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Ancient Egypt

How did the Israelites become slaves in Egypt?

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April 11, 2014 7:06PM

Famine in the Land of Canaan (previous name of Land of Israel) forced inhabitants to find food. Joseph, the son of Jacob, had been sold by his brothers and ended up in Egypt, where, through a series of spectacular events, he becoming second in command to Pharoah. When his brothers came from Canaan for food, Joseph instructed them to bring their father and settle in Egypt. Jacob and his family moved to Egypt and their help was soon requested in building two cities for Pharoah, Pitom and Ramsees. Initially, they were paid for their services, but with the death of all of the 12 sons of Jacob (Levi died last) the employment relationship slowly shifted into one of servitude. Because the tribe of Levi hadn't been involved in the employment relationship, they were not subjected to work, despite what popular film may show.

While the actual implementation of the slavery may have been gradual, the biblical record indicates that a new Pharaoh came to the throne who 'knew not Joseph' (or didn't want to know) and so enslaved the Israelites. The thinking and process is described in the first chapter of Exodus. It must be remembered that Moses was brought up in the household of Pharaoh for 40 years and so would have been quite familiar with how they thought or regarded the Israelites.

Exodus 1:8-14 (King James Version)

8Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.

9And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:

10Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.

11Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.

12But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.

13And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour:

14And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.