is compared with the marriage of St Joseph and the Virgin. (Genesis 41:45; Matthew 1:18).


Where to find this work of art
Our Lady & St Dominic, London

Read the relevant passage
Genesis 39:1-41:57

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