Long or short sojourn by chronological derivation strictly via the biblical text

Preliminary Remarks

Titus 3:9 

But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.[1]

There is a major dispute among Christians regarding the genealogical data over how long the Israelites were in Egypt. It is hard to believe that people spend so much time on a chronological dispute, but in recent years, I’ve been pushed into this debate several times. My preference is to avoid spending any significant amount of time to the subject. My hope is not to get caught up in this debate any longer than necessary.

And lastly by observation, the debate often entails people referring to other people’s opinions (e.g., Jones, Roshi, Cassuto, Ussher, Josephus, or a specific commentator, archaeologist, professor, Christian leader, etc.) as an authority on this issue to settle the alleged problem; so I’m not going to do that. I am going to stick strictly with what God says on the subject and leave the opinions aside of historians, scholars, commentators, archaeologists, professors, and so on. This is not to neglect their value, but it is to avoid muddying the waters.

The fact is we have people on both sides of this debate who are experts in their field. But God is the greatest expert and it is His Word that is to be counted above all. This doesn’t neglect that various ancient texts of Scripture will be used, but people like Josephus, Jack Riggs, John Gill, Adam Clarke, Paul J. Ray Jr., etc. will not be used as an end-all-be-all argument or refer to their comments as a final authority. Even discussing what all their opinions are would turn this into an extensive book to tell you what different people have held to for thousands of years. But they all boil down to two camps – a long or short sojourn.

Let’s clarify on a misconception right up front. Both camps have the same length of sojourn—430 years. The difference is where was that sojourn? Was it in Egypt only or was it in Egypt and Canaan. Those who hold to a “long” sojourn has 430 years strictly in Egypt where the time in Canaan was not seen as part of the sojourning. Those adhering to the “short” sojourn count the 430 years as the total duration of sojourning in both Egypt and Canaan.

Hence, those who have a “long sojourn” have an overall longer duration from Abraham to the Exodus (time in Canaan + 430 years in Egypt = total time) and the short sojourners have a shorter total duration time (time in Egypt and Canaan = 430 years).

What is the debate over?

As mentioned, this sojourn question is arguably the most hotly debated chronological issue in biblical chronology. In short, it is over the issue of “how long was Israel in Egypt?” prior to the Exodus. So the debate is: was Israel in Egypt for 430 years (long sojourn)[2] or was there 430 years from the point when the promise was given to Abraham to when the Law was given (where the actual time in Egypt would have only been 210 years; short sojourn)? This comes from looking at passages like:

Exodus 12:40-41

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

Galatians 3:16-18

16 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.

17 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.

This is a big deal because it looks like an insurmountable biblical contradiction on the surface. This is another point that makes this a hot discussion point on each side of the debate as biblical Christians readily affirm the Bible has no legitimate contradictions—whether they believe in a long or short sojourn. So this needs to be dealt with to get a proper understanding of what is going on. Let’s look at some relevant passages to get started and follow what is going on chronologically.

The Promise

When was the promise first given to Abraham? It was given in Genesis 12 when Abraham was 75 (Genesis 12:4).

Genesis 12:1-7

1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.

2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.

6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land.

7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

According to Paul in Galatians, this begins the countdown for the 430 years. Paul mentioned that the total sojourn from the Promise (between Abraham and Christ, His Seed) to the Exodus (when the law was given) was 430 years[3]:

Galatians 3:16-18

16 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.

17 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.

18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

The Promise Reiterated and expanded to Abraham in Genesis 15 and 17

Genesis 15:13-16

13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.

14 “And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

15 “Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.

16 “But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

At this stage the promise is reiterated, but several years have passed (about 10 years for Genesis 15). However, the promise is expanded and its final reiteration to Abraham per Genesis 17:21-26 is about 24 years after the initial promise. In Genesis 15, we find that Abraham’s descendants, obviously through the child of promise[4] (Isaac; and could not rightly begin until the child of promise was born), will be persecuted or oppressed for 400 years.[5]

Abraham did not have the child of promise yet and so this couldn’t be a possibility until Abraham was 100 years old—when Isaac was born (25 years after the initial promise given in Genesis 12). When Abraham was 99 years old, the promise was reiterated to him in Genesis 17 (the whole chapter) and the following year, Sarah gave birth in her old age to Isaac.

Note that Isaac’s birth was 25 years after the promise was first given to Abraham. Yet the reiterated promise was that Abraham’s descendants would be oppressed or persecuted for 400 years. So the oppression could not be possible until Abraham has the child of promise. Furthermore, does this mean that every moment of every year the descendants of Abraham will be oppressed for that 400 years? By no means! It gives an overall boundary of the first persecution to the last persecution in question.

When was the first time, according to the Bible, that one of Abraham’s descendants was oppressed and persecuted? The first persecution came to Abraham’s descendant Isaac by the half-Egyptian Ishmael in Genesis 21:8-9 and Galatians 4:28-30 when Isaac was weaned in his very early years. It was enough of a persecution in the eyes of Sarah and Abraham that the Lord affirmed to Abraham to do as Sarah wanted and banish the child and his mother from them!

This was the first affliction by one of Egyptian heritage to Abraham’s descendants of promise. Recall that Ishmael did not live under the promise and is an outsider to the promise and was treated as an outsider to the promise and the descendants of promise. The Lord made this clear when Abraham plead to have Ishmael be the child of promise (Genesis 17:18-19).

Isaac’s weaning stage would be about 30 years after the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12.[6] This would put Isaac at about age 4-5, depending on what time of the year he was born and what time of the year he was weaned.[7] So there is 400 years to go when the oppression ends. Stephen, in the New Testament (Acts), testified to Israel’s High Priest about Abraham saying:

Acts 7:6-7

6 “But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years.

7 ‘And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.’

Clearly this is discussing the reiteration of the promise when the Lord reveals to Abraham that his descendants will be in bondage or persecuted, which was not stated in the original promise (Genesis 12) but in the reiteration of the promise in Genesis 15 and 17. So Stephen was perfectly accurate to state 400 years of oppression at this stage and is extremely accurate, being 30 years after the original promise beginning with Isaac’s persecution by the half-Egyptian, Hagar’s son Ishmael.

So the time markers given in Scripture for these events are spot on without contradiction at this stage. Some Christians have remarked that Genesis 15 and Stephen were actually rounding off the 430 years to merely be 400 but that is not the case after carefully considering what the text says and what the text doesn’t say.

Both Genesis 15 and Stephen were being extremely precise as to how long the persecution of Abraham’s descendants would be, neither the time in Egypt nor the total time of sojourn. Perhaps there was confusion because both ended at the same time, with the Exodus. But a close examination of the text shows great precision.

4th Generation

We also learn in the reiterated promise that in the fourth generation of being strangers in a land not their own (Egypt) they will return to Canaan (which would be their own possession). Clearly, Canaan was not in mind as that fourth generation would be the eldest of the generations to return to Canaan from the nation in question.

Joseph, the son of Jacob (Israel) was the first in Egypt (being the precursor to the whole nation’s arrival). So the sons of Jacob make their way to Egypt through Joseph and survive. Here are some genealogical lists as given in Scripture:

Table 1 Genealogical Data according to the Bible

Judah’s line (e.g., Luke 3) Joseph’s line (Genesis 50:23, 1 Chronicles 7:20-27) Levi’s line (Exodus 6:16-20, with ages)
1 Abraham Abraham Abraham
2 Isaac Isaac Isaac
3 Israel (Jacob) Israel (Jacob) Israel (Jacob)
4 Judah Joseph Levi (137)
5 Perez Ephraim Kohath (133) and Jochebed
6 Hezron Ephraim child (e.g., Shuthelah) Amram (137)
7 Ram Ephraim’s grandchild (e.g., Bered) Moses (120)
8 Amminadab Ephraim’s great grandchild (e.g., Tahath) Gershom and Eliezer

If we begin with Joseph and his brother’s as the first counted generation in Egypt, then the fourth generation would be Ram, Ephraim’s grandchild (Bered), and Moses.

However, if it is counted from Joseph’s and his brother’s children, who spent much (if not all) of their life in Egypt, as opposed to Canaan, then the fourth generation would be counted from Perez, Ephraim, and Kohath to Amminidab, Ephraim’s great grandchild (Tahath) and Gershom and Eliezer. Although time-wise, it makes sense that Ephraim’s great grandchild and Moses were all living at about the same time—there is nothing wrong with people of multiple generations co-living.

Moses’s generation underwent persecution of having the baby boys killed and thrown into the Nile, when he was a newborn—this was after Pharaoh had ordered the midwives to kill the baby boys, which failed. Although, that means that the generations still alive (e.g., Moses’s father Amram, grandfather Kohath or Tahath whose father was Bered, and grandfather Shultelah and great grandfather Ephraim) were also affected by this oppression. The affliction included being both (1) slaves and (2) watching the persecution and murder of their descendants.

This later count for the fourth generation makes good sense because the promise given to Abraham was that the fourth generation would come into Canaan (Genesis 15:16), not just exit Egypt and the older generation (which included Moses’s generation) was left to die in the wilderness due to their disobedience to God (Numbers 14:34). So we know which generation entered into Canaan so we merely count backwards for four generations (bolded in the table above).

Now let us keep something in mind. The first generation to be able to return to Canaan was to be the fourth generation. But does that mean that the kids of the fourth generation (the fifth generation) didn’t come into the Canaan (the Promised Land)? Of course they did too—they all came at once! What this limitation is that the earliest generation to return to Canaan was the fourth, but their subsequent descendants, who were contemporaneous with them, were also obliged to come as well.

Well how many generations was that? It likely varied extensively. Moses, living like the Egyptians for 40 years, had no children yet. But the Israelites were growing under the Lord’s increase immensely. So there could have been many contemporaneous generations after this fourth generation. We know of Joshua’s genealogy, and he was contemporaneous with Moses, yet younger. His lineage is revealed in 1 Chronicles 7:22-27 as:

Then Ephraim [1 Gen] their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him. And when he went in to his wife, she conceived and bore a son; and he called his name Beriah [2 Gen], because tragedy had come upon his house. Now his daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon and Uzzen Sheerah; and Rephah [3 Gen] was his son, as well as Resheph, and Telah [4 Gen] his son, Tahan [5 Gen] his son, Laadan [6 Gen] his son, Ammihud 7 Gen] his son, Elishama [8 Gen] his son, Nun [9 Gen] his son, and Joshua [10 Gen] his son.

Joshua was the 10th generation from Joseph (having his son Ephraim as the first generation). So Joshua, who was contemporaneous with Moses and yet was the 10th generation, led the 4th generation and their descendants into conquest of the Promised Land.

Keep in mind that Joseph met his great grandchild through Ephraim and his grandchildren through Manasseh. But more descendants were coming rapidly even after Joseph died. But Joseph and some of his great grandchildren were at one point contemporaneous. So the Israelites hadn’t entered into slavery and bondage in Egypt yet as that occurred later when a pharaoh came to power when Joseph (and his brothers) was no longer alive (Exodus 1:6-8). And Moses was 80 at the time of the Plagues and Exodus (Exodus 7:7) so keep this information in mind and yet he was 40 when he first became a father in Midian.

Now let’s pause—as everything seems to be moving in perfect harmony at this stage with the chronology and following what is occurring (e.g., the fourth generation (with their descendants will come to Canaan). I say this as a precursor. This next verse is the one that seems to throw a huge “monkey wrench” into the situation.

Living in Egypt 430 years?

Exodus 12:40-41 (Time of the Sojourn from the Promise to release from Bondage)

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

Arriving at Exodus 12, it seem a new limitation is suddenly thrown into the mix that was unexpected. It seems as though the text just switched to say the children of Israel were in Egypt for 430 years! So what gives? I want the readers to know that it is this passage alone that seems to introduce the alleged conflict.

So what do many Christians do? Many Christians take this verse as the accurate one and try to reinterpret each of the other verses we have already discussed. This view holds that the Israelites were in Egypt a full 430 years. Again, this is called the “long sojourn”.

How do some try to get around this?

Maybe this verse is accurate and Paul isn’t so precise?

In other words, long sojourners take the time from Joseph and his brothers in Egypt until the Exodus to be 430 years and then add extra time on to that to go back to the Promise.[8] This would be over 600 years from the time of the promise to Abraham and the giving of the Law. Of course, this causes problems with Paul’s clear statement Galatians 3:16-18 that it was 430 years from the promise given to Abraham to giving of the Law during the Exodus.

Defending this view, I have heard several Christians suggest that the promise to Abraham was not meant to be counted from Abraham but instead from Judah, whom they argued was the seed in Galatians 3 and quoted the beginning of Galatians 3:16 (“Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made….”).

They assumed that the promise was to be counted from Abraham’s descendant (seed) Judah (who went to Egypt) in trying to put the 430 years that Paul mentioned [from the Promise to the Exodus (giving of the law)] strictly into Egypt.

These Christian brothers assumed that the last reiteration of the promise was to Judah (Genesis 46:2–4), therefore, the seed in Galatians was actually Judah, not Christ. Now I am going to be bold here—these types of mental gymnastics are uncalled for and make a mockery of the Scriptures.

There is only one seed in Galatians 3 and that is Christ and Paul made that perfectly clear in Galatians 3:16 if the entire verse is read [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].

The reason for this argument for the seed to be Judah was to try to get 430 years from one of Jacob’s sons who went to Egypt to the time of the Exodus. So the whole reason was predicated on the fact they were trying to fit 430 years of time in Egypt for the Israelites. Of course that means that the Promise to Abraham that the fourth generation in the land not their own (Egypt) would leave and come to Canaan, was purely false too.

Consider one more aspect. If we begin oppression in Egypt with Judah, then this is a problem, as Judah was not oppressed. Oppression did occur until after Judah and his younger brother Joseph had died. So this option is simply not possible.

Gaps in the genealogies?

Another problem also arises for the long sojourn position. The ages of Levi’s descendants and his children down to Moses cannot even come close to 430 years once they are raised and have children (Moses was over 40 when he had his first child with Zipporrah in Midian).

Table 2 From Kohath to Gershom and Eliezer

1st Kohath (max age 133)
2nd Amram (max age 137)
3rd Moses (120) (at age 40 he had his first son)
4th Gershom and Eliezer (Generation that entered Canaan)

But this generational problem is much worse than initially recognized. If some Christians argue that the Israelites were in oppression by Egypt for 400 years (rounding) or 430 years specifically, then that timeframe could not be counted until after Joseph died. So there would be 430 years from the first oppression in Egypt (which began with Moses’s generation) until the Exodus. This is impossible since Moses came out of the Exodus and he only lived 120 years!

But the generational problem gets even worse than this! Other Christians, many of whom I greatly respect by the way, readily try to assert that there were gaps in the genealogies of the Israelites listed in Egypt. For example, one scholar supporting the long sojourn reports:

“The name Amram of vs. 20 may be a conflation of the name of the Amram who was the head of one of the third-generation families of Levi, with the name of a later Amram who was the father of Moses and Aaron. There was a tendency among the Levites to name their sons after their forefathers (cf. 1 Chr 6:7–13; Lk 1:5, 59–61). Thus, several generations appear to have been telescoped here, with Amram, the father of Moses and Aaron, probably being at least the grandson of the original Amram, if not even a later descendant.”[9]

So the solution is to allegedly have more than one Amram and have gaps in the genealogies. This is hugely problematic! First, it would no longer be the fourth generation that would be exiting Egypt and coming into Canaan, it would also mean Paul was in error in Galatians 3 for 430 years from the promise to Abraham to the giving of the law in the Exodus. But it also causes problems with other passages. Considers Moses mother for example.

Moses’ mother was Jochebed. We often think of Moses’ mother actions when she put him in basket (ark) and floated him in the Nile and Pharaoh’s daughter found him (Exodus 2:1-10). But we know more about her as well—her genealogical data. The Bible says:

Exodus 6:20

Now Amram took for himself Jochebed, his father’s sister, as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses. And the years of the life of Amram were one hundred and thirty-seven.

Numbers 26:59

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.

Moses father, Amram married his aunt Jochebed. She was the daughter of Levi (see also Exodus 2:1). Levi was the son of Jacob. This means that Levi was both Moses’ grandfather and great grandfather!

If one argues, then that there were other Levi’s as well in the same lineage, then it makes part of the biblical text meaningless. The Bible went to the effort of making it clear that Jochebed was born in Egypt, in contrast to the possibility that she may have been born elsewhere (e.g., the land of Canaan where Levi originally fathered three of her brothers [Gershon, Kohath, and Merari] per Genesis 46:7-11). If she were a born of a later Levi, supposedly after a long time in Egypt, then why would this text be necessary?

Look also to Moses’ brother Aaron. Who was Aaron’s wife? The Bible reveals:

Exodus 6:23

Aaron took to himself Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Nahshon, as wife; and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.

As a reminder, Judah’s lineage to Amminidab is:

Judah’s line (e.g., Luke 3)
Abraham
Isaac
Israel (Jacob)
Judah
(1) Perez
(2) Hezron
(3) Ram
(4) Amminadab

Elisheba was Amminadab’s daughter (5th Generation) and was the sister of Nahshon (5th Generation). Nahshon was the leader of the forces of Judah for the conquest (Numbers 2:3) and is the lineage of Christ down to Boaz and finally David (Ruth 4:18-22, Luke 3:32-38).

Knowing this, there is no way there are large numbers of genealogical gaps between “alleged Amram’s” or “alleged Levi’s”. There was one Amram, one Levi and the genealogy of Moses’ mother refutes this idea of multiple Amram’s, multiple Levi’s and multiple gaps in the Bible’s genealogies.

If there are gaps in the genealogies between Levi’s (e.g., Joseph’s) generation to Moses’s generation at the Exodus 430 years later, then that could be 10-11 generations (at a 40 year slow generation time), 14-15 generations (at a 30 year medium generation time) up to 28-29 generations (at a 15 year fast generation time; see Genesis 17:2).

Since only two names are given in the Bible between Levi and Moses (Kohath and Amram), then there could be a minimum of 8-9 or maximum of 26-27 missing names within the long sojourn reckoning! If there are 8-27 missing generation here, then what does they say about Luke 3:23-38 which gives a continuous line from Jesus Christ to Adam, without these alleged missing generations [Judah (to Egypt), Perez (to Egypt), Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon (leader at the Exodus)]?

So if we take this tact (called the long sojourn) with the Israelites in oppression for 400-430 years in Egypt, we begin to introduce significant problems and conflicts elsewhere in the text of Scripture. The actual solution to properly understand Exodus 12:40-41, though, is much simpler and doesn’t damage the text.

The Ancient Text: Solving the Problem

Now let’s look at this relevant passage in more detail and look at the ancient textual witness. There are textual variants for Exodus 12:40 when we consult other ancient texts. The Masoretic text and the Samaritan Pentateuch were Hebrew texts (Hebrew and Samaritan Hebrew) and the Septuagint (LXX) was an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Here is how they read:

Exodus 12:40-41

Masoretic (Hebrew text)

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel “who lived in Egypt” was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

Samaritan Pentateuch (Hebrew text)

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel “and of their fathers who lived in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt” was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

Septuagint (Ancient Greek text)

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

As you can see from the verse variants in question, there is an issue over where these 430 years is to occur. It was both Egypt and Canaan according to the other ancient witnesses of the Old Testament. When looking at the ancient text, they are actually mixed—some say just Egypt others say Egypt and Canaan (or vice versa; Canaan and Egypt)—but which is to be preferred? The one that solves the problem and doesn’t introduce conflicts elsewhere of course.

Table 3 Ancient Greek and Hebrew Text Traditions

Ancient text Date of copies Language Egypt Only Egypt and Canaan/Canaan and Egypt
1 LXX (Septuagint) 200 B.C. – A.D. 400 Greek Some copies Some Copies
2 Masoretic A.D. 500-900 Hebrew All MSS
3 Samaritan Pentateuch, A.D. 1100-1200 (earliest copies) A.D. 1100 –1200 Hebrew (Samaritan dialect) All MSS
4 Dead Sea Scrolls (4 QExod), 250 B.C.-A.D 70, Hebrew 250 B.C. – A.D. 70 Hebrew One copy
5 Letter to the Galatians by Paul A.D 1st Century – A.D. 400[10] Greek All copies (from promise to Abraham to the Exodus) which includes both Canaan and Egypt)

So texts either gained information or lost it during transmission here. Keep in mind that it is easier for a copyist to lose text, than to come up with it, especially when that is not what they are supposed to be doing! From a big picture, the texts that have both Egypt and Canaan are preferred, not just for this reason, but because it solves the problem.

This sheds immense light on the issue. 430 years, was not just the time in Egypt, but also Canaan. Abraham received the promise, while being called into Canaan. This solves the alleged contradiction entirely! In fact, this solves the entire dilemma.

There was 430 years of sojourning in Egypt and Canaan from the Promise in Genesis 12, which includes Abraham, to the giving of the Law at the Exodus. There was 400 years of mistreatment to Abraham’s descendants beginning with Ishmael (the half Egyptian) toward Isaac until the last persecution during the Exodus (again with the Egyptians).

The statements in the text are actually accurate and extremely precise. This puts the time of the Israelites in Egypt at 210 years specifically. This is called the “short sojourn” and there is no contradiction and no problem—even with Moses, Paul, Stephen, and so on. There are no generational problems and timeline conflicts.

But there is more. The land of sojourning was also included the land of Promise according to other passages in the narrative.[11]

“I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8).

“May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you, that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham” (Genesis 28:4).

“I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned (Exodus 6:4).

If there was any question whether the sojourning included Canaan—the Bible solves it when we interpret Scripture (e.g., Exodus 12:40) with Scripture (e.g., Genesis 17:8, 28:4, and Exodus 6:4). Canaan was considered part of the sojourning of Abraham and his descendants! Even Jacob recognized his own sojourning was not strictly in Egypt. He said:

So Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning” (Genesis 47:9).

Jacob only lived a total 17 years in Egypt, and yet he recognized his own portion of the sojourning as being 130 years of duration so far (Jacob died 17 years later at 147 in Egypt per Genesis 47:28).

Objection: why does it state…“children of Israel” in Exodus 12:40?

Recall that Exodus 12:40-41 says:

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel “and of their fathers who lived in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt” was four hundred and thirty years.

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

If the 430 years of sojourn was meant to be counted from Abraham to the Exodus, why does it say “children of Israel”? Abraham is not among the children of Israel. Doesn’t this prove that the children of Israel were in Egypt for exactly 430 years?

The answer to this is actually revealed in the context. But first, some variant texts have “and of their fathers”, which does include Abraham—and Jacob again recognized that he was part of the sojourn (Genesis 47:9). Regardless though, the context reveals that we are discussing the end of the sojourn, “And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years” and who this now pertains to, which is the children of Israel. Why is this significant?

Abraham had a lot of descendants. For example there were the:

  • Ishmaelites (children of Ishmael) of Abraham and Hagar
  • Midainites (children of Midian) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Zimramites (children of of Zimram) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Jokshanites (children of Jokshan) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Medanites (children of Medan) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Ishbakites (children of Ishbak) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Shuhites (children of Shuah) of Abraham and Keturah
  • Edomites (children of Esau) of Abraham and Sarah through Isaac and Rebekah
  • Israelites (children of Jacob/Israel) of Abraham and Sarah through Isaac and Rebekah

This passage delineates whom the children of promise were (children of Israel) and that the end of the 430 years has finally come to the descendants of promise. This excluded these other descendants of Abraham. These others (Ishmaelites, Edomites, Midianites, etc.) were also descendants of Abraham, but not of promise that was through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel.

So now, at the very end of the sojourn, we find confirmation of who the descendants are at the end of this 430-year sojourn beginning with Abraham. After all, the Midianites, Ishmaelites, Edomites, and so on were never strangers in a land not their own[12], nor oppressed and afflicted for 400 years, and were not brought out of a nation that was then judged. We know without question [due to this verse] exactly who it was—the children of Israel. They were the ones on the back end of the promise and none of the other descendants of Abraham.

The main objection!

The main objection I’ve found is summed up in this question: how could there be 603,550 males over twenty years of age in Numbers 1:1-3; 2:32 in just a few generations? Hence, long sojourners again appeal to an actual 430 years strictly in Egypt under oppression to get such numbers basing it on natural population growth variation we have in the world today.

In modern estimations, the world’s population doubles about every 35-39 years. In the 1960’s, it was peaking about 35 years[13] but due to factors like immense abortion and negative growth rates in some countries, the rate has slightly slowed to about 39 years currently[14]. We know that Abraham’s progeny who went to Egypt was 66 people and with Joseph’s family it makes about 70 (Genesis 46:26-27). Here is a chart of doublings that have to occur to get the required number of people to make 603,550 males per the book of Numbers.

Table 4 Doublings

Number of doublings People beginning with 70
1 140
2 280
3 560
4 1120
5 2240
6 4480
7 8960
8 17,920
9 35,840
10 71,680
11 143,360
12 286,720
13 573,440
14 1,146,880
15 2,293,760

So 14-15 doubling times would be required to get the numbers if about half are males at age of counting. The long sojourner would argue that it is more feasible with 430 years strictly in Egypt. Using 14 doublings, this would make [430/14] = ~31 years per doubling which is comparable, but a little faster than, the current world growth range which again varies from 35-39 years currently. So it is argued that this is a confirmation of the 430 years, as opposed to 210-215 years, of sojourn strictly in Egypt buy the short sojourners.

However, this conclusion is without warrant. Consider the Lord’s prophetic promise to Abraham and then Isaac.

Genesis 13:16

“And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.

Genesis 22:17

“Blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.

Genesis 26:4

“And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.

And this came true. God is the one responsible for multiplying Abraham’s descendants and this exceeding increase came to Israel. And the Egyptians recognized this and wanted to do something about this population explosion occurring with the Israelites—hence enslaving them and trying to kill their baby boys in an effort to control them!

Exodus 1:7

But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.

Exodus 1:12

But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel.

Exodus 1:20

Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty.

Now is this increase a problem? No. It is not a problem for an all-powerful God to make the promise and keep it. There is no problem for God to make the Israelites as numerous as He promised. It would only be a problem if God hadn’t kept his promise, but that did not occur.

This would only be a problem if we allege that God had no part and that the increase of Israelites could only be done by human means. That is, by naturalistic means. But this population growth is no problem whatsoever for God as the promise was fulfilled. After the Exodus the Lord comments:

The LORD your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of heaven in multitude (Deuteronomy 1:10).

So if 210 years are in mind for the sojourn in Egypt, then what would the doubling rate be? Using 14 doublings, this would make [210/14] = 15 years per doubling which is obviously faster than the current world growth range which again is 35-39 years. You would easily be able to see the increases as the hand of the Lord with this figure! But is it possible?

Yes it is. In fact, the current population growth rate (as of 2015) of the country of Afghanistan is faster than this at 14.8 years![15] It is not at all impossible but clearly within the bounds of national growth rates observed today. Yes it is exceedingly faster, but this is exactly what the Lord declared He would do with the Israelites.

So this is actually a much better confirmation of what was occurring because unlike the slightly faster growth rate (~31 year doubling), the Israelites really were growing rapidly (~15 years doubling) as God promised. Joshua was in the 10th generation, while 4th generation was still alive (and much of the 3rd generation was still alive too) so this is reasonable and expected here. Having multiple generations as contemporaneous is not a problem. So this overall population objection to a short sojourn is really not a big deal.

Conclusions

The long sojourn introduces biblical conflicts whether genealogically, generationally, chronologically, or neglects that God rapidly multiplied the Israelites. It further causes disruptions of clear passages like Paul’s boundary conditions of 430 years from the promise to Abraham to the giving of the Law and that Canaan was included as the part of the land of sojourn.

The short sojourn makes sense of the biblical data when taking into account the variant ancient readings that mention that the sojourn included Egypt and Canaan. Any alleged problems disappear when looked at biblically and logically.

Now as a side note, readers should be aware that long and short sojourners are not enemies. We are brothers and though we do not agree with one another, this is not a reason to “go start a new church” over the issue. So keep this in mind on this chronological debate.

Table 5 Summary Timeline

Countdown (years; when applicable) Event Notes Reference
430 Initial Promise, Sojourn begins Abraham, 75 years old Genesis 12:1-7
420 Reiteration of the Promise Abraham, 85 years old Genesis 15:13-15
419 Ishmael born (half-Egyptian) Abraham, 86 years old Genesis 16:16
406 Final reiteration of the promise to Abraham Abraham 99 years old Genesis 17
405 Isaac, child of promise born Abraham, 100 years old Genesis 17:19-21; 21:3-5
400 Isaac, child of promise first persecuted by Ishmael, the half-Egyptian; Ishmael and Hagar (his Egyptian mother) are banished as a result;

BEGINNING OF PERSECUTION OF ABRAHAM’S DESCENDANTS

Isaac weaning age (which is very young)[16] perhaps 4-5 years old making Abraham 105 years old Genesis 21:8-14
340 Jacob and Esau born Isaac was 60 Genesis 25:26
Esau sells his birthright to Jacob
330 Abraham dies Abraham, 175 years old Genesis 25:7-10
Jacob renamed Israel Genesis 32:28
Israel has 12 sons (Levi, Joseph, Judah, etc.; Benjamin last) Genesis 29-30; 35:16 (Benjamin)
249 Joseph born Jacob/Israel, 91 year old Genesis 37:3[17]
232 Joseph sold into slavery; finally to Egypt Joseph 17 years old Genesis 37:28; Genesis 37:2
220 Isaac dies Isaac, 180 years old; Jacob/Israel, 120 years old

Joseph 29 years old

Genesis 35:28
219 Joseph in position of power in Egypt Joseph, 30 years old Genesis 41:41 Genesis 41:46
219-212 Seven years of Plenty Joseph, 37 years old Genesis 41:47
210 Israelites into Egypt (2 years into the 7 years of famine) Jacob, 130 years old

Joseph, 39 years old

Genesis 45:9-46:7; 45:6-11
193 Jacob dies in Egypt Jacob, 147 years old; after 17 years in Egypt

Joseph, 56 years old

Genesis 47:28
Levi fathers Kohath (born in Canaan per Genesis 46:7-11) Ephraim fathers Shuthelah (possibly before coming to Egypt?)

 

Genesis 50:23, 1 Chronicles 7:20-27; Exodus 6:16-20
Levi fathers Jochebed who was born in Egypt Shuthelah fathers Bered Genesis 50:23, 1 Chronicles 7:20-27; Exodus 6:16-20
Kohath fathers Amram Bered fathers Tahath

 

Genesis 50:23, 1 Chronicles 7:20-27; Exodus 6:16-20
139 Joseph (and his brothers) had died Joseph, 110 year old Genesis 50:26
Pharaoh enslaves the Israelites Exodus 1:8-14
81?-80 Persecution of baby boys in Egypt Just before and after the birth of Moses Exodus 1:15-22
80 Moses born to Amram Moses, 0 years old Exodus 2:1-10
40 Moses flees Egypt Moses (40 years old) Exodus 2:15
0 10 plagues Moses 80 years old Exodus 7:7 (beginning)
0 Exodus from Egypt/Giving of the Law Moses, 80 years old; Last persecution of Israelites by Egypt Exodus; Exodus 20
+40 Fourth generation was the first permitted to enter into Canaan (with their descendants of course) Moses died 120 years old; Joshua leads the fourth generation and their descendants into Canaan Numbers 14:34, Deuteronomy 1:35; 2:14;
+45 7 Canaanite tribes destroyed and land distributed; about 450 years after the promise given to the fathers (plural meaning at least Abraham and Isaac) and this is 450 years after Isaac was born Caleb was 85 now (40 when he spied out the land, 40 years after the wandering, and 5 more years after conquest and now the land distribution) Joshua 13:1-7, 14:7, Act 13:16-19
+480 Solomon is in his 4th year as king Temple began to be built; Okay—so this one is for fun! 1 Kings 6:1

Cite this Article: B Hodge, Long or short sojourn by chronological derivation strictly via the biblical text, Biblical Authority Ministries, July 15, 2016,https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/long-or-short-sojourn-by-chronological-derivation-strictly-via-the-biblical-text/.

[1] All Scripture is taken from the NKJV or the NAS unless otherwise mentioned.

[2] 430 years is a minimum in this view as many hold that 400 (rounding) or 430 years (exact) was their specific time in oppression, hence the 430 doesn’t begin to count until after Joseph dies and the oppression begins.

[3] The reason I start with Paul here is that there are no variant texts of the numbers given in the Galatians passage.

[4] Otherwise, Ishmael and the sons with Keturah would also be consider sons of promise as would their descendants, but they are not.

[5] Thus, it cannot be in reference to Abraham’s descendants through Hagar or Keturah.

[6] In Jewish tradition, weaning was often between 18 months and 5 years old. It usually involved a child who had their teeth and could eat normal foods without the fear of problems. It was essentially beyond the fragile time when young children had high infant mortality rates and thus seen as a time to celebrate such an accomplishment. For more please see: What was the significance of weaning a child in the Bible (Genesis 21:8)?, Got Questions Ministries, 2015, http://www.gotquestions.org/weaning-child-Bible.html.

[7] If Isaac was born at the end of one year and weaned at the beginning of another year, that could only be just over 3 years of actual duration while encompassing a 5 year time lapse.

[8] Others insert the 430 years after Joseph’s death because that was when the oppression begins which adds 430 years between Joseph and Moses. Also the overall time would be more than 700-800 years from the promise to Abraham to the Exodus.

[9] Paul J. Ray, The Duration of the Israelite Sojourn In Egypt, Associates for Biblical research, January 5, 2012, http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2012/01/05/The-Duration-of-the-Israelite-Sojourn-In-Egypt.aspx.

[10] By A.D. 400 Koine Greek (biblical Greek), was essentially became a dead language.

[11] Moses knew what a sojourn was as he also partook one in Midian (Exodus 2:22).

[12] They often intermarried with the local pagan tribes and became part of the land.

[13] Population Growth Rates, About.com, 2015, http://geography.about.com/od/populationgeography/a/populationgrow.htm.

[14] Silvio Famularo, Where have all the people gone? Creation, 31(2):18-19, March 2009.

[15] Population Growth Rates, About.com, 2015, http://geography.about.com/od/populationgeography/a/populationgrow.htm.

[16] 1 Samuel 1:23-24

[17] Calculations further based on Genesis 35:28, Genesis 37:28; Genesis 37:2

Genesis 41:41, Genesis 41:46, Genesis 41:47, Genesis 45:6-46:7, Genesis 47:28.

Advertisements
Long or short sojourn by chronological derivation strictly via the biblical text

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s