When the Jewish People escaped from Egypt the Torah tells us (Exodus 12:38) that an erev rav, a mixed multitude of other people, also escaped with them. Who were these people who joined our exodus, why did they join us, and what does it have to do with today’s politics? I offer five answers.
A- The erev rav-mixed multitude were the Egyptian descendants of Shifra and Puah, the Egyptian midwives who refused to follow Pharaoh’s orders to kill all the new born Jewish baby boys they delivered. (Exodus 1:17-19) Shifra, Puah, all their relatives and almost all the families their descendants had married into; all joined Israel in the Exodus, and at Sinai, and a generation later entered with Israel into the Land of Israel.
B- The erev rav-mixed multitude were the descendants of Midianites who had by 3500 BCE also been enslaved by the Egyptians and forced to mine the great copper, gold and turquoise deposits of Serabit el-Khadem in the Sinai peninsular. Their descendants who now lived in the Goshen delta knew that Moses had married Tsiporah, the daughter of Jethro, a Midianite priest, who had stopped worshipping idols due to the influence of Moses.
Hathor, the cow goddess, had been their protecter at Serabit el-Khadem, which was not far from Sinai; and a few of these miner’s descendants were the ones who suggested making the golden calf when the Jewish people feared Moses had died on Mount Sinai.The rest of them became loyal Jews.
C- The erev rav-mixed multitude were descendants of the hundreds of followers of Pharaoh Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, who worshiped At-en, the Solar Disc, as their one God. Of course, for political reasons, Pharaoh Akhenaten wanted all the rest of the Egyptian people to continue worshiping the Pharaoh as the Divine Son of God.
Almost all of them joined Israel in the Exodus, at Sinai, and a generation later entered with Israel into the Land of Israel.
D- The erev rav-mixed multitude were descendants of the family of Asenath, a daughter of Potiphera, a priest from the city of On (LXX: Heliopolis), who Pharaoh gave to Joseph to be his wife (Geneses 41:45). Some of these descendants influenced Thutmose III (sometimes read as Thutmosis) and his son Akhenaten toward monotheism.
They, like Bnai Israel, were also enslaved when the 18th dynasty was replaced by the 19th dynasty of Ramose I, the Pharaoh who said he did not know of Joseph. (Exodus 1:8)
E- The erev rav-mixed multitude were the large numbers of individuals from several Egyptian clans and various oppressed ethnic groups, including all the above, who wanted to join the people of Israel and share its destiny because they were favorably impressed by Moses (Exodus 3:21 and 11:3).
They were rescued from the 10th plague because they lent silver and copper vessels to their Jewish neighbors. (Exodus 3:22, 11:2 and 12:35-36). Lent not despoiled because the primary meaning of the Hebrew word nitsal in all three verses is rescue, only the secondary meaning is plunder.
Not every non-Jew who joins the Jewish People becomes a better than average Jew; but most of them and their descendants do. This is why there are so many mitsvot in the Torah about Gerim.