The Works of Josephus
Antiquities of the Jews – Book II
CONTAINING THE INTERVAL OF TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEARS.
FROM THE DEATH OF ISAAC TO THE EXODUS OUT OF EGYPT.
CONCERNING THE AFFLICTIONS THAT BEFELL THE HEBREWS IN EGYPT, DURING FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. (16)
1. NOW it happened that the Egyptians grew delicate and lazy, as to pains-taking, and gave themselves up to other pleasures, and in particular to the love of gain. They also became very ill-affected towards the Hebrews, as touched with envy at their prosperity; for when they saw how the nation of the Israelites flourished, and were become eminent already in plenty of wealth, which they had acquired by their virtue and natural love of labor, they thought their increase was to their own detriment. And having, in length of time, forgotten the benefits they had received from Joseph, particularly the crown being now come into another family, they became very abusive to the Israelites, and contrived many ways of afflicting them; for they enjoined them to cut a great number of channels for the river, and to build walls for their cities and ramparts, that they might restrain the river, and hinder its waters from stagnating, upon its running over its own banks: they set them also to build pyramids, (17) and by all this wore them out; and forced them to learn all sorts of mechanical arts, and to accustom themselves to hard labor. And four hundred years did they spend under these afflictions; for they strove one against the other which should get the mastery, the Egyptians desiring to destroy the Israelites by these labors, and the Israelites desiring to hold out to the end under them.
(16) As to the affliction of Abraham’s posterity for 400 years, see Antiq. B. I. ch. 10. sect. 3; and as to what cities they built in Egypt, under Pharaoh Sesostris. and of Pharaoh Sesostris’s drowning in the Red Sea, see Essay on the Old Testament, Append. p. 132-162.
(17) Of this building of the pyramids of Egypt by the Israelites, see Perizonius Orig. Aegyptiac, ch. 21. It is not impossible they might build one or more of the small ones; but the larger ones seem much later. Only, if they be all built of stone, this does not so well agree with the Israelites’ labors, which are said to have been in brick, and not in stone, as Mr. Sandys observes in his Travels. p. 127, 128.