Goshen

Introduction

THIS TOPIC IS STILL IN PROGRESS

Overview

The name גֹּשֶׁן appears fifteen times in all of Tanakh. Most of these occur at the end of Bereshit and the beginning of Shemot and refer to the area in Egypt where Yaakov's sons and their descendants lived. The other three occurrences are in Sefer Yehoshua, and refer to an area and city which the Israelites conquered.

Goshen in Egypt

The first mention of Goshen is in Bereshit 45:10:

EN/HEע/E
וְיָשַׁבְתָּ בְאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן וְהָיִיתָ קָרוֹב אֵלַי אַתָּה וּבָנֶיךָ וּבְנֵי בָנֶיךָ וְצֹאנְךָ וּבְקָרְךָ וְכָל אֲשֶׁר לָךְ.
And you shall settle in the land of Goshen and you shall be close to me, you and your sons and your sons' sons and your sheep and cattle and all that is yours.

From this verse it appears that the Land of Goshen is near the capital of Egypt, since Yaakov will settle near Yosef, who presumably lived in the capital.

An additional clue to the location of Goshen is found in Bereshit 46:34:

EN/HEע/E
וַאֲמַרְתֶּם אַנְשֵׁי מִקְנֶה הָיוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ מִנְּעוּרֵינוּ וְעַד עַתָּה גַּם אֲנַחְנוּ גַּם אֲבֹתֵינוּ בַּעֲבוּר תֵּשְׁבוּ בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן כִּי תוֹעֲבַת מִצְרַיִם כָּל רֹעֵה צֹאן.
And you shall say, "your servants were shepherds from our youth till now, us and our forefathers", so you shall settle in the Land of Goshen, since shepherds are an abomination for the Egyptians.

From this verse and others,1 it sounds like the Land of Goshen is especially suitable for grazing. However, in Bereshit 47:6 we are told:

EN/HEע/E
אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְפָנֶיךָ הִוא בְּמֵיטַב הָאָרֶץ הוֹשֵׁב אֶת אָבִיךָ וְאֶת אַחֶיךָ יֵשְׁבוּ בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן וְאִם יָדַעְתָּ וְיֶשׁ בָּם אַנְשֵׁי חַיִל וְשַׂמְתָּם שָׂרֵי מִקְנֶה עַל אֲשֶׁר לִי.
The Land of Egypt is before you, in the best of the land settle your father and brothers; they shall settle in the Land of Goshen, and if you know and there is among them men of valor, then you shall appoint them overseers of my cattle.

Paroh refers to the Land of Goshen as the best of land, implying that it is well suited for farming. In addition, the term "מֵיטַב הָאָרֶץ" appears only once more, in Bereshit 47:11:

EN/HEע/E
וַיּוֹשֵׁב יוֹסֵף אֶת אָבִיו וְאֶת אֶחָיו וַיִּתֵּן לָהֶם אֲחֻזָּה בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בְּמֵיטַב הָאָרֶץ בְּאֶרֶץ רַעְמְסֵס כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה פַרְעֹה.
And Yosef settled his father and brothers, and he gave them an estate in the land of Egypt in the best of the land in the Land of Ramesses, as Paroh ordered.

The combination of these verses implies that the Land of Goshen is identical to "אֶרֶץ רַעְמְסֵס" ("the Land of Ramesses").2

Goshen in Israel

While the verses in Bereshit and Shemot appear to be describing an area in Egypt, the three verses in Yehoshua seem to be referring to a totally different place. Yehoshua 10:41 and 11:16 both mention the "Land of Goshen" ("אֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן" or "אֶרֶץ הַגֹּשֶׁן") and seem to place it in the Southern Israel:

EN/HEע/E
וַיַּכֵּם יְהוֹשֻׁעַ מִקָּדֵשׁ בַּרְנֵעַ וְעַד עַזָּה וְאֵת כָּל אֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן וְעַד גִּבְעוֹן. (יהושע י':מ"א)
וַיִּקַּח יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אֶת כָּל הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת הָהָר וְאֶת כָּל הַנֶּגֶב וְאֵת כָּל אֶרֶץ הַגֹּשֶׁן וְאֶת הַשְּׁפֵלָה וְאֶת הָעֲרָבָה וְאֶת הַר יִשְׂרָאֵל וּשְׁפֵלָתֹה. (יהושע י"א:ט"ז)
And Yehoshua smote them from Kadesh-Barnea to Azza and all of the land of Goshen and as far as Givon. (Yehoshua 10:41)
And Yehoshua took all this land, the mountain and all of the Negev, and all of the land of the Goshen, and the lowlands, and the plains, and the Mountain of Israel and its lowlands. (Yehoshua 11:16)

The third verse, Yehoshua 15:51, refers to a city in the inheritance of Yehuda:

EN/HEע/E
וְגֹשֶׁן וְחֹלֹן וְגִלֹה עָרִים אַחַת עֶשְׂרֵה וְחַצְרֵיהֶן.
And Goshen and Cholon and Gilo, eleven cities and their suburbs.

Summary

Bereshit and Shemot describe a "Land of Goshen" found in Egypt, where the Israelites settled. This land was good for grazing, considered the "best", and might be related to the Land of Ramesses. In Yehoshua we are told of a "Land of Goshen" found in Southern Israel, in the inheritance of Yehuda. Where are both of these places, and is there a relationship between them?

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