When one watches the 1955 epic, The Ten Commandments, one gets the impression that enslaved Israel had been expecting God to send a deliverer for four hundred years.

Is this true?

A promise is given by God in Ex. 3,17:

And I have said the word to bring you forth out of the affliction of Egypt, into the land of the Chanaanite, the Hethite, and the Amorrhite, and Pherezite, and Hevite, and Jebusite, to a land that floweth with milk and honey. (Douay-Rheims)

But there, God is already speaking to Moses.

When and where is Israel's deliverance from Egypt first prophesied? Had they been expecting a deliverer for four hundred years?

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    Actually, the nation of Israel only started at the foot of Mt. Sinai; until then the descendants of Abraham were know as the Hebrews . But I saw that 1955 colour film (hastening to add that I was too young to pick up on the Hebrews having expected deliverance for 400 years). The film was up to speed with technology, but lacking somewhat in theology! Mike Borden's answer fills in the theology.
    – Anne
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 14:56

2 Answers 2


I see that you have accepted an answer already but I would like to offer an answer regardless. I recommend all of Genesis 15 as foundation and I believe it to be more complete regarding the OP, than the accepted answer.

In God's covenant with Abram it is made clear that Abram's offspring would be enslaved for four hundred years and then delivered with great possessions. Abram asks God how he shall know that he will inherit the promised land and is instructed to prepare a cut covenant. A deep sleep comes upon Abram and God says to him:

Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. - Genesis 15:13b-14

Following this God himself passes through the animal parts of the cut covenant indicating that it is an unconditional covenant (Abram having no responsibility therein). Certainly such a dramatic event would likely have been related to Isaac, the child of promise, and then to Jacob, and then to the 12 patriarch's. Joseph's statement in Genesis 50:24-25 is likely referring to this very promise:

And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.

It seems that Joseph had latched onto one portion of the promise, so as to ensure that his remains would be brought into the promised land, while making no mention of the affliction promised as a precursor.

As the accepted answer indicates, rescues are not usually anticipated prior to calamity but, having finally become enslaved in Egypt (as promised), the rescue promised in the covenant God made with Abram would be remembered with great hope, as both the bondage and the deliverance were given as surety following the question "Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?".

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    Thank you for posting your answer.
    – DDS
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 16:44

Films are not a good guide to any kind of history.

In Genesis ch50 v24, Joseph says "God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob".

But the people did not know,at the time, that a "rescue" would be necessary to make this happen. For the moment, they understood Egypt as a refuge from starvation.

  • That would seem to be it. Thank you. (Also ,if Israel became enslaved shortly after Joseph's death, that would be about four hundred years, I guess.)
    – DDS
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 14:38
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    Even a little earlier (Gen. 48:21), the dying Jacob says to Joseph: Behold I die, and God will be with you, and will bring you back into the land of your fathers.
    – DDS
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 14:56

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