They are not from here, but from another state altogether. Foreigners. They speak differently, and follow customs we frankly find revolting. We didn’t invite them, but our government said they could come. There seem to be more and more of them all the time. The roads are jammed! Why don’t they go away and leave us to enjoy our own place in peace? Their only positive contribution is the value they pump into our local economy.
Shoobies? No! The Israelites in Egypt.
Jacob and his clan had descended into Egypt because a regional famine threatened them with starvation. Long-lost son Joseph would be able to provide for them there. But even from the beginning they never fit in. They were shepherds, and “every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians.” The Israelites were aliens on someone else’s turf.
Painful as Israel’s presence in Egypt was for both parties, her sojourn there was necessary if Jacob’s ragtag progeny were ever to coalesce into a nation. God had made unique promises to Abraham, including “I will make you into a great nation.” But the patriarch’s great-grandsons seemed intent on anything other than uniqueness and unity. By a Canaanite woman Judah fathered three sons, two of whom were evil and Yahweh killed. Ten of Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave. Some nation!
So God sent them into quarantine in Egypt. There, in Goshen, they had to stick together and stay separate because Egyptians disliked shepherds. They multiplied and retained their national identity until they grew into the mighty horde that Moses led out. God sometimes has to lead us through hard times in order to shape us into the kind of people he can bless. Easier on us if we would simply obey the first time around.
Israel was not to forget those uncomfortable years. “You shall not wrong a shoobie or oppress him, for you were shoobies in the land of Egypt…. The shoobie who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were shoobies in the land of Egypt” (Ex 22:21 and Lev 19:34, slightly modified). Maybe when we have visited Lancaster or NYC the natives have rolled their eyes at us, as well.