Sanhedrin 91a records the following exchange:

שוב פעם אחת באו בני מצרים לדון עם ישראל לפני אלכסנדרוס מוקדון אמרו לו הרי הוא אומר (שמות יב, לו) וה' נתן את חן העם בעיני מצרים וישאילום תנו לנו כסף וזהב שנטלתם ממנו

Further, one time, the children of Mitzraim came to judgement with Yisrael before Alexandar the Macedonian. They said to him, "Behold, it says (Shemos 12:36), 'And Hashem gave the grace of the nation in the eyes of Mitzraim, and they lent them.'" Give us the silver and gold that you took from us!

אמר גביהא בן פסיסא לחכמים תנו לי רשות ואלך ואדון עמהן לפני אלכסנדרוס אם ינצחוני אמרו להם הדיוט שבנו נצחתם ואם אני אנצח אותם אמרו להם תורת משה רבינו נצחתכם נתנו לו רשות והלך ודן עמהן

Geviha ben Pesisa said to the Chachamim, "Give to me permission and I will go and do judgement with them before Alexandar. If they triumph over me, say to them, 'You triumphed over an average person among us.' If I triumph over them, say to them, 'The Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu triumphed over you.'" They gave him permission, and he went and judged with them.

אמר להן מהיכן אתם מביאין ראייה אמרו לו מן התורה אמר להן אף אני לא אביא לכם ראייה אלא מן התורה שנאמר (שמות יב, מ) ומושב בני ישראל אשר ישבו במצרים שלשים שנה וארבע מאות שנה תנו לנו שכר עבודה של ששים ריבוא ששיעבדתם במצרים שלשים שנה וארבע מאות שנה

He said to them, "From where do you bring your proof?" They said to him, "From the Torah." He said to them, "Also I will not bring to you a proof except from the Torah, as it says (Shemos 12:40), 'And the dwelling of Bnei Yisrael that they dwelled in Mitzraim was 430 years.' Give to us the payment for work of 600,000 who you enslaved in Mitzraim for 430 years."

אמר להן אלכסנדרוס מוקדון החזירו לו תשובה אמרו לו תנו לנו זמן שלשה ימים נתן להם זמן בדקו ולא מצאו תשובה מיד הניחו שדותיהן כשהן זרועות וכרמיהן כשהן נטועות וברחו ואותה שנה שביעית היתה

Alexandar of Macedonia said to them, "Return to him a response." They said to him, "Give us time - 3 days." He gave them time. They searched and did not find a response. Immediately they left their fields when they were planted and their vineyards when they were planted, and they fled. That year was a Shemitah year.

Contrast Avos d'Rebbi Nassan 41:9:

כסף מצרים חזר למקומה שנאמר (שמות יב) וינצלו את מצרים ואומר (בראשית מז) וילקט יוסף את כל הכסף [ ואומר (מלכים א יד) ויהי בשנה החמישית למלך רחבעם עלה שישק מלך מצרים וגו׳ ויקח את אוצרות בית ה׳ וגו׳].

The money of Mitzraim returned to its place, as it says (Shemos 12:36), "And they emptied out Mitzraim," and it says (Bereishis 47:14), "And Yosef gathered all the money." And it says (Melachim 1:14:25-26), "And it was in the fifth year of King Rechavam, Shishak, king of Mitzraim, came up...and he took the storehouses of the House of Hashem..."

So why does Geviha answer "You owed us at least that much," rather than "You already got it back"? Is it just that he wants to use Pesukim from the Torah, and this response requires a Passuk from Nach? Or is there a reason why the response he gave was a stronger response?

  • Short answer: yes. The text itself says that he limited himself to the Torah b/c that's what their argument was based on. It also indicates that he flipped the debt accordingly onto them, such that they then needed to abandon their own property for fear of being forced to pay.
    – Loewian
    Feb 26, 2019 at 1:15

1 Answer 1


One possible answer:

In Pesachim 119a it says:

"Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: Joseph collected all the silver and gold in the world and brought it to Egypt, as it is stated: “And Joseph collected all the money found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan” (Genesis 47:14)...And when the Jewish people ascended from Egypt they took this treasure with them, as it is stated: “They despoiled [vayenatzlu] Egypt” (Exodus 12:36)...And this treasure remained in Eretz Yisrael until the time of Rehoboam, at which point Shishak, king of Egypt, came and took it from Rehoboam, as it is stated: “And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. And he took the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house; and he took away all” (I Kings 14:25–26). Zerah, king of Kush, who ruled over Egypt, later came and took it from Shishak. Asa came and took it from Zerah, king of Kush, when he defeated him in battle (II Chronicles 14) and sent it to Hadrimmon ben Tabrimmon, king of Aram (see I Kings 15). The children of Ammon came and took it from Hadrimmon ben Tabrimmon, as learned by tradition. Jehosaphat came and took it from the children of Ammon (see II Chronicles 20), and it remained in Eretz Yisrael until the reign of Ahaz. Sennacherib came and took it from Ahaz. Hezekiah came and took it from Sennacherib, and it remained in Jerusalem until the reign of Zedekiah. The Chaldeans came and took it from Zedekiah. The Persians came and took it from the Chaldeans. The Greeks came and took it from the Persians. The Romans came and took it from the Greeks, and this treasure of silver and gold still remains in Rome."

So we see that Geviha ben Pesisa couldn't say "that gold is already back in your hands" because it had long not been in the Egyptians' hands. In fact, it had been plundered three more times by the Judeans in the time of Asa, in the time of Yehoshafat and in the time of Chizkiyah, and yet also wasn't in the hands of the Jews at the time, because it had been plundered from them as well. At that point in time it was in the hands of the Greeks. And since the gold was not in the hands of the Jews, the Egyptians still owed them money.

This actually adds another layer of humor to the story, because both sides knew they couldn't simply turn to Alexander and demand the gold...

Another possibility is that the total wages of all of the people of Yisrael over hundreds of years amounted to more than the people took from the Egyptians, so even after counting out what they took from them, the Egyptians still owed them.

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