# How long was Shimon in prison?

In Bereishit 42:24 Shimon is taken away from the brothers and put in prison as surety so that the other brothers will bring back Binyamin to prove that they are not spies. The brothers then return to Ya'akov and retell all the events. He refuses to let them go back to Mitzrayim.

In the beginning of perek 43, the famine increases and the sons have eaten the provisions they brought on the previous trip so they have to appeal to Ya'akov to let them go back down. Meanwhile, the whole time, Shimon was "in jail" and they hung around eating.

How long was Shimon stuck in Mitzrayim (I know that rashi on pasuk 24 says Shimon wasn't in prison but I doubt he was free enough to leave)?

• Exactly what is the question here? You seem to have a couple. Dec 21 '14 at 18:06
• @Scimonster They all hinge on the matter of time as per the title. After that is resolved I can know if the others are worth pursuing. Dec 21 '14 at 18:51

According to Gen 43:2 and Gen 43:10, after returning from Egypt, the time taken before setting off back to Egypt was enough to go and return twice. If we take this literally, then from leaving Shim'on in prison to returning to get Shim'on out of prison was the time of three journeys (return to Cana'an, there-and-back x 2, travel to Egypt).

For estimation purposes, I will assume that Yosef lived in On (= Heliopolis ≈ Cairo) and that Ya'akov and his family were in Ḥevron; this gives a travel distance of about 280 miles (you can check that here, assuming that they have to go along the coast for water, cf. travel in the Roman empire). Camel caravans apparently travel between 10 and 25 miles per day, so let's average that to 17.5 miles per day. This gives us a 16 day travel time. If you wish, bump this up to 18 days to include resting on Shabbat, and you have your travel time one-way.

Since we're interested in six one-way trips, we consider 6 x 16 (or 6 x 18) to get 96 days (or 108 days). Thus, Shim'on would have been imprisoned for somewhere between 3 and 4 months. If we instead take Yehuda's words in Gen 43 as hyperbole, then the real number should be less than this.

Out of interest, at the slowest rate of travel, he would have been imprisoned for as long as 5.5 months (or 6.4 months, if they rested on Shabbat). At the fastest rate of travel, he would have been imprisoned for as little as 2.3 months (or 2.6 months with resting for Shabbat).

According to the meforshim (Rashi, Rabbi Munk, Rav Hirsch, etc.) Shimon's status was that of "honored hostage". An example of this status can be seen from the history of the Roman empire. The hostages were treated as honored "guests" with the status of the nobility, except they could not leave. It is not the same as a prisoner.

One of the Ohr Sameach questions on the parsha states that the food finally ran low after they could have gone to Mitzraim and returned two times. It does not give an exact timing of the events (in months).

How long did it take for Yaakov and family to eat all the food that the brothers brought back from Egypt? Give the answer in terms of travel time.

43:2,10 - Twice the travel time to and from Egypt.

It does not say any more than that.

• and does that source cite any discussion over whether it was appropriate to leave Shimon there for that whole time? Dec 21 '14 at 19:40
• – msh210
Dec 21 '14 at 19:50
• @msh210 I am not re3ady to ask a larger question -- I just need the source for this answer or more clarification about exactly what that referenced source said. Dec 21 '14 at 19:56
• ohr.edu/1385 How long did it take for Yaakov and family to eat all the food that the brothers brought back from Egypt? Give the answer in terms of travel time. 43:2,10 - Twice the travel time to and from Egypt. Dec 21 '14 at 20:59
• Sure he was an honored guest. Especially, considering that he was his step father-in-law. According to Midrashim Yosef married the daughter of Dina and Shimon married Dina. Dec 17 '15 at 3:37