Also this subject is debated and in the following text we will try to limit ourselves to those facts that are clear. The text of the Bible itself is again very helpful.



The Hebrews, to be considered a separate people since a couple of generations, migrated from Israel to Egypt shortly after 1800 b.c.e., during the first part of the Second Intermediate Period, between the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom. In this period Egypt was still united , but later there were different Pharaos, in Middle Egypt with Thebes and in the North at Memphis. It is not clear who exactly was the Pharao of the still united Egypt in the days of Joseph.


At the time, the Hebrew language was known, as in Egypt there were interpreters available, Genesis 42: 23. And Joseph's Egyptian servants wrote for his brothers place-cards with their names at the occasion of the meal he had invited them to. The only amazement of the brothers was that the place cards were arranged in the right sequence of age. How could the Egyptians know this ? Genesis 43: 33.


Before the Hebrews came to Egypt, there had been conflicts between Pharaos of the Middle Kingdom and local monarchs. Strengthening the central government was the result. The capital was Memphis in the North. Then the Hebrew Joseph as a viceroy in Memphis, after having stored huge amounts of grain in seven years of abundance, during the following seven years of famine acquired for Pharao the property of all the land and cattle of Egypt, giving grain in turn.


Some important developments are rightly seen as having a bearing on the story of the Hebrew people in Egypt.


  1. HYKSOS. About a century later than the Hebrews, the Hyksos came to Egypt. They probably were Semites. They were allowed to settle in and near the delta of the Nile and from there acquired power over the country, mainly peacefully . In this period there were in the North also other capitals, as in Xois (Dynasty 14) and Avaris near the Mediterranean coast. Avaris was the place from where the foreign Hyksos Pharaos ( Dynasty 15 ) reigned over Lower Egypt. Somewhat later they also came to dominate Middle Egypt that they trusted to vassals ( Dynasty 16 ) with Thebes as seat of government.


    The Hyksos came later than the Hebrews and were not the same people, but obviously the two must have understood each other well. After again over a century the Hyksos were driven out of Egypt, into Palestine, and in a long war destroyed by Ahmose, who became the first Pharao of Dynasty 18 and of the New Kingdom). Palestine then stayed under Egyptian domination. When the Hyksos were driven out around 1545 b.c.e., the Hebrews remained in Egypt.


  2. AKHNATON. The Hebrew Viceroy Joseph had reduced the power of local monarchs by having their lands formally acquired by the Pharao. But he had not touched the lands of the priests. Amenhotep ( Amon is Pleased) IV tried to reduce their power by rigidly imposing Monotheism. The name of God, symbolized by the Sun, was "Aton", much like Hebrew "Adon" for "The Lord" and he himself changed his name into "Akhenaton ( Horizon of Aton )", also sounding like "Brother of God" in Hebrew. In the end he could not make Monotheism win and later Tutankhaton, son of Akhenaton and Nefertiti, who reigned ca from 1348-1339, recognized this by changing his name into "Tutankhamen". This was an unfavourable development for the position of the Hebrews who were and remained monotheists.


During centuries the Egyptians and the Hebrews lived and continued to live peacefully together, Exodus 3: 21. As the Hebrews thrived they became numerous and powerful and the country was full of them, Exodus 1: 7. They lived together in peace with the Egyptians, also in the same towns, the same streets and even the same houses, Exodus 3: 22 ; Exodus 11: 2. The Egyptians among whom the Hebrews lived are indicated as "re'" = one's friend, one's next", This is the same word used in Leviticus 19: 18 in the command to love ones next, one's fellow, as oneself.





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: Thursday 10 January 2013 at 20.01.08