I love research–for one thing, it’s easier than writing. For another, it stalls the dreaded day when you simply must put words on a computer screen, and it holds the dreaded FEAR OF THE BLANK SCREEN at bay for a while. That’s why I don’t spend more than a week on research up front–any longer than that and I might never get started.

I do keep researching as I write, though, and of course I have to look things up when I run into a conundrum–let’s say that people were sitting down to eat. I have to know if they used plates or silverware or fingers or chopsticks, so if I don’t already know, I put in a pair of brackets and say [look this up later!] and keep typing. First drafts are for getting the story down.

My biggest problem when I began to research THE SHADOW WOMEN was setting the story in a specific time. Dozens of researchers and theologians all have various ideas about who the Pharaoh of the Exodus was and when the Israelites officially left Egypt, but once I began to really study the Scripture and Egyptian history, everything fell neatly into place. The key is realizing that the Hebrews were in Egypt only 215 years–there were 430 years from the establishment of the Abrahamic covenant until the Exodus. Most people try to make the slavery last 430 years, but that doesn’t work.

Let me explain. In Galatians 3:16-17. Paul says that the Law came 430 years after God’s covenant with Abraham.

I found that in the Septuagint it says that 430 years passed from the time Abraham left Ur from the time Moses left Egypt. In other words, it was 430 years between the time God promised Israel a home and they actually arrived in Canaan to claim it. There was absolutely no way I could make Moses and Joseph fit with the Egyptian timeline unless I went with this; when I did, it fit perfectly. To start counting years when Israel went down under Jacob messes things up—puts the Hebrews there too early or sends Moses out too late.

I have all kinds of facts to back this up—Joseph had to be 18th dynasty or later because the Hyksos (pre-18th dynasty) introduced horses, and the Bible says Pharaoh gave Joseph his chariot–which presumably required a horse. The Bible also says that the Hebrews built the city of Rameses, which makes Moses confront Ramses the Great. There are only about 200 or so years between the 18th dynasty and Ramses the Great.

Look at Gen. 15:13—God tells Abraham that his people will be strangers in a country not their own and will be enslaved and mistreated 400 years—they did NOT have a country of their own until Moses led them into Canaan. And they were enslaved in Egypt, and probably mistreated everywhere else, but most people assume that entire passage pertains to the Egyptian period. It really doesn’t. (If God tells you your descendants are going to be homeless for 400 years, wouldn’t you think the clock started at that moment?)

Now look at Exodus 12:40: “Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt.” BUT—the Masoretic Text, the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint substitute the phrase Egypt and Canaan for “Egypt.” So the Hebrews were without a home for 430 years, and this is what Paul was referring to.

Now it gets exciting—there’s no way there are 430 years between the place in the timeline where Joseph HAD to be and where Moses HAD to fall, unless you start counting with Abraham. But if you do, there’s a pharaoh in Moses’ time who mysteriously lost a first-born son, there’s a pharaoh in Joseph’s day who had mysterious dreams and was hung up on interpreting them . . . it’s really cool!

Many people, of course, interpret this differently, but they run into the problems mentioned above if they do. In the interest of fairness, here’s another man’s opinion.

From Abraham’s call (Gen. 12) to Jacob’s arrival in Egypt (Gen. 46) is 215
years. (This may be computed as follows: Abraham was 75 years old when God
called him and 100 when Isaac was born, Gen. 12:4; 21:5. This gives us 25 years.
Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born, Gen. 25:26; and Jacob was 130 years old when he arrived in Egypt, Gen. 47:9. Thus, 25 + 60 + 130 = 215 years.) But Moses
tells us that Israel sojourned in Egypt 430 years (Ex. 12:40); so the total
number of years from Abraham’s call to the giving of the Law is 645 years, not
430. The length of the stay in Egypt is recorded also in Genesis 15:13 and Acts
7:6, where the round figure of 400 years is used.

(Angie here—but notice that Act. 7:6 is a repeat of God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants will be 1) strangers in a country not their own and 2) enslaved and mistreated 3) four hundred years. But God says he will punish the nation they serve as slaves (and notice he doesn’t say “and those who mistreat you,” though he certainly did punish the Canaanites . . .)

So the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt for 215 years. It’s the only way the historical Pharaohs fit with what we know from the Bible, and it’s wonderful that the Bible does back this up . . . if you consider the Septuagint AND what Paul said.

Let’s also look at it from a genealogical perspective: Look at Ruth 4:19-22:
Hezron the father of Ram, (HEZRON is on the list of those who went into Egypt)
Ram the father of Amminadab,
[20] Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon, (Nashon is on the list of those who came out of Egypt)
[21] Salmon the father of Boaz,
Boaz the father of Obed,
[22] Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of David.

Okay—Hezron (son of Judah) went INTO Egypt with Jacob. (Gen. 46:12)

Now look at Exodus 6:23:
Aaron married Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

See what I mean? Aaron—MOSES’ BIG BROTHER—married a woman whose grandfather came into Egypt with Jacob! Plus, Nashon is one of the leaders of the people during the Exodus (Numbers 2:3). People weren’t living extra-long in those days, plus these generations had to overlap. We know Boaz and Jesse were well into the time Israel was living in Canaan. So this fits MUCH better with 200 years than with 430.

One more fascinating tidbit: Genesis 15:15 gives us a reason why the Hebrews remained so long in Egypt: “In the fourth generation,” God told Abraham, “your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

Note that “the fourth generation” exactly matches the family names above.

Okay–went down a rabbit trail with that one, didn’t I? But I really do think these decisions through. And when you do a systematic study of Scripture, all the pieces fit. After all, biblical fiction is historical fiction. The two DO mesh.

Tomorrow: The Writing



  1. Deborah

    wow. that’s a lot of research. i’m speechless. this is why i’m a history major 🙂

  2. jan

    what patience this must require! thanks for all of the research! i have not only enjoyed reading your books but have learned a lot in the process.

  3. Accidental Poet

    That’s why a) I love reading your Q & A’s at the end of some of your books, and b) I write fantasy – it happens when I SAY it happens!

  4. Slow'n'Steady

    Okay, I’m definitely sticking with poetry. That made my head hurt. But it was lovely and logical.

    It was great to meet you at the conference.

  5. Kay

    ok, well, now I know where to go for help getting my timeline right. Herod historically died BC; but we know, because the Bible says so, that he was alive when Christ was alive, at least for a short time.
    So, maybe in an e-mail you can tell me how to get the info I need to figure that kind of thing out.

  6. darien

    Well, that gives me something to mull over this weekend. I started the book yesterday, so it is interesting to read it and your BOM notes at the same time. Thanks!

  7. Anonymous

    This is stunning. As a reader I totally appreciate the amount of research you put into your books. As a logical thinker I am blown away by your reasoning that evolved from all your research. Is it any wonder that your books are at the top of my favorite living author pile??? Clyde


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