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Apparent Contradiction of Words and Numbers

Four Witnesses to a 430-year Sojourn in Egypt

Abraham’s Witness to a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Jacob’s Life Requires a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Elasticity of Hebrew Genealogical Terms

Abbreviated/Condensed Genealogies

Shem’s List: The Ultimate Example of Condensing

Shem’s Genealogy—Which Bible?

Evidence from the Lifespan of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Message of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Times of Job for Missing Generations

Biblical Earth Movements After the Flood

Peleg, Joktan and the Table of Nations

Historical Errors Obscuring the Condensing of Shem’s Line

Interpretative Errors Supporting Ussher View

The Missing World between the Flood and Peleg

Recent Scholarship Improves Biblical Understanding

Summary of Biblical Findings

Secular Evidence—Those Many Documents Unavailable to Ussher


Four Witnesses to a 430-year Sojourn in Egypt


Chapter Two

  To build a case for the contention of this book, that 40-50 generations are omitted in Shem’s genealogy, chapter one explained that beyond question the Levi-Aaron list omits generations, possibly 8-12.  Clearly, on occasion, the Hebrews abbreviated their genealogies.  But this abbreviation of a list could only be true if Israel sojourned in Egypt 430 years and the traditional view has been 215, not 430 years.  God, Moses, Stephen and Paul speak to the issue.  Beyond doubt they testify to a 430-year Egyptian sojourn.  Consequently, because of past confusion, this chapter must examine the testimony of these four in considerable detail.  In the process it will become apparent why the 215-year option was preferred but is now obviously incorrect.

God Himself in Genesis 15 is the first witness.  He spoke of 400 years of affliction but did not name the country where the affliction would occur.  However, He did say Israel would come out of that country in the 4th generation.  That sounded more like 215-years than 430 to the traditionalists.  The second witness, Moses, wrote about 430-years but his words could be understood as a total of 430-years between Canaan and Egypt until a corruption in the text was corrected in modern times.  The third witness, Stephen, quoted God’s 400 years so his words fall in the same camp as God’s.  The final witness, Paul, cited Moses’ 430-year number, but his words are usually understood to be the total time in Canaan and Egypt, so he was viewed as supporting 215-years. 

Josephus, the church fathers, Ussher, the Reformers and the King James translators all held the 215-year view, but looking back, they were the victims of historical inaccuracies.   Many in the inerrancy camp are still in this fog.  The following will give better material for an informed view. 

A.  The Witness of God—Genesis 15:12-16

When Abraham was a young man, God was searching for a vessel to greatly further His work among mankind and begin a line of men who would know Him.  Their descendants would eventually become a nation that declared His ways and produced both the Bible and the Messiah.  The man God called was Abraham.  In the beginning Abraham did not know God.  He and his relatives were idol worshippers.  They lived in one of the most culturally advanced cities of his day, but it had forsaken the knowledge of God. 

Nevertheless, God appeared to him and told him to separate from his remarkable city, from his many relatives, even from his father’s house and follow God to an undisclosed destination.  If he met those four conditions, God promised that his name would be great, that he would become a great nation and that in him all the earth would be blessed.  Heady stuff!  Eventually Abraham would fully obey so that God could fulfill His promises.

Need for a Covenant

God cannot lie because His word proceeds from His nature—that of perfect righteousness.  All His promises to Abraham were real and would happen.  However, the road to becoming a great nation would be incredibly difficult and take many generations.  His descendants would eventually be reduced to slavery in another land.  While the promises were certain, hardships along the way might lead to despair so God reassured Abraham as well as his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob with visitation after visitation, repeating and even expanding the divine promises. 

The visitation in which God disclosed the frightening news that the path involved 400 years of affliction stood above all others.  In the vision of Genesis 15 God made a blood covenant, swearing by Himself alone that, no matter what, He would unconditionally do what He had promised.  In the vision God was saying, “May I be like the slain animals of the covenant if I do not keep my word to you.”  Fulfilling the promises would be the supernatural work of God. 

  This vision and the covenant it contained was given about ten years after Abraham followed God to the Promised Land.  Abraham and his descendants needed to have clearly in their minds that a time of fearful terror lay ahead.  This horrible period would happen in another land.  God would be with them and their oppression would finally end with them suddenly becoming a great and wealthy nation.  As for Abraham, he would die in peace before this period of servitude began.

Setting for the Covenant—Genesis 15:1-11

Genesis 15 opens with Abraham gripped in fear.  The preceding fall he had rescued Lot from the invasion of four powerful Mesopotamian armies and slaughtered its soldiers.  Now it was the next spring, the time when armies went on the march.   Abraham was scaring himself to death as he envisioned the certain revenge for which he was no match.  In addition, he had turned his back on the spoils of his victory and was having second thoughts about that decision.  These thoughts left him in deep distress. 

Then God’s word came to him in a vision, saying “Fear not, Abram.  I am your shield; your reward shall be very great” (Genesis 15:1).  God was saying that the mightiest army in the world could not harm him because the God of Creation would be his defense.  In addition, God would give him a far greater reward than the spoils of Sodom he had refused. 

This led to other troubling thoughts.  How could he become a nation when he didn’t even have a son?  God replied that he would have a son and his descendants would be like the stars—more numerous than he could number.  In the vision Abraham then asked how he could be sure this would happen.  God told Abraham to cut in half a heifer, a goat and a ram and lay the halves on either side of a path.  After foretelling key events of the next 700 years God alone passed between the bloody pieces of the animals thereby signing the covenant and making Him alone responsible for its fulfillment.

Terrifying Times Ahead — Genesis 15:12-16

About dusk, in his vision Abraham fell asleep.  Then God made him sense the horrors his descendants would experience during a future time of servitude.  That nightmare is described in Genesis 15:12 while its meaning is explained in the next four verses.  Abraham’s offspring would be aliens in a foreign country.  There they would suffer affliction 400 years.  But they would not be destroyed.  Instead, they would return to this Promised Land in great numbers and with great wealth.  They could not take possession of the land yet because others were still entitled to it.  But the land would become Abraham’s and his descendants by right of divine promise.  As for Abraham, this dark period would not touch him.  He would die in peace.  Is this indeed what the following verses are saying or is the traditional explanation to be preferred? 

12As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram.  And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him.  13Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.”  Genesis 15:12-13.

Grouping these two verses together shows the terrifying sense of danger that came over Abraham and the divine explanation for it.  The traditional view generally ignores the dread of verse 12 and begins with God’s words in verse 13.  But without acknowledging the overwhelming darkness, any explanation of verse 13 will overlook its intent.  The table below examines God’s explanation for the cause of Abraham’s fear.  It contains six elements (left column).  The middle column expresses how the traditional view interprets the six elements while the right column expresses the view of this book. 

Six Elements of Verse 13             Traditional Explanation                             HB Explanation

The traditionalists’ explanation actually violates some of the elements of God’s words.  They have this difficulty because God says in verse 16 that Abraham’s descendants will return to Canaan in the fourth generation.  They feel four generations demand a 215-year Egyptian sojourn, so they have no other choice than to wrench some of God’s clear statements in verse 13 as well as verses 14 and 15.  Besides all this confusion in attempting a consistent interpretation, various 215-year supporters give interpretations of verses 13-16 that even disagree with each other.  Clearly, their explanation of Genesis 15:12-16 is inconsistent and must be rejected.    

God continues in verses 14-16:

14“But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.  15As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.  16And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”  Genesis 15:14-16.

The two assertions of verse fourteen are momentous in their own right.  God would judge the nation that enslaved His people and His people would come forth from that nation with “great possessions.”   Over 430-years Jacob’s small band multiplied to a population of several million.  Then, when God ordered the oppressing nation to free His people, which it refused to do, He sent ten devastating plagues of judgment.  With that, the oppressors urged His people to leave before they all perished and sent them away with valuable gifts.  A few days later, the nation had a change of heart and sent its chariot army to bring the Hebrews back.  God thwarted this effort by destroying their military force in the waters of the Red Sea. 

All this happened in the land of Egypt.  Egypt was not promised to the Hebrews but was the land in which they would become servants, the land where they would be afflicted four hundred years.  Egypt was the nation God would judge and its wealth would enrich His people.

God spends all of verse 15 with words of assurance to Abraham—he would not endure the grueling slavery destined for his descendants.  While it might be possible to argue that verse 13 implies the affliction would touch Abraham as well, God clearly rules out Abraham’s participation in this sojourn of servitude with these key phrases:  “As for you,”  “go to your fathers in peace,” and “buried in a good old age.”  In the light of these words, it is hard to understand how the traditional view can insist that Abraham shared in the affliction of verse thirteen.


Three momentous assertions by Jehovah  

“And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”  Genesis 15:16.

1.     “And they shall come back here.”  Hundreds of years of affliction, some involving grinding slavery would not annihilate Abraham’s descendants.  They would be given the Promised Land just as Jehovah had covenanted.

2.     “In the fourth generation.”  God did not give a vague promise of a return “someday.”  This specific time marker would constantly provide hope during the period of affliction.

3.     “For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”  Amorites occupied the land God promised to Abraham.  While God is longsuffering, there is a point where a people group has advanced so deeply into sin that hardly anyone in it can come to know Him.  Thus, He must remove that entire people group.  God saw the direction and result of their iniquity.  It was headed towards the place where justice would obligate Him to remove them.  Once their iniquity was complete, they surrendered their right to the land and God was free to give it to others.  God removed the populous city-state of Sodom just years later for this very reason; there weren’t even ten righteous in it.  So verse 16 provided another reason for the lengthy stay in Egypt and thus the need for patience until the right time arrived.

Genesis 15:16—Fourth Generation Promise

The statements about returning to Canaan and the Amorites’ iniquity are clear, but what did “returning in the fourth generation” mean?  It means, says the traditional view, that the fourth generation of Israelites in Egypt would return to Canaan.  They claim this proves a 215-year Egyptian sojourn and eliminates a 430-year Egyptian sojourn, since four generations could reach 215-years, but not 430-years.  They point to Exodus six which names four generations ending with Moses and Aaron who participated in the Exodus (passage cited below).  Exodus six records that Levi had a son named Kohath.  Kohath had a son named Amram and Amram had two sons, Moses and Aaron.  The four generations were Levi, Kohath, Amram and Aaron.  While this explanation requires strained explanations for a dozen other details in Genesis 15:12-16 it is the only way, they say.

But this idea doesn’t work because Aaron had four grown sons at the time of the Exodus.  If Levi-Kohath-Amram-Aaron were the right four generations, God did not keep His promise.  To make matters worse Exodus six also names Aaron’s grandson, Phinehas, who possibly was born in Egypt.  Maybe Levi’s line came out in the sixth generation.  Others have recognized this problem and attempted to identify four other generations, but none work.  The fact is, the four generations can’t be found if “fourth generation” is interpreted as four consecutive father-son generations.  The critical verses are found in Exodus 6:16, 18, 20, 23 and 25:

16These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations:  Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, the years of the life of Levi being 137 years.  18The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, the years of the life of Kohath being 133 years.  20Amram took as his wife Jockebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being 137 years.  23Aaron took as his wife Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.  25Eleazar, Aaron’s son, took as his wife one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas.  (Emphasis ours.)

“Coming out in the fourth generation” also raises the question, “How many years elapsed from the start of one generation to the start of the next?  While many years elapsed in the generations of Terah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, beginning with Jacob’s sons new generations generally started every 20 to 30 years.  At that rate four generations would place the deliverance in 80 to 120 years (20x4=80; 30x4=120).  Such a time frame even falls short of 215-years in Egypt.  Further, God does not say four special generations but simply four generations.  Everyone could count the generations in his family and expect deliverance when the number reached four. 

“Generations” as “Lifetimes”

If a way could be found to harmonize the “either/or” verses, it would be a “both/and” victory for inerrancy.  All the verses and each statement of each verse could be embraced without qualification, without diminishing, without violating inerrancy.  We suggest that way is in a full understanding of the Hebrew concept of genealogies.  It is much broader than in other cultures.  Here the generations would be lifetimes—Israel would come out in four lifetimes, or in the fourth lifetime.  Add up four known lifetimes and before the end of the fourth, Israel would come out of Egypt. 

Moses wrote these words.  He must have puzzled over what God had told Abraham 600 years before.  He doesn’t identify four successive generations (the 215-year interpretation) but he does provide the numbers to make the idea of “lifetimes” work.  He lists 40 men in the genealogies of Exodus six but amazingly he only records the ages of three: Levi-137 years (6:16); Kohath-133 years (6:18) and Amram-137 years (6:20).  Their ages added together total 407 years.  In the next chapter Moses wrote, “Now Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh” (Exodus 7:7).  Those confrontations produced the Exodus.  Adding those 83 years to the 407 years gives a total of 490 years, which more than covers a 430-year Egyptian sojourn (137 + 133 + 137 + 83 = 490).  So a perfectly satisfactory interpretation is that in the total of four lifetimes or in the fourth lifetime Israel would come out. 

This interpretation allows each of the dozen details in Genesis 15:12-16 to be taken at face value, in their normal meaning.  It completely upholds the principle of inerrancy.  God had promised the affliction would end at a certain time and that the outcome would be marvelous.  Under this interpretation the end of Israel’s servitude in Egypt would come in just four lifetimes.

Accepting the Witness of God

God Himself is the first speaker in Scripture to address the years of sojourn in Egypt.  He said Abraham’s descendants would be afflicted in a land that was not theirs.  Nearly all acknowledge this to be referring to Egypt.  He said affliction in that land would continue for 400 years.  Since 400 years is clearly more than 215-years, God’s statement eliminates the traditional 215-year view.  While the 215-year folks quickly fall back to Moses’ statement about Israel’s stay in Egypt in Exodus 12:40, we will show next that Moses statement does not support their view either. 

Some see God’s 400-year statement and Moses 430-year statement as a conflict and then imply that it is impossible to know for sure what is being said.  This conflict is resolved once one recalls that Moses was talking about Israel’s total time in Egypt which began with welcome, while God was speaking about the portion of time in Egypt after the welcome wore off and was characterized by affliction.  The number 400 is also more general and could suggest that the time of affliction developed over a period of time.  God’s statement agrees with Moses’ 430-years statement but rejects a 215-year Egyptian stay. 

God is not only the first to address the time issue, but He speaks specifically about the duration of that time in Egypt.  Further, He is the most important speaker in all of Scripture.  In just five words, the first five words of Scripture, “In the beginning God created,” He settled the creation/evolution issue.  Certainly, in five verses He could settle the 215/430-year issue.  As we shall soon see, the position of the traditional view only seems to worsen. 

B.  The Witness of Moses—Exodus 12:40-41

So, how does Moses weigh in on the subject?  After all, he was there.  Under the LORD he led Israel out of Egypt.  Maybe we have missed something, but his words seem clear.  In Exodus 12:40-41 he states:

40The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430-years.  41At the end of 430-years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

The Hebrew text of verse forty was not always clear.  In the days of Sir Isaac Newton, Archbishop James Ussher, and the translation of the King James Version there were long standing questions about the text.  The Septuagint gave the translation “lived in Egypt and Canaan 430-years.”  Josephus took that view.  As a result, the nearly universal view of Christians 400 years ago was that the 430-year sojourn included both the years in Canaan and in Egypt.  This is where the idea came from that 215 of the 430-year sojourn were spent in Canaan by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Newton, Ussher and the King James translators were all products of their age and expressed the understanding of their day. 

Over the next two centuries textual scholars worked to resolve the difficulties with the text.  By the late 1800’s Robert Jamieson of the six volume Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary series could say that hardly any Hebrew scholar of eminence still accepted the corrupted text that allowed for understanding that the 430-years spanned the time Abraham and his descendants lived in the Promised Land and in Egypt.[2]  Today even those few eminent Hebraists are history.  Only the incorrect translation of 1611 and its successors remain to uphold the faulty interpretation. 

Dr. C.F. Keil, co-author of the authoritative 25-volume commentary on the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, writes as follows about Israel’s time in Egypt:

The sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt had lasted 430-years.  This number is not critically doubtful, nor are the 430-years to be reduced to 215 by an arbitrary interpolation, such as we find in the LXX [Septuagint].[3]  (Emphasis ours.)

“Not critically doubtful” means that Hebrew biblical scholars find no substantial reason to question 430-years in Egypt.  Dr. Keil acknowledges that lesser texts contain “arbitrary interpolations” such as the LXX which reduces this number by adding the interpolation “and Canaan,” but that all such interpolations should be ignored.  They have no bearing on the Hebrew text.  Dr. Keil wrote his commentary over a century ago.

Today’s translations such as the ESV used in this book clearly state that Israel sojourned in Egypt 430-years.  US career missionary to Israel [Bill Rogers—over 20 years in Israel and now with Operation Mobilization] answered our question about what people in Israel believe about the years in Egypt as follows:

Regarding the 430-years, I have never even heard that this was in question, as it is accepted universally by Jewish scholars and most evangelicals too (I thought).  The period of time began when Jacob went to Egypt at the end of his life.  The Bible is also very clear when God said “your descendants” will be strangers for 430 [sic, 400] years.  It is a no brainer to me.  Of course I realize that there are all kinds of higher criticism people who question all of the Bible chronology, including the timing of the Exodus, but again it seems to me that the Bible is the final authority and speaks quite clearly on the subject of timing.[4] 

Since the subject is Jewish history, it would seem that of all people living today, Jews would have the most accurate understanding of their history. 

Dr. Thomas Constable, Professor of Bible at Dallas Theological Seminary for 45 years and author of the vast web site, with over 8000 pages of his expository notes covering all the books of the Old and New Testament writes this succinct statement:

The text is very clear that Israel was in Egypt 430-years “to the very day.” [5]  (Emphasis ours.)

So not only God Himself but also Moses, the greatest instrument of God in producing the Old Testament, testified to many more than 215-years in Egypt. 

C.  The Witness of Stephen—Acts 7

God’s revelation in Genesis 15 was given to Abraham 4000 years ago.  Moses’ record in Exodus was prepared 3400 years ago.  Long after the words of God and Moses, the New Testament also spoke to the years in Egypt.  The church’s first martyr, Stephen, before being stoned, declared:

6And God spoke to this effect—that his [Abraham’s] offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years.  7“But I will judge the nation that they serve,” said God, “and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.”  Acts 7:6-7.

Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” (Acts 6:5) was citing God’s words to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-14.  The common elements agree—the subject is Abraham’s descendants who would be living as aliens in a land God had not promised them; they would be enslaved, and this affliction would last 400 years.  Stephen unwittingly disclosed that in 2000 years the belief of Jewry had not changed.  After all that time they still understood God to be saying that the sojourn in Egypt would involve 400 years of affliction. 

We have already seen how the traditional view feels compelled to find other explanations for God’s seemingly clear words to Abraham in Genesis 15.  But reinterpreting Stephen’s words to mean something else would be very difficult.  So, what does the traditional view do with Stephen’s testimony?  They say Acts 7 is exactly what he said.  Then they add that inerrancy only guarantees what a person says, not the accuracy of what is said.  They say that this man misspoke.  He was under pressure and/or was confused, so his words cannot necessarily be accepted as factual.  

On the contrary, Scripture says he was full of the Holy Spirit.  He did not misspeak.  Stephen must be added to the witnesses to a 430-year Egyptian sojourn.  Now three consecutive witnesses in Scripture testify to the larger sojourn number.

D.  The Witness of Paul—Galatians 3:17

While Stephen is the New Testament witness to the 400-year number God gave Abraham, the Apostle Paul is the New Testament witness to the 430-year number Moses gave:

This is what I mean: the law, which came 430-years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.  Galatians 3:17.

Without question this is the traditional view’s favorite verse.  “Here is absolute proof” they say, “that the 430-years began when God first appeared to Abraham and ended with the Exodus.”  They say God made the promises of Genesis 12:1-3 to Abraham when he was living in Haran.  He immediately obeyed God’s call and moved to Canaan.  Then 430-years later the law was given at the time of the Exodus.  Therefore the 430-years began when Abraham moved to Canaan and ended with the Exodus.  The 430-years consisted of the years of sojourning in Canaan plus those in Egypt.  Since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sojourned in Canaan 215-years, the remaining 215-years was the time of sojourning in Egypt.

The traditional view cites Paul’s authority.  Because he wrote more of the New Testament than any other writer and his books contain the heart of Christian doctrine, he outranks all other writers of Scripture.  If there is some confusion between the Old Testament and the Apostle, one must prefer the Apostle.  They suggest that possibly the Old Testament isn’t clear, but the Apostle is perfectly clear, and he is the final authority.  Thus, the traditional view stands with the Apostle—the entire sojourn in Canaan and Egypt lasted 430-years, period, end of discussion.

When this view leads the discussion, it doesn’t start with the very words of God Himself in Genesis 15, but immediately starts with Galatians 3:17 and then reinterprets the words of Stephen, Moses and God to agree with Paul.  But which is better: to start with the primary sources, God and Moses, then work to the secondary sources in the New Testament, or start with one secondary source, work on the other secondary source and then rework the primary sources? 

Reconciling Paul with God, Moses and Stephen

Nevertheless, every knowing Christian takes very seriously what the Apostle wrote.  What, then, are we to do with Paul’s words?  First we should observe that the subject of both God and Moses was the number of years in Egypt; Stephen and Paul were addressing other subjects.  Stephen’s point was that Israel’s leaders historically rejected God’s messengers.  So he specifically quoted God’s words to Abraham as he reminded his hearers that God had raised up the nation to sovereignly accomplish His will even though the nation constantly resisted God’s will. 

 Paul, like Stephen, was not discussing how many years Israel sojourned in Egypt.  He was showing that God’s grace preceded God’s Law.  In his argument He cited a number every Jew would know—the 430-year number.  It was repeated annually in the Passover celebration.  Paul’s point was that the Law did not finally make a way for man to have a right relationship with God.  God dealt with the forefathers of Israel in grace from the beginning, long before the law.  That grace is seen in the promises and covenant God gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  All this promise/covenant development happened 430-years before God gave Israel the Law. 

If there was no standing before God until the Law, the promises were meaningless and all the Jewish people who lived before the giving of the law missed out on a right relationship with God.  The 430-year number was a powerful argument for grace rather than law.  Yet the Galatian believers were being told that they needed to keep the Mosaic Law to enjoy God’s blessings.  So, Paul argued that God established promises and a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Then 430-years later He gave the Law.  In this way, Paul agrees with God, Moses and Stephen in supporting 430-years in Egypt. 

It should also be noted that since God’s and Moses’ core subject was the time in Egypt while Stephen’s and Paul’s core subjects were other matters, hermeneutically, God and Moses should be preferred over Stephen and Paul.  But since Stephen’s words agree with God’s words, only Paul can be viewed to be at odds with the other three.  Rather than working on the words of the other three witnesses, some of which are not subject to another interpretation, shouldn’t the first consideration be, “Can Paul’s rather general words be understood in another light?”

Proceeding on that basis—one insight would be Paul’s reference to covenant.  God did not give Abraham a covenant when He called him.  The covenant was not made until Abraham had been in the land about ten years—shortly before Abraham took Hagar to give Sarah a child.  If Paul were talking about the time from the Covenant to the Law, he should have said 420 years, not 430-years.  On the other hand if the call came to Abraham when he was living in Ur, not when his father died in Haran, then the time from the call to the Law would have been greater than 430-years. 

But Paul is not speaking about Abraham’s call.  He is speaking about the promises which foreshadow Jesus Christ and the salvation God would provide through Him.  These promises were amplified over time to Abraham, then to his son Isaac and finally to his grandson Jacob.  They were sworn to by God Himself in the covenant of Genesis 15. 

Joseph invited his father to move to Egypt where there was food because five years of famine remained.  Jacob accepted.  He took his household as far as Beersheba in Southern Israel, but then he hesitated.  Previously it had not been God’s will to leave the Promised Land.  Jacob offered sacrifices.  In a vision God gave him assurance to continue to Egypt. 

1So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.  2And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.”  And he said, “Here I am.”  3Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father.  Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.  4I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”  Genesis 46:1-4.

In this passage God restates and amplifies the promises for a final time before the sojourn in Egypt.  On this night the promise-making period that began with God’s call to Abraham concluded; the next day Jacob moved his people to Egypt.  So the promises were given, restated and expanded over a period of more than 215-years.  After the promises (this promise-making period) came the 430-year sojourn in Egypt.  Following this came the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.  Thus sandwiched in between the development of the promises and the giving of the Law were those 430-years in Egypt.  First came years of making the promises/covenant.  Then came the 430-year sojourn in Egypt.  Following that God gave Israel the Law at Mount Sinai.  Thus, from the [end of the] promise/covenant making period to the law was precisely 430-years.  Paul was not contradicting the words of Moses but was actually confirming them.  This interpretation fits perfectly with the testimonies of the other three witnesses.

So which is better?  To make Paul’s words of a very general nature agree with the specific words of the other three witnesses or to make the words of the three witnesses agree with one interpretation of Paul’s statement?  Sound hermeneutics requires that Paul’s words agree with those of God, Moses and Stephen.  The first approach seems preferable.  In this way, all the statements and numbers in these four passages are harmonized without conflict.  Inerrancy is honored.  The New Testament confirms the words of God in Stephen’s message and the words of Moses in Paul’s argument to the Galatians.  Thus, in contrast to the traditional 215-year view, the Bible gives no less than four passages to emphasize that Israel sojourned in Egypt 430 years. 

Path to Violating Scripture

In retrospect, where did the practice of preferring numbers to words begin?  As stated in the previous chapter, it all began when people, thinking they were taking the Bible literally, added the numbers in Levi’s line and realized that Amram could not possibly be the immediate father of Aaron if Israel were in Egypt 430-years.  They eventually concluded the 430-years referred to the entire time from Abraham’s arrival in Canaan until the Exodus.  That left just 215-years in Egypt.  It was possible for Amram to be the immediate father of Aaron if Israel were in Egypt just 215-years.  But unfortunately, the obvious meaning of many other words of Scripture would need to be reinterpreted in difficult and unnatural ways.

Why do all that to Scripture when it is clear that Hebrew genealogies can be as narrow as Adam begetting Cain or as broad as Jesus being the son of David?  When one recognizes the nature and function of Hebrew genealogies, the record of Amram begetting Aaron is obviously a skipping of multiple generations.  Scripture uses the broad sense of father, that Amram was a forefather of Aaron, that Aaron came from the loins of Amram.  Once this is understood, the Scriptures become whole--no contradictions, no errors, no explaining away clear verses, no ignoring difficult verses.   

God, Moses, Stephen, Paul—four witnesses.  Are four enough?  In Deuteronomy 17:6 the very life of a person rested in the hands of just two or three witnesses.  If someone turned to idolatry God said to put them to death on the evidence of two or three witnesses.  This principle regarding the required number of witnesses to establish a fact carried through to the New Testament church.  Paul said that two or three witnesses were necessary to establish a charge against an elder (I Timothy 5:19).  The testimony of four witnesses more than meets the biblical requirement for establishing the truth.

Looking Ahead

Having established by four witnesses that Israel dwelt in Egypt 430-years and therefore the Levi-Aaron genealogy of Exodus six is abbreviated, our initial goal has been reached.  But some still hold the 215-year view by maintaining that Abraham’s call came in Haran.  We will next consider extensive evidence from the chronology of Abraham, his involvement with Elam and other biblical arguments for God’s call coming in Ur, not Haran, leaving all four witnesses solidly in the 430-year Egyptian sojourn camp.  Then we will take a careful look at Jacob’s life to correct details which have also been altered to fit the numbers over words approach.  In effect HB provides a fresh look at some of the key moments in the lives of Abraham and Jacob, a prize for those wanting to correct mistaken notions regarding aspects of their lives.

Once these interpretations are addressed, we can get to the heart of this paper, a look at the nature and function of Hebrew genealogies.  Chapter five addresses how family relationship words can be used in both narrow and broad senses; chapter six gives numerous examples of condensed genealogies and chapter seven provides many evidences for Shem’s line (Genesis 11) being condensed.  And so it goes.  Hold on to your hats.  We have just begun. 

[1]Floyd Nolen Jones, The Chronology of the Old Testament, 15th Edition (Green Forest, AR.: Master Books, 2005), 57-60.

[2]Robert Jamieson, A Commentary Critical, Experimental and Practical on the Old and New Testaments, Volume I, Genesis--Deuteronomy, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961), 318-319.

[3]C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament [25 Volumes], The Pentateuch, Volume 2, (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans Publishing Co, Original-late 1800’s. Reprint undated), 30.

[4]Bill Rogers, (US Missionary residing in the Galilee, Israel: Serving with Unevangelized Fields Mission, 2014), personal correspondence.

[5]Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Exodus 2017 Edition, Exodus 12:40-42,

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