Did the Israelites spend 400 years in Egypt?

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400 years in Egypt

“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” (Genesis 15:13).

About the 400 years, there are questions to be figured: (1) Is this the time of affliction or the time of sojourning, or both? (2) How are these 400 years related to the 430 of Exodus 12:40, 41 and Galatians 3:16, 17?

The verse in Exodus 12:40, says that “the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.” This seems to infer that the Israelites essentially spent 430 years there, from Jacob’s entrance to the Exodus. But this cannot be the meaning according to Galatians 3:16, 17, where it is stated that the law was propagated at Sinai 430 years after the covenant between God and Abram.

If Paul points to the first promise made to Abram in Haran (Genesis 12:1–3), the 430 years started when Abram was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4). The 400 years of affliction would then start 30 years later, when Abram was 105 and his son Isaac 5 years old (ch. 21:5). This would be about the time Ishmael the son of Hagar, who “was born after the flesh persecuted him [Isaac] that was born after the Spirit” (Galatians 4:29; Genesis 21:9–11).

The precise time from the call of Abram to Jacob’s entrance into Egypt was 215 years (Genesis 21:5; 25:26; 47:9), which would leave 215 years of the 430 as the real time the Israelites spent in Egypt. For this reason, the 430 years of Exodus 12:40 must include the sojourn in Canaan as well as that in Egypt, from Abram’s call to the Exodus.

The LXX (or the Septuagint, Greek translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew) actually interprets Exodus 12:40 according to above understanding: “And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Chanaan, was four hundred and thirty years.”

It should be noted that at the time of Moses, the land of Canaan relied greatly upon Egypt that Egyptian kings actually regarded it as their own and mentioned it as such. Therefore, during the Eighteenth Dynasty, whose rulers ruled Palestine and Syria, Moses could correctly include Canaan in the land of Egypt as shown in Exodus 12:40.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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