The Length of Israel’s Sojourn in Egypt -- By: Jack R. Riggs

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 12:1 (Winter 1971)
Article: The Length of Israel’s Sojourn in Egypt
Author: Jack R. Riggs


The Length of Israel’s Sojourn in Egypt

Jack R. Riggs

Associate Professor of Bible
Cedarville College

[This article was presented as a paper at the Midwestern Section meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on April 17, 1970, at Grace Theological Seminary.]

The chronological framework of Biblical events from the time of Abraham to David rests upon two pivotal texts of Scripture. The first is 1 Kings 6:1, which dates the Exodus from Egypt 480 years before the fourth year of Solomon.

The second pivotal date for the Biblical chronology of this period is Exodus 12:40 which dates the arrival of Jacob’s family in Egypt years before the Exodus.

The purpose of this paper will be to discuss the problem of the length of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt. This problem is important, as already suggested, because it has to do with dating events in the centuries prior to the Exodus.

There are at least three possible solutions to the problem of the length of Israel’s Egyptian sojourn. The first view is that the time span of the sojourn was only 215 years. A second solution is the view of 400 years for the sojourn. The third, and final, solution to be discussed is the idea that 430 years elapsed between the entrance of Jacob and his family into Egypt and their Exodus under Moses’ leadership.

The View That the Egyptian Sojourn Was 215 Years

The most commonly held view of the length of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt is the 215 year idea. To state the view simply, the chronological notations of Genesis 15:13,

And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years,

and Exodus 12:40,

Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years,

include sojourns in both Canaan and Egypt. From this it is argued that approximately 215 years were spent in Canaan and 215 years in Egypt.

Among the proponents of this view are Anstey,1 Meyer,2 Eadie,3 Alford4 and McDonald.5

Anstey is possibly its leading adherent. He reck...

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