The Egyptian Slavery -
Was it for 430 Years?
The Egyptian slavery of the people of Israel is understood by many to have been for a period of 430 years. They get that understanding from the following verse:
"Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." (Exo 12:40)
But were they actually in slavery for 430 years? This is another good example of where the Bible explains itself. By taking verses from here and there we can build up a picture of the timing of Israel's sojourn in Egypt. It turns out that the actual length of time that the Israelites were in Egyptian slavery was far less than 430 years.
Following is an outline of the events of the 430 years, only a portion of which was spent in Egyptian slavery. This outline starts with the call of Abraham to leave Haran in Ur of the Chaldees. Some might see a problem with this because Abraham was not a child or descendent of Israel but rather an ancestor. As a solution, it has been suggested by some to add about 200 years to the time Jacob entered Egypt to the Exodus but there are problems with that idea. This problem and others are discussed on another page about the
Israelites in Egypt
where solutions are offered.
(Note: the text below is arranged by year in relation to the start of the 430 years.)
The time period begins with the call of the Lord to Abraham, then known as Abram.
"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 Haran." (Exo 12:4)
Abraham left his home and went to the land of Canaan which, at that time, was an area controlled by Egypt although not a part of Egypt proper.
Year 10 (not in diagram)
"And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife." (Gen 16:3)
Year 11 (not in diagram)
"And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram." (Gen 16:16)
"And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him." (Gen 21:5)
At that time Ishmael would have been about 15 years old.
Here is a prediction that subdivides the 430-year period:
"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;" (Gen 15:13; see also Acts 7:6)
Israel was certainly afflicted right up to the end of the period of Egyptian slavery so it is likely that the affliction started 30 years after the 430 years began and continued right to the end of the time of Egyptian slavery. We will see here an obvious beginning to the affliction of Abraham's seed. Abraham's seed (of promise) was Isaac even though Ishmael was born first. Abraham's seed was his son Isaac:
"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." (Gen 21:12, see also Rom 9:7 and Heb 11:18))
Genesis records Isaac's weaning but does not give his age at that time. Children were usually weaned at a few years old; older than they are today.
"And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned." (Gen 21:8)
The next verse records a problem in how Ishmael was treating his younger half-brother Isaac:
"And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. 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. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son." (Gen 21:9-11)
Based on Abraham's reaction, this seems to have been more serious than just some brotherly teasing.
"Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh (Ishmael) persecuted him that was born after the Spirit (Isaac), even so it is now." (Gal 4:28-29)
The affliction of Abraham's seed started when Isaac was just a young boy and very likely coincided with the 30th year when Isaac was about 5 years old.
Isaac was 60 years old when his twin sons Esau and Jacob were born:
"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." (Gen 25:26)
Jacob went on to have 12 sons one of whom was Joseph who was sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers. He ended up in Egypt and eventually became the Prime Minister of that country. Through a series of Divine providences he was reunited to his family and was able to move them all to Egypt to escape the famine in the land.
Joseph was 30 when he became Prime Minister of Egypt:
"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." (Gen 41:46)
When Joseph met his brothers it was two years into the famine following the seven years of plenty:
"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 harvest." (Gen 45:6)
Therefore Joseph was 39 when Jacob and his brothers moved to Egypt at which time Jacob was 130 (see Gen 47:9 under "Year 215" below).
Jacob was born in year 85 from the start so he entered Egypt in year 215 from the start which is half way through the 430 years and the Israelites were certainly not in Egyptian slavery at that point; they were more like honored guests.
"The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell ..." (Gen 47:6)
The calculation below shows that Jacob was 91 when Joseph was born in year 176 from the start.
|Jacob entered Egypt (Gen 47:9)
|Joseph became PM (Gen 41:46)
|7 years of plenty
|2 years of famine (Gen 45:6)
|Joseph's age when Jacob entered Egypt
When Jacob moved to Egypt he was asked by Pharaoh how old he was:
"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." (Gen 47:9)
Joseph died at age 110 which would place his death at 286 years after the start of the 430.
"So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt." (Gen 50:26)
This is 144 years from the end of the 430 years and the people were not yet in Egyptian slavery.
Sometime after year 286
Eventually Jacob and Joseph passed on while their people lived there in the best of the land
"Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph." (Acts 7:18)
"Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph." (Exo 1:8)
This new Pharaoh became concerned over the strength and multitude of the Israelites and proposed a solution to his concern:
"Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses." (Exo 1:8-11)
From this, we see that the enslavement did not happen until some time - a few years at least - after the 286th year of the 430-year sojourn in Egypt.
Moses was born 80 years before the Exodus from Egyptian slavery:
"And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh." (Exo 7:7)
This verse confirms that the 430 years was from when the promises were made to Abraham until the Exodus from Egyptian slavery and the giving of the law:
"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 Christ. 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." (Gal 3:16-17)
So this investigation into scripture has shown conclusively that the time of the Egyptian slavery was much less than the full 430 years. We can't just take a verse such as Exodus 12:40 and assume what it is referring to. The Bible always explains itself in detail from other verses.
Read a discussion of some
other ideas about the time the Israelites were in Egypt.