The “simple solution” of David Wright regarding Israel’s time in Egypt is less than convincing, and actually shows poor research. The Bible states that Israel was “in” Egypt for 430 years. This is sugar coated away, not with the authority of Scripture, but with a couple 17th century commentators. Ishmael was not Egyptian. His father, who would determine his ethnicity in the OT, was Hebrew, not Egyptian. In Paul’s book of Galatians, Hagar is said to represent Mt. Sinai, not Egypt. Also in Paul’s letter, he says, “430 years afterward.” After what? The promises (plural) given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! The 430 years began when Jacob was 130 years old, in 1870 BC and ended with the Exodus in 1440 BC. This also works for the building of Solomon’s temple which 2 Kgs says began 480 years after the Exodus in 960 BC.

Exodus 6:17-20 is not a comprehensive genealogy, but Moses demonstrating how Aaron had a right to be high priest, and not Korah and his rebels. Notice that unlike the other genealogies in Genesis, it doesn’t say how old the person was when the next one was born! It is not complete. Numbers 28’s genealogy show a different descent. It is clear that Moses left names out of the Exod 6 passage because his purpose was to show Aaron’s right to be high priest.

Also, how does Exodus 6 prove there were only 64 years of time between Joseph and Moses? You can’t use an incomplete genealogy which was to show Aaron’s right to the high priesthood and try to come up with the number of years, because it is impossible. The information is not given in the biblical text to make such an assertion.

Another problem arises if Israel is only in Egypt on 64 years. How could someone not know Joseph? Actually Joseph would live until the Exodus if he lived to be 110! Aslo, how could they build all the cities? How could the suffering be viewed as so horrible. It wouldn’t even be one generation of people. The captivity in Egypt would not be as bad as some of the captivities recorded in Judges! Clearly this denigrates the suffering in Egypt, which the Bible does not do!

It is more credible to say that the complete genealogy is not being given and just like Ruth’s son, Obed, is considered Naomi’s son; so each is the son (we would say grandson or great grandson etc.) of the name given prior to it in the Exod 6 listing.

At any rate, David Wright’s article is not a credible solution to the “430” years in Egypt and his “simple solution” demonstrates major flaws not only in his misinterpretation of the text (Gal 3 and Exod 6), but also in his strained conclusions.


[The following feedback has an accompanying chart, which you may view as a PDF file.]

The “simple solution” of David Wright regarding Israel’s time in Egypt is less than convincing, and actually shows poor research.

The article the writer is referring to is How Long Were the Israelites in Egypt?. Though I would prefer a more gentle approach of criticism, such as, “I respectfully disagree with you and here’s why,” I (along with the rest of AiG) nonetheless want to make sure my articles are thoroughly researched, logical, biblical, and God-honoring. So anytime we receive constructive criticism, we are happy to double and even triple-check our facts. I hope to rectify any “poor research” I may have done.

The Bible states that Israel was “in” Egypt for 430 years.

I agree. And this is clearly stated in Scripture (Exodus 12:40–41; Galatians 3:16–17), as well as in my article. One of the main differences between your view and the one I presented lies in who is included in the nation of Israel. You clearly believe that the “children of Israel” (i.e., nation of Israel) only applies to the descendants of Jacob, whereas I believe the Bible is clearly teaching that Abraham and Isaac were considered members as well. I came to this conclusion after much research within Scripture itself.

This is sugar coated away, not with the authority of Scripture, but with a couple 17th century commentators.

Calling something “sugar coated” is not a logical argument but is only meant to try and discredit the author and/or argument before any actual refutation is made. The use of commentaries does not invalidate the explanation, since it is indeed a biblical one. Besides, take away the commentators, and Scripture still gives us this explanation. Commentaries are merely a tool to show how such simple explanations are given in Scripture that we might otherwise miss.

Your mom! … No? Just your dad then, huh?

Ishmael was not Egyptian. His father, who would determine his ethnicity in the OT, was Hebrew, not Egyptian.

Indeed Ishmael was. But whether or not Ishmael was an Egyptian does not invalidate my explanation. Ishmael’s ethnicity can be looked at in two ways; regardless, neither helps your argument against my article’s position.

  1. First, I would like to point out that Ishmael was indeed Egyptian. In regards to physical ethnicity, Ishmael was half Egyptian, since his mother was Egyptian (Genesis 16:1, 3, 21:9, 25:12). The idea that Abraham “would determine his ethnicity” is not a biblical concept as far as I know. But for the moment let’s say this is true and that a child’s ethnicity can only be determined by the father. If we take this to its logical end, we run into a few biblical issues:
    1. Jesus Christ: If He is only seen as the Son of God, since the father decides ethnicity, then He could not have been a “kinsman redeemer,” which is what was needed for our redemption. As Dr. Jason Lisle succinctly points out, “The substitute must be fully human to substitute for humanity (Hebrews 2:14), and must be our blood relation (through Adam) so he can be our ‘kinsman redeemer’ (Isaiah 59:20, same word in Ruth 2:20).”1 If “ethnicity” were only decided by the father, then Jesus would have been only divine and not human as well.
      Jesus would not have been Jewish either. And if He wasn’t, then why was He circumcised and called King of the Jews, or why did He observe the Passover and other feasts?
    2. Timothy: Timothy was half Greek and half Jewish in his ethnicity (Acts 16:1). If ethnicity were only determined by the father, then Timothy was simply a Greek and not a Jew. If this were the case, then he would not have had to be circumcised so as not to be a stumbling block (Acts 16:3).
  2. Second, the argument that the 400 years started with Ishmael’s persecution of Isaac does not rest on him being Egyptian anyway. The statement above assumes that affliction was only caused by the Egyptians, but that’s not what Scripture says. It says that Abraham’s descendents will serve another country and God will punish that country they serve, and then it also mentions they will be afflicted 400 years. This will become clearer in the rest of the article.

If the 400 years of affliction begins with the weaning of Isaac, then we should be able to see other cases of affliction in addition to the slavery in Egypt. Indeed, this is what we find in at least three other instances:

  1. Jacob’s affliction in dealing with his father-in-law, Laban (Genesis 31:42).
  2. Joseph’s affliction while in Egypt before his rise to power (Genesis 41:52).
  3. The affliction of Jacob and his family caused by the famine (Acts 7:11).

What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Paul?

In Paul’s book of Galatians, Hagar is said to represent Mt. Sinai, not Egypt.

I agree, but that’s not the point I’m making (or trying to make). You seem to be confusing the issue here. Paul is using historical people (that existed in history) and events (that happened in history) to figuratively parallel with the current events Christians were facing at that time. Perhaps the following breakdown of Galatians 4:21–31 will help:

Table 1: Figurative/Historical breakdown of Galatians 4:21–31

Figurative Comparison OT Historical Reference NT Spiritual Parallel
Bondwoman Hagar The Law
Freewoman Sarah Faith
Son born according to the flesh Ishmael Living by the Law
Son born through promise Isaac Living by faith
Covenant of Mt. Sinai, which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—“For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children” (Galatians 4:25). Hagar/Mt. Sinai/The Law Jews who still follow the Law
But the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26). Jerusalem Faith in Christ
Children of the promise Isaac Christians
But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now” (Galatians 4:29). Ishmael’s mocking/persecution of Isaac Unbelieving Jews who persecuted Christians
Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman” (Galatians 4:30). Abraham sending away Hagar and Ishmael Unbelieving Jews would be cast out.
So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free” (Galatians 4:31). Hagar and Sarah Christians are free from the Law because of Christ.

So again, Paul is taking real people and events and applying them symbolically to the current (NT Christians’) spiritual struggles.

  • Hagar and Ishmael were real people, and Mt. Sinai was a real place. But Paul used them to illustrate the Jews who were still under the Law and thus still cursed and slaves to the Law.
  • Sarah and Isaac were real people, and Jerusalem was a real place. But Paul used them to illustrate how Christians are the true heirs to the promise of Abraham through faith. Because they are not under the Law, they are free.
  • Ishmael’s mocking/persecution of Isaac was a real event, but Paul used it to illustrate that Christians were suffering persecution because of the unbelieving Jews.
  • Abraham sending away Hagar and Ishmael was a real event, but Paul used it to illustrate that the Jews who rejected Christ were being cast out.

Since Paul is indirectly pointing out that Ishmael’s persecution of Isaac was a real event, Scripture is then subtly telling us this is the beginning of the 400 years.

Whose Promise? When?

Also in Paul’s letter, he says, “430 years afterward.” After what? The promises (plural) given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!

I agree; however, this doesn’t show the full scope of the passage. So let’s take a closer look at Galatians 3:16–18:

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

The Promise/promises were originally given to and start with Abraham. These promises continued down the line through Isaac and Jacob, since they were fellow heirs of the Promise, unlike Ishmael: “He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many” (Galatians 3:16). Verse 18 is clear that the Law came after the Promise was given to Abraham. So there is no indication given in Galatians 3:16–18 that the 430 years started at some other point.

The 430 years began when Jacob was 130 years old, in 1870 BC and ended with the Exodus in 1440 BC.

Everything hinges on this assumption. What in Scripture gives support to this? Though Jacob was a fellow heir to the Promise (Hebrews 11:9), it did not begin with him. Scripture is clear over and over again that the Promise started with Abraham (1 Chronicles 16:15–17; Nehemiah 9:7–8; Psalm 105:8–10; Luke 1:55, 73; Galatians 3:8, 14; Hebrews 6:13, 7:6, 11:17), so that is where we start our countdown.

Also:

For He remembered His holy promise, and Abraham His servant. He brought out His people with joy, His chosen ones with gladness. He gave them the lands of the Gentiles, and they inherited the labor of the nations, that they might observe His statutes and keep His laws. (Psalm 105:42–45)

But when the time [430 years] of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt. (Acts 7:17)

Notice the direct connection between the promise given to Abraham and the Exodus.

This also works for the building of Solomon’s temple which 2 Kgs says began 480 years after the Exodus in 960 BC.

Perhaps you are referring to 1 Kings 6:1? Regardless, this is irrelevant; it would not contradict the biblical interpretation because the date of the Exodus would not change—only when Jacob went down to Egypt and every event beforehand.

Aaron! I am your father!

Exodus 6:17-20 is not a comprehensive genealogy, but Moses demonstrating how Aaron had a right to be high priest, and not Korah and his rebels. Notice that unlike the other genealogies in Genesis, it doesn’t say how old the person was when the next one was born! It is not complete. Numbers 28’s genealogy show a different descent. It is clear that Moses left names out of the Exod 6 passage because his purpose was to show Aaron’s right to be high priest.

On what basis is Exodus 6:16–20 not a comprehensive genealogy? Whether or not a person’s age is given does not dictate whether it is a strict genealogy. This is an unfounded arbitrary assumption. Though there are genealogies with intentional gaps, such as Matthew’s, this in no way implies that all genealogies not including ages are then full of gaps. Based on that assumption, the same can then be done to Luke’s genealogy (Luke 3:23–38), in which you could insert an almost endless arbitrary number of descendants and ancestors; in which case Luke’s genealogy becomes pointless.

Also, that particular genealogy (or any given) does not give Aaron the right to be high priest. Aaron was chosen by God to be the high priest. Is there any passage that states Aaron had the right to be the high priest because he was a Levite? If genealogy gave someone the right to be priest, then Korah had every “right” to be a priest as well, and maybe that’s why he rebelled (Numbers 16).

Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi. (Numbers 16:1)

Concerning Numbers (or anywhere else in Scripture), I was unable to find a different ancestry for Aaron. I looked up your reference of Numbers 28, which I will assume was a simple typographical error since it refers to offerings and states nothing about any sort of genealogy. I thought you might have meant Numbers 2:8, but that states, “And his army was numbered at fifty-seven thousand four hundred” and is a reference to Judah. As a matter of fact, I was unable to find anything in the entire book of Numbers that was different than Exodus 6:16–20. However, what I did find in Numbers and 1 Chronicles directly contradicts what you claim. Please see the passages in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Genealogy of Aaron and Moses while in Egypt

Generation Exodus 6:16–20 Numbers 3:17–19 Numbers 26:57–59 1 Chronicles 6:1–3 1 Chronicles 23:6, 12, 13
1 Levi Levi Levi Levi Levi
2 Kohath Kohath Kohath Kohath Kohath
3 Amram Amram Amram Amram Amram
4 Aaron and Moses Aaron, Moses, and Miriam Aaron, Moses, and Miriam Aaron and Moses

Scripture is quite clear about the genealogy of Moses and Aaron. And it doesn’t get any more detailed than Numbers 26:58–59. “And Kohath begot Amram. The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and to Amram she bore Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam.

Furthermore, these precise genealogies are a fulfillment of God’s prophecy given to Abraham in Genesis 15:16. “But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (emphasis added).

Also, how does Exodus 6 prove there were only 64 years of time between Joseph and Moses? You can’t use an incomplete genealogy which was to show Aaron’s right to the high priesthood and try to come up with the number of years, because it is impossible. The information is not given in the biblical text to make such an assertion.

I did not use Exodus 6 as proof. I used it as a reference of what, or rather who, happened between the death of Joseph and the birth of Moses.

Another problem arises if Israel is only in Egypt on 64 years.

It appears you misunderstood what the table read. If we go back and look at the table in the article we see that it says, “Only 64 years pass from the time Joseph dies to when Moses is born.” This means the Israelites were in Egypt for approximately 144 years after the death of Joseph.

Oh Joseph, who art thou?

How could someone not know Joseph?

Within 64 years, that is entirely possible. It doesn’t take long for people to forget about the good. For example, Genesis 41:30–31 states, “But after them seven years of famine will arise, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine will deplete the land. So the plenty will not be known in the land because of the famine following, for it will be very severe” (emphasis added). The blessing of plenty was forgotten after only a few years!

To assume it would take a hundred years or more for a pharaoh to forget or not know Joseph is another unfounded arbitrary assumption. This pharaoh came into power close to the time that Moses would be born (Acts 7:17–20), which means there was probably a good 40 to 60 years to forget about Joseph. So the Israelites were in slavery for more than 80 years, at the very least.

Actually Joseph would live until the Exodus if he lived to be 110! Aslo, how could they build all the cities? How could the suffering be viewed as so horrible. It wouldn’t even be one generation of people. The captivity in Egypt would not be as bad as some of the captivities recorded in Judges! Clearly this denigrates the suffering in Egypt, which the Bible does not do!

Why do you believe that it takes hundreds of years to build cities and cause suffering? This is an arbitrary assumption. The pharaoh that came to power didn’t take his time in enslaving the Israelites; he enacted it right away.

It is more credible to say that the complete genealogy is not being given and just like Ruth’s son, Obed, is considered Naomi’s son; so each is the son (we would say grandson or great grandson etc.) of the name given prior to it in the Exod 6 listing.

Please see Table 2 and the response above concerning Aaron’s (and Moses’s) genealogy.

A logical conclusion?

At any rate, David Wright’s article is not a credible solution to the “430” years in Egypt and his “simple solution” demonstrates major flaws not only in his misinterpretation of the text (Gal 3 and Exod 6), but also in his strained conclusions.

For the sake of argument, let’s say the 430 years started when Jacob went down to Egypt, as you suggest, and let’s see if it makes sense. So we have 430 years total with 400 of them with the Israelites in slavery and suffering affliction. We know Jacob died 17 years after moving to Egypt (Genesis 47:28). So that leaves 413 years before the Exodus and 13 years before the slavery and oppression began. But at this time, Joseph would be 56 years old (see Note 19 in the Timeline Table). But if the affliction is supposed to start in 13 years, we’ve already run into a problem—Joseph is still alive! He won’t die for another 54 years!

So at what point is the affliction supposed to start? After Joseph dies, only 359 years are left. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say it did start 30 years after Jacob and his family went down to Egypt, but it’s just not recorded in Scripture. Okay. So now with our assumption in place, we can account for the 400 years. All is settled now, right? This gives plenty of time for the Israelites to be enslaved and suffer horribly (as if 10 years of slavery isn’t horrible enough).

But wait. The Israelites weren’t enslaved until close to Moses’s birth (Exodus 1:8–22; Acts 7:17–20). So what were they doing for those 300 plus years? Well, Scripture doesn’t tell us. But we know they were there serving and being afflicted. Okay, I guess I can concede that arbitrary assumption as well.

So how many generations were there? Well, if the Exodus 6 genealogy is not complete, then we don’t know exactly how many generations were in Egypt, but it had to be more than four, according to your claims. Again, I’ll allow this arbitrary assumption. But wait, there’s another problem. If there were more than four generations in Egypt, then God would have been wrong when He said, “But in the fourth generation they shall return here” (Genesis 15:16).

The idea that Jacob and his descendents were in Egypt for 430 years and enslaved, oppressed, and afflicted for 400 years has too many unfounded, unbiblical, arbitrary assumptions. When scrutinized by Scripture, there are a myriad of unknowns and problems that have to somehow be explained away. It is a view that is incongruent with Scripture.

Salutation

The more I researched this timeline, the more I found support from the Bible. (You’ll notice I didn’t use any commentaries this time.) I entreat you to take a closer and more comprehensive look at this. Please review all the passages I have set forth and take another look at the new and improved Timeline Table. It seems that you either did not read or did not understand the first table. At the beginning you accused me of “poor research,” yet you provided no biblical proof for your assertions and accusations. The passages of Scripture you brought up did not support your argument. I pray you will take a closer look.

In Him,
David Wright

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Footnotes

  1. Lisle, Jason, War of the Worldviews, April 10, 2008. Back