Grace Theological Journal 12.1 (Winter, 1971) 18-35.

Copyright 1961 by Grace Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.

 

 

THE LENGTH OF

lSRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT

 

 

JACK R. RIGGS

Associate Professor of Bible

Cedarville College

 

The chronological framework of Biblical events from the time of

Abraham to David rests upon two pivotal texts of Scripture. The first

is I Kings 6:1, which dates the Exodus from Egypt 480 years before the

fourth year of Solomon.

The second pivotal date for the Biblical chronology of this period

is Exodus 12:40 which dates the arrival of Jacob's family in Egypt years

before the Exodus.

The purpose of this paper will be to discuss the problem of the

length of Israel's sojourn in Egypt. This problem is important, as

already suggested, because it has to do with dating events in the cen-

turies prior to the Exodus.

There are at least three possible solutions to the problem of the

length of Israel's Egyptian sojourn. The first view is that the time span

of the sojourn was only 215 years. A second solution is the view of 400

years for the sojourn. The third, and final, solution to be discussed is

the idea that 430 years elapsed between the entrance of Jacob and his

family into Egypt and their Exodus under Moses' leadership.

 

The View That The Egyptian

Sojourn Was 215 Years

The most commonly held view of the length of Israel's sojourn

in Egypt is the 215 year idea. To state the view simply, the chrono-

logical notations of Genesis 15:13,

 

This article was presented as a paper at the Midwestern Section meet-

ing of the Evangelical Theological Society on April 17, 1970, at Grace

Theological Seminary.

 



ISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT 19

 

And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed

shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs and shall

serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred -

years,

 

and Exodus 12:40,

Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt

in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years,

 

include sojourns in both Canaan and Egypt. From this it is argued that

approximately 215 years were spent in Canaan and 215 years in Egypt.

 

Among the proponents of this view are Anstey,1 Meyer,2 Eadie,3

Alford4 and McDonald.5

Anstey is possibly its leading adherent. He reckons the 430 years

of Exodus 12:40 from Abraham's call to the Exodus, and considers the

400 years of Genesis 15:13 as embracing the same period, but beginning

with the weaning of lsaac.6 According to Anstey the Genesis passage has

to do with the sojourning of Abraham's seed. As he has explained:

 

Abraham's seed here means Abraham's posterity, viz.,

Isaac from the time that he was weaned and became

Abraham's heir (Gal. 3:29-4:5) and Isaac's descend-

ants.7

 

Holding to the idea that an oriental child was weaned at age five,

the conclusion is that the 400 years of Genesis 15 began when Isaac was

five years old.8

Adding these five years plus the twenty-five years that elapsed

between Abraham's call and Isaac's birth to the 400 years of Exodus

12:40 makes the harmonious chronological scheme.9

Another argument is his interpretation of the phrase "a land

that is not theirs" in Genesis 15:13. Since Canaan was actually never

possessed by Abraham's seed before the conquest under Joshua, then

the 400 years must include both that land and Egypt.10 The interpre-

tation also of McDonald is significant here as he sees the phrase as

being more appropriately applied to Canaan. He has written:

While no particular country is specified, the appellation

"a land that is not theirs" was, as regards Abraham

and his immediate posterity, more applicable to Canaan

than it was to Egypt during the sojourn there. Up to



20 GRACE JOURNAL

 

the time when it was taken possession of by Joshua,

Canaan, though the "land of promise", was in every

sense a strange (allotria Heb. xi. 9, comp. ac. ii. c),

land, Abraham or his posterity having no possession

in it beyond a place of sepulture, and no fixed dwell-

ing place, whereas in Egypt they had the land of Goshen

by royal grant.11

 

In connection with this Anstey does not see the servitude and

affliction mentioned in the verse as applying to the Canaan sojourn. He

skirts the necessity of applying these to the entire four hundred years by

the use of an introversion. In other words he breaks down the passage

so that it is constructed in the following manner:

Know of a surety that

A. thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is

not theirs,

B. and shall serve them;

B. and they shall afflict them;

A. four hundred years. 12

 

In this construction the two A clauses correspond to each other

and relate to the same event, that is, the whole period of the sojourn-

ing. The two B clauses likewise correspond and are parenthetical and

relate to the servitude in Egypt and that alone.

A third argument used to establish the extent of the sojourn is

the variant readings to the Massoretic text of Exodus 12:40. The Sep-

tuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch both include Canaan in the 430 year

sojourn. The Septuagint version is as follows:

The sojourning of the children of Israel which they so-

journed in Egypt and in the land of Canaan, was four

hundred and thirty years.

 

The Samaritan Pentateuch reads:

And the sojourn of the children of Israel and of their

fathers in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt.

 

The clause "and in the land of Canaan" of the Septuagint, and

the clause "and of their fathers in the land of Canaan" of the Samaritan

Pentateuch are not supported by any other manuscript evidence.

Anstey finds support in these variants while not contradicting the

Massoretic text. He believes that the Septuagint and Samaritan insertions



ISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT 21

 

. . . agree perfectly with the Hebrew which is fur-

ther elucidated, but in no way modified by them. They

correctly interpret the meaning of the Hebrew text. . . .

But the meaning of the Hebrew is sufficiently clear

without the explanatory addition when the text is prop-

erly translated.13

To summarize at this point, the major premise for the 215 year

view is the interpretation of Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40 as referring

harmoniously to both the Canaan and Egyptian sojourns. The support

for this is the view that the seed of Abraham, beginning with Isaac, was

to dwell in a land not their own, which included Canaan. At the same

time the variant readings of Exodus 12:40 interpret that passage as

bringing the two sojourns into one.

The final support for reckoning the 430 years from Abraham to

Sinai is the implication of Galatians 3:17. This verse, speaking of the

covenant of the law which came many years after the Abrahamic prom-

ise, reads as follows:

Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by

God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years

after doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of

none effect.

 

The implication of this verse is important to the view under con-

sideration. Fergusson sees this verse as indicating the space of 430

years to be reckoned

. . . from the first solemn sanction and confirmation

of the covenant by God to Abraham. . . and the close

of it was at the giving of the law upon Mount Sinai. . . .14

 

This supposed interpretation by Paul of the 430 years is also

considered by Meyer to be an evidence that Paul used the Septuagint at

this point,15 which in turn gives support to that version's interpretation

of Exodus 12:40.

It is from the standpoint of the major premise of 430 years for

the Canaan and Egyptian sojourns that the time span of the latter sojourn

is calculated. The time from Abraham's call to Jacob's entrance into

Egypt can be determined by particular references in Genesis. According

to Genesis 21:5 Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old or

twenty-five years after Abraham entered Canaan (Gen. 12:4). Jacob was

born when Isaac was 60 years old (Gen. 25:26) and entered Egypt at age

130 (Gen. 47:9). The total of the figures of 25, 60 and 130 would be



22 GRACE JOURNAL

 

215, the time span of the Canaan sojourn. Subtracting this figure from

430 would leave a similar amount of time for Israel's stay in Egypt.

In order to demonstrate the validity of 215 years in Egypt, sev-

eral arguments are put forth, the principal one being the genealogy of

Jochebed. According to Exodus 6:16-20 and Numbers 26:59, Jochebed

was the daughter of Levi, who went into Egypt, and the mother of Moses

who led the children of Israel out. If the sojourn in Egypt was 430

years, she would have to be over 250 years old when Moses was born.

This conclusion is reached by deducting the number of years Levi lived

in Egypt, approximately 94, and the age of Moses at the Exodus, 80,

from the 430 years. Ellicott summarizes the problem as follows:

Amram, grandson of Levi, marries his father's sister

Jochebed (Exod. 6:20; comp. Exod. 2:1; Numb. 26:59).

Now as it appears probable by a comparison of dates

that Levi was born when Jacob was about 87, Levi would

have been 43 when he came into Egypt; there he lives

94 years (Exod. 6:16). Assuming then even that Jochebed

was born in the last year of Levi's life, she must at

least have been 256 years old when Moses was born,

if the sojourn in Egypt be 430 years. . . . 16

 

Consequently, the 215 year view of the Egyptian sojourn is con-

sidered more reasonable as it does not demand such an inconceivable

age for Jochebed. McDonald, making his deductions from the 215 year

hypothesis, suggests an approximate age of 45 for Jochebed at Moses'

birth.17

Anstey's Joseph to Moses connection is his further demonstration

of a short Egyptian sojourn. He subtracts the time span from the call

of Abraham to the death of Joseph, 286 years, and the age of Moses at

the Exodus, 80, from his 430 year figure of both sojourns and arrives

at a 64 year interval between Joseph and Moses.18 This time period

would allow for the events that took place between the two men (Exodus

1:1-22).

The proponents of this view see no difficulty in harmonizing the

population increase of Israel in such a short period of 215 years. Anstey

first of all, sees confirmation of the 600,000 male population in the

later notices in Numbers 2:32 and 26:51.19 He then argues that such

an increase is not beyond comprehension:

Mr. Malthus has shown that with an abundant supply

of food, a given population may continue to double its

numbers in about 15 years, and in favored cases, in



ISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT 23

 

even less time. At this rate of increase the 70 souls

who went down into Egypt would have multiplied in 225

years to 2,293,760, which is perhaps about the number

of the entire population including Levites, women and

children; the 600,000 mentioned in Exodus 12 :37, Numb.

2:32 and 26:51, would be the adult males.20

 

Others, such as Moller, have attributed the phenomenal growth

simply to Divine blessing.21

To summarize, the view of a 215 year sojourn in Egypt is first

of all based upon the idea that the period from the call of Abraham to

the Exodus was 430 years. This idea is derived from the interpreta-

tion and harmonization of Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40. Genesis

15:13 is interpreted in reckoning the sojourn of Abraham's seed in a

land not their own from the weaning of Isaac. This interpretation is

further supported by adopting the Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch

readings of Exodus 12:40, which include both Canaan and Egypt in the

430 year span.

Within this framework of time, the time of the sojourning in

Canaan, determined by references in Genesis, is deducted from the 430

year period leaving 215 years for Israel's stay in Egypt. This is then

demonstrated by the genealogy of Jochebed and the short span of years

between Joseph and Moses. At the same time, the increase in the He-

brew population in Egypt does not invalidate such a short period of time.

There are, however, several objections to this interpretation.

To begin, while the Genesis 15:13 passage does clearly indicate that

the 400 year sojourning is to be the experience of Abraham's seed,

yet the verse does not specify the reckoning of this period to begin

with Isaac.

A second objection is to the interpretation of the phrase "a land

not their own" in the same passage. While it is true that the Israelites

did not take possession of the land of Canaan until Joshua's day, yet the

land was still theirs. The very context of the passage is concerned with

deeding the land to Abraham and his posterity. The land not their own

was in direct contrast to the land of Canaan. Beet has very aptly re-

marked:

It is also difficult to suppose that in Gen. XV. 13 the

'land not theirs,' in which Israel was to dwell 400 years

and which seems to be contrasted with the land promised

to Abraham, includes both Egypt and Canaan, countries

so different in their relation to Israel.22



24 GRACE JOURNAL

 

Thirdly the passage refers to servitude and affliction during the

period of the 400 years. The children of Abraham did not serve others

in Palestine, nor were they afflicted by their neighbors in Canaan.23

Anstey's introversion of Genesis 12:13 is really a circumnavigation of

the real sense of the verse.24

Keil and Delitzsch have suggested the importance of the passage

as follows:

By this revelation Abram had the future history of his

seed pointed out to him in general outlines, and was

informed at the same time why neither he nor his de-

scendants could obtain immediate possession of the prom-

ised land, viz., because the Canaanites were not yet

ripe for the sentence of extermination.25

 

The fourth objection is to the interpretation of Exodus 12:40 as

based upon the variant readings. In refutation of this supporting evi-

dence it may be said the more reliable text is the Massoretic text.26

The implication of the Hebrew text is that the residence in Egypt oc-

cupied the whole 430 year period. It would certainly be more natural

in reckoning the time of the departure from Egypt to give the length of the

sojourn there than the period elapsed since Abraham entered Canaan.27

While the context of the Galatians passage would seem to support

the idea of 430 years elapsing between Abraham's call and the law, a

possible solution is that Paul may be looking at periods or ages. This

will be discussed later.

The objection, the fifth, here is that support could be rendered

to the 215 year view if it could be determined that Paul used the Sep-

tuagint. In discussing this point, Ridderbos concludes that it is im-

possible to determine Paul's chronological source:

The LXX transmits Ex. 12:40 in such a way that the

time in which Israel was in Egypt and in Canaan came

to 430 years. There is, however, no equivalent for

the words kai en gei chanaan in the Hebrew text. It

is therefore impossible for us to determine whether and

in what sense Paul takes his figure from one or another

of these data.28

Such being the case, the final interpretation of Galatians 3:17

can not be based on the Septuagint. This relieves one from the neces-

sity of supporting a 215 year Egyptian sojourn at this point, or from

facing the definite problem of Paul's use of an inaccurate source.



ISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT 25

 

A sixth objection is the insistence on a strict genealogical re-

cord of Exodus 6:16-20. This is admittedly a difficult problem. Keil

and Delitzsch argue that the genealogical records are very often in-

complete due to missing links. Their argument is as follows:

The genealogies do not always contain a complete enu-

meration of all the separate links, but very frequently

intermediate links of little importance are omitted.29

 

Keil and Delitzsch then demonstrate this by a comparison of Exo-

dus 6:16-20 with the other genealogies in which more than four genera-

tions between Levi and Moses must have occurred.30 Numbers 26:29ff,

27:1, and Joshua 17:3 show six generations from Joseph to Zelophehad.

Ruth 4:18 and I Chronicles 2:5, 6 show six generations from Judah to

Nahshon who was a tribal prince in the time of Moses. I Chronicles

2:18 lists seven generations from Judah to Bezabel. The most signifi-

cant is possibly I Chronicles 7:20 which lists nine or ten generations

from Joseph to Joshua. Keil and Delitzsch significantly have commented:

This last genealogy shows most clearly the impossi-

bility of the view founded upon the Alexandrian version

that the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt lasted only

215 years; for ten generations, reckoned at 40 years

each, harmonize veil well with 430 years, but cer-

tainly not with 215.31

 

Archer sees the same problem, although from a slightly dif-

ferent reckoning. His conclusion is that

. . . ten generations can hardly be reconciled with a

mere 215 years (especially considering the longer life

span of pre-Exodus Israelites), but it fits in very plau-

sibly with an interval of 430 years.32

 

The genealogy of Jochebed, then, does not support a short so-

journ of 215 years in Egypt due to the problem of missing links in the

genealogy itself.

Added to this is Thiele's statement:

That some considerable period was involved is clear

from the fact that Joseph before his death saw the chil-

dren of the third generation of both his sons (Gen.

50:23), and that at the time of Exodus Amram and his

brothers were already regarded as founders of clans

(Num. 3:27).33



26 GRACE JOURNAL

 

The increase from 70 to approximately one million Hebrews

does in reality militate against the 215 year view. This is the final

objection to the idea. It is certainly admitted that such an increase is

Divinely possible in 215 years. In fact, even in the 430 year view the

Divine blessing of Exodus 1:20 should be cited. Yet, the tremendous

increase of the nation seems more plausible during a 430 year period.

The problem of increase is more paramount with only 215 years of so-

journing. Archer views the problem as follows:

If there were indeed only four generations, then the

rate of multiplication would necessarily have been as-

tronomic. Even if seven generations should be crammed

into the 215 years, there would have had to be an aver-

age of four surviving sons per father.34

In conclusion, from a study of the lines of evidence, an Egyp-

tian bondage of 215 years was highly improbable and unlikely.

 

The View That The Egyptian

Sojourn Was 400 Years

Rea35 and Hoehner36 favor the position of a 400 year Egyptian

bondage.

Rea proceeds to establish this idea by first of all accepting the

Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch readings of Exodus 12:40. The 430

years of that verse would thus apply to both Canaan and Egypt.37 How-

ever, Rea reckons the beginning of this period not from Abraham's call,

but from Jacob's return from Haran to Canaan with his family. Jacob's

name was confirmed as Israel at that time. The grounds for this is an

emphasis upon the phrase "the children of Israel" which is found in the

Exodus 12 verse. To quote Rea:

The verse therefore states the length of time which

elapsed from the return of Jacob from Haran to Canaan

with his children, unto the departure of the Israelites

from Egypt. The "exodus" of Jacob along with his

family from Padan-aram is compared with the exodus

of Moses accompanied by the nation of Israel from

Egypt. Even when we adopt the longer reading in Ex-

odus 12:40, the 430 years cannot cover the entire pa-

triarchal age and the sojourn in Egypt, that is, from

Abraham's arrival in Canaan until the Exodus. The

verse distinctly says "the time that the children of

Israel dwelt," and that cannot be made to include Abra-

ham and Isaac.38



ISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT 27

 

Galatians 3:17 is viewed as giving support to this in stating that

the 430 year period began with the confirmation, not the institution, of

the Abrahamic covenant. The last confirmation was made with Jacob in

Canaan years before the entrance into Egypt (Gen. 35:9 -15).39

The next step is to subtract the intervening time between Jacob's

return to Canaan and his entrance into Egypt from the 430 years. This

leaves approximately 400 years for the Egyptian sojourn and produces a

harmony of Exodus 12:40 with Genesis 15:13 and Acts 13:19. 20. Com-

menting on Acts 13:19, 20 Rea makes his conclusion as follows:

According to the Apostle Paul, then, the time that the

Israelites spent in Egypt was only four hundred years

instead of 430 years. The slightly shorter period ac-

cords with the four hundred years of Gen. 15:13 and

almost exactly with the 430 years of Ex. 12:40 (Samar-

itan Pentateuch and Septuagint Versions), thirty-four of

which were spent in Canaan before Jacob and his sons

descended into Egypt to sojourn there.40

Rea believes that the Acts 13:19, 20 chronological note gives

strong support for his view. In dealing with the textual problem con-

nected with this passage, he has chosen the text of the Alexandrian

family, the Latin Vulgate and the Armenian Version and made the follow-

ing translation of the latter half of verse twenty:

He gave them their land for an inheritance--about four

hundred and fifty years. And after these things He

gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.41

 

This would mean 400 years for the Egyptian bondage. 40 years

for the wilderness journey. and 7 years for the conquest of the land

under Joshua's leadership, making a total of 447 years or "about 450

years" as the text states.

This is of course the alternative to the King James Version.

based on the Byzantine texts, which places the four hundred and fifty

years after the phrase "he gave unto them judges." This positioning

of the figure would tend to indicate that it was meant to apply to the

period of the judges instead of the Egyptian sojourn.42

The first objection to this view is the use of the Septuagint and

Samaritan renderings of Exodus 12:40. As already noted the Massoretic

text is the more reliable text and its rendering of the passage does not

include Canaan with Egypt in the 430 years. To include a Canaan so-

journ in the reference does seem to be contrary to the point of the

 



28 GRACE JOURNAL

 

reference which was to give the years spent in Egypt at the time of

their termination.

To make the sojourning run from the return of Jacob to Canaan

to the Exodus on the basis of the use of the appellation "the children

of Israel" does seem rather forced.

A third objection is the restriction of the beginning of the 430

year period of Galatians 3 to the confirmation of the covenant in Genesis

35 when Jacob returned to Canaan. The last confirmation of the cove-

nant to Jacob could very well be seen in Genesis 46 when he entered

Egypt. As he journeyed to Egypt the Lord encouraged him and promised

to make a great nation of him while in that land. The promise of a

great posterity had its roots in the covenant and consequently its re-

iteration was another confirmation of its provisions. The 430 years

would subsequently run from Jacob's entrance into Egypt until the Exodus

under Moses' leadership.

In conclusion, this view does not seem to explain adequately the

Biblical data.

The View That The Egyptian

Sojourn Was 430 Years

This second most prevalent view simply states the length of

Israel's sojourn in Egypt was 430 years. This period began with

Jacob's entrance into Egypt and terminated with the Exodus.

Some of the proponents of this view are Keil and Delitzsch,

Archer,44 Leupold, Toussaint,46 Lenski, 47 Jamieson, Fausset and

Kitchen.49

Basically, this view takes Genesis 15:13-16; Exodus 12:40 and

Acts 7:6 in their normal sense. The Genesis 15 passage refers to the

sojourn in a land not theirs when God has just deeded Palestine to

Abraham and his seed (cf. 15:7, 18). Along with this it is also noted

that Abraham's children did not serve others in Palestine, nor were

they afflicted by their neighbors in Canaan.50

The 400 years of the passage is to be considered as a rounded

number used in prophetic style51 with the fourth generation reference of

verse 16 denoting the same period of time. Archer has significantly

commented:

It is evident that in Abraham's case a generation

was computed at one hundred years, and this was

 



ISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT 29

 

appropriate enough in view of the fact that Abraham

was precisely one hundred when he became the father

of Isaac. At least four centuries, then, and not a

mere 215 years, would mark the Israelite sojourn in

the foreign land.52

 

An objection has been raised to the view under discussion be-

cause of the idea of a rounded number being used. The thought is that

such an interpretation could allow too much liberty in the interpretation

of other numbers in the Bible and consequently do damage to the doc-

trine of inspiration.53 However, if it can be shown that the Bible does

use rounded numbers then the doctrine of inspiration is in no way af-

fected.54 Paul, for example, in Acts 13 suggested such a use when he

used the phrase "about the space of" in summarizing the years of the

Egyptian bondage, the wilderness wanderings and the conquest of Canaan.

The author of II Samuel rounds off the years of David's reign at 40 and

then explains that the reign was actually composed of 7 years and 6

months at Hebron and 33 years at Jerusalem (II Sam. 5:4, 5). The enu-

meration of Job's possessions must have involved the use of rounded

numbers for it would have been trivial for the author to have given an

odd ten or fifty or hundred in /figures running into thousands.55

The Bible then, does contain rounded numbers. The real issue

is determining, mainly by context, the use of such figures in anyone

text.

The normal literal sense of Exodus 12:40, with the Massoretic

text being preferred, is a 430 year Egyptian sojourn for Israel.

The Acts 7:6 passage is evidently a quote of Genesis 15:13. It

reads as follows:

And God spake on this wise, that his seed should sojourn

in a strange land, and that they should bring them into

bondage and treat them ill, four hundred years.

Chadwick sees Peter quoting

. . . plainly and confidently the prediction that the seed

of Abraham should be four hundred years in bondage and

that one nation should entreat them evil four hundred

years. . . .56

 

A second argument for this view is the support of Acts 13:19, 20.

Following the A. S. V., which is based on B, Aleph, A, and C, the

four best texts according to Westcott and Hort,57 the four hundred and



30 GRACE JOURNAL

 

fifty years, which preceded the period of the judges, would include the

rounded number of 400 for the Egyptian sojourn. Lenski has arranged

the chronology of the passage as follows:

The round number "about 450 years" covers the time

for the sojourn in Egypt to the possession of Canaan.

According to Acts 7:6 (Gen. 15:13) 400 years were spent

in Egypt, forty additional years in the journey through

the desert to Canaan, and about ten further years for

conquering the land which is certainly close to 450

years.58

A third argument is the genealogical tables in I Chronicles 7:20-27,

indicating nine or ten generations between Joseph and Joshua. As already

suggested ten generations can hardly be reconciled with a mere 215 years.

From this a fourth argument is derived. The increase of the

Hebrew population from 70 to approximately one million is more plaus-

ible with nine or ten generations in 430 years than with three or four

generations in 215 years. Such an increase in 215 years is very dif-

ficult to comprehend, although it is divinely possible, of course.

Archer has demonstrated the plausibility of the increase in 430

years in the following quotation:

If the sojourn lasted 430 years, then the desired mul-

tiplication would result from an average of three sons

and three daughters to every married couple during the

first six generations, and an average of two sons and

two daughters in the last four generations. At this

rate, by the tenth generation there would be (accord-

ing to Delitzsch, Pentateuch, II, 30) 478,224 sons above

twenty by the four hundreth year of the sojourn, while

125,326 males of military age would still be left over

from the ninth generation. These together, then, would

total 603,550 men at arms.59

The problem in connection with this genealogical consideration is

the genealogical line in Exodus 6:16-20. This is admittedly a difficult

problem. The solution may very well be that there were two men by

the name of Amram in this line.60 Amram, the son of Kohath, was

probably an earlier ancestor of Amram, the father of Moses.

In fact, a simple comparison of this genealogy with Numbers

3:27, 28 will show the impossibility of assuming that the father of Moses

in verse 20 was the son of Kohath mentioned in verse 18. According



ISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT 31

 

to Numbers 3:27, 28 the Kohathites were divided (in Moses' time) into

the four branches, Amramites, Isharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites,

who consisted together of 8,600 men and boys. If divided equally a

fourth, or 2,150 men, would belong to the Amramites. According to

Exodus 18:3, 4, Moses himself had only two sons. Consequently, if

Amram the son of Kohath, and tribal father of the Amramites, was the

same person as Amram the father of Moses, Moses must have had

2,147 brothers and brothers' sons. But this would be absolutely im-

possible and it must be granted that an indefinitely long list of genera-

tions has been omitted between the former and latter descendant of the

same name.61

Kitchen argues that Exodus 6:16-20 gives the tribe (Levi), clan

(Kohath) and family-group (Amram by Jochebed) to which Moses and

Aaron belong and not their actual parents.62

In connection with this 430 year view, there is the problem of

Paul's statement in Galatians 3:17 which seems to indicate the time

from Abraham to Sinai was 430 years.

Some possible solutions have been suggested. Lenski's sugges-

tion is that the time is an understatement on the part of Paul. His pur-

pose was to convince his opponents the number could have been larger

by understating it.63 This is, however, a very weak argument and

does not fit the exactness that characterizes the Apostle in his writings

(cf. 1 :16-2 :21).

A second solution has been given by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown.

The assertion of this view is that the 430 years are to be reckoned from

Jacob to the giving of the law.64 The objection to this view is that the

context of Galatians 3 concerns Abraham and not Jacob.

A more satisfactory solution is the one offered by Toussaint

which is as follows:

Paul here is considering periods of time. The promises

were given during the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and

Jacob. This period of time preceded the giving of the

Mosaic law at Sinai by 430 years, the length of the

sojourn in Egypt.65

As previously discussed, the last recorded confirmation is given

in Genesis 46 when Jacob went down into Egypt. From this last re-

corded confirmation to the Exodus 430 years elapsed.

In conclusion, the 430 year view is based upon a normal inter-

pretation of Exodus 12:40 which indicates a 430 year Egyptian sojourn



32 GRACE JOURNAL

 

for Israel. Genesis 15:13-16 and Acts 7:6 are interpreted as contain-

ing rounded numbers. This is true also of Acts 13:19, 20 which sum-

marizes the "about" 450 years before the judges.

Further confirmation of this view is the genealogical table of

I Chronicles 7:20-27 which indicates at least nine or ten generations be-

tween Joseph and Joshua, making the increase from 70 to approximately

one million more plausible. The problem of Amram in Exodus 6:16-20

can be answered by the argument of there being two men in that line by

that name.

The interpretation of Galatians 3:17 is answered by the sugges-

tion Paul is referring to periods or ages, i. e., 430 years elapsed be-

tween the period of the confirmation of the Abrahamic covenant and the

beginning of the period of the law.

 

CONCLUSION

The purpose of this study has been to consider three solutions

to the problem of the length of Israel's sojourn in Egypt. The views

of 215 years and 400 years are rejected as inadequate basically be-

cause of their interpretation of Exodus 12:40, i. e., their acceptance

of the Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch readings of the verse in

contra-distinction to the Massoretic text.

The view of 430 years is set forth as the true solution to the

problem, being based upon the better text, the Massoretic, and pro-

perly interpreting the pertinent scripture references in their normal

sense.

 

DOCUMENTATI0N

 

1. Martin Anstey, The Romance of Bible Chronology (London:

Marshall Brothers, 1913), p. 114.

2. H. A. W. Meyer, The Epistle to the Galatians (Edinburgh: T.

and T. Clark, 1873), p. 167.

3. John Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of

Paul to the Galatians (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1869), p. 260.

4. Henry Alford, The Greek Testament (Chicago: Moody Press,

1958), III. IV., 31.

5. Donald McDonald, "Chronology", The Imperial Bible Dictionary.

Ed. Patrick Fairbairn (London: Blackie and Son, 1887), p. 31.

6. Anstey, p. 117.

7. Ibid.



ISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT 33

 

8. Ibid., p. 114.

9. Ibid., p. 117.

10. Ibid.

11. McDonald, p. 31.

12. Anstey, p. 127.

13. Ibid., p. 129.

14. James Fergusson, An Exposition of the Epistles of Paul, (Evans-

ville, Indiana: Sovereign Grace Publishers, n.d.), p. 58.

15. Meyer, p. 167; see also Alford, p. 31.

16. Charles J. Ellicott, St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (London:

Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1863), p. 61.

See also Alford, p. 31.

17. McDonald, p. 31.

18. Anstey, p. 124.

19. Anstey, p. 123.

20. Ibid.

21. Wilhelm Moller, "The Book of Exodus", The International Stand-

ard Bible Encyclopaedia (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans

Publishing Company, 1957), II, 1965-66.

22. Joseph Agar Beet, Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the

Galatians (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1903), p. 89.

23. Stanley D. Toussaint, "Galatians". (Unpublished Class Notes,

Dallas Theological Seminary, 1965), p. 72.

24. Ibid.

25. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old

Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Com-

pany, 1959), I, 216.

26. Merrill F. Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament.

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1951), pp. 144 and

156ff; F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Westwood,

New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1950), pp. 150-51;

Everett F. Harrison, "The Importance of the Septuagint for Bib-

lical Studies (Part I), Bibliotheca Sacra, CXII (October-Decem-

ber, 1955), p. 351.

27. Beet, p. 89.

28. Herman Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Ga-

latia (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,

1953), p. 136.

29. Keil and Delitzsch, II, 30.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid.



34 GRACE JOURNAL

 

32. Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

(Chicago: Moody Press, 1964), p. 212.

33. Edwin R. Thiele, "Chronology, Old Testament," The Zonder-

van Pictorial Bible Dictionary, ed. Merrill C. Tenney (Grand

Rapids; Zondervan Publishing Company, 1963), p. 167. Thiele

argues that it is impossible to give a categorical answer as to

all that is involved in the 430 year sojourn, but then goes on to

imply that on the bases of Galatians 3:16, 17 the sojourn must

have included both Canaan and Egypt.

34. Archer, p. 212.

35. John Rea, "The Historical Setting of the Exodus and the Conquest"

(Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Grace Theological Seminary,

1958), pp. 80ff.

36. Harold W. Hoehner, "The Duration of the Egyptian Bondage,"

Bibliotheca Sacra, CXXVI (October-December, 1969), pp. 313 -16.

37. Rea, p. 80. Hoehner does not place much stock in either the

Septuagint or Samaritan Pentateuch for chronological notices, but

does comment that the inclusion of "in the land of Canaan" in

both texts "may point back to some early tradition in the text.

It is somewhat difficult to explain its inclusion except that there

was some sort of early tradition for this reading," pp. 315-16.

38. Rea, p. 80.

39. Hoehner, pp. 313-14.

40. Rea, p. 81. He actually holds that the Egyptian sojourn was 396

years due to the 34 years mentioned above. The number 400 is

an approximate number. Hoehner would see the 400 years as

exact due to the doctrine of inspiration, p. 313.

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid.

43. Keil and Delitzsch, I, p. 216.

44. Archer, p. 211.

45. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis (Columbus, Ohio: Wart-

burg Press, 1942), p. 486.

46. Toussaint, P.. 72.

47. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles

(Columbus, Ohio: The Wartburg Press, 1944), p. 520.

48. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Commentary

on the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub-

lishing House, 1934), p. 330.

49. K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago:

Inter-Varsity Press, 1966), pp. 52-53.



ISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT 35

 

50. Ibid., See also Rea, p. 136.

51. Keil and Delitzsch, I, 216.

52. Archer, p. 211; See also Leupold, p. 486.

53. Hoehner, p. 313.

54. See the following for listing and discussions of rounded numbers

in the Bible: John J. Davis, Biblical Numerology (Grand

Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968), pp. 51-54; William T.Smith,

"Number, " The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed.

James Orr (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Com-

pany, 1957), IV, 2158-69.

55. J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore The Book (London: Marshall, Morgan

and Scott, 1952), III, 29-30.

56. B. A. Chadwick, "The Book of Exodus," The Expositor's Bible.

Ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son,

1903), pp. 197. 98.

57. Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, The New

Testament in the Original Greek (New York: The Macmillan

Company, 1948, p. 567.

58. Lenski, p. 520.

59. Archer, p. 212.

60. Toussaint, p. 72.

61. Keil and De1itzsch, I, 470.

62. Kitchen, p. 54.

63. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to

the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (Columbus,

Ohio: The Wartburg Press: 1937), p. 162.

64. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, p. 330.

65. Toussaint, p. 71.

 

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Grace Theological Seminary

200 Seminary Dr.

Winona Lake, IN 46590

www.grace.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: thildebrandt@gordon.edu