Hebrew Sojourn In Egypt

We left off with a two-part summary of the Feasts of the LORD. We are about to start writing about the first feast, Passover. But before we do, we need to set the stage for the Passover event.

Ancient Egypt

Here is a brief timeline of Ancient Egypt. Some of this background information came from the book Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Manners and Customs. The dates are approximated but are good enough to show what was going on.

Ancient Egyptian timeline:
3100–2950 B.C.:
Late Predynastic Period
2950–2575 B.C.:
Early Dynasty
2575–2150 B.C.:
Old Kingdom
It was during this time the major pyramids and the Great Sphinx were built.
2000–1725 B.C.:
Middle Kingdom
1725–1570 B.C.:
Hyksos Reign
1570–1075 B.C.:
New Kingdom

The Hebrews

Brief timeline of the Hebrews:
2090 B.C.:
Abram moved to Canaan.
1876 B.C.:
Jacob & family moved to Egypt.
1805 B.C.:
Joseph dies.
1570 B.C.:
Egyptians started enslaving the Hebrews.
1526 B.C.:
Moses born.
1486 B.C.:
Moses flees to Midian.
1446 B.C.:
The Hebrews leave Egypt.
1444 B.C.:
Moses sent 12 spies into Canaan.
1406 B.C.:
Moses dies.
1405 B.C.:
Hebrews enter the Promise Land heading to Jericho.
966 B.C.:
Solomon’s Temple built.

The first and last events are included to give you a time scale reference. The important time frame for this blog is 1876–1446 B.C. which covers the time of the Hebrews’ Sojourn in Egypt.

The Time of Joseph (Genesis 37–50)

The story of Joseph started out tragic by his eleven brothers sold him into a life of slavery. Afterwards, the brothers told Jacob (renamed Israel) that Joseph was killed. Joseph eventually became the head slave of Potiphar’s house. While there, Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses Joseph and he got thrown into jail. Even in jail, Joseph’s leadership skills were apparent. But, he was forgotten by the Pharaoh’s cup-bearer. Then, things turned around for Joseph. After he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph was appointed to the second highest position in Egypt.

Through all of this, God had a plan. God knew a period of severe famine was coming. God put Joseph in a perfect place to best help the Hebrew people. Do you remember, “God is a God of provision” mentioned in earlier blog entries? Under Joseph’s command, food was stored up in Egypt. Joseph was able to provide food for his family and eventually bring them to Egypt.

The Hebrews came to Egypt during the Middle Kingdom period around 1876 B.C,. They were settled in the Goshen region which was the Eastern part of the Nile. It was very fertile land. The Hebrews prospered and grew in number.

Reasons why the Hebrews were settled in Goshen:
  1. Land was fertile
  2. Area was separated from the main Egyptian population.
  3. Hebrew shepherds would be separated from the Egyptian cattleman.

During the Passover event later on in Exodus, God demonstrates the separation of His People from the Egyptians:

Exodus 11:6–7 (NLT)
6Then a loud wail will rise throughout the land of Egypt, a wail like no one has heard before or will ever hear again. 7But among the Israelites it will be so peaceful that not even a dog will bark. Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites.

God wanted to keep His People to be set apart from the Egyptians so that the Hebrews would not adopt Egyptian idols and intermarry with them. In the same way, God wants to keep us separate (sanctified) from the rest of the world. As in Egypt we have to live in the world but we should be different. We should live a holy lifestyle but not with a “Holier than thou” attitude. The Hebrews became content in the land even though it was not the land God had promised them. How often do we become content in a place that is meant as temporary place in our lives?

Time between Joseph and Moses (Exodus 1)

Towards the end of the Middle Kingdom, a group of people called the Hyksos started to move into Egypt. At first, the move was to establish trade with the Egyptians. But the Hyksos eventually became very numerous in the land. Between 1730–1720 B.C., the Hyksos overthrew the Egyptian government and took over the land.

The Hebrew people were more closely related to the Hyksos people than the Egyptians. So, the Hyksos didn’t really bother Hebrews. The Egyptians regained control of Egypt around 1570 B.C,. The group of Egyptians came from the Southern part of Egypt around Thebes. These new Pharaoh was very concerned about how numerous the Hebrews had become. The Egyptians had just gotten control back from the Hyksos foreigners.

The Egyptians became concerned about the Hebrew foreigners in their land. So, the Egyptians started to oppress the Hebrews and enslaved them. Despite the oppression, the Hebrews grew in number even faster. This is why the Pharaoh ordered the midwives to kill Hebrew babies (Exodus 1:18). The midwives replied, “the Hebrew women have their babies before the we can arrive.” So, God blessed the midwives. Then in Exodus 1:22, all Egyptians were ordered to throw any newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. It was in this time that Moses was born.

The time of Moses (Exodus 2)

Moses had three phases in his life:
0–40: Life in Egypt
God prepares Moses for leadership.
40–80: Life in Midian
God prepares Moses for survival in the wilderness.
80–120: Life in the wilderness with the Hebrews
Moses leads God’s People through the wilderness.

The first third of his life, Moses was raised in Egypt. In Exodus 2, Moses’ mother put him in a waterproofed basket and his sister set him in the Nile. So, technically, Moses’ mother did obey the Egyptian Pharaoh and “threw” her Hebrew boy in the Nile. Nothing was said that the baby was allowed to float or not.

As the story goes, Pharaoh’s daughter finds the basket and adopts Moses as her own son. Moses’ real sister watches this and suggests to Pharaoh’s daughter that a Hebrew woman nurse the baby. Moses’ real mother is selected to ween him. And, even gets paid for doing it (Exodus 2:10)! Is God amazing or what?

Moses was brought up as an Egyptian in Pharaoh’s household. What better way could he learn leadership skills? He was taught all about the Egyptian cultures and their gods. The one skill Moses lacked was eloquent speech Despite his Egyptian upbringing, Moses stayed true to his real mother’s teachings. She instilled in him a love for his people. So, Moses cared about how Pharaoh was oppressing the Hebrews. Moses killed an Egyptian to protect one of his people.

This caused Moses to flee for his life to Midian which started the second phase of his life. During the 40 years with the Midianites, he gets married. Moses learns how to survive in the wilderness. Then Moses came across a burning bush which was not being consumed by the fire.

Both of these phases in his life prepared him for the duty to lead the Hebrews as they wandered in the wilderness before entering the Promise Land. But, there was a problem. Even though, the Hebrews were being oppressed, they were content to live in Egypt. Secondly, the Egyptians became dependent on the slave labor of the Hebrews and didn’t want them to leave.

As mentioned earlier, how often do we become contented in a situation or place even though it is not where God wants us to stay? Sometimes, God has to allow bad events to occur in our lives to get us out of our comfort zone and move closer to where He wants us.

Next time, we will cover how God convinced the Egyptians to let His People go.

Until then,
שָׁלוֹם (Shalom!)