Why did Jacob and his clan not return to the Land of Israel when the famine subsided, after their stay in Egypt? We might have avoided slavery. God did not tell Abraham his descendants would be enslaved by Egypt, only that they would be enslaved. (And even if He had, surely we would not have just waited for it to happen.) Anything in the Sources?

  • My guess is that it's because it's good to be related to the Prime Minister, and that things for them there were a lot better than conditions back in Israel-plenty of perks, no need to travel during famines, etc. Until the political situation changed for the worst, they were probably pretty content to stay and not shlep their enlarged and still growing families back across the desert.
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 4:35
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/78798/27180
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 16:38

1 Answer 1


It's like going to a dentist - you don't wanna go, you try to postpone it as you can, but once you're there - you stay until it is finished.

  1. It was the tradition that Egypt is the target, as Rashi explains that Avraham went down to Egypt to prepare it for the coming of his descendants and Yitzhok tried also (but was prevented).

You ask a good subquestion about the Egypt exile - why it is not hinted anywhere in the scriptures, while the other 4 as the Gm. explains the verse "תהו ובהו וחושך על פני תהום" and also "ותרדמה נפלה על אברם והנה אימה חשכה גדלה נפלת עליו" that hints to the 4 exiles: Babylon, Madday, Greece, and Rome. It worth a different question. AriZ"L explains that in length

  1. Avrohom asked G-d to receive the Eretz Israel as an inheritance ("במה אדע כי ארשנה") instead of receiving it as a gift ("לך אתננה"), and G-d explained that the only way to do so is to go thru the Egypt exile and only then Bney Israel will enjoy the Promised Land forever.
    Therefore it wouldn't help Yaakov to return to the Land of Israel, as the mission was not accomplished yet.

  2. Also, the slavery (as with the dentist) was destined and necessary to achieve the goal of fulfilling the prophecy. Some say it might be lessened if everybody would involve in learning the Torah, but it was obligatory.

THe answer is based on the book "Beis Gnozay" by R Moshe Luriah Z"L.

  • -- Not only that, but nowhere is it ever hinted that slavery in Egypt was punishment for something. Evidently God decided slavery had many advantages for His plan, and it is easy to speculate on what these are. Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 17:26
  • It wasn't punishment at all, it was an instrument to achieve certain goals. It relates to the primordial sin etc. That's not a Pshat. It's hard for me to explain without knowing your level of understanding, though.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 17:47

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