Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but this is my one aim:
to forget everything that's behind, and to strain every nerve to go after what lies ahead.
I press on toward the finish line, where the prize waiting for me is the upward call of God
(Philippians 3:13-14)
by – Stuart H. Pouliot
May 27, 2009
Starting Point—400 & 430 Years
And saying is He to Abram, "Knowing, yea, knowing are you that a sojourner is your seed to become in a land
not theirs, and they are to serve them. Yet evil shall they do to them and humiliate them four hundred years .
(Genesis 15:13 CLV [bold added])
And the time of the dwelling of the sons of Israel, which they dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty
years . And it happened, from the end of four hundred and thirty years , it happened on this day, all the armies
of Jehovah went out from the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:40-41 LITV [bold added])
These two sets of verses contain two periods of time, 400 years and 430 years, in relation to ancient Israel and
their time in Egypt. (Later, we will look at a third set from Paul.) On the one hand, we are told that Abram 's
seed was afflicted as a sojourner (stranger) in a land that was not theirs for 400 years. Notice that the land was
not identified. On the other hand, we are told that the sons of Israel, Abram 's descendants, lived in Egypt for
430 years, which was a land in which they sojourned and were afflicted. However, as we will see, it was not the
only land in which they sojourned. Assuming that these two periods are not biblical discrepancies, how are we to
resolve the apparent difference of 30 years? The obvious answer is that the difference must be in the starting
point for each period.
It is not unusual to find different starting points in scripture. For example, Matthew 17:1 states that after six
days, presumably on the seventh day, Jesus took three of His disciples up on a high mountain to see Him transfigured
in glory. However, the comparable account in Luke 9:28 states that some eight days after these sayings Jesus took
His disciples up on the mountain. At first glance, one might think that there is a discrepancy in the two accounts,
but Luke gives us the key to the difference in that his starting point was with the sayings. In other words, Matthew
and Luke had different starting points. Jesus taught His disciples over a two-day period (Matthew 16:13-28; Luke
9:18-27). Matthew simply counted his days following these sayings, and Luke counted his days at the beginning of
these sayings. By the way, six days followed by the seventh day, the sabbatical rest, is a vital principle in
understanding the appointed time for our present heaven and earth in the plan of God. It speaks of the history of
the heavens and the earth. Seven thousand years will complete the history of the second heavens and the second
earth. Following these days, a new, glorious eighth day begins. It is God's day when all is new.
And saying is the Elohim to Abraham, "Let it not be evil in your eyes on account of the lad, and on account of
your maidservant. In all that Sarah is saying to you, hearken to her voice, for in Isaac your seed shall be called.
And moreover, the son of this maidservant, a great nation I will constitute him, for your seed is he. (Genesis
21:12-13 CLV)
Now, it is usually assumed that Israel literally remained in Egypt for at least 400 years based on the prophecy of
Genesis 15:13, but, again, notice that it does not identify the actual place or land or even how Abram's seed
would be oppressed. Our starting point must be with Abram 's seed that was a stranger in a land, and this seed
is none other than Isaac.
And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy
bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed. (Genesis 21:12-13 KJV)
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Starting Point—400 & 430 Years
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Compare this to what Paul wrote to the Galatians.
But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh [the son of the bondwoman] persecuted
him who was born according to the Spirit [Isaac, Abram's seed], so it is now also. (Galatians 4:29 NASB)
Consequently, Isaac was Abram's seed that was persecuted, for he was afflicted by his half -brother Ishmael, a
fact borne out by the book of Jasher (21:14) that recounts Ishmael 's attempt to kill Isaac when he was 5 years
of age. So, we have Abram's seed afflicted, but when was he a sojourner or a stranger in a land? The answer
is simple: from his birth. While in Canaan, Abraham confessed that he was a stranger and sojourner (Genesis 23:4);
a fact confirmed to the Hebrews: By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in
tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise (Hebrews 11:9). Thus, Isaac was a stranger in a land
not his, just as his father was, and he was afflicted while in this land at a very early age due to ill-treatment at the
hand of Ishmael. Further, we know that Isaac was 60 years of age when he became the father of Jacob, and Jacob
was 130 years of age when he went to Egypt to see Joseph after missing him for 21 years ( Jacob's distress ), which
means that from Isaac's birth to Jacob and his sons entering Egypt was 190 years. Subtracting 190 from 400, we
discover that the sons of Israel were in Egypt for 210 years, which is another prophetic time-cycle referring to
Jacob's distress.
But how are we to reconcile the 400 years with the 430 years? According to Moses, the sons of Israel went out
of Egypt 430 years to the very day, as if to emphasize the exactness of the time. Again, the answer lies in the
starting point of the 430 years, and this point is revealed through two sets of scripture from two Hebrews,
one from Moses and the other from Paul.
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between
these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your offspring I give this land,
from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, (Genesis 15:17-18 ESV)
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring
to many, but referring to one, "And to your offspring," who is Christ. 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 3:16-17 ESV)
Abram received the promise of God at the age of 70, which was 30 years before the birth of Isaac. Thirty years added
to the 400 years of Genesis 15:13 yields 430 years. Thus, the 430 years must have begun when Abram received
the promise and ended when Moses received the covenant of the Law.
However, there is one more matter that needs to be resolved that seems to be a contradiction. Moses stated that
they lived in Egypt 430 years. It has been shown that they only lived in Egypt for 210 years. How are we to resolve
this matter if the 430 years refer back to the starting point with Abram? Since the seed of the sons of Israel came from
Abram, the time in Egypt must relate to Abram, the sojourner who was a pilgrim and an alien in a strange land,
and his journey that most notably started in Egypt. We know that after leaving Haran, Abram sojourned to Egypt
when there was famine in the land. When he departed Egypt with Sarai, he took with him Sarai's Egyptian maid,
Hagar, who gave birth to Ishmael. Further, the promise to Abram included land from the river of Egypt. So, Egypt
figured prominently in Abraham's life, and it seems that the entire journey from Abram to Moses, from the promise
to the Law covenant, is reckoned as an Egyptian journey.
To summarize, there were 430 years between the two covenants, starting when Abram was 70 years of age and
ending when Israel came out of Egypt to receive the Law. There were 400 years of affliction and sojourning starting
when Isaac was born and ending when Israel came out of Egypt to receive the Law. Notice that the end points are
the same; it is the starting point that determines the period of time.