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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Go´shen, a province or district of Egypt in which Jacob and his family settled through the instrumentality of his son Joseph, and in which they and their descendants remained for a period of 430 years (;;;;; ). The Bible does not present any definite information as to the precise locality of Goshen, and of course later authorities possess only an inferior value. There are, however, incidental expressions, allusions, and implications in the Scriptures, which afford aid in determining the spot. That Goshen lay on the eastern side of the Nile may be justifiably inferred from the fact that Jacob is not reported to have crossed that river; nor does it appear that the Israelites did so in their flight out of Egypt. With this inference all the language employed (see the passages as given above), to say the least, agrees, if it does not afford an indirect evidence in its favor. By comparing and the Septuagint translation of (which calls Goshen, Goshen near Arabia), it appears that Goshen bordered on Arabia as well as Palestine, and the passage of the Israelites out of Egypt shows that the land was not far removed from the Red Sea. It appears probable that we may fix the locality of Goshen in Lower Egypt, on the east side of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, in the district around Hierapolis.

This district was suitable for a nomadic people, who would have been misplaced in the narrow limits of the valley of the Nile. Children of the desert, or at least used as they were to wander freely from one fertile plain to another with their flocks and herds, the sons of Jacob required a spot where the advantages of an advanced civilization could be united with unrestricted freedom, and abundance be secured without the forfeiture of early and cherished habits. The several opinions entertained on this point substantially agree in referring Goshen to the country intervening between the desert of Arabia and Palestine on the one side, and the Pelusiac arm of the Nile on the other, with the Mediterranean at the base. The district assigned to Jacob and his family was chosen for its superiority (), 'In the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell, in the land of Goshen let them dwell;' and the subsequent increase of the Israelites themselves, as well as the multiplication of their cattle, shows that the territory was one of extraordinary fertility. Time and circumstances have doubtless had their effect on the fertility of country in which the desert is ever ready to make encroachments as soon as the repelling hand of man is relaxed or withdrawn. But Laborde represents the vicinity of Heliopolis as still covered with palm-trees, and as having an enclosure, comprehending a considerable space of ground, which is covered every year by the inundation of the Nile to the height of five feet. We are not, however, to expect evidences of luxuriant fertility. The country was chosen for its pre-eminent fitness for shepherds. If a nomadic tribe had wide space and good pasture-grounds, they would have 'the best (for themselves) of the land,' and these advantages the district in which we have placed Goshen abundantly supplied in ancient times, when the waters of the Nile were more liberally dispensed than at present to the eastern side of the country. Nothing is needed but water to make the desert fertile. 'The water of the Nile soaks through the earth for some distance under the sandy tract (the neighborhood of Heliopolis), and is everywhere found on digging wells eighteen or twenty feet deep. Such wells are very frequent in parts which the inundation does not reach. The water is raised from them by wheels turned by oxen and applied to the irrigation of the fields. Whenever this takes place the desert is turned into a fruitful field. In passing to Heliopolis we saw several such fields in the different stages of being reclaimed from the desert; some just laid out, others already fertile. In returning by another way more eastward, we passed a succession of beautiful plantations wholly dependent on this mode of irrigation' (Robinson's Palestine, vol. 1, p. 36).





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Goshen'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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