Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Returning to Egypt [I]

A little bit more on Israel's Sojourn in Egypt

So. Turretinfan (TF) and I have a bit of a friendly back and forth debate on the length of Israel's sojourning in Genesis and Exodus. Basically the disagreement hinges on when the period of 430 years of sojourning began for Israel.

Did it begin in Genesis 15 when God cut His covenant with Abram and His promise to make him a great nation, or did it begin at the entrance of Jacob into Egypt in Genesis 46?

If Israel's sojourn began in Genesis 15, then the 430 years can be broken into two portions: the 215 years Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were in Canaan, and then 215 years the people of Israel were in Egypt until the time of the Exodus. On the other hand, if Israel's sojourn began when Jacob and his family came to Egypt, then the 430 years only entails the time the people of Israel lived in Egypt.

TF wrote a post attempting to defend the theory that Israel was in Egypt for 215 years instead of 430. His main point with originally writing the post was to demonstrate the problems with Harold Camping's loopy chronologies that lead him to set the date of Christ's return for May of 2011 (hopefully the film version of the Hobbit will be released by then). In turn, I wrote a brief post explaining why I think TF's argument does not hold up under scrutiny. There are several exegetical and historical factors that do not allow the 215 year theory to be workable as I will show here shortly. In response, TF posted even another lengthy article defending his 215 year theory that answered some of my challenges to his position.

And on top of his two articles, in the comment section under TF's first post, a guy named Lambsfury has also come to the defense of the 215 year theory for Israel's sojourn. Being from Arkansas, I have seen some furious lambs in my day, especially in the local church Easter plays, but he suggest my position is false teaching which is patently absurd seeing that it is the main position held by every orthodox Hebrew and OT scholar I have read and I know, and in fact have personally contacted to solicit their opinion.

With my response then, I will hit on the main talking points TF raises objecting to my view and explain why they are unsustainable for a 215 year theory for Israel's sojourning in Egypt. The broad areas I wish to cover include: Genesis 15:13-16, Exodus 12:40, 41, Galatians 3:15-17, the subject of genealogies, and then some historical data concerning the chronology of Egypt as it crosses with Israel's history. Because my discussion with the material is long, I will break up my response into two or three manageable posts.

With that, let me turn to the first two points in defense of a 430 year sojourn in Egypt.

Genesis 15:13-16

I'll begin with God's specific prophecy to Abram in Genesis 15:13-16 in which God says Abram's descendants will be oppressed in a land not their own for 400 years.

The relevant text reads:

13 And he 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; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

This is the first prophetic mention of the length of Israel's sojourning in Egypt. The 215 year theory separates 215 years for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob's "sojourning" in the land of Canaan and 215 years for the nation of Israel sojourning in Egypt. However, just a brief, exegetical review of the four verses severely refutes the division of 430 into two parts.

1) Abram's seed, or his descendants, will be "a stranger in a land that is not theirs." Proponents of the 215 year theory suggest Abram's seed are strangers in the land of Canaan as well as Egypt, because Israel had not possessed the land and did not do so until after the Exodus under Joshua's leadership. For example, Genesis 37:1 states that Jacob was a stranger (literally, a "sojourner") in the land of Canaan. But, if one considers the terms of the covenant God made with Abram in Genesis 17:8, He specifically states the land is as good as his already. It is considered an everlasting, or eternal, possession. So even though Abraham had not taken official possession of his land, it was in fact his land. (Ironically, TF's discussion in his post on the land of Canaan is a good treatment defending premillennialism. I say "ironically" because I would imagine his devotion is to a non-premillennial eschatology. I digress...)

Now, before anyone charges I am arguing Clintonian style semantics, the text of Genesis 15:13-16 further specifies the land where Abram's descendants will sojourn as we will see as I move along here in the text. The point being is that the land that is not theirs is not the yet-to-be fulfilled possession of Canaan itself. Israel sojourns in a land outside of Canaan.

2) Abram's descendants will serve and be afflicted by one specific nation. The reader will note God mentions a few times that Abram's descendants will not only sojourn in a land not theirs, but also serve the nation in whose land they sojourn, and that nation will in turn afflict them.

The 215 year theory suggests Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (including Joseph), were afflicted in Canaan, so the prophecy of service and affliction entails the life of those three men before Jacob went into Egypt. For instance, in Genesis 26 we read of Isaac going to dwell with the Philistines due to a famine in his area. God tells Isaac to stay and He would take care of him, but Isaac leaves anyways. When God prospers him in spite of his lack of trust in God's promise to bless him regardless of the famine, Isaac comes into conflict with the Philistines who envied him and stopped up his wells (Gen. 26:14-16; see also 26:19, 20). This is understood as being afflicted. Other squabbles the three patriarchs had with local Canaanite tribal groups are cited as examples of the Children of Israel being afflicted and serving other nations.

But these personal run-ins with various tribal clans and city-state chieftains does not come close to fulfilling the terms of God's prophesy in Genesis 15. The most obvious is verse 14 where God says, the nation whom they serve. The word "the nation" is a singular noun. It is one particular nation in view, not a series of individual families, tribes, and clans. There is only one nation in the Pentateuch that would fulfill the terms of this prophesy: Egypt. Israel is said they will serve that nation for 400 years, until the fourth generation.

Moreover, two further clarifying points ruins the 215 year theory. First, God says "that nation" will be judged." No other group of people during the time before Jacob experienced the level of judgment Egypt did. There can be no doubt as to which nation God had in mind here. Then secondly, God states that after that nation is judged, Abram's descendants will come out with great possessions. We see this fulfilled in Exodus 12:35, 36 when the Egyptians gave the people of Israel many articles of clothing, along with gold and silver. The text states that they plundered the Egyptians. When did this event take place? After the 430 years the Children of Israel lived in Egypt (Exodus 12:40).

3) The Amorites are separated from "the nation" which oppresses Israel. If the affliction of Abram's seed also happened in Canaan before Jacob went into Egypt, there would be no need to distinguish "the Amorites" mentioned here from "that nation" which will oppress Israel. The term "Amorites" is a basic description of the people inhabiting the land of Canaan at that time. In other words, the Canaanites of the conquest. God declares that their iniquity was not yet full, meaning His judgment against their paganism was delayed until after the 430 years were complete. That judgment by God happened under Joshua and the conquest after the Exodus.

Exodus 12:40, 41

Now, let me move my attention to Exodus 12:40, 41. The text reads:

40 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. 41 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.

Exodus 12:40, 41 is probably the most devastating passage against the 215 year theory. It states quite clearly that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt 430 years. After the end of the 430 years, they went out from the land of Egypt. Yet in spite of this clear, unambiguous passage as to the length of Israel's sojourn in Egypt, TF believes there can be other ways to understand the passage. He writes:

With this reading, the sojourning is 430 years and the "dwelt in Egypt" modifies the children of Israel, though not necessarily their stay in Egypt. Thus, the text of the KJV is ambiguous as to whether the sojourning all took place in Egypt or not. Some (perhaps all!) the other versions phrase the verse such that all the 430 years are in Egypt. Mr. Butler is quite insistent that the only way to read this verse is as saying that the entire time of the sojourning was in Egypt, but when I've questioned him on the issue of translation of the text (i.e. whether the KJV's translation is a reasonable translation) he does not seem to have any answer. ...

Mr. Butler's third argument relates to a counter-argument that I have not presented above. Very briefly, the counter-argument is that the LXX reading of Exodus 12:40-41 includes the phrase "and in the land of Canaan" into the middle of "who dwelt in Egypt." This reading suggests at least the possibility that the original reading included the time in Canaan as well as that of Egypt. Alternatively, the reading suggests that there was an ancient marginal note that confirmed that the expression "in Egypt" shouldn't be understood in the exhaustive sense that Mr. Butler contends. Thus, some ancient commentator likewise confirms the 215 year thesis.

Basically his response is three-fold as I read it. He says the idea of "dwelt in Egypt" is vague and doesn't necessarily refer to Israel's stay only in Egypt; the translation of the KJV suggests we can read "dwelt" as supportive of the 215 year theory; and he also favors a textual variant reading found in a few editions of the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the OT, which add the phrase and in the land of Canaan to verse 40.

Let me respond to each in turn:

First, the word "dwelt" cannot be understood to mean anything else than what it says: Israel dwelt, lived, had residence in, Egypt for 430 years. Contrary to TF's claim, the word does mean their stay only in Egypt, especially as it reads here in Exodus 12:40.

Second, TF points out how other versions besides the KJV (try every major modern translation!) phrase the verse in such a way as to say Israel was in Egypt the entire 430 years. Well. There is reason for this: That's because that's what the passage is saying! His argument comes suspiciously close to how Dave Hunt claims Acts 13:48 should be translated "all who disposed themselves to eternal life, believed" contrary to all the rules of Greek grammar and the fact every English translation is against him, except the NWT. Besides, the KJV is not wrong with their translation; I have never argued as such. The English word "dwelt" can mean to reside in or be a resident, which is what the Hebrew means here in Exodus 12:40.

And then third, the addition to a few copies of the LXX of the phrase and in the land of Canaan seems to have gone past TF. If not, I don't really see him interacting with this important variant. The addition is the main thing many of the older commentators like Gill appeal to in order to defend the 215 year theory. The point I made, and still make, is that this phrase is not found in any Hebrew manuscript. We can't merely look past this as if the phrase is an important marginal note to the Hebrew text. It isn't. The addition is only found in some translations of the Hebrew, like the LXX. This means the phrase was added to the various translations for one reason or another. The most obvious reason is because the translators saw what they thought was a difficulty reconciling the individual passages where the length of Israel's sojourn is discussed, so they thought they were helping to clarify the text. The one thing I would add is TF's appeal to the LXX reading of Exodus 12:40 comes dangerously close to the polemics of KJV-onlyists who attempt to argue that because 1 John 5:7,8 is found in some early Latin translations of 1 John, it was original to John's epistle and should be added to the Greek text in spite of the fact no Greek text of reputation have the disputed verses.

With that, I'll pick up my response in the next post...



Blogger Turretinfan said...

You don't seem to understand my argument regarding Exodus 12:40-41.

Perhaps an analogy would help.

Suppose we had another text somewhere that said: "Abraham, who dwelt in Canaan, was 120 years old."

You wouldn't interpret that as suggesting that all 120 years were spent in Canaan, right?

Or what if the text somewhere said: "David, who slew Goliath, was 80 years old, and he died." You wouldn't think that David was slaying Goliath his entire life, right?

Even so here, where it says, "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years," does not require that the entire sojourning be the period of dwelling Egypt.

If you understand this argument, I'd love to know why you reject. As it stands, though, your counter-arguments are easily addressed:

1) "dwell means live there"

No doubt about that. I fully agree. That's not an issue.

2) Comparison to NWT

If the Hebrew is being mistranslated by the KJV, say so. Otherwise, the comparison to NWT is inapt and simply inflammatory.

3) The Variant Issue

You've missed the point here too. I have no doubt that the Hebrew reading is the original reading here. The significance of the variant is one of demonstrating the ancient understanding of the text. It's archeological evidence of how this text was understood long ago. Call it a marginal notation (or gloss) that was added to the text, if you like.

Comparison to the Johannine Comma issue is inapt, because my argument is not that the text should include the additional phrase.

Given that you are so cordial in the beginning of the post, and yet so seemingly inflammatory at the end (comparisons to NWT and KJVO?), I think you must simply not be following the arguments that I've been making. In other words, while you are missing the points dramatically, I don't think you're intentionally trying to misrepresent them.


8:47 AM, September 17, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Dude, you are fast... I so totally envy your ability to write so quickly.

The reason why it isn't a parenthetical phrase has to do with the number of other qualifiers in the passage and in the other cross references. It is similar to why the days of Genesis are ordinary, 24 our days and not symbolic, giant spaces of historical time as long agers claim.

Moreover, the original language of Exodus 12:40 certainly doesn't suggest a parenthesis, hence the reason why all other translations translate this passage as you note: as saying that the 430 years means the total length of Israel stay while they were in Egypt.

I apologize for the perceived lack of cordiality. I certainly don't intend that at all having chosen my illustrations with care, and I feel bad for making an offense. However, I think what I wrote does apply, at least the principle of argumentation employed. The example of 1 Jn. 5:7,8 is very similar to the idea you are putting forth with regards to the LXX. Having argued with many TR onlyists they defend the insertion of the comma along similar lines of reasoning you offer for the LXX reading of the Hebrew.

For the LXX reading to be even remotely legitimate, there had to be some textual evidence some where. What I see is the LXX translators (editors/redactors) trying to smooth out a perceived difficulty of 430 as recorded in Exodus with maybe the 400 in Genesis 15, as well as the genealogical discrepancies at Exodus 6 (which I will address later). There could also be a similar tradition among the Jews who explained the discrepancies by saying it also included Canaan and that tradition was included in the translation. The LXX is full of this sort of stuff actually. So much so that the KJV onlyists claim the LXX is an AD document, and even John Owen questioned the historical authenticity of the LXX in his treatment on Hebrews.

Listen. I will honestly do better to tone down any remarks that could be taken as being mean spirited in my next post.

10:17 AM, September 17, 2009  
Blogger Turretinfan said...

"The reason why it isn't a parenthetical phrase has to do with the number of other qualifiers in the passage and in the other cross references."

Which qualifiers?

Which cross-references?

Before you go there, I think it's worth noting that in English the KJV's translation does provide it as a parenthetical phrase. In fact, that's the only way to read the English of the KJV. So, if you are arguing it cannot have that meaning (i.e. it cannot be a parenthetical phrase), you are arguing that the KJV is wrongly translated (which is fine, if that's your position).

"It is similar to why the days of Genesis are ordinary, 24 our days and not symbolic, giant spaces of historical time as long agers claim."

I don't see the analogy, perhaps because I don't see the other qualifiers etc. to which you alluded. I agree that Genesis 1 couldn't make it much more clear that the days are literal days.

Again, as to the comparison to the comma, that analogy would be relevant if I were arguing that the text should read as in the LXX. I am not arguing that. So, the analogy does not apply.

For the purposes of this discussion the LXX and the SP can simply be treated as though they were commentaries on the text. The point is that they evidence a relatively old view of the text.

So likewise, as I pointed out in my article, can we treat the non-canonical book of Levi. We seem to have found B.C. evidence (in the Dead Sea Scrolls collection) of its ancient date, and it serves to confirm the short view.

The earliest evidence I've ever seen for the long view is Josephus 1/2, then Hippolytus (in an extremely passing reference), and then a long gap until relatively recently.

In contrast, we have Eusebius of Caesarea giving a detailed chronology for the 215 year view and noting his earlier source (Alexander Polyhistor, who flourished in the 1st century B.C., specifically from his work On the Jews). No one is saying that Eusebius was a flawless historian, but there doesn't seem to have been a competing historical theory from the time he wrote his history until recently.


3:02 PM, September 17, 2009  
Blogger Don said...

You already point out the major flaw with the short sojourn view, and that is they require Israel to be stangers in two lands, and afflicted by two nations, in clear conflict with the statement of Genesis 15:13-14 (and Acts 7:6-7), where the focus is on a land (singular) and a nation (that nation, again singular). Thus, the 400 year period of affliction could not be in the lands (plural) of Canaan and Egypt, by the nations (plural) of Canaan and Egypt. In the long sojourn view it all happens in a single land by a single nation, Egypt, which is completely compatible with the above verses.

But there are a couple of other notable issues:

1) In Genesis 15:13, the KJV says they would be strangers in a land "not theirs". However "theirs" is not possessive in the Hebrew, it is literally "to them" or "for them". The idea is Israel would be strangers in a land not for them. Certainly Egypt was a land not for them, not being the promised land. But the land of Canaan cannot be in view, because it was a land for them, being the promised land.
Ref: http://sites.google.com/site/calendarstudies/genesis-15-13-16

2) The KJV translates the relative pronoun "asher" of Exodus 12:40 as "who", which makes it appear to qualify "sons of Israel" (as if there might be some confusion as to which sons of Israel were being referred to). The LITV and YLT translate this pronoun "which", showing the reference is to the noun "dwelling" (a good translation of this phrase is "which they dwelt in Egypt"). So the relative phrase is highliting that the dwelling (sojouring) in view is the one in Egypt.
Ref: http://sites.google.com/site/calendarstudies/exodus-12-40-41


8:18 AM, September 26, 2009  

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