Acts 7 BIBLE STUDY:
CAN WE UNDERSTAND what might seem to be discrepancies, found in the Bible?
In this study we are going to look into what is given from SCRIPTURE for ABRAM/ABRAHAM’s age at his CALLING, in relation to the death of Terah, his father. We will look at the passages for 400 VS. 430 YEARS found in Scripture—and the 70 vs.75 people that went to Egypt.
(Focus is on Acts7: 2, 4,6,14—Ex.12:40-41—Gen.46:26-27—Gal.3:17 plus a few other scriptures.)
As anyone who studies the Bible knows, one has to search the Bible here a little and there a little, line upon line and precept upon precept in order to get all the facts that seem to have contributed something to one subject. (Isa.28:10) We will begin with Terah the father of Abram, to dispel all the supposed contradictions of Acts 7: 2, 4, 6, 14 with other scriptures. The bible will always interpret itself and there are no contradictions. (2Pet.1:20-21 & 2Tim.3:16-17)
To get to the beginning of this misunderstanding, we must begin with Gen 11:26 “And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” (Abram being listed first here is compatible with being the firstborn, as is found in many other instances in Scripture.)
Gen 11:31 And 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 they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. (KJV)
Gen 11:32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran. (KJV)
Gen 12:4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. (NKJ)
The above word “HAD” is past tense and indicates that Abram left Mesopotamia as God directed before he was 75 and in Haran, as Stephen says, in the verse given below. How long before, we are not told, but it is possible that it was a year, maybe even more or less, depending on the length of time to travel, with all things considered. This would mean that Terah, Abram’s father was (approx.) 145 years old when Abram departed from Haran, when you do the math. Another thing to note is that there is no mention of Terah’s death here when Abram departs.
Acts 7:2 And he (Stephen) said, "Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, (NKJ)
Acts 7:4 "Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved (KJV has “he removed”) him to this land in which you now dwell.”
Some have assumed, even some scholars and commentators, that it was after Terah died when Abram left Haran, but if you look closely, the scriptures do not say that, depending on what translation you read from and it can be proven, just by what is given above when the consistency of Scripture is considered. Terah lived 60 more years in Haran. The information on Terah below gives us some insight on these verses.
TERAH: (from International Standard Bible Encylopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (C) 1996 by Biblesoft) “(te'-ra) (terach; Septuagint Tharra, or (with New Testament) Thara; on the name see especially Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes), s.v.): The son of Nahor and father of Abraham, Nahor and Haran (<Gen 11:24> f). At Abraham's birth Terah was 70 years old <11:26>, and after Abraham's marriage, Terah, Abraham, Sarah and Lot emigrated from Ur of the Chaldees on the road into the land of Canaan, but stopped in Haran <11:31>. When Abraham was 75 years old he and his nephew resumed their journey, leaving Terah in Haran, where 60 years later he died <11:32>. Stephen, however, states <Acts 7:4> that Terah was dead (**) when Abraham left Haran, an impression that is easily gained from <Gen 11-12> if the dates are not computed.” (As anyone can see from our placement of the (**), even this Encyclopedia shows the fallacy of misreading Acts7:4, but clearly the point is made that Terah could not have been dead at that time.)
Josh 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. (NKJ)
This verse, along with Acts7:3, put together with other scriptures given in this article show us that Terah was not called of God and was an idol worshiper, staying 60 more years in Haran where idol worship was done. This should give us a little better understanding of why God called Abram out of his father’s house back in Mesopotamia, from an idolatress situation and into a COVENANT relationship with GOD. We can also find the answers to the other seemingly “contradictions” and all we need do is apply a little diligence, knowing that God’s Word is true.
Titus 1:2 says God “Cannot lie”— Heb.6:18 says it is “IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie” –2 Tim.3:16 says “All scriptures are inspired by God”---- John 10:35 "If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), ----
So from these scriptures we should be able to determine there are no inconsistencies (One passage showing another to be untrue) in the bible. Therefore, other points of scripture will answer what seems to be a contradiction. For example; how would we explain these scriptures as not being contradictory to one another?
Exodus 12:40-41 “Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.
41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years-- on that very same day-- it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.”
Yet we find recorded in the New Testament, something very different in the words of Stephen. Acts chapter 7:6, in the NKJV.
Acts 7:6 "But God spoke in this way: that his (Abraham’s) descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years.”
This is a 30 year difference. Is this a contradiction?
One quick and clear answer to this is that Stephen was quoting from another Old Testament passage, saying almost exactly what he said, and was not referring at all to the passage in Exo.12. But the difference will be explained later. Let us keep moving with the “unveiling” of these discrepancies.
Gen 15:13 Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.”
Acts 7:6 says that Israel would be “brought into bondage and oppressed 400 years” –therefore these two passages are referring to the same subject and period of time and there is no contradiction. Stephen simply referenced this OT passage scripture.
We also find in chapter 7 verse 14 this statement in the NKJ:
Acts 7:14 "Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people.”
This also seems to be a discrepancy, because we find recorded in Genesis, Exodus and Deuteronomy the number is 70. How do we explain this difference in numbers and why is this difference so apparent? We have to be very careful that we pay particular attention to the wording of both passages.
Gen 46:26-27 “All the persons who went with Jacob to Egypt, who came from his body, besides Jacob's sons' wives, (Daughters in law are not included in this count) were sixty-six persons in all. (Also does not include Jacob himself and Joseph, who went earlier, nor does it include the two sons of Joseph whom Israel named his name on, but the next verse does.)
27 And the sons of Joseph who were born to him in Egypt were two persons. All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy.” (That includes Jacob, Joseph and Joseph’s two sons, but does not include any of the sons wives, as they were not “from” Jacob’s body.)
We also find this same number of 70 mentioned again in Exo.1:5 and in Deut.10:22 However, this still leaves a discrepancy of five people, according to Stephen’s words. The RSV has that verse worded this way: Acts 7:14 “And Joseph sent and called to him Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five souls;”—
Now when comparing the wording, it seems obvious that Stephen is speaking of this, having included some other relatives, “all his kindred,” or “all his relatives” as the scripture says. So here we can see that there are five more mentioned in this, thus creating this apparent inconsistency in Scripture.
Stephen also may have read this from the Greek text, and this is most likely what happened. Back to Acts chapter six, verse one, we find that it is these “Greek speaking Jews” that brought about the ordination of Stephen and the other six deacons. We see in the KJV of Acts 7:30 & 38 which is considered Stephen’s “sermon,” where the word “Sina” is used instead of Sinai. This spelling of Sinai, as “Sina” was done that way in the Greek text or manuscripts. Back In the Exodus 1:5 account, the marginal note in the NKJV refers to DSS and LXX,or “Septuagint” a translation into Greek and it says “75” and refers to Acts7:14. Reading from Acts 7:14 in the Geneva Study bible, NKJV, we find this in the commentary for that verse: “The Hebrew text of Ex.1:5 has “Seventy”, but the Greek translation of the Old Testament text, which this sermon is basically following, and the fragments of the Exodus found among the dead sea scrolls read 75.” It goes on to explain that this additional 5 people are from Joseph’s sons. With that in mind, and considering the fact that all of Jacobs children and grandchildren through these sons are the beginning of what grew into the Israel that was coming out of Egypt, if we go to the book of Numbers, (26) we can verify this possibility from the scriptures.
Num 26:28-29, 35 “The sons of Joseph according to their families, by Manasseh and Ephraim, were:
29 The sons of Manasseh: of Machir, the family of the Machirites; and Machir begot Gilead; of Gilead, the family of the Gileadites.”------
35 These are the sons of Ephraim according to their families: of Shuthelah, the family of the Shuthalhites; of Becher, the family of the Bachrites; of Tahan, the family of the Tahanites.”
That would make, of the “House of Jacob, and his “Kindred”, the 75 people” as Stephen says, and would account for his usage of the different number. These are the foundational people that the nation of Israel grew from to become the nation it was at the time of the exodus. No contradiction, when you consider that sometimes the Bible counts even unborn people that God knows will come on the scene later. (Heb.7:9-10) Others will explain this differently—but I have not found their numbers and explanations accurately match; seeing no other way than what has been explained here that seems to answer this particular discrepancy. So, lastly, let us now solve the 400 vs. 430 years to the best we can with Scripture.
As we have already noted from Gen.12:4, given above, Abram was called at or slightly before the age of 75. The counting of the 430 years begins here with the first covenant God made with him and this is also what the Apostle Paul is referring to in Gal.3:17, where he mentions the law came 430 years later. It is agreed upon by many Scholars that the giving of the law through Moses was at Mount Sinai on Pentecost some 50 days after the Exodus. However the mention of the end of the 430 years is what Exo.12:40-41 is talking about, when they came out of Egypt. When God says to Abram in Gen.15:13--- "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.” God is not talking about those born in Abram’s house that are not heirs, as that chapter makes clear, nor is He speaking of Ishmael that is not from both Abram and Sarai—but the one which is to be the “son of promise”—Isaac is who He speaks of is the beginning of that 400 years.
So approximately 30 years after that first covenant with Abram, Isaac is being weaned and can now go in and out with his father in their “sojourning”. (KJV wording) This is where his “sojourn” begins to be counted, as referenced in Gen.15:13. As 1 Sam.1:24 reveals, children of a special calling in those days were in the care of their mother until they were well able to function on their own with just the care of a father figure. So here in Gen.21:5 we can see the same with Isaac. Gen 21:5 “Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.” This is at least 25 years into the 430 year count, starting with Abram at 75. Then we come to the approximate age of Isaac being weaned at around 5 years old, which is fairly common in those days, as noted above. Gen 21:8 “So the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned.” (The word “weaned” here does not just mean from the breast—as many may assume. There is more to it than that and when you consider the account given of 1Sam.1:24 and the context that leads on into the next chapter—it is easy to determine there was some extensive training involved by the mother as well. In that story you will find that Samuel was only 8 years of age when God first spoke to him.)
Counting the 400 years from this date of Isaac’s “weaning”, we can then conclude that the 430 years and the 400 years would both end at the same time. That ending date would be at the Exodus, ch.12:40-41, and therefore there is no real contradiction of any of these scriptures that we have examined in this article. The scripture truly is of no private origin, being God given and does interpret itself. Isa 28:10, as mentioned at the beginning; “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little." (NKJ)
2 Pet 1:20-21 “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (NKJ)
This should at least help us see that any quick notion that the bible has contradictions is most likely a quick rush to judgment. As we have seen here that with these scriptures there is no real contradiction and that the scriptures can truly be relied on to expel any apparent contradictions, if one is diligent and honest to rightly divide the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)
When we do the research that is required to get the truth, allowing the bible to interpret itself, then we will be able to confirm the scriptures are inspired. However, it is also still wise to keep in mind that translations down through time could have altered some texts enough that they leave us with questions about some things that we seem to fail to adequately answer—which is why we need to keep studying and learning as much as possible in this life. That only happens when we rely on God and the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth! (John 16:13)
It is my hope that this study has been useful to you in dispelling these “discrepancies” of scripture that we have looked at, showing us that what “SEEMS” to be a contradiction, when proper study and diligence is applied, may have an easy to see answer after all. (tcogmso.)