We know that Israel was still in Goshen during their enslavement, because the text tells us that the plague of hail didn't affect Goshen "where b'nai Yisrael were" (Shemot 9:26). It sounds like they are still living apart from the Egyptians, else some Egyptians would have been spared by the hail (if they lived in Goshen too) or some of Israel would have been affected (if they lived outside of Goshen).

Right before the exodus, God instructs the people to borrow silver and gold from their neighbors (Shemot 11:1-3). "Neighbors" sounds like people who live nearby. In chapter 12 the Egyptians urge them to leave quickly, and that's when the borrowing occurs.

How isolated or how intermingled were Israel and the Egyptians at the time of the exodus? Did Israel have Egyptian neighbors, or did they actually borrow silver and gold from random Egyptians they encountered on the way out that night?

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    Given the somewhat well-known Midrash that a Jew and Mitzri could drink out of the same jug, but the Jew drank water while the Mitzri drank blood, I would imagine that even if they were intermingled it wouldn’t affect the Jews regardless of their location, nor would the plagues avoid the Mitzriim regardless of their location.
    – DonielF
    Dec 10, 2017 at 18:49
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    I'm leaning toward the idea that Goshen was extremely isolated. Recall that Yosef requested that his family live in Goshen specifically because the Egyptians despised shepherds. Even during slavery, we have a Midrash that not everyone was enslaved, anyway. (Seems only men and Levites were exempt.) So, it seems that shepherding was done throughout. I'd be surprised if any Egyptians changed their attitude and desired to live among shepherds. Keep in mind that the term "neighbor" doesn't necessarily indicate geographical closeness.
    – DanF
    Dec 11, 2017 at 17:01
  • Seems like "neighbor" in this context at least according Rashi means someone from a different nation/ethnicity.
    – Eli83
    Jan 8, 2020 at 14:58

2 Answers 2


The Netziv in Ha'amek Dovor on Shemos 1-7 (http://beta.hebrewbooks.org/reader/reader.aspx?sfid=40080#p=9&fitMode=fitheight&hlts=&ocr=) writes that when the people multiplied many of them moved out of Goshen into Mitzrayim proper. The proof for that is of course that HaShem had to "pass over" the houses of the Jewish people when killing the Egyptian first-born. If the Jewish people would all still have lived in Goshen, that wouldn't have been necessary. The Ibn Ezra actually writes the same.


My view is that the non-Jewish neighbors were within walking distance but did not share wells, fields, gardens, pastures, etc. In addition to the gathering of metals and jewels, they had to be reasonably close with their neighbors because:

  1. There was intermarriage.
  2. The Erev rav joined them in the hours after the 10th plague and before they left the next morning. Even if these were only family members of those who intermarried, they had to have enough time to figure out what was happening and prepare to leave (which can be quick but requires travel both ways).
  3. Moses and Aaron travelled multiple times to the palace to meet with Pharaoh. They probably traveled by boat (which was common in that era) which is quicker that walking or on a pack animal (or even a horse, if they were available to them, which is unlikely). We don't know how long this journey took but the text indicates new locations "the following day." If the palace* was less than a day's journey, other slave villages, regular workers, and others wouldn't be too far. They also talk about going out of the city, which implies the palace is inside the city, and not next to the edge.
  4. There is talk of trade. Purchasing the lamb for Passover, for example. This could be a purchase from other Jews, but it implies there is trade among neighbors.
  5. Their main work is to make bricks and to tend Pharaoh's fields. This work is commute distance from their villages and the output of that work would need to be easily transportable to the city and elsewhere (both are done by the river).

I imagine the edge of the Hebrew villages to be not far from the part of the river with the brickyard, as well as various fields. Down river (north/northeast) would be the city and palace. Back behind, around, and in-between the villages would be the undamaged gardens belonging to the Hebrews, as well as their pastures and livestock.

There would also be other villages for slaves and/or workers and the Hebrews would have interacted to some degree with them. It is also possible that the brickmaking and fieldwork was shared. The Hebrews had their own quotas but that doesn't mean the entire brickyard was only them. I don't know one way or another, but it's a possible way for people to meet.

The Nile river branches in the Delta region, which is pretty much everything north of modern day Cairo. So the river is not north-south in Goshen. If the Hebrews are, for example, southeast of the river, they would not extend alongside it. Next to the river would be fields all the way up to Nubia and beyond ("up" in Egypt means against the flow of the river, which flows from south to north). The Hebrews would be in one of the most eastern branches, to the east of that branch (so they do not have to cross it to leave towards Sinai).

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  • = There were several palaces and the court moved around.
  • according the pshat of the Torah, seems like there was only one known case of intermarriage (the parents of the Mekalel).
    – Eli83
    Jan 8, 2020 at 15:39

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