The painting conveys the subtle descent into bondage, beginning with Joseph and his brothers. Sold into slavery, Joseph is brought to Egypt where he rises to become second in power to Pharaoh. His brothers go down to Egypt to secure provisions for the family. Ultimately, the entire family is welcomed by Pharaoh and given land in Goshen. Then, “A king in Egypt arose who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). Joseph, who saved Egypt from famine, is forgotten. His descendants become marginalized; Pharaoh decrees that first born males must be cast into the Nile. Next, Yocheved gently places her son, Moses into a basket, hoping to save him from Egyptian persecution. Further downstream, Pharaoh’s daughter removes Moses from the water and raises him, foreshadowing how she will raise him to adulthood. At the base of the picture, faceless Israelites slide into an abyss. Now fully enslaved, they have lost their individuality. Naked, powerless, bowed by burdens and abused by taskmasters, they risk losing their humanity as well.