Galatians 3:17—Does Paul err in the amount of time between Abraham and the time the Law was given?

Problem: In Galatians 3:17, the apostle states that a period of 430 years elapsed between the time of God’s promises to Abraham (Gen.12:1–3), which was about 2000 b.c., and the giving of the law to Moses, which was around 1450 b.c. This would be a mistake of over 100 years.

Solution: The time that Paul refers to is not the initial giving of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12–15), but the later confirmation of the covenant to Jacob (Gen. 46), which was about 1877 b.c. Since the Exodus occurred around 1447 b.c. (cf. 1 Kings 6:1), this would be exactly 430. There is good indication that Paul is referring to the confirmation to Jacob, not to the initiation of the covenant to Abraham. The text clearly dates the 430 years from “the covenant that was confirmed” (Gal. 3:17). Thus, the time period is the final reaffirmation of the Abrahamic promises to the descendants (seed) of Abraham which takes place in Genesis 46:2–4 to Jacob, a descendent of Abraham, which was 430 years before the children of Israel came out of Egypt.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.