The 400 and 430 year periods serve the purpose of bridging the gap between
the time of Abraham and the Exodus (of the children of Israel from Egypt).
Many have advanced various theories or solutions to the twin periods of
'four hundred years' and 'four hundred and thirty years', but when one
considers these theories carefully they do not completely satisfy the
The verses which mention these periods are as follows.
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.
:14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge;
afterward they shall come out with great possessions."
Acts 7:6 But God spoke in this way: that his descendants
would sojourn in a foreign land, and that they
would bring them into bondage and oppress them
four hundred years.
:7 'And the nation to whom they will be in bondage
I will judge', said God, 'and after that they
shall come out and serve Me in this place'.
Exod 12:40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel, who lived
in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.
:41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred
and thirty years - on that very same day - it came
to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out
from the land of Egypt.
[ Literal =
Exod 12:40 And dwelling of sons/builders of Israel, which dwelt
in Egypt, thirty year and four of hundreds year.
:41 And is becoming from end of thirty year and four of
hundreds year and is becoming very of the day this
they went forth all of hosts of Yahweh from land of
[ The rendering 'sojourn' is questionable. The Hebrew word according
to Strong's means "a seat; figuratively, a site; abstractly, a
session; by extension an abode (the place or time); ..." ]
Gal 3:15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it
is only a man's covenant, yet if it is confirmed,
no one annuls or adds to it.
:17 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.
In addition to these verses it is necessary to also consider the period of
Quoted from NIV
Acts 13:16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said:
"Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God,
listen to me!
:17 The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers;
he made the people prosper during their stay in
Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that
:18 he endured their conduct for about forty years in
:19 he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their
land to his people as their inheritance.
:20 All this took about 450 years.
:21 After this, God gave them judges until the time
of Samuel the prophet.
Quoted from NKJV
Acts 13:19 And when He had destroyed seven nations in the
land of Canaan, He distributed their land to
them by allotment.
:20 After that He gave them judges for about four
hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
The NIV rendering associates the 450 years with the period between
the choosing of the Fathers and the overthrow of the 7 nations.
The NKJV rendering associates the 450 years with the period between
the overthrow of the 7 nations and the arrival of Samuel.
The translations utilise two different received texts:
NIV - "About years four hundred and fifty. And after these He gave
judges until Samuel the prophet"
NKJV - "And after these about years four hundred and fifty He gave
judges until Samuel the prophet."
The text used by the NKJV mentions the 450 years following 'And after'
so initially indicating association with the judges period, but it
also mentions the 450 years immediately following the word 'these'
and the word 'these' refers to the prior mentioned events.
This NKJV received text does seem to carry a degree of ambiguity,
which could have been removed by a few extra words, eg
- And after these which took about years four hundred and fifty,
He gave judges until Samuel the prophet.
- And after these, about years four hundred and fifty passed during
which he gave judges until Samuel the prophet.
It is interesting to note that the NKJV translation moves the word
'judges' forward in their translation. The NKJV translation chooses to
mention 'judges' prior to the mention of the 450 years. In doing they
remove any ambiguity and depict only the latter meaning.
However, despite concerns over which received text is reliable and
issues over translation, God's intended meaning becomes quite clear
when one considers 1Kings 6:1. 1Kings 6:1 states that a period of 480
years passed from the Exodus to the 4th year of Solomon.
Hence a period of 450 years from the defeat of the 7 nations to Samuel
is clearly seen as being far too long! To equate with the duration of
the 1Kings 6:1 period, one would have to add at least 47 years to the
start (wilderness + defeat of 7 nations) and 20 + 40 + 40 years to the
end (Samuel, Saul and David).
So the 450 years would become at least 597 years and therefore be in
excess of 117 years over the defined 1 Kings 6:1 480 years.
So in conclusion the 450 years in Acts chapter 13 must be referring to
the period between the Exodus and the defeat of the 7 nations.
The NIV translation correctly identifies the events associated with
450 years and the NKJV translation does not.
Upon reflection the structure of the period of 450 years is suggested
Choosing of the Fathers to the Exodus 400
Wandering in the wilderness 40
Destroying of the seven nations 10
In summary, the main points concerning the twin periods of 400 years and
430 years can be listed as follows:
400 YEARS - 1) encompasses sojourning and bondage
2) involves Abraham's descendants, Gen 15:13.
3) ends with the Exodus, Acts 7:6-7 & 13:17-20.
4) begins with the choosing of the fathers!
(NB: The 400 year period initiates the longer
450 year period and since the 450 years
starts with the choosing of the fathers,
then the choosing of the fathers must
also be the event which begins the 400
430 YEARS - 1) encompasses some time in Egypt
2) ends with the Exodus, Exod 12:40.
3) begins with an event that occurs shortly
- ie, the same time of the year that Israel
left Egypt, Exod 12:41 'that very same day'.
4) begins when the Abrahamic covenant was
'confirmed'! Gal 3:17.
5) begins when the "sons of Israel" came into
Since both the 400 and 430 year periods end at the Exodus, it is apparent
their starting points are 30 years apart.
Unfortunately, even armed with this knowledge, determining the events which
initiate the 400 and 430 year periods is still difficult.
However, rather than at this point entering upon a lengthy analysis, for
the sake of brevity the starting points are simply stated.
400 YEARS - *** The Birth of Jacob ***
The 'chose our fathers' in Acts chapter 13 is a
reference to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The 'descendants' mentioned in Gen 15:13 and Acts 7:6
were Isaac and Jacob.
The selection of Jacob occurred at his birth, Gen 25:23.
(At this time Isaac was 60 years old and Abraham was 160
years old; Gen 25:26, 21:5.)
430 YEARS - *** The Intended Sacrifice of Isaac ***
This event was a type of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ,
which also occurred at Passover.
Following the willingness of Abraham to offer his son
God made the prior promises to Abraham unconditional!
Gen 22:16 ... "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD,
because you have done this thing, and have
not withheld your son, your only son,
:17 in blessing I will bless you, and in
multiplying I will multiply your descendants
as the stars of the heaven and as the sand
which is on the seashore; and your descendants
shall possess the gate of their enemies.
:18 In your seed all the nations of the earth
shall be blessed, because you have obeyed
- Exod 32:13, 'You swore by Your own self'
- Heb 6:13, 'because He could swear by no one
greater, He swore by Himself'.
[ NB: The circumcision covenant, which is described
in chapter 17 of Genesis, did not cause the
the promises to Abraham to be unconditional. ]
Although not dated this event would have occurred when
Abraham was 130(160-30) years old! Isaac about 30 years
of age, an adult!
The common, but ill-conceived,
portrayal of the intended
sacrifice falsely views Isaac
as a child.
1) Failing to recognise that the affliction suffered in Egypt never
spanned the entire period.
We only know for certain that the Israelites were afflicted the
last 80 years (length of life of Moses prior to the Exodus).
2) Not noticing that the length of the stay in Egypt could not have
exceeded 350 years (80 yrs + 137 yrs + 133 yrs).
Moses at the time of the Exodus was 80 years old.
Exod 7:7 And Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-
three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh.
The father of Moses was Amram, who lived 137 years.
Exod 6:20 Now Amram took for himself Jochebed, his father's
sister, as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses.
And the years of the life of Amram were one hundred
The father of Amram was Kohath, who lived 133 years.
Exod 6:18 And the sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron,
and Uzziel. And the years of the life of Kohath were
one hundred and thirty-three.
Kohath had already been born when Jacob entered Egypt.
Gen 46:8 Now these were the names of the children of Israel,
Jacob and his sons, who went to Egypt: ...
:11 The sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
3) Placing too much emphasis upon the text of Exodus 12:40-41, without
moderating it with the teaching of Galatians 3:17.
In Exodus 12:40 the 'who lived in Egypt' statement should be
considered a side comment and therefore not a clause which defined
the period of 430 years.
In Exodus 12:40 there appears to be two further aspects which would
initially indicate a quite different timing.
1) 'children of Israel'
The word 'Israel' may be thought to refer to Jacob and this would
lead to views which would try to allow at least two children of
Jacob to be born before the 430 years began.
Such an approach runs into difficulty with the above maximum
allowance of 350 years in Egypt as Jacob entered Egypt being
130 years old and did not have any children 80 years earlier,
(ie before turning 50 years old).
Therefore, rather than being a reference to Jacob, 'Israel'
in Exodus 12:40 has to be a reference to the spiritual nation
of Israel (ie sons/builders of the Promises).
2) 'dwelling of the children of Israel'
If this indicated a dwelling in one place, then that would be
in Egypt. However, once again the maximum time of 350 years in
Egypt would be a problem and not allow any interpretation which
would desire a full 430 years in Egypt.
While at first not obvious quality translations show the word
'was' as in 'was four hundred and thirty year' has been added.
One may at first wonder why the Hebrew sentence would not
indicate the 'was' as the verse does require it.
Looking back to the Strong's meaning of the Hebrew word for
'dwelling' we can notice that in the definition, if used in
an abstract manner, it could indicate abode not in a place,
but abode in time. This seemingly would provide the necessary
link to the 430 year time period without the need for a 'was'.
So the meaning would be 'abode in time ... 430 years'.
4) Another common oversight maybe to try and decide on an interpretation
of Exodus 12:40 without considering the impact on the derivation of
a credible biblical chronology. Whether Israel actually spent between
200-300 years in Egypt or 430 years in Egypt makes a huge difference
to any compiled chronology. While biblical chronology may not be a
subject studied in depth by many bible students it should be a factor
considered before reaching a conclusion upon the meaning of the Exodus