The Israelites Enter Rameses
The people of Israel, while escaping a great famine in their own land, took up residence in Egypt under extremely favorable circumstances. One of their own, Joseph (see Coat Of Many Colors), was, in effect, the Pharaoh's prime minister. It was Joseph, who was answerable only to the Pharaoh himself, that did the actual day-to-day running of the entire country (Genesis 41:41-44).
"Pharaoh said to his brothers, "What is your occupation?"
"And they said to Pharaoh, "Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were." They said to Pharaoh, "We have come to sojourn in the land; for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan; and now, we pray you, let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen."
"Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land; let them dwell in the land of Goshen; and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my cattle."
"Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh."
"And Pharaoh said to Jacob, "How many are the days of the years of your life?" And Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my sojourning are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning." And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh."
"Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded." (Genesis 47:1-11 RSV)
Unlike their ancestors who entered Egypt in the time of Joseph, later generations of Israelites found themselves oppressed and forced into slavery, in the fields, and constructing cities for the Pharaoh.
"Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens; and they built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they made the people of Israel serve with rigor, 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 made them serve with rigor." (Exodus 1:8-14 RSV)
The Israelites' Exodus From Rameses
When the appointed time came, as promised beforehand by God to Jacob before they ever went there (Genesis 46:3-4), the people of Israel were taken out of Egypt:
"And the Egyptians were urgent with the people, to send them out of the land in haste; for they said, "We are all dead men" [see The Ten Plagues]. So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their mantles on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked of the Egyptians jewelry of silver and of gold, and clothing; and The Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they despoiled the Egyptians."
"And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very many cattle, both flocks and herds. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any provisions." (Exodus 12:31-39 RSV)
Fact Finder: How many years were the Israelites in the land of Rameses before the Exodus?