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THE LEGTH OF ISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT

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Title PageEgyptian Sojourn 215 yearsEgyptian Sojourn 400 yearsEgyptian Sojourn was 430 yearsConclusionDocumentationEndGrace Theological Journal 12.1 (Winter, 1971) 18-35. Copyright © 1961 by Grace Theological Seminary. Cited with permission. THE LENGTH OF lSRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT JACK R. RIGGS Associate Professor of Bible Cedarville College The chronological framework of Biblical events from the time of Abraham to David rests upon two pivotal texts of Scripture. The first is I Kings 6:1, which dates the Exodus from Egypt 480 years before the fourth year of Solomon. The second pivotal date for the Biblical chronology of this period is Exodus 12:40 which dates the arrival of Jacob's family in Egypt years before the Exodus. The purpose of this paper will be to discuss the problem of the length of Israel's sojourn in Egypt. This problem is important, as already suggested, because it has to do with dating events in the cen- turies prior to the Exodus. There are at least three possible solutions to the problem of the length of Israel's Egyptian sojourn. The first view is that the time span of the sojourn was only 215 years. A second solution is the view of 400 years for the sojourn. The third, and final, solution to be discussed is the idea that 430 years elapsed between the entrance of Jacob and his family into Egypt and their Exodus under Moses' leadership. The View That The Egyptian Sojourn Was 215 Years The most commonly held view of the length of Israel's sojourn in Egypt is the 215 year idea. To state the view simply, the chrono- logical notations of Genesis 15:13, This article was presented as a paper at the Midwestern Section meet- ing of the Evangelical Theological Society on April 17, 1970, at Grace Theological Seminary.ISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT 19 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, and Exodus 12:40, Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years, include sojourns in both Canaan and Egypt. From this it is argued that approximately 215 years were spent in Canaan and 215 years in Egypt. Among the proponents of this view are Anstey,1 Meyer,2 Eadie,3Alford4 and McDonald.5 Anstey is possibly its leading adherent. He reckons the 430 years of Exodus 12:40 from Abraham's call to the Exodus, and considers the 400 years of Genesis 15:13 as embracing the same period, but beginning with the weaning of lsaac.6 According to Anstey the Genesis passage has to do with the sojourning of Abraham's seed. As he has explained: Abraham's seed here means Abraham's posterity, viz., Isaac from the time that he was weaned and became Abraham's heir (Gal. 3:29-4:5) and Isaac's descend- ants.7 Holding to the idea that an oriental child was weaned at age five, the conclusion is that the 400 years of Genesis 15 began when Isaac was five years old.8 Adding these five years plus the twenty-five years that elapsed between Abraham's call and Isaac's birth to the 400 years of Exodus 12:40 makes the harmonious chronological scheme.9 Another argument is his interpretation of the phrase "a land that is not theirs" in Genesis 15:13. Since Canaan was actually never possessed by Abraham's seed before the conquest under Joshua, then the 400 years must include both that land and Egypt.10 The interpre- tation also of McDonald is significant here as he sees the phrase as being more appropriately applied to Canaan. He has written: While no particular country is specified, the appellation "a land that is not theirs" was, as regards Abraham and his immediate posterity, more applicable to Canaan than it was to Egypt during the sojourn there. Up to20 GRACE JOURNAL the time when it was taken possession of by Joshua, Canaan, though the "land of promise", was in every sense a strange (allotria Heb. xi. 9, comp. ac. ii. c), land, Abraham or his posterity having no possession in it beyond a place of sepulture, and no fixed dwell- ing place, whereas in Egypt they had the land of Goshen by royal grant.11 In connection with this Anstey does not see the servitude and affliction mentioned in the verse as applying to the Canaan sojourn. He skirts the necessity of applying these to the entire four hundred years by the use of an introversion. In other words he breaks down the passage so that it is constructed in the following manner: Know of a surety that A. thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, B. and shall serve them; B. and they shall afflict them; A. four hundred years. 12 In this construction the two A clauses correspond to each other and relate to the same event, that is, the whole period of the sojourn- ing. The two B clauses likewise correspond and are parenthetical and relate to the servitude in Egypt and that alone. A third argument used to establish the extent of the sojourn is the variant readings to the Massoretic text of Exodus 12:40. The Sep- tuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch both include Canaan in the 430 year sojourn. The Septuagint version is as follows: The sojourning of the children of Israel which they so- journed in Egypt and in the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years. The Samaritan Pentateuch reads: And the sojourn of the children of Israel and of their fathers in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt. The clause "and in the land of Canaan" of the Septuagint, and the clause "and of their fathers in the land of Canaan" of the Samaritan Pentateuch are not supported by any other manuscript evidence. Anstey finds support in these variants while not contradicting the Massoretic text. He believes that the Septuagint and Samaritan insertionsISRAEL'S SOJOURN IN EGYPT 21 . . . agree perfectly with the Hebrew which is fur- ther elucidated, but in no way modified by them. They correctly interpret the meaning of the Hebrew text. . . . But the meaning of the Hebrew is sufficiently clear without the explanatory addition when the text is prop- erly translated.13 To summarize at this point, the major premise for the 215 year view is the interpretation of Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40 as referring harmoniously to both the Canaan and Egyptian sojourns. The support for this is the


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