Archive for the ‘Exodus’ Category

Hardened Hearts – A Brief Biblical Survey – Part 1

October 5, 2009

Lord willing, I will be engaging in a debate on the PalTalk chat program this Wednesday at 4 p.m. Pacific Time. The topic of the debate is the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and my debate opponent is a non-Calvinist named Louis Ruggerio (aka LouRugg), who is actively promoting his new work against Calvinism entitled, “The God of Calvinism: a Rebuttal of Reformed Theology.” In fact, my understanding is that Mr. Ruggerio spends a significant percentage time on this particular task of trying to address Calvinism. He feels that the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is the “Achilles’ heel” of Calvinism, and he hopes to show that during the debate.

In preparation for that debate, I hope to provide a few blog articles on the subject, this being the first. I don’t know whether Mr. Ruggerio reads my blog, and I have no problem with folks alerting him to these articles and letting him know what he will be facing during the debate.

There are a significant number of verses that relate to the hardening of men in Scripture. The biggest segment of those relate to Pharaoh.

1. The Hardenings of Pharaoh’s Heart

You will note that I have pluralized the gerund “hardening” with respect to Pharaoh, because his heart was not hardened just once and then left hard, but was hardened several times.

A. Before the Fact

Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

God gave Moses advance warning that He would, not just that He might harden Pharaoh’s heart. God also explained why he would harden Pharaoh’s heart: so that Pharaoh would not let the people go.

Exodus 7:3-4
And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.

Again, more shortly before the fact, God again told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart. This time, God connected the hardening with God’s plan to show many signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. More specifically, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is paralleled with Pharaoh not hearkening unto Moses. In a comment that is truly devastating for proponents of Libertarian Free Will (LFW), God not only takes credit for Pharaoh not hearkening, but even ascribes a divine purpose to it: namely the judgment that is coming upon Egypt, and the spectacular deliverance of the armies of the children of Israel.

B. During the Fact

i) First Hardening

Exodus 7:13-14
And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

This hardening was after the sign of Aaron’s serpent (which was his staff) swallowing the serpents of the Egyptian magicians. Here, the KJV gives God the credit for hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Many modern translations simply say that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. The KJV does not explain its translation here, and we are left speculating why the KJV translated the verse as it did. Perhaps the most obvious explanation is that even if the underlying Hebrew does not literally say that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, we understand that it was the Lord from the phrase, “as the LORD had said.” The phrase “as the LORD had said,” may refer us back either to Exodus 4:21 or, more probably, to Exodus 7:3-4.

Notice that, again, the hardening is connected with Pharaoh not hearkening and, as well, with Pharaoh refusing to let the people go.

2) Second Hardening

Exodus 7:22-23
And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.

Again, notice that this hardening is expressed passively (the KJV providing a literal translation of the text). Notice, however, that the phrase “as the LORD had said” is present again, which shows us that this is the Lord’s work, even though the precise actor of the hardening is not stated in this verse.

The expression “did not set his heart to this also,” may be a bit hard to immediately grasp. It essentially means, I think, that Pharaoh was not significantly influenced by this judgment. He remained hard and did not soften in response to the judgment of the water turning to blood.

As in previous examples, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is connected with Pharaoh not hearkening to Moses.

3) Third Hardening

Exodus 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Again, as in the previous cases, the hardening is connected with Pharaoh not hearkening to Moses and Aaron. In this instance again we see that the hardening/not hearkening is “as the LORD had said.” This time, the text (particularly in the KJV) seems to ascribe the hardening to Pharaoh. If that is the case, it simply strengthens the case for compatibilism and against LFW, since God claimed credit in advance for the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, even when Pharaoh himself is the means by which this hardening happens.

This hardening comes after the plague of frogs.

4) Fourth Hardening

Exodus 8:18-19 And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast. Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

This hardening comes immediately after the plague of lice. Again, the literal expression is passive, in that the actor is not explicitly stated. Nevertheless, the passage reiterates that this is “as the LORD had said,” which reminds us that this hardening was from God. Notice how here even Pharaoh’s own magicians, who had previously opposed Moses and Aaron, are now enlisted in support of God’s true divinity, yet Pharaoh refuses to listen.

5) Fifth Hardening

Exodus 8:28-32

And Pharaoh said, “I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intreat for me.”
And Moses said, “Behold, I go out from thee, and I will intreat the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to morrow: but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.”
And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one. And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

In this example, we see some softening of Pharaoh’s heart. He relents, at least outwardly, to the force of the judgment against him. However, once the plague is removed, Pharaoh hardens his heart. This is the first instance where Pharaoh is the clear subject of the verb, and the first time we do not see it added, “as the LORD had said.” In view of the previous discussion, I don’t necessarily think that this is significant.

6) Sixth Hardening

Exodus 9:5-7
And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, “To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land.”
And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

Like the fifth hardening, this hardening does not mention “as the LORD had said.” However, like several of the previous hardenings, this hardening is expressed in passive terms, without explicitly saying who does the hardening. This hardening was responsive to the plague of the murrain of the cattle of the Egyptians.

7) Seventh Hardening

Exodus 9:12-17
And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses. And the LORD said unto Moses, “Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, ‘Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go?”‘”

This hardening comes after the plague of boils, which affected not only the commoners but even Pharaoh’s magicians. Again, we see God referring back to his prior revelation to Moses (“as the LORD had spoken unto Moses”) and this time it is made explicit that the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, with the result being that Pharaoh did not hearken unto Moses and Aaron (and, perhaps, the magicians as well, who had already testified to the divinity of the LORD).

Notice as well that God, through Moses, tells Pharaoh what he is going to do. Furthermore, God says that this is the reason why he raised Pharaoh up, namely to bring him down in judgment. It is interesting to note that Pharaoh’s “heart” is listed among the targets of the plague. Whether this should be understood as meaning that the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was itself a plague (which seems highly unlikely), or whether it should simply mean that Pharaoh himself will be affected by the plagues (which seems more likely) is not particularly germane to our present discussion.

8) Eighth Hardening

Exodus 9:34-35 & 10:1-2
And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.
And the LORD said unto Moses, “Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: and that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.”

This hardening comes after the plague of hail and thunder. What is particularly interesting here, from the standpoint of the discussion of compatibilism and LFW, is that this hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is described as being sin for Pharaoh, and yet it is described as being “as the LORD had spoken by Moses.” In other words, recalling that God before hand had taken credit for hardening Pharaoh’s heart, it was both the case that God determined this, and that Pharaoh was held morally responsible for it. Furthermore, while in the portion in chapter 9 the actor of the hardening is not specified, in the portion in chapter 10, God takes credit for this.

Also, note that God ascribes purpose to the hardening, namely to show his signs – signs that will be famous – and to show forth God’s divinity to the people of Israel.

Those who are opposed to Sola Scriptura will be disappointed to note that although God makes reference to what might at first seem like an oral tradition, it is plain that God intended this to be written down in Scripture. Thus, what is written in Scripture is what is to be told to the ears of one’s sons.

9) Ninth Hardening

Exodus 10:16-20
Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only.”
And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

The plague of the locust seems to have softened Pharaoh’s heart and he confesses his sin, and begs for forgiveness. He receives relief and then God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. The result of this hardening is that Pharaoh refuses to let the children of Israel go (yet again!).

10) Tenth Hardening

Exodus 10:24-29 and 11:8b-10
And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, “Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.”
And Moses said, “Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the LORD our God. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve the LORD, until we come thither.”
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. And Pharaoh said unto him, “Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.”
And Moses said, “Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.”

And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger. And the LORD said unto Moses, “Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.

This shows the softening and then hardening of Pharaoh’s heart after the plague of darkness. It was a darkness so dark that it could be felt. It’s hard to imagine such a thing, and it plainly terrified Pharaoh, who tried to bargain with Moses.

Again, in this instance, God says that he hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh would not let the people of Israel go.

I note in passing that this was not just a blacking out of the sun, but a darkness that was complete. There was not defeating this darkness by candle and torch. Furthermore, while the Egyptians were in complete darkness, the Israelites had some light, namely “in their dwellings.”

Another interesting fact to note about this hardening is Moses’ comment that Pharaoh had spoken “well.” Moses’ point seems to be that Pharaoh’s comment is prophetic. Moses is not coming back to Pharaoh any more, and consequently through Pharaoh’s hardhearted command, Pharaoh is cutting himself off from seeking Moses’ face for forgiveness of his sin and mercy on Egypt.

It seems that Exodus 11:1-8a is a parenthetical passage including, from verses 4-8a, a speech to Pharaoh, but perhaps addressed with Moses’ back turned to Pharaoh, so that Moses could not see Pharaoh’s face. Furthermore, God takes credit, both in chapter 10 with respect to this specific hardening, and in chapter 11, with respect to all the preceding hardenings. God links the hardening and the not hearkening and ascribes a purpose to each, namely that Pharaoh would refuse to let the people go, and that the wonders of God would be multiplied in Egypt.

11) Eleventh Hardening

Exodus 14:1-9
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.”
And they did so. And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.
And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand. But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.

How great is the LORD! Notice here that the ten plagues have already been brought down upon Egypt and yet God is not through with Pharaoh. He sends Israel into an indefensible location, trapped on a peninsula, where it is possible for Pharaoh seemingly to trap Israel by placing troops on the one side where there is no sea.

God makes his people appear vulnerable to the Pharaoh and then, as he had planned, hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh and his people will regret their choice of letting the Israelites go, and will pursue after the children of Israel.

God sets the trap by telling the Israelites where to go, hardens Pharaoh’s heart to take the bait, and Pharaoh takes the bait and pursues after the Israelites with his armies and chariots. In this instance again we see God prophesying that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and then doing it, just as with the ten plagues. But, God is not through with hardening Pharaoh’s heart.

12) Twelfth Hardening

Exodus 14:15-18
And the LORD said unto Moses, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: but lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.”

The following verses relate that this happened, just as God said. It should be noted, however, that the actual hardening of the hearts is not specifically mentioned in the later verses, though their pursuit into the Red Sea and their subsequent death there is immortalized in the song found in Exodus 15.

C. After the Fact

After the fact of God hardening the hearts of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, Scripture refers back to the fact.

1) Philistine Priests and Diviners

1 Samuel 6:2-9
And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place.”
And they said, “If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you.”
Then said they, “What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him?”
They answered, “Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: and take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go. And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Bethshemesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us: it was a chance that happened to us.”

This event took place about four hundred years after the Exodus (compare Judges 11:26 (300 years in Canaan by that time) and 1 Kings 6:1 (480 years in Canaan by that time)). Nevertheless, the fame of the destruction of the Egyptians was still known to the priests and diviners of the Philistines. Whether that was directly from contact with the Israelites or whether that was from an independent source, we are not told. Indeed, it is possible that the priests and diviners found a copy of the book of Exodus in the Ark itself and read it from there.

Regardless, they learned at least part of the lesson that was provided there, for they said: “Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?” So now, they let the ark go, even as the Egyptians had let the people of Israel go. They also lade the ark with treasures, just as the Israelites had been given the treasures of Egypt on their departure.

2) Apostle Paul

Romans 9:14-24
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” [Exodus 33:19] So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, “Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” [Exodus 9:16] Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Thou wilt say then unto me, “Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?”
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Notice that Paul uses the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in part of an argument about the justice of God. In Paul’s argument, God is within his rights to show mercy on whomever God wishes and God is within his rights to harden whomever God wishes. Paul even gives us the reason for the mercy (so that it can be seen to be of God not man) and the hardening (so that the name of the LORD will be declared throughout all the Earth). God made Pharaoh for the purposes of casting him down. It’s a sobering reality, but it is Paul’s argument. The Potter, Paul argues, has the right to do with his clay as he pleases.

(To be continued in Part 2, with other Biblical accounts of hardening)


430 Years from the Promise – A Response to Fred Butler

September 5, 2009

I have indicated that I think that the Israelites were in Egypt for only about 215 years, as opposed to 430 years. Mr. Fred Butler disagrees (link to his post). Mr. Butler’s response is friendly, and I hope he’ll take my response as being in a similarly amiable vein.

First of all, Mr. Butler points out what he sees as the primary argument argument regarding the length of the stay. In some ways it is the primary argument. I’ll reiterate, and perhaps expand upon it here.

Galatians 3:17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

What Galatians tells us is that from the the promise to the law was 430 years. The law was given the same year as the Exodus out of Egypt, so we know that the time from the promise to the Exodus was 430 years. What promise is Paul talking about?

Let’s check what the context of the verse informs us. After all, the correct way to understand the verse is by examining the context.

Galatians 3:6-18:

6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. 13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. 16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

The promise in question is the gospel, and specifically this promise: “In thee shall all nations be blessed” set forth in verse 8. This is reiterated in verse 14 “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Notice how Paul links the promise and the in-gathering of the Gentiles.

That promise is recorded for us in Genesis 12.

Genesis 12:1-3
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Here’s the timeline based on that promise:

0. Abram was 75 years old when he departed out of Haran (Genesis 12:4).

11. Abram was 86 years old when Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16).

25. Abraham was 100 years old (and Sarah was 90 years old) when Isaac was born (Genesis 21:5).

[?]. Isaac weaned (we’re not told how old he was when he was weaned), Ishmael and Hagar the Egyptian banished and went to Paran & Egypt (Genesis 21:8-21).

55. Sarah was 120 years old when she died (Genesis 23:1-2).

85. Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob was born (Genesis 25:26).

100. Abraham died at 175 years old (Genesis 25:7-8).

169. Isaac died at 144 years old (Genesis 35:29).

215. Jacob was 130 years old when he went into Egypt (Genesis 47:28).

(which is half of the 430 years, the other 215 years being the time in Egypt)

Notice, however, that there is no reference to “seed” in that particular promise. Paul makes reference to the expression “to thy seed.” That issue is easily remedied. Chapter 12 of Genesis explains that when Abraham arrived at Sichem God added to what was said in verses 1-3.

Genesis 12:7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

That promise to Abraham and his seed gets repeated several more times, for example, in Genesis 13:15-16 and more dramatically in Genesis 15. Interestingly, the promise is also applied (at least to some degree) to Ishmael:

Genesis 21:13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.

But I digress. The primary argument is that the promise in question is the promise made to Abraham, not some other promise.

Some have seized on the verse 16’s comment: “to Abraham and his seed were the promises made,” to suggest that perhaps a promise to someone other than Abraham is in mind (specifically a promise to Jacob). There are several problems with this objection. First, the repetitions of the promise (or the division of the promise in Genesis 12) can be considered the “promises,” alternatively the various blessings can be considered the promises. There is no need for there to be other promises made to other people. Second, the “his seed” comment is immediately followed up – in the very same verse – by Paul explaining that the seed is Christ: “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”

The only promise that I can see that God made to Jacob at the time of entry into Egypt was this:

Genesis 46:3-4
And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.

That promise does not mention the seed (so relevant to Paul’s discussion) nor does it mention the nations (also highly relevant to Paul’s discussion). In short, while it is a promise, and while Jacob was from Abraham, it seems strained at best to say that this is the promise to which Paul is referring.

This is the first argument, but there is a second like it. The second argument deals with the time in Egypt.

[?1 – at some point before 169 in the first list] birth of Levi (one of the 70 who came to Egypt – Genesis 46:11)

[?2] birth of Kohath (one of the 70 who came to Egypt – Genesis 46:11)

0. Entry into Egypt

[?3] birth of Amram

[?1 + 137] Levi died at 137 years old (Exodus 6:16)

[?4] Aaron born

[?4 + 3] Moses born (Exodus 7:7)

[?2 + 133] Kohath dies at 133 years old (Exodus 6:18)

[?3 + 137] Amram dies at 137 years old (Exodus 6:20)

[?4 + 83] Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 7:7)

As you can see from the use of the designation “?” there are a number of uncertainties over the precise dates in the chronology. There are, however, a few hooks that prevent the chronology from shrinking or expanding excessively. For example, a child cannot be born before his father, and it is not reasonable to expect that a child is born before the father is at least about 13 years old.

Furthermore, the child cannot be born much after the father dies, and it is pretty much normal for the child to be born before the father dies, unless the father dies quite young (which is not the case with any of the men here). Finally, at the start of the chronology, we know from Genesis 35:27-28 and Genesis 32:22, which show that Jacob had his first eleven sons (including Levi) before Isaac died.

One further item should be noted. I’ve placed the birth of the grandsons before the deaths of their grandfathers, since this seems to have been normal at the time. There is, of course, no absolute requirement that the grandfathers in each case lived to see their grandsons.

I want to draw your attention to one fact of central importance to this discussion. There is only one person in the chronology who both was born and died in Egypt. That was Amram. His entire life fits within the endpoints of the time in Egypt, but his father was born in Canaan and his sons died in the wilderness on the way to Canaan.

It should be plain that this time-line is perfectly consistent with there being 215 years in Egypt. That duration permits there to be a comfortable amount of time before Amram was born and after he died while the Israelites were in Egypt.

As noted above, though, this timeline has a lot of play in it – it can be expanded or contracted by quite a bit. How much?

Well, using the most extreme assumptions, the maximum time that there can be between 0 and the Exodus in the timeline is if Kohath is born the same year as the entry (and comes in consequently as a newborn) and then if Amram is born the year following Kohath’s death, and Moses is born the year following Amram’s death. None of these seem probable, but they provide us with an outside limit. Under those assumptions, the time from the entry to the Exodus would be: 133 (life of Kohath) + 1 + 137 (life of Amram) + 1 + 80 (age of Moses at Exodus) = 352 years.

Plainly, 352 years is not enough to make 430. However, perhaps someone will point out that Joseph went down to Egypt first, and try to expand the time in Egypt by adding the time that Joseph was there. How much can that help?

Joseph was 17 years old when he received his coat of many colors (Genesis 37:1). To maximize the times involved, we will assume he was enslaved the same year. Joseph died at 110 years old (Genesis 50:26). However, Joseph did not die in the year of the entry into Egypt. Jacob died 17 years after the entry into Egypt (Genesis 47:28). Joseph survived Jacob by at least 70 days (Genesis 50:1-4). So, the most time that Joseph was in Egypt prior to the entry was 93 years (assuming he died the same year as his father and was enslaved the same year he got his lovely coat).

352 + 93 = 445, which would actually permit a play of about 15 years. If we go ahead and remove the 15 years to end up at 430, we have Joseph being 78 years old at the time of the entry of Jacob into Egypt. However, Jacob was 130 years old when he went into Egypt (Genesis 47:28). Thus, for that scenario to work, Joseph would have to have been born when Jacob was 52.

Yet Scripture tells us:

Genesis 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.

While 52 is a bit old for folks to be having children now, it really wasn’t that old in the age of the patriarchs. Furthermore, remember that Jacob had left the home on his own to flee from Esau when they were at least forty years old (Genesis 26:34-35, remembering that Jacob and Esau were twins), had worked fourteen years for his wives, and then had had children after that (Genesis 29:31-32), with Rachel having children only after Leah had given birth seven times (six sons and one daughter) (Genesis 30:19-22). In short, such a thesis is impractical.

On top of that, when Joesph goes down into he Egypt, he is sold to Potiphar, and then imprisoned after being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife. He there interpreted two dreams. Two years later (Genesis 41:1) Joseph was called before Pharaoh to interpret a dream (it was one dream in two dreams) and was thirty years old at that time (Genesis 41:46). The dream announced 7 coming years of plenty followed by 7 coming years of famine (Genesis 41:26). Furthermore, the year of the entry into Egypt was the 2nd or 3rd year of the famine (Genesis 45:6). While Scripture does not say the the years of plenty started immediately after the dream’s interpretation, that seems to be the implication. If so, then it should be plain that Joseph was about 40 years old at the time of the entry of Jacob into Egypt. That would mean that Joseph was born when Jacob was about ninety years old, which would make him a son of Jacob’s old age.

On these two arguments from Scripture, the idea that the 430 years should be counted from the first promise to Abraham seems to be pretty strong. There are two lesser arguments, however.

The first of the lesser arguments, and our third point in this discussion, is one that is of relatively minor interest. Recall that Genesis 15 is one of the places where the promise to Abraham is reiterated. At that time, Abraham is given a date for the length of the sojourning, namely 400 years.

Genesis 15:13-14
And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

As you may note in the first chronology above, the date at which Ishmael is driven off is about the year 30 in the chronology (assuming Isaac was weaned at age 5, which does not seem very unreasonable). If that’s the case, then 400 years of affliction would begin with Ishmael’s affliction and end with Israel’s exodus. This seems a little too neat, but perhaps it is correct. The more usual explanation for the difference between the 400 and the 430 is that the 400 is simply a round number, and that we should use the birth of Isaac (which would be 405 years) rather than his weaning as the date for the fulfillment of the 400 year prophecy.

The fourth argument (and the second of the lesser two arguments) is an argument from the fact that Exodus occurs in the fourth generation.

Genesis 15:15-16
And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

As can be seen from the first chronology above, Abraham lived to see the birth of Jacob. Thus, the first generation after what he saw was Levi, then Kohath, then Amram, and finally in the fourth generation there was Aaron and Moses. Thus, the prophecy was fulfilled in a way that is fully consistent with the sojourning period being counted from Abraham’s initial sojourn out of Haran in Canaan (Genesis 12:5) and Egypt (Genesis 12:10).

Finally, there is one textual objection that is made. The one objection that is made is that Exodus 12:40 states unequivocally that the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years. This argument seems to be based on the particular readings found in many modern translations. The King James Version translates the verse in question as follows:

Exodus 12:40 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.

With this reading, the sojourning is 430 years and the “dwelt in Egypt” modifies the children of Israel, though not necessarily their stay in Egypt. Thus, the text of the KJV is ambiguous as to whether the sojourning all took place in Egypt or not. Some (perhaps all!) the other versions phrase the verse such that all the 430 years are in Egypt. Mr. Butler is quite insistent that the only way to read this verse is as saying that the entire time of the sojourning was in Egypt, but when I’ve questioned him on the issue of translation of the text (i.e. whether the KJV’s translation is a reasonable translation) he does not seem to have any answer.

Aside from textual arguments, I had noted that John Gill, John Calvin, and Matthew Henry agree with my position on this matter. I could have added others, such as Matthew Poole, Martin Luther, John Chrysostom, and John Owen. It doesn’t seem to have been a particularly contentious point of exegesis historically. If there are any reputable Reformed, Reformation Era, or Patristic commentators that took a different view, Mr. Butler hasn’t pointed them out (I should note that one of the articles noted that Hippolytus took a long-sojourn view, and at least one of the articles indicates that Josephus inconsistently seemed to support both views).

Mr. Butler’s response instead was to lead by dogmatically insisting that the verse regarding the 430 year stay can only be read one way:

First, there is absolutely no other way to read Exodus 12:40 but that Israel sojourned in Egypt 430 years. In fact, the Exodus record even places the termination of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt at the 430th year (vs. 41).

With all due respect to Mr. Butler, the text of the Authorized Version can be read in another way, and has been so read. Moreover, it seems to be the case that the Hebrew is similarly ambiguous.

Mr. Butler’s second argument is to suggest that we should downplay the significance of the Galatians passage:

Next, Galatians 3:16, 17 should not be made the controlling passage over Exodus 12:40, 41. Thus, Paul may have had something else in mind when he spoke about the 430 years before the giving of the law, quite possibly the last promise of the covenant made to Jacob in Genesis 46:3, 4 before he went down into Egypt to live.

This argument is not feasible, as discussed above. The promise in Genesis 46:3-4 is not the promise that Paul has been talking about, nor does it contain either of the elements (“seed” and “all nations”) that are germane to Paul’s discussion.

Mr. Butler’s third argument relates to a counter-argument that I have not presented above. Very briefly, the counter-argument is that the LXX reading of Exodus 12:40-41 includes the phrase “and in the land of Canaan” into the middle of “who dwelt in Egypt.” This reading suggests at least the possibility that the original reading included the time in Canaan as well as that of Egypt. Alternatively, the reading suggests that there was an ancient marginal note that confirmed that the expression “in Egypt” shouldn’t be understood in the exhaustive sense that Mr. Butler contends. Thus, some ancient commentator likewise confirms the 215 year thesis. Mr. Butler’s response is this:

Third, we need to keep in mind that the LXX is a translation of the Hebrew text. Applying the normal rules of textual criticism, the shorter reading of the original language text should be preferred over the longer reading of a translated text that wasn’t published until some 1300 years or so later. Moreover, the fact that the additional phrase “and in the land of Canaan” is just found in a few editions of the LXX and not others makes this even more of a questionable reading in my mind.

“Published” is probably not the word he means to use. It’s worth noting that the Hebrew manuscripts that we have are not 1300 years earlier than the LXX manuscripts that we have. Thus, the date issue is a bit moot. From what I can tell the Dead Sea Scrolls give support to the idea that Masoretic text was preserved well at least back to that date (more on the Dead Sea Scrolls below).

Mr. Butler’s fourth argument is this:

Fourth, as much as I appreciate the writing ministry of Gill, Calvin, and Henry, and the great treasure of their commentaries they have left to the Church at large, let’s be honest, they are seriously dated with regards to current archaeological information. Our understanding of Egyptian history, the sojourn of Israel, and the Exodus has advanced dramatically since those men wrote.

I’m quite hesitant to use the external evidence of archaeology to trump the text of Scripture. Mr. Butler goes on to identify several articles, which we can take a look at, but he does not point to any specific or concrete archaeological data that suggests that we know the entry and exodus dates via the historical records of Egypt. If such data has been conclusively established, I know at least one friendly South African atheist who will be chomping at the bit to review it.

But, in fact, there is at least some additional archeological evidence that has come to light since the time of Gill, Calvin, Henry, et al. that confirms the 215 year stay. Specifically, 4Q559 (Biblical Chronology) provides the following at fragment 3:

[… And Levi was 3]4 [years old] when he [begot Qahat.] [And Qahat was 2]9 years old when he begot Amram. And Amram [was] [110 years old when he begot] Aaron. And Aaron left Egy[pt …] […] these thousand and 536

Leaving aside, for the moment, the complexities of reconstructing those fragments and simply plugging those numbers into the second chronology above, we would have:

0. birth of Levi (one of the 70 who came to Egypt – Genesis 46:11)

34. birth of Kohath (one of the 70 who came to Egypt – Genesis 46:11)

[??] Entry into Egypt

63 birth of Amram

137 Levi died at 137 years old (Exodus 6:16)

167 Kohath dies at 133 years old (Exodus 6:18)

173 Aaron born

176 Moses born (Exodus 7:7)

200 Amram dies at 137 years old (Exodus 6:20)

256 Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 7:7)

Note that this approach is all relative to Levi’s birth, not to the entry itself. If the entry were 215 years before the exodus, then the entry would be at year 41, which fits within the appropriate window (Kohath is not yet old enough for his own children, but he is already born).

It should be readily apparent that the fragment cannot bear out the 430 years in Egypt hypothesis.

Additionally, fragment 2 of the same document is provided thus:

[Abraham was 99] years old [when he begot Isaac] [And I]saac was [60 years old when he begot Jacob. And Jacob] [was] 65 ye[ars old when he begot Levi …] …

This piece would provide the final link necessary to connect the Levi-based second chronology with the Abraham-based first chronology. If Jacob were 65 years older than Levi then Levi would be 65 year old at the time of the entry into Egypt. The problem is that it seems that Amram born when Levi was 63 (based on fragment 3) and consequently the numbers don’t quite line up. Since we don’t view 4Q559 as inspired, this is not a particularly severe problem.

The first article to which Mr. Butler links is The Duration of the Egyptian Bondage by Harold Hoehner

Contrary to Mr. Butler’s apparent argument, almost all of the arguments in the article are exegetical and lexical (with support being given to the Authorized Version’s reading) and not archaeological.

The next is The Length of Israel’s Sojourn in Egypt by Jack Riggs

Again, the arguments are not archaeological, and the other material that may not have been available to some of our Reformed fathers (though Gill seems to mention it) is the Samaritan Penteteuch, which confirms the LXX reading as to the 430 years including the time in Canaan.

The final article is The Duration of the Israelite Sojourn in Egypt by Paul J. Ray

This one finally refers to some additional archaeological material, but the material is far from compelling. Essentially, the final article provides a thesis for how the time in Egypt could have occurred within a particular window of Egyptian history, as well as how Abraham’s sojourning could fit in the century in which it would fall under the 430 years in Egypt scenario. While certain of the arguments could be critiqued (for example, the idea that Joseph received the “second chariot” of Pharaoh, for example, almost certainly refers to an honor, not a shortage of chariots at the time) since the arguments do not suggest a significant preference for a long stay over a short stay, it is difficult to see what Mr. Butler finds so compelling about the arguments. His summary:

Though I commend TF’s efforts to stick with scripture, I think consideration of further historical information helps to illuminate more of what the biblical text is saying, and in my mind, the 215 year theory is extremely problematic. Even for debunking a false teacher like Camping.

seems unjustified.

Mr. Butler sums up his arguments thus:

1) There are other editions of the LXX which do not contain the phrase “and in the Land of Canaan,” particularly, A, F, and M.

2) All of the Hebrew texts of Exodus 12:40 do not contain the additional phrase.

And 3) Well established extra-biblical evidence also supports the 430 year sojourn, not the 215.

As noted above, however, those first two issues are not particularly central to the argument. The short reading of Exodus 12:40-41 is consistent with the 215 year stay in Egypt just as the longer reading is (though the longer reading complete destroys the theory of the 430 year stay in Egypt). The idea that the extra-biblical evidence does not support the 215 year stay or somehow provides a preference for the 430 year stay seems inaccurate, and the idea the timeline of Egyptian history is well-established from contemporary archaeology seems slightly naive.

What’s more, Mr. Butler seems to present the articles in favor of the long stay in Egypt as though they were the scholarly consensus on the topic. In contrast, however, the articles themselves make reference to the fact that there scholars who come down on both sides of the issue.

The above should have addressed most of the arguments that Mr. Butler has raised. There are, however, a few other points to be noted. First, the issue of the sojourn is also mentioned by Stephen in Acts:

Acts 7:6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.

This is simply a translation of Genesis 15. The most natural reading of the Authorized Version here is that the four hundred years relates to evil entreaty. However, another reasonable reading is to understand the “four hundred years” as referring to the entire period of sojourning in a strange land, being in bondage, and being treated harshly. And again, the 400 years may be viewed as approximate (based on Isaac’s birth) or exact (based on Isaac’s weaning and Ishmael’s exile, either on the basis of treating Ishmael as the seed, or as treating the exile of Ishmael as being the revelation of the true seed status of Isaac).

Second, Paul makes reference to a time period in his speech at the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia.

Acts 13:16-24:

Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.
And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.
Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

The time period in question is the four hundred fifty years mentioned at verse 20. Sometimes this verse is presented as though it is relevant to the discussion. That time period, however, is plainly referring to a time period after the exodus.

Ray, in his article, provides the following comment in a footnote:

On the basis of MSS B, [Aleph], A, and C, the text should indicate, according to B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort a[] period of “about 450 years” (or more precisely 447 years)–i.e., 400 years of bondage in Egypt, 40 years in the wilderness, and 7 years of conquest of Canaan. See Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Original Greek (New York, 1948), p. 276.

Even if, however, the 400 year period should be started before the exodus, it works better to select the 215 year hypothesis and use as the starting point the weaning of Isaac/exile of Ishmael as the start of the 400 year period.

Nevertheless, the flow of the passage seems to suggest that Paul is trying to refer to the period of the judges (including, perhaps, Joshua), since Paul has already specifically enumerated the 40 years in the wilderness, and subsequently gives the time period of Saul.

There is a slight problem with respect to the number that Paul gives, because the time from the coming out of Israel from Egypt to the building of the temple of Solomon is 480 years. In order for the time of the Judges to be 450 years (approximately), one would need to assume that in that instance, the coming out from Egypt is reckoned according to Joshua’s death 30 years after the 40 years of wandering. Then back-subtracting the 80 years of David and Saul from the 480, we would have 400 years from the death of Joshua to start of Samuel/Saul. That 400 years plus the 30 years of Joshua could be viewed as the “about 450 years.”

The problem, however, is not fully resolved because the typical accounts of the time of the judges proper is given around 350 years rather than 450 years. In any event, that particular difficulty is one that can be addressed at another time.

Third, a few of the articles raise as an objection the increase in the number of the people of Israel during the time in Egypt. I have dealt with this issue at greater length in a previous post. In brief, however, several replies are called for. First, Scriptures make abundantly clear that the time in Egypt was accompanied by extraordinary multiplication of families. As I noted, if we simply go by the ratio of first-born males to total men, the family sizes would have been enormous by modern standards. Even if that number is too high, much smaller families of 10-12 children would have been sufficient to produce the necessary multiplication.

Additionally, as at least one of my readers pointed out, there is the possibility that a large number of proselytes were made via the plagues, either among the Egyptians themselves or more likely among their other slaves. In support of this argument it is asserted that we find folks like Caleb (who might have been a descendant of Esau’s grandson Kenaz) and that there are described those who “feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh.” (Exodus 9:20)

Moreover, the very high level of fertility among Israelite women helps to explain why there are some folks during the exodus who, like Moses and Aaron are in the fourth generation from Jacob, whereas there are others who are in the sixth or seventh generation. Notice, for example, that Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation and some of the grandchildren of Manasseh before his death. (Genesis 50:23) Thus, that in some cases the number of generations would be only four, but in other cases six or seven should not be thought to be the result of inaccurate chronologies, but rather of the varying ages at which the patriarchs and their children begot children of their own.

As a next-to-last point, some contention is made that the fourth generation referenced in Genesis 15 should be interpreted as four lengthy periods of time rather than four generations in the usual sense. This interpretation seems quite strained. The reckoning of generations in the usual sense seems both more natural and consistent with other uses in the Torah, such as in Deuteronomy 23:2, where an illegitimate son is prohibited from entering into the congregation of the LORD to his tenth generation.

That particular prohibition becomes important because of the following genealogy:

0. Judah
1. Pharez (illegitimately by Tamar)
2. Hezron
3. Ram
4. Amminadab
5. Nahshon
6. Salma
7. Boaz
8. Obed
9. Jesse
10. David

Some have argued that the crown was deferred until David’s generation specifically because of the prohibition in Deuteronomy 23:2. In any event, the idea that the illegitimate person would himself be excluded for 10 periods of time of about 100 years each sounds a bit bizarre.

Finally, a few articles and commenters attempt to make an issue of the idea that sometimes the genealogies are questionable in that they sometimes have gaps or questionable items. One example of these is the issue of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, as reported in Luke 3:36. In the genealogy of Genesis 11 (in the Masoretic text) that Cainan is omitted.

While this is a significant issue for those who think the KJV was specially inspired, it is a less significant issue for those who do not have that same persuasion. After all, the Septuagint provides the details for Cainan and some early manuscripts of the New Testament omit that particular Cainan in the genealogy.

More significantly, there is no similar variant present in any of the manuscripts or versions (of which I’m aware) with respect to the genealogy of Moses from Levi. Furthermore, the genealogy is repeated in Scripture, and in every case it is the same. Thus, it does not seem to be reasonable to suppose that this is a case of a corrupted genealogy through some sort of scribal error.

In conclusion, I respectfully maintain the 215 year period in Egypt on the strength and clarity of the Scriptural testimony both in Exodus 6 and Galatians. In both cases, the Scriptural evidence rules out the view of the 430 years being exclusively by Jacob’s children in Egypt.


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