From the Beginning

A STORY OF "TIME" by Trevor Topsfield

Parables (430 Years)

A parable is a story that can be read and understood by everyone, but it also teaches a deeper message at the same time. The Bible is full of them for on the one hand it is printed for everyone to read, but the more it is understood; the greater our ability for further understanding. The Bible is designed so that those well versed in its complex matters can research it with even more success.

Israel is considered in The Bible from both a simple account of its history which is seen at a glance and also God’s treatment of them that takes in a lot more information. This can be applied personally because as God treats Israel, so he treats everyone.

Examples of parables can be found throughout The Bible, but the one I will use to demonstrate them is the one telling of the time Israel spent in Egypt.

In 1728 BC Israel consisted of Jacob and his family. Jacob had 12 sons, his favorite being Joseph the son of the only woman Jacob really loved. Although there were four women who mothered his sons, Rachel was the only one as far as Jacob was concerned. Jacob’s favoritism towards Joseph their firstborn really made his brothers jealous, so much so that they wanted to kill him. Their opportunity came when they were tending the family’s sheep away from home and Jacob told Joseph to go and see how they were getting on. When Joseph arrived, the brothers seized him and threw him down a well or cistern with the idea of killing him a little later.

While Joseph was held captive down the cistern a caravan of Ishmaelite came along so the brothers sold him to them for 20 shekels instead. The Ishmaelite took him to Egypt where he was sold to Potiphar, an Egyptian of some rank as his slave.

While in the story Joseph’s brother’s intensions were for harm, God used this incident for good (Genesis 50:19). Joseph’s brothers could not see past the story, but God was making a parable out of it and the point he was making was for the good of everyone who understood the meaning.

In 1706 BC, (Genesis 46:27), 22 years after Joseph was taken to Egypt, Israel numbered 70 when all Jacob’s family went there. This was 215 years before Moses and Aaron led them out when it was 1491 BC.

Why, In Exodus 12:40 does it state?

“Now the length of time the Israelites lived in Egypt was 430 years. (NIV)

While it might appear the time Jacob and his family moved to Egypt was the beginning of their living there, the fact is, that was only half the time. For the 430 years is calculated 215 years before Jacob’s family moved there.

If we calculate 1,491 BC 430 it comes to 1921 BC or, 1,491 BC +215+215 = 1,921 BC.

The question must be asked; what happened in 1,921 BC that started the 430 year clock to tick?

It was in that year that God told Abram (later to be called Abraham) to leave his country, his people and home and go to a place he would be shown. Even though Abram was 75, it was the beginning of Israel. So God in the meaning behind the story, considered Israel to have lived in Egypt from 1,921 BC until 1,491 BC.

Egypt was where Israel lived as it grew up.

So what does Egypt in Joseph’s day illustrate in the meaning of this parable?

Everyone is born living in Egypt; it is where we have no other option than to live under its rules.

It is an illustration of the nature we all received from our fathers who passed it on to us, with them having received it from their fathers. It goes right back to Adam when he ate from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”.

Like the Jews were at their beginning; at our beginning we can only function from this inferior or sinful way of life. However God needs his people to have another option, one that would allow them to have fellowship with him and a better way of life as they function through the filling of the Holy Spirit.

God needed to break the hold the Egyptians had over Israel so he commissioned Moses and Aaron to lead them out. To do this God had to show something of his strength. While there were nine plagues he inflicted on the Egyptians that could not do it, the tenth one did. The only way our sinfulness will loosen its grip on us is to nullify it by having another option to use if and when we decide to do so.

Everyone starts out only having the strength that comes from our fathers as Jacob explained to his son; Reuben.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, excelling in honor, excelling in power.” (Genesis 49:3) (NIV)

However the best we receive from of our fathers is sinfulness and wages of it is death. It only makes us slaves in Egypt and it ensures we stay there. However God sent the Angel of Death to go through Egypt and destroy its hold over us by killing its entire firstborn.

Everyone in Egypt was warned this was going to happen and was given a way out if they believed that God would do it.

God was prepared and had promised he would take away our sinfulness himself by judging himself for it.

Even before the cross when this judgment took place, people could believe in the promise of it and receive all the benefits it would bring. Therefore everyone has two choices regarding this matter.

1 Each person can accept God’s judgement of Jesus for our sinfulness because we have accepted his authority and agree something has to be done about it. This establishes the fact that God is God to us; therefore God can give us his righteousness while we still have our sinfulness because nothing else has changed (only sinfulness has been judged). However, at our physical death the righteousness we were given will become complete and therefore we will live with God forever. We have already decided God is God and with his righteousness that is how it will remain forever.

To utilise this promise all a person had to do in Egypt was to kill a lamb and put its blood around the door frames of their house the night the Angel of Death came over. For all who had blood on their door frames the Angel of Death could see their sinfulness was already judged. With no further action required by him, he simply passed over them.


2 The Angel of Death administers the wages of sinfulness to all those who ignored God even though they had seen his “Divine Nature” and “Eternal Power” in the things he has made. For those who God is not God, they do not respect his authority, and in their pride neither do they agree with his judgment of their sinfulness on the cross. Therefore they did not put any blood on their door frames so that the Angel of Death did not pass over them.

Before the cross everyone was aware that Jesus would be judged for their sinfulness. God had promised it and made sure everyone knew it would happen, even in 1,491 BC.

But where there was no blood on the door frames, they were still relying on the strength they received from their fathers so all firstborn were killed (the firstborn the might and strength of the father).

With the Jew’s sinfulness no longer holding them back and with the righteousness of God they could be then lead out of Egypt by Moses and Aaron to enjoy a new life with God.

This was the end of the 430 years Israel lived in Egypt.

We can conclude; it is the firstborn of man that enslaves and condemns us, while the firstborn of God sets us free and justify us.

Trevor Topsfield



Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.


All dates taken from “Clarke’s Commentary”


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