What is Unique about Goshen?
Immediately after Yosef reveals his identity and reunites with his brothers, he invites his father to come and settle in Egypt. From the very outset, Yosef seems to have his eyes set specifically on the land of Goshen, instructing his brothers to tell Yaakov to come to Goshen where they would be close to Yosef ("וְהָיִיתָ קָרוֹב אֵלַי"):
(מה:ט) מַהֲרוּ וַעֲלוּ אֶל אָבִי וַאֲמַרְתֶּם אֵלָיו כֹּה אָמַר בִּנְךָ יוֹסֵף שָׂמַנִי אֱלֹהִים לְאָדוֹן לְכׇל מִצְרָיִם רְדָה אֵלַי אַל תַּעֲמֹד. (י) וְיָשַׁבְתָּ בְאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן וְהָיִיתָ קָרוֹב אֵלַי אַתָּה וּבָנֶיךָ וּבְנֵי בָנֶיךָ וְצֹאנְךָ וּבְקָרְךָ וְכׇל אֲשֶׁר לָךְ.
(45:9) Hasten ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him: Thus saith thy son Joseph: God hath made me lord of all Egypt; come down unto me, tarry not. (10) And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast;
Later, too, he directs his brothers to tell Paroh that they are "אַנְשֵׁי מִקְנֶה" ("herdsmen") so that they might dwell in Goshen, a land which would apparently provide abundant pasture for their livestock:
(מו:לד) וַאֲמַרְתֶּם אַנְשֵׁי מִקְנֶה הָיוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ מִנְּעוּרֵינוּ וְעַד עַתָּה גַּם אֲנַחְנוּ גַּם אֲבֹתֵינוּ בַּעֲבוּר תֵּשְׁבוּ בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן כִּי תוֹעֲבַת מִצְרַיִם כׇּל רֹעֵה צֹאן.
(46:34) that ye shall say: Thy servants have been herdsmen from our youth even until now, both we, and our fathers; that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.'
What is the relationship between Yosef's statements, and why is he so convinced that Goshen is the best place for his family to live? Is Yosef prompted by a personal desire for proximity to Yaakov, or is he thinking about his family's potential for economic prosperity? Moreover, in each of the above conversations, the reasoning is given almost as an aside, making the reader wonder if either factor is what is truly driving Yosef, or if he is simply adding whatever arguments are necessary to persuade his different audiences.1 If, the latter, what is it about Goshen that Yosef finds so appealing?
Why Would Paroh Agree?
As soon as Paroh hears of Yosef's brothers' existence, he invites them to come and dwell in the best land Egypt has to offer:
(מה:יח) וּקְחוּ אֶת אֲבִיכֶם וְאֶת בָּתֵּיכֶם וּבֹאוּ אֵלָי וְאֶתְּנָה לָכֶם אֶת טוּב אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וְאִכְלוּ אֶת חֵלֶב הָאָרֶץ... (כ) וְעֵינְכֶם אַל תָּחֹס עַל כְּלֵיכֶם כִּי טוּב כׇּל אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לָכֶם הוּא.
(45:18) and take your father and your households, and come unto me; and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land... (20) Also regard not your stuff; for the good things of all the land of Egypt are yours.'
What, though, is prompting Paroh to invite and encourage a massive influx of hungry foreigners at a time when his own nation was struggling to survive a severe famine? Why would this be advantageous for him? When Paroh speaks of "the fat of the land", does he, too, have Goshen in mind, or is this simply figurative language inviting Yosef's family to partake from whatever Egypt has to offer them? Why is he not concerned that this land grant will spark resistance from his own impoverished nation, especially as they will soon need to sell their land to purchase food?
- "כִּי תוֹעֲבַת מִצְרַיִם כׇּל רֹעֵה צֹאן" – Yosef implies that the fact that the Egyptians considered shepherds to be an "abomination" would be an advantage which would help his family attain their desired parcel of land. But why should this be an incentive to honor their land request?
- Where was Goshen? Practically, how did Yosef expect to be able to give an entire region of Egyptian land to his family? Was Goshen simply an unsettled area? Alternatively, was it part of the royal estate which Paroh could bequeath to whomever he pleased?
- To settle or to sojourn? While the reader knows that the brothers' descent to Egypt marked the start of the Egyptian exile, it is not clear whether Yaakov and his sons realized this at that time. Did they move to Goshen, thinking that it was merely a temporary move until the famine ended, or were they cognizant that this was the beginning of a much more permanent exile? How might either possibility have impacted on their desire to live specifically in Goshen?
- "בְּמֵיטַב הָאָרֶץ הוֹשֵׁב אֶת אָבִיךָ וְאֶת אַחֶיךָ יֵשְׁבוּ בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן" – Paroh responds to the brothers' request by reiterating to Yosef to settle his family in the "best of the land". In Egypt, though, this term would presumably refer to high quality farming land, rather than grazing pastures of Goshen. Furthermore, what is the relationship between "בְּמֵיטַב הָאָרֶץ הוֹשֵׁב" and "יֵשְׁבוּ בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן", and what is the need for this doubling?