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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Goshen (1)
Goshen (2)
Hebrew - Goshen

(goh' sshuhn) 1. The phrase, “land of Goshen,” appears in the general description of territory occupied by Joshua's forces (Joshua 10:41; Joshua 11:16). Apparently it refers to the hill country between Hebron and the Negev. Some believe the phrase refers to a country.

2. The “land of Goshen” may have been named after the city of Goshen located in the district of Debir (Joshua 15:51). Goshen may have been the chief city of the region at one time. The ancient city was either located at Tell el Dhahiriyeh, twelve miles southwest of Hebron or at a location further east.

3. Goshen is primarily recognized as an area in the northeast sector of the Nile Delta. It was occupied by the Hebrews from the time of Joseph until the Exodus.

The original meaning of the term is still debated. Some Egyptomologists suggest an association with the Egyptian word kspgr508/arposem, meaning “inundated land.” The “land of Goshen” first appears in papyrus of the Twelfth Dynasty. See Egypt. Other believe it has a Semitic origin which might indicate that settlers were in the region by 2000 B.C. or earlier. If the term is derived from the Semitic root, gosh, it probably refers to fertile land suitable for both cultivating or grazing cattle. Twice (Genesis 47:6,Genesis 47:11) Goshen is described as the “best of the land.” In the latter passage it is equated with the “land of Rameses,” which was probably identical with or near to the “field of Zoan.” See Avaris; Rameses; Tanis; Zoan. Zoan was apparently the Egyptian capital during the Hyksos period.

Goshen has been recognized by various names. (1) Goshen (Genesis 45:10; Genesis 46:34) is translated in the Septuagint “Arabian Gesem.” The change probably resulted from the translators identifying Gesem with Geshem (Nehemiah 2:19; Nehemiah 6:1-2,Nehemiah 6:6), the Arabian king who was Nehemiah's foe (see Geshem). Until recently, Goshen was believed to be Gesem in the Egyptian name of Arabia. (2) Goshen is also rendered as Heroonpolis (Genesis 46:28) in the Septuagint. Joseph met his father there. Some scholars equate Heroonpolis with the Egyptian storage city, Pithom (Exodus 1:11). See Pithom. (3) At the time of the Exodus, the Hebrews were still in Goshen (Exodus 8:22; Exodus 9:26), but began their Exodus from Rameses (Exodus 12:37; Numbers 33:3), which was a city they helped to build (Exodus 1:11). Unfortunately little is known of the region prior to Rameses II. Possibly, the Hebrews settled here with the Hyksos during Joseph's time. Undoubtedly, Goshen, “land of Rameses,” refers to the land around the city of Rameses and in the vicinity of Pithom. (4) It is generally agreed that Goshen is to be located in wadi Tumilat which stretches from the eastern arm of the Nile to the Great Bitter Lakes. Texts from the about 1250 B.C. describe how nomadic tribes moved from Edom past the Merneptah fortress in Teku to the wells of Pithom. See Merneptah. Teku is wadi Tumilat. It is approximately 35 miles long and covers 900 square miles.

Goshen is significant for biblical studies for four reasons. (1) The pharaoh assigned Goshen to Joseph's family when they entered Egypt (Genesis 47:6,Genesis 47:11). The “Hebrew Sojourn” occurred there. (2) The territory lay on a route from Palestine to Egypt. (3) It may be possible to date Joseph's entrance to Egypt with the Hyksos control of the Delta. (4) Both the two cities which the Hebrews built, Rameses and Pithom, and the Hyksos capital at Zoan are key issues for settling on a date for the Exodus.

Gary D. Baldwin

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'GOSHEN'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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