Defending the Theistic View

Israel’s 430 years in Egypt in perspective

The history in the Bible is very interesting although many misunderstand it, even Christians and Jews.

A very popular belief is that the Isrealites were slaves in Egypt for 430 years which is based on Exodus 12: 40. Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years.

To better understand this detail, we need to know when Moses lead the Jews out of Egypt. 1 Kings 6:1 gives an important detail:

In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the LORD.

The Bible says that Solomon began to construct the Temple in Jerusalem 480 years after the Exodus and in the forth year of Solomon’s reign. — Several Christian historians put the year of the Temple’s construction in 965 B.C. However my independent source, the Encyclopaedia of the Orient, puts the first year of his reign in 961 B.C. That would make the year of the temple’s contruction 957 B.C. So all that has to be done is add 480 to the year. The year that results as the Exodus out of Egypt is 1437 B.C.

Now here is where the problem comes in. If we add 430 years to 1431, then we get 1867 B.C. for when the Iseralites first come to Egypt. If the Isrealites were in Egypt in 1867, then Genesis 41: 41-43 poses a problem:

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

This may not look like a big deal. But the fact that the Bible says that Joseph was placed in a chariot in Egypt would actually be a historical error in the Bible, if this indeed happend around 1867 B.C.

The horse and chariot were introduced many years later by the Hyksos who ruled Egypt from 1674 to 1567 B.C. So it would appear that the writter of Genesis made a historical mistake. However, there are some ancient sources that say that Exodus 12: 40 may actually have originally said that for 430 years, the Isrealites were “in Canaan and Egypt,” including the time Abraham first migrated to Canaan.

So now we have an alternate wording, but which one was intended by the writter of Genesis? It may be possible to find that out by looking at the timelines given in the Bible.

Genesis 12: 4-5 says that Abram (later called Abraham) migrated from Haran to Canaan when he was seventy-five years old. He was one-hundred years old when his son Issac was born (Genesis 21: 1). — Then when Issac was sixty when Jacob was born (Genesis 25: 24-26). Abraham would have been 160 at the time. And when Jacob arrived in Egypt on Joseph’s invitation and was presented to the King he was 130 years old (Genesis 47: 9).

So this means that there was a gap of 215 years from the time Abraham first went to Canaan to when Jacob arrived in Egypt. So, by subtracting that number from 1867 we find that Jacob arrived in Egypt in 1652 B.C., durring the rule of the Hyksos kings, and another 215 years before the Exodus of Moses in 1437 B.C. Add it up and it comes to 430 years. So, it appears that the writter of the Exodus intended the reading to be “in Canaan and Egypt.”

— Moses was eighty years old at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 7:7) So he was likely born in 1517 B.C., after the Hyksos lost power, which is probably what is meant when it is said that he was born in the time of a Pharoah who didn’t know Joseph (Exodus 1:8). It appears as if the Pharoahs who “knew” Joseph were the Hyksos.

There’s a another fact to back that idea up. The Hyksos were Semites from Canaan, like Joseph and the Hebrews. This could explain why the Pharoah was willing to give Joseph a position of trust and favor his family because they were ethnically similar and came from the same general area.

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2 responses

  1. Edmund

    http://harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids.html
    This article questions the existance of slave labor. I read it a few months ago.
    The whole idea of taking anything written in the torah/bible/quran in the literal sense doesn’t make much sense. The Israelites were said to live to be 120 years old while the archeological record shows people lived to be in their 50’s at latest. Things like this just create too much speculation.

    June 25, 2008 at 6:19 pm

  2. krissmith777

    Edmund, I know the Israelites didn’t build the pyramids. But nobody here is making that claim.

    The Isrealites came to Egypt in the 17th Century B.C. And they Pyramids were built around 1,000 years before they came.

    So if you are trying to prove that the Biblical account isn’t true, then in this case, it isn’t going to work because the time period of pyramid construction was in a different era of Egyptian History.

    Learn to distinguish different historical eras before you over-generalize.

    June 25, 2008 at 8:27 pm

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