Genesis 15:13 (KJV) 13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land [that is] not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;

This passage is understood to be a prophecy that was fulfilled with the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt. I've always believed this, but now I see several problems. I've asked two critical questions that I think if properly answered, they will help me to determine if Egypt is indeed the land of Gen 15:13.

  1. According to the Exodus account, were the Israelites afflicted in Egypt for a period of 400 years?

  2. According to the Exodus account how many pharaohs ruled Egypt during the affliction period of the Israelites? (I've always thought it was just 2. The Oppression Pharaoh (OP), the one who started the affliction, the pharaoh who didn't know Joseph, and his successor who allegedly drowned in the sea. But I'm certain it's impossible for 2 pharaohs to rule over the Israelites for 400 years)

  • If you read it carefully you'll see that the pharaoh who didn't know Joseph and enslaved the Hebrews is not even the same as the pharaoh of the Exodus. I don't know of anyone who ever understood it to not mean much later. No one thinks there were only 2 pharaohs.
    – Joshua
    Dec 19, 2015 at 12:19
  • Quick recap. Moses was born under the OP. He was exiled after murdering the Egyptian. The OP dies. Moses returns to Egypt and ask the new pharaoh to let his people go. This pharaoh continues the oppression of his predecessor and is believed to have drowned in the sea during the exodus. This is how I get my count of 2 pharaohs. Even in movies about the exodus we only 2 pharaohs. If there were more, where should I look for them in the story?
    – brewpixels
    Dec 19, 2015 at 15:33
  • 2
    That's only 80 years though. 40 till Moses runs to Midian, 40 in Midian. there was 320 before that for the Egyptians to have many pharaohs and forget Joseph. And the wording of the beginning of Exodus allows for the Hebrews to have begun to be enslaved by a earlier Pharaoh, possibly generations before Moses. Indeed the way it says they continued to prosper, which led to the attempted population control, suggests that multiple generations did in fact pass. I'll try to get a full answer up later.
    – Joshua
    Dec 19, 2015 at 15:59

2 Answers 2



Exodus 1:6-22 (ESV):

6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.
7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.
8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us.
10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”
11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses.
12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.
13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves
14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.
15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,
16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.”
17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.
18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?”
19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.”
20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong.
21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.
22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrewsfn you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”


  1. v6 Joseph and his brothers die. Joseph was 30 when he was given authority over Egypt by Pharaoh. Then there were 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine. It was during those famine years that Jacob and the Israelites moved to Egypt. Joseph then dies at the age of 110 (Gen 50). So we have 66-73 years passing before we get to verse 7.
  2. v7 The Israelites multiply and fill the land. To multiply we must have at least one generation, probably more.
  3. v8-11 It is only now, after at least a generation, that a new king arises that did not know Joseph. They set the Israelites to work. Notice, they are given taskmasters, supervisors, but it does not say enslaved yet. Also, it says they built the cities, as in, they completed them.
  4. v12-13 Now we read that the oppression was gradual, they worked them harder and harder till they changed from workers to servants to slaves. However, they continued to multiply! Clearly, more time is passing, possibly at least a generation.
  5. v14 Note here that they are now working throughout the land as slaves, not just at the store cities.
  6. v15-19 The Pharaoh makes an attempt at population control but the midwives don't cooperate.
  7. v20 The midwives are given families of their own, all the Israelites multiply, again. Another generation.
  8. Pharaoh (like all mentions in Exodus, still unnamed, may not even be the same as in v15) orders male babies thrown into the Nile. And that's when Moses is born.

It is clear that it is possible to see the 320 years in Egypt before Moses pass in these verses.

How many Pharaohs?

The average reign of a Pharaoh is difficult to say because it varied so much between only months to many decades. For example, during the roughly 250 years of the 18th Dynasty we have over 14 known rulers. And during the 100 years of the 15th Dynasty there were 6 rulers.

Suffice to say, we can be reasonably sure that there were many Pharaohs during the Israelites time in Egypt.

Is Egypt the land prophesied to Abraham that his people would be strangers for 400 years?

It certainly fits the description, and the rest of the scriptures continue on with that assumption almost taken for granted.

I want to do due diligence in mentioning other views on this.

One view sees Abraham's time in Canaan to be included in the 400 years, as he was a stranger there as well. This shortens the time in Egypt.

Others claim that the 400 years didn't start until they were oppressed, which stretches the time in Egypt by at least the rest of Joseph's life (~70yrs).

And I'm sure there are many other theories. However, nearly all (meaning, all I know of or can find) agree that the prophecy was fulfilled in Egypt, assuming they believe it happened at all of course.


Let's be clear the prophecy didn't say the people would be strangers for 400 years it said they would be strangers in a land not theirs, enslaved (be in servitude) and AFFLICTED for 400 years. If Joseph was a "governor" for 80 of the 400 that people say they were in Egypt, certainly there was no affliction during his time of authority; this is also indicated by the oppression not beginning until after a Pharaoh arose that didn't know Joseph (he died). One also has to be careful about trying to tack a whole 400 years of affliction after Joseph's death and make it occur in Egypt because as Acts says from the promise given to Abraham to the giving of the Law (Sinai) is only 430 years. Seeing how Joseph would have been in Egypt for almost 100 years total and then die this makes the entire story fall way out of the 430 year boundary if 400 years of affliction occurs after his death. So where does this prophecy truly belong? Contrary to popular opinion the puzzle piece doesn't fit in Egypt at all.

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  • Please quote some references to support your assertions.
    – Dottard
    Mar 13, 2021 at 9:27

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