June 27, 2017

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART IV: JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN (Gen. 37:1-50:2)

Topic #E: THE MIGRATION INTO EGYPT. (Gen. 46:1-47:21)                                                   

                                                                                                                                         

Lesson IV.E.2: Jacob's offspring by Leah. (Gen. 46:8-15)                                     


Commentary

Genesis 46:8-15 (KJV)

8 And these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob's firstborn.

9 And the sons of Reuben; Hanoch, and Phallu, and Hezron, and Carmi.

10 And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman.

11 And the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.

12 And the sons of Judah; Er, and Onan, and Shelah, and Pharez, and Zarah: but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan. And the sons of Pharez were Hezron and Hamul.

13 And the sons of Issachar; Tola, and Phuvah, and Job, and Shimron.

14 And the sons of Zebulun; Sered, and Elon, and Jahleel.

15 These be the sons of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob in Padanaram, with his daughter Dinah: all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three.

 

Our passage lists those who went down into Egypt (Genesis 46:8-27). At first sight this is somewhat of an understatement. It excludes his sons’ wives (Genesis 46:26) and ignores any employees, slaves, and friends that might have been part of this band of immigrants. The number who actually went down into Egypt may well have numbered a few thousand for we must count the households of each of the sons as well as Jacob’s household. And we must remember that from his household Abraham was able to raise three hundred and eighteen fighting men (Genesis 14:14). The numbers may have dwindled because of the effect of the famine making some employees and slaves unnecessary, and some may have been left in Canaan for other reasons, but there would still be a large number of them.

This passage is a good example of the early use of numbers. But there are accomplished expositors that I think have placed too much emphasis on the meaning of numbers; therefore, I will leave the discussion of ‘numbers’ to the experts. The ‘seventy’ included everyone by implication; not one was missing; everyone was in Jacob’s band that God had determined should be included. They were ‘seventy’. They were God’s divinely complete band. But no early reader would take the number literally. They would know exactly what it indicated.

There are several legitimate challenges to ‘the seventy’ which I have become aware of and will now pass-on to you.

  • It is very questionable whether the sons of Perez, Hezron and Hamul, could yet have been born (see Genesis 38:6-10).
  • Benjamin, a young man at this stage would have ten sons (Genesis 46:21). These were seen as going down to Egypt ‘in the loins’ of their father.
  • The number is made up by including Dinah, but excluding his sons’ daughters, and including the sons of Joseph who were born in Egypt but had ‘gone down to Egypt’ in the loins of their father.

 

This list of names therefore was written by the writer in Egypt at a later date. He looks at the extended family as it was then and names them in his list. By then these sons had been born and were acknowledged as being part of ‘the seventy’, the divinely complete band. We do not think like this but it is quite in accord with ancient thinking. It is probable that he had a genealogical list and altered it to suit his purpose. This would explain why he mentions Er and Onan, and then excludes them, and brought Jacob and Dinah in to replace them. Also why he introduced Zilpah’s daughter Serah (Genesis 46:17).

 

8 And these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob's firstborn.

9 And the sons of Reuben; Hanoch, and Phallu, and Hezron, and Carmi.

 

We know from Genesis 42:37 that Reuben had two sons at that stage (he would be about 46). Therefore two of these must be recent births, possibly twins, or else they may have ‘gone down to Egypt’ in the loins of their father.

 

10 And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman.

11 And the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.

12 And the sons of Judah; Er, and Onan, and Shelah, and Pharez, and Zarah: but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan. And the sons of Pharez were Hezron and Hamul.

 

Joseph was about eighteen when he was sold into slavery (Genesis 37:2) making Judah about twenty-two when he married Shua. He was possibly twenty-three when he bore Er and Er grew up and married. If Er married at eighteen that would make Judah forty-one. Shelah was too young to marry when Er died. Thus when Shelah came of age Judah was at least forty-three. So unless Er married very young Judah must have been at the very least forty-four when he bore Perez. Thus Perez could not have two children before he moved to Egypt [when Judah was about forty-four (Genesis 41:46) plus seven good years plus two bad years plus say five years older than Joseph]. It is clear therefore that Hezron and Hamul were seen as ‘in the loins of Perez’.

 

13 And the sons of Issachar; Tola, and Phuvah, and Job, and Shimron.

14 And the sons of Zebulun; Sered, and Elon, and Jahleel.

15 These be the sons of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob in Padanaram, with his daughter Dinah: all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three.

 

A count of ‘the sons and daughters’ produces thirty-three if we include Er and Onan, who died in Canaan, and exclude Dinah, but Er and Onan, are clearly intended to be excluded. If we exclude them and include Dinah there are only thirty-two. Note that the plural is used for ‘daughters’, but we can compare Genesis 46:23 where ‘sons’ is followed by only one son. They were technical descriptions. To make the thirty-third Jacob was counted in. But the important thing for the writer was to reach thirty-three to demonstrate completeness. He did not care very much about how the number was reached. However, the calculation might have gone like this:

 

33 Family members + 32 servants, slaves, camp followers + Dinah, Jacob, Joseph and his 2 sons = 70

 

“And the sons of Issachar, Tola, and Phuvah; and Job, and Shimron.” The first of these was the father of a numerous race in the days of David, their number was 22,600 (1 Chronicles 7:2); the second is called Puah, and the third Jashub, and the fourth Shimrom (1 Chronicles 7:1); and they were all the heads of families.

 

“And the sons of Zebulun, Sered, and Elon, and Jahleel,”whose names are the same in Numbers 26:26. These are the sons of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob in Padanaram, which must be reduced to the six sons only, who were properly Leah's, and not to their sons’ sons, for they were not born in Padanaram, but in Canaan, with his daughter Dinah; who also was by Leah.

 

“These be the sons of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob in Padan-aram, with his daughter Dinah: all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three.” Dinah and Serah (Genesis 46:17) are the only two females mentioned in this catalogue. Judging from the plan followed in other genealogical lists, relating to the introduction of female names, the insertion of the two women in this genealogy might have been dictated by reasons which, although well understood at the time, we may find it difficult to discover. Luther suggests that the reason for Dinah being mentioned might be that she had become the housekeeper upon the death of Jacob's wives.

 

“Daughters” is put here for daughter, as in Genesis 46:7, because Dinah was all the daughters which Jacob had.

 

 

 

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