From the last chapter of Genesis to the first chapter of Exodus, there is an approximate 350 year period that is not accounted for in the Scriptures.
In order to understand what happened during this period, we need to go to extra-biblical sources.
The purpose of this post is to fill in the blanks for this era, since the Scriptures hardly give us much detail.
Let me start by saying that for about the first half of this 350 year period (approximately 175 years), the Israelites prospered greatly.
In Goshen, which was the land allotted to them, they were very fruitful and led a peaceful and comfortable life.
Interestingly, according to new historical evidence, we now know that Joseph had a palace in a city named Avaris, which was also where many Israelites resided.
This makes sense because Joseph would naturally want to be close to his kinsmen.
Now although the Scriptures tell us that the Hebrews were shepherds, undoubtedly some of them would have decided to try their hand at different occupations.
Some would end up becoming merchants, cattle ranchers and expert farmers.
Keep in mind that since they were situated in that very area of the Middle East where many foreigners would have to pass through in order to enter Egypt, the Israelites would have rubbed shoulders with and be greatly influenced by not only Egyptian nationals but folks from many of the other nearby nations as well.
The truth is that as time passed, to a degree the Israelites assimilated quite a bit into Egyptian culture.
They learned to speak their language and even intermarried with them.
So the Israelites were coexisting quite peacefully with the Egyptians until about the halfway mark of their 350 year sojourn in Egypt.
Then a change occurred that would forever alter their lives.
A few decades before Joseph arrived in Egypt as a slave, Egypt was ruled by a people known as the Hyksos kings.
These Hyksos rulers were Semitic cousins of Israel and they had primarily achieved dominance in Lower Egypt (in the North).
Although the extent of their power fluctuated and sometimes grew to the point where they were able to gain influence in Upper Egypt (the South), they were never able to completely conquer Upper Egypt.
Again, remember that since the Nile River flows from the South to the North, Lower Egypt is in the North and Upper Egypt is in the South. (On a map, lower Egypt is in the upper part of Egypt).
So what eventually happened was that an Egyptian general from the capital of Upper Egypt, at the time a city named Thebes but now called Luxor, gathered a military force of fellow Egyptians and led a race war against the despised Semitic Hyksos kings in Lower Egypt.
And they won.
Once the Egyptians gained power, the nearly two centuries of bitterness and hatred they had been holding inside was unleashed towards the Israelites.
No doubt they recalled the time when they were forced to sell themselves into slavery to the Hebrew Joseph during the 7-year famine or starve.
And the fact that afterwards the Israelites had prospered greatly and become quite wealthy probably increased the undercurrent of already existing tension between them and the Egyptians.
So this new ruler of Egypt, who will in Exodus chapter one be described as the “Pharaoh who did not know Joseph”, took it upon himself to rid Egypt of any foreign influences that could possibly again threaten his newly reconquered nation.
At the time the Israelite population was growing at a menacing rate.
Thus, his first mission became crystal clear.
Halt this population growth and enslave these Israelites!
So this brings us to the situation of the Israelites in Exodus Chapter One.