The principle that in times of famine one sold one’s children into slavery, and found grain in Egypt, is a telling one: Egyptian agriculture, after all, depended on the Nile flood rather than on the rainfall of western Asia. In one case of disastrous famine, related to the fall of the Hittite state in Anatolia and the collapse of urban Canaanite civilization at the end of the Late Bronze Age, Egypt alone was able to offer relief; see G. A. Wainwright, “Merneptah’s Aid to the Hittites,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 46 (1960), pp. 24ff.; M. C. Astour, “New Evidence on the Last Days of Ugarit,” American Journal of Archaeology 69 (1965), pp. 253–258, on King Ammurapi of Ugarit forwarding Egyptian grain to Hatti.

A bit later, there is also evidence of shepherds entering Egypt in the vicinity of Goshen in order to graze their flocks. Under Seti II (1222–1216 B.C.E., high chronology), a frontier official related his readiness to admit the “nomadic tribes of Edom to the water holes of Per-Atum [biblical Pithom] of Merneptah Hotep-har-Maat of Tjeku, to sustain them and their [small?] cattle.”—Papyrus Anastasi 6.51–61, late 13th century; see “Egyptian Historical Texts,” transl. John A. Wilson, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ANET), 3rd ed., ed. James Pritchard (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969), p. 259; James H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt (ARE), 7 vols. (1906; reprinted) 3.368. (An earlier case, indicating that the practice was typical, is found in Breasted, ARE 3.10–12.) The continuation of this text shows that the commerce was a regular feature of the Bronze Age.