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Morrish Bible Dictionary

Israel in Egypt

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The details of the history of Israel in Egypt are few. When Joseph was in power, Jacob and his whole household settled in the land: there they multiplied and became a great nation. In time a king reigned who knew not Joseph, and the people were reduced to cruel bondage. Through God's intervention and after dire judgements upon the Egyptians, the Israelites were delivered. See EGYPT and JOSEPH

A question not easily answered is, How long were the Israelites in Egypt? In Genesis 15:13 ; Acts 7:6 , the period seems to be stated as four hundred years. Exodus 12:40 says "the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years;" and Galatians 3:17 declares that the law was given four hundred and thirty years after the promise to Abraham. The promise to Abraham was long before Israel went into Egypt, and the law was given after they came out; so that according to this passage their sojourning in Egypt must have been much less than four hundred years. A much shorter period is implied in Genesis 15:16 , which says of Israel in Egypt that "in the fourth generation they shall come hither again;" and if we turn to Exodus 6:16-20 we find exactly four generations, thus:

Jacob's son Levi.

Levi's son Kohath.

Kohath's son Amram.

Amram's son Moses.

Or, if we start with Levi, who entered with Jacob, there was ample time for Moses to have had a son, as he was eighty years old at the Exodus. Now if we reckon that at that time a man had his first son when he was forty years of age, there would have been ten generations in four hundred years. Further, the mother of Moses (Jochebed) was Levi's daughter, (Numbers 26:59 ), Amram having married his own aunt. Exodus 6:20 . Levi lived only a hundred and thirty-seven years in all, and supposing (it can be approximately proved) that he lived in Egypt eighty-eight years, Jochebed was born during those years. If Moses was born when she was forty-seven years of age, and Moses was eighty years old at the Exodus, these sums (88 + 47 + 80 = 215 years) show that Israel may have been in Egypt about two hundred and fifteen years, and this is the period now generally supposed.

If we admit this to be the time of the occupation, we must endeavour to see how it agrees with the four hundred and thirty years of Galatians 3:17 .


Age of Abraham when Isaac was born 100

" " Abraham, when the promise was given 75


" " Israel when Jacob was born 60

" " Jacob when he stood before Pharaoh 130

" " Sojourn of Israel in Egypt 215


If then this be the correct period, how does it agree with Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40 ? In Genesis 15:13 and Acts 7:6 , nothing is said about Egypt : "Thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs." This was said to Abraham, and may include the whole period from the birth of Isaac to the Exodus, which according to the above was four hundred and five years — thus agreeing with the round number of four hundred years. Exodus 12:40 is worded differently: "The sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." The Samaritan Pentateuch and the LXX add the words "and of their fathers in the land of Canaan;" but these words are not in the Arabic, Syriac, or Vulgate versions; and may therefore have been added to meet the apparent difficulty. It is better to take the four hundred and thirty years as including the sojourn of Abraham (after the promise), and of Isaac, and of Jacob, though strictly speaking Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not 'children of Israel.'

The conclusion that the sojourn in Egypt was really for two hundred and fifteen years creates another difficulty in some minds, namely, the great increase of the Israelites during that period. Exodus 12:37 speaks of there being 600,000 men, besides children, at the Exodus. Numbers 1:46 gives the number more exactly as 603,550 from twenty years old and upwards that were able to go to war. This has been calculated to signify a total of about two million men, women, and children, without the descendants of Levi. Is this a greater number than could be the descendants of those who entered Egypt? This may be reckoned in two ways: if we deduct thirteen from the seventy (for the family of Levi and for those who could not be called heads of families at that time) Deuteronomy 10:22 , the result gives fifty-seven heads of families; and if each had 14 children,

In one generation there would be 798

In the second 11,172

In the third 156,408

In the fourth 2,189,712

To reckon fourteen children to each may seem a large number, but it must be remembered that there was the plurality of wives, and scripture speaks of their multiplying exceedingly.

Exodus 1:7,12,20 .

The increase may be reckoned in another manner by the population. If the above fifty-seven are multiplied by 3.3 it gives as the population at the commencement (excluding Levi, and his descendants, etc., as above ) 188 persons. Suppose the population doubled itself in fifteen years (as it has been known to do in some places), the number in two hundred and ten years would be over three millions. There is therefore no difficulty in the increase of the people.

Israel in Egypt is typical of mankind in the world, under the power of Satan, before being sheltered under the blood of Christ, and redeemed by the power of God.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Israel in Egypt '. Morrish Bible Dictionary. 1897.

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