Asked in Old Testament
How were Hebrew slaves treated in Egypt?
April 04, 2016 5:11PM
The Israelites (Hebrews) at first enjoyed a prosperous period in Egypt (Genesis 47:27), since the Egyptians were grateful to Joseph (a leading Israelite) for having enabled them to survive a famine (Genesis ch.41).Later, the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians (Exodus ch.1), with backbreaking labor and cruel decrees (ibid). By the time of the Exodus, many of the Israelites had given up hope (Exodus ch.6).
The Israelites were not treated very well by the Eygytians as they were being harshly oppressed.
You can look at what they were given and had and might get a bit confused, but contrary to now popular belief, especially amongst those who ancestors weren't slaves, to be a slave does not mean you are treated well just because you are provided with housing and certain, but usually small, means to get by day to day.
A more recent comparison can be slavery in the US; slaves had food and weren't always whipped to death and were provided with places to live, but now many spin that into, they must have had a darling time and enjoyed being held captive against their will; that is, being slaves.
Slaves are still seen a property, so while they are seen as inferior, and when they "act out" their slaves owners don't mind killing some here and there, they still want them to be taken care of to a degree so they can benefit from their labors; if they aren't taken care of to actually do the job they are forced to do, then the slave owners will be left with no choice but doing it for themselves, and many know, they weren't keen on letting that happen.
Exodus 1:11 Therefore they (Egyptians)set taskmasters over them (Israelites) to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses.
Exodus 1:12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel.
Exodus 1:13 So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor.
Exodus 1:14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage-in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.
According to the Book of Exodus, the Israelite slaves must have
been treated remarkably well by the Egyptians: they had their own
cattle and houses of such quality that the angel would not know who
was a Jew or who was an Egyptian, had the Jews not marked their
doors. Elsewhere, the Bible says the Hebrew slaves were treated
The reason for the confusion as to the treatments of the Israelites is that the story is not at all factual. According to most scholars, the Israelite population actually originated among the Canaanites, and were never enslaved in Egypt, so was never treated well or badly in Egypt. The legend of the Exodus developed much later, after the Hebrew people had long forgotten their real origins.