[b-hebrew] Israel "in" Egypt 215 or 430 years ?

Walter R. Mattfeld mattfeld12 at charter.net
Thu Aug 19 16:31:49 EDT 2004

Yigael's comment about Currid's book on Egypt and the Bible called to mind
some comments on the Exodus dealt with by Charles F. Aling, a Conservative
Christian scholar. cf. below :

"The preceding digression from the biblical account is necessary background
to our discussion of the sojourn and exodus. Two basic views are held today
regarding the length of Israel's stay in Egypt. The first view is that the
total length of the sojourn was 215 years. This is based on Galatians
3:16-17, which seemingly places the giving of the law to Moses 430 years
after the promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. Since these promises
(ca. 2091) preceded Jacob's entry into Egypt (ca. 1876) by 215 years, the
sojourn in Egypt would have lasted 215 years. A sojourn of only 215 years is
seemingly supported by Exodus 6:16-20, which mentions only four generations
from Levi to Moses, and by the Septuagint reading of Exodus 12:40, which, in
reference to the sojourn, substitutes 215 years for the 430 years of the
Hebrew text.

But the primary evidence seems to favor a longer sojourn of 430 years. First
and foremost, the Hebrew text asserts that the Israelites spent 430 years in
Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41); and, as Leon Wood states, the Hebrew text must be
favored over later versions. Second, God told Abraham in Genesis 15:13 that
his descendants would be afflicted in a foreign land for 400 years. Nor need
we regard Exodus 6:16-20 asstrictly genealogical. This passage probably is
meant to give Moses' tribe, clan and family rather than specific

The only apparent remaining difficulty with a 430 year sojourn lies with
Galatians 3:16-17. But after further examination of that passage, this
difficulty passes away. William Hendriksen in his commentary on Galatians
puts his finger on the most logical solution: in verse 16 Paul states that
the promises were made not only to Abraham but to his seed or descendants as
well. Thus, the 430 years could begin with the confirmation of the promises
to Jacob (Gen. 28:14), making the sojourn itself 430 years and conforming to
the Hebrew reading of Exodus 12:40. It seems best to accept the 430 years in
accord with the Hebrew text, and reject the 215 years of the Septuagint.
(pp. 64-65. "The Bondage, the Length of the Sojourn." Charles F. Aling.
_Egypt and Bible History, From Earliest Times to 1000 BC_. Grand Rapids,
Michigan. Baker Book House. 1981 reprint 1984. paperback)

At first glance, AS I READ Galatians 3:16, the author states clearly that
430 years elapsed from the promise to Abraham to the giving of the Law
(Torah) by Moses at Mount Sinai. The Hebrew Bible's Exodus 12:40 states
Israel is IN Egypt for 430 years before the Exodus. Obviously -to my way of
thinking- the author of Galatians is using the Greek Septuaginta's 215
years, NOT the Hebrew text.

Septuaginta: Exodus 12:40 (1851 English translation by Brenton, emphasis

"And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the
land of Egypt, AND THE LAND OF CANAAN, was four hundred and thirty years.

Can anyone "clue me in" as to _why_ the resorting to Genesis 15;13 as an
explanation of Gal 3:16's 430 years by Hendriksen and Aling ? Genesis 15:13
is God's appearance to Jacob at Bethel while he is enroute to Haran for 14
years of service to Laban for Leah and Rachel.

Galatians 3:16-17

"Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not
say, "And offsprings," referring to many; but, referring to one, "And to
your offspring," which is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came
four hundred and thirty years afterward, does not annul a covenant
perviously ratified by God..."

Exodus 12:40 RSV

"The time that the people of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and
thirty years. And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, on that very
day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt."

The Septuagint was written by Jews for Jews in Egypt. Because it was in
Greek, it became the Bible of the Early Christians, many of whom could not
read Hebrew, but were conversant in Greek.

The Septuagint's 215 years in Egypt would have "an impact on the dating of
the Exodus" vis-a-vis the 430 years in Egypt preserved in the Hebrew Bible.

Aling concludes :

"One of the aims of this study has been to defend the biblical chronology
for the sojourn and exodus. It is hoped that the reader has seen that the
exodus can indeed be dated in the 15th century BC, and need not be placed in
the 13th."

He favors an Exodus ca. 1446 BCE , which places it in the reign of Amenhotep
II, whom he dates 1453-1415 BC (p.97).

Regards, Walter

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

mattfeld12 at charter.net


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