Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Unidentified Descendant of Jacob Who Went to Egypt

Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh
Let's take a look at a very interesting passage found in Genesis, which initially appears to have an error or contradiction, but upon further examination, it reveals the miraculous involvement of God's hand in preserving His people Israel.

According to Gen 46:8, “These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt.” If you count the names, you will arrive at a different number than the totals indicated at the end of the passage. It is off by one person. In order to reconcile this, we need to identify that person.

I suggest reading Genesis 46 before reading the rest of this article, since it will make more sense to you. Now let me explain the apparent discrepancies and the questions they raise.

Females Included?
You may be wondering if the females were counted or not, since the passage refers to these listed people as “the sons of Israel” (Gen 46:8). The designation of "sons" seems to exclude females. However, Asher’s daughter Serah is included in the biblical count of sixteen children born to Jacob by Zilpah (Gen 46:17). That makes it very clear that females were included.

The question of whether Dinah (daughter of Jacob) is counted requires a bit more explanation. She is listed as a direct descendant of Jacob, and at first glance, she does appear to be counted as one of the thirty-three sons and daughters of Jacob from Leah (Gen 46:15). But then if you count up only the male descendants of Leah, they come to thirty-three, which seems to agree with the count of thirty-three in verse 15. However, since Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan (Gen 46:12), they are not counted among those who “went to Egypt” with Jacob (Gen 46:8). Moreover, since verse 15 specifically states that the thirty-three descendants of Leah include both “sons and daughters of Jacob,” it is certain that Dinah was included. By adding Dinah to the count of those who “went to Egypt” with Jacob, the total of Leah’s descendants only comes to thirty-two, not the stated thirty-three! Who is the missing person? This is the missing piece of the puzzle, and the crux of this article, which I will come to in a moment.

Having proven from Scripture that both Serah and Dinah were included in the count, we know that females who were direct descendants of Jacob were certainly counted. Therefore, we can easily deduce that the counts in this passage included both male and female direct descendants of Jacob, who went to Egypt, even though the passage opens by describing them as “the sons of Israel who went to Egypt” (Gen 46:8). I have also proven that the missing person is a descendant of Jacob through Leah.

Seventy Names Listed?
The passage concludes by stating, “All those who went to Egypt with Jacob—those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives—numbered sixty-six persons. With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.” (Gen 46:26-27). This is one of three passages in the Old Testament, which states that seventy of Jacob's descendants went down to Egypt (cf., Ex 1:1,5; Deut 10:22). Let's look at the names listed in this passage:

1.    Reuben
2.    Hanok
3.    Pallu
4.    Hezron
5.    Karmi
6.    Simeon
7.    Jemuel
8.    Jamin
9.    Ohad
10.   Jakin
11.   Zohar
12.   Shaul
13.   Levi
14.   Gershon
15.   Kohath
16.   Merari
17.   Judah

Er (died in Canaan, not included in count)
Onan (died in Canaan, not included in count)

18.    Shelah
19.    Perez
20.    Zerah
21.    Hezron
22.    Hamul
23.    Issachar
24.    Tola
25.    Puah
26.    Jashub
27.    Shimron
28.    Zebulun
29.    Sered
30.    Elon
31.    Jahleel
32.    Dinah (daughter of Jacob)
33.    Gad
34.    Zephon
35.    Haggi
36.    Shuni
37.    Ezbon
38.    Eri
39.    Arodi
40.    Areli
41.    Asher
42.    Imnah
43.    Ishvah
44.    Ishvi
45.    Beriah
46.    Serah (sister)
47.    Heber
48.    Malkiel
49.    Benjamin
50.    Bela
51.    Beker
52.    Ashbel
53.    Gera
54.    Naaman
55.    Ehi
56.    Rosh
57.    Muppim
58.    Huppim
59.    Ard
60.    Dan
61.    Hushim
62.    Naphtali
63.    Jahziel
64.    Guni
65.    Jezer
66.    Shillem
67.    Joseph (already in Egypt)
68.    Manasseh (already in Egypt)
69.    Ephraim (already in Egypt)
70.    (Unidentified person)

As you can see, there are only sixty-nine names listed, and one seems to be unidentified, because there were supposed to be seventy, according to verse 27. Yet here are the total number of descendants reckoned to each of Jacob's wives in the passage:

Sons and Daughters from Leah = 33 (Gen 46:15)
Children from Zilpah = 16 (Gen 46:18)
Sons from Rachel = 14 (Gen 46:22)
Sons from Bilhah = 7 (Gen 46:25)
Subtotal = 70

Subtract Er and Onan (Leah’s descendants), who did not make it alive to Egypt = - 2
Subtotal = 68

Add Ephraim and Manasseh born in Egypt = 2
Total = 70

Who is the unidentified person that brings the total of Jacob's descendant's to seventy?

If you look at my subtotal above, the names of the direct descendants of Jacob who went to Egypt came to sixty-eight, before you add Ephraim and Manasseh. So why does verse 26 state “sixty-six persons,” when sixty-eight names are listed after omitting Er and Onan? If we remove only the name of Joseph, who is one of the sixty-eight names listed above in the passage, we arrive at the odd number of sixty-seven, not the sixty-six stated in verse 26. So who is the missing person that must be omitted to bring the number to sixty-six? This person would have to have been in Egypt already, and yet be a descendant of Jacob when he arrived there.

Riddle Solved
We arrive at the only possible answer to this when we more closely consider Asenath, Joseph’s wife, as a possible candidate for the missing person. While Scripture refers to her as “daughter of Potiphera, priest of On” (Gen 41:45; 46:20), could she have been a direct descendant of Jacob? Hebrew tradition held that she was born to Jacob’s daughter Dinah when Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite raped her (Gen 34:2). It was believed that an Egyptian priest adopted Dinah’s baby, similar to the way that Pharoah’s daughter adopted Moses.

While the versions of this legend do not agree with each other, and some versions contradict the Bible on certain details, one thing the various Hebrew versions have in common is that Asenath was the daughter of Dinah and Shechem. There is also a Christian version recorded in an apocryphal book that depicts Asenath as an orphan and Potiphera as her foster father. Of course, the basis for our faith must be the Word of God alone, not the traditions of men, so we cannot put our trust in traditions.

However, if there is any truth at all to these legends with regard to Asenath's true parents, and if the priest of On was merely her foster father, then it resolves two questions in Genesis 46. In addition to identifying the seventieth descendant of Jacob who went to Egypt in verse 27, it also solves the puzzle I mentioned in the previous section as to who the missing person is among the thirty-three “sons and daughters of Jacob” through Leah that went to Egypt. By subtracting Er and Onan from the list of thirty-three sons, and then adding Dinah and Asenath, we get the total of thirty-three “sons and daughters of Jacob” through Leah in verse 15. Who else besides Asenath could be the one missing person who meets all the criteria in both verses 15 and 27?

Furthermore, it cannot be that Asenath was merely included among the seventy people in verse 27 merely because she was Joseph’s wife, if she were not one of Jacob's descendants. Otherwise, Jacob’s wives and his son's wives would have also been listed. But they were explicitly excluded, according to verse 26. The count in Genesis 46 specifically includes only the male and female direct descendants of Jacob who went to Egypt.

Putting it All Together
Therefore, the sixty-six direct descendants of Jacob who went with him to Egypt did not include Joseph and his wife Asenath, along with their sons Ephraim and Manasseh, who were already in Egypt when he arrived. By adding these additional four people (pictured in the above illustration) to the other sixty-six, it brings the total to seventy people. This provides a strong case to substantiate the Hebrew belief that Asenath was one of Jacob’s direct descendant’s. It also proves that there is no error in this passage of Scripture.

Finally it shows the amazing providence of God, who preserved Asenath in Egypt, so that no member of Jacob’s family would be lost. God moved the heart of Pharaoh to give her to Joseph as his wife (Gen 41:45), when he promoted him to ruler of Egypt. Not only did it ensure that none of Jacob’s offspring was lost, it also enabled Joseph to marry within his family, thus fulfilling the strict orders that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been given to marry within their own family, and not take a wife from among the Canaanites.

If Joseph had actually married a true Egyptian woman, then his sons Ephraim and Mannaseh, who were born to her, would not be legitimate heirs of the Promised Land. But they were in fact listed among the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen 48:5-6; Dt 34:2; Num 1:32-33; Rev 7:5-8), and Jacob blessed them and Joseph on his deathbed before he blessed his other eleven sons (Gen 48:9-22). And when the Israelites possessed the land of Canaan, Ephraim and Manasseh received their own territories as directed by Jacob and Moses (Josh 14:3-4). Truly God’s miraculous hand was involved in enabling Joseph to marry his niece.

[1] Graves, Robert & Patai, Raphael, Hebrew Myths (New York: Greenwich House, 1964), p. 237. See also Ginzberg, op. cit., II: 38.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Painting of Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh while Joseph and Manasseh look on is used here merely as an illustration for educational and commentary purposes only, according to the FAIR USE Act. No copyright violation intended.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Home page, such as The Bible is the Word of God, All Scripture must be fulfilled, and The Bible Never Fails. You may also access other articles on the Home page for this blog, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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