Our first reading comes from the opening lines of Exodus, the second book of the Bible. Let’s look at what it says.
“A new king, who nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt.”
That was before 1300 B. C., a time when the Israelites had no written language, and when the hieroglyphic writing of the Egyptians make not a single mention of the Hebrews residing in their land. We are left to searching for clues to confirm the facts of the Bible’ account.
One clue we have is that the Bible frequently said that the Israelites spent four hundred year in Egypt, and that four hundred years coincides with a set of historical facts from that time. We know that shortly after 1’800 B. C. a people from the Arabian peninsula invaded Egypt, installing one of their own as pharaoh. That people, the Hyksos, were a Semitic people who spoke practically the same language as Joseph and his brothers. They would have welcomed the Hebrews settling in Goshen. Then, four hundred years later, around 1320 B.C. the Hyksos were driven out by Ramses I, who would have been the new king “who knew nothing of Joseph.”
We know that the “supply cities of Pithom and Raamses” were built by forced labor at that time, so that fits it.
The Hebrews in Egypt were made to suffer “the whole cruel fate of slaves.” That fits in with the spiritual message in this story. For us their misery in Egypt represents the miserable condition that would be ours if the Lord had not led us out through the waters of Baptism, putting us on the road to the Promised Land.