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400 years
13 God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.
NASBu  Genesis 15:13

6 But God spoke to this effect, that his descendants would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years.
NASBu  Acts 7:6

430 years
40 Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.
NASBu  Exodus 12:40

17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
NASBu  Galatians 3:17
 

SAB Contradiction 86
 

Bible Contradiction: 400 or 430 years?

Critics confront Bible believers with the dilemma of whether it was 400 or 430 years that the Israelites remained in Egypt, the house of slavery. The critics are rather backwards as this question is out of date. Much has been written about it and so the best way to react seems to discuss the verses in short.
 

Galatians 3:17 

"What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise."

The apostle Paul states that there was a period of 430 years between a COVENANT (between God and Abram) and the LAW.
Genesis 12:7 tells us that God appeared to Abram to make a covenant with him as he had reached the land of Canaan; this was the land where he wanted Abram to stay.
We read in Exodus 20 about the LAW given to Moses and the people of Israel on mount Sinai.
Obviously Paul reckons with a period of 430 years roughly between Abraham and Moses.

Most interesting is that this period of time is also followed by the old author Flavius Josephus and the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament in the second century B.C. So, Paul followed the standard interpretation of the figure 430.
 

Exodus 12:40-41

"Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.
And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt."

Unfortunately this verse is not translated correctly. The Hebrew word ‘moshab’ means: seat, dwelling place. However this is the only occasion of its use in the OT relating to a certain period of time and therefore it requires a different translation. It is: a period of being, or existence. The translation should therefore be: Now the time of (the existence of) the sons of Israel, after/when they had lived in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. It does not mean the time of the sojourning in Egypt, but rather the time that the people of Israel lived independently, as a clan or nation, since the covenant between Abraham and God.
 

Genesis 15:13

"God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where [literally: ‘and’] they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years…”

It is clear that God is speaking here about all the descendants of Abram; not only about the sons and grandsons of Jacob etc. No, Isaac was already oppressed by his brother Ishmael, who was a son of an Egyptian mother (Hagar). Ishmael laughed Isaac to scorn. This happened when Isaac was weaned and Abraham gave a great feast. Now Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, 25 years after his settlement in the promised land. Generally it took some years before a child was weaned. Obviously Isaac was 5 years old then. These figures together give 30 years and the prophecy to Abraham was that his descendants would be oppressed for 400 years. This period began with the scornful laughing of Ishmael and it had been fulfilled when the Israelites left Egypt, 430 years after the covenant between God and Abram.
 

Acts 7:6

"But God spoke to this effect, that his descendants would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years."

Stephan remarked exactly the order of events during the 400 years from Isaac onwards: Abraham’s descendants would be:
aliens in a foreign land, just as Abraham himself Isaac and Jacob were aliens in Canaan.
enslaved, it became worse when the grandsons of Jacob were made slaves by the Egyptians.
mistreated, at the last, the boy children were to be drowned in the river Nile.
 

The real answer

The Egyptian Captivity was neither 400, nor 430 years. Is it possible to know then what the biblical figure is? Yes, we have to reckon with 215 years in Egypt, as it took another 215 years before the Israelites left Canaan. Abraham had been in Canaan for 25 years when Isaac was born (12:4, 21:5). Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born (25:26). And Jacob met the Pharaoh when he was 130 (47:9). These periods together are 215 years for the patriarchs in Canaan and also 215 years (left) for the sojourn in Egypt, thus making a total of 430.
 

Skilled in criticism, not in evidence

It is clear that there are no Bible Contradictions in these texts. Of course the older Bible translations may give cause for some complaining, but it is the task of a mature critic to be informed concerning up to date evidence in matters of contradictions. It is too bad that critics are skilled in criticism, not in evidence.
 

No Bible Contradiction