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How many years did the Jews spend in Egypt?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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210 years.

When G-d and Abraham sealed the "Covenant Between the Parts," G-d told Abraham, "You shall surely know that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and oppress them, for four hundred years" (Genesis 15:13). However, the entire four hundred years were not spent in Egypt. Rather, they started with the birth of Isaac thirty years later.* G-d told Abraham that his "seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs," and beginning with the birth of Issac,  Abraham's seed dwelt in a land that was not yet their own.

it is mathematically impossible to say that the Jews actually spent 400 years in Egypt
Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born (Genesis 25:27) and Jacob was 130 years old when he arrived in Egypt (Genesis 47:9). Add to that the 210 years the Jews actually spent in Egypt, and you have 400 years.

[Rashi on Exodus 12:40 explains why it is mathematically impossible to say that the Jews actually spent 400 years in Egypt.]

The actual back-breaking slavery started approximately 86 years before the Exodus.

* The 430 years referenced in Exodus 12:30 started with the actual "Covenant Between the Parts."


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Rashi
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Jacob
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Isaac
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Genesis
The first book of the Five Books of Moses. It records the story of Creation and its aftermath, and chronicles the lives of the Patriarchs.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.