The Duration of the Egyptian Bondage -- By: Harold W. Hoehner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 126:504 (Oct 1969)
Article: The Duration of the Egyptian Bondage
Author: Harold W. Hoehner


The Duration of the Egyptian Bondage

Harold W. Hoehner

[Harold W. Hoehner, Assistant Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary, Assistant Editor, Bibliotheca Sacra.]

When one looks at the various passages of Scripture concerning the length of Israel’s bondage in Egypt one immediately discovers that there are apparent disagreements in the biblical record. Various scholars have attempted to resolve the apparent discrepancies. The purpose of this article is to discuss and evaluate the various views and then attempt to present a solution to the problem.

I. The Scriptures Involved

Before discussing the various theories, a review of the Scripture passages concerning the duration of the bondage is in order. The passages are the author’s own translation.

Passages Mentioning 400 Years

Genesis 15:13. And he said to Abram: “Know with certainty that your descendents shall be strangers (sojourners) in a land that is not theirs and they shall serve them1 and they shall oppress them for 400 years.”

Genesis 15:16. And in the fourth generation they shall come back here again….

Acts 7:6. And God spoke in this manner; that his [Abraham’s] descendents shall be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and that they shall enslave them and maltreat (them) for 400 years.

Passages Mentioning 430 Years

Exodus 12:40–41. Now the sojourning of the children of Israel,2 who dwelt in Egypt,3 was 430 years and it came to pass at the end of the 430 years, on that very day it came to

pass, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.

Galatians 3:17. Now this I say: “The law which came 430 years afterward does not make void a covenant previously ratified by God4 so as to invalidate the promise.

Passage Mentioning 450 Years

Acts 13:17–20. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they sojourned in Egypt and with a high arm he led them out of it, and for approximately forty years as a nursing father he bore

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