The Sojourn and Slavery in Egypt, 1500-1300 BCE


After the reunification of Joseph with his brothers and his father Jacob, the story of the Israelite people takes a dramatic turn. A new pharaoh “who knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1-8) comes to power who oppresses the Israelites and eventually forces a confrontation that will result in a daring escape from Egypt and the formation of a people forged during a 40-year wandering in the desert. This story of enslavement, the dash to freedom and the eventual entry into the Promised Land dominates the Books of Exodus through Deuteronomy.

The Bible conveys all this in vivid detail- The new pharaoh sets ever harsher quotas on the Israelites for their production of mudbrick; he forces them to find their own straw for the mudbricks that they must manufacture; and finally orders that all newborn Israelite boys be killed.

The most famous of those newborns is Moses, whose mother places him in a basket and sets him afloat on the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter discovers the child and by a wonderful stroke orders his mother to be the child’s wetnurse. Moses grows up as a prince in Pharaoh’s house, but later witnesses an Egyptian abusing an Israelite. In his anger, Moses kills the Egyptian and flees into the desert. There he comes across another case of injustice when shepherds maltreat a group of women waiting to use a well. He marries one of the women, a daughter of a Midianite priest named Jethro.


Excerpted from Biblical History: From Abraham to Moses, c. 1850-1200 BCE, Steven Feldman, COJS





  1. The Amarna Project
  2. Ancient Egypt – for elementary school students and their teachers. Click here for more Educational Resources for Teachers.


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