How long were the Israelites in Egypt?
The Bible says that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt for 430 years. Exodus 12:31-42 Exodus 12:40 says “the length of time that the Israelites lived in Egypt was 430 years.”
The New Testament also refers to this 430 years.
Galatians 3:17 says “ The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. “ Genesis 15:12-16
Because of this many scholars believe that the 430yrs commenced with the promise being given to Abraham 215yrs before Jacob and his family moved to Egypt.
The result of this is that some scholars believe that Jacob moved to Egypt only 215 years before Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt (The Short Sojourn).
Other scholars believe that the Jacob’s family numbering about 70, move to Egypt 430 years before the Exodus (The Long Sojourn).
When Jacob and his family went to Egypt, the Israelites numbered about 70. When they left Egypt they numbered around 2 million. They needed time time multipy to this number.
Not withstanding this, it is obviously important to know whether the Isralites were in Egypt for 430 years or 215 years so that we know in which dynasty to look for Joseph.
It is unclear if the Genealogy given in the Bible from Levi to Moses is complete. It appears that there were only 3 generations after Levi who was in the original group that went to Egypt, until Moses who was 80 years old when he lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Four Generations in Egypt would make a Long Sojourn unlikely (although their ages do add up to more than 400 yrs and they may have had children at an old age as did Abraham). It is also hard to see how the Israelites would come to number 2 million in 4 generations unless the tribes of Israel had shorter generation times than the Levites. Exodus 1:1-6 Exodus 6:13-26 Numbers 1:1-54 Numbers 2:1-34
Looking at the promise God made to Abraham it would appear that God was telling Abraham that his children would serve as slaves in a foreign land for 400 years and then God would bring them out of that land with great wealth and give them the promised land. Genesis 15:12-16 Acts 7:6-7
The place where Abraham received the promise was Cannan. This is where Jacob was born and returned to before moving to Egypt. In Genesis 15:12-16 & Acts 7:6-7 it is clear that the foreign land where the Israelites would serve as slaves for 400 years did not include Caanan.
It is also clear that the 400 years did not begin at the point that the promise was made. It was Abraham’s (Abram’s) descendants who would be enslaved and mistreated as strangers in a country not their own; not Abraham (Abram) himself. Abraham would enjoy peace and would die at an old age! Genesis 15:15
The Israelite oppression only lasted 400 years Genesis 15:12-16 . The Israelite Oppression ended when the 12th dynasty ended. The Exodus did not take place until 30 years later when Neferhotep I was ruling towards the end of the 13th dynasty.
Yet the Bible also tells us that the Israelites lived in Egypt for 430 years to the very day. Exodus 12:40-41
The Israelite Oppression ended when the 12th dynasty ended, about 10 years after Moses / Amenemhet IV went into exile at the age of 40 years. This was 400 years after Jacob and his family came to Egypt. The Exodus did not take place until 30 years into the 13th dynasty when Moses / Amenemhet IV returned to confront Neferhotep I at the age of 80 years.
The Israelite oppression lasted 400 years – it ended when the 12th dynasty ended. No more pyramids were built after the 12th dynasty. The 13th dynasty was very chaotic and the Pharaohs did not focus on oppressing the Israelites because their thrones were not stable enough and maybe their attitude towards the Israelites was slightly more sympathetic than that of the 12th dynasty pharaohs. The Exodus occurred 30 years into the 13th dynasty during the reign of Neferhotep I who was the longest ruling pharaoh of that dynasty (11 years).
Amenemhet III would have reigned between 2-6 years after Moses fled to Midian and Sobekneferu would have reigned between 4-8 years after her father Amenemhet III and then she died. When she died, the 12th dynasty ended as there was no heir to the throne. The result was that Egypt fell into Chaos. There was a rapid succession of Pharaohs in the 13th dynasty and as a result, the Israelites were not oppressed during this time. They were able to keep multiplying and prepare to leave Egypt.
If it is true that Joseph and Imhotep were the same person, then the first pyramid (the Step Pyramid in Saqqara) was designed by an Israelite at the beginning of Israel’s Sojourn in Egypt. What’s more, if the last of the great pyramids (those of the 12th dynasty) were constructed with a core made from mudbricks which were made by Israelite slave labour, then the Israelites were in Egypt while all of the great pyramids were being constructed. When the Israelites departed from Egypt in the 13th dynasty, lead by Moses, there were not enough slaves in Egypt to make construct pyramids any more. Thus the pyramid age coincides with Israel’s sojourn in Egypt. The pyramids were thus constructed over a period of around 400 years.
Egypt’s wealth and power reached it’s peak in the 12th dynasty under Sesostris III and his son Amenemhet III but as they had no successors, the Middle Kingdom started to fall apart when they died. Moses, an Israelite baby, was adopted by the Princess Sobekneferu and groomed to be the next Pharaoh (Amenemhet IV). Amenemhet IV did in fact co-reign with Amenemhet III for a period of 9 yrs but when he had to flee to Midian at the age of 40 years, there was suddenly no successor for Amenemhet III. His daughter Sobekneferu had to take over the reigns when Amenemhet III died. She only lived for another 4 yrs and when she died, the 12th dynasty ended, Egypt fell into turmoil and became politically unstable. There was a quick succession of Pharaohs in the 13th dynasty until Neferhotep who was the Pharaoh who was ruling when Moses (Amenemhet IV) returned from exile in Midian. After a series of ten plagues that were inflicted on Egypt, Neferhotep let Moses take the Israelities into the desert. When they did not return, he pursued them with his army. The Israelites were able to cross the red sea at the Gulf of Aqaba but Neferhotep and his army drowned when they tried to follow.
Not only did Egypt lose its slave labour force, it lost it’s monarch, it’s entire army and it’s transportation system. It was a massive defeat and not something that Egyptian historians would want to memorialize.
When the Israelites left Egypt, Pharaoh and his son died and all the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea taking all of Egypts chariots with them. Egypt was then thrown into turmoil. Thy Hyksos were able to take power and Egypts second intermediate period followed (until the Hyksos were finally defeated in the 18th dynasty).
The Israelites, therefore, had a profound influence on Egypt. Joseph saved Egypt from 7 yr famine, brought up all the land of Egypt and made the Pharaohs wealthy. Joseph designed the first pyramid (in the third dynasty), was the first to build with columns, write on papyrus and practice medicine and preservation methods. Later in their sojourn, the Israelites provided slave labour for various public works which included making mudbricks for the construction of the last of the great pyramids (those of the 12th dynasty).The Israelite Sojourn, therefore, coincides the Pyramid Age. Egypt was destabilised when Moses (Amenemhet IV) went into exile as there was nobody to continue the 12th dynasty. Egypt suffered massive losses as a result of the Exodus 40yrs later (1446BC) and as a result became vulnerable to invasion. The Hyksos took over and ruled Egypt for the next 400 yrs (the second intermediate period).