Is it possible, on the basis of the text, to establish the approximate time span between God's prophesy to Abraham about his descendants' being mistreated in Egypt:

"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;" (Genesis 15:13, KJV)

and the time when Abraham's descendants actually arrived at Egypt:

"And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him." (Genesis 46:6, KJV)


4 Answers 4


Genesis 12:4 So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

Genesis 21:5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.

Genesis 25:26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.

Genesis 47:28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.

(100 - 75) + 60 + (147 - 17) = 25 + 60 + 130 = 215 = 430 : 2

Exodus 12:40-41 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt,1 was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.

1 Both the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch add and Canaan. Jewish oral tradition agrees with this reading, though the words are not explicitly contained in the Masoretic Text.

The most tempting conclusion (due to its beautifully simple symmetry) would be that the Israelites spent 215 years in each of the two regions, i.e., Canaan and Egypt.

  • WOW! Just amazing! Thank you.
    – brilliant
    Aug 13, 2021 at 2:37
  • This is quite good, +1. However, it should be added that the land of Canaan was part of Egypt's territory at the time Abram left Haran to enter it, so he was in "Egypt" already at the point of Gen. 15:13. However, the promise was made regarding his "seed" (Isaac), who wasn't born until 25 years later, and it was at his weaning party when Isaac was 5 that he was first bullied (afflicted) by the son of Hagar, the Egyptian. This sees 25 + 5 = 30 -- the difference between the 400 years prophesied and the 430 years of total sojourn in Egypt as recorded in Exodus 12.
    – Polyhat
    Aug 15, 2021 at 17:10


2081 BC God's Covenant with Abram   Genesis 15
1875 BC Jacob and Family to Egypt   Genesis 46

According to this, 206 years have passed.


We have the following data:

  • Gen 12:4 - Abram 75 years old when he moved from Haran to Canaan and given the promise in Gen 12:1-3
  • Isaac born to Abraham at the age of 100, Gen 21:5
  • Isaac marries Rebekah at age 40, Gen 25:20 (Abraham 140 years old)
  • Isaac becomes the father of Jacob at age 60, Gen 25:26 (Abraham 160 years old)
  • Abraham dies at age 175, Gen 25:7
  • Jacob (at age 71) deceives Isaac when he is 131, Gen 47:9, 45:6, 41:47
  • Jacob returns from Padam Aram after 20 years at age 91, as Joseph is born, Isaac 151. [Abraham would have been 251]
  • Joseph is sold into slavery at age 17 (Gen 37:2), Jacob is 108, Isaac is 168. Isaac dies at age 180, Gen 35:28. [Abraham would ahve been
  • Gen 47:9 - Jacob is 130 years old when presented to Pharaoh [Abraham would have been 290 years old if still alive]
  • Gen 45:6 - This was during the second year of the famine, nine years after Joseph entered the service of Pharaoh, Gen 41:47
  • Gen 41:46 - Joseph was 30 years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh. Thus, Jacob was 121 years old. Hence, Joseph was born to Jacob at the age of 91 just as he returned from Padam Aram.
  • Jacob went to Padam Aram 20 years earlier at the age of 71. He married his two wives (sisters) seven years later at the age of 77.

Thus, when Jacob was 130 years old, Abraham (had he lived) would have been 290 years old. Since, Abraham received the promise at the age of 75, this means that there was 215 years between Gen 12:1-3 and Jacob going to Egypt.

Since the time between Abraham receiving the promise and Israel's departure from Egypt was 430 years (Gal 3:17, Ex 12:40, 41), the re-statement of the covenant promise to Abraham in Gen 15 was ABOUT 400 years before the exodus, then, the approximate time between Gen 15 and Gen 46 is about 185 years.

This is an approximate figure because the 400 years is probably a round number and may have been a little longer making 185 calculation a bit higher.


The Exodus happened 1446 B.C. (for instance, see Rodger Young website rcyoung.org; or book by "From Abraham to Paul - a biblical chronology" by Andrew Steinmann; or "Kingdom of Priests" by Eugene Merrill).

430 years before that was the second year of the famine in Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41), when Jacob was 130 years old (Genesis 47:9). Jacob entered 14th Nisan 1876 B.C.

Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob was born (Gen 25:26). Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born (Gen 21:5). Finally Abraham is called to leave Haran when he was 75 years old (Gen 12:4); and Ishmael was born when Abraham was 86 years old (Gen 16:16).

This gives:-

2166 Abraham born (Gen 21:5)

2091 God calls Abraham to leave his kindred (Gen 12:4)

2080 Ishmael born (Gen 16:16)

2066 Isaac born (Gen 25:26)

2006 Jacob born (Gen 47:9)

1876 Jacob enters Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41).

There is no date given for the vision of Genesis 15. We do know he was between 75 and 86 years old. It also looks as if Genesis 12 to Genesis 15 gives a chronological order, which suggests many years have passed since his call to leave Haran.

Supposing he was 82 plus or minus 3 years then the time to Jacob's descent into Egypt was 208 years plus or minus 3 years.

All of these dates suppose that each patriarch was exactly such and such an age. If we want to be slightly closer, I guess we should add 6 months on average to each birth year date for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which would mean Abraham was more likely born 2168 B.C., and thus the descent into Egypt was 210 years plus or minus 3 years.

Postscript (31/01/2023)

I now think the above last paragraph is probably wrong, and thus the difference is more likely 208 plus or minus 3 years.

To explain my change of mind: my wife is from South Korea, and in the far east today, or at least until relatively recently, when a child was born they were immediately one year old. Then, on Chinese New Year's Day everyone became a year older. (This means that a baby could be born the day before New Year's Day and be officially two years old two days after they were born(!).) Now there is no evidence Abraham et al were one year old when they were born (we can be sure the later kings were considered 0 years old when they were born), but I think it very likely the age in years of everyone changed not on their birthday but on 1st Tishri, New Year's Day. The effect is that whether a person was born at the beginning of the year or towards the end of a year the age of a person tells you exactly in which year they were born.. so six months additions are not relevant.

So 208 years plus or minus 3 years is better.

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