As I woke the morning after writing the article, American Idol, the Spirit whispered to me, “Don’t forget Goshen.” I had focused primarily on the ten plagues as judgments against Egypt’s gods and the implications of that for today. The Lord was reminding me there was more to the story.
Goshen was a region in Egypt of approximately 900 square miles, inhabited by the Israelis during the time of Joseph and during the years of their captivity. It is generally agreed that Goshen was the region East of the Bubastic branch of the Nile and northwest of the Red Sea. It is identified in Psalms 78:12, 43, as the “field of Zoan.”
During the time of the plagues, Goshen was a protected haven for God’s people.
“But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people” (Ex. 8:22-23).
So, what does Goshen represent?
INTIMACY WITH THE FATHER
Joseph sent this message to his father, Jacob – “Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me” (Gen. 45:9-10). When Jacob arrived in Goshen, Joseph met him there and “threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time” (Gen. 46:29). In Goshen disconnected children are reunited with their father in a lasting, intimate relationship.
“I will provide for you there …” (Gen 45:11). It is reminiscent of God’s promised provision for Elijah by the brook – “I have ordered the ravens to feed you there” (1 Kings 17:4). In both instances, God provided for his people during a time of famine. Isaiah said it this way:
“He who walks righteously and speaks what is right … this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him” (33:15-16).
“… you, your children and grandchildren …” (Gen. 45:10). The future hope of the nation, resting in their children and grandchildren, was secure. God’s promise and Israel’s destiny would not be lost in the confusion of Egypt.
“They … were fruitful and increased greatly in number” (Gen. 47:27). Goshen was a fruitful valley. St. 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.” God will provide a spiritual oasis in the midst of Egypt.
“When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down” (Ex. 12:13). When Osiris, Egypt’s “lord of life,” was judged, the destroyer that took the first-born of the Egyptians could not touch those protected beneath the blood of the Passover Lamb. Paul said, “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us …” (1 Cor. 5:7).
Jacob’s family’s was allowed to settle in the region of Goshen because the pastoral lands were perfect for shepherds and sheep. There was no objection from the Egyptians because “all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians” (Gen. 46:34). But after the Egyptians saw the favor of God over the Israelis, the Bible says, “The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people” (Ex. 11:3). Because of God’s favor, His people gained influence among the pagans.
“So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings” (Ex. 10:22-23).
When darkness covered Egypt, there was light in Goshen. In the darkness of the times, God gives light – revelation, wisdom, insight, perception, and discernment – to His children. But light is not just something we have, it is what we shine! In the time of God’s judgment, He will have a witness to an unbelieving world.
“That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life …” (Phil. 2:15-16).
What was judgment for Egypt was redemption for Israel. The fires that judge America will purify the church. Goshen represents the “deep place” with God, providing intimacy, provision, hope, fruitfulness, protection, favor, influence, and light. There is no reason for God’s people to fear. When Pharaoh granted Jacob permission to dwell in Goshen he called it “the best of the land” (Gen. 45:18). Indeed, Goshen is the best place to be.
And destroyed all the firstborn in Egypt … But He made His own people go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock; He led them on safely, so that they did not fear; but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. And He brought them to His holy border … He also drove out the nations before them, allotted them an inheritance and made the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents (Ps. 78:51-55).