Time for more math!

This is another chunk of genealogies, though in this case the reason for their inclusion is pretty obvious. The initial hearers/readers of Genesis would have claimed descent from a number of the people listed here. I’m not – well, maybe I am; genetically speaking, if you go far enough back we’re all related to each other, though estimates vary on how far back that is. But I’m not Jewish, religiously or ethnically,* so I wouldn’t claim any of these people as mine.

So as usual I glean through for a few interesting tidbits. The first of which is verse 15, which says that “in all [Jacob’s] sons and his daughters numbered thirty-three.” At first I intepretted this to mean that Jacob had, altogether, 12 sons and 21 daughters. Looking at later verses and re-counting, I think what this really means is that Jacob had 33 children and grandchildren from Leah; if you add up the listed names, it comes to 33. The same goes for Zilpah’s 16, Bilhah’s 7, and the one that really clued me in on this, Rachel’s 14. She explicitly only ever had two children, Joseph and Benjamin, but that 14 includes Benjamin’s 10 children and Joseph’s 2.The Japanese, for what it’s worth, avoids this confusion by using “men and women” instead of “sons and daughters.”

What that also should mean is that some of the names listed here are Jacob’s granddaughters. Only one of them are explicitly labeled as a girl, Serah, and I don’t know the Hebrew well enough to figure out how many of the others might be.

Jacob is the patriarch of a big family now, a great-grandfather (Perez has already had two children; maybe twins run in the family?). Two of Judah’s sons are dead, Joseph and his children are in Egypt, so that adds up to 66 if you include Jacob. It’s entirely unclear whether Zilpah and Bilhah are alive at this point (Leah dies a few chapters later), or how many wives his sons have, or how many of his grandchildren are married. This is probably because the final tally, 70, is more symbolic than anything, since 70 is a significant number in several other places in the Bible.

The other item of note is that I may have been too quick to dismiss Benjamin as being in his early twenties. He’s supposedly got 10 children already, and that wouldn’t be the case if he was only 17. Maybe all the “boy” stuff was more a reference to how much younger he was than all of his other brothers, some of whom were grandfathers already. Even so, to be at 10 by 22 or so, he’d have to have multiple wives already. Or they just realized they needed to round out the numbers a little to have 70.

Are any of the other numbers significant, I wonder – 7 is, obviously, but what about 33?

After the genealogy, Jacob makes it to Egypt, and Joseph coaches him on what to say to the pharaoh. I have no idea if it’s true that the Egyptians ever attached a stigma to shepherding vs the cow herding that the Egyptians engaged in. Goshen is apparently near the Delta, and at least one scholar back in the 19th century the name comes from a sixth century BC nome (province) called Gesem. If that’s true, then it would make sense with the chronology of when Genesis’ final version was written, which would have been around that time.

The Japanese: mabuta “eyelids” (v 4), nozoku “to remove, to exempt” (v 26), sanjou “calling on” (v 31). The Japanese also uses itou mono again for “abhorrent,” a.k.a. “abomination.” Like I said, I’m seeing if they stay consistent on this translation point.

*For what it’s worth, I’m a quarter British Isle mix, and three-quarters German, though the origin of my mother’s maiden name might be Czech. Ethnically, though, I consider myself Lutheran. Common vocabulary, common humor, and I was raised in it. If ever (absit omen) I stop being Christian, my Lutheranism will still be ingrained in my identity.

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