The 430 Confusing Years

The 430 years mentioned in the law and by Paul is one of the confusing years in the Bible. This blog is to explain the problem and provide a plausible solution only using authoritative texts.

Torah’s 430 years

The 430 years occurs only once in the law which mentions the total time of sojourning of the children of Israel.

Exod 12:40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. (Masoretic)

Exod 12:40 And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Chanaan, was four hundred and thirty years. (Septuagint)

While Masoretic text gives 430 years only for the time of children of Israel in Egypt, Septuagint includes the time in Canaan as well. The 430 years never occurs anywhere else in the law or Torah except in the above passage and it seems totally unreliable and it has the following possibilities and problems.

  • Total sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt (Exod 12:40 – Masoretic text). Jacob was 130 years when he left for Egypt with his children, which is 191 years since the birth of his father Isaac. Hence, the total sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt is 400-191 = 209 years which is no where near 430 years.
  • Total sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt and Canaan (Exod 12:40 – Septuagint). Jacob left Laban and came to land of Canaan when he was 91 years old which is 151 years since the birth of his father Isaac. Hence, the total sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt and Canaan is 400-151 = 249 years which is also no where near 430 years.
Now, we have a problem to solve:
  • Why does the total time of 430 years if sojourn of the children of Israel does not match the detailed calculated years of 209 or 249 years?
  • What does 430 years really represent?

Paul’s 430 years

Apostle Paul, explains the 430 years in this way:

Gal 3:16-17 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.

From God making His promise to Abraham until the law, there were 430 years.

Gen 12:1,4 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. … So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Abraham was 75 years old when God promised Abraham. Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old and the law (or Exodus) was 400 years later. Hence, from the promise to Abraham to the law, there were 425 years. This seems to be closer to 430 years. Hence, there is only one possibility: Paul gave an approximation of 430 instead of 425 years for the total sojourning period including Abraham’s sojourning in Canaan. Exodus 12:40 is also the same approximate summation of total sojourning period including Abraham’s sojourning, instead of actual 425 years.

Conclusion

The 430 years is an approximate summation of the actual 425 years for the total sojourning period of children of Israel in Egypt including Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s sojourning in Canaan.