#32. 400 years of slavery in Egypt OR 430? (Gen 15:13 vs Ex 12:40)


The legendary time-span in which the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt is variously given. Genesis 15:13 states that it was 400 years, presented in the guise of prophecy from Yahweh’s own mouth. While in Exodus 12:40 the narrator states that it was 430 years. Not surprisingly, both of these passages belong to 2 different and once separate textual traditions which were later edited together. The account in Genesis is from the Yahwist, while that of Exodus from the Priestly writer, as we will see when we get to the book of Exodus.

Both of these dates are fictional. 400 is a traditionally used round number expressing 10 generations—10 x the mythic 40 yrs for each generation. The 430 years of P is calculated with a different plan in mind, and is representative of this author’s larger interest in dates and the periodization of history in general.

The earlier Deuteronomic tradition accords 430 years to the time period in which the Temple stood, from the 4th year of Solomon’s reign to its destruction by the Babylonians in 587 BC. The author of Ezekiel, an exilic text, presents Yahweh commanding Ezekiel to spend 390 days lying on his left side to pay for the sins of Israel (1 day equivalent to 1 year), and 40 days on his right side to pay for the sins of Judah (Ez 4:4-6). Thus the period of paying for sins was envisioned as being equivalent to the period in which the monarchy stood, 430 years. Could the Priestly writer be drawing from these traditions and using the Exodus captivity to also express the same period of paying for (future) sins? It seems likely.

So in P’s periodization there is a certain symmetry: 430 years of Egyptian captivity—430 years representative of the wilderness period and pre-monarchal Israel—430 years that the monarchy stood. This 430 year period will fuel later apocalyptic traditions. Fiction fueled by fiction, and forged into reality! Quite an interesting phenomenon!

That’s it for today. Short and bitter.

We have now successfully finished our first month of posting 1 biblical contradiction a day and we have only finished 1/3 of the book of Genesis! My goals have been: 1) trying to be as honest as I can to the biblical texts themselves (our J, P, E, etc.)—and not to the Bible which is a different thing all together; 2) explaining the contradictions in the biblical text—because it is a compilation of competing and variant texts and traditions; 3) speculating a bit on when these separate textual traditions were written, by whom, for whom, and to address what historical, religious, or political purpose; and 4) looking forward to the broader ramifications, conclusions, and questions this study ultimately raises about the Bible and more so about the ways in which we as a culture have come to (mis)conceptualize and (mis)understand the Bible. All of these goals and the questions they raise will follow us throughout this 5+ year-long study! I’d like to hear more from my readers on any of these aspects as we venture forward.

29 thoughts on “#32. 400 years of slavery in Egypt OR 430? (Gen 15:13 vs Ex 12:40)

  1. short answer Israelites were not enslaved for 430 years. It started at the beginning of the prophecy God gave to Abraham. egypt changed hands once and they did not reign 215 years each. that makes no since. Moses climbed a mountain at 120 years old and died at 120. People didn’t live that long. Now for the question of ”was it 400 years or 430 years?” Well Moses led the Israelites out at 430 years. Lets go backwards. Moses was in the wilderness 40 years. Thats 390 years when God put it in Moses heart to visit his brothers, he killed a man to show that God would deliver them from his hand, then fled when he figured out it was the wrong decision (Acts 7:23-25). God was going to use him and gave him 10 years to make himself useable, but he tried to free them with his own power instead and failed. So he postponed the plans of God for 30 years. the bible says he has a predetermined plan for us all but we can get in the way of that by disobeying God.

  2. Robert M., the main page says:

    Are you people ‘The Watchtower’?

    No – we’re an independent community site offering support for both current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses and anyone else who has been affected by the beliefs, doctrines and practices of the Jehovah’s Witness religion as governed by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (WTB&TS).

    I participated because at the time, there were some interesting discussions.

  3. John,

    That’s a very interesting discussion, but what is it doing on a Jehovah’s Witnesses website? It doesn’t look like the forum is for people who have left the movement.

  4. The post to which I linked makes no reference to “Egyptian history,” so much of your “rebuttal” is beating a straw man. Instead, my post uses THE BIBLICAL TEXT AND ITS CHRONOLOGY. Whether there was one pharaoh or ten doesn’t change the fact that for seven decades the Israelites were not “afflicted.” Your argument that Joseph was a “dog” as second in command of Egypt (!), and this somehow means that the Israelites were afflicted, is quite frankly silly. Aaron’s genealogy in Exodus 6:16-20 doesn’t even allow for 400 total years in Egypt, much less 400 years of affliction, which is why many people, including the Apostle Paul (Galatians 3:17; cf. LXX and SP of Exodus 12:40), opt for the short-sojourn theory that the Israelites were in Egypt for only 210 or 215 years. If you want to learn something rather than repeat apologetic “arguments,” read this thread:

    By the way, I looked at your blog. You wrote: “I found a web site that supposes to refute the Bible. John Kessler, an anonymous poster, makes this comment about the 400 years of Israel’s plight in Egypt.” Aside from the fact that you misspelled my name, you showed that you don’t even know what anonymous means (yet you’re an expert on Egyptian history and the Bible). How ironic that someone posting as “HM RO” calls someone using his real name “anonymous.” I will not be responding to any “rebuttal” you may post. I think it would be a waste of time.

  5. HM RO responds – JOHN KESLER: there is one simple answer to both of your “problems” with what I said earlier:

    0. As a side point, The Israelites were afflicted in Egypt for the predicted 400 years – the Scriptures are accurate. The problem comes when you understand that Egyptians were not Historians as you know them today; rather, those who carved images into rock were hired to praise the Pharaohs and Egypt in their carvings. (Ever hear the comment, “The victors write history.”?) Now, I don’t know about you, but when my kingdom gets God-smacked into oblivion, and I have a few remaining “historians” to write my history and epitaph, well – I would want them to edit out those unsavory details, being the self-centered and narcissistic Pharaoh-bastard that I would be, if that were me as king of Egypt. The fact of where Egypt’s “historians” edited much of their history, as well as there are still many holes and inaccuracies in Egyptian history as it stands, shows me that Egyptian history cannot be 100% trusted.

    That’s not all!

    When I researched who was Pharaoh, by-name, at the time of Exodus 1-14, I found three different names from three different sources for the same Pharaoh(s) – I believe there was more than one Pharaoh in Exodus 1-14 — Exodus 2:23 (the king of Egypt died). (My supposition is that I will find more different names, with more ambiguous time periods applicable.)

    * The point here is: Egyptian History is entirely unreliable and highly questionable as to its accuracy. Therefore, it is more-likely that the Bible’s account of Israel’s history is accurate, whereas Egyptian History remains subjective, ambiguous, and relative to the scholarship or researcher in-question. So, let’s continue to the Bible.
    Now, as to your “detailed” information in your given link, above: you have to remember a few key points.

    1. Joseph may have come into “power” at 30, but he came into EGYPT much sooner – and as a slave to a master, to-boot, then as a jailed prisoner – both of which sound like affliction to me. (Affliction is ambiguous; many people today work jobs that they hate, so they are afflicted at their jobs, even if they are being paid. Affliction is not the same as slavery; Slavery is a sub-section of Affliction. One can be afflicted and not be a slave, and furthermore, affliction comes in many forms, not just bondage and labor with rigor.)

    2. Joseph was under Pharaoh for 80 years, and while he ministered the kingdom for Pharaoh, it was always under Egyptian Rule, not under Hebraic rule – make no mistake, the Egyptians were not ruled by the Hebrews and Joseph (Genesis 39:17, Genesis 39:19, Genesis 43:32). Once again: you can work a job you hate, and you can live comfortably in a land where your religion and your culture is suppressed – but make no mistake: you are afflicted by another if oppression occurs at any level. Affliction does not always mean “slaverly”. In other words: you can be THE TOP DOG of the company you work for, but you are still a DOG.

    * With these two points (1 and 2 above), this cancels out your opinion as to Joseph’s years in Egypt.
    * Add +80 to +110 years back into the equation.

    3. This next point will destroy your second essay paragraph in your link concerning the age of the Pharaoah and of Moses not being congruent. One simple Bible verse terminates your entire hypothesis:

    Exodus 2:23 And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.

    So, the Pharaoh that was alive at Moses’ time in Egypt? He died. But this is obviously not the same Pharaoh as in Exodus 1, or 4, or 7, or 10, or 14, or whatever chapter you want to name in-between Exodus 1-14. There could have been two to four different people as “Pharaoh”, as far as my calculations go.

    * The fact is: there was more than one person as “Pharaoh”, and here is why.

    Your problem is that you don’t understand History and you don’t understand other people’s Religions. As in many religions today, at that time, the Egyptians believed that the Pharaohs were GODS and that when their bodies perished, the Phoenix rose again and reincarnated the new Body, and that person / body was the new Pharaoh. Ever notice how the Bible doesn’t give the name of the Pharaoh in Exodus 1-14? That’s because they are different! Pharaoahs. However, the OFFICE of Pharaoh, much as the OFFICE of President in America, remains the same concept: one office, one President – one Pharaoh.

    Oh, and I am 100% sure that all Pharaohs held the same attitude and standard of themselves, their self-centered narcissism playing out in the African sun – Pharaoh says of himself, “I am a god among men.”

    The fact that Pharaohs were the demi-human gods of their times, but not always the same person, proves beyond doubt that the Pharaoh in Exodus 1 is not the same person / body / human being as the Pharaoh in Exodus 2, or beyond – but they are all called, “Pharaoh”, just as all former presidents are all called, “president”, in today’s society. (This is what Egyptian History, as I reviewed above, is showing me as scientific fact.)

    Remember: the text of the Bible is not applicable on a Universal level; that is, just because it is not listed in the Bible does not mean that the events are written as a historical application to you or me, though the events recorded as history did, in fact, happen as written. In simpler terms: if it happened in the Bible, it happened in history as-recorded, but if the Bible does not mention it, that does not mean or prove that it did NOT happen, even though it is not evident on the page of the text. (Most people forget that fact.)

    *** The simple fact that the king of Exodus 1, the Pharaoh of Exodus 1, is not the same person as the one that died in Exodus 2 shows that your hypothesis – that Pharaoh’s age was three times that of Moses – is entirely as ridiculous as you made it sound, and any rational human being already knows how to figure this out.
    Therefore, add the remaining years back into the equation of 400 years of affliction (because of points 1 to 3 above), unless you have another point of proof, in which case I will deal with at my earliest convenience.

    Continue this discussion on: bibleartmathscience .blogspot .com if you like. I am not afraid to publicly publish this blog address, as I can remove any blogs or comments I deem inappropriate or vulgar from it. Also, I can focus on your particular concerns, and I am more than happy to do so on my blog – although I will remove inappropriate comments, I will not remove comments that are merely in-error or wrong. I will simply refute them, with science, with history, and with the Scriptures as well. Waiting on you to respond. HM RO 05/23/16

  6. Correction to my previous comment:

    Keep in mind, we are being honest to the Biblical text as it is written, as we find it, as we read – and we are, with this one point, ignoring our Biblical bias and favor towards the Bible. We are not “speculating” / we are not forming a theory or conjecture without firm evidence / which is what most Bible critics do.
    Here are the facts as they stand. (Note: all references from the King James Bible).
    1. The Hebrews sojourned / temporarily stayed / in the land of Egypt 430 years. (Exodus 12:40)
    2. The Hebrews were afflicted / caused great pain or trouble / for 400 years. (Genesis 15:13)
    3. The words “sojourned” and “afflicted” are not the same – not the same definitions.
    * Would you want to sojourn in a land, or would you want to be afflicted in a land? I know my choice.
    4. So, to say that Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40 are a contradiction in the Bible is to put ignorance on display for the whole world to see.
    5. What accounts for the 30 year difference? The events of Joseph’s life in Egypt, and of course, that difference is accounted for in Exodus 1:1-6, 1:8, and 1:11-14.

    * Now, like you, I have been brutally honest with the text, only taking what is written as the truth. How the Bible is written, and to what extent it demonstrates the truth: I believe that is evident now. There is no contradiction between Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40.

  7. Thanks for details on “how long were Hebrews in slavery in Egypt”, because in WHEN GOD WAS A WOMAN by Ms Merlin Stone, 1976, Harvest Press, Dial Press, she claimed that they were only there 4 generations, so could not have had so many to leave without getting many from other nations, who worshiped the Mother Goddess. (page 167).

    1. Wow, When God was a Woman. . . read that many decades ago when I was going through my “goddess” phase. lol! Now, I’m much more wary about books such as this, where non-specialists write about the Bible. As noted by John’s comment, it looks like there were a variety of conflating traditions concerning the length of the enslavement or stay in Egypt, some of which I’ve written about elsewhere in other contradictions. This is one of those contradictions that need a rewrite.

  8. Isaiah 44:24 – (God created the world by His self alone)
    John 1:3; Colossians 1:16 – (Jesus made all things)

    John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,

    Isaiah 9:6 – For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

    Jesus CHRIST will come back one DAY; Even though we would not know the day or hour (Mat 24:36 Mark 13:32).

  9. To quote Steve:

    Shit, “hell” and “heaven” weren’t even fathomable nor conceivable ideas to 45 of these authors, and it needs to be stressed were not fathomable nor conceivable ideas to their god, Yahweh, as well!

    As I have already asked Steve to elucidate, on many occasions, just who were/are these 45 authors he has inside info on? Name names, Steve!

    You who know all about Yahweh…shouldn’t you be able to give us your sources for such insight?

  10. Ric,

    it is obvious that Steven took exception to Jesus-is-your-Savior and the comments he made. And this “unfiltered” rant took place the same exact day. In fact, Steven had gone “missing in action” for over a year and a half after multiple contributions from someone named sure thing. sure thing posted a lengthy and erudite rebuttal to this site’s premise. He broke it up into several posts, one after another and contrary to Steve’s usual pattern of “spaming” people like this with his standard approach which is always the same and usually around 700-1000 words in length, Steve went MIA from March 8, 2013 to November 6, 2014. I assume he was dealing with those on this site who more closely follow his life’s work during this time frame. No sense dealing with a head ache like sure thing!

    That and the thought that maybe Steve made up the Jesus guy, told us how he was set to not even let his perspective be posted to start with, but did so in the name of being truly even handed. And then kind of “unloading” and explaining why afterward. After all, Steve is only human! Who wouldn’t have reacted the exact same way!

    My guess, based on how I have NOT REACTED when Steven has lost it with me—my guess is that ‘sure thing’ would not have reacted with a rant like that…(;~))

  11. I am still confused at what exactly you were railing against… you seem to take umbridge with something someone said or intimated but its hard to tell exactly what set you off.

  12. Dr. Steven DiMattei says: —

    what are you saying and to whom?

    you made a book rant which really says nothing at all other than everyone is wrong without a single bit of evidence nor even what we are wrong about… nice job doc.

    1. Thanks Ric!

      Yes, indeed, in one of my rare moments, I ranted…. profusely and without filter!

      The basic distinction that I think needs to be addressed—and which I’ve written about amply throughout this site…. thus the rant with no textual evidence—is the difference between reader-oriented interpretive meanings and beliefs about the biblical texts AND author-centered meanings, messages, beliefs, even ideologies of each one of the 70 some authors of this anthology of ancient literature independently. This is a complex issue. As I’ve written elsewhere (What is the Bible?), first, the label “Bible” more so “Holy Bible” already prejudices the case by prescribing that the reader read the texts as a “Book.” My point simply is that this is a later reader-oriented subjective interpretive framework imposed upon this collection of ancient texts by readers who lived centuries after these texts were composed, and which often refutes, denies, suppresses, interprets away, etc. the meanings, messages, beliefs, competing ideologies and theologies of this corpus of literature of many authors. This is just one small, but prominent, piece of the issue here. In general, this translates to “reading” the texts to 1) legitimate the readers’—and there are many and diverse—beliefs and/or beliefs about the texts OR 2) reading the texts on the terms of their 70+ authors, in their different historical and literary contexts, which in and of itself spans 1,000 years and 2 hugely different cultures, and attempting to understand them individually and contextually.

      So to provide a concrete example, when I read through the book of Leviticus and post its contradictions, I am only really interested in understanding and faithfully reproducing to the best of my ability the author’s beliefs, worldview, ideologies, the hows and whys of his composition, of his world, the texts that influenced his beliefs, why he believed what he did, the audience he was writing to and why, the historical concerns or even crises that prompted him to compose what he did, and against what other literary works or other scribal and/or priestly guilds. That’s it. I’m not interested in what modern nor NT readers believe(d) about Leviticus (which are usually wrong and negligent of the text itself because they fail to address any of the issues I just enumerated above). When we read Leviticus in this manner—and granted this already requires knowledge about post-exilic Judaism, ancient literature, the literary, political, and cultural world of the ancient Near East, etc.—we immediately see that the views and beliefs of this author, presented as divine words from Yahweh’s mouth, contradict and compete with many of the views and beliefs of a rivalry priestly guild, who wrote Deuteronomy, and who also used Yahweh as a mouthpiece to legitimate their beliefs, views, ideology, etc. And this is just one example out of hundreds. Indeed, this is properly ancient literature!!

      It was only centuries later that scribes collected these different textual traditions and formed first, “the Torah of Moses as commanded by Yahweh” (Neh 8:1) in the 4th c. BCE and centuries later the Bible. These later interpretive frameworks, however, deny the individual messages, beliefs, and ideologies of these previously independent texts, and in most cases force later readers to “read” and interpret these earlier texts through the reader-oriented subjective interpretive lens of these later interpretive traditions. Moreover, these later interpretive framework are forged from how these later readers understood and “read” these texts due to their own concerns and historical needs.

      I hope this clarifies a bit. But this information in more detail is already here on this site. — cheers

  13. To the origina auther and his supporters. Not only you refuse to enter the gate of Heaven, but you are forcing others to do the same. Think about it, what if the Bible is true in every aspect, then you are wrong including all your researches. But if you repent your soul and give your heart to Jesus the Messiah, you will be saved. But if you resist the message of the Bible, you choose your condemnation: the Wrath of God, Hell, eternal death. I feel so sorry for you guys, and I pray that you turn to the living God now. Thanks

    1. Wow. Looks like spam, smells like spam. I almost deleted it as spam. Wait, it is spam!

      So basically, the ignorant masses, including yourself apparently, have given an ultimatum to the rest of us who seek understanding: follow what I believe says this commenter OR understand what the Bible’s many messages and authors have said and why. Additionally, the above commenter seems to arrogantly imply: do not attempt to study the biblical texts, nor learn about their authors, their beliefs, their divergent beliefs, don’t attempt to understand ancient literature historically, contextually, or any manner for that matter, don’t attempt to educate yourself on how this collection of literature came to be labeled the “Bible” by readers living centuries after its once individual texts were written, indeed don’t read the texts with an aim to understand their messages at all–just believe my drivel says this fella.

      Wow…. unfortunately history has shown that this type of “listen to what I say about the texts rather than what the texts say about themselves” has exerted an all to influential role in dulling the human spirit and intellect. Shame that God could not create a sentient being that evolved and progressed in his thinking and even spiritual understanding. Throw ye books away readers, toss learning out the door, give God the boot even, I’m closing the site down—all humans are now to follow the drivel above, no questions asked. Might as well move to China too (but alas there might be more independent thinking going on over there)

      Get educated please. This site is about what the Bible says, and not what you yourself believe or myself, or other readers for that matter. There are ample texts, and authors!, in this collection of 70+ ancient texts that would adamantly and explicitly refute your theological BS above. You yourself have chosen to take as more important your beliefs which in the end rest on views and beliefs held by readers who lived centuries after these texts were composed, rather than on an objective author-oriented and historically contextualized reading of this collection of ancient texts, founded on understanding what each of these authors believed and why. Indeed you have failed to know and learn anything about these texts, because they are not really of any concern to you. Your beliefs are! — which indeed it may be concurred rest on 5 to 10 of the authors of the 70+ authors of this anthology of ancient literature! By the percentages alone, then, it is you who resist the message(s) of the other 60 some authors of this collection! But alas, I know, their beliefs and the whys and hows of their texts are not important to you. What is important is that later readers also ignorant of the authors and individual and competing messages of their texts, out of concerns and beliefs shaped by their own historical circumstances, reduced these messages and beliefs into one message and one Book! Because, alas, in the end, the reader is more important than the authors, reader’s beliefs trump those of these dead authors. Shit, “hell” and “heaven” weren’t even fathomable nor conceivable ideas to 45 of these authors, and it needs to be stressed were not fathomable nor conceivable ideas to their god, Yahweh, as well! But alas, you’re neither interested in learning about how, why, and when such ideas were created. Hint: the answer is in this collection of 70+ texts that span 1,000 years, roughly the 8th c. BCE to the 1st c. CE. Ah, but why do I try….. the Bible will forever elude you.

  14. Ric made the best comment there is no way the 400 or 430 years can start from Jacob bringing his tribe down into Egypt. The line of Joseph of Ephraim, Joseph saw the third generation Ge 50:23. Ex 6:16 Levi has a son Kohath, who has a son Amram and his son is Moses!! 3 generations. Ruth 4:19 Judah has a son Perez who has a son Hezron who has a son Ram, who has a son Amminadab Ex 6:23 4th generation.
    Plus Israel is using Egyptian battle formation Nu 10:11-, The Ex 19 looks like the ceremony for Ushabti. “all you say we will do” Wearing white? Firstborn are the leaders? Egypt influenced them. What about Jewish Peyot vs the Horus lock or sidelock or youth? growing flaxseed for linen, pressing olives Egyptian. The ark? Egyptian throne, Nu 33:3 We marched out of Egypt with a high hand? look at any hieroglyphic

  15. This still doesn’t answer how a large number of people could spend 430 years in a foreign land and not be influenced by the local inhabitants. Who says they weren’t affected? Perhaps the “experts” are overlooking what is evident, once again, simply because the effect isn’t what they expect. It isn’t really that hard to believe that they have overlooked something, is it? In the time of Joseph, Senusret II was the first known Pharaoh to establish quarters for workers – that sounds kind of like state endorsed segregation. The texts tell us that Egyptians were xenophobic of those that did not conform to their customs. (Genesis 43:32, Exodus 8:26) The Israelites were detestable to them because they kept their traditions. They didn’t shave. They worshiped a different God, etc. They were treated like pariahs. There was, of course, some inevitable influence from being exposed to the Egyptian culture. Genesis 15:14 alludes to the fact that the Israelites would “come out [of Egypt] with great possessions” and they did – if you are truly reading the texts honestly it should be obvious to you what they left with…

    I’m sure you think of me as naive (or worse) but we have two separate viewpoints. Is my view really untenable and a fictive creation? No more so than yours. Am I biased? Of course. What’s your point? You believing that you are not is what should really be troubling to your readers. You show no qualms of making assertions based on your feelings, proclaiming them as fact. Fiction fueled by fiction.

  16. So, what about the problem of the city Rameses named in Exodus 1:11? It didn’t exist till much later, right? You are using your Documentation Theory to your benefit and then ignoring it when it would work against your hypothesis. You should be jumping at this mention of Rameses as proof of the Documentation Theory. For example, it would be confusing for you if I were to tell you a story about a trip I took to Nouvelle-Angoulême last summer. I would have to stop in the middle of my story and explain that Nouvelle-Angoulême was renamed to New Netherland, and then later renamed once more to New York. Renaming cities is a common practice (as is having multiple cities with the same name as I have already brought up in your post about the “Shechem massacre” that you have yet to answer). Invoking a controversy here seems very disingenuous to your stated objectives of being honest to the scribes.

    Now, what about the fact there is no extra-biblical mention of the “Israelites” until 1207 BC? Again, this supports the Documentation Theory. The story in Genesis tells us Joseph and his family moved into Egypt (again, using the biblical dates at face value, this would have been under the rule of Senusret II). These would be the people that would come to be known as the Israelites, but at what point in history would they earn that title? I don’t know about you, but I come from a very large family (far more the “70” of Jacob’s descendants mentioned in Exodus 1:5) and I have never used some nationalistic name to describe us. The Biblical authors would have logically placed this title on them when referring back to them. The fact that the name “Israelites” is not recorded earlier then 1207 BC is irrelevant. There is a lot of evidence that there were Asiatic slaves in Egypt – which is what Jacob’s family was considered. Was there 600,000 that of them that left Egypt like in Exodus 12:37? Probably not, but I have no problem accepting this number was most likely a symbolic figure for a large group of people.

  17. You asked why didn’t/couldn’t the scribes record the Pharaohs’ names if they had access to more information than us. There could be many explanations. Perhaps it was cultural thing, always referring to the current Pharaoh as “Pharaoh”, an inherited tradition from their time in Egypt. Maybe they did record the name of the Pharaoh in the text, by way of associative evidence, but it has been overlooked.

    The main character in the Exodus narrative was obviously Moses – also rendered as Mose or Mosis. This name was borrowed from Egyptian culture. In fact, the Biblical text clearly states the “Pharaoh’s daughter” named him (Exodus 2:10). This was a “family” name. Again, simply taking the Biblical dates at face value (and using the c. 970 BC date for the beginning of Solomon’s reign) it would place Moses’ birth around 1526 BC. In Exodus 1:8, the text states a new Pharaoh came to power at the time of his birth. Indeed, in the archeological record, Pharaoh Thutmose I ascended to the throne in exactly 1526 BC.

    Thutmose’s daughter, Hatshepsut, perfectly matches the description of the Pharaoh’s daughter given in the story. I’ll outline some of her ancestral history for you (highlighting the family name to make it a little more obvious): her dad was Thut•mose I, her mother, Ah•mose, her brothers were Amen•mose and Wadj•mose, and she was married to her half-brother, Thut•mose II. I’m sure you are aware the Egyptians considered Pharaohs to be gods. Each of her family member’s names was an amalgamation of the name of an Egyptian god with the suffix of Mose(s). When she named Moses, being that he obviously wasn’t Egyptian, no god name was attached. Considering this, the Biblical scribes did in fact record the Pharaoh’s name after all.

  18. The starting points of our perspectives are worlds apart. You say that you take an honest look at the texts but I believe your actions show otherwise; it is only an “honest look” from your perspective. I see an agenda in your words that mocks my worldview; a personal agenda that makes me question your true motivates. I suppose we have this view of each other in common. Your mind is already made up. The way I see you go about solving the issue of the Bible in your life is by treating it as a fictitious, contradicting work, weaved together by manipulative men for political reasons. You work from this opinionated, preconceived mindset, and I, another.

    Despite this reality, I will attempt to share my views. So far I don’t agree with you presented ideas – but I do not rule out your premise. You say we need to forego our assumptions, but your work is nothing but assumptions. I have not witnessed any proof that convinces me that you have some unique insight into the Biblical writer’s motives aside from your own projected feelings. The Biblical authors (P, J, E, etc.) had access to records you and I do not. This is an absolute and undeniably fact – I find your inability to grasp this is an indictment of your education. Not only is it a universal law (I’m not going to explain entropy to you); it is evident within the texts. You have postulated simple objections, but the truth is if you were reading the texts honestly, you would see a lot of the answers to them are right there in front of you. The scribes left us a lot of clues. I can explain some of them to you from my point of view, but your already established interpretive lens will undoubtedly outright reject my explanations, as you have already demonstrated.

    As for the Solomon date I listed (and I didn’t say anything about his death), I don’t know what proof you expect me to give you. Would you like the link to Wikipedia? Do you think I should conduct my own archeological expedition for you? I used the dates for his reign (c. 970 BC to 930 BC) from a respected secular source, Israel Finkelstein. These dates are well accepted. I didn’t force my presented theory by mapping similar sounding pharaohs to fudged numbers as you suggest – I didn’t have to. The Biblical dates lined up perfectly simply by taking them at face value.

  19. What? My contribution is most certainly relevant – you made the proposition that the number of years listed, by both the Yahwist and Priestly sources were fictitious, and then “proved” this with some rambling conjecture. You, sir, provided absolute zero proof – not one single source. I, on the other hand, offered a very simple and verifiable proof using secular sources, listing terms, names, and dates recorded in the Bible, along with those provided by archeologists. Anyone with google can look them up. I know this contradiction topic was not about the Exodus, per say, but about the “430 years” construct. Since these years are attached to the dating of the Exodus, it is definitely a valid criticism to your “fictitious dates” theory to show that it is possible these years were meant to be read literally.

    The first date you quoted (Gen 15:13) clearly uses the round, mythic structure for its fabrication. From here, your reasoning falls apart. One piece of evidence you put forth to back your claim was, “The earlier Deuteronomic tradition accords 430 years to the time period in which the Temple stood.” There is not one credible source that uses this date. Almost all scholars say the Solomon’s Temple is recorded as standing for 410 years. That right there already starts to blow a hole in your theory, wouldn’t you say?

    You are taking this fabrication notion and then projecting it onto the other dates without taking into account, not only the archeological evidence, but even the textual evidence. As I pointed out, the second dates (both in Exodus 12:40, and 1 Kings 6:1) are very specific; they use phrases like, “too the very day.” This language indicates the exact opposite of what you suggest! The scribes wrote these words to be read as actual recorded history and they understood it as such. Why else would the use such specific date anchoring language? Now, you can take the position, as you have done, to say that these scribes were simply liars trying to manipulate their “intended” audience. This view is also a “readers bias”, as you would call it. It is only how you feel about it. You have no proof. In no way have you invalidated the possibility that these authors wrote honestly with the intent of sharing their history to the best of their ability – using many different literary styles.

    It is funny that you accuse me of not properly reading the texts or your posts; I could do the same. We follow the same words in very different ways…

  20. In Israel Finkelstein’s book, “The Bible Unearthed”, he dated Solomon’s reign to c. 970 – 930 BC. Like mentioned, Solomon started the temple construction in 4th year of his reign, c. 966 BC. In fact, the Biblical text is specific – right down to naming the very month.

    1 Kings 6:1 NIV – In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month [This would be March/April on our calendar], he began to build the temple of the LORD.

    So, if we count back 480 years from 966 BC, we arrive at the date of the Exodus – March/April, 1446 BC. Now, not so coincidentally, this lines up almost perfectly with the reign of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Thutmose III, whose death is record as March 11, 1445 BC when using the High Chronology. Going back 3,500 years into the past, a one year margin of error is not too shabby.

    Of course, just because these dates happen to line up doesn’t necessarily mean that much… But wait, there’s more! Thutmose III was succeeded by Amenhotep II, his second born son. His first born, Amenemhat died before he could take the throne. In Thutmose III’s vizier’s tomb, there were murals depicting Asiatic slaves making mud bricks. Thutmose III is known as the Napoleon of Egypt because of his numerous military campaigns – in one campaign, he is recorded as capturing over 90,000 Canaanite slaves… And there is so much, much more; but let us move on.

    Exodus 12:40-41 NIV – Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt.

    Counting back once more, 430 years from 1446 BC, we arrive at 1876 BC, the date the Israelites originally entered Egypt. With a little bit more deductive work, we can actually calculate the date of Joseph’s promotion. He was placed in charge and then there was a period of “seven years of abundance” (Gen 41:53). This abundance was then followed by a famine. Two years into this famine, Joseph, using the opportunity of his position, made himself known to his bothers, reconciling their differences (Gen 45:6). The brothers returned home, gathered their family, and returned to Egypt, arriving back in about a year.

    This would mean Joseph’s promotion occurred approximately 10 years before the Israelites arrival, c. 1886 BC. Again, going by the High Chronology, this would put Joseph under the reign of Senusret II, the 4th king of Egypt’s 12th Dynasty. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had some sort of archeological proof of this? We do!
    Senusret II’s largest civil project has always been named after Joseph, and it not only exists today, it is still in use. The Bahr Yussef, which translates as “the waterway of Joseph”, is a canal system that created an oasis so large that it can literally be seen from space.

    You are free to dismiss the historical and archeological evidence in favor of Dr. Steven DiMattei’s alternative “fictional dates hypothesis” if you want. The reality is, the Biblical authors (P, J, E, etc.) had access to records he does not, meaning the basis of his conclusions are built off from assumptions. Personally, I think I’ll stick with the hard evidence.

    1. Surething, Thank you for this lengthy contribution, but it has nothing to do with this particular contradiction and certainly nothing to do with claims of the alleged historicity of the biblical narrative.

      First, this post does not deal with the Exodus; we will get there at the end of March I imagine. It deals with 2 contradictory dates given by biblical scribes. And if you were sincere about these texts that these scribes produced you would see that they both are narrative constructs, as discussed above. That is, they are creations internal to each authors’ narrative and narratice chronology. You have not disproved this, nor disproved the biblical contradition. You’re actually deflecting the issue, it would seem, to something else.

      Second, the precise date of Solomon’s death is unknown, precisely because we have no extra-biblical material corroborating the biblical account AND more so because the biblical account uses the legendary 40 years for both his and David’s reign. The dates of 1444 or 1446 BC are no different. But more problematic, you seem to make the mistake of arguing ontology from literature. This is the putative date that this biblical scribe, one scribe, himself created, AND moreover, we’re not out of the woods yet: it contradicts the date for the Exodus given in Ex 1:11 that places it during the building of Ramases’ city (see forthcoming contradiction #81 and #82)! Furthermore, the chronology of the Priestly writer is a construct that he himself created. Studying this writer and the texts he wrote would reveal this.

      Third, your claim — “at 1876 BC, the date the Israelites originally entered Egypt”—is untenable and a fictive creation on your part!! What evidence states this or even corroborates it? Certainly not the Bible. Point of fact, there is no archaeological, extra-biblical, nor biblical evidence to corroborate this fanciful claim. Our earliest archaeological or textual data that even mentions the “Israelites” is the Merneptah stela of 1207 BC, which commemorates his destruction of a people named Israel. On the archaeological level, Israelite pottery and other distinctive cultural traits, such as the absence of pig bones, do not appear in Palestine until the 12th century BC. The Israelites were just not around earlier than this (per Finkelstein, Dever, Smith, Thompson, Lemche, Propp, etc).

      It is you who are providing NO historical or archeological evidence here. In fact, you’re trying to map fiction onto reality by referencing some historical reigns of Egyptian Pharaohs and forcing biblical narrative onto that. Scholarship does not advance by picking out dates of Pharaohs and then mapping a piece of literature onto that. That’s like me taking a Spiderman movie, arguing that all the historical references are real, right down to the store spideys’ father was killed in front of and then claiming that all the historical and archeological evidence in the film supports the existence of Spiderman.

      Furthermore, in pressing biblical narrative into your framework, use miss the point of these stories! You’re not reading these texts in their own historical and literary contexts, but instead you’ve shoplifted them out of their context and are trying to read them in your own context, as real history! I realize that this is the normative practice, but we need to be more honest to the genre of ancient literature here. Take a look at Stories to understand a bit about ancient stories, texts, and storytellers. Or more relative, read How do we know that the biblical writers WERE NOT writing history?

      Lastly, I’m getting a bit irritated not only with your inability to read my posts, and the biblical texts, but more so with the false attacks you laden your comments with. “You are free to dismiss the historical and archeological evidence in favor of Dr. Steven DiMattei’s alternative “fictional dates hypothesis” if you want. The reality is, the Biblical authors (P, J, E, etc.)…” This is horseshit. First, as noted above, you have offered no evidence! Second, you again make claims out of thin air and call them fact: “the authors P, J, E knew these Egyptian archives.” Really? Is that why they can’t even name the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Nor get its date right (#85)? Nor name any historical references in the narrative? Nor are there any Egyptian records of a large number of Israelites in Egypt during the alleged time periods proposed by our biblical sources; no literary nor archaeological records of a mass flight of 600,000 males (Ex 12:37) accompanied by women, children, servants, and livestock in what would have been a heavily fortified Egyptian presence from Egypt to Canaan; no archeological record of settlements in the Sinai peninsula in and around the time of Rameses II, or the whole New Kingdom period (15th-11th c. bc) for that matter—especially true of Kadesh-barnea where this one million plus troop allegedly encamped for 38 of the 40 years spent in the peninsula; and no trace of Egyptian influence on Hebrew material culture and language as the result of four centuries of direct Egyptian contact.

      Finally, “my fictional dates hypothesis” as you claim is supported by the texts themselves: 2 different authors created the 400 years tradition and the 430 years traditions for purposes that suited their version of the story. I’m reading the texts and making a valiant effort to understand them and to be honest to them and their authors, and that’s considerably more than I see you doing. We need to forego our assumptions about the texts, in order to actually hear the texts, i.e., the authors and their unique stories, on their own terms and in their own historical and literary contexts, and then once that is done, bring ourselves into the mix. I have detailed this in another reply to you elsewhere.

  21. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us so freely, and in such an accessible and well-written way.

    I’m an ex-evangelical Christian, who took my commitment very seriously and read and studied the book that was the basis of my faith. Eventually, I, like many others before me, concluded that the obvious and multiple inconsistencies in the Bible meant that it couldn’t be the word of a divine being who deserved my worship and commitment. It was certainly only the work of men, some wise, some power-crazed, some manipulative, and all products of their times and history.

    So it is wonderful to read such clear, detailed and evidence-based accounts of how these inconsistencies arose, written by someone who has such a wealth of knowledge. Thank you for sharing it!

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