27 Feb. Exodus 1:1-14

27 Feb. Jacob’s descendants are forced to work as slaves in Egypt

“When Jacob went to Egypt, he took his sons, and each son took his own family with him… There was a total of 70 people who were descendants of Jacob… Sometime later, Joseph and his brothers died, along with all the people who had lived at that same time.”

“But the people of Israel [Jacob] had many children, and their number grew greatly. They became very strong, and the country of Egypt was filled with them.”

“Then a new king began to rule Egypt, who did not know who Joseph was. This king said to his people, ‘Look! The people of Israel are too many and too strong for us to handle! If we don’t make plans against them, the number of their people will grow even more. Then if there is a war, they might join our enemies and fight us and escape from the country!’”

“So the Egyptians made life hard for the Israelites. They put slave masters over them, who forced the Israelites to build the cities Pithom and Rameses as supply centres for the king.”

“But the harder the Egyptians forced the Israelites to work, the more the Israelites grew in number and spread out. So the Egyptians became very afraid of them and demanded even more of them. They made their lives bitter.”

“They forced the Israelites to work hard to make bricks and mortar and to do all kinds of work in the fields. The Egyptians were not merciful to them in all their painful work.”

            (Exodus 1:1-14)



It was now c.1530BC. Many generations had lived during the hundred and thirty years since Joseph was joined by his brothers and their families at Avaris in the Goshen region of Egypt in c.1660BC (see 1 on the map).

The Israelites (the descendants of Jacob or ‘Israel’) were now living in slavery under a pharaoh “who did not know who Joseph was” (Exodus 1:8) – probably Neferhotep I (or possibly his immediate predecessor Sobekhotep III).

They were forced to build store cities for the Egyptians in the Eastern Nile Delta area of Lower Egypt at Pithom and Raamses (see the map). Raamses (or Rameses) is the later name for the Israelite settlement at Avaris – where the new Egyptian capital of Pharaoh Ramesses II (Pi-Ramesses) was built some seven hundred years after Joseph’s death.

Raamses was situated at Quantir on the Pelusaic branch of the Nile. Pithom (Pi-Atum, meaning ‘Mansion of the sun-god Atum’) was located south of Raamses in the Wadi Tumilat, probably on the site of Tell al-Maskutah.

Extensive excavations at the village of Tell ed-Daba by Manfred Bietak since the 1960s have revealed a settlement of small mudbrick houses built by people of Palestinian or Syrian origin at around this time. A large Syrian-style mansion (possibly the home of Jacob) was later replaced by an Egyptian palace (built, perhaps for Joseph, the Vizier of Egypt, after Jacob’s death).

Avaris was abandoned shortly after 1447 BC. Some five hundred years later, Avaris was re-built, extended and re-named Rameses (or Raamses) after its new founder, Pharaoh Ramesses II - who marched out of Egypt in 939 BC to fight the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh. Pi-Ramesses or Piramesse means ‘Mansion of Ramesses’ and is the name used in the Old Testament when referring to the much earlier settlement of Avaris.

The Victorians’ mistaken identification of the Biblical Raamses with the later Rameses of Pharaoh Ramesses II (instead of with the earlier Avaris of Amenemhat III) also led them to incorrectly identify Ramesses II as the traditional pharaoh of the Exodus. In reality, Ramesses II lived some five hundred years after the Exodus, and the pharaoh who refused to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt under the leadership of Moses was a much earlier pharaoh – probably Pharaoh Djedneferre Dudimose (1450-1446BC).

The map shows the location of the Egyptian store cities of Raamses (Avaris) and Pithom.

You can read more about Avaris / Piramesse @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/25-the-israelites-journey-from-egypt-to-mt-sinai/the-israelites-in-egypt/

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