|Q: How long were the Israelites In Bondage to Pharoah?
A: The bible dates the sojourn of Israel in two different ways. other
times the bible speaks of 430 years. The Apostle Paul gives us the
clearest timing of the 430 years – the outside figure – in the third
chapter of Galatians. In fact, Paul gives us the beginning and ending
points for the 430 years.
Paul tells us in the following passage that the 430 years began with
the promises made to Abraham and ended with the giving of the law
at Mount Sinai. (Paul gives this as a general statement of time: For
the 430 years ended on the 15th Nisan in the year of Israel’s release;
whereas, God gave the law 50 days later. In other words, God gave
the law 430 years + 50 days after the promises to Abram – later
named Abraham. In terms of years it was still only 430 years – from
the time of the promises – even 50 days later.)
Galatians 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He
saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is
17 And this I say, [that] the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in
Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot
disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
18 For if the inheritance is by the law, it is no longer by promise; but God
gave it (the inheritance) to Abraham by a promise.
The following verses relate the giving of the promises to Abram and
specify that he was 75 years old at the time, giving us the beginning
point of the 430 years, as Paul confirms in Galatians. In other words,
Abraham began his sojourn from his father’s home when he left
Haran, at the age of 75.
Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy
country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I
will shew thee:
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy
name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in
thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with
him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of
Moses gives us the ending point of the 430 years in the twelfth
chapter of Exodus, as follows:
Exodus 12:40 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel (who dwelt in
Egypt) was four hundred and thirty years.
41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even
the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from
the land of Egypt.
The following verse dates the ending of the 430 years from the
giving of the promises to Abraham when he was 75 years old: The
430 years ended on the 15th day of the 1st month or Nisan 15.
Numbers 33:3 And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the
fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the Passover the children
of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians.
Moses does not say that Israel dwelt in Egypt 430 years, but that the
sojourn of the children of Israel was 430 years and they lived in
Egypt for part of that time – that is the gist of Exodus 12:40. We
will see later how much of the 430 years the Israelites stayed in
Egypt. However, for now we want to understand that the bible
clearly gives us the beginning of the 430 years in Genesis 12:1-4 and
clearly gives us the ending of the 430 years in Exodus 12:40 – using
Paul’s beginning and ending statement of the period in Galatians 3:
16-18 as our guide.
Isaac was born at the end of the first 25 years of the 430 years from
Genesis 21:5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was
born unto him.
Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob was born:
Genesis 25:26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on
Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac [was] threescore years
old when she bare them.
Jacob was 130 years old upon his arrival in Egypt:
Genesis 47:9 And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my
pilgrimage [are] an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of
the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of
the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.
Therefore, the Israelites sojourned in the land of Canaan for the
first 215 years or exactly the first half of the 430 years. Here is a
chart of these points of timing:
|215 years sojourn in the land of Canaan
From the time of the giving of the promises to the birth of Isaac
(Genesis 12:1-4 and Genesis 21:5)..................................................25
Isaac at the birth of Jacob (Genesis 25:26).....................................60
Jacob at going into Egypt (Genesis 47:9).......................................130
Total years of sojourn in Canaan.....................................................215
In Genesis 41:46 Joseph was 30 years old when he stood before
Pharaoh and revealed his dreams. In the next verse, Genesis 41:47
we have the 7 plentiful years beginning “shortly” or, as one can
translate: hastily, after the dream, in Genesis 41:32. In Genesis 45:
6, two years of famine had passed at the time Joseph sent for his
father Jacob to come into Egypt.
Genesis 41:46 And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh
king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went
throughout all the land of Egypt.
Genesis 41:32 And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; [it is]
because the thing [is] established by God, and God will shortly (hastily) bring
it to pass.
Genesis 41:47 And in the seven plenteous years, the earth brought forth by
Genesis 45:6 For these two years [hath] the famine [been] in the land: and
yet [there are] five years, in the which [there shall] neither [be] earing nor
If we add the years of these verses together, we conclude that
Joseph was 39 years old when Jacob came into Egypt. This point
begins the Israelites sojourn in Egypt.
In Genesis 50:26, Joseph died at 110 years old. If we take the 110
years and subtract the 39 years, we get the first 71 years of the
Israelites sojourn in Egypt, for Joseph lived 71 years after Jacob and
his descendants came into Egypt. Subtracted from the 215 years in
Egypt we have 144 years left after Joseph's death to the Exodus.
This sets the outside limit of the time of bondage in Egypt.
Genesis 50:26 So Joseph died, [being] an hundred and ten years old: and they
embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
However, we know that several years passed after Joseph's death
before the bondage began for the bible informs us in Exodus 1:6 that
"Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation" before the
bondage began. In other words, all of those who had come down
from Canaan with Jacob died before the bondage began. A new king
arose up over Egypt that did not know Joseph. This was not
necessarily the king following the one Joseph served.
Exodus 1:6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and
multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.
We know that Moses was 80 years old when he first appeared before
Pharaoh (Exodus 7:7) to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt.
The Plague Period was probably about one year.
Exodus 7:7 And Moses [was] fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and
three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.
From this information, we can deduce that the bondage lasted at
least eighty-one years. It is probable that the bondage began a few
years before the birth of Moses, for the Egyptians tried bondage first
and when that only caused the Israelites to multiply, they began to
slay their male children: this is where the bible introduces Moses. If
we subtract the 81 years from the 144 years accounted for, we have
63 years between the death of Joseph and the birth of Moses.
Therefore, sometime during these 63 years from Joseph's death to
Moses birth the bondage began. Joseph’s brothers and those of that
generation who came down with Jacob into Egypt died before the
bondage began. This would account for at least another 30 years
after Joseph’s death before the Israelites’ Egyptian ordeal, as some
of those coming down were small children at the time.
Genesis 46:5 And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel
carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons
which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.
Let’s put this in chart form:
|215 years sojourn in the land of Egypt
Joseph 39 years old when Jacob came into Egypt, Beginning Point:
(Gen 41:46)(Gen 41:32)(Gen 41:47)(Gen 45:6)…………………..…0
Joseph died at 110 years Old:
All of that generation died; the Israelites multiplied filling the land:
(Deduction based on facts of Exo 1:6-7 – one generation)…..….......30
Possible years of bondage before Moses’ birth:
(Deduction based on the above point)…..………………..………..…33
Moses’ age when he first appeared before Pharaoh to let Israel go:
Children of Israel went out at the end of 430 years, to the day:
(Exo 12:41 Plagues 1 year by deduction – type:
Day of the Lord in Book of Revelation)…………..………….…….….1
Total years of sojourn in Egypt…………………………….….……215
Genesis 15:13, Acts 7:6, and Exodus 12:40-41 are poor translations in
the KJV. In the NKJV there is a footnote at Exodus 12:40 which In
other words, the verse would read:
Exodus 12:40 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt
and Canaan, [was] four hundred and thirty years.
The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge on Exodus 12:40 says:
"The Samaritan Pentateuch reads, 'Now the sojourning of the children
of Israel, and of their fathers in the land of Canaan and in the land of
Egypt, was 430 years.'
The TSK continues:
The Alexandrine copy of the LXX has the same reading; and the same statement
is made by the apostle Paul, in Galatians 3:17, who reckons from the promise
made to Abraham to the giving of the law. That these three witnesses have the
truth, the chronology itself proves; for it is evident that the descendants of
Israel did not dwell 430 years in Egypt; while it is equally evident, that the
period from Abraham's entry into Canaan to the Exodus, is exactly that
Realizing that the original biblical languages did not have marks of
punctuation, parentheses, etc. – we have to place these in the
Scriptures to make the sense in the English language. Furthermore,
without perfect doctrinal understanding, a translator could bias a
thought by placing a certain word or phrase in the wrong place.
|Consider the following possible translations:
The descendants of Abraham were strangers in Canaan and Egypt for
400 years refer to the time Abraham’s descendents had no country of
their own before the Exodus – rather than to the period that they
were slaves in Egypt.
Genesis 15:13, Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants
will be strangers in a land that is not theirs four hundred years: (and they shall
be servants; and they shall be afflicted).
In the following verse, the 430 years refers to the sojourn of Abraham
and his descendents after God gave him the promises – rather than to
the time of the bondage of his offspring in Egypt.
Exodus 12:40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel (who lived in Egypt)
was four hundred and thirty years.
In the next verse, the 400 years refer to the sojourn of the Israelites
in Canaan and Egypt; and it informs us that they would experience a
time of bondage and oppression sometime during that period.
Acts 7:6 But God spoke in this way: that his (Abraham’s) descendants would
sojourn in a foreign land four hundred years: (and that they would be brought
into bondage and (be) oppressed).
|Four Hundred Years Reckoning:
|As Genesis 15:13 and Acts 7:6 indicate, the reckoning of the 400-
year period begins with the descendants of Abraham. Isaac was
weaned Isaac – perhaps on the day of his weaning feast – God
required Abraham to send Ishmael away “…for in Isaac your seed
shall be called”.
Genesis 21:8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great
feast the [same] day that Isaac was weaned.
Genesis 21:12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight
because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said
unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
We know by deduction that the 400 years began when Isaac was 5
years old. Although 5 years is a long time before weaning one’s child,
it is not an unheard of thing even in our culture today. The fact that
Isaac was a child of Sarah’s old age makes it more probable – Sarah
clung to her miracle child as long as she could. Perhaps this is why
Ishmael was deriding Isaac: a 5-year old boy still nursing his mother’s
Genesis 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had
born unto Abraham, mocking.
10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son:
for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.
It was at, or soon after, the weaning that God caused Abraham to
understand that Isaac was the beginning of his descendants; and by
deduction, we know that the beginning of the 400 years of sojourn
began when God pronounced Isaac the official descendent of
From this accumulation of information, we can know that the
Israelites’ Egyptian Bondage was somewhere between 86 and 114
years – probably closer to the 86 years. The lower figure allows for a
minimum of 5 years of bondage before the Egyptians felt driven to
slay the Israelite male infants and considers Moses to be 81 years old
when the Israelites left Egypt – the very day that culminated the 400-
year and 430-year periods. We therefore conclude that the
scriptures in the KJV or other translations that indicate a 400 or 430-
year slavery are in error.