Land of Goshen

30°52′20″N 31°28′39″E / 30.87222°N 31.47750°E / 30.87222; 31.47750

The land of Goshen (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן, ʾEreṣ Gōšen) is named in the Hebrew Bible as the place in Egypt given to the Hebrews by the pharaoh of Joseph (Book of Genesis, Genesis 45:9–10), and the land from which they later left Egypt at the time of the Exodus. It is believed to have been located in the eastern Nile Delta, lower Egypt; perhaps at or near Avaris, the seat of power of the Hyksos kings.

Aerial map showing the extent of Goshen

In the biblical textEdit

The land of Goshen is mentioned in the biblical books of Genesis and Exodus. In the story of Joseph, which comprises the final chapters of Genesis, the patriarch Jacob is facing famine and sends ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain.[1] Joseph, another of Jacob's sons, is a high official in Egypt and allows his father and brothers to settle in Egypt.[2] In Genesis 45:10, Goshen is treated as being close to Joseph, who lives at the pharaoh's court[3] and in Genesis 47:5 Goshen is called "the best part" of the land of Egypt.[4] But it is also implied to be somewhat set apart from the rest of Egypt,[5] because Joseph tells his family to present themselves to the pharaoh as keepers of livestock, "in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians."[6] Genesis 47:11 interchanges the "land of Rameses" with Goshen: "Joseph settled his father and his brothers and granted them a holding in the land of Egypt, in the best part of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had instructed."[7]

In Exodus, Jacob's descendants, the Israelites, continue to live in Egypt and grow numerous.[8] The name of Goshen appears only twice in Exodus, in the narration of the Plagues of Egypt, in which Goshen, as the dwelling place of the Israelites is spared the plague of flies and plague of hail that afflict the Egyptians.[9]

Meaning of the nameEdit

If the Septuagint reading "Gesem" is correct, the word, which in its Hebrew form has no known meaning, may mean "cultivated"—comparing the Arabic root j-š-m, "to labor".[citation needed] Egyptologists have suggested a connection with the Egyptian word qis, meaning "inundated land".[citation needed] Because Goshen was apparently the same region, called by the Greeks the "Arabian nome," which had its capital at Phakousa. The name represented the Egyptian Pa-qas (Brugsch, Geog., I, 298), the name of a town, with the determinative for "pouring forth".[10] Donald Redford, while not disputing the location of Goshen, gives a different origin for the name, deriving it from "Gasmu," the rulers of the Bedouin Qedarites who occupied the eastern Delta from the 7th century BCE, but John Van Seters thinks this unlikely.[11]

According to Rigveda, Goshen means 'cowherd' or 'shepherd' (संस्कृत: गां सनोति सेवयति इति गोष: Gaam Sanoti Sevayati iti Goshen), which means "one who takes care of cows". Goshen later broke down into two words, one of which is Ghose and the other is Sen, and then from Sen itself became Soursenoi. Both these words are used in India for the people of the Yadav (Ahir) caste, which is similar to the Avaris people.[12][13][14]


Locations of Pithom, Raamses and On (Heliopolis) in northern Egypt

The scholars Isaac Rabinowitz, Israel Ephʿal, Jan Retsö, and David F. Graf identify the Land of Goshen with the parts of the Qedarite kingdom of "Arabia" located to the east of the Nile Delta and around Pithom, and which became known to ancient Egyptians as Gsm (𓎤𓊃𓅓𓏏𓊖)[11] and to Jews as the ʾEreṣ Gōšen (אֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן), that is the lit.'Land of Gešem',[15] after either the Qedarite king Gešem[16][17] or after his dynasty.[17]

Although the scholar John Van Seters has opposed the identification of ʾEreṣ Gōšen with the Qedarite territories in eastern Egypt based on claims that the Qedarites never ruled the region of the Wādī Ṭumīlāt,[11] the discovery in the Wādī Ṭumīlāt region of Qedarite remains, such as a shrine to the goddess al-Lāt, makes Van Seters's opposition to this identification untenable.[18][17][19][15]


  1. ^ Genesis 42
  2. ^ Genesis 45
  3. ^ Bietak 2015, p. 26.
  4. ^ Genesis 47:5
  5. ^ Van Seters 2004, p. 384.
  6. ^ Genesis 46:34
  7. ^ Genesis 47:11
  8. ^ Exodus 1:7
  9. ^ Grabbe 2014, p. 43.
  10. ^ " - Dictionary - Goshen". 2012-10-08.
  11. ^ a b c Van Seters 2001, pp. 267–269.
  12. ^ (Earl Of), Alexander William Crawford Lindsay Crawford (1839). Letters on Egypt, Edom, and the Holy Land - Page 57. National Library of Israel. If this needed confirmation, we should find it in the testimony borne by the Hindoo records, that a branch of the great Pali, or shepherd race of India, whose sway extended from their far-famed capital, Pali-bothra, to Siam on the east, and the Indus on the west, the in- termediate country bearing the same name Palisthan, or Palestine, afterwards imposed on the land of Canaan -conquered Egypt, and oppressed the Egyptians, in the same manner as the Egyptian records tell us the royal shepherds did. Nor is it less remarkable that while Abaris, or Avaris, the stronghold of the Auritæ or royal shepherds, in the land of Goshen, derives its name from Abhir, (2) the Sanscrit word for a shepherd... Goshena, or Goshayana, in the same language, implies "the abode of shepherds," and gosha is explained in Sanscrit dictionaries by the phrase Abhirpalli, "a town or village of Abhiras or Pallis."
  13. ^ Sharma, Dr. Ganga Sahai (2013-07-11). Rigved Hindi Indology (in Hindi). Vishv Books Private Limited. ISBN 9789350652237.
  14. ^ bhuvaneswaran, c. "On Egypt and Other Countries, Adjacent To The Cali River, or Nile of Ethiopia". Scribe Research. Retrieved 2023-04-14. Cowherd, is explained in Sancrit ditionaries by the phrae Abhi rapalli, a town or village of Abhiras or Pallis
  15. ^ a b Retsö 2013, pp. 300–301.
  16. ^ Retsö 2013, pp. 250–251.
  17. ^ a b c Ephʿal 1984, pp. 210–214.
  18. ^ Rabinowitz 1956.
  19. ^ Graf 1997, p. 223.

Works citedEdit