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GOSHEN (gō’shěn, Heb. gōshen, probably mound of earth)

The NE section of the Nile delta region is usually termed “the land of Goshen.” The Israelites under Jacob settled here while Joseph was prime minister of Egypt (Gen.46.1-Gen.46.34). The district is not large, an area of some 900 square miles (2,368 sq. km.), but because of irrigation it is considered some of the best land of Egypt, excellent for grazing and for certain types of agriculture. The district had two principal cities, both built for the pharaohs by the Hebrews. The one of greater importance had, at various times, at least three and possibly four names. Zoan, Avaris, and Tanis were certainly its names, and archaeologists do not agree as to whether it also bore the name of Rameses. Some indicate a different location for Rameses. Under the name of Avaris, it was for five hundred years the capital of the Hyksos Empire. The other city, Pithom, is particularly interesting to the student of biblical archaeology because here is found a proof of Exod.5.7-Exod.5.13. The labor overseers were told not to give the Hebrew workmen straw for making bricks, yet with no diminishing of the assigned quota. In a building at Pithom three types of bricks are found. At its foundation straw was used. After Pharaoh refused to supply straw any longer, the Hebrews desperately gathered all bits of straw and stubble they could find, and such bricks are found higher in the building. It was completed with bricks devoid of straw, as the uppermost bricks indicate.A district of south Palestine, lying between Gaza and Gibeon, its name probably given in remembrance of Egypt (Josh.10.41).A town mentioned with Debir, Socoh, and others, in the SW part of the mountains of Judah (Josh.15.51).——BPD

GOSHEN gō’ shən (גֹּ֔שֶׁן; LXX Γεσεμ, (Gen), Γοσομ, (Josh); meaning uncertain).

Goshen in Egypt.

Raamses has been located at either Tanis (Zoan) or near modern Qantir (more likely; see Raamses). As Pithom is indubitably to be located in Wadi Tumilat in the SE Delta (see Pithom), Goshen can readily be placed in the territory between Saft el Henneh in the S (at W end of Wadi Tumilat) and Qantir and El Salhieh in the N and NE. It could hardly be still further extended up to Tanis.

This suggested extent would allow Joseph to meet his family in the northern part of Goshen, if they came in by the El-’Arish route via Qantara toward Qantir; they would perhaps meet Joseph near El Salhieh. A series of discoveries by Egyp. scholars in the E Delta makes it highly probable that a royal residence existed in the 10th and 12th-13th and Hyksos dynasties (including the “Hyksos” town of Avaris) in the same region favored centuries later by Ramses II for his Delta residence of Raamses. Attested by temples and a palace, this residence was the administrative center for the E Delta and Palestinian affairs.

The LXX tradition calls Goshen “Gesem of Arabia,” this “Arabia” being an epithet of the 20th Lower Egyp. nome (province), prob. extending from Faqus to Saft el Henneh. It is not quite certain whether the Egypt. inscrs. actually offer an equivalent for Heb. Goshen. One toponym in Egyp. is so written that it could be read either S̆smt or Gsmt. Brugsch and Naville accepted the reading Gsmt and equated this with Goshen/Gesem. Gardiner preferred to maintain the sole reading S̆smt, keeping it identical with a known place name. Both Montet and van Seters have revived the reading Gsmt and its identification with Goshen. A final verdict is not yet possible, but either way, the topography is not affected.

The role of Goshen as a cattle-raising area fits well into the conditions of the Egyp. Delta, with its bull cults (Otto, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Stierkulte in Aegypten [1938], 6-9, 32, 33) and prominent animal-husbandry (Kees, Ägypten [1933], 10). In the late Hyksos period, the Theban princes even sent their cattle to pasture in the Hyksos-controlled Delta (JEA, III [1916], 103). Under Ramses III, Papyrus Harris I has cattle of the god Amun pastured by the Waters of Ra in the very region of Biblical Goshen, alongside other districts (Gardiner, Ancient Egyptian Onamastica, II [1947], 167*).

In Palestine.

Joshua 10:40, 41 records Joshua’s campaigns over the hill country, southland (Negeb), lowlands (Shephelah) and slopes (Ashedoth) of W Pal., specifying the area from Kadesh-Barnea to Gaza and “all the country of Goshen, as far as Gibeon”; Joshua 11:16 also mentions Goshen as an area. This “land of Goshen” is perhaps named after the town of Goshen in the hill country assigned to Judah (Josh 15:51), either at Tell el Dhahiriyeh (so, Abel) 12 m. SW of Hebron, or somewhat further E (so GTT, sections 285-287, 497).


On Egyp. Goshen, cf. E. Naville, Goshen and the Shrine of Saft el Henneh (1885); A. H. Gardiner, JEA, V (1918), 218-223; Naville and Gardiner, JEA, X (1924), 28-32 and 94, 95; J. van Seters, The Hyksos (1966), 146, 148 and references.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(goshen; Gesem):

1. Meaning of Name:

The region where the Hebrews dwelt in Egypt. If the Septuagint reading Gesem be correct, the word, which in its Hebrew form has no known meaning, may mean "cultivated"--comparing the Arabic root jashima, "to labor." Egyptologists have suggested a connection with the Egyptian word qas, meaning "inundated land" because Goshen was apparently the same region, called by the Greeks the "Arabian nome," which had its capital at Phakousa representing the Egyptian Pa-qas (Brugsch, Geog., I, 298), the name of a town, with the determinative for "pouring forth." Van der Hardt, indeed, more than a century ago (see Sayce, Higher Criticism, 235), supposed the two words to be connected. Dr. Naville in 1887 found the word as denoting the vicinity of Pi-sopt (now Saft el Henneh), 6 miles East of Zagazig--in the form Q-s-m. He concludes that this was the site of Phakousa, but the latter is usually placed at Tell el Faqus, about 15 miles South of ZOAN (which see), and this appears to be the situation of the "City of Arabia" which Silvia, about 385 AD, identifies with Gesse or Goshen; for she reached it in her journey from Heroopolis, through Goshen to Tathnis or Taphnis (Daphnai), and to Pelusium.

2. Situation:

3. Description:

The region thus very clearly indicated was not of any great extent, having an area of only about 900 square miles, including two very different districts. The western half, immediately East of the Bubastic branch of the Nile, stretches from Zoan to Bubastis (at both of which cities records of the Hyksos ruler Apepi have been found), or a distance of about 35 miles North and South. This region is an irrigated plain which is still considered to include some of the best land in Egypt. The description of the land of Rameses (see Raamses), in the 14th century BC, shows its fertility; and Silvia says that the land of Goshen was 16 miles from Heroopolis, and that she traveled for two days in it "through vineyards, and balsam plantations, and orchards, and tilled fields, and gardens." The region narrows from about 15 miles near the seashore to about 10 miles between Zagazig and Tell el Kebir on the Southeast of this, a sandy and gravelly desert lies between the Nile plain and the Suez Canal, broadening southward from near Daphnai (Tell Defeneh) to Wady Tumeilat, where it is 40 miles across East and West. South of this valley an equally waterless desert stretches to Suez, and from the Bitter Lakes on the East to the vicinity of Heliopolis (Southeast of Cairo) on the West. Thus, Wady Tumeilat, which is fertilized by the Nile waters (see Pi-hahiroth), and contains villages and corn fields, is the only natural route for a people driving with their flocks and herds by which the vicinity of the Red Sea can be reached, the road leading from the South end of the "field of Zoan" near Bubastis, and 40 miles eastward to the "edge of the wilderness" (see Etham) and the head of the Bitter Lakes. This physical conformation is important in relation to the route of the Israelites (see Exodus); and Wady Tumeilat may very possibly be intended to be included in Goshen, as the Septuagint translators supposed.


(1) Mentioned as a country (’erets) in the South of Judah distinct from the "hill country," the Negeb and the Shephelah (Jos 10:41; 11:16). Unidentified.

(2) A town in the Southwest part of the hill country of Judah (Jos 15:51), very probably connected in some way with the district (1).

(3) See preceding article.