Mitzraim – The meaning of slavery in Egypt

One of the most prominent topics in the Scriptures is the subject of slavery. This is not because slavery itself is important, but because liberation from slavery is most significant.

All concepts in this existence are based on duality. As early as Genesis 1 with the concepts of heaven and earth, light and darkness, day and night… Adam himself was conditioned to understand reality based on duality when he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

To this day, no matter who you are or what background you come from, we understand reality through polar opposites. We can say that something is bad because we compare it to the concept of what is good, we can think that someone is cruel because we know what compassion is, we appreciate something as beautiful because we can conceive the concept of what is horrible.

In the same way, in the biblical story, we are taught about freedom, based on what slavery is and what it represents. The children of Israel understood freedom through slavery. There are those who say, especially those who have been deprived of their liberty, that one cannot know what liberty is at all unless he has been deprived of it first.

Mitzraim (מִצְרָיְם) was one of the sons of Ham (Gen 10:6), and is the Hebrew word for Egypt. However, this word has a deeper meaning that reveals the biblical understanding of what slavery means, as well as freedom.

Breaking down the Hebrew word, we see that the “im” at the end of Mitzraim indicates the plural form of the word. In the singular, it would be matzor (מָצוֹר). Interestingly, Egypt is referred to in this way in certain places, such as Isaiah 37:25:

“I dug wells and drank water. I dried up all the streams of Egypt (matzor- מָצוֹר) with the soles of my feet.”

A matzor in Hebrew is a siege when an army surrounds a town or city before attacking it – usually to prevent supplies from coming in.

Matzor, comes from the root tzar (צָר) which means narrow. The pressure that an army applies to a besieged people has to do with this idea. Tzar is also related to the suffering that can be experienced.

Tzorer is the word generally translated as enemy, but it also comes from this root and would be better translated as “one who causes tzar”, one who causes pain or suffering.

One of the Hebrew words for rock is tzur (צוּר). This word is used a lot in the Psalms when David says “Yehovah is my rock.” The word tzur, once again, comes from the same root as all of these words. In this case, the idea of ​​pressure or the concept of something narrow has to do with the conditions in which this stone was formed under the ground. 

Tzur in Hebrew has to do with a specific stone, although this detail is lost in translation. In English, it is called flint, which is one of the hardest stones in existence, used to make tools and weapons in the stone age.

With all this, we have enough material to meditate on the concept of where the children of Israel were when they suffered during the period of slavery in Mitzraim, Egypt.

Suffering is not necessarily physical, but mental. In this world, the strongest chains and limitations are in our mind. Emotions like worry or anxiety make us feel as if we are in a narrow place. In appearance, we have already left Egypt and were freed from physical slavery, but how many of us can say that we are free in our mind?

This is the truth that Yeshua preached, when he taught:

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls..” Matthew 11:28-29

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