The Land of Goshen
: ) is a place-name
mentioned in the biblical
story of Joseph
. The Septuagint
renders the name as
), and Artapanus
Alexandria as Kessan
Goshen/Gesem is just a few kilometers south
of the ancient capital of Avaris (Egyptian: Hatwaret), where the
later city of Pi-Rameses was built.
12th dynasty of Egypt, a major administrative centre was located
called Avaris which later
became the capital of the Asiatic 14th and 15th Dynasties of
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 Memphis.
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
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
Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of
Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the
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
his father Thutmose III
. Ahmose I
have been suggested by a
smaller minority of scholars.
The archaic colloquial
Land o' Goshen!
is a reference to the biblical Land of
- K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament,
William B. Eerdsman Publishing Co, p.261.
- Kitchen, op. cit., p.261.
- Kitchen, op.cit., plate XXXIII, p.635.
- 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.