- The Misunderstanding of Galatians 3:17
- When ‘the Children of IsraEl’ Began
- How Long Was IsraEl in Egypt?
- When Did the 400 Years Start?
- A Problem With the Chronology?
- The Actual Dates
- Whose Mistake?
- Why Worry About the Dates?
The Misunderstanding of Galatians 3:17
According to the New Living Translation, Paul wrote this at Galatians 3:17:
‘This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses.’
So the natural assumption here (from this translation of Paul’s words) is that the Exodus came some 430 years after God made a Sacred Agreement with the righteous Patriarch AbraHam.
However, this isn’t what Paul said!.
As we will show; there were actually about 640 years between the time of the promise to AbraHam and the Exodus.
So, why do we feel that these numbers are important?
Because the misunderstanding about 430 years has (in part) led to wrong estimates about how long man has been on the earth, and to wrong theories and teachings about the time of the second coming of Jesus and the arrival of ‘the Battle of Armageddon.’
Understand that we aren’t condemning other Bible the translators for making this mistake, because Paul’s words (as we have received them) are a bit confusing.
In Greek, this verse reads:
‘Touto de lego; diatheken prokekyromenen hypo tau Theou, ho meta tetrakosia kai triakonta ete gogonos nomos ouk akuroi, eis to katargesai ten epangelian,’
‘The moreover I/say covenant having/been/confirmed/beforehand by the God the afterward four-hundred and thirty years having come the/Law not does/annul so/as the to nullify the promise.’
So now, notice how we have translated this verse:
‘Moreover, I tell you that the Sacred Agreement that had been confirmed by The God some four hundred and thirty years earlier, and from which the Law came, didn’t nullify the promise that He gave [to AbraHam].’
Is this all still a bit confusing? Well, look at the sequence of events:
· God promised Abraham that he would inherit the land of CanaAn (see Genesis 22:15-18)
· This promise was confirmed to AbraHam’s grandson Jacob upon his return to the Promised Land, when he was given the name IsraEl (see Genesis 32:24-30).
· Then 430 year later (30 years after Jacob (IsraEl) returned to the Promised Land from the house of Laban in MesoPotamia, plus IsraEl’s 400 year stay in Egypt), the Sacred Agreement through Moses and the Law arrived.
So notice that Paul wasn’t saying that there were 430 years between the time that God made His agreement with AbraHam until the Exodus. Rather, He was saying that it was 430 years from the time the promise was confirmed upon Jacob or IsraEl (when he returned to the Promised Land) until the Law came to be.
Why have we concluded that this was what Paul really meant? Well, look at the scripture he was quoting.
Moses wrote this at Exodus 12:40, 41:
‘Although it had been four hundred and thirty years that the children of IsraEl stayed in the land of Egypt and in the land of CanaAn; the whole army of Jehovah left the land of Egypt that night.’
As you can see, the Exodus account is really saying that the 430 years started upon IsraEl’s return to the Promised Land, not from the time of the promise to AbraHam!
When ‘the Children of IsraEl’ Began
The problem with saying that the time between God’s Agreement with AbraHam and His making the Agreement with IsraEl through Moses is just 430 years, is that this reduces the period that IsraEl was in Egypt to just a little over 200 years… which is illogical and physically impossible, since the Bible tells us that there were only seventy-five people in the family of Jacob when they entered Egypt (see Genesis 46:26-27) and that they left with more that 600,000 men in their army alone (Numbers 1:44), which didn’t count the tribe of Priests, the women, the aged, and the children!
Therefore (as we will show), this conclusion is wrong and the IsraElites actually lived in Egypt for 400 years, as the Bible says in other places.
Also, common sense would tell us that since the children of IsraEl’s grandfather (IsaAc) was just a young boy when God made His promise to (their great-grandfather) AbraHam, there really were no ‘children of IsraEl’ until after IsaAc grew up and married, after his wife bore him two sons (Jacob and Esau), after Jacob grew up and moved to MesoPotamia, after he married the daughters of Laban and had his 12 children, and after he was given the name IsraEl.
In fact, the youngest of these sons (BenJamin) wasn’t even born until after Jacob had returned to the Promised Land as a very old man!
How Long Was IsraEl in Egypt?
Does the Bible actually say that IsraEl spent 400 years in Egypt? Yes! Notice the promise that God gave to AbraHam (at Genesis 15:13):
‘You must know this for a fact: Your seed will have to live as aliens in a foreign land (where they'll be slaves who are treated badly and humbled) for four hundred years.’
As you can see; Egypt was the ‘foreign land’ where they were ‘treated badly’ as ‘slaves,’ and where they lived for four-hundred years.
Notice that this same 400-year period was spoken of again by Stephen in his magnificent defense of the faith before the Jewish High Court… for which he was stoned to death.
At Acts 7:6, he gave this testimony:
‘God said that his seed would live in a foreign land where they would be slaves and be oppressed for four hundred years.’
In addition; the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also wrote that the IsraElites were in Egypt for four-hundred years, in his work, ‘Antiquities of the Jews.’
When Did the 400 Years Start?
But did this 400-year period start when JoSeph was taken to Egypt, or when Jacob and his family arrived there?
Notice that in Genesis 30:22-25, we find JoSeph being born in MesoPotamia sometime before his father Jacob decided to return to his homeland, and then his brother BenJamin was born shortly after that return.
Also, the account in Genesis shows that JoSeph was seventeen years old (Genesis 37:2) when he was carried off to Egypt.
And according to Genesis 41:46, he was 30 when he stood in front of PharaOh.
However, JoSeph married and had two sons (Genesis 41:50) during the 7 years of plenty, and it was two years into the famine that Jacob and his family moved into Egypt (see Genesis 45:6).
Therefore, (30+7+2) JoSeph had to be 39. So, that’s when the 400 years had to begin (c.1955-BCE), and the 430 years started when Jacob and his family returned to the Promised Land (c. 1985-BCE).
A Problem With the Chronology?
Are there problems with this chronology?
Yes, for the periods of the ancestors from the time of Levi down to the 80th year of Moses would have to be unusually long. In fact, he and all of his ancestors back to Aaron’s son Levi would have to be born when their fathers were over 100 years old!
Yet, the genealogy of Moses back to his great-grandfather Levi (as found at Exodus 6:16-26), shows that Levi lived about 100 years after entering Egypt, during which he fathered CaAth, who fathered AmBram… who died at 132 years old, shortly after fathering Aaron, Miriam, and Moses.
So, AbraHam wasn’t the only one in that line to live to be over 100 and still father children. In fact, his son IsaAc died at 180 years old!
And as we will see, Jacob was likely more than 80 years old when he fathered all twelve of his sons!
Notice that this is exactly what God said would happen. For just after He told Abram that his ‘seed’ would live as captives in an alien land for four-hundred years (at Genesis 15:13), He went on to say (in verse 16):
‘Then the fourth generation will return here; because, even to this point, the sins of the Amorites haven’t reached their climax.’
As you can see, God was saying that each generation would (miraculously) last over 100 years!
Therefore, shortening the period of the Exodus to about 240 years (as several have suggested) in order to make the tie back to AbraHam (and to harmonize with what Paul appears to have written) would invalidate the words of Exodus 12:40, and we would have to imagine (as other Bible commentators have) that the prophecy of the ‘400 years of captivity’ started with ‘IshmaEl poking fun at [IsaAc] on the day that [he] was weaned,’ which is obviously long before ‘the children of IsraEl’ were even born!
Since there is considerable proof that the IsraElites were actually the historical ‘Hyksos’ that lived in and ruled parts of Egypt up until 1550-BCE; notice that there are some eighteen kings listed in their (the 16th) Dynasty of Egypt, which indicates that they were in Egypt for a very long time.
If that was truly 400 years, then the average reign would be 22 years each, which is what would be expected.
And notice that neither JoSeph or his sons Ephraim or ManasSeh seem to be listed among those kings; so, the period that historians give for the rulership of the Hyksos kings must have started after the time of JoSeph (who was the de facto ruler of Egypt) and of his sons.
The Actual Dates
Therefore, if we subtract 30 years from Jacob’s arrival in Egypt at 130 years old (see Genesis 47:9), we can see that he was 100 years old when he made the trek from MesoPotamia back to the land of CanaAn… and JoSeph was about 9 years old.
Going back, we see that Jacob and his brother were then born to IsaAc around 2085-BCE, when IsaAc was 60 years old (see Genesis 25:26), and IsaAc was born to AbraHam (who was 100 years old) about 2145-BCE.
Then God made the first Agreement with Abraham sometime early in his life (see Genesis 12:7), possibly as much as 50 years earlier (2195-BCE), which was about 640 years before the giving of the Law (c. 1555-BCE).
As proof of the fact that IsraEl actually spent 400 years in Egypt; please see the subheading ‘Existence and Reign of Joseph’ in the linked document,
‘The Bible’s Internal Proofs of its Authentic History.’
Then, who made the mistake? Well, we know that Paul certainly wasn’t confused about this period, because he said in his speech at the synagogue in Antioch, Pisidia, that the time between IsraEl’s entry into Egypt and receiving their inherited portions in the Promised Land was 450 years.
Yes, notice what Paul wrote there (Acts 13:17-20):
‘And when they were visitors in the land of Egypt, He elevated the people, raising His arm to bring them out of there. And after that, He [had to] put up with their bad manners in the desert for forty years. Then, after destroying seven nations in the land of CanaAn (10 years?), He gave them each an inheritance of land… and all of this happened in a period of four hundred and fifty years’ (400+40+10).
So clearly, Paul knew how long the IsraElites were in Egypt (400 years). And the confusion was started by those that wish to change the periods given in the Bible in order to make their own end-time prophecies work out.
Why Worry About the Dates?
Understand that in recent years, several religious groups have predicted the imminent coming of Jesus and a global destruction (the ‘Battle of Armageddon') based on the old theory that God created all things in seven periods (or days) of 7,000 years each.
This theory teaches that man has been on the earth for some 6,000 years (based partly on the above misunderstandings), and that we are about to enter the last 1,000-year period, which will begin with the destruction of the wicked and which will be the length of Jesus’ rulership over the earth. It’s not a bad theory, but it’s not based on Bible truth.
And notice that there is another problem with the chronology that has been used to come up with the ‘6000-year theory!’
You'll see that those that employed it to prove their Armageddon dates also used a corrupted OT text in their calculations!
For using the more logical dating and the genealogies provided in the Septuagint (which are verified by Luke) we find that man has already been on the earth for more than 7,500 years…
Check the calculations and the links for yourself… and yes, we believe that!
So with this, all the ‘creative day’ theories go out the window, and we must assume that only God knows how long each of His periods of creation ('days') lasted.