Post Author: Bill Pratt
Verse 40 in chapter 12 of Exodus looks like it’s saying that from the time Jacob brought his family to Egypt to live with Joseph in Gen 46, to the time of the Exodus, 430 years passed. In fact, this is the traditional view, but it may not be correct.
There are three ancient texts from which scholars translate the Book of Exodus into English: the Masoretic Hebrew text, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Septuagint. These three texts appear to contradict each other when it comes to verse 40 in Exodus 12.
According to Robert Bergen in the Apologetics Study Bible, the
Hebrew text used as the basis for English translations of this verse states literally that ‘the dwelling of the sons of Israel which they dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.’ The Samaritan Pentateuch, on the other hand, states that the Israelites spent 215 years in Egypt. . . . The Septuagint . . . expands the reading found in the Hebrew text, stating that ‘the dwelling of the sons of Israel, and of their fathers, which they dwelt in the land of Canaan, and in the land of Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.’
What are we to make of these different readings? Is it 215 or 430 years? It seems that the answer depends on when you start counting the Israelites as being in Egypt. The Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch start the clock when Abraham first journeys to Egypt in Gen 12 (not when Jacob brings his family to Egypt in Gen 46), whereas the Hebrew text is ambiguous.
Bergen, however, claims that the New Testament supports starting the clock with Abraham in Gen 12. Bergen writes,
The NT provides conclusive evidence that the chronological clarifications in the Samaritan Pentateuch and Septuagint are accurate. In Gal 3:17 the apostle Paul noted that the Law was given to Israel 430 years after God’s covenantal promise had been delivered to Abraham. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities 2:15:2) accepted this number, as did many significant voices in Christian history prior to the twentieth century (e.g., Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, Bishop James Ussher). When the NT evidence is considered together with that of the OT, it seems clear that 430 years elapsed from the time of Israel’s first entrance into Egypt, and that the reckoning began with Abraham’s dealings with Pharaoh (Gen 12: 10-20).