Before we begin reading the first chapter of Exodus, there are three stereotypes I think we all hold about ancient Egypt that I would like to correct and have tossed into the waste bins of our minds.
First, as slaves, the Israelites were NOT normally treated in a brutal manner
To our way of thinking, the very word “slavery” instantly brings up extreme negative connotations.
Due to what we’ve been taught about the history of slavery in America, we carry these images of hundreds of black Africans being forcibly separated from their families, rounded up on a ship and squeezed like animals into cramped quarters.
We’ve all heard the stories of how they were whipped, tortured and died on their journey to the new world.
However, with regards to the Israelites, the historical evidence shows that minus their last few years in Egypt, they were treated very well.
The Egyptian people were not by nature cruel and primitive.
Quite the contrary, they were actually a very sophisticated and highly educated group of people who also had the wisdom to know that a decently treated slave is a more productive slave.
Even after the Israelites were freed from their slavery, there’s a reason why some of them wanted to return to Egypt.
It’s because they were treated quite well.
Second, ancient Egypt bears zero resemblance to the backward and poor Egypt of today
The simple truth of the matter is that the greatness of ancient Egypt at its peak has yet to be surpassed to this day.
They were like the USA in our modern age.
In terms of science and the arts, they were a world-class society and the civil engineering and architectural feats they accomplished during their time have no peer.
Don’t forget that at this time not only was Egypt the breadbasket of the entire world but they were looked up to as one of the proudest and most sophisticated societies of art, beauty and technological ingenuity.
Third, the Israelites did NOT build pyramids.
Contrary to what we’ve seen in the movies, by the time Jacob arrived in Egypt, the pyramid building era was finished.
So it’s not true that the Israelites were placed under rollers and used as human lubricant for the 30-ton stone building blocks.
Instead, they made mud bricks, dug and restored waterways and canals, and worked in the construction of cities.
The Hebrews are most known for building the two great towns of Pithom and Raamses in Goshen, the area where they originally resided.
These two towns were known as “stores-cities”, which meant that they were regional supply and distribution centers.
These cities served as ports for the import/export delivery of food and other goods for both the civilian population and the Egyptian army.
Strategically speaking, Goshen was a very good location because crops were abundant in that area and it was located near the eastern border.