Monday, August 25, 2008

The Jochebed Problem

Farrell Till manages to dig up some interesting tidbits in Scripture to reveal problems with inerrancy. One that I find interesting relates to the length of time of the sojourn in Egypt for the Israelites. According to Exodus 12:40 the Egyption sojourn lasted 430 years. But the chronology of Moses doesn't permit such a long stay. The relevant texts are below as well as a family tree describing the problem.

Gen 46:26 All the persons belonging to Jacob, who came to Egypt, his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob's sons, were sixty-six persons in all

Ex 6: 18 The sons of Kohath: Amram and Izhar and Hebron and Uzziel; and the length of Kohath's life was one hundred and thirty-three years.

Ex 6: 20 Amram married his father's sister Jochebed, and she bore him Aaron and Moses; and the length of Amram's life was one hundred and thirty-seven years.

Ex 7:7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

Ex 12:40 Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.

Num 26:59 The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore to Amram: Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam.


Let's give the inerrantist every benefit of the doubt and assume that Kohath entered Egypt immediately after birth. Assume that the last thing he did in his life was to sire Amram at the age of 133. Similarly assume the last thing Amram did in his life was to sire Moses at the age of 137. With Moses leading the Exodus at the age of 80 we have only (133+137+80=) 350 years (ignoring pregnancy periods) for the Egyptian sojourn. Not enough time according to Ex 12:40.

How does an inerrantist handle this problem? Insert gaps in the geneology of course. Works most of the time, right?

But we have a bit of a problem in this case. First of all we know Kohath was alive when the entry to Egypt ocurred. He's listed amongst the descendants that entered and we're told that 66 in all entered. Kohath must be included to reach the number 66.

So how about a gap between Kohath and Amram? Normally this might be conceviable. But we have some inconvenient facts in this case. Amram married his father's sister, Jochebed. And there is no gap betweeen Levi and Jochebed. Why? Because of Num 26:59. Jochebed is distinguished from Levi's other children as having been born to him in Egypt, not prior to the entry into Egypt like some of his other children. She is Levi's direct descendent and sister of Kohath.

Note also that this is the understanding of extra-biblical Jewish literature. See The Testimony of the 12 Patriarchs 3:11-12. Here Jochebed is clearly Levi's direct descendant.

Given that Jochebed bore Moses and Aaron (Ex 6:20) we can see that there are no opportunities for gaps in this geneology. The Egyptian sojourn cannot have exceeded 350 years. But Ex 12:40 asserts that it was 430 years. Which is right?

2 comments:

winbrick said...

It is hard to take a website seriously when there are so many errors. For example, one does not bare a child, but bear a child. You don't say Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but Moses led....; and where is Miriam in Jochebed and Amram's family tree?

Jon said...

You got me on the spelling. I don't pretend that the family tree is exhaustive, so I don't know how omitting Miriam is an error.