Why did God allow the Israelites to go into bondage for 400 years?
Between the leadership of Joseph and Moses, the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. God doesn’t tell us why it had to be this long. So we must gather from other times that the Lord deals with Israel.
The best I can figure is that God was teaching Israel a lesson during this time. Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt because Joseph was in charge there. There was a time of famine and they needed 6. God worked through Joseph at that time to provide for their needs.
But then a Pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph rose to power. Everything changed. He was uneasy about the size of Israel. He was afraid there were too many of them and they could easily overwhelm Egypt. So he turned them into slaves.
Egypt seemed like a good idea when they were out of food. But a good thing quickly turned to slavery. Sometimes what we think is a good idea may have a time limit. The Israelites suffered because they stayed in Egypt out of comfort. But that comfort went away.
We must follow God’s leading because he is our only source of provision, security, and blessing. The Israelites trusted that Egypt would take care of them during the time of Joseph. But when Joseph died, they stayed there expecting the blessing to continue.
And this isn’t the first time that they trusted in Egypt instead of God. In the time of Isaiah, King Ahaz wanted to run into Egypt’s arms when the nations to his North wanted to attack Judah (Isaiah 7-9). Instead of trusting in the Lord, he wanted to trust in Egypt.
Isaiah warned him that the Lord was the only one who could help him. But he didn’t listen. Egypt is always referred to in the Bible as “The house of slavery.” God always tagged Egypt for Israel so they would never forget that this was the place of their slavery. He wanted a free nation.
On the other hand, King Hezekiah when he was attacked by the Assyrians trusted only in the Lord instead of human alliances (2 Kings 19:1-7). The city of Jerusalem was spared by God. God sent his angel to kill the entire Assyrian army (2 Kings 19:35-37). God protected Judah because the king trusted him.
We can learn from Israel’s mistake. When God gives us a good thing, we must trust in him instead of the thing he provides. We must follow the Gift Giver instead of the gifts that he gives. God is always faithful to us. He doesn’t turn on us in a matter of time. We must trust him alone. This may be one of the reasons that God allowed them to become slaves in Egypt for 400 years.