Egypt: Years, Part 5.


Last month we read the reuniting of Joseph and his family. We want to end with this. Why did Joseph take the Egyptians’ money and land, and he even enslaved them? Could Joseph have had aspirations of one day becoming the Pharaoh himself ? Remember he was second in command. That is one thing we will never know, but it is possible that God directed him. God did a miracle of multiplying the grain, and the people did not recognize it.  You see Egypt had many gods, and as we will see as we go forward that God will show the people who is really God. One thing we do know is that Joseph and his brothers reconciled and that was a good thing. We see that Joseph died; he was buried in Egypt, but only with a promise that one day his bones would be carried back to the land with Israel as Exodus 1:6-10 says this,  “And Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.  But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them. Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.  And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are too many and too mighty for us.  Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, otherwise they will multiply, and in the event of war, they will also join those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.” 

The End of the Hyksos Dynasty

 Remember the Hyksos Dynasty were foreign rulers, Pharaohs who were Canaanites.  The Hyksos period ended 1550B.C.E. when a Theban king named Kamose marched northward and waged war against the Hyksos by attacking the capital city of Avaris. His successor, Ahmose continued his policies by chasing the Hyksos into Canaan and also conquering Canaanite cities. So this is the reason why the new king did not know Joseph because the Hyksos Dynasty no longer ruled Egypt. According to the Biblical Archeology Society they tell us this, the Egyptians had good reason to be worried. During excavation in the Eastern Nile Delta Region by the end of the Middle Kingdom during the time called the Second Intermediate Period, the Canaanites who had been living in the region had expanded and taken over much of the eastern Nile Delta, essentially conquering Egypt from within. We know that this was Joseph’s family who lived in Goshen, which is east of the Nile Delta during this time and they did multiply and increased greatly.  We see that there were  wars during this time and so the king of Egypt rightfully so, had fears that these Canaanites (Joseph’s family) would side with their enemy.

Exodus 1: 11-14 continues to say,  “So they appointed taskmasters over them to oppress them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Rameses.  But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they dreaded the sons of Israel.  The Egyptians used violence to compel the sons of Israel to labor;  and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labor which they violently had them perform as slaves.”

You have to realize that there were several different Pharaohs during the time Joseph arrived in Egypt to even when the people eventually left. It is believed that Sesostris III was the Pharaoh who oppressed the Israelites, while others believe that it was Rameses II. It’s hard to know because the Bible does not tell us, and there is much debate when considering the timeline of the Bible. 

 Genesis 15:13-14 does tell  us this, “Then God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.  But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.”

But the Scriptures make it sound like it was just the next day after Josephs’ death that the people went into slavery. According to Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld, he says, “Based on the above verses, (about the death of Joseph) it is clear that the slavery did not begin until Joseph’s entire generation died. When was this? Exodus 6:16 states that Levi lived until 137 (unlike Joseph who died at a youthful 110 (Genesis 50:22)). The Sages state that his age was recorded because he lived the longest of all the brothers. Thus, his death marked the beginning of the start of Israel’s enslavement. How many years did Levi live in Egypt? Joseph was 39 when he was reunited with his brothers. (He was 30 when he first became viceroy in Egypt (Gen. 41:46), and his family came down after 7 years of plenty and 2 of famine.) According to the Sages, Levi was about 4 years older. Thus, if he was 43 when he arrived in Egypt, he died 94 years later. Since Israel’s entire stay in Egypt was 210 years (see Talmud Megillah 9a and Rashi to Exodus 12:40), this would mean the maximum the slavery could have lasted was 116 years. Of course, the slavery did not start the day Levi died. The Sages (Talmud Sotah 11 and elsewhere) describe Israel’s descent into bondage as a gradual process – in which the Egyptians first pressured the Israelites to volunteer for public works (naturally to show that they’re good, patriotic Egyptians), and ultimately forced them into full slavery.We do not have a clear tradition how long this process took. Seder Olam Rabbah (Ch. 3), a work on the chronology of Biblical events (2nd century), observes that together with the maximum of 116 years, the minimum the slavery could have lasted is 86 years. This is based on another statement in the Midrash (also found in Pesikta Zutrasa, Shemot 15:20) – that Moses’s older sister Miriam was so named because of the bitterness of the slavery (mar = bitter). The Seder Olam assumes Miriam was 6 years older than Moses. And since we know Moses was 80 at the story of the Exodus (Exodus 7:7), the slavery lasted somewhere between 86 and 116 years.

So the people of Israel kept multiplying, and so Pharaoh had to put a stop to it,  so he commanded that all the baby boys were to be put to death and dumped  into the Nile River. Exodus 2:1-3 goes on to say this, “Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived and gave birth to a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months.  But when she could no longer hide him, she got him a papyrus basket and covered it with tar and pitch. Then she put the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.”

Now we want to stop here and take a closer look. First we see here that a son was born to Amram (mighty nation), and Jochebed (God’s glory). Jochebed  saw that “her son was beautiful.” Why was no other name  given here? The parents must have called him by some name, especially when Jochebed will be allowed to continue carrying for her child for two or three years, Exodus 2:5-10.  We see that she called him beautiful but the Torah, the Hebrew scrolls, uses the word “good” (tov) instead of beautiful. The word tov is used seven times in the Creation story. “God saw that it was good” (tov).  We also see here that this child will see God’s glory and he will lead a mighty nation. So we can surmise that the birth of Moses was going to be a new dawn, or a new beginning, a new era, for the Israelites. The rabbinic comments suggest that this child was given the name Toviyah, because God saw that it was good! But this child will be called Moses, the one drawn out of the water. We see here the connection between Joseph and Moses. Joseph was taken out of the pit, and was sent to Egypt, and eventually became second in command, and the Pharaoh called him his son, and by all of this, Israel and his family ended up sojourning in Egypt. Moses is taken out of the water by Bithiah, Pharaoh’s daughter and she calls him  son, (mys) root means “to be born of” or to be a son, who also, becomes second to Pharaoh. We know that later in the story all of Israel will be drawn out of the water. Now under the heading of Judah’s descendants in

1 Chronicles 4:18  it says,  “His Jewish wife gave birth to Jered, the father of Gedor, Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah. These were the sons of Bithia the daughter of Pharaoh, who Mered married.” It is understood that Bithiah became a Hebrew, and she was at the first Seder of Passover  when the Hebrews left Egypt. 

Next month we will continue with the story of Moses.

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