One of the commandments of a Jewish king is not to have too many horses, so that the Jewish people won't go back to live in Egypt, where the best horses came from. Question: till when was this valid? We see that there was a community and great Rabbis who did live in Egypt later on. And why not live in Egypt?

  • Related: "Return to Egypt: Allowed"?
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 2:17
  • This seems like a duplicate of that, no, @TamirEvan ?
    – msh210
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 8:36
  • @msh210 Maybe... The prohibition of a king having too many horses angle makes me unsure. (See my comments to the two current answers.)
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 15:37
  • A direct quotation of the commandment would be helpful here.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 18:31

2 Answers 2


The prohibition of living in Egypt has never changed. The question is to who did it apply to in the first place?

There are various opinions among the Rishonim Among them are that it only applies to

(1) When the Egyptians residing in Egypt themselves were the descendants of the Egyptians who lived there in biblical times . That stopped being the situation after Sancherib and the Assyrians conquered it and made mass population moves

(2)It only applies to leaving Israel to settle in Egypt. Not coming there from another country

(3)It only applies when Israel is ruled by Jewish kings ( A bibical kingdom. Not the modern state of Israel. )

There are various other explanations for why Jews have lived in Egypt. The common denominator is that there are limitations to the circumstances when the Torah prohibited living there

  • "( A bibical kingdom. Not the modern state of Israel. )" How do you know this? Surely those rishonim didn't explicitly discuss the modern state of Israel
    – Double AA
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 21:31
  • (Ritva Yoma 38A) אין האיסור ההוא אלא בזמן שישראל שרויין על אדמתם is always a reference to a time when we are not in Golus
    – Schmerel
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 21:46
  • Sounds like a good description of today to me. Nothing about the form of government. Maybe we may have to wait a few years for rov Jews to be in Israel, but definitely not what you wrote.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 21:48
  • 1
    (1) If we are allowed to settle in Egypt because Egyptians of today (and for a long time now) aren't really [biblical] Egyptians, does that mean that, if we crown a king today, he will be able to have as many horses as he likes? (2) Regarding option #3: Why would Israel under a Jewish king be prohibited, but Jews without a king allowed?
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 15:26

How could Jews justify living in Egypt in spite of the commandment not to do so? Over time, some commentators softened the commandment. First, the Talmud allowed temporary returns:

You may not return [to Egypt] to dwell there, but for the purpose of business or war you may return. [Sanhedrin Y 10:7]

Some said the commandment only applies to the entire Jewish people, not to a subset. Others said it applies only to Jews leaving Israel, not any other country, for Egypt. The Radbaz argued that if you are forced to stay in Egypt by the government you must comply. Rabbenu Bahya said it applied only in biblical times. The Semag and Ritva said the prohibition no longer applies because today's Egyptians are not the descendants of those who lived in Pharaoh’s day. Ritva added that the prohibition applies only when Jews rule the Land of Israel. (Note that they didn’t then, but do now!)

  • (1) If one can temporarily stay in Egypt for business, why can't the king, or others in his name, go there for the business of buying horses? (2) )If the commandment only applies to the entire Jewish people, why can't a king have many horses? (3) For those who say it doesn't apply today, what do they say about a king, if one is crown in Israel in our time, buying many horses?
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 15:16
  • I personally believe the commandment meant exactly what it says. That's why Egypt is judenrein today, for the first time since biblical days. Hashem eventually gets what He wants. Commented May 24, 2021 at 16:51
  • Poor Maimonides, he lived there for a decent stint! I suppose it was for business as \he was the king's doctor ... ;)
    – oemb1905
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 21:24
  • @MauriceMizrahi (1) My point was less to criticize the reasoning for allowing Jews to settle in Egypt, and more asking how it fits in with a king [not] having many horses (that this question brings up). Without addressing this, you're really only answering the other question, but not this one. (2)"Hashem eventually gets what He wants". I thought Hashem wants us to [decide/choose to] keep/observe His commandments. If He was going to eventually make Egypt judenrein, one way or another, why bother commanding us?
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 2:03
  • 1- The commandment of the king not having too many horses was tied to Egypt having plenty of horses to sell. But the Sages warned us about never trying to fulfill the assumed intent of a commandment and violate the commandment itself. 2- Hashem commands us, and if some of us don't obey, He nudges events to force compliance. Commented May 25, 2021 at 19:02

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