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Answering The Atheist
November 30, 2003 / Volume 3, Issue 48

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
How long was the Egyptian captivity? Genesis 15:13 says 400 years, while Exodus 12:40 and Galatians 3:17 say 430 years. Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
If the questioner would look more carefully, it would be noted that Paul says the time from the promise to Abraham to the time that the children of God came to Mount Sinai totalled 430 years, not the Egyptian captivity. Also, notice, Exodus 12:40 doesn't say that Israel was in Egypt 430 years, but that "...the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." It is a false assumption that the 430 years of this text were all spent in Egypt. That's not what Moses wrote.

Well, let's do some math. Abraham was 75 when God made the promises to him (Genesis 12:3-4)...
25 (time between promise and the birth of Isaac, Gen 21:5)
+ 60 (time between Isaac's birth and Jacob's birth, Gen 25:26)
+ 130 (age of Jacob when he went to Egypt, Gen 47:9)
= 215 (years from Abraham to Jacob going to Egypt)
+ 215 (years spent in Egypt)
= 430 (Total reported by both Moses, Ex 12 and Paul, Gal 3)

Now, Abraham was told that there would be 400 years of affliction. What makes for the difference of 30 years? Again, let's do some math...
215 (years spent in Egypt)
+ 130 (years of Jacob's wanderings, Gen 47:9)
+ 55 (years from time of Isaac's weaning, Gen 21:8)
= 400 (Total years of affliction reported by God, Gen 15:13)

The affliction of which God spoke to Abraham began 30 years after the promises were made, when young Isaac was the focus of Ishmael's affliction. He and his family would continue to be sojourners and afflicted by various nations, ending with Egypt.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible