“So it shall be, when Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ that you shall say, ‘Your servants’ occupation has been with livestock from our youth even till now, both we and also our fathers,’ that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.” (Genesis 46:33-34)
By telling his father and family to inform Pharaoh that they were and had always been shepherds apparently insured that they would be able to live in Goshen unmolested by any neighboring Egyptians. On the surface it appeared as if the Egyptians were not very neighborly, considering anyone who worked with livestock to be of a lower class. But in reality, this strategy insured that Israel could live “set apart” from the Egyptians and be spared the corrupt influence of Egypt without being dishonest.
This is why, throughout history, Jewish families had tended to live in neighborhoods that communities that were predominantly Jewish. It’s not so much that they don’t want to be around other people; they simply don’t want other people’s beliefs to influence their families. There is good reason for them to feel this way considering that God, through Moses, told them not to mingle and marry with the inhabitants of the land.
“You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)
As followers of the Messiah, we have the same standard set before us, and by that I mean, that we are called to be a “holy people” and live a set apart life. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are to isolate ourselves from the world but are to be a light to the world. Sometimes that means that we may find ourselves living in the midst of the those who ignore and even defy the instructions of our God. Nevertheless, we are committed to demonstrate to them, through our lives, what God expects of all humanity.
Blessings and Shalom,