Genesis 15:13:

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.

Exodus 12:40-41:

Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt.

Why the 30 years difference? Was this referring to the period where they weren't oppressed? Also, why does the text make such a point of saying that it was 430 years "to the very day"? What's the significance of it being exactly 430 years?


3 Answers 3


The 430 years is from the time of the Abrahamic covenant was established according to Gal 3:16, 17 -

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say, “and to seeds,” meaning many, but “and to your seed,” meaning One, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law that came 430 years later does not revoke the covenant previously established by God, so as to nullify the promise.

The Abrahamic covenant was first established in Gen 12:1-4 -

Then the LORD said to Abram, “Leave your country, your kindred, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you.

I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you; and all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram departed, as the LORD had directed him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.

Note that the passage in Gen 15 and 17 were some years later and so when the covenant promises were repeated to Abraham, the time was correspondingly less, 400 years. In any case, the 400 years is probably a rounded number anyway.

It is also clear that from the time that Jacob moved his family to Egypt until the Exodus was much less that 400 years because it was just the fourth generation (Gen 16:15) we note that:

  • There were more than four generations between Abraham and Moses (in fact, there were six generations)
  • Four generations does NOT take 400 years
  • In fact, it was 215 years between Jacob moving to Egypt and the Exodus under Moses, but this might be the subject of another question.

Thus, the chronological statement are consistent.

  • Thanks, these are good points. Out of curiosity, hopefully I'm not being obtuse, but why was the text so insistent that it was "to the very day"? Was it the accuracy of the promises? Mar 28, 2021 at 1:27
  • 1
    @EJoshuaS-ReinstateMonica - I would take to mean just what its say - exactly 430 years (to the day) from the time that Abraham received the promises in a vision.
    – Dottard
    Mar 28, 2021 at 3:09

The difference is that Israel lived in Egypt 430 years from the time Jacob brought his people to Egypt. It was years later that a Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph and Egypt enslaved the descendents of Jacob's family. Thus, Israel was enslaved for 400 years.


Exodus 12:40-41 seems to be saying that the children of Israel lived in Egypt for 430 years, but could it have a different meaning?

Exodus 12:40-41 NKJV

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.

Genesis 25:21-23 NIV

21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23 The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

Could the main point of Exodus 12:40 be that they sojourned for 430 years? What if it could be understood to mean that Israel and his children were without a homeland, and they sojourned 430 years in foreign lands ending in the exodus from Egypt? Then the meaning of Exodus 12:41 is after 430 years, “even the selfsame day it came to pass”, the selfsame day would mean the same day that Jacob (Israel), also the nation of Israel, was born (430 years earlier) probably either Nisan 15 following Passover Seder (when they started their journey), also the First Day of Unleavened Bread or perhaps Nisan 22 when tradition has it they passed through the Red Sea, just after the Last Day of Unleavened Bread (exactly 430 years after Jacob was born).

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