The land of Goshen (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן, ʾEreṣ Gōšen) is named in the Hebrew Bible as the place in Egypt given to the Hebrews by the pharaoh of Joseph (Book of Genesis, Genesis 45:9–10), and the land from which they later left Egypt at the time of the Exodus. It is believed to have been located in the eastern Nile Delta, lower Egypt; perhaps at or near Avaris, the seat of power of the Hyksos kings.
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In the biblical text
The land of Goshen is mentioned in the biblical books of Genesis and Exodus. In the story of Joseph, which comprises the final chapters of Genesis, the patriarch Jacob is facing famine and sends ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph, another of Jacob’s sons, is a high official in Egypt and allows his father and brothers to settle in Egypt. In Genesis 45:10, Goshen is treated as being close to Joseph, who lives at the pharaoh’s court and in Genesis 47:5 Goshen is called “the best part” of the land of Egypt. But it is also implied to be somewhat set apart from the rest of Egypt, because Joseph tells his family to present themselves to the pharaoh as keepers of livestock, “in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians.” Genesis 47:11 interchanges the “land of Rameses” with Goshen: “Joseph settled his father and his brothers and granted them a holding in the land of Egypt, in the best part of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had instructed.”
In Exodus, Jacob’s descendants, the Israelites, continue to live in Egypt and grow numerous. The name of Goshen appears only twice in Exodus, in the narration of the Plagues of Egypt, in which Goshen, as the dwelling place of the Israelites is spared the plague of flies and plague of hail that afflict the Egyptians.
Meaning of the name
If the Septuagint reading “Gesem” is correct, the word, which in its Hebrew form has no known meaning, may mean “cultivated”—comparing the Arabic root j-š-m, “to labor”. Egyptologists have suggested a connection with the Egyptian word qis, meaning “inundated land”. Because Goshen was apparently the same region, called by the Greeks the “Arabian nome,” which had its capital at Phakousa. The name represented the Egyptian Pa-qas (Brugsch, Geog., I, 298), the name of a town, with the determinative for “pouring forth”. Donald Redford, while not disputing the location of Goshen, gives a different origin for the name, deriving it from “Gasmu,” the rulers of the Bedouin Qedarites who occupied the eastern Delta from the 7th century BCE, but John Van Seters thinks this unlikely.
According to Rigveda, Goshen means ‘cowherd’ or ‘shepherd’ (संस्कृत: गां सनोति सेवयति इति गोष: Gaam Sanoti Sevayati iti Goshen), which means “one who takes care of cows”. Goshen later broke down into two words, one of which is Ghose and the other is Sen, and then from Sen itself became Soursenoi. Both these words are used in India for the people of the Yadav (Ahir) caste, which is similar to the Avaris people.
The scholars Isaac Rabinowitz, Israel Ephʿal, Jan Retsö, and David F. Graf identify the Land of Goshen with the parts of the Qedarite kingdom of “Arabia” located to the east of the Nile Delta and around Pithom, and which became known to ancient Egyptians as Gsm (𓎤𓊃𓅓𓏏𓊖) and to Jews as the ʾEreṣ Gōšen (אֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן), that is the lit. ’Land of Gešem’, after either the Qedarite king Gešem or after his dynasty.
Although the scholar John Van Seters has opposed the identification of ʾEreṣ Gōšen with the Qedarite territories in eastern Egypt based on claims that the Qedarites never ruled the region of the Wādī Ṭumīlāt, the discovery in the Wādī Ṭumīlāt region of Qedarite remains, such as a shrine to the goddess al-Lāt, makes Van Seters’s opposition to this identification untenable.
Where Was the Land of Goshen?
The land of Goshen played an important role in the history of the Israelites as the place where they lived in Egypt. Later, the name Goshen appears in accounts about the land they conquered in Canaan. What was so great about the land of Goshen that they would reuse its name?
The land of Goshen played an important role in the history of the Israelites. It was here that God allowed His people to live for hundreds of years until He decided they should move on and inhabit somewhere else. After a while, although the people of God were forced into slavery in Goshen, God was still with them. They were blessed and protected by God in the land. As long as they held on to the Lord, no harm could come to them.
Goshen, in biblical Egypt, speaks of a time when God unleashed his judgments on those who enslaved His people Israel. Pharaoh thought he could get the better of the Israelites by trying to disobey God and not letting the people go free. He tried to continue to enslave them for many more years to come. However, God had other plans, and he challenged and destroyed the schemes of the Egyptian ruler by raising Moses, who would become their deliverer.
What Do We Know About The Land of Goshen in Egypt?
Here are some things that you may not know about Goshen.
1. Goshen was given to the Israelites by the Pharaoh who ruled in Joseph’s time. God had already prepared a place for His people Israel through Joseph when He raised his servant to become Prime Minister of the land. Joseph sent word to his father that he and his household should immediately come to Egypt and dwell there. On Jacob’s arrival in the land, Joseph presented his father and brothers to Pharaoh, who told them to live in Goshen, considered one of the best dwelling places in the kingdom.
2. Goshen stands for a place of plenty and comfort. The name Goshen means a place of plenty and comfort. In addition, it symbolizes security, fertility, and prosperity. Clearly, the ruling Pharaoh in the time of Joseph dealt a fair hand to the Israelites when he told them to inhabit the land of Goshen. He intended that the people of Joseph would continuously prosper and multiply. Many years after his death, a new Pharaoh came into governance and knew nothing about the history of the people of God. This new Pharaoh made harsh decisions concerning God’s people and treated them badly. He later paid dearly for his ill actions against the Israelites.
3. Israel became a nation in the land of Goshen. Jacob arrived in Egypt with 79 people, plus himself, thus, reaching 70 souls. Throughout the years of living in the land, Israel multiplied and grew in strength to be in the millions. The leaders divided the people into tribes, with each tribe going by the name of one of the twelve sons of Jacob (Ruben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Zebulon, Issachar, Benjamin, and Joseph).
4. Goshen was where the Israelites left for the Promised Land. As God continued to deal with the heart of Pharaoh, he eventually permitted the Israelites to go serve their God in the wilderness. Israel took their leave from Egypt and Goshen in the 13th century BCE (Before Common Era). This migration was known as the Exodus. The Exodus took place just a little before the last judgment of God was delivered on Pharaoh and his army when they thought to trap Israel between the Red Sea and the large host of the Egyptian army.
Why Did Jacob’s Family Settle in the Land of Goshen?
Jacob and his family settled in the land of Goshen to escape the terrible famine that was plaguing the rest of the surrounding countries (including their home in Canaan). At the time of the famine, only Egypt had food in its barns because of Joseph’s wisdom. Jacob and his family moved to Goshen because they would have food for the remainder of the famine and their lives.
How Long Did Jacob’s Descendants Live in the Land of Goshen?
Jacob’s descendants lived in the land of Goshen for around 430 years. When the time expired, the Israelites took permanent leave and made their way to the Promised Land.
“And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years – on that very same day – it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:40-41 KJV).Advertisement
Why is There a Land of Goshen in Israel?
The land of Goshen in Egypt meant “draw near.” It was a good and fertile land, great for crop and livestock rearing. Although Pharaoh enslaved the Jews, Egypt’s Goshen was a well-loved land by the Israelites, who took the love of the land in their hearts to the Promised Land. It only, therefore, seems fair that someone should name a part of the Promised Land Goshen as a good reminder of the fertile and rich-soiled land they came from.
What Can We Learn From the Land of Goshen?
1. God never forgets us. Jacob and his family needed food during the terrible famine that hit Egypt and surrounding countries. However, God had already made provision for them in Egypt when He caused Joseph to store up plenty of grains in the storehouses. It doesn’t matter what problems we are faced with. God has already made provision for us, and in due time He will bring a positive response to our situation. He will open doors that we never thought possible. He will lead us to our place of rest and calm our troubled minds.
2. God has a Promised Land for us. God told Israel that He would bring them into their Promised Land, and in due time He caused His people to migrate to the land He promised them. Like the Israelites, we have a promised land prepared by God for us. However, unlike Israel, which possessed an earthly Promised Land, we will someday reach our heavenly Promised Land and enjoy living with the Lord Jesus for eternity.
3. We must not give up hope. While the people of Israel were in Goshen working as slaves to Pharaoh, they did not give up hope that they would be delivered one day. Instead, they cried out to the Lord for a better life, and God heard them. These are the words of the Lord: “I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows” (Exodus 3:7 KJV). Hope is the driving force that can keep us going, even in times of great adversities.
4. God has our future in His hands. Israel was not alone in Goshen; the Lord was with them all the way. We might sometimes be tempted to think that God has left us. However, like the descendants of Jacob, God will be with us in our time of trouble. He will not cast us away. We can rest assured that He is always with us. He will meet our every need and will fight our battles for us.
5. God will deliver us. Sometimes, things might happen in our lives that we can never fix ourselves, and this is when we need God most. When we turn our negative situations over to Him, He will listen to our cries and act speedily on our behalf. The Bible stories of the land of Goshen should be a reminder of God’s faithfulness to us, His people. It helps to make us know that God always has a plan for our lives and when the right time comes, He will execute and reveal His perfect will for us to follow.
Lancelot Tucker is a book author and freelance writer who writes on a vast amount of topics. In addition, he serves as an associate pastor in his hometown, Spanish Town. Lancelot loves to do research and write, and is an avid reader of other authors’ works. When not writing or reading, he spends his time reaching out to the less fortunate residing in his community.