by Wayne Blank
"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"
Abraham was born in the fertile region of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. While it came to be known as "Babylon" after humanity's rebellion against the LORD with their "tower of Babel" (see The Tower Of Babel), the region had earlier been known as Eden - the place within which the LORD had planted the Garden of Eden - that was actually the Garden in Eden (see The Garden In Eden; also The Only Child Of The Garden).
"2:8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed." (Genesis 2:8 KJV)
The LORD (see The Identity Of The LORD God) commanded Abram (the LORD later changed his name to Abraham; see A Biography Of Abraham: The Genealogy Of Abram) to leave his homeland in the fertile place that he lived and take up residence in the land of Canaan.
"12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 12:1-3 KJV)
Abraham lived the rest of his life with the awareness that the promises that the LORD made to him were to be fulfilled in the future (see also The LORD's Seed Covenants With The Two Men Of Iraq). While the land of Canaan was a good, prosperous land, it was much smaller and not as naturally fertile as the land that he left behind. Isaac too, lived his entire life awaiting for the promise to be fulfilled in the future (see A Biography Of Abraham: Isaac).
"11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Hebrews 11:8-10 KJV)
While most people are familiar with how the Israelites (Jacob and his family; see A Biography Of Jacob: The Jacobites Of Syria) went to Egypt to escape a famine in the land of Canaan, both Abraham and Isaac separately experienced severe famines that forced them to seek refuge in Egypt. Abraham went and returned, while the LORD diverted Isaac from Egypt to Gaza - which was supplied by nearby Goshen in Egypt anyway. Abraham and Isaac both experienced famines in the land of Canaan that they survived by the prosperity of the Nile delta region of Egypt.
"12:10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land." (Genesis 12:10 KJV)
"26:1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar. 26:2 And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: 26:3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; 26:4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; 26:5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." (Genesis 26:1-5 KJV)
Abraham was also given a prophecy about how his descendants would resort to Egypt for their survival - where they would remain "four hundred years" and become a powerful multitude by means of their living off the prosperity of Egypt. Abraham knew about the Exodus before any Israelites even existed (the Israelites were the children and grandchildren of Abraham's grandson Jacob - who was only about 15 years old when Abraham died; see A Biography Of Jacob: When Jacob Became Israel).
Notice also that the Israelites entered Egypt under the very best of circumstances. Joseph, Jacob's own son, had become the Prime Minister of Egypt, second in authority only to the Pharaoh (see Joseph's Revelation) - who settled his family in a rich area of Goshen (see Jacob's Israel In The Land Of Goshen). According to the Holy Scriptures, the Israelites freely prospered for most of their 400 years in Egypt.The Israelites were not slaves for 400 years (see the Fact Finder question below), so just who was being "afflicted" in "they shall afflict them four hundred years" should be carefully contemplated.
"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; 15:14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance." (Genesis 15:13-14 KJV)
Jacob also experienced a great famine in the land of Canaan that caused him to seek help from Egypt - exactly as his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac had done. The Exodus prophecy that was given to Abraham would be fulfilled by Jacob's descendants 400 years later. Jacob was aware that he would not return to the land of Canaan in his physical lifetime (see Jacob's Mummy), or the lifetime of the 70 Israelites that existed at the time that they entered Egypt (see The First Census Of Israel).
"46:1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.
46:2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob.
And he said, Here am I.