This post is somewhat related to Do We Know with Reasonable Certainty Where Goshen was Located?

According to (D-R) Exod. 12:40,

And the abode of the children of Israel that they made in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.

From this, I conclude that the span of time from Jacob's arrival in Egypt with his family until the Exodus was 430 years? Is my conclusion correct?

That being said, I am under the impression that the Israelites lived in peace in Egypt for 300 years before a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph ascended to the throne and enslaved them. Is this correct?

For if it is, then such would suggest that Israel was enslaved for only 130 years, contrary to other estimates which suggest on the order of four hundred years. In any case, based on Exod. 12:40, it would seem that Israel would have had to have been enslaved less than four hundred and thirty years.

How long (and with reputable sources please) was Israel actually enslaved by the Egyptians? Does anyone have a rough estimate of the years which this enslavement spanned? Thank you.

  • 1
    You are right to suggest that the Hebrew people were not enslaved for 430 years. However, there is controversy over which Pharaoh enslaved them. I have found a scholastic article which challenges the notion that it was Ramesses II but have not yet had time to extract the relevant information. I hope to post an answer later.
    – Lesley
    Aug 27 at 7:31
  • Given that when Jacob went down to Egypt in 1876 B.C., and that he and his family and their further generations were not enslaved for some time (when they became viewed as a threat to Egypt due to their numbers) it seems impossible to give a length of time for their enslavement; unless the Egyptians actually dated when they began to conscript the Hebrews for labour?
    – Anne
    Aug 27 at 15:47

4 Answers 4


Introduction: The biblical timeline shows there were 430 years between Jacob and his family settling in Goshen and the Exodus out of Egypt. Here is a brief overview:

1929 Jacob flees to Haran

1915 Joseph born

1898 Joseph sold into Egypt

1886 Isaac dies

1876 Jacob and family settle in Egypt

1526 Moses born during the time of enslavement

1446 Exodus and the destruction of the ruling Pharaoh and his army

Exodus 12:40-41 is absolutely specific about the length of time God’s people stayed in Egypt:

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

Prior to the Exodus, the Hebrews had so increased in population that they posed a potential threat to the ruler of Egypt. A new Pharaoh, one who did not know Joseph, decreed that the Hebrew people had become a threat and so he had them enslaved and forced them to make bricks and build cities (Exodus 1:8-11). In order to ascertain how long God’s people were enslaved, we would need to know who this Pharaoh was. I would refer you to ‘Archaeological Evidence – the Israelites and Rameses’ first published in 1997: https://biblearchaeology.org/ancient-near-eastern-studies-list/104-research/sojourn-of-israel-in-egypt part of which says this:

When Jacob and his family migrated to Egypt, they were settled in “the land of Rameses.” Initially, they were property owners there (Gen 47:11, 27). Soon, however, the Egyptians subjected the Israelites to bondage, using them as slave laborers to build the city of Rameses (Ex 1:11). When Israel left Egypt after 430 years (Ex 12:40), the Bible tells us they departed from Rameses (Ex 12:37). From these references, we can conclude that most Israelites spent the years of the Sojourn in and around Rameses.

Jacob and his family arrived in Egypt around 1880 BC, based on an Exodus date of ca. 1450 BC. That was in the pre-Hyksos period when the name of the town was Rowaty, “the door of the two roads” (Bietak 1996: 9, 19).

The mention of Rameses in Exodus 1:11 has been used as an argument for dating the Exodus to the reign of Rameses II (ca. 1279–1212 BC; Egyptian dates in this article are from Wente and Van Siclen 1977: 218), rather than the earlier date of ca. 1450 B.C. derived from the Bible (1 Kgs 6:1; Jgs 11:26; 1 Chr 6:33–37). First, it is argued, if the Israelites were used as slave labor to build the city of Rameses, they must have still been in Egypt during the reign of Rameses II, who built a capital city in the eastern Delta and named it after himself (Hoffmeier 1997: 125; Shea 2003: 237, 248–49). But this interpretation neglects the fact that the Biblical editors often updated archaic place names with later, more familiar, names (Jack 1925: 24–28; Shea 2003: 248–49; Wood 2003: 258, n. 8).

Secondly, many scholars have assumed, based on surviving Egyptian texts, that there was no royal capital in the Delta prior to the city built in the 13th century BC by Rameses II. Thus, Moses could not have confronted a Pharaoh in the Delta prior to the reign of Rameses II (LaSor 1988: 43; Kitchen 2003: 310). However, an argument based on what has not been found from antiquity is always questionable. The number of surviving texts from ancient Egypt is meager, at best. Therefore one cannot base an argument on something not being mentioned in the texts. Furthermore, this assumption has now been proven wrong by recent discoveries.

Notes: [1] The Egyptian word Hyksos means "foreign rulers." In common usage, however, the term is used to refer in general to the Asiatics who settled in the eastern delta of Egypt in the Second Intermediate Period. The dates for Hyksos rule are not known precisely. Those used here are based on the following:

• Expulsion of the Hyksos in approximately the 15th year of Ahmose (Bietak 1991b: 48)

• A total of 108 years for the rule of the Hyksos according to the Turin Papyrus (Bietak 1991b: 48)

• The chronology of Wente and Van Siclen for the 18th Dynasty (Wente and Van Siclen 1977: 218). This chronology gives a death date for Tuthmosis III of 1450 BC, which correlates with the biblical date for the Exodus. According to Scripture, the Pharaoh of the Exodus perished in the Yam Suph (Ex 14:5-9, 18, 28; 15:4, 7; Ps 106:9-11; 136:15); therefore, we must correlate the date of the Exodus with the death date of the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The chronoloogy of Wente and Van Siclen also incorporates the low date of 1279 BC for the accession of Rameses II accepted by most scholars today...

The following note shows that a sojourn of 215 years is based on the Septuagint whereas a sojourn of 430 years is based on the Masoretic text:

[3] As a result of his non-traditional chronology of ancient Egypt, however, Rohl dates Tomb 1 to the late 17th century BC (1995: 339), rather than the mid-nineteenth century as determined by the excavators. Since Rohl believes the Sojourn to be only 215 years based on the Septuagint (1995: 329-32), Joseph and Tomb 1 end up being approximately contemporary by his chronology. The present author, however, disagrees with both of these views and holds to the conventional Egyptian chronology and a Sojourn of 430 years (Ex 12:40) as recorded in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible. However, Rohl places Joseph amd Tomb 1 in Str. d/1, while the present author accepts the excavators' dating of Tomb 1 to Str. d/2, and believes Str. d/2 to be a more compatible context for Joseph and the Israelites.

Although the dates given in the above article are a few years out from the biblical timeline, and suggest that the Pharaoh who enslaved God’s people was Tuthmosis III there are good reasons for thinking it was Amenhotep II who pursued God’s people after they left Egypt:

Staying with mainstream Egyptian chronology would make Amenhotep II, seventh Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, the ruler who was forced to let God’s people go. Egyptian history indicates a sudden lack of military action by Amenhotep II beginning in 1446 BC, a fact that would be consistent with the loss of nearly the entire army at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:28). Ancient records also claim Amenhotep’s successor, Thutmose IV, was not the “true” heir—which would be true if Amenhotep’s firstborn son and “legitimate” heir died during the tenth plague (Exodus 11:4–5; 12:29). For those reasons, biblical interpreters are most likely to identify Amenhotep II as the Pharaoh of the exodus. That opinion is hardly universal, however, and by no means free of challenges. https://www.gotquestions.org/Pharaoh-of-the-Exodus.html

Amenhotep II, the seventh Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, notably suffered a lack of military campaigns beginning in 1446 BC (Exodus 14:28), and his heir, Thutmose IV, was criticized for being a less-than-legitimate successor (Exodus 11:4–5; 12:29). https://www.gotquestions.org/date-of-the-Exodus.html

Conclusion: Records of ancient Egyptian history are especially notorious for being erratic, full of internal contradictions and exaggerations, and overly flattering to whoever was ruling at the time. Secular Egyptology is the subject of ongoing debates about how and where to date certain milestones. The Bible itself gives no name for this Pharaoh. Ultimately, his exact identity is irrelevant. The anonymity might even be deliberate: Egyptian monarchs were famously invested in how they would be remembered.

Because there are so many different views as to who was ruling Egypt when God’s people left, it is impossible to say with certainty how many years they were enslaved. Clearly, they enjoyed many years of peace and prosperity before the Pharaoh who did not know Joseph saw them as a threat and tried to wipe them out. But does it matter how long their enslavement lasted? This article https://www.gotquestions.org/Pharaoh-of-the-Exodus.html concludes:

Who, then, was the Pharaoh of the exodus? It was unlikely to have been Rameses, despite Hollywood’s fondness for that figure. Most likely, it was Amenhotep II, the seventh Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. But it might also have been Neferhotep I of the Thirteenth Dynasty, or, less probably, Tutankhamun. There isn’t enough detail to positively identify that ruler, and that may have been God’s plan all along (see Psalm 9:5–8; 109:15). There is ample evidence, however, to trust what’s depicted in the book of Exodus as truth.

  • These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt: … The sons of Levi: Gershon, KOHATH and Merari. (Genesis 46:8-11) The sons of Kohath were AMRAM, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. KOHATH lived 133 years. (Exodus 6:18) Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, who bore him Aaron and Moses. AMRAM lived 137 years. (Exodus 6:20) Aug 27 at 16:33
  • Do the math. Even if somehow Kohath was a newborn baby when he went down to Egypt, and had Amram the same year that he died, and Amram had Moses just before he died, it gives you only 350 years. 133+137+80=350 In reality it was less than that. Aug 27 at 16:33
  • Thoroughly excellent piece of research. Much appreciated.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 27 at 17:21
  • Lol, arguing for an early Exodus date. If you knew something about how Temple dedication inscriptions worked, you would know that things like 1 Kgs 6:1 often used intentionally idealized numbers in order to communicate a message, and are not to be understood as literal date counts. Also, there is much more 13th century BCE context than the already refuted arguments described here. This is not good research.
    – setszu
    Aug 27 at 23:32

Foremost, the verse quoted by you comes from the Masoretic Text and is probably corrupted. In the Septuagint and also the Samaritan Pentateuch, which are both older than the MT, it reads:

40 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)

40 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel and fathers of them, who dwelt in Canaan and in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. (Samaritan Pentateuch)

So our first conclusion is that 430 years does not only apply to Egypt but also Canaan.

The second step would be to establish when the period of 430 started. In the Letter to Galatians, in the third chapter, Paul says:

16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.

So the period of 430 years started when Abram was 75 years old and when the promises of Genesis 12 and 15 were made. Isaac was born when Abraham was 100, 25 years after the promises were made. Jacob was born when Isaac was 60. Jacob and his family arrived in Egypt when he was 130. (25+60+130=215) So the time the Israelites spent in Egypt was 215 years. (430-215=215)

This is what Josephus states in the Antiquities of the Jews 2.15.2:

They left Egypt in the month Xanthicus; on the fifteenth day of the Lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after our fore-father Abraham came into Canaan. But two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt. It was the eightieth year of the age of Moses, and of that of Aaron three more. They also carried out the bones of Joesph with them, as he had charged his sons to do.

The 400 years of Genesis 15:13 started probably on the day Isaac was weaned.

As for the time of the enslavement, Joseph lived 110 years. His family arrived in Egypt when he was 39. So for the next 71 years, he took care of his family. 215-71=144 The enslavement started sometime after the death of Joseph, so it was definitely less than 144 years. Moses was born when the Israelites were already slaves. So the enslavement was definitely longer than 80 years since it ended when Moses was 80.

In Genesis 46, Kohath is named among the seventy who went down to Egypt.

These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt: … The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

Then in Exodus 6, we are told that Kohath lived 133 years and his son Amram 137.

The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. Kohath lived 133 years. Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, who bore him Aaron and Moses. Amram lived 137 years.

We know that Moses was 80 when the Israelites left Egypt. So even if somehow Kohath was a newborn baby when he went down to Egypt, and had Amram the same year that he died, and Amram had Moses just before he died, it gives us only 350 years. 133+137+80=350 In reality it was less than that. Let's keep in mind, that we are talking about the total time they spent in Egypt, not the time of their enslavement.

I just checked the rabbinic commentaries and this is what they say:

And the days of the dwelling of the sons of Israel in Mizraim were thirty weeks of years, (thirty times seven years,) which is the sum of two hundred and ten years. But the number of four hundred and thirty years (had passed away since) the Lord spake to Abraham, in the hour that He spake with him on the fifteenth of Nisan, between the divided parts, until the day that they went out of Mizraim. And it was at the end of thirty years from the making of this covenant, that Izhak was born; and thence until they went out of Mizraim four hundred (years), on the selfsame day it was that all the hosts of the Lord went forth made free from the land of Mizraim. (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan)

FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY YEARS. From the day that their father Abraham left the land of his birth. (Ibn Ezra on Exodus 12:40:2)

ומושב בני ישראל אשר ישבו במצרים, “and the habitation of the Children of Israel during which they dwelled in Egypt, etc.” We find three separate sets of numbers for the ending of the exile and subsequent departure from Egypt. They are either 400 years, 430 years, or 210 years. The 400 years are calculated from the time Avraham’s descendants became strangers and experienced various problems either within the land of Canaan or outside of it. This was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Genesis 15,13: “they will serve them or even oppress them for 400 years.” These 400 years include both periods of being strangers and periods of being slaves. The 430 years are calculated since the birth of Yitzchack. [This is hard to understand though it appears in various manuscripts. Ed.] The 210 years refer to the length of the Jews’ stay in Egypt proper. (Rabbeinu Bahya, Shemot 12:40:1)

ומושב בני ישראל אשר ישבו במצרים, we find in connection with the redemption from Egypt 3 different dates of termination all of which relate or appear to relate to the same event. The numbers are: “400 years,” i.e. the prediction in Genesis chapter 15 to Avraham; we find the number 430 years in our verse here. Finally, we have the number 210 years. In order to reconcile these numbers we must remember that the number 400 refers to the time from the birth of Yitzchok. Seeing G’d’s promise to Avraham concerned “his descendants,” any count could not begin until Avraham had such descendants, i.e. Yitzchok. G’d had told him that his descendants would be known through Yitzchok, (not through Ishmael or the sons of Keturah) The number 430 begins with the date when Avraham had been told about his future by G’d at the covenant between the pieces in chapter 15 in Genesis. The number 210 were the years during which Avraham’s descendants were not free men living in what would become their own country in the future. During the latter 86 years of these 210 years they were cruelly enslaved and abused. During the first 124 years of their stay in Egypt, until the death of the last surviving brother of Joseph they enjoyed freedom in Egypt. (Rabbeinu Chananel on Exodus 12:40:1)

שלשים שנה וארבע מאות שנה FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY YEARS — Altogether from the birth of Isaac until now were 400 years, and we must reckon from that event, for only from the time when Abraham had offspring from Sarah could the prophecy (Genesis 15:13) “Thy offspring shall be a stranger” be fulfilled; and there had been 30 years since that decree made at “the convenant between the parts” until the birth of Isaac. It is impossible to say that this means that they were 430 years in the land of Egypt alone, for Kohath was one of those who came into Egypt with Jacob (Genesis 46:11); go and reckon all his years and all the years of Amram his son and the whole eighty years of Moses, the latter’s son, until the Exodus and you will not find that they total to so many; and you must admit that Kohath had already lived many years before he went down to Egypt, and that many of Amram’s years are included in the years of his father Kohath, and that many of the 80 years of Moses are included in the years of his father Amram, so that you see that you will not find 400 years from the time of Israel’s coming into Egypt until the Exodus. You are compelled to admit, even though unwillingly, that the other settlements which the patriarchs made in lands other than Egypt come also under the name of “sojourning as a stranger” (גרות), including also that at Hebron, even though it was in Canaan itself, because it is said, (Genesis 35:27) “[Hebron] where Abraham and Isaac sojourned”, and it says, (Exodus 6:4) “[the land Canaan], the land of their sojournings wherein they sojourned”. Consequently you must necessarily say that the prophecy, “thy offspring shall be strangers… [four hundred years]” began only from the time when he had offspring. And only if you reckon the 400 years from the birth of Isaac will you find that from the time they came into Egypt until the time they left it, was 210 years (as alluded to in Genesis 15:13). (Rashi on Exodus 12:40:1)

  • So, the Masoretic text has an error in it? If the Septuagint and Samaritan Penteteuch added words to their texts to relieve a contradiction in the Hebrew Scriptures, how can we trust anything else we read in the Hebrew Text used in our Bibles? The Hebrew text that most translations use claim the children of Israel (Jacob) were in Egypt 430 years. This however, creates problems with chronology elsewhere in the Bible. So, the LXX and Samaritans added details to the accepted Hebrew Text to do away with the discrepancy? Why should I believe the Bible at all if errors can be done away with? Aug 28 at 18:11
  • 1
    Are you even serious now? So you have never heard that there are textual differences in Bible manuscripts before? The Samaritan Pentateuch and Septuagint are both way older than the Masoretic Text. And more often than not the Dead Sea Scrolls agree with the first two than the MT. Aug 28 at 21:23
  • It doesn't matter how old the other two texts are. The question is "Are they inspired of God?" If they are, just toss aside your English version of the Old Testament, which is based on the Hebrew Masoretic Text. You can't just pick and choose which language or version of the Old Testament you want just because it "fixes" a presumed problem. That's not how to rightly interpret the Bible. Either the Masoretic Text that our english Old Testaments are based on is inspired or it isn't. If you have to go sifting through other manuscripts that are different in many ways from the MT to save the day Aug 29 at 0:28
  • then that is not very convincing. Tell me, what manuscript do you believe is inspired of God? The LXX, the Samaritan Penteteuch, or the Masoretic Text? Pick one and stick with it. Just don't jump from one to the other to save the day. Christianity has done well with the Masoretic Text for nearly a century now. Christianity historically has not been dependent on the LXX or the Samaritan Penteteuch for spiritual food. I want you to prove to me that either the LXX or the Samaritan Penteteuch is the correct translation in this verse (Exodus 12:40). Aug 29 at 0:32
  • 1
    Older then the Masoretic text, correct, but a misleading statement. The Masoretic text adds the diacritical markings to an unmarked text. In this case the issue between the three is not one of pronunciation. It is the added phrase "and Canaan." One rule in judging which variant is more likely to be original is length. Shorter is usually original. If this is so, adding "in Canaan" as the LXX and Samaritan Pentateuch are a scribal attempt to interpret/resolve the apparent conflict and not part of the original unmarked text. Aug 29 at 4:34

According to Overview of Joseph in Egypt to Moses and the Exodus 430 Years of Captivity

When Jacob replies that he is 130 years old, the chronological trail in years from Creation, that seemed to be omitted at the birth of Joseph, is now reestablished. Jacob’s meeting with Pharaoh establishes the starting point of the 430 years in Egypt.

Hence, according to this source, 430 years of captivity would be correct.

Now, as for the "when" part of the question:

A little after the above paragraph, we read:

Passover is instituted according to this research data and Scripture (Exodus 12:1-41) on Friday March 28 – Nisan 10 in 1445 BC.

This date of 1445 B.C. seems to be consistent with the "early" date of 1446 B.C. of the Exodus; the following of which, I have extracted from Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?

Assumptions used to date the exodus greatly influence theories about which Pharaoh was involved. The two leading theories are c. 1446 BC and c. 1225 BC, known respectively as the “early” and “late” dates. The early date, 1446 BC, derived from a semi-literal reading of 1 Kings 6:1 and Judges 11:26 and is the most-often accepted date among biblical scholars. Minority voices suggest options such as an interim date or even an entirely new approach to Egyptian chronology.

Hence, according to this source, the Exodus occurred around 1445 B.C.

However, I have reason to doubt this conclusion.

Consider the following from (D-R) Exod. 1:8-11:

In the mean time there arose a new king over Egypt, that knew not Joseph: And he said to his people: Behold the people of the children of Israel are numerous and stronger than we. Come, let us wisely oppress them, lest they multiply: and if any war shall rise against us, join with our enemies, and having overcome us, depart out of the land. Therefore he set over them masters of the works, to afflict them with burdens, and they built for Pharao cities of tabernacles, Phithom and Ramesses.

Now Phithom and Ramesses were cities; the latter of which (Pi-Ramesses) according to Wikipedia: Pi-Ramesses was built by Ramesses II (1279-1213 B.C.)

Hence, based on this information, the "late date" of 1225 B.C. for the Exodus would seem more probable; in which case, the captivity of Israel (according to the first source) began about 1655 B.C.

Now, as for when the Israelites began to be treated harshly as slaves—that is even less certain. I have seen the "three hundred years" alluded to in the question before; and so, it would not seem out of line.

In any case, it does seem that once the four hundred and thirty years commenced with Jacob's appearance before Pharaoh, there was a considerable time period of peace for the fledgling nation of Israel and that they were not subjected to the abuses that Exodus relates for the entire span of 430 years.

In any case, Egyptian chronology is not as accurate as we would like; and so, I claim that it is unlikely that we should know with reasonable exactness, how long the Israelites were mistreated in their captivity.

My answer, as one may gather, involves certain assumptions and speculations. If anyone can arrive at a conclusion with more certainty, please do post it.


Try Gérard Gertoux's Chronology papers "Absolute Chronology of the Exodus>' on Academia. He establishes a 1533 Exodus date; add 430y = 1963 Abram at 75y; Plus 75 years = 2038 B. D. of Abram. Trace this back accurately to Reu, (son of Eber = Sargon-Nimrod), and stop at the Beginning of Sargon's Reign (56y?). = date 2243 BCE

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