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430 Years in Egypt?

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It’s a well-known story.  The children of Israel went down to Egypt to survive.  Thanks to a wise ruler there named Joseph, Egypt had food; but there wasn’t enough food anywhere else after two years of a famine that would eventually last for seven years.

 

In a way that only God could have planned, Jacob’s son Joseph had risen from a slave to become ruler of all Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.  When Jacob (whom God had named Israel) sent his sons to Egypt to buy food, Joseph recognized his brothers and eventually revealed his identity to them.  Even though they had sold him into slavery, he forgave them and arranged for all of Jacob’s family to come to Egypt.

 

While Joseph was in power, he was able to take care of his extended family.  However, the Bible reveals that the situation eventually took a bad turn for the children of Israel.  In Exodus 1:8 we read:

 

Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.

 

This king did not trust the children of Israel to be loyal to him (Exodus 1:9-10); and so we read that he set over them “taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens” (Exodus 1:11).   As the centuries passed, conditions became even worse for the children of Israel.  There even came a day when the Egyptian king decreed that every male Hebrew newborn baby should be killed (Exodus 1:15-22).

 

During this time, God was preparing Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.  When the time was right, He sent Moses to confront Pharaoh.  It took ten plagues to force the Egyptian king (Pharaoh is a title often used in the Bible) to release the children of Israel.  Egypt was practically destroyed in the process, but Pharaoh finally set the children of Israel free.  The Bible tells us how long they had been in Egypt.  In Exodus 12:40-41, we read:

 

Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.  And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

 

This seems to be very clear:  Israel was in Egypt for 430 years.  The problem is, God also gives us some numbers that are associated with Israel’s time in Egypt, and those numbers don’t seem to agree with the statement that Israel was in Egypt for 430 years.  Or do they?

 

 

The Trouble With Kohath

 

Notice how the number 430 is repeated.  God is calling our attention to it.  He wants us to know this number and think about it.  In order to understand why God does this, we must examine some other verses dealing with these 430 years.

 

We start with Genesis 46.  In that chapter, we read about Jacob’s move to Egypt.  This chapter lists the members of Jacob’s family who all went with him into Egypt (see Genesis 46:5-7).  We are especially interested in Genesis 46:11, where we find the names of Levi’s three sons:

 

And the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.

 

These three went with their father Levi into Egypt with the rest of Jacob’s family.  Now compare this verse with what we find in Exodus 6:16:

 

And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations; Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari: and the years of the life of Levi were an hundred thirty and seven years.  

 

In this verse, we find the same three names listed as Levi’s “sons.”  Naturally, we would assume they are the same men.  However, if we make that assumption we are wrong!  Notice the words “according to their generations.”  They make a big difference in the way we must understand this verse.

 

Comparing these verses with the Bible’s information about Reuben’s and Simeon’s sons helps us understand what God reveals about Levi’s descendants.  In both Genesis 46 (see verses 9 and 10) and Exodus 6 (see verses 14 and 15) we find the names of Reuben’s sons and Simeon’s sons.  These are Jacob’s grandsons.  The names listed in Exodus 6:14 identify the same men named in Genesis 46:9: they are the sons of Reuben.  Here is Genesis 46:9:

 

And the sons of Reuben; Hanoch, and Phallu, and Hezron, and Carmi.

 

And here is Exodus 6:14:

 

These be the heads of their fathers’ houses: The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel; Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi: these be the families of Reuben.

 

Similarly, the names listed in Exodus 6:15 are the same men named in Genesis 46:10: they are the sons of Simeon.  Here is Genesis 46:10:

 

And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman.

 

And here is Exodus 6:15:

 

And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman: these are the families of Simeon.

 

Once again, the names match.  The verse is concerned with the sons of one of Jacob’s sons.  Incidentally, the word translated as “sons” in these verses is Strong’s number H1121 (“ben”).  It appears in thousands of verses.  Usually, it refers to someone’s sons, but it can refer to later descendants as well (see Genesis 33:19, where it’s translated as “children”).

 

As we continue in Exodus 6, after reading about the sons of Reuben and Simeon we come to that verse about the “sons” of Levi – that’s Exodus 6:16.  This verse lists the same names we find in Genesis 46:11: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.  However, Exodus 6:16 is telling us something very different than the verses about Reuben’s sons and Simeon’s sons, because this verse is telling us about three generations of Levi’s family.  We know this because of the words “according to their generations.”  The word “generations” is Strong’s number H8435 (“towledah”) and it’s used only 39 times in the Bible.  It doesn’t appear in the verses about Reuben and his sons, or Simeon and his sons.

 

Back in Genesis 46:11, where we find three names listed with Levi among all the other names of those who traveled with Jacob into Egypt, we are reading about direct sons of Levi.  These relationships can be represented like this:

 

Gershon

|

­

Kohath          –          Levi             –       Merari

 

 

But the three names listed in Exodus 6:16 represent different generations of Levi’s family.  We can represent them like this:

 

 

Levi    –      Gershon       –       Kohath          –       Merari

 

Therefore, the Kohath listed in Exodus 6:16 is not the same Kohath listed in Genesis 46:11.  The Kohath of Genesis 46:11 traveled into Egypt with his father Levi, but the Kohath of Exodus 6:16 was born in Egypt and lived there his entire life– all 133 years of it.  (See 1 Chronicles 6:22 and compare it with 1 Chronicles 6:18 for evidence that there were two Kohaths.  One had a son named Amminadab.  This Kohath must have been Levi’s son.)  We will see that the numbers prove Gershon is the only son of Levi listed in Exodus 6:16.

 

 

 

God Gives Us The Numbers We Need

 

God gives us the numbers we need to arrive at the 430 year total He reveals in Exodus 12:40-41.  One of those numbers is found in Exodus 6:18:

 

And the sons of Kohath; Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel: and the years of the life of Kohath were an hundred thirty and three years.

 

For our purpose, the important information in this verse is that Kohath’s lifespan was 133 years, and that he had a son named Amram.  This Amram was the father of Aaron and Moses, as we read in Exodus 6:20:

 

And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years.

 

Notice that this verse also tells us Amram’s lifespan: 137 years.  Next, we find an important piece of information in Exodus 7:7:

 

And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.

 

We know that Moses was born in Egypt (Exodus 2) and that Amram was his father (Exodus 6:20 and other verses).   Also, from Exodus 7:7 we know Moses was 80 years old when he spoke with Pharaoh.  However, it wasn’t until the ten plagues were over that the children of Israel left Egypt.  They remained in Egypt until then.  So how old was Moses when they left?

 

The Bible doesn’t directly tell us, because it doesn’t state how long it took for all ten plagues to happen.  However, we do know that the plagues cannot have lasted more than a few months.  We know this because God tells us that the children of Israel were in the wilderness for 40 years (Numbers 32:13), and that Moses was 120 years old when he died (Deuteronomy 34:7).  Therefore, the plagues must have taken less than a year, since Moses was 80 when he spoke to Pharaoh.  In fact, it’s possible all the plagues were over in just a couple of weeks.

 

We can now begin to add up some of these numbers.  First, we know that Kohath lived his entire life in Egypt (remember, this is not the Kohath who was Levi’s son; this Kohath was a descendant (grandson or even great grandson) of Gershon and was born in Egypt).  His lifespan was 133 years.  Next we have Kohath’s son Amram, who lived to be 137 years old.  Then we have Moses, who was born in Egypt and was 80 years old when the children of Israel left Egypt.

 

There’s one more number we need.  We know that Levi lived to be 137, but the Bible doesn’t reveal how old he was when he moved to Egypt.  In his book Adam When? Mr. Harold Camping estimated that Levi was 60 years old when his family entered Egypt.  However, he admitted there that this number could be off by two or three years.

 

We can now see that Levi was 57 when his family entered Egypt.  How do we know this?  The years for Kohath, Amram and Moses add up to 350 years.  If Levi lived the last 80 years of his life in Egypt – the number needed to add up to 430 years  – then he must have been 57 when he went there to live.  And so we have Levi’s time in Egypt as 80 years.

 

We can now see how Israel’s 430 years in Egypt breaks down:

 

Levi:          80 yrs.

Kohath:    133 yrs.

Amram:    137 yrs.

Moses:       80 yrs.

Total:     430 yrs.

 

You may have noticed something very important about the way these numbers are added.  It’s a special way of tracking time, and it’s what Mr. Camping called the Calendar Patriarch method.

 

 

The Biblical Calendar

 

If you take a quick look at Genesis 5, you will see that God reveals it was a matter of thousands of years – not millions or billions of years – from the time of Adam (and therefore from Creation) until the flood of Noah’s day.  Starting with Adam and continuing to Noah, God gives time information including lifespans for several generations descended from Adam.  This information allows us to know exactly how many years passed from Creation until the flood.  However, the right way to add up these numbers is not immediately obvious.  It was one of Mr. Camping’s great discoveries when he understood how to correctly use this information.

 

The key is to realize that not every name listed there is a direct son of the preceding name.  For most of these men, the lifespan given does not start until the year their predecessor died.  So when someone “begat” the person whose name comes after his, it means that this patriarch had a son who in turn had his own son (and there may even be another generation after that) who was born in the year that the patriarch died.  The time information about all of these men collectively allows us to build a Biblical calendar revealing the age of the earth, and therefore of the universe.  Mr. Camping called these men Calendar Patriarchs.

 

As an example of how we can track time using the Calendar Patriarchs, consider these verses from Genesis 5 (verses 12-20):

 

And Cainan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel: 13 And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters: 14 And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years: and he died. 15 And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared: 16 And Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters: 17 And all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died. 18 And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch: 19 And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 20 And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died.  

 

It’s important to realize that the numbers given in these verses are literal.  They reveal true lifespans for the men named, as well as other time information.  This is actually very early history that God revealed to Moses, and the language used in Genesis guides us to know that this is the case.  Contrast this with the book of Revelation, where we also find verses containing various numbers.  However, none of the numbers there are to be understood literally (e.g., Revelation 9:5 and 14:20).  Rather, the numbers in Revelation are strictly intended to convey spiritual truth.

 

The above verses from Genesis allow us to know how many years passed from the birth of Cainan until the death of Jared.  Now, how would you calculate that number?  Most people who read these verses assume that we should count the years like this (we can call this the Apparent Method):

 

Cainan: 70 years until Mahaleel was born.
Mahaleel: 65 years until Jared was born.
Jared: 962 years for Jared’s lifespan.
1,097 years total from Cainan’s birth to Jared’s death.

 

Now, let’s use the Calendar Patriarch Method to determine the number of years from Cainan’s birth until Jared’s death.  This is the correct way to do it:

 

Cainan: 910 years lifespan.
Mahaleel: 895 years lifespan.
Jared: 962 years lifespan.
2,767 years total from Cainan’s birth to Jared’s death.

 

Notice how the Calendar Patriarch Method reveals that the number of years elapsed from Cainan’s birth until Jared’s death is much greater than most people expect – even more than double.  Also, remember that we count this way because in these verses each calendar patriarch was born the year that the previous calendar patriarch died.

 

Mr. Camping suspected that God was guiding us to use this method when he noticed a slight difference in language between certain verses in Genesis concerning the patriarchs.  In some cases, God makes it clear that there is a direct father-son relationship by telling us that the patriarch named his son.  However, in most cases we don’t find that language.

 

It is actually very logical to keep track of years by counting from the birth of a patriarch.  It allows people to date a year as “Cainan’s seventieth year” or “Jared’s fifth year.”  In fact, when you think about it you realize that we actually use this method today.  The great divide in the calendar we use today is between B.C. dates and A.D. dates.  You may know that B.C. is an abbreviation for “Before Christ,” and A.D. is an abbreviation for two Latin words: Anno Domini.  That means “year of the Lord,” which of course is a reference to the Lord Jesus.

 

Now that we’ve seen how Genesis provides an illustration of the Calendar Patriarch Method for tracking time, let’s return to the verses about Israel’s time in Egypt and take a critical look at our method.

 

 

Is That Really the Right Way to Add the Numbers?

 

Here again is our addition, showing how the numbers add up to 430 years:

 

Levi:          80 yrs.

Kohath:    133 yrs.

Amram:    137 yrs.

Moses:       80 yrs.

Total:     430 yrs.

 

By adding the numbers this way, we are making several assumptions.  First, we are assuming that Kohath was born the same year that Levi died.  Levi lived the last 80 years of his life in Egypt, and Kohath lived his whole life there.

 

Next, we are assuming that Amram was born in the same year that Kohath died.  Like Kohath, Amram lived his whole life in Egypt.  And we are also assuming that Moses was born in the same year that Amram died.  Even though Moses wasn’t in Egypt continuously during his 80 years, we can still use his life to track time.  He was born in Egypt, and 80 years later God sent him back there again as part of His plan to rescue Israel from slavery.

 

All of the above assumptions are logical, and they confirm the 430 years that God tells us Israel spent in Egypt.  Nevertheless, you may be wondering if we can possibly interpret this time information differently.  What if, you may ask, the Kohath of Exodus 6:16 is really the same Kohath who is listed in Genesis 46:11?  Let’s make that assumption for a moment.

 

We don’t know how old Levi’s son Kohath was when he went to Egypt, but let’s assume that he was just an infant – maybe a couple of weeks old.  That way we can count his entire lifespan as time in Egypt.  We’ll count all 133 years as time there.  (We don’t know how long Levi’s son Kohath actually lived, but we’re assuming it’s 133 years because we’re temporarily assuming he is the same Kohath listed in Exodus 6:16).

 

Next, let’s count all of Amram’s lifetime as time in Egypt.  So that’s another 137 years.  Finally let’s add 80 years for Moses.  When we add the three numbers together, we only get 350 years.  We can’t add any time for Levi because that would be a double counting of Kohath’s first years in Egypt.  And we can’t add anything else to the total.  Therefore, if we assume that the Kohath of Exodus 6:16 is the same Kohath who traveled to Egypt, we cannot reach the 430 years that the Bible requires.

 

The only way for the numbers to add up to 430 years is for us to make the assumptions we did at first.  Namely, that the Kohath of Exodus 6:16 is a descendant of Levi’s son Gershon; that he was born when Levi died; that his (Kohath’s) own son Amram was born when he (Kohath) died; and that Moses was born in the same year that his father Amram died.  These are the same type of assumptions we made earlier in the example from Genesis.

 

Now, let’s take a quick look at the verses of Exodus 6 containing time information and genealogical information we’ve used.  In Exodus 6:14-27, we find many names listed (over 40 of them).  However, in only three cases does God reveal anything concerning time.  He tells us Levi’s lifespan (verse 16), Kohath’s lifespan (verse 18), and Amram’s lifespan (verse 20).  Think about that.  Why would God tell us those three lifespans out of all the others?  We know there is a reason for it.  Nothing in the Bible is accidental.

 

We already know the answer to this question.  We’ve seen that this information allows us to confirm that the children of Israel were in Egypt for 430 years.  However, in order to do it we first had to realize that we actually had the necessary information; and then we had to discover how to use it.  So now we can see what God has done by telling us about the 430 years.  He has guided us to learn the Calendar Patriarch Method of dating time.  With that knowledge, it becomes possible to correctly build the Bible Calendar.

 

 

Another Possible Objection

 

There’s another possible objection to our use of calendar patriarchs to verify the 430 years.  Someone may think the verse saying “the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years” (Exodus 12:40) doesn’t really mean that Israel was in national Egypt for the full 430 years.  This is actually a valid concern, because God sometimes names a specific nation in the Bible in order to reveal spiritual truth.

 

For example, in Revelation 11 we read about two witnesses who represent end-time believers.   When we carefully work through the visions (recorded by the apostle John) leading up to the verses about the two witnesses, we find that the two witnesses are a picture of believers who bring the warning of God’s coming judgment to the whole world during the latter rain.  After the latter rain ends, Satan is allowed to “overcome” and “kill” them (Revelation 11:7).   Then, in the next verse (Revelation 11:8) we read:

 

And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

 

“Sodom and Egypt” identify the entire world after the two witnesses are silenced, because by then salvation has ended everywhere.  (God also identifies Babylon as “that great city” in Revelation 18:10, which is another spiritual reference to the whole world).  Therefore, we need to address the concern that Israel’s 430 years in “Egypt” (Exodus 12:40-41) may not have been spent entirely in the nation called Egypt.

 

There are a couple of verses to consider in connection with this.  Genesis 15:13 and14 declare:

 

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; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

 

Actually (and amazingly) there is a great spiritual truth here, because God is telling us about His people living in this world (the land that is not theirs) and having to serve it (see 2 Kings 5:18).  And He is also telling us about His judgment on the unsaved, followed at a later date by the last day when the elect inherit eternal life (great substance) in the new heavens and new earth.  That happens after four hundred years – a number with spiritual significance, apparently representing all time from Creation until the end.  (When we view these two verses as applying to God’s entire salvation plan, we see that the nation to be judged can represent all the unsaved).

 

However, we can also read these two verses as an historical prophecy containing a literal number.  It’s a prophecy that Abraham’s descendants – the children of Israel – would be afflicted four hundred actual years.

 

The obvious question here is, “why only 400 – why doesn’t it say 430 years?”  There is a simple answer to this question.  The pharaoh who promoted Joseph to become the second most powerful man in Egypt (Genesis 41:39-41) trusted him and was willing to help his family (Genesis 47:6, 11).  There was no affliction for Israel during this time.  However, after a while a different pharaoh ruled.  At that time, which must have been 30 years after Israel entered Egypt, the situation for Israel changed.  Perhaps it wasn’t too bad for Israel at first.  Maybe Pharaoh made some laws restricting their freedoms and making them what we might call “second class citizens.”  Eventually, however, they became slaves and were badly mistreated.

 

The fact that Israel would endure four hundred years of affliction, as the Lord revealed to Abram in Genesis 15:13 (as he was called then, before God changed his name to Abraham) is confirmed by Acts 7:6:

 

And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.

 

Another verse we must consider as part of our discussion about the 430 years is Galatians 3:17:

 

And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

 

This verse is difficult.  The context for it is a discussion of God’s promise to Abraham.  We know that God actually made several promises to Abraham.  He promised to bless Abraham and to make his descendants a great nation (Genesis 12:2); to give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:7, Genesis 15:18, and Genesis 17:8); and to make his descendants like the stars (Genesis 15:5).  God also promised to establish His everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:6-7, Genesis 17:19-21).   What then should be our understanding of Galatians 3:17?

 

Even though chapter 3 of Galatians does not mention Egypt, the 430 years it mentions (these are literal years) clearly apply to Israel’s time in Egypt.  The meaning of Galatians 3:17 appears to be that God’s judgment, as required by His law, came 430 years after the covenant was confirmed.  God’s law would have condemned the children of Israel, except for the fact that God had promised to save them.

 

Notice what Galatians 3:17 is saying: it says that the covenant was confirmed, and that 430 years came afterwards.  Someone might easily assume that this verse refers to an occasion when the Lord confirmed His covenant while speaking with Abraham.  If that’s the case and we count years from God’s last conversation with Abraham, it would mean that Israel had been in Egypt for much less than 430 years.  It means we must count Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s time in Canaan – and that was a couple of hundred years.  So there would be only enough time for Israel to have spent about two hundred years in Egypt.  In fact, this seems to be what most theologians (including Jewish scholars) believe.  They just don’t believe that Israel was in Egypt for 430 years.  Many believe the number is only about half that.

 

But Galatians 3:17 doesn’t say that the Lord confirmed the covenant by speaking with Abraham.  Yes, God did speak with Abraham more than once; and He did confirm the covenant with him.  But He also confirmed the covenant with somebody else!  In fact, in Genesis 46:1-4 we read that God confirmed His covenant by speaking with Jacob.  That happened immediately before Israel went to Egypt (Genesis 46:5-6).  So, we see how Galatians 3:17 is another possible trap for anyone who is not on the right track to understanding all this.  (In case you didn’t notice, Galatians 3:17 reveals that it was Christ who spoke with Jacob and confirmed the covenant with him.)

 

There is more to Galatians 3:17 than its relevance to Israel’s 430 years in Egypt.  Once again, we have a verse revealing spiritual truth to all believers.  It shows us that, when the time comes, God will end this world.  That will be the enforcement of the law.  Even God’s own people deserve to be subject to that law – except for the fact that God has saved them.  They are Abraham’s descendants through Christ.  God’s promise to Abraham applies to them, and so they are saved from the law.

 

We must examine one more verse concerning the number of years Israel spent in Egypt, and that’s Acts 13:20.  This is another difficult verse; but in this case the problem is in the translation.  The KJV translators did not do a good job translating this verse.  In order to see the problem, we must first examine the verse in its context.  We do that by reading Acts 13:16-20:

 

Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. 17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. 18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. 19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. 20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.  

 

In these verses, the apostle Paul is speaking in a synagogue.  He is reminding the people of Israel’s history.  He mentions their time spent in Egypt (verse 17: “dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt …”) and the Exodus (verse 17: “brought he them out of it.”).  Then he mentions their time in the wilderness (verse 18: forty years) and dividing the land by lot (verse 19).  However, in verse 20 we read something concerning 450 years “until Samuel the prophet.”  So the above verses seem to be telling us that there were about 450 years from the time Israel entered Egypt until the time of Samuel.  We know it’s much more than that.

 

If you consult Mr. Camping’s Biblical Calendar of History, you’ll find that from the Exodus until the time of Samuel, over three hundred years passed.  We also know that it wasn’t very long after Israel entered Canaan that the land was divided or apportioned among the tribes of Israel (see Joshua 14:6-10, and Joshua 15).  Therefore, from the time Israel entered Egypt until Samuel’s time, more than 700 years passed.  How can we reconcile what Acts 13:20 tells us (that about 450 years passed) with this much larger number?

 

The answer is that verse 20 is not well translated.  There are other versions of the Bible that place the words “about 450 years” before the words “Samuel the prophet.”  We find this in both the Revised Standard Version and in the NIV.  Here is the way the NIV translates Acts 13:19-20:

 

and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance.  All this took about 450 years. After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet.

 

Therefore, we see that Acts 13 counts time from the day Israel entered Egypt until Joshua divided the land.  We know this was a bit more than 470 years (430 years in Egypt plus 40 years in the wilderness plus some more time after Israel crossed the Jordan River – see Joshua 3).  However, this raises another question: why does God tell us it was “about 450 years” when we know it was more than 470 years (maybe only a couple of years more – see Numbers 10:11, 13:6, 16).  Why doesn’t the Bible state it was about 470 years, or even give the exact number?

 

There are two possibilities that immediately come to mind based on what we have learned from the Bible.  First, we know that God intentionally made it difficult to discover certain truths from the Bible.

 

God could have told us what the exact number is, but it’s still correct to say “about 450” when the number is a little more than 470; and by doing it that way, God made it more difficult to understand the timeline.  The second possibility is that God wanted to emphasize the number 450 because of its spiritual meaning.  What is that meaning?  Look at the way the number 450 can be broken down into its factors:

 

3  x  3  x  5  x  10

 

From his study of the way God uses numbers in the Bible, Mr. Camping determined that the number three signifies God’s purpose, the number five signifies the atonement (both payment for our sins and salvation), and the number ten signifies completeness.   Remember that the verse is concerned with the time from Israel’s move to Egypt until they received their inheritance in the Promised Land.  Therefore the number 450 can be seen as a picture of the time the elect must stay in this world (God’s purpose) until they receive their eternal inheritance (salvation and completeness).  So once again – this time, in the Acts 13 reference to 450 years – we see how God reveals that Israel did indeed remain in Egypt for 430 years.

 

 

The Last Calendar Patriarch

 

We’ve seen how God has given us time information about the following men in order to guide us to understand how Israel could have spent 430 years in Egypt:

 

Levi:          80 yrs.

Kohath:    133 yrs.

Amram:    137 yrs.

Moses:       80 yrs.

Total:     430 yrs.

 

However, if you’re familiar with Mr. Camping’s books, you may have noticed a difference between his way of counting the 430 years and the list presented above.  In his Biblical Calendar of History on page 3, Mr. Camping lists Aaron as the calendar patriarch.  He assigns only 77 years to Levi’s time and 83 years to Aaron’s time.  (This tabulation also appears in Adam When? on page 55).  And in his book Time Has An End, on page 84 he lists Levi’s time as 76 years and Aaron’s as 84 years.  Mr. Camping was convinced that Aaron was the last calendar patriarch.

 

His reason for thinking so was apparently based on Exodus 2:1-2.  There, we read about the birth of Moses.  However, there is no mention of Amram in these verses.  Mr. Camping thought that if Amram were Moses’ father, then this fact would be stated in the account of Moses’ birth; so he concluded that the father of Moses was someone other than Amram (see page 56, Adam When?).  If this were true, then Amram could have died the same year Aaron was born.  However, in other verses the Bible clearly shows that Amram was the father of both Moses and Aaron.

 

We’ve seen how lifespans of calendar patriarchs allow us to track time.  In order for Aaron to be a calendar patriarch, it would have been necessary for his father Amram to die the year Aaron was born; but the Bible tells us that Moses was the younger brother of Aaron.  Amram was clearly the father of both Moses and Aaron (Exodus 6:20); and Moses was three years younger than Aaron (Exodus 7:7).  Therefore, Moses was the calendar patriarch.  Amram died the year Moses was born –when Aaron was three years old.

 

It should also be mentioned that Mr. Camping knew that the Kohath who lived to be 133 years old was not the Kohath who was Levi’s son.  On page 5 of the Biblical Calendar of History, he wrote: “But in the year that Levi, the immediate son of Jacob died, a descendant of Levi was born whose name was Kohath, and he apparently met the qualifications of a reference patriarch.”  However, Mr. Camping did not make this clear when he wrote about the 430 years in his book Adam When? or in his last major book, Time Has An End.  This caused some confusion among those of us who have studied his work, and may have even resulted in others entirely dismissing his conclusions about the timeline.  So although Mr. Camping was incorrect to list Aaron as a calendar patriarch, he did correctly understand what the Bible reveals about Levi’s descendant Kohath.  (At the time of this writing, Family Radio still has the Biblical Calendar of History and Adam When? available at their website as PDF files.  However, Time Has An End is no longer available there.)

 

After the account of Israel’s 430 years in Egypt, God gives us a great deal of time information about them.  He tells us about Israel’s time in the wilderness, their time under Joshua’s leadership, their time under the judges, and their time under all the kings who ruled Israel  – first as a monarchy and then as the two separate kingdoms of Judah and Israel.  However, we don’t see the calendar patriarch method of keeping time used again after Moses.  He was the last one.

 

By having Moses as last of the calendar patriarchs, God may again be illustrating spiritual truth: Moses is associated with God’s law (e.g., see 2 Kings 21:8), and we are under it until we are saved.  The time of Moses as calendar patriarch continues until the birth of the Lord Jesus – and He is a picture of salvation (Luke 2:11).

 

 

A Little Bit of Archaeology

 

In order to better understand and appreciate the Biblical calendar, we need to know something about Biblical archaeology.  The Biblical calendar was built by adding up numbers from the time of Creation; but unless there’s a way to relate it to the calendar we all use today (the secular calendar), it doesn’t help us very much.  That’s why archaeology is needed.  Once we can match a date for a Biblical event to an object linked to that event – and it must be an object that has been accurately dated according to the secular calendar – then we can determine the date for any Biblical event for which we have a Biblical calendar date.

 

To see how this works, let’s suppose we are adding up numbers found in Genesis beginning when Adam was created.  As we add the numbers for Adam, Seth and the calendar patriarchs until the year of the flood, we arrive at a total of 6,023 (earlier, we saw how part of this period accounts for 2,767 of those years).  Let’s use the abbreviation A.C. for these Biblical calendar dates, because they all come after creation.  As we continue adding up the years after the flood, we eventually come to the time of the Exodus.  That date is 9,566 A.C.  (No known archaeological evidence for the Exodus has ever been discovered.)

 

We continue adding the years to account for Israel’s time in the wilderness and then the years when Joshua led them.  After Joshua, Israel had a series of leaders the Bible calls judges.  One of them was a man called Gideon.  He judged Israel for 40 years.  His period ended 240 years after the Exodus, so that brings us to the year 9,806 A.C.

 

After Gideon, there were more judges, then the kings of Israel: Saul, David and Solomon.  After Solomon died, the kingdom of Israel split into two parts.  One was called Israel and the other Judah.  Each kingdom had a series of kings until it was conquered.  One of Israel’s kings was named Ahab.  His last year as king was 354 years after Gideon’s time ended, so that would have been the year 10,160 A.C.

 

Next, we want to know about King Zedekiah of Judah.  He was the last king of Judah, and his first year as king was 256 years after Ahab’s reign ended.  Adding that to our previous number gives us a date of 10,416 A.C. for Zedekiah’s first year.

 

There’s one more date for us to determine as we investigate the Biblical calendar.  Zedekiah’s last year marked the end of the kingdom of Judah.  That happened ten years after Zedekiah began to reign, so that year was 10,426 A.C.

 

We are now ready to match these dates with the secular calendar; but first, here are the “A.C.” dates we should have when we add up the years according to the Biblical calendar:

 

Creation 0
   
The Flood 6,023 A.C.
   
The Exodus 9,566 A.C.
   
Gideon’s last year 9,806 A.C.
   
Ahab’s last year 10,160 A.C.
   
Zedekiah’s first year 10,416 A.C.
   
Zedekiah’s last year (fall of Jerusalem) 10,426 A.C.

 

In Time Has An End, Mr. Camping cited a book published in 1964 – Handbook of Biblical Chronology by Jack Finegan.  The author lists 853 B.C. as Ahab’s last year, and 597 B.C. as Zedekiah’s first year.  Let’s use the date for Ahab’s last year to synchronize the Biblical calendar (we are temporarily assuming that this secular date is correct, and we will see how it works out).  This means that 10,160 A.C. corresponds to a date of 853 B.C.   We can represent it like this:

 

10,160 A.C.   –    853 B.C. (Ahab’s last year)

 

Now all we need to do is add the appropriate number to the A.C. date to go forward in time to a future milestone, or subtract to go back in time.  We apply the same number to the corresponding B.C. date, but we have to reverse the +/- sign because B.C. dates become smaller in magnitude as we move forward in time, but larger as we go back in time.  (Of course another way to think about it is to say we are adding a positive number to a negative number when we go forward in time from a B.C. date, and subtracting a negative number from another negative number when we go back in time from a B.C. date).

 

So, to know the date for Zedekiah’s first year according to the secular calendar, we first note that we must add 256 years to 10,160 A.C. to get 10,416 A.C.  Therefore we must subtract those 256 years from 853 B.C. to get to the secular calendar’s date for this milestone.  That gives us 597 B.C.  That’s the same date given in the source Mr. Camping consulted.

 

If we want to know the date for the fall of Jerusalem, we must add another ten years to our A.C. date for Zedekiah’s first year.  That brings us to 10,426 A.C.  When we subtract those ten years from the secular calendar’s date, we get 587 B.C.  This date is very commonly accepted as an accurate date for the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, marking the end of the kingdom of Judah.  You can consult a Wikipedia article about this, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Jerusalem_(587_BC)

 

Therefore, we can have great confidence that our Biblical calendar has been correctly synchronized.  In fact, we can even go back in time before Ahab’s reign and find additional agreement with an artifact that has been dated according to the secular calendar.  This is a very famous artifact that is now located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  Mr. Camping wrote about it in his book, Adam When?

 

It’s known as the Israel Stela (a stela is an upright stone slab or column bearing an inscription).  It’s called the Israel Stela because it has the earliest known reference to Israel; but it’s also called the Merneptah Stela because it was erected when Pharaoh Merneptah was ruling Egypt.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merneptah_Stele

 

In the inscription, Merneptah boasts about his victory over a coalition of nations called the Nine Bows.  One line of the inscription has been translated as “Israel is desolated, his seed is not.”   What can this mean?  The Bible records an event that fits these words.  It tells us that after Gideon’s time as judge, his son Abimelech murdered 70 of his brothers (Judges 9:5).  Only one– the youngest, named Jotham – was able to hide and to survive.  This event ushered in a very dangerous time for Israel, because there was no longer a ruling family.

 

During this period of the Judges, there is nothing in the Bible about Israel having any trouble with Egypt.  Nevertheless, it is reasonable that Pharaoh Merneptah would have heard about Israel’s catastrophe.  After all, it was during Gideon’s time that Israel defeated Midian.  The nation called Midian in the Bible is thought to have been located across the Red Sea from Egypt, where Saudi Arabia is today.  However, some people think Midian’s territory extended as far north as the Sinai Peninsula.  That would have put them right on Egypt’s doorstep.

 

Pharaoh Merneptah would have been glad to know that Egypt was secure against any threat from that area, and that he could even march in and conquer it.   This would explain another line on the stela: “Palestine has become a widow for Egypt.”  This line is thought to mean that the area of Palestine was no longer defended against him.

 

We’ve seen that Gideon’s last year was 9,806 A.C. according to our Biblical calendar.  That corresponds to the year 1207 B.C.  How does this date compare with archaeology’s date for the Israel Stela?  It compares amazingly well.  According to the inscription, Merneptah’s great victory came in the fifth year of his reign.  The years of his reign are believed to be from 1213 B.C. to 1203 B.C.  So his fifth year would have been from 1209 B.C. to 1208 B.C.  But even a matter of a few months more would bring the date to sometime in the year 1207 B.C.  And so we see an extremely close match with our Biblical Calendar date for the end of Gideon’s time as judge.

 

Although there are no known artifacts earlier than the Israel Stela that can be accurately dated and that also match a Biblical event we can date, we can have confidence in the Biblical calendar.  Here then are the key events we have dated according to the Biblical calendar, now with dates that have meaning for us:

 

Of course, the calendar we use today had not yet been invented when any of these events occurred.  There were no “B.C.” dates then.  But if you could now go back in time by flipping pages on today’s calendar, month by month and year by year from the present until you came to each of the above years, you would find that these events occurred in the years indicated.  The Exodus really did happen, and it happened in the year 1447 B.C. – and that was 240 years before Gideon’s last year and 430 years after Israel entered Egypt.

 

 

Summary and Conclusions

 

We’ve seen that Genesis 15:13 (which mentions 400 years of affliction for Abraham’s seed); and Acts 7:6 (which mentions 400 years of evil treatment); and Acts 13:19-20 (“about the space of 450 years” from the time Israel entered Egypt until the land was divided among them); and Galatians 3:17 all support our understanding that the children of Israel were actually in Egypt for 430 years – just as we read in Exodus 12:40-41:

 

 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.  And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

 

We’ve also examined time information God gave us about Levi, his descendant Kohath, Kohath’s descendant Amram and Amram’s son Moses.  We’ve seen how this information confirms what God reveals about the 430 years – even though at first it seems to contradict that number.  And we’ve seen how God guides us to discover the correct way to use information about the calendar patriarchs.  Once we understand it, we can build a Bible calendar going all the way back to Creation.

 

Unlike other calendars that have been developed from the Bible, ours makes sense both historically and scientifically.  It addresses the major problem found in other Bible-based calendars, like the one developed by James Ussher.  He was a bishop who lived during the late fifteen hundreds to early sixteen hundreds; and he was a very smart and well-educated man.   From his study of the Bible, he concluded that God created the world in the year 4004 B.C., that the great flood occurred in the year 2349 B.C., and that Israel was in Egypt for only 215 years.

 

The biggest problem with his calendar is his date for the flood.  The flood could not have take place in 2349 B.C., as he calculated.   It must have occurred much earlier than that because it destroyed everything.  Today, we have good archaeological evidence that civilization existed before 2349 B.C. and continued right up to the present; so any date for the flood in the second or even third millennium B.C. is out of the question.  The Hebrew Calendar has the same problem.  (This is currently the year 5,775 according to that calendar).

 

If you recall how we used the Calendar Patriarch Method to count years from Cainan’s birth to Jared’s death, we found that it gave a much higher number than the method most people would use.  That’s why the correct dates for Creation and the flood are thousands of years further back in time than Bishop Ussher and others have calculated.

 

Of course, if you don’t want to believe the Bible, you might decide you should believe the so-called scientific teaching that life began by accident millions of years ago, then evolved into every living creature we see today.  According to a Wikipedia article about this,  “Anatomically modern humans arose in Africa about 200,000 years ago….”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_world).

 

Their article also claims that agriculture didn’t begin until about 10,000 years ago.  In other words, it took mankind about 190,000 years just to learn how to farm!

 

This is one of many ridiculous assumptions that have been made to fit the prevailing theory.  In fairness to scientists, we should realize that God created the earth to appear (at least in some ways) very much older than it really is.  If a team of scientists with all their modern instruments could somehow go back in time to the Garden of Eden the day after God created Adam, they would still conclude the earth must be billions of years old.  They would see light arriving from stars billions of light years away (but God created light before He created the stars – see Genesis 1:3); they would measure the amount of radioactive isotopes in rocks and conclude that the isotopes had been decaying for billions of years; and of course they would see Adam as a fully grown man – not realizing that he was just one day old.

 

In six days, God created a complete and operating universe.  He seems to have given us a clue about this in the miracle at the Cana marriage feast (John 2).  That was when the Lord Jesus changed water stored in six large waterpots into wine.  This was the first miracle the Lord Jesus did (John 2:11), and it reminds us of Creation because there were six days when the Lord worked (Genesis 2:1-2).  At the feast, the Lord instantly changed water into delicious wine.  Anyone who tasted it – like the man in charge of the wedding feast (John 2:9-10) – thought the wine had been aging for a long time, because that’s what is required to make a fine wine.

 

Most scientists today are like that man at the wedding feast, because God has fooled them into thinking that the situation is different than it really is.  Scientists think the earth must be billions of years old.  But with the Bible’s calendar, we know its true age.  We also know when other major events recorded in the Bible occurred, such as the flood, the Exodus, King David’s coronation, the fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and birth (in 7 B.C.) of the Lord Jesus.

 

Here’s the reason why it was important to know those dates: once we had them, we could see how much had time passed between any two of them.  Those time intervals illustrated patterns in God’s work.   That was how God revealed that there would be an end-time period (now finished) when He would save many people all over the world.

 

The true Bible Calendar and knowledge of that end-time period are evidence that God has fulfilled a promise He made to reveal certain information to His people when the last days arrived.  God made this promise to the prophet Daniel when He told him that “the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).  The book of Daniel also shows that until “the time of the end” (Daniel 12:9), God had “sealed” important information about time.  Also notice Ecclesiastes 8:5, which states “a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.”  This is another verse in which God has shown that His people (“a wise man”) will understand something that the rest of the world will not.

 

 

And Finally…

 

In 2011, there was great anticipation and even fear about the dates Mr. Camping predicted for the Rapture and the end of the world; but after those dates passed uneventfully, many who had been following his teachings apparently concluded that everything he taught about time was misguided.  That was a big mistake, because the Biblical calendar stands up to our scrutiny.

 

Think of it as a major step in understanding the time information God showed He would eventually reveal.  Once we had it, we could see that there would be a temporary end-time period when He would stop saving people, followed by a time when He saved a great many people all over the world (the latter rain).  However, God also shows that this great time of salvation ends before His return.  He does that in several ways by showing us pictures of His people waiting for Him after salvation has ended.

 

What does God tell us about those final days before His return?  The most important thing to know is that He makes it absolutely clear that we cannot know the date for the last day.  He gives us a little more information than just that, but apparently not much more.  He shows us that the period without salvation continues for a number of years; and He shows us that many people who were alive when salvation ended do not live long enough to see the Lord’s return.

 

Sadly, very few people understand these things.  Most of the world believes that evolution occurred gradually over many millions of years, and that this is the explanation for life on earth today.  Even many who belong to Christian congregations hold this belief.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Level_of_support_for_evolution

 

And among theologians and Jewish scholars, there is little if any acceptance of the Bible’s teaching that Israel was in Egypt for 430 years.  However, once we have a good understanding of the Biblical timeline, we can understand this truth and many other precious truths from the Bible.  Yes, this is the amazing information God had sealed until the end times.  It is not knowledge of the date for the end of the world.  Once you have a good understanding of these basic ideas, you will not be misled again by anyone claiming to know the date for the Lord’s return.

 

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