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>Afflicted 400 years

>I have been revisiting the Egyptian sojourn in some recent correspondence. It raised the possibility of another option I had not previously considered.

Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for 400 years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15)

I wondered if the “for 400 years” could be read “until 400 years” giving the translation:

Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted until 400 years (from now).

I would appreciate thoughts from anyone who can read Hebrew.

Categories: chronology, translation
  1. Starwind
    2007 October 22 at 21:58

    There is no Hebrew word in the original text corresponding to “for” (or “until” for that matter). The Strongs numbers are 5647 (enslaved) 6031 (afflicted/oppressed) 853 (’ēṯ ) 702 (four) 3967 (hundred) 8141 (year).
    where: ’ēṯ (853):

    New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance:
    This particle points out the definite direct object in a biblical Hebrew sentence. It is usually not translatable. It is normally employed in Hebrew prose but may often be missing in Hebrew poetry. It occurs as ’eṯ, ’eṯ-, or ’ēṯ-. It may take pronominal suffixes, ’ôtīy, me; ’ôtkā, you, etc. (1Sa_8:7). Used before mīy, ’eṯ mīy, it indicates whom. In fact, it is able to point out any kind of accusative in a sentence (cf. 1Ki_15:23). It is used thousands of times in the Old Testament.
    Strong’s:
    Apparently contracted from H226 in the demonstrative sense of entity; properly self (but generally used to point out more definitely the object of a verb or preposition, even or namely): – (As such unrepresented in English.)
    BDB Definition:
    1) sign of the definite direct object, not translated in English but generally preceding and indicating the accusative

    The NASB, YLT, KJV, JPS, RV, Green’s literal translation, Darby, Douay-Rheims, ASV all translate that phrase as just “four hundred years” omitting ‘for’ or until’ etc
    You are referencing the ESV, yes? It seems the only translation that inserts “for”. A more exacting representation would have been:

    and they will be afflicted [for] four hundred years.

    indicating “for” was an inserted word.

  2. 2007 October 23 at 03:11

    Thanks Starwind. Yes I have used the ESV, though the word “for” is in the NET also, and several other more dynamic translations.
    I guess this changes my question slightly. The problem is that even without the “for” we still have the implication of “for.” So with the NASB we have:
    God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years.
    It still reads as if the word “for” were inserted.
    But if we translate as:
    God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed—400 years.
    We allow that the 400 years may possibly apply to the enslavement and oppression, or may apply to the strangers in foreign land, or a general comment about the duration from the time of the prophecy.

  3. Starwind
    2007 October 23 at 19:21

    Here is a word-for-word interlinear translation based on the Strong’s number for every Hebrew word in Gen 15:13 with the english meaning [in brackets]:

    H559[and-he-is-saying] H87[to Abram] H3045[to know] H3045[you-are-knowing] H3588[that] H1616[sojourner] H1961[he-shall-become] H2233[seed-of-you] H776[in-land] H3808[not] H1992a[to-them] H5647[and-serve] H6031[and-humiliate] H583(*direct object marker*) H702[four-of] H3967[hundreds] H8141[year].

    The phrase “four hundred years” is the receiver of the action phrase “serve and afflict”, the connection being explicitly declared in Hebrew by the direct object marker ‘eth (numbered by Strong as H583). A ‘direct object marker’ is a word that marks the next phrase as the direct object, i.e., the recipient of the previous phrase’s action). It is often explicit in Hebrew, but implied in English, hence rarely translated.
    So, the direct object marker H583 could be translated as “for” given that in English “for” connects the action to the receipient phrase (an amount of time in this case), but the meaning of “until” in english does more than just mark the recipient phrase of the action, in that “until” also changes the meaning, but lacking any Hebrew textual justification (H583 alone is insufficient) translating “until four hundred years” seems incorrect.

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