Why Did God Enslave the Israelites in Egypt?

The Torah readings this month are the story of Joseph, and as I am reading them, I am wondering why God decided, all the way back when he first spoke to Abraham, that he would enslave Abraham’s descendants for some 20 generations.

Has this question ever crossed your mind, as well?

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I can’t answer this question, definitively, because God doesn’t tell us why. But, I can tell you why I think he doesn’t.

Anyone with any government (especially military) background should be familiar with the three different requirements you need to have to know confidential things:

  1. You have to have that level of clearance (such as Confidential or Top Secret);
  2. You have to have access to that information; and
  3. You have to have a need to know.

With regard to why God does things, when we have the indwelling Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit), we have a Top Secret Clearance. God gave us his word in the Bible, which gives us access to the information.

But as far as the need to know, well…God gives that out as he sees fit, on a case-by-case basis. That is why some people have such great insight into the word of God, and can interpret what is written in the Bible in a way that few others are able to do.

But, as far as why God enslaved the Jews, well…that’s seems to be a need to know thing, and we ain’t got the need to know.

However, I do have my own idea why, so let me share it with you and see what you think.

First off, we are talking about some 70 people at the time Jacob moved his household to Goshen. Not exactly as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore, so God knew he needed time to let them do the first thing he told all humans to do- be fruitful and multiply.

Next, because of the number of pagan and polytheistic religions surrounding the children of Israel when they were in Canaan, their influence would be a significant detriment to these young and impressionable Israelites. Just think about Solomon: here was the wisest king ever, truly a God-fearing man, but when he married women of other religions, for political reasons, the women he married influenced him so much that even he backslid and worshipped their gods.

So, I believe God sent the Israelites into Goshen to isolate them from the influences of the surrounding religions in order that they may grow into a spiritually strong nation. Goshen was not close to where the Pharaoh and the majority of the Egyptian people were, and as shepards, the Egyptians wouldn’t have wanted to interact with the Israelites, anyway. That is evident when we read about how Joseph told his brothers to tell Pharaoh that sheparding was their occupation (Genesis 46:34).

Another thing that God planned perfectly, as usual, was to have them move there when the time was right, what with Joey being the Numero Dos man in the country. This would ensure that, at least during the Pharaoh’s lifetime, they would be treated kindly.

Of course, all that changed in a relatively short time.

Up to now, God did not enslave his people, but with the new Pharaoh, God had the people enslaved so that as things got worse, God was ensuring they not only remained isolated from the Egyptians and their religion, but because they were now slaves they did not have the opportunity to leave Egypt and return to Canaan, where they would, again, be surrounded by pagans who might turn them aside from God.

Remember, there was no Torah then, no defined set of rules for worship, so these Israelites needed to remain true to what their fathers would be teaching them. The best way to do that was to keep them exactly where they were until they grew strong enough to remain unaffected by their neighbors.

When they had become a strong nation, numbering well over a million men, women, and children (not to mention their animals), God knew it was time for them to go back to the land he promised them.

Unfortunately, we learn later on that despite all God did to protect them from being spiritually polluted, it wasn’t completely effective.

But that, my friends, is another story.

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That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Comments welcomed (just be nice)