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Why Did God Send Abraham’s Family into Egypt for 430 Years?

I received the following question from our church website.

I do not understand why GOD prophesied to Abraham that his descendants would be 430 years in Egypt. Why? Is it because GOD is punishing him?

No, it was not as punishment for Abraham, but to protect his descendants that God had Jacob’s family move to Egypt. To understand just why this was necessary and how, even though they became slaves in Egypt, it was protection for them we need to look at some things in the Bible as well as some things in Egyptian history.

As Abraham’s family began to grow, both in numbers and in wealth, their place among the inhabitants of Canaan became troubled. For one example of this, read Genesis 34.
Here is the story of how one of the princes of Canaan, Hamor who was the son of Shechem of the city by that name, became attracted to the daughter of Jacob. To tell the story briefly, he raped her, but then wanted to make her his wife. When Shechem came to Jacob and his sons to ask for the girl, they said:

Make marriages with us. Give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. You shall dwell with us, and the land shall be open to you. Dwell and trade in it, and get property in it. (Genesis 34:9-10)

If they had done this, it would not have been long before they would have become a part of the idolatrous people of Canaan – and God’s separation of Abraham to become the father of a great nation would have failed.

Jacob’s sons dealt deceitfully with Shechem by tricking him into submitting to circumcision – along with all the men of his city. Back in the city, Shechem told the people there what this would mean:

These men are at peace with us; let them dwell in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters as wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only on this condition will the men agree to dwell with us to become one people – when every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock, their property and all their beast be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will dwell with us. (Genesis 34:21-23)

The men of the city agreed and were all circumcised. Then two of Jacob’s sons attacked them when they were in great pain from the circumcision and killed all the men of the city. They did this, they said, because Hamor had treated their sister as a prostitute. Jacob, however, saw what this meant. He said to his sons:

You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household. (Genesis 34:30)

As this family grew, it was inevitable that they would come into conflict with the people of the land where they were living with one of two results: either they would adopt the ways of the those people, as did the family of Lot (Abraham’s nephew) when he moved into Sodom (see Genesis 19), or they would be involved in disputes over things like water rights, as was Isaac (see Genesis 26:17-22). In the first instance, they would lose their devotion to Jehovah; in the second, they would be attacked by the people of the land – and, as Jacob feared, be destroyed by them.
Even when Israel left Egypt after the 430 years and God gave them the land, He told them that they would get it only little by little. They were a nation, but with numbers too small to fill the land. It was not until the time of David, 400 years after they left Egypt, that they literally ruled over the entire land that God promised to Abraham.

Why Egypt? Why didn’t God just give them an enclave in Canaan where they could be safe and expand that area as they grew? Evidently God thought they needed a place where they could be isolated from the nations around them as they grew in numbers. Egypt fit the bill.
When Joseph brought Jacob’s family into Egypt and introduced them to Pharaoh, he told them to tell Pharaoh, “Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers.” Why tell him this? He explained they needed to do this, “in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians” (Genesis 46:34). Goshen gave them a protected place to live relatively isolated from the Egyptians.
This prejudice against Hebrews by the Egyptians is also seen in Genesis 43:32. When Joseph’s brothers came the 2nd time to buy food, Joseph brought them into his own home before he made himself known to them. There, “They served [Joseph] by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews,for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.

An interesting side light to this comes from Egyptian history. Prior to the time of Joseph, Egypt had been conquered by the Hyksos invaders, a people who ruled Egypt for about 200 years. (Some scholars even identify the Hyksos as Hebrews. In that case, the rule of Joseph would have resulted in the subjugation of the Egyptians to the Hebrews. There is no archeological support for this, but just how these mysterious Hyksos people became rulers of Egypt is not clear.) Thus (assuming the Hysos and the Israelites were not the same people), the  Pharaoh who elevated Joseph to the throne was not a native Egyptian. He was one of the Hyksos invaders. These people were Semites, that is they were descended from Noah’s son, Shem. The Egyptians descended from Ham. Abraham and the Hebrews were also Semites. Perhaps that is one reason Jacob’s family received favored treatment in Egypt. It was not until “there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8) that the Egyptians made the Hebrews slaves. This was not just the son or grandson of the Pharaoh whom Joseph served. It was a return to the rule of the native Egyptians after they expelled the Hyksos invaders. That is one reason the Egyptians feared that the Hebrews would join enemies of Egypt if war should break out (see Exodus 1:9-10).

The result of this move to Egypt was that Jacob’s family was able to grow into a nation while in a protected environment. Yes, they spent some time in slavery – but God delivered them in a way that they never forgot. In fact, the Jews still remember the Exodus as God’s mighty deliverance of their nation as He made them into a true nation with their own land.


13 Responses

  1. Jacob was told to leave Shechem for Bethel. (Genesis 35:1-6) God terrorized all the cities around Shechem. All the male population of Shechem had been killed. (Genesis 34:25)Egyptian king Senusret III easily took over Shechem, Canaan.

    Egyptian king Pepi II’s reign 2278-2184 B.C. is lowered to 2003-1913 B.C. since the Egyptian Sakkara kings lists mentions the Egyptian 7-10 and part of the 11th dynasties to be fraudulent. Next king listed after Pepi II is Mentuhotep II.

    Bible: Abraham lives 1992-1817 B.C. Isaac 1892-1712 B.C. Jacob 1832-1685 B.C. Joseph 1741-1631 B.C.

    Egypt: Pepi II 2003-1913 B.C. Mentuhotep II 1913-1862 B.C. Mentuhotep III 1862-1850 B.C. Mentuhotep IV 1850-1843 B.C. Amenemehet I 1843-1813 B.C. Senusret I 1813-1777 B.C. Amenemhet II 1777-1743 B.C. Senusret II 1743-1724 B.C. & Senusret III 1724-1685 B.C. who dies a few months after Jacob.

    Pepi II had trade with Sodom. Abraham prayed for Sodom and Senusret III had annexed Canaan. Joseph worked with both the economies of Canaan & Egypt.

    This is the true history linking Egypt with the Bible. Feel free to pass the word!

    • Jacob would enter Egypt the second year of famine at age 130. (Genesis 47:9) This would be 1702 B.C according to the real Egyptian chronology. This was a global world famine. (Genesis 41:57)

      The Canaanite/Hyksos traded their horses for bread. (Genesis 47:13-17) Were there horses in Senusret III’s reign? Yes. A horse skeleton was found at Buhen Nubia (Sudan) under a fortress ramparts dated to Senusret III’s reign. The Canaanites also entered Egypt in 1702 B.C.

      Amenemhet III 1685-1640 B.C. completed the canal Bahr Yusef (Joseph’s canal) proving Joseph was in Egypt.

      Amenemhet IV 1640-1631 B.C. mysteriously dies the same year Joseph died and prosperity ends in Egypt.

  2. The Abydos Egyptian kings lists shows the 13-17th Egyptian dynasties did not exist. After Amenemhet IV the next king listed is Ahmose.

    What happened? Thebeans apparently started a revolt against the Amenemhet/Senusret dynasty.

    Queen Sobekneferu 1631-1628 B.C. also mysteriously dies.

    Ahmose reigns 1628-1603 B.C. Tao his father and Kamose his brother have already been killed in the civil war the scribes have tried to cover up. Ahmose destroyed Biblical On Heliopolis, Egypt where Joseph became governor of Egypt. Ahmose later destroyed all records of Joseph being governor of Egypt, so a pharaoh would arise who knew not Joseph. Exodus 1:8 Ahmose boots the Canaanite/ Hyksos out of Egypt and Shuruhen,Canaan in 1608 B.C. some 94 years after they had entered Egypt. (1702 B.C.)

    Amenhotep I 1603-1582 B.C. name a composite for AMENemhet and Mentu-HOTEP Egypt’s real previous dynasties

    House of Thutmose I-III 1582-1495 B.C. Thutmose I is the pharaoh who kills Hebrew male babies. Princess Hatshepsut saved Moses life. Thutmose II is too sickly to reign. Queen Hatshepsut reigns for Thutmose II and Thutmose III is pharaoh of the Exodus as the numbers in 1 Kings 6:1 indicate.

  3. Biblical chronology: Abraham lived 1992-1817 B.C. Isaac 1892-1712 B.C. Jacob 1832-1685 B.C. Joseph 1741-1631 B.C. Moses 1575-1455 B.C.
    The Exodus: 1495 B.C.

    1019-979 B.C. Solomon reigns over Israel. Solomon’s 4th year is 1015 B.C. 480 yrs. after the Exodus. (1 Kings 6:1)

    979-962 B.C. Rehoboam 962-959 B.C. Abijam 959-918 B.C. Asa 918-893 B.C. Jehoshaphat 893-885 B.C. Jerhoram 885-884 B.C. Ahaziah 884-878 B.C. Athaliah 878-838 B.C. Jehoash 838-809 B.C. Amaziah 809-757 B.C. Uzziah 757-741 B.C. Jotham 741-725 B.C. Ahaz 725-696 B.C. Hezekiah 696-641 B.C. Manasseh 641-639 B.C. Amon 639-608 B.C. Josiah 608 B.C. Jehoahaz 608-597 B.C. Jehoiakim 597 B.C. Jehoiachin & 597-586 B.C. Zedekiah.

    Most major historians agree Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. Judah’s kings by numbers support Solomon’s reign at 1019-979 B.C.
    leaving the Exodus at 1495 B.C.

  4. There are 521 yrs. from the Exodus to Rehoboam’s 5th year. (1 Kings 14:25) when Shishak attacks Israel.

    1495-1471 B.C. Amenhotep II 1471-1462 B.C. Thutmose IV 1462-1424 B.C. Amenhotep III 1424-1407 B.C. Akenaton 1407-1406 B.C. Semenkare 1406-1396 B.C. Tut 1396-1392 B.C. Ay 1392-1361 B.C. Horemheb 1361-1360 B.C. Ramses I 1360-1347 B.C. Seti I 1347-1280 B.C. Ramses II 1280-1268 B.C. Merneptah I 1268-1263 B.C. Amenmes-ses 1263-1258 B.C. Seti II 1258-1251 B.C. Merneptah II 1251-1249 B.C. Tausert 1249-1247 B.C. Irsu 1247-1245 B.C. Setnakht 1245-1213 B.C. Ramses III 1213-1207 B.C. Ramses IV 1207-1203 B.C. Ramses V 1203-1193 B.C. Ramses VI 1193-1192 B.C. Ramses VII 1192-1185 B.C. Ramses VIII 1185-1166 B.C. Ramses IX 1166-1157 B.C. Ramses X 1157-1130 B.C. Ramses XI 1130-1103 B.C. Smendes 1103-1099 B.C. Neferkhres 1099-1049 B.C. Psusennes I 1049-1040 B.C.Amenmope 1040-1034 B.C. Osokhor 1034-1014 B.C. Siamon 1014-995 B.C. Psusennes II & 995-974 B.C. Shishak who died only months after attacking Jerusalem.

    We have filled in all the 521 years. The pharoah before Amenhotep II is Thutmose III the pharoah of the Exodus.

  5. Genesis 15:13-16 the Amorite 400 years. Some 300 years Amorite kings would reign over Babylon.

    1895-1881 B.C. Sumu-abum 1880-1845 B.C. Sumulael 1844-1831 B.C. Sabium 1830-1813 B.C. Apil-Sin 1812-1793 B.C. Sin-muballit 1792-1750 B.C. Hammurabi 1749-1711 B.C. Samsu-luna 1710-1684 B.C. Abi-Eshuh 1683-1647 B.C. Ammi-ditana 1646-1626 B.C. Ammi-saduqa 1625-1595 B.C. Samsu-ditana

    1595-1495 B.C. The Amorites were powerful in Syria and Lebanon. Thutmose I and Thutmose III would fight the Amorites there.

    Amenhotep II, Thutmose IV, Amenhotep III & Akenaton all collect tribute from the Amorites proving their 400 years of power were over.

    (Abi-Eshuh reign he dams up the Tigris river trying to starve out the Sealanders during the Global Famine 1704-1697 B.C. Sealanders survive.)

  6. The Global famine. (Genesis 41:57) Senusret III reign 1724-1685 B.C. Senusret III’s 20th year 1704 B.C. Egyptian troops in Nubia barely made it back to Egypt because the Nile river was so low.

    1702 B.C. Jacob age 130 enters Egypt.

    Amorite Abi-Eshuh reign 1710-1684 B.C. his priests claim when the Elamite king Kuter-Nahunte attacked Babylon and stole the Amorite fertility goddess Nanaja-this angered the goddess and she brought famine to Babylon.

  7. Amorite king Samsu-iluna 1749-1711 B.C. Babylonian nation was attacked by Kassites riding in horse driven chariots in 1741 B.C. Jospeh was given a horse driven chariot in 1711 B.C. when he was 30 years old. (Genesis 41:43-46) Joseph was given the second chariot. When Jacob died there was chariots and horsemen escorting Jacob’s body to Canaan. (Genesis 50:7-9) These were ceremonial chariots not military chariots as we witnessed Joseph ceremony and Jacob’s funeral when the chariots were used.

    Amorite king Abi-Eshuh 1710-1684 B.C. damed up Tigris river in effort to starve out the Sealanders. (Genesis 41:57)

    Amorite king Ammi-ditana 1683-1647 B.C. Merchants give loans to farmers. Payback: Either 33% of their crop or 20% in silver. Many farmers go broke and sell themselves and family into slavery. Slaves wind up in Crete and Egypt. Slaves may have helped Egyptian king Amenemhet III 1685-1640 B.C. complete Bahr Yusef (Joseph’s Canal).

    Amorite king Ammi-saduqa 1646-1626 B.C. Passes law requiring merchants to forgive all debts. Merchants disobeying the law are executed.

    Amorite king Samsu-ditana 1625-1595 B.C. last Amorite king at Babylon. Samsu-ditana worships the moon god Sin. Strangely Ahmose in Egypt 1628-1603 B.C. does not worship the sun god. His favorite god is the moon god Iah.

  8. Minoan presence in Egypt. How Minoans relate to Biblical history.

    Amenemhet II 1777-1743 B.C. Minoans first appear in Amenemhet II’s 28th year in 1749 B.C. bringing him the Tod treasure.

    Senusret II 1743-1724 B.C. Minoans help Senusret II build his temple in Luhun, Egypt.

    Senusret III 1724-1685 B.C. Some Minoans migrate to Avaris, Egypt during the Global Famine. (Genesis 41:57)

    Amenemhet III 1685-1640 B.C. completes Bahr Yusef (Joseph’s canal)Amenemhet III’s navy sails to the island of Crete and see the Labyrinth. Then Amenemhet III builds a Labyrinth in Egypt.

    Amenemhet IV 1640-1631 B.C. still works the Sinai mines and continues trade with the Minoans.

    Queen Sobekneferu 1631-1628 B.C. so little is known about her.

    Ahmose 1628-1603 B.C. Father Tao is slain with a Minoan ax. Ahmose mother is buried with a Minoan ax. Ahmose forces the Canaanite/Hyksos out of Egypt and Shuruhen, Canaan in 1608 B.C.
    Some Minoan craftsmen stay in Egypt.

    Amenhotep I 1603-1582 B.C. Minoans on island of Crete copy Egyptian ceramic styles.

    House of Thutmose I-III 1582-1495 B.C. Minoans produce beautiful frescoes in Egypt during queen Hatshepsut’s reign. During Thutmose III reign idols are made from pumice. The Minoan island of Thera blows up producing a darkness (ash) which can be felt. (Exodus 10:21)

  9. (1) Genesis 12:17 plagues: take place in Egypt upon Abraham’s visit to Egyptian king Pepi II. (Ipuwer Papyrus mentioned plagues)
    (2) Genesis 21:25 water scarcity:Abraham digs a well and the Philistines want it. Mentuhotep II digs 12 wells along Nubian trade route
    (3) Genesis 26:2 God tells Isaac not to enter Egypt. Why? Senusert I is called “Throat Sliter of Asiatics” now reigns over Egypt.
    (4) Genesis 47:13-17 Joseph manages both Egypt’s and Canaan’s economy. Senusret III is known to have annexed Canaan.
    (5) Genesis 37:2 & Genesis 50:26 Joseph age 17 lives 93 years in Egypt. Senusret III 39 yrs. + Amenemhet 45 yrs. + Amenemhet IV 9 yrs = 93 years.
    (6) Exodus 1:8 A pharaoh arose in Egypt who knew not Joseph. Why? Ahmose had destroyed Biblical On and all Joseph’s records since he hated foreigners.
    (7) Exodus 1:15-16 The pharaoh who orders all Hebrew male babies to be slain is Thutmose I. Exodus 2:5-9 The princess who saved Moses was princess Hatshepsut. Queen Hatshepsut reigned for Thutmose II who was too sick.
    (8) 1 Kings 6:1 The Exodus took place 480 yrs. before Solomon’s 4th yr.,thus Thutmose III is the Exodus pharaoh.
    (9) Amenhotep III receives the Tel-Amarna letters which reveal the Haribu (Hebrews) have invaded Canaan.
    (10) Judges 3:8 Akenaton’s cousin is Tushratta also known as Cushan-Rishathaim. Akenaton’s poem to Aton is similar to Psalms 104 proving the Hebrew conquest has already taken place.

    The Bible is a map to real Egyptian history when the fraudulent dynasties are stripped away. This is the Biblical Egyptian match one would expect since the Bible is historically accurate.

    • Rex,

      All of this can be interesting to people who are immersed in history of ancient Egypt. It does not, however, add anything to my post. The Lord sent Abraham’s family into Egypt so that there they could become a great nation (numerically) first under the protection of the Pharaohs who knew Joseph – and then through the crucible of suffering under the Pharaohs who did not know Joseph.

      Most of my readers have never heard of most of the Pharaohs you have listed and dated. Personally, I doubt that more than a few ancient dates can be known with certainty. And you have given little evidence to establish any of these dates.

      Unless you can add material of general interest, I will block you from the site.

      Respectfully yours,


  10. […] who despised them. Here they were able to live and increase in number in safety. (Click here or here for more on […]

  11. 400 years of captivity and 40 years wandering because they forsake the Sabbath!
    Dee, on what Scripture do you base this assertion? Jerry Starling

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