[ref001] The 430-Year Sojourn of Israel in Egypt [ref002] [ref003]_The_Skeptical_Review_:

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[ref001] The 430-Year Sojourn of Israel in Egypt [ref002] [ref003]_The_Skeptical_Review_: 1995: Number Four: The 430-Year Sojourn of Israel in Egypt Roger Hutchinson Among the examples cited in an effort to disprove the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is an apparent contradiction between Exodus 12:40-41 and Exodus 6:16-20 : Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. (Ex.12:40-41). And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to their genera tions; Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari: and the years of the life of Levi were an hundred thirty and seven years.... And the sons of Kohath; Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel: and the years of the life of Kohath were an hundred thirty and three years.... And Amram took him Jochebed his fa ther's sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years. (Ex. 6:16-20). Exodus 12 states clearly that Israel dwelt in Egypt 430 years. Exodus 6 provides a genealogy that does not appear, at first glance, to cover 430 years. For there to be no contradiction between these scriptures, there must be at least one explanation that will harmonize the two scriptures. This article proposes one such explanation. Four key people are identified in Exodus 6. They are Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Aaron. We know that Levi was among the group that originally entered Egypt. Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob. Reuben, Simeon, Levi... (Ex. 1:1-2) Exodus 6 then tells us that Levi died at the age of 137, which would have been some time after he entered Egypt. We are also told that Aaron was among the group of Israelites that left Egypt with Moses and that Aaron was 83 years old when the Israelites left Egypt. And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh. (Ex. 7:7) Between Levi and Aaron, Exodus 6 tells us that Kohath lived 133 years and Amram lived 137 years. The Hebrew word ben translated as son in Exodus 6 can also be translated as offspring or descendant. So, in Exodus 6, we can take "son of" to mean either that Kohath was Levi's immediate son or that he was a direct descendant of Levi. Likewise, Amram could have been a direct descendant of Kohath rather than his immediate son, and Aaron could have been a direct descendant of Amram. Because Levi died in Egypt at 137 years, we are able to speculate with some confidence that he was less than 137 when he entered Egypt. We can assume that Levi was 60 when he entered Egypt and that he lived in Egypt 77 years before his death at 137. The assumption that Levi was 60 seems consistent with other information we find in the Bible. More important, this assumption allows us to develop the following scenario in an effort to harmonize Exodus 6 and Exodus 12. Years Israelites Lived in Egypt Levi 77 years Kohath 133 years Amram 137 years Aaron 83 years Total 430 years In this scenario, we have one possible explanation that describes how Exodus 6 and Exodus 12 fit together. Whether we will be able to explain fully the use of genealogies and ages as portrayed in this scenario is not critical at this point. The critical need is to determine whether this scenario is consistent with all other information we find in the Bible. At this point, it is important to understand that translating from one language to another is not an exact science. Translating a language like Hebrew is particularly difficult, because there are few words in the lan- guage and Hebrew words can have many nuances. It is not unusual, then, for translators to consider the context in which the word is found and to choose that meaning which is consistent with that context. Therefore, we will allow the above scenario to dictate the context in which we are to translate and interpret other scriptures. If we find one scripture that cannot be reconciled with this context, we will have to reject this particular scenario and look for another explanation. We see how context affects our understanding of the Bible when we look at Genesis 15:13-16: And he [the LORD] 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.... But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. (Genesis 15:13-16) Based on our hypothesized scenario, Levi would represent the first generation, Kohath the second, and Amram the third. Finally, Aaron would represent the fourth in which Israel would leave the land that was not theirs. Thus, under the above scenario, we draw the conclusion that generations can be measured by the lives of certain individuals. A generation would begin with the birth of some unique individual and end with his death. A new generation would then be identified with a new unique individual who would be born immediately after the death of the prior generation figure. With this view of a generation, we see how it is possible for God to say that Israel would leave Egypt in the fourth generation. Since our scenario covers 430 years, it is consistent with the census recorded in Numbers 3. If the original population of 70 individuals that entered Egypt doubled every 20-25 years, then it would easily exceed one million after 430 years. There are several scriptures whose interpretation is directly influenced by the context established by this scenario. Leviticus 10:4 states: And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp. (Leviticus 10:4) The Hebrew word dod translated as uncle in this verse is also translated as love, beloved, and well beloved elsewhere in the Bible. The word appears broad enough in scope to refer to any relative, not just an uncle. Thus, Leviticus 10:4 could legitimately be translated as, "Uzziel, the relative of Aaron," which would be consistent with the proposed scenario. Limiting the range of dod by requiring that it be translated uncle and nothing else is not a supportable position even though that translation is found in several versions of the Bible. The translation of dod as uncle reflects the conclusion of the translator that the proper context was that Aaron was the immediate son of Amram. Had the translator believed that Aaron was a descendant of Amram, he would not have translated dod as uncle. He would have chosen the proper English word that reflected the meaning of dod within the different context. Thus, Leviticus 10:4 is not inconsistent with the above scenario. Exodus 6:20 is a little more difficult, but the same basic argument applies: And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years. (Exodus 6:20) In Hebrew thought, an individual giving birth to a child becomes a parent to all who are descended from that child. The Hebrew word yalad, translated as bear, can also denote paternity, so that either the wife or the husband can be said to bear a child. The word encompasses many ideas, and its translation relies on the context in which it is used. Jochebed can be said to have borne Aaron and Moses even though she may have actually given birth to their great-grandfather. Because of this, it is not possible to assert dogmatically that Jochebed was the physical mother of Moses and Aaron just because yalad is used. Again, yalad has a breadth of meaning that would allow it to be translated in a manner that supports the context of the proposed scenario. Exodus 2 describes the birth of Moses and can be confusing. Here we read, "And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi" ( [ref004] Ex. 2:1). Many people assume that the unidentified man and woman in Exodus 2 were Amram and Jochebed. At the same time, we see that these people are not specifically identified. This leaves open the possibility that the unnamed man and woman in Exodus 2 were not Amram and Jochebed, which must be the case for the above scenario to work. While many people dogmatically assert that Moses' parents were Amram and Jochebed, such a conclusion is basically speculative. The Bible leaves the door open for a different conclusion. Clearly, the scriptures dealing with the genealogy between Levi and Aaron are confusing. However, because of the nuances in meaning of critical Hebrew words, we are able to propose an explanation to harmonize Exodus 6 and Exodus 12. The validity of this explanation requires that we make certain assumptions. The assumptions that we made fall within the realm of acceptable possibilities. This makes the proposed explanation valid. It does not mean that there are no problems with the explanation. However, it does show that there is at least one way to reconcile Exodus 6 and Exodus 12. (Roger Hutchinson, 11904 Lafayette Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20902.) For a response to this article, see "Another Far-Fetched How-It-Could-Have-Been" (4far95). 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