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I know this seems like an old question but here's the contradiction I'm struggling with:

400 years

"Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not their own; they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years."- Genesis 15:13

"And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them 400 years."- Acts 7:6

"In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."- Genesis 15:16

*As a side note, could anyone explain how fourth generation links to 400 years? Thanks.

430 years

"What I mean is this: The Law that came 430 years later does not revoke the covenant previously established by God, so as to cancel the promise."- Galatians 3:17

"Now the duration of the Israelites' stay in Egypt was 430 years."- Exodus 12:40

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  • In the Greek Septuagint, which was heavily employed by New Testament writers, the text of Exodus 12:40 explicitly reads in Egypt and Canaan. The Samaritan Pentateuch also supports this reading. Though the Hebrew Masoretic text does not technically contain that written clarification, the accompanying Jewish oral tradition nevertheless interprets it as such. See also the answers to this question.
    – Lucian
    Jun 6 '19 at 4:27
  • "enslaved and mistreated for 40 years". I wonder what this enslavement and mistreatment entails, considering that the 430 years encompasses the time from Abraham's family living in Canaan to the Exodus. Did it refer to sin, i.e. bondage to sin? Jun 6 '19 at 6:23
  • This is a very interesting question and it references multiple passages too. Personally I'd even be fine with just Genesis and Exodus but you've gone the extra mile. (+1) and raising a bounty to draw more attention. Jan 23 at 8:11
  • there was more than one exodus. And the first exodus only men were allowed to leave. Then women. Then herds
    – R. Emery
    Feb 18 at 7:04
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+50

Abraham was 75 when he left Haran. This was The Promise, and the start of 430 years to the Exodus.

  • 25 years later, Abraham is 100 years old and Isaac is born. We are now 25 years from The Promise
  • 5 years later, Isaac is weaned. Ishmael mocks Isaac, Ishmael and Hagar are exiled. This is the start of the 400 years of being "mistreated/afflicted" and then later "enslaved". We are now 30 years from The Promise
  • 55 years later, Isaac is 60 years old when Jacob is born. Now we're 85 years from The Promise
  • 130 years later, Jacob is 130 years old and they enter Egypt. We're now 215 years from The Promise, and 215 years away from the Exodus

Concerning the 215 years in Egypt, we know that Kohath was listed with those entering Egypt (Gen. 46:8,11), and his son Amram was listed among those that left Egypt (Num. 3:14,19).

  • Kohath lived to be 133 years old
  • his son Amram lived to be 137 years old

So we now know the Israelites could be in Egypt no longer than their combined ages of 270 years. They were in Egypt 215 years.

The fourth generation prophecy refers to: Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses.

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  • How does the initial 25 year period relate to the Israelites being afflicted by Egypt though? I understand how Hagar and her son could constitute Egyptian mistreatment of Israel (who really is just Jacob and his descendants) but why does the Bible uniformly describe everything in the 430 years as being related to Egypt (Exodus 12:40)? Thanks. May 31 '19 at 10:25
  • The initial 25 year period is part of the 430 year sojourn, but not part of the 400 year affliction/mistreatment and enslavement. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew) translates Exodus 12:40 this way: 'Now the sojourning of the children of Israel that dwelt in the land of Canaan and the land of Egypt was 430 years'. Without the Septuagint adding the word Canaan, it would be difficult to understand the chronology using Exodus 12:40 alone. People's ages need to be used to figure it out, and also in Galatians 3 Paul mentions the start and end point of the 430 yrs. Jun 1 '19 at 5:45
  • Since however there were several instances of the promise made to Abraham, one of them when he was ninety-nine years old(Genesis 17), Paul may rather have been grouping them together into one time period, rather to start the 430 years with the first(Gen 12), when Abraham was at most 75 years old.
    – user21676
    Jun 1 '19 at 14:00
  • This is a very good answer - well documented with the correct result of actually 215 years. +1
    – Dottard
    Jan 27 at 10:01
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We know that there were 70 Israelites that went to Egypt. Joseph was appointed as Chief Advisor to Pharaoh and lord over all the land of Egypt Genesis 45:8.The Pharaoh was a good Pharaoh. I don't know how long this Pharaoh lived before the bad Pharaoh started to rule over Egypt. The Good Pharaoh could have ruled 30 more years after after the Israelites came to Egypt. If that were the case that could account for the 30 years making the amount of time the Israelites were not in Egyptian slavery. That would explain why they were in Egypt for 430.The 30 years when they were not being enslaved. The 400 years when they were enslaved by the bad Pharaoh making it 430.

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  • This is the correct answer. Thank you. Welcome to the forum.
    – oldhermit
    10 hours ago
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In Egypt for 430 years, but enslavement starts slowly at 400 years. At the time of Joseph, Egyptians were selling themselves as slaves to the Pharoah for food, and suspect it might have started as a 'modest' enslavement. I suppose having all your egyptian citizens as slaves and foreign isreali free doesn't seem right. Not to cause a revolt, I suspect the Pharoahs slowly burdened and enslaved the isreali nation over that 400 year period and it became worse and worse for them. Isn't that how many kings come to power? - with the masses behind the new king, and then their children become tyrants or incompetent. This chronology puts the world around 6193 years old. If I use the 430 timeline starting at the time of the Abrahamic covenant (and a shorter time of enslaved in egypt), I calculate the age of the world around 5973 years old. I suspect some like the latter number, but I just can't get that from the text of the Bible and think the older number is more accurate.

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I also agree that by God's statement in Genesis 15:13 that Abraham's descendants would be enslaved for 400 years mean they enjoyed their freedom in their first 30 years in Egypt, this making a combined period of 430 years. When you say the 430 years commenced from the time of God's promise (covenant) with Abraham (Abram as then), the time spent in Egypt by the Israelites may not reach 400 years, which will be inconsistent with Genesis 15:13.

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