Israel Was Not Enslaved in Egypt for 400 Years

I am breaking my hiatus from blogging temporarily! This blog was inspired from some realizations that I made as I was working on my book, “Agonizing for the Faith”, an exegesis of Jude. I was doing some studying regarding Jude 1:7 where Jude gives us an example of the apostasy of the past. I had read from John MacArthur that Sodom was destroyed approximately 450 years after the flood. This would have meant that Shem was still living at the time of Sodom and Gomorrah’s judgment. He was 98 when the flood subsided and died at 600 years old. If Dr. MacArthur is correct, Shem would have been alive 50 years after the destruction of these cities. This would reveal in some ways that Sodom and Gormorrah are without excuse for their apostasy, especially through Lot, knowing about the flood judgment and ignoring it.

With all of this said, I began to count backwards chronologically from Christ’s birth using scripture as my guide. I was at 1445 B.C. (the exodus) when I was looking at the Abrahamic covenant. Everything was on target until I found some numbers that didn’t reconcile from two different verses:

“God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years.” Genesis 15:13

“Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And at the end of 430 years, to the very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:40-41

Even the New Testament had a verse corroborating the 400 years through Stephen’s address to the Pharisees. “God spoke to this effect, that His descendants would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years.” Acts 7:6

How can you reconcile these two different numbers? For so long people have taught from scripture that Israel was enslaved for 400 years. In Genesis 12:4 we find out that Abraham is 75 years of age when God makes the covenant with him. In Genesis 12:41 it specifically says, “And at the end of 430 years, to the very day”. This means that from the very day that the covenant was made with Abraham to the very day that the Israelites were freed from Egypt was 430 years exactly. Our God is a God of details. So, if our God is a God of details then why do we have the 30 year discrepancy between Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40-41?

I knew that there was no way that Abraham dwelled in Egypt at the time the covenant was made. I also knew that Isaac did not. I knew that for most of Jacob’s life he did not. Remember Jacob settling in the land of Shechem (in Canaan) in Genesis 33:18 after he parted ways with Esau? This did not sit well with my spirit, nor did the 30 year discrepancy. I started with what I thought would be the easiest discrepancy to reconcile; The 30 year difference.

As I read commentaries about this discrepancy the overwhelming majority of commentators stated that the author (Moses) was rounding down to the nearest hundredth. I didn’t buy that explanation because God is a God of details, not ambiguity, so there had to be an answer. There are a few examples in scripture of rounding, but they were used in regards to estimating the number of men (Acts 5:36, 1 Samuel 22:2, 1 Kings 22:6). As far as I know I did not see a biblical precedent for rounding to the nearest hundred in terms of years (I could be wrong). The rounding suggestion did not sit well with my spirit, so I continued my studies. That was when I came across a British Theologian by the name of Henry Ainsworth from the early 1600’s. He said regarding Genesis 15:13 in terms of the 400 years of oppression, “Which began when Ishmael, Son of Hagar the Egyptian, mocked and persecuted Isaac.”  So he believes that the 400 years started when Ishmael mocked Isaac. Remember, it was 400 years of persecution, not 430. Genesis 15:13 specifically says that Abraham’s descendants will be “strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed.” This means that Abraham would not suffer this enslavement or oppression, but his offspring would.

Let’s take a look at Genesis 21:8-11 where the persecution of Isaac is recorded.

“The child (Isaac) grew and was weened, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. Then she said to Abraham, “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac. The matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son.”

The word “mocking” in the Hebrew means “to laugh,” but is not a light-hearted type of laughing. It denotes “to make sport of” someone. It is a rather harsh and cruel type of mocking meant to deride its object. It upset Sarah so much that she wanted Hagar and Ishmael out of their lives with no inheritance because Ishmael was not the heir. This was when the persecution started, and they were in Canaan, not Egypt. Is it any wonder that in Genesis 26:18-22 we see that after Isaac dug wells on two occasions he quarreled with herdsmen who claimed that the water was theirs, and they took them from him. Then upon digging a third well there was no more fighting from the herdsman in the land. Isaac did all the work and these herdsmen took the first two wells from him.

Now, Galatians 4:28-29 backs up Henry Ainsworth’s interpretation. In fact, it was these verses that he cited for his support. “And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.”

The believer is like Isaac who was a child of the promise. The “he who was born according to the flesh” is Ishmael and represents those without inheritance into God’s Kingdom. Paul tells us that it is he (Ishmael) who was born of the flesh that persecuted he (Isaac) that was born of the Spirit. Paul is showing us that Ishmael indeed persecuted his brother Isaac and this strongly supports that the persecution started in Canaan before any of Abraham’s children reached Egypt.

In regards to weening. The Jewish Agency for Israel  stated that in Talmudic times children were weened between 18 months and 5 years old. A Rabbi named Joshua stated that a child should be allowed to nurse until the age of 5 back then. If all of this is true, then Abraham was 75 when the covenant was made and 25 years passed until Isaac was born. Isaac was then weened at 5 years old and the persecution began for Abraham’s offspring, starting with Ishmael’s persecution of Isaac. This accounts for the 30 years + 400 of oppression and slavery.

Lastly, it is time to look at why the Bible says in Exodus 12:40 “Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.” Here is the Septuagint (LXX) translation of this exact same verse:

SnipImage

 

Αἰγύπτῳ means Egypt, and Χανααν is Canaan. So, why is Canaan not in our bibles? It is not in the KJV, ESV, NASB, NKJV, NIV, or any other translation of the bible. The answer is actually very simple. The Hebrew translation that all of these bibles are translated from derive from the Hebrew Masoretic Leningrad Codex which was transcribed in 1008 A.D. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the ancient Hebrew text) was translated in 250 B.C. which is over 1200 years before the Masoretic translation. The Septuagint was translated from an older Hebrew text that is no longer in existence. The Septuagint is one piece of evidence against the Masoretic translation. The Hebrew Masoretic indeed appears to have a scribal error when it was copied.

A second piece of evidence against the Masoretic translation of Exodus 12:40 is the Samaritan Pentateuch “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.” It was written around 100 B.C. and had access to this older Hebrew text that is no longer in existence. This too supports that Canaan was left off because of a scribal error.

A third piece of evidence against this translation is the historian Flavius Josephus. So I opened my book of all his writings to see what he had to say. He had access to these older manuscripts as he wrote history in the first century A.D. He says, “They left Egypt in the month of Xanthicus, on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after our father Abraham came into Canaan, but 215 years only after Jacob removed into Egypt.” Antiquities of the Jews, book 2.15.2

Josephus corroborates that the Israelites were in Canaan first and then Egypt second during this 430 year period. He even elaborates more by saying that when Jacob moved down to Egypt with all of their relatives (66, but a total of 70 counting Jacob, Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim) that this ended 215 years living in Canaan and would begin a 215 year period living in Egypt. So the Israelites were not enslaved for 400 years as many pastors and movies might tell you. Now we have three sources, which are proving that a scribal error was made in the transcription of the Hebrew Masoretic Codex.

Fourthly, the apostle Paul had access to these older Hebrew texts, especially as a Pharisee. We know that he was a mix of Jew and Greek, and that he was a Roman citizen. Paul referred to himself as a Hebrew of Hebrews. In Acts 26:14 during his conversion on the road to Damascus, Christ spoke to him in Hebrew:

“I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me.”

Paul clearly knows Hebrew. As such, he studied these old texts and references them in his letter to the Galatians. “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.” Galatians 3:16a. Then in verse 17 he says, “What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.” Paul is saying the Law came 430 years after the covenant was made, showing us that the Mosaic Law came right after they were freed from Egypt as he obviously referred back to Exodus 12:40. Note, He did not say 400 years of slavery in Egypt.

I hope this clarifies some things for you. Exodus 12:40 has an obvious scribal error from its transcription in 1008 A.D. and as such makes this verse a contradiction because almost all bible translations do not include Canaan.

I had gotten together about 50% of the information, but then found this resource that helped me to pull all the missing pieces together and solidify it. I have included some of the information I learned into this blog post. It is a brilliant 12 minute video that perfectly articulates not only this, but even down to how many actual years the Israelites were in bondage (No less than 80 years, but no more than 144 years). It goes into several other things that are very relevant which I don’t mention here. It is biblical scholarship at its very best. Please watch it! It will help you to defend against attacks that claim the bible is full of error. That is why I felt it so necessary to write about this because liberal theologians and unbelievers only seek to disprove God’s word. Hopefully, this will strengthen your faith and prove the inerrancy of God’s word.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

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Author: thomascoutouzis

I was born in the United States as a second generation Greek. My family comes from the Island of Kalymnos which is the island next to Patmos (Where the apostle John wrote Revelation). My wife Kathy is of Korean descent and we have two wonderful children, Chloe and Micah. We live in a small town outside of Raleigh, North Carolina called Fuquay Varina. The Lord redeemed me as a young boy as my mother (who was a believer) shared the Gospel with me. If I had to categorize my denomination I would most likely fall into the Reformed Baptist realm with some differences over non-essential doctrine. I am an expositional bible teacher who attends Fellowship Baptist Church in Willow Springs, NC. For the last few years I have been taking God's word and teaching it on outlets like Twitter and Wordpress. I am also a fan of both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis' fantasy novels. As such I am writing a fantasy series full of adventure, while weaving deep theological truth into the story and characters. My first book, "Athanasia: The Great Insurrection" is available in both ebook and paperback currently. I am hoping to release the second book in the series, "Athanasia: The Unknown Lands" around September of 2018.

5 thoughts on “Israel Was Not Enslaved in Egypt for 400 Years”

  1. Good work! Just a niggle: I don’t think (and have never seen it suggested) that Paul had Roman citizenship because of “Greek blood”. Citizenship wasn’t linked to blood line or ethnicity but whether you (or your family) “deserved” it. It would seem one of Paul’s ancestors had been made a citizen, and thus Paul was born with that privilege (unlike the Roman commander in Acts 22:28 who had bought his citizenship, not inherited it).

    No big deal, I know, but I can’t help myself… 🙂

    Like

    1. Oh yeah, absolutely. I can rephrase that. I believe he was half Greek if I am not mistaken, not that being Greek made him a citizen, rather it was inherited from his family as you said. I only mentioned that to show that despite his heritage, he knew Hebrew and Greek. Some like to say that he only knew Hebrew, while others like to suggest he only knew Greek. I believe scripture is clear that he was fluent in both. That was the whole point of that poorly worded statement.

      Liked by 1 person

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