Bereshit 47:27 states that the Israelites (or Hebrews) settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. It also say they got them possessions therein. From 45:10 it seems they also had their own flock.

From different verses like Shemot 8:22 we know the people still lived in this region at the time of the Exodus.

Verse 1:14 suggests that they were working in construction because they had to work hard/severe through working with stones of mud and straw, and that they were employed as farmers in agriculture and perhaps also livestock, since they had to do heavy work on land and in the field.

So here's my question, since they were freed from the bondage, opressions or burdens from Egypt, but also from the fact that some people still longed back to it I became to wonder what kind of life they had and how they lived in Egypt;

Did they lived like most slaves at the time (and were kept) in an organized context (encampment); in their own area in small mud houses close to their area of ​​work? Or did they lived a seperate or independt life of some sort, like other lower social classes did and most often were explioted, suppressed and supposed to do the dirty and heavy work and punished if they couldn't pay the high taxes or produce enough, or punished as foreign slaves were not allowed to do much reproduction, because if they would become to many it would be threatening the Egyptian culture and livestyle.

So are there any commentaries which explain how they could live in Goshen in their own houses (with maybe some flock) while still being slaves or mistreated?

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    Also note the Jews were told that they couldn't eat the Passover sacrifice unless their slaves were circumcised. Wait, the slaves had slaves?! Apparently the Jews weren't at the very bottom of the ladder (or at least not all of them). I hear that's consistent with what the archaeologists will tell you: the "slaves" had their own houses.
    – Shalom
    Feb 18, 2018 at 9:09
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    When Yaakov came down to Egypt, Yosef steeled the family in Goshen. They were then tricked into becoming slaves. Now what's your question? Feb 18, 2018 at 9:21
  • @Shalom I'm not sure that command applies to the first Pesach because some verses in Shemot 12 clearly talk about the future celebration and rememberance of Pesach. And the next couple of lines (verse 45 and 49) talks in terms of a toshav, ger, sachri, eved and ezrach and teaches which groups could eat and which groups. Groups which are often described as having certain rights or not in eretz Yisrael.
    – Levi
    Feb 18, 2018 at 10:18
  • @Danny that's my question were they indeed 'slaves' and if so what kind of slaves, or were they 'workers' or 'servants' from the lower classes which is why they did the work they did, the reason for the opression could be not because they were slaves, but because they multiplied to much and later couldn't reach the production they had to - which is in line with the scriptures. Besides that I'm trying to see if we could fit or match certain verses with archaelogical teachings.
    – Levi
    Feb 18, 2018 at 10:25
  • @Levi - time to read the Hagada-shel-Pessach again. It's been 11 months so maybe you've forgotten. Feb 18, 2018 at 13:51

1 Answer 1


While the Jews did live in Goshen, that was where their families lived and where they lived on Shabbos (after Moshe Rabbeinu convinced Paroh that they needed one day off a week see shemos rabbah 1-38 and 5-8 ). However, during the entire week the men were forced to sleep in the ditches on the sides of the fields where they worked, as their taskmasters claimed that it would take too much time to allow them to go back to their houses and return in the morning (and therefore they would stop the population from growing (at least before they had Shabbos off). Therefore, their wives had to come to them, in the ditches of the fields, in order to be able to have children - בזכות נשים צדקניות נגעלו אבותינו ממצרים).

Being a slave did not mean that you were unable to own property, rather it meant that you were forced to work, without wages, for however much time any Mitzri demanded (as well as doing your normal work to support yourself and your family; the Mitzrim didn't pay them anything). Therefore, they were able to own houses, however cramped, and own sheep (which the Mitzrim didn't want anyway).

In regards to the Jews owning slaves, the Ohr Sameach says that this refers to those tribes which were not slaves themselves (Levi, and possibly Reuvein and Shimon ans well according to the Yerushalmi), who owned non-Jewish slaves, and possibly even bought the right to have Jewish slaves as well.

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    Do you have a source?
    – Voctave
    Feb 19, 2018 at 15:56
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    Many, for all of it, I just didn't have anything on me when I wrote it. For which part? Feb 19, 2018 at 15:57
  • Just in general I think it would add to the already interesting answer.
    – Voctave
    Feb 19, 2018 at 15:59
  • I compiled this from a variety of places, with several saying each section (with the possible exception of the last, as the Yerushalmi itself is rather vague, which is why I quoted the Ohr Sameach). Do you want sources for Moshe Rabbeinu convincing Paroh to give us a day off, that that day was Shabbos (and that is why we say in davening וישמח משה), that they weren't allowed home, or that their wives came to them? Feb 19, 2018 at 16:04
  • It's a general policy on MY to cite all our sources. For example I didn't know this day-off story, and would be curious to look up that. Please add a link in all other cases as well. Feb 20, 2018 at 9:28

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