A number of traditional sources indicate that the population of Jews in Mitzrayim was burgeoning. Pharaoh himself was concerned about it, worrying that they would take over the land. Why didn't a population of that size rise up against their taskmasters?

  • 2
    The bnai Efraim did I think thirty years before they went out and were slaughtered. The Jews knew they had to wait 400 years.
    – interested
    Apr 2, 2021 at 7:56
  • @interested didn't they simply try to leave? Who says they rebelled?
    – robev
    Apr 2, 2021 at 8:04
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    @robev They managed to leave Egypt and that could only happen if they rebelled since a slave could not leave. They were slaughtered by the Plishtim not the Egyptians.
    – interested
    Apr 2, 2021 at 10:29

3 Answers 3


The Kesav Sofer (Exodus 14:31 s.v. איתא בילקוט), while addressing a different question, perhaps answers yours. The Ibn Ezra (Exodus 14:13) asks why didn't the Jews fight back against the Egyptians at the Reed Sea? The verse even says they were armed (Exodus 13:18 with Targum Onkelos). He answers that they weren't trained in the art of battle. The Kesav Sofer rejects this because we see they were able to fight against Amalek (the Ibn Ezra himself tries to address this, but in an unsatisfying way).

Instead, the Kesav Sofer brings from Deuteronomy 23:8 that we are forbidden from abhorring the Egyptians. This is because we were strangers in their land, and they took us in (see Rashi ad. loc.). We see, that despite their harsh treatment of us, we are indebted to them. We have to have a sense of gratitude, and never abhor them. He says that this is why they Jews didn't fight back at the Reed Sea, out of a sense of gratitude for their hospitality.

We can perhaps say that this is why they never rebelled. It was out of a sense of gratitude.

  • Good effort +1. To the point, aren't we commanded "הקם להרגך השכם להרגו"? Once they started to slaughter us, shouldn't we have struggled back Halachicly?
    – Al Berko
    Apr 2, 2021 at 8:10
  • @AlBerko You're right I'm sort of sidestepping the question of why didn't they fight back while the oppression really got bad. I would imagine by then they were powerless against their oppressors. I'm addressing more in the initial stages where they could perhaps have avoided the slavery altogether. The Kesav Sofer himself is addressing why they relied on the miracle of the splitting of the sea instead of fighting back. There, if there was no expected miracle, they would have had to fight back. Since they didn't want to out of gratitude, Hashem split the sea.
    – robev
    Apr 2, 2021 at 8:13

This is perhaps addressed in the Biblical text itself, in the verse that you cite. Pharaoh says, in Shemot 1:10:

יהָ֥בָה נִתְחַכְּמָ֖ה ל֑וֹ פֶּן־יִרְבֶּ֗ה וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־תִקְרֶ֤אנָה מִלְחָמָה֙ וְנוֹסַ֤ף גַּם־הוּא֙ עַל־שׂ֣נְאֵ֔ינוּ וְנִלְחַם־בָּ֖נוּ וְעָלָ֥ה מִן־הָאָֽרֶץ:

That is,

Get ready, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they increase, and a war befall us, and they join our enemies and wage war against us and depart from the land."

Pharaoh was politically astute, and certainly more aware of the political realities and repercussions than we are, standing many thousands of years, and cultures, apart. He correctly believed that putting heavy labor, and taskmasters, upon them, would make it less likely, rather than more likely, that they revolt.

The idea would seem to be that they were subjugated, restricted, and demoralized. Questions of the type of "why didn't X happen", which are alternate reality questions, are not really otherwise answerable.

However, we can look further to what happened in the narrative when a possible revolt did occur. When Moshe brought them the signs, in Shemot 6:9, we are told:

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר משֶׁ֛ה כֵּ֖ן אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹ֤א שָֽׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה מִקֹּ֣צֶר ר֔וּחַ וּמֵֽעֲבֹדָ֖ה קָשָֽׁה:

That is,

Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel, but they did not hearken to Moses because of [their] shortness of breath and because of [their] hard labor.

In other words, Pharaoh's program of demoralization via hard labor was working, to prevent any revolt.


On a simple level, if we follow the Biblical narrative, the Hebrews were "commanded" to submit to Egyptians to fulfill the prophecy and they waited for a miraculous redemption.

"And He said to Abram, “Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not theirs, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years;" Genesis.15.13

"Shall be enslaved" can be interpreted as a one-time commandment (as "you shall eat Matzah on Pesach") and failure to do that would be interpreted as transgressing God's Mitzvah and ruining God's plans.

On a Remez level, the Rabbis teach that it was necessary for inheriting the Promised land. Suffering is commonly seen in Judaism as refinement and purification of the earthly physical existence to elevate a person to higher spiritual levels worthy of "inheriting the Land". Rebelling would undermine this process and prevent them from entering "the Holy Land", as they wouldn't be freed/liberated from their physical bad inclinations.

In general, this motif of viewing personal and national suffering (sometimes seen as a sacrifice/martyrdom) as an essential part of the redemption process is central to Judaism and is maintained in prophets and writings.

Since the terrible failure of the Jewish revolts at the beginning of the first century, which led to the destruction of the Temple and great losses in the lives of the Jews, this approach became the leading method of coping with oppression, persecution, and exiles of the Jews in the last 1500 years. This was codified in the Talmud in the form of "The Three Oaths", where the second one states:

"Two, the Holy One adjured Israel not to rebel against the nations of the world"

This narrative is repeated in the prayer, the Kedusha for Shabbos or Yom Tov the Chazan says:

"הֵן גָּאַלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם אַחֲרִית כְּרֵאשִׁית לִהְיוֹת לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים" - "I, God, will redeem you at long last in the way I did before to become your God".

So, in theory, the Jewish people should sit and wait for the miraculous redemption in the figure of the Messiah, and all suffering is justified as God's mercy to purify us and to inherit us even bigger parts of the world to come. This was the official Jewish Orthodox position toward the catastrophe and the establishment of the Jewish state.

Worthy to mention that some anti-zionist Ultra-Orthodox factions, that base themselves on the aforementioned tradition, still prefer the Palestinian terror to Israeli prosperity, as fighting oppression (in that view) just pushes the final redemption off instead of bringing it closer.

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