How St. Joseph was Prefigured in the Old Testament

Today is the feast of St. Joseph, the earthly foster-father of Jesus. In Scripture, St. Joseph is a man of few words, but he is nonetheless a significant figure in the life of Christ and the life of the Church.

What many may not know about St. Joseph is how he is prefigured in the Old Testament, and how seeing St. Joseph in this light can help draw us closer to this quiet carpenter from Nazareth who became the patron of the universal Church.

Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ explained on a recent St. Joseph’s Workshop how the life of Joseph of Egypt corresponds to Joseph of Nazareth, and what that means for us as Catholics even today. Fr. Matthew said:

“Joseph, the son of Jacob, becomes the type of St. Joseph. Let me step back here and talk about typology for a moment. Typology is a fancy word that we use when we look at Scripture, to recognize how the Old Testament, written hundreds and thousands of years before Jesus comes onto the scene, prepares the way for the coming of Jesus.

So, hidden within the Old Testament, we know that there are references, prophecies, and allusions to Jesus. And there are many figures that are foreshadowing Jesus. For example, King David, and Adam himself – a figure of Jesus, a type of Jesus, pointing us to Jesus.

And so we have many allusions in the Old Testament that point us to the realities of the New Testament. And then, of course, the New Testament sheds light on the Old Testament for us, so that we fully understand God’s plan, and why the Old Testament stories, hymns, and prophecies are given to us.

During the month of March, the Church has looked for centuries to St. Joseph during this month. And I see this as such an important time for you and for me, because St. Joseph is the earthly father of Jesus, living 2,000 years ago. He didn’t have any of the technologies that you and I take for granted in these days, but his life is so applicable to your own. His life has so many implications for your own. And his life was prefigured in the Old Testament.

If you read Genesis 37 and forward, the story of Joseph, you will see how Joseph was sold into slavery. He was almost murdered, killed by his brothers because they were jealous of him. They were jealous of the gifts that God had given to him, jealous of how much his father favored him, jealous of his ability to interpret dreams. And so they threw him into a cistern and left him there. They were going to kill him, but they decided to instead to sell him to some Egyptians.

And Joseph of Egypt, as he becomes known because he spent so much time in Egypt, then goes on to become this prefigurement, a type of Joseph in the New Testament.

It’s in Egypt that Joseph comes into his own. It’s in Egypt that God’s will is revealed to Joseph, that he become the amazing steward of Pharaoh himself. His gifts are used for the good of the world, not just for his father or his family. Joseph becomes the steward of all of Pharaoh’s reign.

Joseph of Egypt prepares us to look to Joseph of Nazareth in the New Testament. Joseph of Nazareth was entrusted with of the riches of God, just as Joseph of Egypt was entrusted with all of Pharaoh’s possessions and was made steward of all Pharaoh’s reign. That was so small and tiny compared to Joseph of Nazareth, who was entrusted with Jesus Himself, and caring for our Blessed Mother.

He was given everything that God the Father had and treasured, which was found in His Son, Jesus. That’s why it’s so important to read the whole of Scripture. That’s why it’s so important to see all of Scripture revealed to us, and then to understand it in its context.

Very often we can read the Old Testament and think, ‘I don’t get this. I don’t understand it. I need some help here.’ And it reminds me of the Acts of the Apostles. The eunuch was doing the same thing to the apostles, and he needed one of the apostles, Philip, to explain it to him. And once it was explained to him, he was open to it and he was baptized. He was ready to receive the Gospel as soon as he was given the understanding that is revealed to us in Jesus. And he saw the completion of the Old Testament in the New.

This is why it is important to get to know St. Joseph. Because he helps us to enter into relationship with Jesus. If God the Father trusted Joseph enough to give him His Son Jesus, if God the Father trusted Joseph enough to take care of our Blessed Mother, he can also take care of you. Joseph can also protect you. Joseph can also be your guide through this life.

Joseph is the steward not only of Jesus, and Mary, and their lives – protecting them, caring for them, making sure that they are able to fulfill their mission. But he is also the protector and patron of the entire Church. That’s why in the 19th century , St. Joseph was declared the patron of the universal Church, the entire Catholic Church. Because the Church sees that Joseph cared so carefully for our Blessed Mother and for Jesus. And so he cares for each one of us in the same way.

Maybe you’ve been wondering why you should entrust yourself to St. Joseph. It’s because if God trusted him, you should too. Because if God trusted St. Joseph to raise His only Son and to protect our Blessed Mother, he’s also going to do the same for me and for you.”

Listen to the full reflection below:

St. Joseph’s Workshop with Father Matthew Spencer airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.