In Shemot 15:22, Rashi says:

Moses led Israel away: lit., made Israel journey. He led them away against their will, for the Egyptians had adorned their steeds with ornaments of gold, silver, and precious stones, and the Israelites were finding them in the sea. The plunder at the sea was greater than the plunder in Egypt, as it is said: “We will make you rows of gold with studs of silver” (Song of Songs 1:11). Therefore, he had to lead them against their will.

But in Shemot 12:36, Rashi says:

and they emptied out: Heb. וַיְנַצְלוּ. Onkelos renders: וְרוֹקִינוּ, and they emptied out.

Furthermore, in Bereshit 45:18, Rashi describes the emptying of Egypt as:

the best of the land of Egypt: [I.e.,] the land of Goshen. He prophesied but did not know what he was prophesying. They (the Israelites) would eventually make it (Egypt) like the depths of the sea, which have no fish. [From Avoth d’Rabbi Nathan, second version, ch. 43; Ber. 9b]

My question is, if the Jews emptied out Egypt before they left, where did all the "gold, silver, and precious gems" which the Egyptians adorned their steeds with come from?

On the other hand, if the Jews left more gold in Egypt than they took with them, how can we consider what the Jews did "emptying the land of Egypt"?

  • This Q&A has been edited for inclusion in the mi-yodeya-haggadah project. If you improve any part of it or add a new answer, please ping me or consider adding your improvement here.
    – Isaac Moses
    Mar 10 '13 at 21:12
  • Pinging info.
    – msh210
    Mar 10 '13 at 22:42

Mechilta (to 14:6) states that Pharaoh emptied out his treasury and disbursed it among his army, to induce them to pursue the Jews (with the promise, too, of dividing all of the spoils equally with them).

Presumably, no one had gone to Pharaoh to "borrow" gold and silver. (Indeed, the command (Ex. 11:2) was that the Jews should request "each man from his neighbor, and each woman from her neighbor" - pretty clearly excluding the royal household.) So when the Torah says that they had "emptied out Egypt," it must be referring to the belongings of the common people.

(Which also would explain how the plunder from the drowning of the army exceeded what they took away from Egypt: in an autocratic monarchy like Egypt, the king's wealth probably far exceeded that of all his subjects combined.)

  • A very reasonable explanation +1
    – Double AA
    Feb 5 '12 at 2:54
  • @DoubleAA But then it raises another question. If the Jews lived in Goshen seperated from the Egyptians, and the plagues did not affect goshen but only egypt proper... then who were the neighbors they were taking gold from!? Sometimes you just aren't supposed to link midrashim together and ask question :)
    – avi
    Feb 5 '12 at 7:45
  • 1
    @avi A 'neighbor' is not always the person in the next house over.
    – Double AA
    Feb 5 '12 at 14:13
  • 1
    @avi I completely agree with you that not all midrashim need to be understood in context with each other. That is precisely why I was so impressed with Alex's answer. You are the one being too technical here. Pharoh was not on the same social status as the rest of the people, and there can be a clear difference between what is in Pharoh's personal treasury and what he technically owned as de facto monarch of the land. These are not big assumptions at all in reading the psukim.
    – Double AA
    Feb 5 '12 at 16:38
  • 2
    @avi, to take your questions in order: (a) Not all of the Jews lived in Goshen; Ex. 1:7 states that "the land was filled with them." (And Ex. 4:22 mentions the Jewish women "borrowing from... those who live in the same house.") (b) Aristocrats the Levi'im may have been, but they still weren't on the same social level as the king, and you wouldn't expect them to march into the palace (especially after Pharaoh had threatened Moshe with death if he came to see him again) and request stuff. (c) The land of Egypt became Pharaoh's in perpetuity (ותהי הארץ לפרעה), not the movable possessions.
    – Alex
    Feb 5 '12 at 17:12

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .