Text Box: Creator’s CovenantStarClus1.jpg

The 400 Years of Genesis 15:13

Isaac birth, Abraham covenant, Genesis 15, Israel Egypt oppression slavery 430 years, Israel exodus,

Major Threads




Contact Us

Challenge Rules


Bible Keys


Traditional Beliefs


Hebrews Old Covenant


Patriarchs Covenant

The New Covenant

New Testament Teaching


His Judgments

Other Studies



With a surface reading of Genesis 15:13 the mention of a 400 year period can raise questions. If Abraham and Israel wondered for 430 years before the Exodus, what is this 400 year time frame? We get a clue from Acts 7.

Acts 7:6 "But God spoke in this way: that his [Abraham’s] descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years."

This indicates that the four hundred years did not begin with the day of Genesis 15:13-18, but with the time of Abraham’s descendants.  The context after Acts 7:6 is clearly still of the time before Israel entered Egypt.  It isn’t until verse 14 and 15 that Israel migrated to Egypt.  The text in Genesis 15:13 also focuses on Abraham’s descendents.  “…Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs…

Of course, Abraham had no descendents as of the covenant of Genesis 15 (Gen 15:2.  Ishmael was born when Abraham was 86 (Gen 16:16).  Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 (Gen 21:5).  So Abraham was probably younger than 86 when the covenant of Genesis 15 was made. 

According to Genesis 12:4 Abraham was 75 when he left Haran.  Based on the account that follows, Abraham’s covenant was made after that.  That being the case the 400 year period must begin sometime between Isaac’s fifth and 15th year.  There does not seem to be any particular event recorded that began this 400 year period of oppression.

However, there is an interesting assertion in Hebrews that refers to Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham.  This blessing is recorded in Genesis 14:18-20.  It appears to be before Abraham’s covenant of Genesis 15.  However, Hebrews 7:6 indicates Abraham already had the promises at the blessing.  “but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.

As it turns out Seder Olam (Rabbah), a Jewish work of about 200 CE/AD, contains a chronology of events from Adam to the Babylonian captivity.  Although there is reason to doubt some assertions, this source claims that Abraham was 70 years old as of the covenant of Genesis 15:18.  He then returned to Haran for five years and left Haran at age 75 in agreement with Genesis 12:4. 

‘Our father Abraham was 70 years old when he was spoken to at the Covenant Between the Pieces as it is said (Ex. 12:41): "And it was after 430 years," etc.
‘After that he was spoken to he returned to Haran, stayed there five years as it is said (Gen. 12:4): "And Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran."‘

This would put the birth of Isaac 30 years after the covenant and start the 400 years not with direct oppression, but with the birth of the favored firstborn.  With this chronology the 400 years of Genesis 15:13 and Acts 7:6 are tied to specific events.

The 430 years was from the promises to Abraham, his covenant with the Creator, until the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.  The 400 years is from the birth of Isaac until the Exodus from Egypt.  Remember the subject started with Abraham reminding his Creator that he didn’t have any direct physical descendents.  With the confirmation of the covenant Abraham received a guarantee of descendents and a brief foretelling of their circumstances.

Based on Genesis 17:21-27, it is also possible that Abraham and the men of his house were circumcised on this same mo’ed day when Abraham was 99 years old.  It was probably exactly a year later Isaac was born (Gen 21:2).