Gen. 15:13

Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.

And then in v. 16

In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.

Is there a connection between the four hundred years sojourn in Egypt and the fourth generation returning to Canaan? This question has been inspired by this question. There Phil suggests a provocative idea that the four generations are actually the equivalent of four hundred years, since in the biblical framework a generation (or more specifically an Abrahmic generation) is thought to be the equivalent of a hundred years. Phil believes that this explains how the four generation prophecy has been fulfilled, while I take issue with it and offer another solution. But then it struck me that it may actually be the other way around, i.e., if Phil is right in suggesting that a generation is a hundred years, then is it possible that the four hundred years is actually modeled after the four generations, i.e., that the four hundred years of Egyptian bondage is another expression of the four-generations-in-bondage prophecy? I'm inclined to think that it's modeled this way and not vice versa, since the fourth generation motif is a common motif in the bible, and can also be found in the ten commandments, so it makes sense that if there is any modeling after, that the four generations prophecy (i.e. that the iniquity of the Amorites has not reached full measure until the fourth generation) would precede the four hundred years prophecy.

This may possibly resolve the age old Egyptian sojourn chronology problem, since if four hundred years only meant four generations then the fact that it was less than four hundred literal years (but four literal generations) should not pose much of a problem, since the four hundred years were never meant to be taken literally, but as another expression of the four generation prophecy which was indeed fulfilled, see here. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My question is has such a connection ever been explored? Is there evidence to suggest that a generation in the bible is the equivalent of a hundred years, and is it plausible that the four hundred years were understood by the biblical authors as four generations and nothing more?

The only problem I can see here is that understood this way, the four generations prophecy would in a way undermine the four hundred years prophecy. Since according to v. 16, the fourth generation is already returning to the land, whereas according to v. 13 the Israelites would be in bondage for four hundred years, i.e., four complete generations. This problem is actually very similar to the problem I raise with Phil's answer here. There are ways to resolve this (and the problem with Phil's answer), but I'm leaving this question open for now, awaiting the feedback of the community.


Abraham's first 100 years cannot be counted against the number of years of the generations of Abraham. The first generation of Abraham began with Isaac, 100 years after Abram was born.

That does not prove the 100 year equivalence to the generations, but it very well might have given Abraham a future clue, once Isaac was (later) born, that all is well--that the four hundred years at least represents each (at the least, the approximate) generational time lapse per generation during his family's being kept in slavery.

  • I'm not sure how this answers the question. – Bach Mar 22 at 21:12
  • You are right. My answer even confuses me. I cannot answer that question, especially since there is a question as to at what point in the fourth generation did they commence to return. Sorry for the confusion at my causation. – Bill Porter Mar 24 at 1:46
  • ok Bill you can delete your answer yourself. – Bach Mar 24 at 15:38

The bible didn't say that Israelites would be in captivity for 400 yrs. "And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt AND THE LAND OF CHANAAN, was four hundred and thirty years." (Septuagint original text book of Exodus 12:40.) You have to include the travels in Canaan.

  • 1
    Sam tzu you are not following the MT but the Septuagint, which to many scholars is less accurate than the MT. The MT does not have this addition. – Bach Sep 7 '20 at 18:13
  • 1
    And your point is? Since all of the scriptures that remain are translations from the original text that Moses probably wrote in middle-egypt or kush the Septuagint is THE oldest and closest to the original text transcribed by Joshua to ancient Hebrew. (Since they way Hebrew was written has changed at least three times in past 3 thousand years it has little resemblance to current Hebrew). The best we can do is try to find the obvious attempts at censorship and fix those. – SamTzu Sep 8 '20 at 12:15
  • No. Wrong. The best we can do is try to find a way to reconcile the texts that seem irreconcilable; relying on the LXX in this case would be an injustice to the MT. Besides, as I already pointed out, the MT I think was better preserved than the LXX which has been edited and expanded by many people. – Bach Sep 8 '20 at 19:44
  • See also this principle of textual criticism en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lectio_difficilior_potior – Bach Sep 8 '20 at 19:49
  • I fail to see how the MT a comparatively very recent and corrupted document by anti-JesusChrist writers, upon close analysis of the DSS, LXX, ancient writers like Josephus and other writings like the Targums corroborate the unique editing of the MT, while all the others agree on the same narrative. Further the MT contains the niqqud which is another addition to the text not found nor corroborated by any other document. Injustice to the MT, since when has a highly edited text now become the standard? The injustice is to the older manuscripts – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 17 at 21:26

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