At first glance, it appears that Ex 12:40 contradicts Acts 7:6. This is not a Bible contradiction. By figuring backwards from the Exodus you can see this is not a Bible contradiction, at all.
The easiest way to do this reconciliation is to figure all of the dates that you can find from Abraham to the Exodus and calculate the numbers of years from this information. As a starting point we need to establish two dates. One date is the birth of Abraham. The other date is the date of the Exodus from Egypt.
The birth of Abraham. Using 4004 BC as the date for the creation of Adam and calculating all of the ages and dates of the men between Adam and Abraham, you arrive at a birth date for Abraham of 1996 BC. You get this date by working backwards from Terah’s [Abraham’s father] death since the Bible doesn’t say how old Terah was when Abraham was born. Terah was 205 years old when he died [Gen 11:32] and Abraham was 75 years old that same year [Gen 12:4]. Thus, Terah was not 70 years old when Abraham was born [Gen 11:26, the year Terah started having children]. Rather, Terah was 130 years old when Abraham was born in 1996 BC.
The date of the Exodus. The date of the Exodus is commonly held to be 1491 BC. We used this date when reconciling the 480 years from the Exodus to the 4th year of Solomon’s reign in 1 Ki 6:1. The date reconciled perfectly. So, it is established in the Bible as the correct date.
The ages and dates of other events. Now we will cite the other dates of significant events from Abraham to the Exodus.
Gen 12:4-10 – Abraham was 75 years old when he left Haran and first entered into Egypt
Gen 16:16 – Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born
Gen 17:1 – Abraham was 99 years old when God gave him the covenant of circumcision
Gen 21:5 – Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born
Gen 21:8-12 – Five years later Isaac was weaned and Ishmael was cast out
Gen 25:7 – Abraham was 175 years old when he died
Gen 25:20 – Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah
Gen 25:26 – Isaac was 60 years old when Esau and Jacob were born
Gen 47:9 – Jacob was 130 years old when he and his family moved to Egypt
Gen 47:28 – Jacob was 147 years old when he died
From these dates we can determine the following:
- 1996 BC – Abraham was born
- 1921 BC – Abraham first entered Egypt to “sojourn”
- 1896 BC – Isaac was born
- 1891 BC – Ishmael was cast out for afflicting Isaac, the “seed”
- 1836 BC – Jacob was born
- 1706 BC – Jacob’s family moved to Egypt
Based on the above, one thing is readily apparent. The 430 year period of the sojourning in Egypt did not begin with the move of Jacob and his family into Egypt. The difference between the time of their arrival in 1706 BC and the time of the Exodus in 1491 BC is only 215 years. So, the 430 year period starts much earlier than that. It starts in Abraham’s lifetime.
Looking back at Gen 12:4-10, we see that Abraham was in Egypt in 1921 BC. He went there to “sojourn.” Ex 12:40 says, “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.” Well, from the time that Abraham went to sojourn in Egypt in 1921 BC until the time that his people left Egypt at the Exodus in 1491 BC was exactly 430 years! So, the 430 years are reckoned from Gen 12:10 to Ex 12:40-41. That’s the time of the “sojourning.”
When we look at Acts 7:6, we find that Stephen is quoting from Gen 15:13. Gen 15:13 says, “ 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.” This is a reference to Abraham’s seed being afflicted by Egyptians 400 years. This period includes the 215 years when his “seed” were strangers and servants in a land that was not theirs. However, Abraham didn’t have a “seed” when he first went into Egypt, at 75 years of age, to sojourn.
So, when did the affliction of the seed begin? The affliction prophesied in Gen 15:13 began in Gen 21:9. The Bible says, “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.” Based on the dates above, Ishmael was mocking Isaac a few years after Isaac was born. Undoubtedly, this was 5 years after Isaac was born. Isaac was 5 years old in 1891 BC when he began to be afflicted by Ishmael, the son of an Egyptian. 400 years later, in 1491 BC according to the prophecy, “the seed” left Egypt where they had been afflicted [Ex 1:12] and had been strangers in a land that was not theirs.
Hence, the 400 years in Acts 7:6 is figured from the recognition of Isaac as the seed [Gen 12:12] after he had been mocked by Ishmael. The 430 years, on the other hand, is reckoned from the first time Abraham went into Egypt to sojourn. Thus, the two figures are reconciled with the Old Testament historical facts and they are reconciled with each other.
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder