The period between Abraham and the Exodus from Egypt appears to be unsolvable. The Bible does not give Jacob’s age at the birth of his sons. Instead the Bible gives a reference from Jacob’s life to the Exodus directly. From that we can piece back together the years for the other events in the period.
The Abraham to Exodus part of the chronology is different than earlier parts because we are now entering heavy narrative in Genesis. The numbers we need to reconstruct this part of the time line must be found through careful reading.
We also find when we tackle this problem that there are several apparent problems in this part of the chronology that must be overcome.
Overcoming these problems is as much a study in how to study the Bible as it is a mathematical puzzle.
Our strategy here will be two fold. First, we take a quick pass through this part of the time line and find the year on Adam’s calendar of the Exodus from Egypt. This can be easily established. Then we work through various "missing pieces" in order to find out when each of the men recorded in this part of the chronology actually lived.
What we find when we do this is some very surprising things about when various things happened in this part of Genesis
So, now, on to the Quick Pass at the Exodus date.
There are just a few verses needed to span this section of the chronology to the Exodus. Recall, in earlier work we have established that Abraham was born in Adam’s 8784th year. We will build from that year as we move towards the Exodus. We repeat the various verses we need to span this interval here for clarity.
5And Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
This is also repeated two other times.1 2 So we do not miss it. Abraham was considered very old to be having kids" verse=" both he and Sarah having laughed at the possibility and so the son’s name Isaac means "laughter."
Since Abraham was 100, the year of Isaac’s birth was 99 years after the year of Abraham’s first year, the year he was born. So the year of Isaac’s birth is 8784 + 99 = 8883 After Adam.
The next generation will see the birth of twins, which we turn our attention to next.
The next generation is Jacob and Esau. They are born when Isaac is 60 years old.
24And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, look, there were twins in her womb.
25And the first came out red, all covered with ringlets of hair; and they called his name Esau.
26And after him his brother came forth, and his hand held Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was 60 years old when Rebekah bore them.
This too is reasonably easy to compute the year of birth. Isaac’s year of birth was 8884 After Adam, which was his first year so 59 years later the twins are born. 8883 + 59 = 8942.
Abraham’s family grows large in Canaan. By this time there are about 70 people in it. But, times are not well. Famine has gripped the promised land and the family cannot survive on the land. Deliverance comes through a lost son who has ended up as prime minister of Egypt. To Jacob, now renamed Israel’s, great surprise.
At the invitation of Joseph, the lost son, the rest of the family decides to move to Egypt to escape the famine. When they arrive in Egypt Jacob has an audience with Pharaoh.
7And Joseph brought in Jacob his father and presented him to pharaoh and Jacob blessed pharaoh.
8And pharaoh said to Jacob, How old are you?
9And Jacob said to pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are 130 years; few and difficult have been the years of my life, and I have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.
The year this happens is Jacob’s 130th and so we need add 129 years to his first year to discover the year from Adam. 8942 + 129 = 9071.
Jacob’s family would remain in Egypt and not return to Canaan for 430 years.3
Since 9071 was the first year in Egypt, they would remain there for another 429 years, making the last full year in Egypt 9071 + 429 = 9500.
In the year 9501 After Adam, at Passover, in the first month, the whole assembly of Israelites depart Egypt for the promised land. Note that the first year of Adam is the year 1, so the difference between this year of departure and Adam’s first year is 9500 years exactly. This is interesting because there are further dates which will align on the half-millennium boundary we are seeing here. But, more on this later, back to our story.
Note that Jacob’s family would leave 430 years later, to the very day.4 Since they left on the Passover the 15th day of the first month, they must have arrived in Egypt on the 15th day of the first month in the year of their arrival, 9071. We assume it was sometime later in that year when Jacob had his audience with Pharaoh.
Now that we’ve made a quick trip to the Exodus, we need to back up and find out when the rest of the events of Genesis happened. There are some hard problems which must be solved before we can say we have it complete.
So, we turn our attention back to the time from Abraham to the Exodus again, this time taking a slower journey through this period, filling in some missing details.
The reason we had to take the quick trip through to the Exodus is because there appears to be a missing chronological key.
Jacob goes to Padan Aram and there agrees to work seven years for his future father-in-law in order to buy his wife, but in a honeymoon night mixup, he finds he’s been slipped his beloved’s sister. No matter, says father of the bride, take them both, but remain here working for me another seven years.
Jacob agrees, and in fact remains there another 13 years before returning home with wives, kids and flocks.
Throughout this dialog we are not told what age Jacob was when he started having kids, so we are unable, so it seems, to establish the time chronology through to the Exodus using the family genealogy recorded for us.
It turns out there is a date for this, but Jacob is not the one used to date the births of the sons. To find where that date is we need to start out ahead, at the Exodus and work backwards, finding out when his sons are born and thereby finding out what Genesis uses to date their births moving forwards across the time line.
Late in the year 9500 Moses along with his older brother Aaron appear before Pharaoh. Over about one month’s time they perform a series of miracles for Pharaoh, so he will believe that the God of the Bible was real, and so that Pharaoh would let the Hebrews out of Egypt to return to their homeland, Canaan.
7And Moses was 80 years old and Aaron 83 when they spoke to pharaoh.
We also find in Exodus chapter 6 the family record of Aaron and Moses, the records of which provide the overall life lengths of certain individuals. The following table contains those values.
We are not told how old these men are at the time they become fathers, so we are being given a different set of data. The only thing we are being told is their overall life span times. This is interesting because it can be strung together no other way besides end-to-end.
These might be absurd data values, ones without meaning, but if this is so there was no reason for the Holy Spirit to allow them to remain. Why use valuable biblical column inches with details such as this?
A simple check that we are at least close involves simply adding these numbers together. 137 + 133 + 137 = 407 years. This, combined with either Moses or Aaron’s age (83 years) at appearance before Pharaoh gives an answer at 490 years. This is not bad, if the Levi, the man in question went to Egypt at age 60 or so this works. But we want a precise answer, not a general one. This only tells us we are in the ball park.
Can we get more precise? Yes. Lets keep going with the math and solve this puzzle completely. We’ll take that scripture intends us to string these names together end-to-end. But, which brother, Aaron or Moses, is the one we are to use at the end of this sequence?
There is no strong biblical answer for either. Moses gets the better press in his later life, but his older brother becomes the high priest which as an office would continue through many more generations.
There is a pattern that we see in other places that the older brother gets the birthright unless something upsets that pattern. Aaron will eventually forge a calf-idol, at the prompting of the people of Israel, but he is never explicitly thrown out of office for this, so we will follow the general pattern and favor the older brother here.
Without a strong case for either brother at this point, we need further confirmation, ie: a "back-check" where we revisit this and show it did turn out to be the right choice for some other reason. That other reason will turn out to be that our choice will agree across the time line to the one already developed.
We have enough data at this point to compute birth years for each of the men mentioned earlier.
Aaron appears at age 83 to Pharaoh in the year 9500, 82 years earlier would be his first year, the year he was born. 9500 - 82 = 9418.
Amram, Aaron’s ancestor, lives 137 years, so his first year is 9418 - 137 = 9281. Note that there is no single year correction here because these lives are strung together end-to-end. We have no way to know what sort of correction to apply. It turns out none is needed.
Kohath, Amram’s ancestor, lives 133 years, so his first year is 9281 - 133 = 9148.
Levi, Kohath’s ancestor, lives 137 years, so his first year is 9148 - 137 = 9011.
So, what does this give us? Nothing in the lives of these men, appears to link to anything in Egypt, nor to the arrival in Egypt, so it must point at something else. But what?
The answer lies in the account of Jacob’s sons. We now know when one of them was born. Can we tell when the others were born? Yes, we can.
Jacob spent twenty years in Padan Aram.8 While he was there he worked 7 years for each daughter 9 for a total of 14 years10 he then worked six years for the flocks.11 In total Jacob spent 20 years in Padan Aram12 working for Laban.
We have a few other details, that do appear to matter. The first is that he arrived in Padan Aram after the first month, 13 so the seven years he spends working for the first wife end early in his 8th year. His wedding week with Leah and his wedding week with Rachel are therefore somewhere early in the 8th year there.
Remember that like Noah, the seed is planted in one year, and the baby born in the next, unless we are told otherwise. Nowhere in this account are we told otherwise. So, the first baby born is in Jacob’s 9th year in Padan Aram. We are given a long sequence describing the births of the first 11 children.14 The last, born on the road home, is recorded separately.15 Since we are not told otherwise we again assume the normal case, of one baby per year.
What is unusual about this case is that there are different mothers through this list. The mother than matters for us here is Leah, the mother of the first four boys. We assume she goes through the normal cycle, while Rachel watches jealously.
This pattern is interesting because one son we already have the birth year for. We’ve already shown Levi to be born in 9011 After Adam. That means we can chart it, and discover the birth years of each of the sons of Jacob. The following chart shows the result.
|Jacob’s Son||Year Born|
Since the first son was born in the 9th year in Padan Aram, this means that the first full year in Padan Aram must have been 9001 After Adam.
This is interesting since Jacob’s dream at Bethel, were he saw a ladder was 500 years, almost to the day, as the Israelites departed Egypt for the promised land.
This is interesting data, and provides two more threads which we need to work through further. The first is that Joseph’s birth year is given, and we also know details of his life and arrival in Egypt. Before we address Joseph, we need to find the forward key which gets the birth table we just presented, keyed to time working forward instead of backward from the Exodus. That key is Jacob’s uncle Ishmael.
The chronology we are following is built around the family line from Adam through to the first high priest, Aaron. In all cases except for one, the time sequence at each generation is built from the time sequence of the one before. The one exception is Ishmael. We turn our attention now to Ishmael.
Ishmael’s father, Abraham, was called to go to Canaan from this point, through the rest of his life, Abraham will hear from God.
1Now Yahvah said to Abram, Depart from your country, and from the place of your nativity, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you;
2and I will make you into a great people, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you will be a blessing;
3and I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you; and in you all the families of the land will be blessed.
4So Abram did as Yahvah had spoken to him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was 75 years old when he departed from Haran.
Once in Canaan, the Lord continues to speak, telling Abraham that to his offspring God will give the land. 16
After Abraham has walked with the Lord for awhile, the Lord spoke again. This time is recorded for us as well.
1After these things the word of Yahvah came to Abram in a vision saying, Do not fear, Abram; I am your shield, and your reward is exceedingly great.
2And Abram said, Master Yahvah, what will you give me, for I will die childless, and Eliezer of Damascus, one of my house, will be my heir?
3And Abram said, Look, you have given me no seed; and look, one of the members of my house will be my heir.
4Then Yahvah said to him, This man will not be your heir; but your own son who will come out of your own loins will be your heir.
5And he brought him outside, and said to him, Look now toward the skies and number the stars, if you are able to number them; and he said to him, So your seed will be.
6And Abram believed in Yahvah; and it was counted to him for righteousness.
7And he said to him, I am Yahvah, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.
8And Abram said, Master Yahvah, how will I know that I will inherit it?
9And he said to him, Take for yourself a heifer, 3 years old, a 3 year old ram, a 3 year old she-goat, a pigeon, and a young dove.
10And he took to himself all these, and cut them in 2, and laid each piece against another; but the birds he did not divide.
11And when the birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and look, fear and a great darkness fell on him.
13And Yahvah said to Abram, Know for sure that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will be in servitude, and will be afflicted for 400 years;
14but I will judge the nation which they will serve; and afterward they will come out with great wealth.
15And you will depart from this life and go to your fathers in peace; and you will be buried at a good old age.
16And after 4 generations, they will return here; for the iniquities of the Amorites are not yet full.
17And it came to pass that when the sun had set and it was dark, look, there appeared a smoking furnace and a fiery torch that passed between those pieces.
18On that day Yahvah made a contract with Abram saying, To your seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates;
19the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,
20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaites,
21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.
Abraham is given a great thing at this point, but he does not follow through that belief with action and he proceeds to take matters into his own hand by marrying his wife’s maid, Hagar.
This wedding takes place after he has been in Canaan for 10 years.17 Abraham was called to Canaan when he was 75 years old, as we’ve shown above. He remains there 10 years, or through his 85th year. Then, in the next year, his 86th he weds Hagar and in that same year has a son by her named Ishmael.18 The idea that this all happens in the same year is emphasized by an expression which says he slept with her, and she conceived19 emphasizing the sudden nature of this conception.
What this is telling us is that Ishmael, unlike the other people in our story, is identified as being born late in the year, in this case late in Abraham’s 86th year, the same year the seed was planted. Since we know that Abraham’s first year was 8785 AA we know his 86th year was 8784 + 85 = 8869. This time, we have a birth who’s placement in the year is unusual, unusual enough that we must track it.
When in this year was Ishmael born? We are not given a date, but it must have been in what we would call the "fourth quarter" of the year, since it takes about 9 months to have a baby, for a conception to occur in the same year as birth requires the birth to be late in the year.
We are told that Ishmael will live for 137 years20 so what year is the last year of his life? To run this number out we stop for a moment and put his first year as the year 8871, though his first year did overlap into the previous year. His 137th year is then 9006, though we are running about a quarter year late, so Ishmael did not make it into the last quarter of that indicated year.
The last year that Ishmael’s nephew Jacob works for his first wife is 9007 AA He weds and sleeps with his new wives early in 9008 and has his first child in the normal way in 9009. The year of Ishmael’s death has the same purpose in this chronology as the 500th year of Noah. It is after this year that we should start looking for children.
Ishmael is the chronological key which links the time sequence going forward. His death foretells the soon coming twelve sons of Jacob, the patriarchs of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. This is an interesting coincidence. After Jacob had stolen Easu’s birthright, Esau married back into Ishmael’s family. Ishmael had been promised 12 rulers too, and Esau is being shown by the chronology that these could have been his if he had not despised his birthright.
As we saw earlier, Ishmael was the only man not in Aaron’s genealogy who was used to establish the chronology between Adam and Aaron. Only one other man in this entire era, not in the chronology, has his life length given. This man is Joseph. Altogether, Joseph lives 110 years.21
What we turn our attention to now is the life story of Joseph, and show the various years in which the events of Joseph’s life take place. What we’ll learn from this is that there was an unusual chronology in the time of the famine in Egypt.
When Joseph was seventeen22 events began to unfold that would see him a slave in Egypt. After bringing a bad report to their father about their flock tending skills, Joseph’s brother begin to hate him.
When Joseph begins to have dreams about his brother’s and their eventually bowing down to him they only hate him all the more.
His brothers eventually conspire to kill Joseph, but Reuben the oldest, convinces them to put Joseph in a cistern. Before Reuben can rescue his brother, a caravan of Ishmaelites purchases Joseph as a slave and eventually sells him in Egypt. The price put on Joseph’s head? 20 shekels. 23
This price, 20 shekels, appears to be giving us the age of Joseph when he is sold as a slave, one shekel per year. This is consistent with the Denarius/Day principle we saw earlier, this time it is one unit of currency for each year of life.
Joseph’s story continues in Egypt were he ends up as a manager over the household of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.24 25 It is here in Potiphar’s service that Joseph learns the language and ways of the Egyptians. Then, through the lustful desires of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph ends up in the king’s prison.26
Joseph was so skilled in administration that he even ended up running the prison.27 This is important enough to mention that this is God preparing Joseph for his later life as prime minister of Egypt. Joseph starts out as a young man learning and being mentored by a member of Pharaoh’s court. It continues with the rigors of prison and then will continue with his later job in Pharaoh’s court.
After some number of years Joseph interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker. His correct interpretations will warrant an invitation to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams two years later.28 At that point Pharaoh is so impressed with Joseph that Pharaoh makes him prime minister of Egypt. The time when Joseph enters Pharaoh’s service is Joseph’s 30th year.29
We have already established that Joseph’s first year was 9019 AA so his 30th year is 29 years later or 9019 + 29 = 9048.
We have also already established that Jacob, Joseph’s father, arrived in Egypt and blessed Pharaoh in 9071 AA
The difference between these two dates is 23 years, not what we would expect. It turns out this appears to be correct. Lets work through it in detail.
The last time that Joseph’s brothers arrive in Egypt they are told that two years of famine have passed and that 5 years remain.30 The time it takes to go fetch Jacob, the family and flocks, is enough to push into a new year their arrival being in the middle of the first month, at the time of Passover. So we put 9071 as the 3rd year in the seven years of famine. This means that famine in Egypt was from 9069 through 9075. We also know that there were to be 7 years of plenty before the 7 years of famine, so 9062 through 9068 were those years of plenty when Joseph collected grain for sale through the famine.
If Joseph entered Pharaoh’s service in 9048 and the time of plenty starts in 9062, what gives? We have a problem. Or do we? It helps here to look at the dreams of Pharaoh.
1And it came to pass, 2 years later, pharaoh dreamed; and he was standing by the river.
2And look, up out of the river came 7 beautiful and fat cows; and they fed in a meadow.
3And look, after them 7 other cows came up out of the river, ill-favored and lean; and stood beside the other cows on the bank of the river.
4And the ill-favored and lean cows ate up the 7 beautiful and fat cows. So pharaoh awoke.
5And he slept and dreamed a 2nd time; and look, 7 ears of grain were growing on a single stalk, rank and good.
6And look, 7 thin ears blasted by the east wind, sprang up after them.
7And the 7 thin ears devoured the 7 rank and full ears. And pharaoh awoke, and look, it was a dream.
The actual dream comes as a pair of dreams, each giving a 14 year interval. Later in the chapter Joseph indicates that these are one and the same dream which is why this is traditionally placed as a single 14 year interval, but there is a clue that these are actually two sequential events that are about to fall upon Pharaoh. The clue?
39Then pharaoh said to Joseph, Since god has shown you all this, there is no one as wise and discreet as you are, so
40you will be over my house, and according to your word all my people will be ruled; only on the throne I will be greater than you.
41And pharaoh said to Joseph, See, I have made you governor over all the land of Egypt.
Joseph is first put in charge of Pharaoh’s Palace, and then later, put in charge of the whole land of Egypt. Why? Because Pharaoh was not stupid, he needed to see Joseph work for himself. If Joseph could not be trusted with the palace, he could not be trusted with the country. The duplication of the dreams firmly establishes that God will do what he says, but it also shows that it will happen twice. The 14 year discrepancy in the chronologies being the time when these events will happen to Pharaoh’s house, before they happen to the entire country.
10He who is faithful with little, is also faithful with much; and he who is dishonest with little, is also dishonest with much.
When Joseph was ready, and the country needed him, not just Pharaoh’s people, he was then made second highest ruler in the country.
This is actually an example we will see later where the king (in this case Pharaoh) represents his country and walks through the events that the country is to go through before the rest of the country actually does it. This is seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s time.31
I recently read an article about the various historical records that support the truth of this entire account. See the Wyatt web site. In that story Wyatt reports finding an Egyptian inscription that reported 7 years of famine before 7 years of plenty. This appears wrong to the people reading the inscription. It isn’t. This is why the Egyptians recorded it this way.
To wrap up this section, we have shown that there was a 14 year period where Joseph was prime minister trainee in Pharaoh’s palace and then made full Prime Minister when the second 14 year interval began. This second period is the one with all the "press", the earlier one was in Pharaoh’s house.
This fits the chronological data perfectly and completes our chronology to the Exodus. What remains for us to cover next? Exodus to Solomon’s reign. Which is what we turn our attention to next.
There are several other references to time contained in this section of the Bible which we should address before moving on to Moses and the Exodus.
Two different time spans are given for the Hebrews time in Egypt. 430 years is given as the total,32 while 400 years are given as the time in Egypt as slaves. 33 34 The difference between these times has to do with the adjective slavery. The Hebrews are in Egypt for a grand total of 430 years, but they do not become slaves until they have been there 30 years. (430 - 400 = 30) The year of the start of slavery can thus be computed. 9071, the arrival in Egypt, plus 30 years is 9101. Also, the year of the Exodus, 9501, less 400 years is 9101, the date of the start of Slavery in Egypt.
Abraham was told that his descendants would be in Egypt for four generations.35 There are two ways that this can be considered fulfilled. The first is the four generations recorded in the genealogies, Levi, the first generation in Egypt, Kohath, Amram and Aaron make up those four generations.
This answer, though technically correct is not satisfying since there are end-to-end time segments used to construct it and that implies there were other generations between.
Another answer is to take a strict definition of generation as being 120 years, exactly. This is the standing life length given as the new length at the time of Noah’s flood.36
Four such generations are 4 * 120 = 480 years. This is at fist glance longer than the 430 years spent in Egypt by the Hebrews, but when we take 9500 as the last year in Egypt, the first year in this interval is 9021 AA Curiously, Jacob’s last son Benjamin is born in 9020 AA This is a better solution to the issue of 4 generations and provides yet another confirmation that we have the birth placements right for Jacob’s sons.
When Abraham was 99 years old,37 he was told that God had changed the covenant between God and Abraham. It was being increased -- many nations were to come from him, his name was changed from Abram to Abraham and his wife’s name was changed from Sarai to Sarah. As a sign of this he and his household were to undergo circumcision.
When this happened his son Ishmael was 13 years old.38 As we established earlier, Ishmael was born in the last quarter of Abraham’s 86th year, so Ishmael’s 13th year is from the fourth quarter of Abraham’s 98th year through to the point in the fourth quarter of Abraham’s 99th year when this covenant change takes place.
So far we have assumed, without elaboration, that the various years we’ve been counting off from Adam are synchronized with the base calendar of God. This assumption needs further elaboration.
If this assumption is wrong, we could expect each generation to have an accurately recorded life length, but that those lengths overlap with each other in ways which generate error at each generation. If there is such error, there would be no reason to so carefully record the chronology in the way done here. To establish long distance chronology a different strategy would be needed.
There are other places where long distance chronologies are given, and we typically see that the base chronology has tough parts to understand which is why the long distance times are given.
Since we have no long distance times given from Adam to the arrival in Egypt, we must assume that the times given across this age are good enough for calculating the overall time.
1 Genesis 17:17
2 Romans 4:19
3 Exodus 12:40
4 Exodus 12:41
5 Exodus 6:16
6 Exodus 6:18
7 Exodus 6:20
8 Genesis 31:38
9 Genesis 29:18
10 Genesis 31:41
11 Genesis 31:41
12 Genesis 31:38
13 Genesis 29:14
14 Genesis 29:31
15 Genesis 48:7
16 Genesis 12:7
17 Genesis 16:3
18 Genesis 16:16
19 Genesis 16:4
20 Genesis 25:17
21 Genesis 50:22
22 Genesis 37:2
23 Genesis 37:28
24 Genesis 37:36
25 Genesis 39:1
26 Genesis 39:20
27 Genesis 39:22
28 Genesis 41:1
29 Genesis 41:46
30 Genesis 45:6
31 Daniel 4:1
32 Exodus 12:40
33 Genesis 15:13
34 Acts 7:6
35 Genesis 15:16
36 Genesis 6:3
37 Genesis 17:24
38 Genesis 17:25