Bondage in Egypt

Slaves making mud bricksLittle direct evidence is available for the Israelites being enslaved by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, but there is a wealth of what we might call circumstantial evidence.  The Biblical account contains general background information about Egypt during the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties of the Pharaohs, when Israel were enslaved. One well know part of the record describes the conditions of the slaves and the type of work they were required to do.  The Book of Exodus records that they built cities where grain was stored and made bricks from a mixture of mud and straw.

“Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses… So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.” (Exodus 1:11–14, ESV)

“The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves.” (Exodus 5:6–7, ESV)

The illustration above is from the tomb of Rekh-Mi-Re, a vizier, at Thebes, ca. 1470-1445 B.C (Bible and Spade 2003).  This is just the right era for the Israelites’ bondage in Egypt and it shows both Semitic and Nubian slaves working on making mud bricks and other building and farming work.

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