Alan Montgomery



We will cover in this part the chronology the entrance of Abraham into the land of Canaan to the end of Judges and then to the building of the Temple of Solomon. Some would argue that the Bible is not intended for chronology and that we lose sight of its beauty and meaning if we allow it to be used that way. The Bible is from God and needs to be appreciated on all levels and not just the ones that make us feel comfortable or popular. If the Bible is the truth, its chronology should be useful to historians even if they do not believe in God.

Summary of Early Major Events in History
 Event  Date
 Creation  5519 BC
 Noah's flood  3268 BC
 Abram's entrance into Canaan   2021 BC
 Exodus  1591 BC
 Joshua' conquest of Jericho  1551 BC
 Saul made king  1106 BC
 Solomon's Temple begun  1023 BC
  Fall Of Omrides   897 BC
 Fall Of Samaria  723 BC
 Fall Of Jerusalem  590 BC
 End of exile   538 BC
 Rebuilding the temple  520 BC
  Decree of Ezra  458 BC


The entrance of Abram into Canaan initiated a new era in God's purpose for the human race. Up to this time, the knowledge of God was culturally transmitted in each nation. Yet in each nation, there had arisen both priests and kings who had abandoned the worship of the true God to worship idols of the sun, moon and the stars. There was no longer any nation whose culture was a safe vehicle for the transmission of the knowledge of God. God chose Abram to journey to a new land to establish a new culture, which would respect His promises and commandments for posterity.

Abram received the promise that God would give the land of Canaan to his descendants, that God would make him the father of many nations and kings and that God would bless the nations of the world through his offspring. Abram also received a promise of an heir, an heir not just to his estate, but to the promises that God had made to Abram. At first, Sarah and Abraham thought that Ishmael, son of Hagar and Abraham's legitimate heir under the law, was God's answer to their hopes. However, the promise was by faith and the heir also had to come by faith - not by human effort. God's promise through Abraham was accomplished in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; so much so that Paul refers to believers as the children of Abraham. Jesus, on the other hand, told the Sadducees and the Pharisees that had Abraham been their father they would have received Him.

There are two views on the chronology of this period: one, that the duration of Israel's stay in Egypt was 430 years and the other that it was 215 years. As mentioned before by Kitchen, slave prices in Moses date about 1500 BC were about 30 shekels. If Joseph entered Egypt 430 years before the exodus, it would put him at 1900 BC. or the beginning of the first Babylonian dynasty. It would put Abraham at 2100 BC., before the fall of the last Sumerian dynasties. The historical connections to the first Babylonian dynasty would require Egyptian dates be put back another hundred years. If Joseph were 215 years before Moses it would place him in the 18th century BC. The historical fit with the Egyptian Middle Kingdom would require a lowering of dates about 100 years. Abraham would appear in the 20th century BC., i.e., in the First Intermediate Period. This is a good fit with or without a 100-year lowering.

The period of the sojourn is given in Exodus 12:40,41. "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel who dwelt in Egypt was 430 years. And it came to pass at the end of the 430 years, even to the very day, that the hosts of the Lord went out from Egypt." The question is: Does the 430 years refer to their residence in Egypt only or does it include the patriarchal stay in Canaan? Taylor (Taylor, 1992) provides an excellent discussion of the Hebrew text and its ambiguity. In particular, Taylor points out time phrases in Hebrew which stand alone without any prepositions usually refer to the entire period in the sentence or paragraph. His view is that the 430 years belong to the whole sentence rather than the clause ãwho dwelt in Egyptä.

The Septuagint and Samaritan texts state that the 430 years were spent in Canaan and in Egypt. Josephus says more explicitly that the sojourn was 215 years in Canaan and 215 years in Egypt. Thus all three interpret the sojourn as beginning with Abraham. In Galatians 3:17 Paul tells us that "The covenant which was confirmed before by God in Christ, the law, which came 430 years later, could not annul." This is the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 upon his departure from Harran to the land of Canaan. This covenant promises to make of Abraham a great nation and to bless the gentiles through Abraham's seed (i.e. Christ). The giving of the law is a reference to Moses receiving the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai. If the sojourn is 430 years, then the above interpretation makes sense. If the stay in Egypt was 430 years Paul must have referred to some other covenant; some suggest the confirmation of the promise to Jacob as he entered Egypt. The context of Paul's argument is the covenant promise of the blessing to gentiles like the Galatians. The focus is on Abraham, his faith and God's promise to him. Jacob is not mentioned. This leads me to conclude that Paul's 430 years apply to the whole sojourn and not just the stay in Egypt.

The sojourn is mentioned also in Genesis 15:13 "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land not their own and will be enslaved and will be mistreated 400 years." Is this the time of enslavement or a rounding of the years in sojourn? If this sentence were translated so that "for 400 years" appeared before "your descendants" then the implication in English would be that the 400 years was the sum of the three periods. Here again, Taylor prefers the view that the 400 years is the sum of the periods. A simple reading of Exodus suggests the oppression began shortly before Moses birth. This would make the period of enslavement from the Moses birth to the exodus 80 years. Joseph began to rule about age 30 as Pharaoh's vizier. About age 39, Joseph received Jacob into Egypt. Joseph died at age 110 , having held office for 71 more years. Adding to this another 50 years until a pharaoh who knew not Joseph could ascend the throne results in a total of about 120 years. Accordingly, the mistreatment and slavery can last no longer than 310 years.

God had promised that He would end the suffering of the Israelites in the 4th generation. Moses was of the fourth generation and became God's deliverer. If the Israelites were to spend 430 years in the land of Egypt, is it possible to account for God's promise to deliver Israel in the fourth generation? The first generation to enter Egypt was Joseph. His brother Levi had a son named Kohath who lived to be 133 years old. His name appears in the list of Jacob's descendants who arrived in Egypt with him. He had a son named Amram who lived to be 137 years old. Even if we were to assume that: Kohath was a newborn at Jacob's arrival, Amram was born to Kohath at 133 and Moses born to Amram at 137, there could elapse no more than (133+137+80) = 350 years before the Exodus. To accommodate a 430 stay in Egypt, one must add a generation or suppose that Kohath was born at least 80 years after Jacob's entrance into Egypt.

Interestingly, the Moses line is the only one whose ages are mentioned in the text. All others are recorded without ages or any other chronological information. With the exception of Cainan, one cannot find missing generations in the Hebrew records when ages are provided. In Moses' day not all Israelites were fourth generation descendants from Joseph or his brothers. The genealogy of Joshua is given in I Chronicles 7 where Joshua is 12 generations from Joseph yet we know that he lived at the same time as Moses.


2021 to 1591 BC




 Abram leaves Harran  2021  0
 Isaac birth  1997  24
 Abraham's death  1921  100
 Birth of Jacob & Esau  1916  105
 Jacob enters Egypt  1806  215
 Joseph's death  1735  286
 Moses birth  1671  350
 Exodus  1591  430

Note: My investigation lead me to believe that the sojourn in Egypt was only 215 years. The 400 years oppression is little understood. The Hebrew often takes a series of events and adds the total of the years at the end of the sentence. The translators of many of these chronological statements often are not able to assign the right years to the right events. The 430 years sojourn includes both the time in Canaan and Egypt and is correct to the year. The promise is reiterated 25 years later and the 400 years is a rounded amount. This is confirmed by the Septuagint and Samaritan versions who recognized the ambivalence in the Hebrew and made sure in their versions to leave no ambiguity.

I would also ask you to remember that the deliverer would come in the 4th generation. As an actuary I as constantly amazed how often people actually believe in the concept of a population generation. It really does not exist. Joshua was the 12th generation from Jacob while at the same time Moses was the 4th. Generations is a concept that belongs to families and ancestors not populations.

I deal with the rate of population growth below. Israelites were not monogamous at that time. Offspring of Egyptian wives were counted as Israelites. The men conceived babies into their later years by remarriage, they practiced no birth control and they had no natural enemies, droughts, famines or pestilence while they were in Egypt. This suggests a high rate of population growth.

Could the Israelite population grow to 603,550 men of military age(20 years old) in only 215 years? The Israelites were a pastoral and agricultural society and valued children greatly. Children were their pride and joy. Economically, they were old age security. The Israelite males at that time , like Abraham, frequently remarried at very old ages and/or married their wives' handmaidens. Furthermore, God had not forbidden intermarriage with the Egyptians as he had the Canaanites. In a rich area like Goshen, free from plagues and war, one would expect a high rate of population growth. In Africa today, some nations are growing at 5% per year. At a rate of 5% per year the Israelite population would double every 14 years. This represents 15 doublings in 210 years or a 32,000 fold increase. Since the Israelites and their wives were initially 70 people, the final population would be over 2,240,000. This could easily provide 600,000 men of military age. The 5% rate used over 210 years does not imply a uniformly increasing population.

The growth of the Israelites to two million people in 210 years is not unreasonable for that time, culture and environment. On the other hand, a 430-year sojourn in Egypt would require an average 2.5% rate of population growth. This is similar to the average population increase in industrialized nations in the post World War II era. These societies are monogamous, use birth control and abortion, socially restrict child bearing years to ages 18 to 40 and generally disdain more than three children in a family. A population growth rate as low as 2.5% would be unlikely among the Israelites.

August 19, 2002