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The Land of Goshen (Hebrew: גֹּשֶׁן (Gōšen), Tiberian: ) is a place-name mentioned in the biblical story of Joseph. The Septuagint renders the name as Gesan (Gremjkek: γεσαν, ), and Artapanus in Alexandria as Kessan .

Goshen/Gesem is just a few kilometers south of the ancient capital of Avarismarker (Egyptian: Hatwaret), where the later city of Pi-Ramesesmarker was built.

In the 12th dynasty of Egypt, a major administrative centre was located called Avarismarker which later became the capital of the Asiatic 14th and 15th Dynasties of Egypt. It was there that Joseph had his house, and where he was laid to rest. From Genesis 45:10, Goshen appears to have been a part of Egypt near the palace of Joseph's Pharaoh, in the Nile Delta, who resided part of the year at Memphismarker. Kenneth Kitchen writes that Joseph's family were assigned the land in Goshen/later called Rameses by Pharaoh (Gen. 47:6,11). Kitchen concludes that since "Rameses and Raamses are identical terms, Goshen may have included terrain near Ro-waty and Avaris, the Middle Kingdom and Hyksos precursors of Pi-Ramesse" and parts "of Wadi Tulaimat (where the Hebrews worked on Pithom)." Avaris was located on the Bubastite or Eastern Pelusiac branch of the Nile River close to Canaan.

According to Genesis 46:31–34:
Then Joseph said to his brothers and his father's household, "I will go up and speak to Pharaoh and will say to him, 'My brothers and my father's household, who were living in the land of Canaan, have come to me.
The men are Shepherds; they tend livestock, and they have brought along their flocks and herds and everything they own.'
When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, 'What is your occupation?' you should answer, 'Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.'
Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians."

Joseph was the chief minister for one or more Pharaohs whose identity has not been established with any certainty. The Oxford History of the Biblical World notes that there is a general lack of specific Biblical references to sites in Egypt—with the sole exception of the cities of Pithom and Raamses—while none of the Egyptian Pharaohs who dealt with Joseph, Jacob, the "sons of Israel", the Pharaoh who did not know Joseph nor the Pharaoh of the Exodus "are [ever] identified by name.".

Traditionally, the Israelites lived there at Goshen in peace for 400 years, until a new king arose over Egypt, who "did not know Joseph" (Exodus 1:8) and reduced them to slavery. The Israelite sojourn in Egypt is said to have lasted 400 years according to a literal interpretation of the Exodus text (the majority view); however, a dissenting interpretation which does not consider the Bible's figures to be reliable usually argues for only 210 years.

The identity of the Pharaoh of the Exodus is likewise uncertain. The "Late Date" position, which is most popular, is that it was either Ramses II or his successor Merneptah. The Early Date supporters argue for Amenhotep II or his father Thutmose III. Ahmose I (in The Exodus Decoded), Horemheb or Ramesses I have been suggested by a smaller minority of scholars.

The archaic colloquial exclamation Land o' Goshen! is a reference to the biblical Land of Goshen.


  1. K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, William B. Eerdsman Publishing Co, p.261.
  2. Kitchen, op. cit., p.261.
  3. Kitchen, op.cit., plate XXXIII, p.635.
  4. Carol Redmount, "Bitter Lives: Israel in and out of Egypt" in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, ed: Michael D. Coogan, (Oxford University Press: 1999), paperback, p.97.

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