||'When Pharaoh summons you and inquires as to your occupation,
Vehayah ki-yikra lachem Par'oh ve'amar mah-ma'aseychem.
||you must say, 'We and our fathers have dealt in livestock all our lives'. You will then be able to settle in the Goshen district, since all shepherds are taboo in Egypt.'
Va'amartem anshey mikneh hayu avadeycha mine'ureynu ve'ad-atah gam-anachnu gam-avoteynu ba'avur teshvu be'erets Goshen ki-to'avat Mitsrayim kol-ro'eh tson.
|We and our fathers...|
Literally, 'Your servants have been livestock men from our youth until now; also us, also our fathers.'
|shepherds are taboo|
Some say that this was because sheep were sacred to Egyptians, and hence, those who raised them for food were considered an abomination (Rashi; see Genesis 43:32). Others say that the Egyptians were vegetarians (Ibn Ezra). If this was after the Hyksos were driven out, it might have been a reaction against the Hyksos, who were 'shepherd kings' (Josephus, Contra Apion 1:14). Others say that it was a social taboo (Rashbam). According to others, the fact that shepherding was taboo was an advantage, since the Israelites would not be competing with the Egyptians (Josephus, Antiquities 2:7:5).