Questions From Readers
● Galatians 3:17 shows the Law covenant was made 430 years after the Abrahamic covenant. Exodus 12:40 states that Israel dwelt in Egypt 430 years, at the end of which time the Law covenant was made. Yet the Abrahamic covenant was made with Abraham centuries before his grandson Jacob, or Israel, entered Egypt with his offspring to sojourn there. So how could the time between the making of the two covenants be the same as the time of sojourning in Egypt?—R. D., Maryland.
By referring to the “Chart of Outstanding Historical Dates”, published in the April 1, 1951, Watchtower, you will see that Scripture citations indicate that the Abrahamic covenant was made in 1943 B. C., in which year Abraham also entered Canaan and began sojourning there. This marked the start of the 430-year period. Thirty years later, when Isaac was mocked and taunted by Ishmael, the 400-year period of affliction began. (Gen. 15:13; 21:8, 9; Acts 7:6) In 1728 B.C. Jacob and his whole family joined his son Joseph in Egypt, to start the sojourn in Egypt, after a 215-year period of sojourning in Canaan that was started with Abraham. Then it was another 215 years before Israel was delivered from Egyptian sojourning and affliction, in 1513 B. C., at which time the Law covenant was established with Israel. The Scripture backing for this chronology will be found in the chart mentioned above.
Hence it is clear from the Bible record that from the making of the Abrahamic covenant to the establishment of the Law covenant 430 years elapsed, in harmony with the record at Galatians 3:17. It is also clear from this that there was a period of sojourning stretching over 430 years, half of which was in Canaan and half in Egypt. But this seems to clash with Exodus 12:40, which states: “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.” The clash is only a hastily assumed one. The text does not say they dwelt in Egypt 430 years, but that they sojourned for that period of time. The last half of the period they did dwell in Egypt, but not all of it. The Septuagint rendering of this text presents the accurate thought: “And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years.”
The Septuagint is a translation made in the second and third centuries before Christ, the Exodus portion doubtless being completed during the third century, and was based upon Hebrew manuscripts older than those of the accepted Masoretic Hebrew text. For this reason it may well be more accurate in many of its renderings than the standard Masoretic text. The Samaritan Pentateuch, a transliteration of the Hebrew text into Samaritan characters and interspersed with some Samaritan idioms, was produced in the fifth century before Christ and it also includes the sojourning in Canaan with that in Egypt. So it was the sojourning in Egypt and Canaan combined that totaled 430 years, and not the time spent in Egypt alone. Hence the time between the making of the two covenants (430 years) was not the same as the time of sojourning in Egypt (215 years), and there is no clash between Galatians 3:17 and Exodus 12:40 when the latter is correctly understood.