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Home Forums Existence of the Israelites in Egypt How long was the sojourn in Egypt? Reply To: How long was the sojourn in Egypt?

  • Deborah Hurn

    April 18, 2021 at 11:24 am

    There is an earlier calling and promise that can be deduced from the detail that Terah, Abram’s father, was already en route from Ur to Canaan, but the family only got as far as Haran:

    Gen 11:27-32 JPS Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begot Lot. (28) And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees. (29) And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah. (30) And Sarai was barren; she had no child. (31) And <b style="font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;">Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and <b style="font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;">they went forth with them <b style="font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;">from Ur of the Chaldees, <b style="font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;">to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and <b style="font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;">dwelt there. (32) And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.

    Act 7:2-4 NRSV And Stephen replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor <b style="font-size: 1rem;">Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, <b style="font-size: 1rem;">before he lived in Haran, (3) and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ (4)<b style="font-size: 1rem;"> Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, <b style="font-size: 1rem;">God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living.

    Right from the beginning in Ur, therefore, there was a divine calling to migrate to Canaan:

    Gen 15:7 NRSV  Then [God] said to [Abraham], "I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess."

    Perhaps the initial calling was to both Terah and Abram in Ur, but Terah didn’t want to go further than Haran. When he died, Abram then fulfilled their calling. Nahor, Abram’s brother, however, did not continue on to Canaan, and his descendants in Haran later supplied wives to Abram’s son Isaac and grandson Jacob. This is a very tribal outlook, typical for the times, and explains why the calling was probably to the whole family, and to Terah as the patriarch at the time. Terah’s calling was Abram’s calling, also typical of the times when children “still in the loins” of their father (i.e. not yet born) were nonetheless participants in their father’s privilege and inheritors of their father’s obligations (Heb 7:5, 10).

    Note that Abram and Lot had gained possessions and persons in Haran:

    Gen 12:5 NRSV Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan.

    This takes time. These proposed 20 years in Haran anticipate (echo) Jacob’s 20 years in Haran when he fled from Esau and over that time acquired 4 wives, 11 sons, and a lot of livestock. From all these texts combined (above), I think it is entirely reasonable to suppose that the extended family spent 20 years in Haran and only Abram and Lot had the faith to continue on to Canaan.

    Thus, the 30-year difference between the 430 years from the first calling in Ur of the Chaldees (involving both Terah and Abram) and the 400 years (involving only Abram) in Canaan thus consists of 20 yrs “dwelling” in Haran and another 10 years “dwelling” in Canaan until Abram received the second promise (the covenant) at age 85 (Gen 15; 16:3). This seems to be a very simple, coherent, and biblically supported solution for what seems to be unnecessarily confusing.