In Galatians 3:17; Apostle Paul mentions 430 years between the time Abraham was given the promise of becoming a great nation and inhabit what is today Israel, and the time when Moses received the Ten Commandments.


This seems to be the immediate meaning of the text:

“This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.”

Galatians 3:17

This number seems to have been taken from the book of Exodus 12:40, Hebrew version, where it says openly, that the Israelites were in Egypt for this length of time:

“Now the duration of the Israelites' stay in Egypt was 430 years.”

Exodus 12:40 – Masoretic.

The problem is that Exodus quotes that the duration of the time in Egypt, meaning from Joseph until Moses, were of 430, years, and does not take into account the other three generations from Jacob to Abraham, when the initial promise from God was issued, which it seems to be mentioned by Paul in Galatians.

This apparent contradiction goes even further when the Greek version of the same text of Exodus, mentions this period as being from Abraham until Moses, which seems to agree with what Paul says in his letter to the Galatians:

“And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan, was 430 years.”

Exodus 12:40 – Septuagint.

This has been used to support the idea of the assumed favoritism the apostles had for the Greek version of the Tanakh instead of the Hebrew version.


1 - Both records, Hebrew and Greek give the same account of the time of future Egyptian captivity as 400 years in total:

“Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated 400 years.”

Genesis 15:13 – Masoretic and Septuagint.

This number, 400 is also confirmed in the NT period by the words of Stephen the martyr:

“God told him that his descendants would be foreigners in a strange land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated 400 years.”

Acts 7:6

2 – If we consider the years of Abraham to Jacob, it roughly gives over 200 years, not counting the 40 years Moses spent in Midian before he received the Ten Commandments, which gives around 240 years, apart from the time in captivity.

This has driven certain scholars to suggest that the Egyptians must have been no more than 200 years under Egyptian captivity in their desire to harmonize the two quantities (1).

3 – The problem is even more pronounced in the Greek version. The lifetimes of the patriarchs are the same as in the Masoretic, and in both versions, it is said, that the Jews will stay for 400 years in captivity (Genesis 15:30), however, by mentioning that 430 years passed between Abraham and the Law, it is implied that they were in Egypt for no more than 200 years, which contradicts Genesis 15:30 which clearly mentions four centuries of captivity.


The most probable solution is that Genesis 15:30 and Acts 7:6, give rounded up quantities, as it was the custom among Orientals at the time, but the real time spent in captivity was of 430 years, which Paul quickly quotes from Exodus 12:40, according to the Hebrew version, with the intention of giving scriptural support to his argument.

Omar Flores.

(1) Chani Benjaminson, How Many Years Did the Jews Spend in Egypt?,

David Wright, How Long were the Israelites in Egypt?,