The timing of the exodus is not an easy date to determine. Exodus 12:40,41 makes it clear that Israel were in Egypt 430 years, while Abraham was told in Genesis 15:13 that his descendants would be afflicted 400 years. The difficulty occurs in determining the date that the 400 years and the 430 years started. Whatever the case there is little doubt that the 430 year period and the 400 year period end on the same date, and therefore the 400 year period has to commence 30 years after the start of the 430 year period.
The matter is further complicated by the margin of the NIV in Exodus 12:40,41, where it indicates that the Masoretic Text, Samaritan Pentateuch, and Septuagint, all read “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt and Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years”, where as most modern day English Bibles say they dwelt only in Egypt 430 years. Therefore it is possible that this 430 year period not only covers the time Israel were in Egypt but some time before Jacobs entry into Egypt.
“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”
This text quite clearly links the start of the 430 year period with the confirmation of the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 12. However, does “confirmed” mean when Abram was given the promise, or does it mean when the promise was fulfilled. Therefore we still are left with several options:
1) The 430 year period started when Israel/Jacob went to Egypt.
2) The 430 year period started when Joseph went to Egypt.
3) The 430 year period started when Israel’s name was changed.
4) The 430 year period started when Abraham was given the promise in Genesis 12.
These I believe are the only four dates worth considering as the start of the 430 years, and therefore I will discuss each of these in detail.
1) The 430 year period started when Israel/Jacob went to Egypt
This is the view supported by a site which I have used to double check a lot of my work, and they do have some good points on this, so I will provide the link http://www.bibleworldhistory.com/CriticalPath.htm with thanks to David (the author of the site) for the time he took assisting me with some queries re this matter (he also set me straight on Jacob’s 20 years with Laban, not to mention his site has helped me find the errors in some of my initial calculations).
I’ll leave the explanation for this view to the above link, and while I respect this view and it would be my second choice, I do have the following problems with it:
1) Genesis 15:16 clearly indicates that Israel would return to Canaan after the
4th generation, and 400 years is too long for 4 generations. For Example, if Abraham,
was the first generation, Isaac the second, Jacob the third, and Joseph the fourth,
Abraham was born in 2008 AM while Joseph died in 2369, which means that 4 generations
spanned only 361 years, and by the time you got to Joseph the life span of people
had reduced to 110 from the life span of Abraham who was 175 when he died (although
2) If the 430 years started when Jacob went to Egypt, then the only reasonable interpretation of the 400 year period is that it started when Israel was put into bondage by the Egyptians. A close look at the Bible indicates that this is not possible. Exodus 1:8 makes it clear that the bondage of Israel did not start until a Pharoah came into power that did not know Joseph, and Exodus 1:6 makes it clear that Joseph, his brothers, and all that generation died before the bondage started. Our time line shows that Jacob moved to Egypt in 2298 AM and Joseph died in 2369 AM and therefore the bondage could not have possibly started before 2369, some 71 years after Jacob moved to Egypt. Therefore as this interpretation requires only 30 years between the two events this interpretation does not appear to be the right one.
For the above 2 reasons I have discounted this interpretation
2) The 430 year period started when Joseph went to Egypt
I don’t think anyone after taking a close look at the Bible anyone would come to this conclusion, but it is one that may sound reasonable before one takes a closer look, so I will cover it here. Keeping in mind the points raised in point 1, as they also apply to this point, the only reasonable interpretation for the 400 year period if this interpretation is correct would be that the 400 years commenced when Jacob moved to Egypt, however our time line indicates that Joseph was sent to Egypt in 2276 AM, only 22 years before Jacob moved to Egypt, which is 8 years short of the required 30 years between the start of the 430 years and the start of the 400 years. Therefore this option is discounted.
3) The 430 year period started when Jacob’s name was changed to Israel
One could argue that the time when Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, was when the nation of Israel first existed, and therefore it is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12. If this were the case then the 400 year period would have started when Jacob moved to Egypt. We know Jacob was 130 when he moved to Egypt, and therefore if this interpretation is correct Jacob would have to have been 100 when his name was changed. A close look at the Bible shows that this is not possible.
Our time line shows that Jacob would have been 100 years of age in the year 2268 AM, three years after Jacob flees from Laban and 8 years before Joseph is given the coat of many colors and ends up in Egypt. At this point one may notice that the relevant stories are all told in the correct order in Genesis. However, Jacob’s name is changed to Israel after Dinah is defiled by Hamor the Hivite, and Jacob moves to Bethel after his sons kill the men of the city of Shechem. The story of Dinah being defiled indicates that Hamor after defiling Dinah requested that he marry Dinah. The custom of the time was that the youngest age Dinah could have been to receive a marriage proposal was 12 years old, and therefore Dinah was not likely to be any younger than 12 when this story took place. We know that Joseph was 6 years old when Jacob fled Laban, which would have made him 9 years old when Jacob was 100 years old. Dinah was the child born before Joseph, and taking into consideration the principles discussed on the page “Jacob’s time with Laban” Dinah could not have been any more than 1 year older than Joseph given the number of children that had to be born to Jacob in a 6 year period. Therefore Dinah could have been no older than 10 when Jacob turned 100, and because she had to be at least 12 to receive the marriage proposal, and Jacob’s name was changed to Israel after Dinah’s marriage proposal, Jacob could not have been any younger than 102 when his name was changed to Israel, which discounts this interpretation.
4) The 430 year period started when the Promise was given to Abraham in Genesis 12.
The last of the four options, and the only one left of the four options that hasn’t been discounted obviously means this is the view I have accepted.
Firstly it has to be noted that the original word for “Confirmed” in Galations 3:16-
We also note that Jacob arrived in Egypt in the year 2298, exactly 215 years after
the promise was given to Abraham in Genesis 12, a time span which covers four generations
The only thing left to determine is the start of the 400 years. Abraham was 75 when
the promise was given to him in 2083 AM. 25 years later he had Isaac when he was
100 years old in 2108 AM. The 400 years would have started 5 years later when Abram
was 105 years old and Isaac was 5 years old. While there is no date specified in
Scripture for any event that happened when Abram was 105 years old, it would seem
probable that the weaning of Isaac and Ishmael scoffing at Isaac in Genesis 21:8-
1) Ishmael Mocked Isaac
2) Jacob had to flee from Esau, was deceived by Laban several times, and then he thought he lost Joseph
3) Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sent to Egypt
4) The Israelites were inflicted by the Egyptians until the exodus.
So the 400 years of affliction are not 400 years of affliction by the Egyptians, but 400 years of affliction including all of the above, and for this reason we have specified the date of the Exodus as 2513 AM. The day and month is provided on the basis that the Passover started on the 14th day of the first month (Exodus 12:8), and given they celebrated the Passover the evening of the Exodus, and the Passover was a memorial of the Exodus it is assumed that this is the day they likely left Egypt (note evening was the first part of the day in Bible times (Genesis 1:5), so the Passover and Exodus happened on the same day).