The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (1830 painting by David Roberts) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Mike Exton The Bible Comes Alive
We are told in both Exodus 12:40-41 and in Galatians 3:17 that the Israelites left Egypt after 430 years. But then we are told in both Genesis 15:13 and in Acts 7:6 that they would leave Egypt after only 400 years (NOT 430 years)! Is this a contradiction? It certainly appears so. But it is NOT!
To solve the mystery of this supposed contradiction we must first go to the 15th chapter of Genesis. In this particular chapter God confirms the covenant that He had previously made with Abraham while he was still living in Ur. Then God tells Abraham, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years” (Gen. 15:13).
For many years I thought the above verse meant that the Israelites would be slaves in the land of Egypt for 400 years. But that is NOT what this verse is saying at all! The whole point of this Scripture is not to tell Abraham how long his descendants would be slaves in Egypt, but to tell him how long it would be before they finally left Egypt (to begin making their way back to the land of Canaan). In other words, this verse should read: “...and they will afflict them until four hundred years.” In even plainer terms, what this Scripture is saying is that the Israelites would leave Egypt in 400 years—that’s 400 years from the time that God made this statement to Abraham! So why does the Bible say 430 years in Exodus 12:40-41 and Galatians 3:17? Because 30 years had passed since God first made the promises to Abraham—while he was still living in the land of Ur—that’s why!
In Galatians 3:17-18 we are told that the law (the ten commandments—which were given just a few weeks after the Israelites left Egypt) came 430 years after the promises were made to Abraham! Please note—it does NOT say that the law was given 430 years after the Israelites arrived in Egypt. It says that the law came 430 years after the promises were made to Abraham! That’s 430 years after the promises were FIRST made to Abraham—while he was still living in Ur of the Chaldeans! It all fits.