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Goshen was the region located in eastern Egypt where the Hebrew Israelites lived and settled. After he had rose to power within Egypt, Joseph permitted his eleven brothers along with their children to settle in the area when a famine in Canaan forced them to take refuge in Egypt. This would remain the exclusive Israelite settlement in Egypt all the way up to the Exodus and Israel's departure from Egypt.


History

Joseph's Brothers Settlement

Prior to Goshen's first mention in the Book of Genesis very little is known or can be concluded prior to biblical history. Apparently Goshen would've been more isolated from the rest of Egypt, thus giving a reasonable explanation for why the Pharaoh would allow Joseph's brothers to live there. Joseph's brothers were shepherds, an occupation shunned by the Egyptian community. If their shepherding would not be in viewing proximity of Egyptian towns no offense would be caused to any Egyptian.This would also imply that the region was uninhabited, perhaps an empty territory annexed by Egypt (though not a formal province) [1].

For these reasons Joseph told his brothers they could live in Goshen during the famine. Before Israel was granted the land Joseph met with his father that he had not seen in a very long time. [2] Once they were granted the land, Israel became a very prosperous ethnic group. Joseph ensured they settled on the most fertile part of the land. They acquired property and multiplied vastly[3]. After Jacob's death all of the Israelites left Goshen to attend the funeral. Only the flocks and children were left in the mostly uninhabited Goshen.[4]

Enslaved Israel

Long after the famine and Jacob's death, Israel became so prosperous and numerous, they were enslaved by Egypt. They grew so large that the Hebrews were spread out throughout the whole land and were not just confined to Goshen.The first project assigned to the new slaves was to construct two treasure cities for storing royal treasures. Both of these cities, Rameses and Pithom (Pittim) were in Goshen[5]. Rameses was constructed on the most fertile area of the soil. Rameses would become the primary place were the enslaved Israelites lived throughout the rest of their time in Egypt.

While Israel was enslaved several crops including cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic were grown here[6]. These foods made up the diet of the Israelite majority. Even artificial irrigation was practiced by the Israelites in the fertile Goshen[7].

Plagues

Goshen experienced the first three Plagues of Egypt during the time of Moses "negotiations" with the Pharaoh. From the fourth to the final plague, Goshen was unaffected by all the plagues[8]. God protected Israel's territory to show that he was the mighty Lord of all Creation.

Exodus

After the Passover the Egyptians wish to rid of the Israelites immediately. In the process the Egyptians gave the Israelites any bread and precious metals they asked for[9]. This could sensibly indicate that Israel "plundered" the store city of Rameses (and probably Pithom), thus "looting" the Egyptians.

Six-hundred thousand Israelite men (not including women, children and other residents who wanted the Israelites gone) exited from Egypt during that day, marching from the city of Rameses to a place called Sukkot[10].

Despite the majority of Goshen's population suddenly disappearing in a matter of one day it does not seem the region was desolate. Two treasure cities of the Pharaoh were located there and many Egyptians lived int that area as well. Israelite slavery would have served as the societal backbone for Goshen as all the slave masters, support personnel, royal treasurers and others would have lived in Goshen.

Verses

  1. Gen 46:32-34, 47:3-4 (Link)
  2. Gen 45:10-11, 46:28-29 (Link)
  3. Gen 47:27 (Link)
  4. Gen 50:8 (Link)
  5. Gen 47:11, Exo 1:11, Exo 12:37, Num 33:3,5 (Link)
  6. Num 11:5 (Link)
  7. Deut 11:10 (Link)
  8. Exo 8:22, 9:26, 10:23, 11:7, (Link)
  9. Exo 12:33-36 (Link)
  10. Exo 12:37-39 (Link)

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