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When Yisrael come to Mitzrayim Paro gives them "the choice land of Goshen" Bereishis 47:6 which is also called "Raamses" Bereishis 47:11. Later a new king Paro who doesn't recognize Yosef (who saves Egypt from famine) rises and enslaves them Shemos 1:7, but apparently lets them keep the good land, because they're still there during the plagues until they finally leave Raamses Shemos 12:37 on their way out of Egypt.

I would expect someone who enslaves a people, and who makes their job deliberately difficult as this one did by taking away the straw, to also deprive them of the best land (and perhaps of their flocks and other property as well). But that didn't happen.

Should we expect Paro to take away their land and flocks, or was that not how slaves were treated in that time and place? I'm wondering if I misunderstand how these things work or if we're seeing the divine hand in protecting them.

None of the chumashim I have access to comment on this. The question came up in my congregation's torah study recently.

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    I hope this doesn't turn into a hyksos discussion.
    – user6591
    Dec 24 '14 at 19:35
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Because Goshen wasn't a such good land. The Mitzrim hated to breed sheep (for religious belief I think). Explicitly Yosef asked his father to speak about his occupation in front of paro, in order to get the land of Goshen, a retired land with grass, in which the Hebrews would be more quiet/exposed to Egyptian society.

edit: yes, source.. chapter 47 first passuk (vaygash, parasha of week), with his rashi

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Do you have any source for your claims, or is it your own idea? You can edit in if you do.
    – Scimonster
    Dec 24 '14 at 20:23
  • But on the other hand, when Paro gave them the land he told Yosef to have his brothers look after his flocks too -- "And if thou knowest any able men among them, then make them rulers over my cattle" (47:6). Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/12741/472 Dec 24 '14 at 20:33
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    This may be a good answer to "Why would Pharaoh leave them in the good land when enslaving them? That's abnormal" but the question above is "Pharaoh left them in the good land when enslaving them. Was it normal?" which this doesn't seem to answer. cc @MonicaCellio (asker)
    – msh210
    Dec 24 '14 at 20:43
  • Yes, I understand you point... Now I would have the personnal idea that they let them because it was in the mitzrim interest to keep them apart.
    – David
    Dec 24 '14 at 21:47
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The Midrash (Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer ch. 26) says:

שנלקחה שרה אשתו לפרעה לאשה ......ר' יהושע בן קרחא אומר, מאהבתו אותה כתב לה בשטר כתובתה כל ממונו בין כסף בין זהב בין עבדים וקרקעות, וכתב לה את ארץ גושן לאחוזה, לפיכך ישבו בני ישראל בארץ גושן בארץ שרה אמם, וכתב לה את הגר בתו מפלגשו שפחה.
Pharo tried to take Sarah as a wife......R. Yehoshua b. Korcha says: Due to Pharaoh's great love, he wrote to her [Sara] all of his assets, whether silver or gold, whether slaves or real estate, and he wrote to her the land of Goshen as an estate, therefore Yisrael settled in the land of Goshen, because it belonged to Sara, our matriarch.

It seems the later Pharaoh could not revoke what the earlier pharaoh had edicted so the Israelites were able to stay in Goshen that was given to Sara in spite of their slavery.

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Because it was never Pharaoh's policy to move enslaved peoples. It was Joseph's policy to remove slave populations from one area and move them to another. But presumably while Joseph was alive he didn't allow for this to happen, which made the Israelites stand out as being "above" the native Egyptians who all became slaves and were moved around based on the government policy of Joseph.

Genesis 47:12-27

יב וַיְכַלְכֵּל יוֹסֵף אֶת-אָבִיו וְאֶת-אֶחָיו, וְאֵת כָּל-בֵּית אָבִיו--לֶחֶם, לְפִי הַטָּף. 12 And Joseph sustained his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to the want of their little ones. יג וְלֶחֶם אֵין בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ, כִּי-כָבֵד הָרָעָב מְאֹד; וַתֵּלַהּ אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, וְאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, מִפְּנֵי, הָרָעָב. 13 And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine. יד וַיְלַקֵּט יוֹסֵף, אֶת-כָּל-הַכֶּסֶף הַנִּמְצָא בְאֶרֶץ-מִצְרַיִם וּבְאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, בַּשֶּׁבֶר, אֲשֶׁר-הֵם שֹׁבְרִים; וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת-הַכֶּסֶף, בֵּיתָה פַרְעֹה. 14 And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house. טו וַיִּתֹּם הַכֶּסֶף, מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וּמֵאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, וַיָּבֹאוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם אֶל-יוֹסֵף לֵאמֹר הָבָה-לָּנוּ לֶחֶם, וְלָמָּה נָמוּת נֶגְדֶּךָ: כִּי אָפֵס, כָּסֶף. 15 And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said: 'Give us bread; for why should we die in thy presence? for our money faileth.' טז וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף הָבוּ מִקְנֵיכֶם, וְאֶתְּנָה לָכֶם בְּמִקְנֵיכֶם--אִם-אָפֵס, כָּסֶף. 16 And Joseph said: 'Give your cattle, and I will give you [bread] for your cattle, if money fail.' יז וַיָּבִיאוּ אֶת-מִקְנֵיהֶם, אֶל-יוֹסֵף, וַיִּתֵּן לָהֶם יוֹסֵף לֶחֶם בַּסּוּסִים וּבְמִקְנֵה הַצֹּאן וּבְמִקְנֵה הַבָּקָר, וּבַחֲמֹרִים; וַיְנַהֲלֵם בַּלֶּחֶם בְּכָל-מִקְנֵהֶם, בַּשָּׁנָה הַהִוא. 17 And they brought their cattle unto Joseph. And Joseph gave them bread in exchange for the horses, and for the flocks, and for the herds, and for the asses; and he fed them with bread in exchange for all their cattle for that year. יח וַתִּתֹּם, הַשָּׁנָה הַהִוא, וַיָּבֹאוּ אֵלָיו בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ לֹא-נְכַחֵד מֵאֲדֹנִי, כִּי אִם-תַּם הַכֶּסֶף וּמִקְנֵה הַבְּהֵמָה אֶל-אֲדֹנִי: לֹא נִשְׁאַר לִפְנֵי אֲדֹנִי, בִּלְתִּי אִם-גְּוִיָּתֵנוּ וְאַדְמָתֵנוּ. 18 And when that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him: 'We will not hide from my lord, how that our money is all spent; and the herds of cattle are my lord's; there is nought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands. יט לָמָּה נָמוּת לְעֵינֶיךָ, גַּם-אֲנַחְנוּ גַּם אַדְמָתֵנוּ--קְנֵה-אֹתָנוּ וְאֶת-אַדְמָתֵנוּ, בַּלָּחֶם; וְנִהְיֶה אֲנַחְנוּ וְאַדְמָתֵנוּ, עֲבָדִים לְפַרְעֹה, וְתֶן-זֶרַע וְנִחְיֶה וְלֹא נָמוּת, וְהָאֲדָמָה לֹא תֵשָׁם. 19 Wherefore should we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be bondmen unto Pharaoh; and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, and that the land be not desolate.' כ וַיִּקֶן יוֹסֵף אֶת-כָּל-אַדְמַת מִצְרַיִם, לְפַרְעֹה, כִּי-מָכְרוּ מִצְרַיִם אִישׁ שָׂדֵהוּ, כִּי-חָזַק עֲלֵהֶם הָרָעָב; וַתְּהִי הָאָרֶץ, לְפַרְעֹה. 20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine was sore upon them; and the land became Pharaoh's. כא וְאֶת-הָעָם--הֶעֱבִיר אֹתוֹ, לֶעָרִים: מִקְצֵה גְבוּל-מִצְרַיִם, וְעַד-קָצֵהוּ. 21 And as for the people, he removed them city by city, from one end of the border of Egypt even to the other end thereof. כב רַק אַדְמַת הַכֹּהֲנִים, לֹא קָנָה: כִּי חֹק לַכֹּהֲנִים מֵאֵת פַּרְעֹה, וְאָכְלוּ אֶת-חֻקָּם אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָהֶם פַּרְעֹה--עַל-כֵּן, לֹא מָכְרוּ אֶת-אַדְמָתָם. 22 Only the land of the priests bought he not, for the priests had a portion from Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them; wherefore they sold not their land. כג וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל-הָעָם, הֵן קָנִיתִי אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם וְאֶת-אַדְמַתְכֶם לְפַרְעֹה; הֵא-לָכֶם זֶרַע, וּזְרַעְתֶּם אֶת-הָאֲדָמָה. 23 Then Joseph said unto the people: 'Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh. Lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. כד וְהָיָה, בַּתְּבוּאֹת, וּנְתַתֶּם חֲמִישִׁית, לְפַרְעֹה; וְאַרְבַּע הַיָּדֹת יִהְיֶה לָכֶם לְזֶרַע הַשָּׂדֶה וּלְאָכְלְכֶם, וְלַאֲשֶׁר בְּבָתֵּיכֶם--וְלֶאֱכֹל לְטַפְּכֶם. 24 And it shall come to pass at the ingatherings, that ye shall give a fifth unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.' כה וַיֹּאמְרוּ, הֶחֱיִתָנוּ; נִמְצָא-חֵן בְּעֵינֵי אֲדֹנִי, וְהָיִינוּ עֲבָדִים לְפַרְעֹה. 25 And they said: 'Thou hast saved our lives. Let us find favour in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's slaves' כו וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתָהּ יוֹסֵף לְחֹק עַד-הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה עַל-אַדְמַת מִצְרַיִם, לְפַרְעֹה--לַחֹמֶשׁ: רַק אַדְמַת הַכֹּהֲנִים, לְבַדָּם--לֹא הָיְתָה, לְפַרְעֹה. 26 And Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests alone became not Pharaoh's. כז וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן; וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ בָהּ, וַיִּפְרוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ מְאֹד. 27 And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; and they got them possessions therein, and were fruitful, and multiplied exceedingly.

Based on this I think the new Pharoah that rises to power in the book of Exodus feels like the Israelites and their land are kind of grandfathered in and that messing with that would cause large problems. His first goal is to keep the Israelites from fleeing their slavery, and taking away their land (one of the only lands suitable for shepherds) would almost certainly do that.

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