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Bible Q

How long were the people of Israel enslaved in Egypt?

The following chart (from my book The Times: a Chronology of the Bible) shows some of the major events during this period and shows the period that Israel was in Egypt from 1656 BC to 1446 BC, or 210 years.

Some of the evidence for these dates is given below.

The date of the Exodus

Starting from the key (and undisputed) date of 931/30 BC when the Kingdom of Israel split into the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, we can establish that Solomon commenced his reign in 971/70 BC (1Kgs 11:42). His fourth year marked the 480th year from the Exodus (1Kgs 6:1), giving a date of 1446 BC to the Exodus.

400 years

Genesis 15:13 says that Abram’s descendants “will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years”. Stephen repeats this in Acts 7:6. Abram’s descendants were in a foreign country from the time Isaac was born until the time they left Egypt, and for much of this time they were “afflicted”. Thus, there were 400 years from the time of Isaac’s birth to the Exodus.

430 years

Exodus appears to make the period in Egypt much longer:

The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. (Exodus 12:40)

However, the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) and the Samaritan Pentateuch have this verse saying that this was the time Israel lived in Egypt and Canaan. This is most likely to be correct because in Galatians 3:17, where Paul discusses the promises to Abraham, he says that “the law came 430 years afterward”. The promise was first made when Abraham was in Ur of the Chaldees (Gen 12:1-2; Acts 7:2-3). Thus, the 430 years are from the time Abraham left Ur until the Exodus.

450 years

All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. (Acts 13:20)

“All this” is from the time God chose Abraham (Acts 13:17) to the time the people entered the promised land. So the 450 years can be divided up as follows: 400 (Gen 15:13) + 40 (wilderness) + 10 (conquest).

Migration to Egypt

Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob was born (Genesis 25:26), and Jacob was 130 when he went to Egypt (Genesis 47:9). So the migration to Egypt happened 190 years after Isaac’s birth, or 1656 BC.

According to this chronology, Joseph entered Egypt in 1678 BC, four years before the Hyksos took control of the country. The Hyksos were largely a Semitic people who ruled Egypt from their capital in the Delta. They are held responsible for introducing the horse and chariot into Egypt. The fact that foreigners were ruling Egypt explains why Joseph, another foreigner, was able to rise to power as he did. After the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt in 1565 BC, the Egyptians regained control and established the “New Kingdom”. Thus, “there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exo 1:8) and began to oppress Israel.

Thus the oppression of Israel began in about 1565 BC and ended with the Exodus in 1446 BC, a period of 119 years.

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