Acts 7:6 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Acts 7:6, NIV: God spoke to him in this way: 'For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated.

Acts 7:6, ESV: And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years.

Acts 7:6, KJV: And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.

Acts 7:6, NASB: But God spoke to this effect, that his DESCENDANTS WOULD BE STRANGERS IN A LAND THAT WAS NOT THEIRS, AND THEY WOULD ENSLAVE AND MISTREAT them for four hundred years.

Acts 7:6, NLT: God also told him that his descendants would live in a foreign land, where they would be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.

Acts 7:6, CSB: God spoke in this way: His descendants would be strangers in a foreign country, and they would enslave and oppress them for four hundred years.

What does Acts 7:6 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Stephen is explaining to the Sanhedrin and a crowd in Jerusalem that neither the Mosaic law nor the temple are required for Jews to worship God. The first Jewish God-worshiper, Abraham, did not inherit the land where his descendants were to worship God. He did not have a temple to worship in. And he did not have a law to tell him how to worship. And, yet, he is the founding patriarch from whom all God-worshiping Jews come, including Stephen's accusers.

Stephen continues his narrative about God's promises to Abraham. Some of God's covenant with Abraham was positive: Abraham's wife Sarah would have a son, that son's descendants would inherit the land of Canaan, and through Abraham's offspring all the nations of the world would be blessed (Genesis 15:4–7, 18–20; 12:2–3, 7). But Abraham, himself, would not inherit the land, and his descendants would be enslaved for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13).

Events progressed as God promised. Long after Abraham and his son Isaac had died, Abraham's great-grandson Joseph saved Egypt from a famine that affected Canaan as well. Joseph brought his father and brothers down to Egypt. After Joseph's death, however, a new Pharaoh enslaved his family. Four hundred years later, God called up Moses to announce terrible curses on the Egyptians and rescue for the Israelites (Genesis 46:1–7; Exodus 12:33–42).

A "sojourner" is a resident foreigner. The Israelites were sojourners in their four hundred years in Egypt, but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob's families were also sojourners before the Israelites went to Egypt (Exodus 6:4).

In another attempt to throw doubt on the inerrancy of the Bible, critics point out that Exodus 12:40–42 claims the Israelites were enslaved for 430 years. A closer examination will show the text says they "lived in Egypt" for 430 years. Apparently, after Jacob brought his sons and their families to Egypt to escape the famine, they lived in peace for thirty years. Then the new Pharaoh enslaved them (Exodus 1:8–14). Or, Stephen is simply speaking in the same rounded numbers people have always used in conversation.