Andrews University Seminary Studies, Autumn 1986, Vol. 24, No.3, 231-248.

                          Copyright © 1986 by Andrews University Press.  Cited with permission.


                                   THE DURATION OF



                                                     PAUL J. RAY, JR.

                                        Berrien Springs, Michigan 49103



     From possibly as early as the LXX (ca. 250-150 B.C.1), there has

been a tradition that the 430 years in Exod 12:40 (or apparently

rounded to the 400 years of Gen 15:13) represent only 215 actual

years of Israelite sojourn in Egypt, with the other 215 years represent-

ing the sojourn in Canaan.  The Hebrew MT of both of the above

verses, however, appears to indicate that the total years constituted

the full period of time of the sojourn in Egypt prior to the Exodus.

     The Jewish historian Josephus (first century A.D.) provides a

divided testimony--one time apparently following the LXX, and

thus associating the rise of Joseph to power as vizier of Egypt with

the Hyksos (Dynasties 15-16, ca. 1730-1575 B.C.2), and another time

following the MT.3  Rabbinic tradition as reflected in Seder ‘Olam

(second century A.D.)4 and Rashi (eleventh century A.D.)5 allows but

210 years for the sojourn in Egypt.  The Midrash is more vague.6

     The NT also appears to be divided on the subject.  In Acts 7:6-7,

Stephen uses essentially the same wording as the Genesis passage,

which appears to allocate a full and literal 400 years to the Israelite

sojourn in Egypt. In Gal 3:17, however, Paul seems to indicate that

the 430 years extended from Abraham to the giving of the Law,7



     1 I.e., if MSS B and h, which carry this tradition, reflect that early a form of the


     2 Josephus, Ant. 2.15.2; and Ag. Apion 1.14 (trans. Thackeray, in LCL).

     3 Josephus, Ant. 2.9.1.

     4 Edgar Frank, Talmudic and Rabbinical Chronology (New York, 1956), pp. 11,

19. For a list of those who hold this position in rabbinic tradition, cf. H. H. Rowley,

From Josephus to Joshua (London, 1950), pp. 67-69.

     5Rashi, Pentateuch with Rashi's Commentary, vol. I, ed. A. M. Silbermann and

trans. M. Rosenbaum and A. M. Silbermann, (London, 1945), Part I, pp. 61-62, and

2, p. 61.

     6 Midrash Rabbah, trans. H. Freedman and M. Simon (London, 1939), I: 373.

     7 Leon Wood, A Survey of Israel's History (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1970), p. 88,

points out that Gal 3:16 says it was "not only to Abraham but to 'his seed" which the


232    PAUL J. RAY, JR.:  Andrews University Seminary Studies

rather than representing the totality of the sojourn in Egypt.  In this,

he appears to be following the LXX of Exod 12:40.8  Acts 13:17-20 is

a further NT passage that is sometimes seen as having a bearing on

this question though its reference to "about 450 years till Samuel

the prophet pertains to a period of time subsequent to the Sojourn.9

     Among the Early-Church Fathers there is also division of

opinion on the interpretation of the chronology in these biblical

references.  For instance, Tertullian supports the short chronology,

whereas Hippolytus favors the long one.11

     Since different versions of the OT have carried these two tradi-

tions, and commentators have aligned themselves accordingly to one

tradition or the other, it is necessary to examine the various ancient

texts, in order to discover the preferable reading.  It is also necessary

to take a look at the history, archaeology, and other biblical data

which may have some bearing on the text, so as to ascertain the best

setting for the events dealt with in Gen 15:13-21 and Exod 12:40.

     Depending on the interpretation given to the 400 (430) years,

the events of Gen 15 happened either during Middle Bronze Age I

(2200-1950 B.C.) or during Middle Bronze Age IIA (1950-1800 B.C.)--

or more specifically, about 2095 B.C. or. 1880 B. C., respectively.

Therefore, Abraham came to Canaan either during the Ur III

Dynasty (ca. 2112-2004 B.C.) or during the First Dynasty of Babylon

(ca. 1894-1595 B.C.).12  (Through the years considerable attention has


covenant promises were spoken; and indeed, just before Jacob went down into Egypt,

they were spoken to him for the last time (Gen 46:2-4)--exactly 430 years before the

Law was given, if the long chronology is allowed.

    8 This is disputed by Herman N. Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches

of Galatia (Grand Rapid, Mich., 1953), p. 136, n. 8.

    9 Harold w. Hoehner, "The Duration of the Egyptian Bondage," BSac 126

(1969): 313-314; Jack R. Riggs, "The Length of Israel's Sojourn in Egypt," Grace

Theological Joumal 12 (1972): 29-30; James R. Battenfield, "A Consideration of the

Identity of the Pharaoh of Genesis 47," JETS 15 (1972): 79.  On the basis of MSS B, x:

A, and C, the text should indicate, according to B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort a,

period of "about 450 years" (or more precisely 447 years)--i.e., 400 years of bondage

in Egypt, 40 years in the wilderness, and 7 years of conquest of Canaan.  See Westcott

and Hort, The New Testament in Original Greek (New York, 1948), p. 276.

     10 Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews 2 (ANF, 3:153).

     11 Hippolytus, Expository Treatise Against the Jews 6 (ANF, 5:220).

    12 The foregoing dates are based on the Middle chronology for the beginning of

Hammurabi's reign (i.e., 1792 B.C.), and follow J. A. Brinkman, "Mesopotamian


                   THE ISRAELITE SOJOURN IN EGYPT              233

been devoted to the date of the Exodus, and I have obviously opted

for an early dating.  On this point, see my further discussion in

“Excursus A" at the end of this article.)

     It will be pertinent to begin our analysis with the two OT

passages which are the most relevant to our discussion, Exod 12:40

and Gen 15:13-21, noted at the outset of this article.  The former is

given within a chronological statement in the context of the account

of the Exodus itself, and the latter is in the setting of God's ratifica-

tion of his covenant with Abram, which included both the con-

firming of the promises of the seed (vss. 13-17) and the land grant

(vss. 18-21).15


                   I. Textual Evidence on Exodus 12:40

     In Exod 12:40, the extent of Israel's sojourn in Egypt is given in

the MT as 430 years (the more exact amount for the round number of

Gen 15:13).14  The major manuscript evidence for the LXX,15 plus

the Samaritan Pentateuch,16 supports the addition of "and their

fathers" to the phrase "the children of Israel," as do a number of

other ancient versions.17

    As for the time period itself, the 430 years are divided between

Canaan and Egypt in at least two manuscripts of the LXX (LXXBh)

and in an obelus of the Syro-Hexapla, as well as in all known

manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch.  The Vulgate, Peshitta,

and the Targum follow the MT.  Although when the Samaritan


Chronology of the Historical Period" in A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia

Chicago, 1964), pp. 336-337.

     13Gerhard F. Hasel, "The Meaning of the Animal Rite in Genesis 15," JSOT 19

981): 67-70.  See also M. Weinfeld, "Berith," TDOT (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1975), 2:

9-260; and "The Covenant of Grant in the OT in the Ancient Near East," JAOS 90

970): 196-200.

    14 The ancient versions follow the MT for the most part in Gen 15:13-21.

However, the LXX (all MSS except 82*) adds the phrase "and humble them," to the

list of things that will happen to Abram's seed during the 400 years (300 years, MS

79*).  There are a few other minor variations that also affect the meaning of this

passage very little, if at all.  In essence, it is only Exod 12:40 that has a bearing

textually on the problem under consideration.

    15 MSS AFM a-tv-c2.  The fact that the various manuscripts place this phrase in

two different locations in this verse would seem to indicate its secondary character.

    16 MSS ABCD4EFG1HINPQW3X1BDCF (=) dln.

    17 Armenian, Bohairic, Ethiopic, Syro-Hexapla, Eusebius-Chron.

234    PAUL J. RAY, JR.:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


Pentateuch and the LXX coincide they are usually considered to be

preferable to the MT, the manuscripts in this case do not reflect the

exact same original.  They are divided in terms of their order of

elements, with LXXB reading "in the land of Egypt and in the land;

of Canaan,” whereas LXXh reads "in the land of Canaan and

Egypt.  It is the latter reading (but with a second "the land of")

which occurs in all known manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch.

     Interestingly, LXXB also originally added an extra five years to,

the sojourn, here and in vs. 41, whereas the other LXX manuscripts,

as well as the other ancient versions, are agreed on 430 years.  This

deviation of LXXB and the afore-mentioned one suggest that LXXB

is evidently not to be taken as the original and better reading of this

verse.  Table 1 gives an overview of the textual data on Exod 12:40:


                                      TABLE 1


                             Summary of Textual Data on Exod 12:40


Variant             MT                  Samaritan         Josephus          LXX                Other Ancient


Egypt               All known         --                     Ant. 2.9.1         AFM                Arm, Bo,

(only)               MSS                                                                a-gi-                 Aeth, O.

                                                                                                tv-c2                 Latz

                                                                                                                        Tg, Pesh

Canaan  &                                All known                                 h

Egypt               --                     MSS                --                                             --


Egypt &                                                           Ant. 2.15.2       B                      Syro-

Canaan             --                     --                                                                     Hexapla



    As can be seen from these data in Table 1, the majority of the

ancient texts lend support to the long chronology (for the sojourn in

Egypt alone).  While this fact does not, of course, provide conclusive

support for that chronology, it does indicate a direction of prob-

ability as to the original.  The LXXBh and Samaritan Pentateuch,

readings seem, therefore, to be Midrashic exegesis, as is Rashi.18


     18 U. Cassuto. A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, trans. Israel Abrahams

(Jerusalem. 1967). pp. 85-86.  Indeed, Rashi is somewhat dependent on the LXX (cf.



2.  Interpretational Problems in Genesis 15:13-21


     With regard to Gen 15:13-21, there are two interpretational

matters that have a specific bearing on this investigation; namely,

(1) the question of who is the oppressor of the descendants of

Abraham for the "400 years" (vs. 13); and (2) the significance of the

term "fourth generation" in designating the time of return from

captivity (vs. 16).


Who Oppresses Whom?


    Although Abraham and his descendants were sojourners (ger)

in both Canaan and Egypt (Gen 21:34; 26:3; Ps 105:23), there is no

record of their being servants to the Canaanites, or being in any way

oppressed by them.  In fact, these patriarchs were treated well and

were allowed to travel freely throughout the land.

      It has been pointed out by those favoring the short chronology

for the Egyptian sojourn (i.e., 215 years, with the previous 215 years

in Canaan) that Isaac was "persecuted" by Ishmael, that Jacob fled

from Esau, and that Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers.19

However, these events or situations were intra-family quarrels and

hardly qualify for the expression "they will oppress them."  That

expression requires an entirely different entity as the oppressor (cf.

the inverted parallelism of vs. 13).  The Egyptians are the only ones

who would appear truly to qualify for this role.

     A further indication that the oppression must relate to the

Egyptian sojourn emerges from the fact of God's promise to Abraham

in vs. 15 that Abraham would not be involved in these tragedies, but

would die in peace.  Abraham lived for a century after the events

described in Gen 15, Jacob and Esau being 15 years old when he died

(Gen 25:7, 26).  Oppression to the patriarch's descendants would


Rashi, 2:61). It is also interesting to note that it is an anachronism to call Abraham,

Isaac, and even Jacob himself "children of Israel and their fathers" (as in the LXX

and Samaritan Pentateuch) before Jacob had sons at Haran or had received his new

name on his way back to Canaan.  This could, however, have added only about 33

years (1913-1880 B.C.)--or the time of Jacob's return to Canaan until the time when he

went down to Egypt--if their sojourn was also "in Canaan." (The writer is indebted

to William H. Shea for this observation.)

     19 Cf. Martin Anstey, The Romance of Bible Chronology (London, 1913), 1:114,

117; also Francis D. Nichol, ed., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 1

(Washington, D.C., 1953): 314.

236    PAUL J. RAY, JR.:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


have been oppression to the patriarch himself; and thus, whether

oppression had come from his own family or from outsiders

Abraham would have had a difficult time dying in peace if, indeed,

as the short chronology necessitates, where was already oppression to

the patriarch's descendants during his own lifetime.


Problem of the Four Generations

     "And in the fourth generation they will return here" (Gen

15:16).  The time reference in vs. 13 is the "400 years"; therefore, the

meaning in vs. 16 appears to be four generations of 100 years each.

This length for a generation does not occur elsewhere in the OT, but

this is possibly so because people in patriarchal times were recog-

nized as living to be 100 years of age and older, as a general rule.20

However, there is a more simple solution to this matter.  The

Hebrews, like other ancient peoples, dated long periods of time in

terms of lifetimes,21 or the cycle of a person's lifetime,22 the word dor

coming from a root meaning "to go in a circle."23  This is to be

contrasted with the word toledot which is also translated as "genera-

tions," but in the biological sense of descendants.24  Therefore, dor

should be seen as a circle or cycle of time, rather than generation(s),

as both etymology and context would suggest.25

      Starting from at least the time of Rashi,26 and using the tradi-

tional definition of a generation to mean from the time of a man's

birth to the birth of his offspring, those who have favored the short


     20 K. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, The Pentateuch, vol. I, trans. James Martin, in

Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1952),.p. 216.

     21 D. N. Freedman and J. Lundbom, "dor," TDOT (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1978).

3:170, 174; W. F. Albright, "Abram the Hebrew: A New Archaeological Interpreta-

tion," BASOR, no. 163 (1961), p.p. 50-51; and Robert Baker Girdlestone, Synonyms

the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1948), p. 315.

     22 R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., "Dor,"

Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, 1980), 1:186.

     23 William Gesenius, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, trans.

Samuel P.. Tregelles (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1982), p. 193.

    24 William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old

Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1971), p. 387.

    25 Cognates in Akkadian (daru) and Arabic dara) also bear this out (cf. Freedman

and Lundbom, pp. 170, 172).

    26 Rashi, 1:61.

THE ISRAELITE SOJOURN IN EGYPT                       237


chronology have pointed to Exod 6:16-27, which would indicate

four generations from Levi to Moses.27  Furthermore, a comparison

with another four-generation genealogy in Num 26:57-62 would

seem to strengthen their case. On the basis of these two apparently

rather weighty pieces of evidence, it would seem that 400 (430) years

would be far too long a period of time between Jacob's descent into

Egypt and the Exodus, or the time or number of generations

between the leaving of Canaan (obviously into Egypt, by either

interpretation) and the return into Canaan.

    There are indications, on the other hand, that both of the above

four-generation genealogies of Moses are stylized and incomplete.

Exod 6:14-27, which gives genealogies for Reuben, Simeon, and

Levi, begins by saying, "These are the heads of their fathers'

houses," a technical term for a collection of families (or more

accurately, kin-groups) denominated by a common ancestor, i.e., a

lineage.28  Also included are the names of such sons as were founders

of families:  mispahot (i.e., lineage segments).  Thus, stated in another

way, the names included in this genealogy are "the heads [ra'se] of

the father's-houses of the Levites according to their families" (vs.

25b--not each individual.  The heads of families, thus, are:  Levi

(actually the tribal or lineage founder), the first generation; Kohath

(with his brothers Gershon and Merari), the second generation; and

Amram (and his brothers Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel), the third

generation.  However, this is where the heads of families conclude.

The name Amram of vs. 20 may be a conflation of the name of

the Amram who was the head of one of the third-generation families

of Levi, with the name of a later Amram who was the father of Moses

"and Aaron.29  There was a tendency among the Levites to name their

sons after their forefathers (cf. 1 Chr 6:7-13; Luke 1:5, 59-61).  Thus,

several generations appear to have been telescoped here, with


     27 This assumes the validity of basing the fulfillment of this verse on Levi's


    28 Keil and Delitzsch, 1:469.

    29 Those listed as sons of Izhar and Uzziel, vss. 21-22, are possibly several

generations later, the term "son" thus indicating a later descendant, with the most

important names listed first in that they appear in current events surrounding the

Exodus (cf. Lev 10:4; Num 3:30; 16:1).  For examples of this phenomenon elsewhere,

cf. Gen 11:26,32; 12:4; 46:16-18, 24-25.

238    PAUL J. RAY, JR.:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


Amram, the father of Moses and Aaron, probably being at least the

grandson of the original Amram, if not even a later descendant.30

(See Table 2.)  According to Num 3:27-28, after the numbering of

people in the wilderness in the second year after the Exodus, the

Kohathites were divided into four families (mispahot).  These

families of the Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites

consisted of 8600 men and boys (not including women and girls), of

which about a fourth (or 2150) were Amramites.  This would  have

given Moses and Aaron that incredibly large a number of brothers

and brothers' sons (brothers' daughters, sisters, and their daughters

not being reckoned), if the same Amram, the son of Kohath, were

both the head of the family of the Amramites and their own father.31

Obviously, such could not have been the case.

     The genealogy of Num 26:57-62 is also incomplete (possibly rep-

resenting a harmonization with Exod 6).  After the list of eight fam-

ilies (mispahot), there is a break at vs. 58.  Again Levi, Kohath, and

Amram are first-through-third generations, respectively.  Jochebed is

not the daughter of Levi, but rather a daughter of Levi--that is,

"Levitess" (cf. Exod 2:1; the Hebrew of the two verses is the same

bat Levi).

    Further evidence pertinent to the Levi genealogies may be

found in the fact that the genealogies of Judah (1 Chr 2:1-20) and

Ephraim (Num 26:35-36; 1 Chr 7:20-27) indicate seven and eight

generations, respectively, 52 for the same or a slightly lesser time

period than that encompassed in the four-generation genealogies of

Levi in Exod 6:16-27 and Num 26:57-62. At the very end of each of

these other genealogies, we find reference to several contempora-

neous individuals from the three tribes.  Thus, these more-extended

genealogies of Judah and Ephraim would seem to indicate incom-

pleteness in the Levi genealogies.


     30 An alternative view is that there is only one Amram, thus leaving the parents of

Moses and Aaron unnamed; cf. W. H. Green, "Primeval Chronology," BSac 47

(1890): 293.

    31 Keil and Delitzsch, 1:470.

    32 The genealogical comparisons of this section of the paper (including Table 2)

reflect only the data given in the biblical text. I am not attempting here to do a

thorough historical reconstruction of these genealogies, which would of necessity

include all instances of genealogical fluidity; cf. Robert R. Wilson, Genealogy and

History in the Biblical World (New Haven, 1977), pp. 27-36.

THE ISRAELITE SOJOURN IN EGYPT                       239


     My reconstruction of the genealogical data is summarized in

Table 2, and further elaboration is provided in Excursus B at the end

of this article.

    TABLE 2

Summary of Genealogical Data


Gen., Num26:35-36 and I Chr 7:20-27            Exod 6:16-27               I Chr 2:1-20

1       Joseph                                                     Levi                              Judah

2       Ephraim                                                   Kohath                        Perez

3       Shuthelah Becher   Tahan                      Amram                        Hezron


4       Eran & Tahath       Laadan                           ?                              Ram                 Caleb

5       Eleadah                  Ammihud                  Amram = Jochebed      Amminadab    Hur

6       Tahath                     Elishamat*                Aaron* = Elisheba        Nahshon*         Uri

7       Zabad                     Nun*                                                                                Bezaleel*

8       Shuthelah                 Joshua*

9       Ephraim

10     Ezer & Elead & Beriah

11     Rephah & Resheph

12     Telah

*Contemporaries during the Exodus and after.

Italics indicate founders of families.


3.  Historical Setting

     In the previous two sections, we have dealt with the biblical and

textual data as well as the interpretational problems which accom-

pany them in presenting a case for the long chronology.  It was

found that these data allow for such a reconstruction. In the present

section we deal briefly with historical and archaeological data that

have significant implications for the "long-chronology" view pre-

sented here.  These relate to the historical setting for Abraham and

for Joseph, and to the time of the oppression of the Israelites in

Egypt prior to the Exodus.



      The long chronology for the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt

would place the birth of Abraham ca. 2170 B.C., and thus would

locate the events of his first year in Canaan, his visit to Egypt, and

the events of Gen 15 ca. 2095 B.C.  The basic question to be asked here

240    PAUL J. RAY, JR.:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


is this:  Are the conditions in Canaan and Egypt at that time

compatible with the narratives in Genesis?  Indeed, the case seems to

be such that we can answer in the affirmative.

     Both Ur and Haran were flourishing at the time.  Shechem and

Bethel were uninhabited,33 but the Jordan valley was well popu-

lated.34  In the Negev, there was settlement from the twenty-first to

the nineteenth centuries B.C., but not before or afterwards (cf. Gen

20:1, 24:62; 28:20).35  However, in the central hill country there was

apparently a sparseness of population, reflected by the fact that

Abraham could move freely between Shechem and Beersheba,36

where he could pitch his tent and graze his flock as he pleased, as did

Isaac and Jacob.  Archaeological findings reveal the same condition

particularly in the interior of Canaan, and further Indicate that

during the nineteenth century the cities west of the Jordan were

again occupied.37  It is interesting, moreover, that Asiatics during

Egypt's First Intermediate Period (ca. 2181-2022 B.C.) entered the Delta


    33 On Shechem, see G. Ernest Wright, Shechem: The Biography of a Biblical City,

(New York, 1964), pp. 110-112; and William H. Shea, "Famines in the Early History,

of Egypt and Syro-Palestine" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1976),

pp. 151-152.  On Bethel, see W. F. Albright and James L. Kelso, "The Excavation of

Bethel (1934-1960)," AASOR 39 (1968): 10, 21, 45. The conclusion is valid if indeed

Bethel is Beitin: cf. David Livingston, "Location of Biblical Bethel and Ai Recon.-

sidered," WTJ 33 (1970): 20-44, and "Traditional Site of Bethel Questioned," WTJ 34

(1971): 39-50.

      34 M. Ibrahim, James A. Sauer, K. Yassine, "The East Jordan Valley Survey,

1975," BASOR, no. 222 (1976): 51-54.

     35 Nelson Glueck, "The Age of Abraham in the Negeb," BA 18 (1955): 6-9;

"Exploring Southern Palestine (The Negev)," BAR 1 (1959): 4-5; and Rivers in the

Desert (New York, 1959), pp. 60-101.  Cf. William G. Dever, "The EB IV-MB I

Horizon in Transjordan and Southern Palestine," BASOR, no. 210 (1973), pp. 37-63;

also R. Cohen and W. G. Dever, "Preliminary Report of the Second Season of the

'Central Negev Highlands Project,'" BASOR, no. 236 (1979), pp. 42, 57-58; and

"Preliminary Report of the Third and Final Season of the 'Central Negev Highlands

Project,'" BASOR, no. 243 (1981), p. 61.

     36 Both Gen 12:6 and 21:31 use the term maqom("place") rather than 'ir ("city")

for these sites, as does Gen 28:19 for Bethel at the time Jacob went through on his way

to Haran. This terminology indicates that there was no inhabited city at these sites at

those particular times (i.e., MBI for the former, and MBIIA for the latter).

    37 G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archaeology (Philadelphia, 1962), p. 47, and

Yohanan Aharoni, The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography, trans. A. F.

Rainey (Philadelphia, 1979), pp. 144-147

THE ISRAELITE SOJOURN IN EGYPT                       241


region with relative ease.38  Thus, it would not have been difficult for

Abraham to enter the unguarded borders of Egypt at that time.



     If the long chronology puts Abraham in Canaan ca. 2095 B.C.,

then it also puts Joseph in Egypt during the Twelfth Dynasty (ca.

1991-1782 B.C.), instead of (as with Josephus and tradition) during

the Hyksos Period. Likewise, it brings Jacob into Egypt ca. 1880 B.C.

Again, it is necessary to see if this period correlates with what we

know from the narratives in Genesis and Exodus.

     From this point of view, the Beni-Hasan Asiatics (depicted on a

wall of the tomb of the nomarch Khnum-hotep III) reflect the time

of Jacob and Joseph, rather than that of Abraham.39  There is also

mention of famine during the Twelfth Dynasty.40  These circum-

stances correlate with the biblical evidence.

     According to Gen 37:2, Joseph was sold into slavery and

brought down into Egypt when he was 17 years old; this would be,

according to my suggested reconstruction, in 1902 B.C., or late in the

reign of Amenemhat II (1929-1895 B.C.). There is concurrence with

Egyptian history in that during the Twelfth Dynasty slavery of Syro-

Palestinians was growing.41  Joseph was purchased by an Egyptian

official named Potiphar (Gen 37:36), and was made a domestic

servant or steward, something which was quite common during the

Middle Kingdom (Dynasties XI-XII, ca. 2022-1782 B.C.).42

     When Joseph became vizier to Pharaoh,43 he was given

Pharaoh's second chariot (Gen 41:43; cf. 46:29).  This fact may seem

to pose a problem in that the Hyksos brought the horse (cf. Gen

47:17) and chariot to Egypt for use in war.44 However, a horse burial


     38 Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford, 1961), pp. 109-110.

     39 Percy E. Newberry; Beni Hasan, Part 1 (London, 1893), pp. 2-3.

     40 Shea, "Famines," pp. 69-71, l7l-173; Gardiner, p. 129.

     41 William C. Hayes, ed., A Papyrus of the Late Middle Kingdom in the Brooklyn

Museum (Brooklyn, 1972), pp. 87, 92 and passim; ANET, pp. 553-554.

     42 Charles F. Aling, Egypt and Bible History (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1981), pp. 30-


     43 See J. Vergote, Joseph en Egypte (Louvain, 1959), p. 102.

     44 J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archaeology, 3d ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.,

1982), p. 44. For doubts concerning this longstanding argument, cf. John Van Seters,

242    PAUL J. RAY, JR.:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


antedating the Hyksos Period has been found at Buhen in Nubia

from ca. 1875 B.C.45 The wording "second chariot" in Gen 41:43 may

suggest, of course, that chariots were uncommon.46

     Joseph's marriage to the daughter of a priest of On (Heliopolis)

as arranged by the Pharaoh (Gen 41:45), is also significant.  On was

the center of worship of the sun-god Re, and Joseph's father-in-law

was no doubt a priest of Re.  Although the Hyksos did not suppress

the worship of Re, they venerated Seth, who was their primary deity.

If Joseph had lived during the Hyksos Period, he probably would

have received a wife from the family of a priest of Seth, rather than of

Re.47  It is also possible that Joseph's land reforms during the famine

(Gen 47:20-26) may be connected with the breaking of the dominance

of the great nomarchs of the land by Pharaoh Sesostris III (ca. 1878-

1843 B.C.) at this very time.48

     A further argument put forward for the view that Joseph was

ruler of Egypt during the Hyksos Period is that the Hyksos capital

Avaris was in the Delta, and this is coupled with the fact that Joseph

told his father to dwell in the land of Goshen so that he could be

near him (Gen 45:10).49  However, the land of Goshen is spoken of as

if it were in a part of Egypt other than where the Pharaoh and

Joseph resided (see especially Gen 46:29, 31, telling of Joseph's

going to Goshen to meet his father, and then going elsewhere to

Pharaoh). During the Twelfth Dynasty, the capital was at It-towy

(Lisht), a site compatible with the conditions of the narrative, which

require a capital neither too near to, nor too far from, Goshen.50

There was also a secondary capital, possibly at Qantir.51  (Both the

"land of Ramses" [Gen 47:11] and the storage cities of Pithom


The Hyksos: A New Investigation (New Haven, 1966), p. 185, and T. Save-Soderbergh,

"The Hyksos Rule in Egypt," JEA 37 (1951): 59-60.

     45 Walter B. Emery, Egypt in Nubia (London, 1965), p. 107.

     46 Aling, p. 45. However, a viable alternative is "second" in the order of


     47 Aling, pp. 45-46; d. also Wood, p. 38, n. 45.

     48 Battenfield, pp. 82-84.

     49 Nichol, 1:462.

     50 Battenfield, p. 81.

     51 lbid., pp. 81-82. See also Manfred Bietak, Avaris and Piramesse: Archaeological

Exploration in the Eastern Nile Delta (London, 1979), pp. 228, 237-241.

THE ISRAELITE SOJOURN IN EGYPT                       243


[probably Tell er-Retabeh]52 and Per Ramses [probably Qantir],53

which were built well before the birth of Moses,54 are probably

insertions of later names by a copyist to identify Goshen and

the storage cities to readers who would not know the original


     As can be seen from the above reconstruction, the Israelite

Patriarchal period spans the transition between MBI and MBII.

When MBI came to be recognized as a discrete historical period, it

was suggested by Nelson Glueck and W. F. Albright that this was

the period of the Patriarchs.56 Since then, this conclusion has been

disputed by Thomas L. Thompson and J. Van Seters.57 A recent

survey of the archaeological data,58 however, supports the position

of those initial conclusions for MBI as the period of settlement in the

Negev by Abraham and Isaac, but it also suggests, further, that the

Jacob narratives belong to MBIIA. It would seem, then, that these

achaeological data support a biblical chronological framework

based on the long chronology.


The Time of Oppression

     We turn our attention next to the time of the Oppression of the

Israelites after the death of Joseph, when there arose over Egypt a

new king who "did not know Joseph" (Exod 1:8). In Hebrew, the

verb qwm plus the preposition ‘al often means "to rise against" (cf.

Deut 19:11; 28:7; Judg 9:18; et al.), and as such would not indicate a


     52 Alan Gardiner, "The Delta Residence of the Ramessides;" JEA 5 (1918): 268. T.

Eric Peet, Egypt and the Old Testament (Liverpool, 1924), pp. 87-91.

     53 Bietak, pp. 230, 268-271, 273, 278-283.

     54 John Rea, "The Time of the Oppression and the Exodus," JETS 3 (1960): 62.

     55 Nichol, 1:473, 497-498; Aling, p. 95.

     56 Nelson Glueck, "The Age of Abraham in the Negev," pp. 6-9; Rivers in the

Desert, p. 68; W. F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine (Gloucester, 1971), pp. 82-

83; "Abraham the Hebrew," pp. 36-54.

     57 Thomas L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (New

York, 1974), pp. 182-183; and John Van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition

(New Haven, 1975), pp. 104-112.

     58 J. J. Bimson, "Archaeological Data and the Dating of the Patriarchs," in Essays

the Patriarchal Narratives, ed. A. R. Millard and D. J. Wiseman (Winona Lake,

Ind., 1980), pp. 53-89.

244    PAUL J. RAY, JR.:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


peaceable accession to the throne of a nation.  This statement would,

therefore, fit more precisely with a situation in which the Hyksos or

other outsiders were taking over the Egyptian throne than it would

with the rise of a native Egyptian Dynasty.59  Although possibly, as is

sometimes suggested, it could refer to Ahmose I (ca. 1575-1553 B.C.),

the first king of the Eighteenth Dynasty (ca. 1575-1318 B.C.), in

taking back a throne that was rightfully his, other considerations

seem to go contrary to this.  For instance, in Exod 1:9-10, the new

king says:  "Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and

mightier than we: come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they

multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war,

they also join themselves unto our enemies and fight against us, and

go up from the land."

     This statement may well have been made long before Israel

finished multiplying to the population peak which they reached just

prior to the Exodus. The Israelites were, in fact, never more numeri-

ous and mighty than the native Egyptians; but they were indeed so,

in comparison to the Hyksos, who were never very numerous in

Egypt, and who ruled by holding key positions rather than by

numbers. If the new Pharaoh "who knew not Joseph" was a Hyksos

ruler, he could expect war with the Egyptians at any time; and since

Joseph and the Hebrews had been on friendly terms with the

Egyptians, he could also expect the Hebrews to join themselves to

the Egyptians.6o

     There are other reasons which support the suggestion that it

was the Hyksos who began the oppression of Israel.  For instance, if

Ahmose had been the Pharaoh of the oppression, it would seem

illogical that the Egyptians would fear the Israelites after the

Egyptians' successful expulsion of the Hyksos, pushing them back

into Palestine and even besieging them there.  Moreover, if the

Hyksos had enslaved the Hebrews, the latter would certainly have

had no desire to leave with the Hyksos; and since the Jews were on

friendly terms with the Egyptians, a clear distinction would be



     59 Rea, p. 60.

     60 Ibid., p. 61.

     61 Ibid., pp. 60-61.


THE ISRAELITE SOJOURN IN EGYPT                       245


     It seems, therefore, that the Hyksos were the ones who enslaved

the Hebrews.62  They forced them to build the storage cities Pithom

and Per-Ramses (cf. Exod 1:11), the latter of which (if at Qantir) has

finds from the Hyksos Period and earlier (associating it with Avaris)

and which also has finds from the Nineteenth Dynasty (ca. 1318-1209

B.C.), including bricks with the name "Ramses," as well as ostraca

which have the name "Per-Ramses."  These finds correlate well with

the literary sources concerning Per-Ramses.63

    There is no need, then, to try to circumvent the lack of

Eighteenth-Dynasty remains at Qantir,64 for it was not during this

period, but rather during the Hyksos Period, that the Hebrews were

forced to build these cities.  The Hyksos oppression, therefore,

probably began about 1730 B.C.65  The difference between that date

and 1450 B.C., the date of the Exodus, is 280 years.  When 40 years for

the wilderness wanderings are added, the time is 320 years--or "in

the fourth generation or cycle of time" (cf. Gen 15:16), when Israel

turned to Canaan.

     Indeed, an even earlier, but lesser period of oppression can be

seen as existing at the beginning of the reign of Amenemhat III

(1842-1797 B.C.), or during a possible coregency between him and his

father Sesostris III,66 since this was the approximate time that

Asiatic slaves appeared in Egypt.67 This oppression may be dated to

ca. 1850 B.C., in fulfillment of the 400 years of Gen 15:13,68 with a

more intense period of oppression during the Hyksos domination,

as mentioned above. Subsequent to the Hyksos domination, the


     62 If the tradition in Josephus is correct, the Hyksos did make some people slaves;

cf. Ag. Apion 1.14.

    63 Aling, pp. 66-69; d. Shea, "Exodus," pp. 231-232.

    64 Bietak, pp. 236, 268.

    65 Rea, p. 61. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, p. 165; ANET, pp. 252-253.

    66 G. Goyon, Nouvelles Inscriptions rupestres du Wadi Hammamat (Paris, 1957),

p. 22; James Henry Breasted, A History of the Ancient Egyptians (London, 1908),

p.160; and W. K. Simpson, "Historical and Lexical Notes on the New Series o£

Hammamat Inscriptions," JNES 18 (1959): 20-37; and William J. Murnane, Ancient

Egyptian Coregencies (Chicago, 1977), pp. 9-13, 228-229.

     67 Georges Posener, "Les Asiatiques in Egypte sous les XIIe et XIIIe dynasties,"

Syria 34 (1957): 146; Hayes, "Papyrus," pp. 87 and passim; ANET, pp. 553-554.

    68 Battenfield, p. 84.

246    PAUL J. RAY, JR.:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


Egyptian rulers of the Eighteenth Dynasty, evidently after a brief

period of relaxation from the Hyksos oppression, found it to their

advantage to oppress the Hebrews.69  Thutmose I (ca. 1532-1518 B.C.)

who acceded to the throne in 1532 B.C., would be a likely candidate

for the Pharaoh of the death decree,70 If we reckon an Exodus of ca.

1450 B.C. According to Exod 1:15-22 and 7:7, this decree was probably

issued about half way between the birth of Aaron and the birth of



4. Summary and Conclusion

    Ever since the appearance of LXXBh, with variant translations

of Exod 12:40, there has been a division among scholars as

whether the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt was 215 (or 210) years

long, as the variant reading claims, or 430 years long, as the Hebrew

text gives the time period.  Although, along with Gen 15:13-21, Exod

12:40 is our primary source, evidences other than the variants of the

ancient translations of the Scriptures are needed in order to reach

decision with respect to whether the long chronology or the short

one for the Israelite sojourn in Egypt is to be preferred.

     A comparison of various genealogical data reveals that while on

two sons of Joseph, reveal six, seven, and eight generations for the

same time period, evidencing that there are some missing genera-

tions in the genealogy of Moses.  Thus, this genealogy in Exod 6:16-

27 should not be taken as support for the 215-year view.  The

genealogical data favor, instead, a longer time period.

      The historical and archaeological evidence also seems to have

closer correlation with the biblical data if the 430 years are taken to

be the length of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt alone.  Especially does

the career of Joseph seem to fit well into the Twelfth-Dynasty

circumstances in Egypt, with the sojourn and the oppressions

varying intensities bridging the reign of Amenemhat III, the Hyksos

Period, and the Eighteenth Dynasty. Also, Abraham appears to fit

just as well, if not better, into the twenty-first century, than into the

nineteenth century.  Moreover, not only are the evidences from these

various directions compatible with Palestinian and Egyptian


     69 Rea, p. 61.

    70 Shea, Exodus, p. 233.

THE ISRAELITE SOJOURN IN EGYPT                       247


history, but they also seem to provide preferable explanations for-

or, at least, to avert--some of the problems that arise in connection

with the short chronology (such as the lack of Eighteenth-Dynasty

remains at Qantir, and the reference in Num 3:27-28 to 8,600

brothers and cousins of Moses and Aaron).

    In short, the various lines of evidence would seem to indicate

that the 430 years should be taken at face value for the Israelite

sojourn in Egypt. In any event, it seems to me that the case for this

particular reconstruction is tenable and defensible, and that it

deserves attention as an alternative to the "short-chronology"





    The dating of the Exodus is very controversial.  There are two main

periods which have been suggested as fitting best the evidence for this

event--one at the end of the Late Bronze Age I, and the other at the end of

the Late Bronze Age II.  A thirteenth-century date has been favored by most of the scholarly world, with either a low date of ca. 1220 B.C. (cf. W. M. F.

Petrie, Egypt and Israel [London, Eng., 1911], p. 53) or a high date of ca.

1280 B.C. (cf. W. F. Albright, From Stone Age to Christianity [Garden City,

N.Y., 1957], p. 256).

     However, a fifteenth-century-B.C. date is preferred by other scholars.

These scholars, too, hold either to a high date of ca. 1470 B.C. (cf. J. Bimson,

"Redating the Exodus and Conquest," JSOT 5 [1978]: 144) or a low date of

ca. 1445 B.C. (cf. J. W. Jack, The Date of the Exodus [Edinburgh, 1925],

p. 199).

     I have opted for the fifteenth-century "low date," as recently modified to

ca. 1450 B.C. by W. H. Shea, "Exodus, Date of the," ISBE, rev. ed. (Grand

Rapids, Mich., 1982), 2: 230-238.  The dates found throughout my foregoing

article are based on this date for the Exodus.




     In Table 2 in the preceding main article, I have summarized my

reconstruction of data from several genealogical lists: for Ephraim (begin-

ning with his father, Joseph) in Num 26:35-36 and I Chr 7:20-27; for Levi in

Exod 6:16-27; and for Judah in I Chr 2:1-20.  Although it is not my purpose

248              PAUL J. RAY, JR.:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


to provide a detailed analysis, a few of the specifics deserve mention,

and this excursus is devoted to them.

    Nahshon, the sixth generation from Judah, was still alive in the second

year after the Exodus and was at that time the prince or leader (nasi; cf.

Num 2:3; 7:12) of the tribe of Judah.  Aaron married Nahshon's sister

Elisheba (Exod 6:23).  Since Levi was Jacob's third son (Gen 29:34) and at

least presumably married before Judah71 (who took a long time to have a

surviving male offspring in Perez [Gen 38]), it is unlikely that Aaron would

be the fourth generation of Levi while taking a wife from the sixth

generation of Judah.  It would seem more probable that Aaron, too, was at

least the sixth generation from the sons of Jacob.  It may be noted also that

Bezaleel (Exod 31:2), one of the builders of the Tabernacle and a contem-

porary of Moses and Aaron, was of the seventh generation of Judah.

     Ephraim was the second son of Joseph (Gen 41:52).  Taken together,

Num 26:35-36 and 1 Chr 7:20-27 indicate four family lines for this tribe,

two of which are treated in detail.72 The family of Shuthelah is carried down

for twelve generations into the days of the Judges (1 Chr 7:21b-24), whereas

the family of Tahan is traced eight generations up through Joshua, who was

also contemporary with Moses and Aaron.  The sixth generation from

Ephraim is indicated as Elishama (Num 7:48), who was the leader (nasi') of

the tribe of Ephraim at that time. Indeed, it is possible that the high number

of generations for Ephraim might be explained by the population explosion

toward the end of the 430 years, or that some of the names represent the sons

of one and the same individual. In any case, however, the first generation of

Ephraim himself and the last four generations are clearly continuous (Num

7:48; 13:16), reducing Ephraim to six generations, at the most.73  This is

consistent with what we have seen for the genealogy of Judah, and thus

seems to be the case for Levi also.

      On the basis of the above evidence, it would seem plausible that the

genealogies of Levi in Exod 6 and Num 26 are incomplete. As such, they are

consistent with a view that the 400 (430) years could refer to the Israelite

sojourn in Egypt alone. A period of only 215 years would be too small to

accommodate the above data; however, 400 (430) years would accommodate

those data rather well. It would seem, then, that the expression "in the fourth

generation [dor]" should be understood as "in the fourth cycle of time," as

suggested in Section 2 of the main article.


     71 Levi and Judah were probably only about 1 year apart in age.  In fact, it would

seem that all eleven sons born to Jacob in his exile, exclusive of Benjamin, were born

within a seven-year period (Gen 29:28-30:28; 31:38).

    72 Keil and Delitzsch, The Books of Chronicles, trans. Andrew Harper, in Biblical

Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1952), pp. 139-142.

     73 Before he died, Jacob prophesied that Joseph's descendants would be fruitful

(Gen 49:22).  There are also six generations from Joseph to Zelophehad for the tribe of

Manasseh (cf. Num 26: 28-33, 21:1, and Josh 11:3).

This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Andrews University Seminary Studies

SDA Theological Seminary
Berrien Springs
, MI 49104-1500

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