Jews


Jews
    According to Biblical tradition, *Joseph, sold into slavery and sent down to Egypt, eventually gained status and wealth and brought his family (the tribe of Israel) to his new homeland. Centuries later, their descendants became part of the workforce persecuted by the Ramesside pharaohs and they were ultimately led out of Egypt by *Moses and established themselves in the Land of Israel.
    Although there is no mention of these events in any Egyptian inscriptions which have as yet come to light, there is information which relates to the lives of Jews resident in Egypt at a later period. The discovery of a large collection of Aramaic papyri at Elephantine has shown that a sizeable Jewish community was present there during the *Persian period. At this time, Elephantine had become a large garrison colony and the Jews were part of the influx of foreigners who had now settled in Egypt. On this island they lived in proximity to the priests of the Egyptian ram-headed god Khnum and, from the papyri, it is evident that the temple to Yahweh which the Jews had been allowed to build at Elephantine, was burnt to the ground. They then petitioned the Persian governor of Judah to allow the temple to be rebuilt, and eventually, after considerable delay, it was restored.
    Relations between the Egyptians and the Jews in later times are chronicled in the Bible. Sometimes there were conflicts, as when the Egyptian king 'Shishak' (probably a Twenty-second Dynasty pharaoh) attacked Jerusalem and removed the treasure, but on other occasions, the Pharaohs responded to appeals and protected the Jewish rulers against new and expansionist powers in the Near East, such as *Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon.
BIBL. Redford, D.B. A study of the Biblical story of Joseph Genesis 37-50. Leiden: 1970; Kitchen, K.A. Ancient Orient and Old Testament. London: 1966, pp. 57 ff. 156 ff; Gordon, C.E. The religion of the Jews of Elephantine in the light of the Hermopolis papyri. JNES 28 (1969) pp. 116 ff; Kraeling, E.G. The Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri. New Haven: 1953.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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