The 430 years and 400 years Countdown to Exodus



 Yves Peloquin

Montreal, March 5, 2011



 Anybody who has studied the Bible’s chronology for some time will agree. There is only one way to obtain the date of Exodus and it is by properly identifying the origin of the 430 years mentioned in Exodus 12:40 and Galatians 3:17. These two verses are fundamental to the building of an elaborate and consistent chronology of the Bible.


·       Ex 12:40-41 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. … all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. NKJV


·       Gal 3:17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise NIV


The purpose of this article is first to identify the covenant alluded to in Galatians 3:17, determine the right date for the Exodus, and finally find out what happened 400 years before the Exodus.


The Israelites left Egypt at the Exodus and according to Exodus 12:40 it was at the end of a period of 430 years[1]. Here the Bible verse is unclear about where the period started. Fortunately we are not left without a clue as Galatians 3:17 supplies us with an important clarification: the 430-year period originated at the time of a covenant. In Galatians 3:16, one verse before, we learn that the covenant was known to Abraham, the first patriarch of Israel.


·       Gal 3:16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. NKJV



Our initial approach will be to build a timeline of the important events in Abraham’s life. One of those events is more likely to have triggered the 430-year countdown to the Exodus. We have to keep in mind that we don’t know if we are looking for a covenant that was enunciated, confirmed or activated.


Important: The following timeline uses the year 2008 AM for the birth of Abraham. The readers can refer to the last page of this article where a complete list of all the patriarchs from Adam to Jacob is enumerated. (Anno Mundi (Latin: "in the year of the world"), abbreviated as AM or A.M., the year since the creation of the world, according to biblical revelation.)













































Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1 Abraham’s timeline


Should we start the 430 years …       (see the previous figure for references)



Þ   When Abraham left Haran at age 75? He was certainly obeying God in doing that.



Þ   When Abraham received the covenant of the land when he was 85?  This is the first time a sign is requested to confirm that the land will be given (the cutting into parts, Gen 15:8-11).   



Þ   When Abraham was circumcised at age 99?  By marking his own flesh and the flesh of his people Abraham was ratifying a very special agreement with God.



Þ   When 100-year-old Abraham became the father of Isaac? This was the fulfillment of a promise received the previous year and the beginning of an important dynasty.

































Intuitively it seems right to associate the ‘Covenant of the land’ and the origin of the 430 years. One could say that the period started with a promise to give a land and the covenant that came with it, and, many years after, ended with several millions of people escaping slavery to come back and claim the very land that was promised to their patriarchs. --- Unfortunately that argument wouldn’t be strong enough to convince everyone that those events are absolutely complementary. But there is more…


Very few people are aware of it but during the Exodus the strange ritual performed by Abraham when he learned of the covenant of the land (cutting into parts) was subtly echoed in several points.


Text Box: 430 years
Text Box: Ex 14:16 But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. 
Ex 14:19-20 and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light  [like a burning torch] by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night. 
Ex 14:23 And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, 
Text Box:  
Text Box: Cutting
Text Box: Gen 15:10-11 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; 
but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 
Gen 15:17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.

























Text Box: Abraham cut the animals in two         = the sea was split in two
Abraham placed the pieces opposite to each other 
 =  the camp of Israel faced the camp of the Egyptians
Abraham drove away the vulture
 = Angel of God prevented the Egyptians from attacking the Israelites.
A burning torch passed between the pieces
= pillar of fire following the Israelite while they crossed the 
   split sea.
















 A journey that lasted 
430 years   (in 6 steps)

(Covenant of the land in 2093 AM to Exodus in 2523 AM)


(1) For the first time Abraham received a covenant 


(2) that was accompanied by a sign


(3) And in order to inaugurate (and seal) this covenant, God went through the cutting into


Text Box: (4) And 430 years went by
·       Ex 12:40-41 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. … all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 
NOTE: Ex 12:40 seems to say that the children of Israel lived in Egypt for 430 years but  with the proper punctuation the expression ‘who lived in Egypt’  become a distinctive mark that should be associated with the ‘children of Israel’  rather than the ‘sojourn’.   
è Now the sojourn of the children of Israel, who lived in Egypt, was 430 years…
Here the word used by the translators to describe what the children of Israel were doing for 430 years is ‘sojourn’ (or ‘dwelling’). Wouldn’t the text be better served with a word like ‘journey’?  
 è Now the ‘journey’ of the children of Israel, who lived in Egypt, was 430 years… 


















 (5) God remembered the covenant and was ready to give the Israelites their land:




(6) Prior to receiving the object of the covenant[2] that was sealed when God went through the parts, the Israelites went through the sea, which had been physically split. (We have here a clear reminder of the true origin of this covenant.)       



The purpose of showing that there is a strong association between the ‘Covenant of the land[3]’ and the Exodus was to stress that the 430-year period is more likely connecting two events that already share bonds together.  But any persisting doubts should disappear with the following discovery. The Exodus also echoed extensively two others events that occurred during the very same year of the ‘cutting into parts’. These are the rescuing of Lot by Abram just before he received the covenant of the land, and Hagar’s pregnancy that began right after.


The first event: The rescuing of Lot


Just before receiving the covenant of the cutting (covenant of the land) Abram was told that his relative had been taking captive.



Moses was sent to rescue his brothers the Israelites.




After Abram had rescued Lot, he gave a tithe of everything to the king of Salem.



In exchange for having saved the Israelite males in every family, God asked Moses to consecrate every firstborn among the Israelites to Himself.



Against all odds Abram refused to accept any part of the goods that were offered by the King of Sodom.



At the Exodus, just before leaving Egypt, against all odds, the Israelite received a huge amount of goods from the Egyptians themselves.



The second event: Hagar’s pregnancy
































































































































































A subordinate journey that lasted 400 years

(From Akeda in 2123 AM to Exodus in 2523 AM)


With the date of Exodus known we are now well positioned to determine with absolute certainty the origin of the 400 years of Gen 15:13.  


·       Gen 15:13 Then He said to Abram: "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.  NKJV


Knowing that the period ended at the Exodus it is a simple matter to go backwards 400 years from 2523 AM and arrive at 2123 AM. Unfortunately, even though we have found the right date a simple glimpse at the table on page 2 shows that we are lacking any event to go with this date.  In 2123 Isaac was 15 years old, which in itself is meaningless unless it was also the very year Isaac was sacrificed by Abraham?  (The Jews refer to this "sacrifice"  as ‘the binding of Isaac’ and use the Hebrew word ‘AKEDA’ when they talk about it.)


The Bible doesn’t give any direct chronological link to Isaac’s sacrifice. Isn’t it surprising when we think about it? Isn’t it quite inconceivable that the biggest act of obedience and faith ever described in the Bible, the most important symbolic act, an act that would even be mirrored at Yeshua’s death, wouldn’t be accurately dated when more than 300 chronological references are available to chart all kinds of other events?  Isn’t it possible that the 400-year period had its origin in the year of Isaac’s binding?  Is there any other event that could be more meaningful to mark the beginning of this important period?             





























In Gen 15:13 we are told that the 400-year period has to do with the whereabouts of Abraham’s descendant. Logically, by arguing in favour of Isaac’s birth, which gave Abraham his first legitimate descendant, we would have a very convincing event to initiate this period. Unfortunately the preceding chart shows that it is not possible, as Isaac was already 15 years old when the 400-year period started in 2123 AM. But then wouldn’t the Sacrifice of Isaac be the next best candidate, if not in fact a better one?  Here is why.


First a few facts to show that Isaac was neither an infant nor an adult at the time of the sacrifice. One can say that at 15 years old he was in the right age range.


       Old enough to worship


·       Gen 22:5 We will worship and then we will come back to you."  NIV


Strong enough to hold all the wood


·       Gen 22:6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, NIV


Still young enough to be called “boy”


·       Gen 22:5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. NIV


NOTE: wªhana`ar the Hebrew word translated here as “the boy” could describe Isaac at any period from the age of infancy to adolescence.


We are told that God would establish a covenant with Isaac.


·       Gen 17:19 I will establish My covenant with him [Isaac] for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.  NKJV


·       Gen 17:21 1 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, NKJV  


We are also told that Abraham and Isaac would be involved (together?) in a covenant and a promise.


·       1 Chron 16:16 The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to Isaac, NKJV


·       Ps 105:9 the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. NIV


We know that a covenant was confirmed to Abraham at Akeda.


·       Gen 22:15-17 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you.. NIV


Could it be that Isaac was also chosen during Akeda?


Isaac’s relationship with his father Abraham culminated at Akeda.  The only bonding activity between them ever documented in the Bible is the three days’ journey to Mt. Moriah. During this trip Abraham’s sadness must have been almost unbearable. How could it have been different? He had just been asked to do the most difficult thing ever: offer to God the unexpected son of his old age, the only son he shared with Saraï, a son that he loved[4] very much.  At 15 Isaac was old enough to understand what was going on and if he had ever witnessed his father offering a sacrifice to God in the past,  he must have sensed that this time something was quite different.



Whether  he had known for some time or had only learned at the last minute that he would be the victim, it didn’t make any difference. Isaac never offered any resistance and he followed his father unrestrained, to the top of the mountain where an altar would be built. 


·       Gen 22:5 Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there.


In 2123 AM Abraham was 115 years old and  would never have been able to bind his 15 year old son if he had refused to cooperate. Isaac was a consenting victim who could have found many opportunities to run away, but he didn’t. On the contrary he even walked the last stretch to the altar by himself.



There was no other situation in Isaac’s life (that we are told about), which provided him with the possibility to show his unconditional faith in his father and in God. The sacrifice of Isaac was a request so well chosen that it allowed Abraham and Isaac to independently prove their worth to God at the same time. 


v    Abraham proved himself by offering his son in sacrifice.


v    Isaac proved himself by accepting to be the sacrificed.


At Akeda Isaac didn’t object to his father’s plan and he totally accepted that he would die. In fact, he came so close to death that one can say that symbolically he did die. But then, if there was a symbolic death it had to be followed by a symbolic resurrection and the opportunity of a new beginning. That day Isaac inherited his father’s covenant. 


·       Gen 15:13 Then He said to Abram: "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.  NKJV


The only remaining question before one can fully accept that Akeda is at the origin of the 400-year period is the following. Did Isaac, the new born descendant, begin this new journey by being a stranger  in a land that was not his? The answer is: Absolutely! Have you noticed that Isaac never returned home with his father?



In fact 25 more years went by before Isaac appeared again[5] when we learn that he was living in the Negev and was about to be married.




Some facts from Akeda that were echoed 400 years later during the Exodus

































































































The next figure shows that the 15-year-old Isaac had symbolically died and was resurrected during the sacrifice. On that day Isaac began his own ‘prophetic’ journey that was going to last 400 years.  








































































0 AM






Gen 5:5






Gen 5:3

Gen 5:8






Gen 5:6

Gen 5:11






Gen 5:9

Gen 5:14






Gen 5:12

Gen 5:17






Gen 5:15

Gen 5:20






Gen 5:18

Gen 5:23






Gen 5:21

Gen 5:27






Gen 5:25

Gen 5:31






Gen 5:28

Gen 9:29



Built the Ark











Gen 11:10

Gen 11:11



Flood (1656)



Gen 7:6

Gen 5:5






Gen 11:10

Gen 11:13






Gen 11:12

Gen 11:15






Gen 11:14

Gen 11:17






Gen 11:16

Gen 11:19






Gen 11:18

Gen 11:21






Gen 11:20

Gen 11:23






Gen 11:22

Gen 11:25






Gen 11:24

Gen 11:32






Gen 12:4

Gen 25:7






Gen 17:17

Gen 23:1






Gen 17:17

Gen 35:28






Gen 25:26

Gen 47:28



[1] Here many people have been lured into thinking that the Israelites spent the whole 430 years in Egypt. Even though the verse seems to say so it wasn’t the case and we will see later that there is an alternate way to understand Ex 12:40.

[2] that is : the land

[3] An alternative way to refer to the Covenant of the land would be to call it the ‘cutting of the parts’ covenant.

[4] Gen 22:2 "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love,


[5] At Akeda Isaac was 15 years old and, according Gen 25:20, he was 40 years old when he got married.