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Israel's Enslavement

Israel's Enslavement

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Beginning of Oppression

Joseph and his brothers died, and the children of Israel multiplied in the land of Egypt. They held important positions and played an important role in the political, cultural, and economic life of the country. It is not surprising that they stirred the jealousy of the native Egyptians who felt outshone by the "foreigners."

Old King Pharaoh died, too, and a new king ascended the throne. He had no sympathy or love for the children of Israel, and chose to forget all that Joseph had done for Egypt. He decided to take action against the growing influence and numbers of the children of Israel. He called his council together, and they advised him to enslave these people and oppress them before they grew too powerful. Pharaoh limited the personal freedom of the Hebrews, put heavy taxes on them, and recruited their men into forced labor battalions under the supervision of harsh taskmasters. Thus the children of Israel had to build cities, erect monuments, construct roads, work in the quarries, and hew stones or make bricks and tiles. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, and the harder the restrictions imposed upon them became, the more the children of Israel increased and multiplied. Finally, when King Pharaoh saw that forcing the Hebrews to do hard work did not succeed in suppressing their rapidly growing numbers, he decreed that all newly born male children of the Hebrews be thrown into the Nile River. Only daughters should be permitted to live.

Thus Pharaoh hoped to end the numerical increase of the Jewish population, and at the same time to eliminate a danger which, according to the predictions of his astrologers, threatened his own life in the person of a leader to be born to the children of Israel.

The Levites

The only group of Jews that escaped enslavement was the tribe of Levi. Levi was the last of Jacob's sons to die, and his influence over his tribe was great and lasting. They had taken over the Torah academy Jacob had established in Goshen, and they instructed the children of Israel in the knowledge of G‑d and His holy teachings. Thus they were occupied with spiritual matters and did not mix with the Egyptians, while many of their brethren had given up their old customs and way of life. Except for their language, clothing, and names, many of the children of Israel had become assimilated into the social and cultural environment of their Egyptian neighbors, and they were the ones to arouse the wrath of the Egyptians. Only the children of Levi were, therefore, spared the slavery and oppression which the Egyptians imposed upon the rest of Israel.

From Our People by Jacob Isaacs published and copyrighted by Kehot Publication Society 1946-1948
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Anonymous NYS October 5, 2017

I have always heard that the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, and they built the pyramids/were forced to do hard labor. We're the women also required to perform this type of hard labor, or only the men? Reply

Robert Gibson pennsylvania February 16, 2017

Before the revelation of the law to Moses and the Ten Commandments, what was the religious practice of the Hebrews from Adam to Moses? Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org November 3, 2014

Re: evidence of the exodus With regards to your question about evidence about the exodus from Egypt, please see my comment on the article Proof of the Existence of G–d. Reply

Numbers Penrith October 2, 2014

It is recorded there were 600,000 Hebrew soldiers. This number extrapolates to around 4 million when you consider each soldier was married, he and his wife being young would still have had their parents and perhaps one grandparent each. Not to mention invalids, younger siblings, widows and priests. It's more the 4,000,000 but we'll stick with that.
The Egyptians carried out census' from time to time and it's estimated at the time of the story of the Exodus the total population in Egypt was around 3 million. Don't you think the Egyptians who kept very good records would have notice in those records that more than 50% of their population had disappeared?
There is absolutely NO records of any Exodus, apart from in religious books. There is NO record of the Egyptian economy collapsing, which is what would have happened if so many people suddenly left the country.
There are records of all the Pharaohs from Aha to Cleopatra but NOTHING there of the Hebrews.
The Exodus is a myth. Reply

Frederick November 18, 2017
in response to Numbers:

There is no record of how the Egyptians built the Pyramids...are they not there never-the -less? :-)
Actually there are records of an Egyptian collapse at this time. It is believed that a mysterious people known as the Hyksos took over Egypt during the vacuum of power.
Read the book by the archeologist David M Rohl called Pharohs and Kings, which showcases about 40 archeological discoveries that confirm the Torah account of the Exodus. Reply

Robin Riggins NC September 10, 2014

Do you have any idea how many Egyptians there were when Moses led the Children of Israel away? I'm curious because the number of the Israelites was about 600,000 men besides women and children. I wondered if the Egyptians outnumbered the Israelites. Reply

David I Queens November 11, 2013

Reason for enslavement. Read Ezekiel 20 and you will discover the best and only commentary you need to know why enslavement was necessary. The children of Jacob were serving other gods and forsaking the G-d of their fathers. Chumash hints at this when it mentions Yakov instructing his household to purge themselves of idols before returning to Beth-El. Four generations of servitude is a typical punishment for such sin. In the fourth generation they return to eretz Israel as promised, only Yehoshua and Caleb make it though. 400/7 = years of sin. 400 years were also served even though chronological years served were less. First 30 years in Egypt were bondage free. Hence, we are told 430 years. Ask me how for details. Reply

Elisha August 29, 2013

"Chose to forget..." Wait, the new pharoah CHOSE to forget all that Yaakov had done? I thought he simply didn't know all he had done.Confused.... Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary, NC October 17, 2012

Levites The name "Jews" today refers to all of Bnei Yisroel . While yes, technically, this was originally a term that refered to the tribe of of Judah, already in the Torah itself we see the term "Yehudi" being used for other tribes such - Mordechai is called Mordechai HaYehudi even though he was not from Yehuda.

More on this here:
Reply

Steve Hakes Batley, State / Province September 25, 2012

Jews were a subsection of Israel It really is painful to read that Levites were Jews! They were Israelites. The tribes divided, the North exiled, the South had tribes which became grouped under the name Jews, and after time opted to take on the wider representative name of Israel, debating whether the Northern tribes (some represented among them) would ever reunite. Moses, and most of the Israelites, weren't Jews, or even of the tribes that became Judah. It's a little like calling the ancient Picts, English. Reply

Chani Benjaminson, chabad.org April 9, 2010

Moses Moses was born in 1393 BCE (2368) and passed on in the year 1273 BCE (2488). Reply

Anonymous Sydney, Asutralia March 28, 2010

Birth of Moses I thought I will find out at around how many years BC Moses was born. This was the obvius thing to be handled in your covearge. But wan't. Please provide the year if you have and comment. thanks. Reply

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