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Apparent Contradiction of Words and Numbers

Four Witnesses to a 430-year Sojourn in Egypt

Abraham’s Witness to a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Jacob’s Life Requires a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Elasticity of Hebrew Genealogical Terms

Abbreviated/Condensed Genealogies

Shem’s List: The Ultimate Example of Condensing

Shem’s Genealogy—Which Bible?

Evidence from the Lifespan of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Message of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Times of Job for Missing Generations

Biblical Earth Movements After the Flood

Peleg, Joktan and the Table of Nations

Historical Errors Obscuring the Condensing of Shem’s Line

Interpretative Errors Supporting Ussher View

The Missing World between the Flood and Peleg

Recent Scholarship Improves Biblical Understanding

Summary of Biblical Findings

Secular Evidence—Those Many Documents Unavailable to Ussher


Abbreviated/Condensed Genealogies

Chapter Six

Having seen numerous biblical examples of the broad use of kinship terms, we are now prepared to observe how they are used in genealogical lists to skip generations.  At first this idea is unsettling, but as we set aside the typical understanding of how genealogical lists should work and allow our minds to interact with Scripture itself, we will conclude that, indeed, Hebrew genealogies often left out unnecessary or unknown names.  Abbreviating genealogies made them more efficient and decidedly less tedious.  Many examples follow.  See the Appendix for a table to illustrate each example. 

All Hebrews descended from one of Jacob’s twelve sons.  The name of each son became a tribe so all descendants of Jacob were members of one of the tribes.  Jacob adopted Joseph’s two sons so when Joseph’s name is removed and his two sons replace him, Israel had 13 tribes, not 12.  But God assigned the tribe of Levi to minister to the spiritual needs of Israel.  That tribe did not fight in the army and it did not have its own portion of the land.  Rather it was scattered throughout the other twelve tribes and supported by those twelve tribes.  As a result, one might think of Israel as having twelve normal tribes and one special tribe. 

Each of the 13 “tribes” was further broken down into “clans” as the tribe’s population grew.  In time each “clan” was further broken down into “households.”  Population counts usually involved only adult males.  Tribes numbered from 25,000-75,000 adult males; clans numbered from thousands to tens of thousands; households numbered from hundreds to thousands.  The genealogies of those who descended from Jacob usually began with those three levels of division—tribe, clan and household.  At times, the fourth name would be that of the individual to whom the genealogy belonged if the individual was well known.

This chapter comes in two sections.  First, it summarizes each example.  Then it will present the list of examples with all their details which include important stories. 

Example 1 — Aaron, Israel’s First High Priest.  Since Aaron was well known just four names expressed his genealogy: Levi-Kohath-Amram-Aaron (Exodus 6:16-20).  Levi was his tribal founder; Kohath was his clan founder and Amram was his household founder.  In this way his genealogy names the three individuals that began his line and lived at the beginning of the 430-year sojourn in Egypt, then skips down about 300 years or 8-12 generations to him.  Thus, the four names represent 12-16 successive fathers. 

Examples 2-7 — Korah, Dathan, Abiram, On, Achan and Zelophehad’s daughters.  Each follows the pattern of Aaron’s genealogy with minor exceptions when needed.  Korah, Dathan and Abiram were well known so their list follows the pattern of Aaron’s list: tribe, clan, household and individual.  On was apparently less important among the rebels so only his tribe, clan and he are given.  Achan was not widely known so his father, Carmi, is added.  The daughters of Zelophehad were also not widely known, so their grandfather as well as their father were added. 

When stories are included, genealogies become far more than lists of names. They are historical references to key events and individuals in the life of the nation divided by timelines and circumstances.  They relate its struggles, heroes and villains.  They show how God worked through His people in relationship to their calling as a nation.  He blessed them; but held them responsible for their disobedience.  

Examples 8-9 –Sheerah and Joshua.  (I Chronicles 7:20-27).  These lists are among the most complicated lists that can be unscrambled.  Expositors see this list of names as one continuous line while it actually consists of two lines.  Generally overlooked, these verses commemorate the lives of two outstanding individuals in the tribe that otherwise was notorious for dividing Israel, the tribe of Ephraim.  The problem is that the list contains two Ephraims, not one.  The second was named after the first.  The first list contains nine names beginning with Ephraim number one who was born shortly before 1876 BC and ends with the daughter of Ephraim number two.  She was famous for developing two major towns in Ephraim about 500 years after Ephraim number one founded the tribe.  In verse 25 the writer goes back to pick up another son of Ephraim number one and lists down to the famous Joshua who succeeded Moses.  It also contains nine generations.  Still, each list omits many generations.

Example 10 — Caleb, the Believing Spy.  He was so famous that Scripture does not give his genealogy so some may object that the Bible does not abbreviate his list.  The objection is sound, but research gives so many names in his line that much of it can be reconstructed.  However, because it still omits names it stands abbreviated as it is given piecemeal in the Pentateuch and Joshua.

Example 11 – King David.  This is almost like presenting four examples because the same set of names is found four times in the Old and New Testaments.  It is first found at the end of Ruth when she bears a son to Boaz.  It begins with Perez who was one of the twins born to Judah about the time Jacob moved his family to Egypt (1876 BC) and concludes with David who was born about 1040  BC.  If this list were complete each son would be born when his father was 90.  Fortunately, the names are familiar.  In looking at it, the first three lived early in the Egyptian sojourn.  The next three lived over 300 years later at the time of the Exodus.  Then the list moves down to the end of the Judges to name three immediate forefathers of David and finally David himself. 

Example 12 -– Israel’s Priesthood.  As with most other genealogical lists, even the priesthood of Israel omitted names at times.  This fact emphasizes how Hebrew genealogies were mostly about identity, not about complete lists establishing legal descent.  In contrast, most historical genealogies in Western societies are just that, precise records of descent.  While the following example is a record of a priest who recorded his own genealogy but omitted generations, Scripture contains other examples of omitted names in priesthood records. 

Example 13 -- Ezra the Priest and Scribe.  Ezra (7:1-5) omits six consecutive generations in his list when compared to the official list of priests in Chronicles.  He had his reasons and they probably were not associated with efficiency or avoiding tediousness, but his list clearly omits six names and shows that skipping names in a genealogy was acceptable in Israel. 

Examples 14-16 – The Three Leaders of the Temple Singers.  David appointed Heman as the senior choir director.  Heman had both outstanding and shady ancestors.  His grandfather was the prophet and judge, Samuel, but the infamous Korah was also in his line.  Nevertheless, it follows the pattern of Aaron’s line during the 430-year Egyptian sojourn, omitting 8-12 generations.  Then, from Korah who rebelled about 1444 BC to David’s day, it contains 19 consecutive names and is complete.  Altogether, it spans about 900 years, from the birth of Levi about 1891 BC to Heman’s appointment by David about 1000 BC.  On the other hand, the genealogies of the two other choirmasters, Asaph and Ethan, are examples of incomplete lists during the period in which Hemen’s genealogy is complete.  Asaph’s line contains 12 names and Ethan’s line contains 10. 

Details to the 16 Examples Above

Introduction.  Nearly half of all the Old Testament verses containing genealogies relate to the tribes of Levi and Judah.  This makes sense since God chose the tribe of Levi to minister to Israel’s spiritual life and the tribe of Judah to supply its rulers and the Savior.  In Example #1 (Levi-Aaron) three generations were used to establish a line from the tribal founder, Levi, to the individual under consideration, Aaron.  The organizational plan Moses followed was: first level, the tribe of Levi; second level, the clan of Kohath (Levi’s son); third level, the household of Amram (Kohath’s son). 

Level two, the clan level, is identified by several different titles in various parts of the Old Testament.  Consequently, some modern authors refer to it as the division level.  Scripture also uses several terms interchangeably for the third level so some authors call this third level the clan level.  For sake of clarity, we will call the first level the tribe level, the second level the clan level and the third level the household level. 

A refinement that might be overlooked involves counting generations.  In a list each person represents a generation.  But when determining changes between generations, it takes two generations to produce a change.  Thus, one must count from the birth of the first to the birth of the second as one generation.  When working with averages, the average number of years in a generation must be determined.  Because the length of generations varied, Hidden Beauty visits this subject multiple times.

One cannot presume that the firstborn is always the chosen successor.  Judah was the fourth born of Jacob yet the royal line of Israel was established through him, not Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn.  Aaron’s third born, Eleazar, carried on the line of the high priesthood.  Even further, one’s firstborn might be a female as in the case of Mariam being the oldest child of the unnamed parents of Mariam, Aaron and Moses.  In counting Aaron’s children only four males are named.  The law of averages would suggest he had daughters as well.  If he had four daughters and four sons and they alternated—female, male—his designated heir, Eleazar, would have been his fifth child.  Thus, we estimate Aaron’s age as 30 when Eleazar was born rather than 25 when he would have begun fathering children.

As to the length of a generation, 25 is used for an average during this period.  It began when Jacob’s sons started to have children.  Chapter seven explains that human longevity declined 2-8 years per generation from the Flood to the death of Moses.  Paralleling this decline, the start of new generations declined.  In the list of Genesis 11 new generations began every 29-35 years.  By the time Jacob’s sons began having families, new generations were starting every 19-28 years.  Unusual circumstances, such as Joseph’s imprisonment resulting in his first son arriving when he was about 36, are noted but not considered average.

Example 1 Details—Aaron.

57This was the list of the Levites according to their clans:… of Kohath, the clan of the Kohathites;… 58And Kohath was the father of Amram.  59The 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 Miriam their sister.  Numbers 26:57-59.

 Chapter one demonstrated beyond doubt that the Levi-Aaron genealogy of Exodus six and Numbers 26 is an abbreviated or condensed genealogy.  It lists only Levi, his son Kohath and his grandson Amram before skipping down to Aaron.  The list appears four times (Exodus 6:16-20; Numbers 26:57-59; I Chronicles 6:1-3; I Chronicles 23:6, 12-13), always with the same fathers and sons—Levi-Kohath-Amram-Aaron.  Levi was the immediate father of Kohath, so Kohath was the immediate son of Levi; Kohath was the immediate father of Amram, so Amram was the immediate son of Kohath; however, Amram was not the immediate father of Aaron and Aaron was not the immediate son of Amram.  Up to twelve generations are omitted between Amram and Aaron. 

The text also adds numerous details about individuals in the list.  Among them, the Exodus passage relates that Amram married a woman called Jochebed and that this woman was his father’s sister and she bore him Moses as well as Aaron.  The Numbers passage adds that she was the daughter of Levi born in Egypt and she bore him Miriam as well as Aaron and Moses.  Since Amram was born in Egypt, he married an aunt who was about his age.   His descendants, Aaron, Moses and Mariam would become central figures in the wilderness wanderings some four hundred years later.  Lesson: many details can be added to an apparent immediate father-son listing even though numerous intermediate generations are skipped.  The details relate to the first unborn son, not the named son/offspring.   

From the text alone the reader would never guess that Aaron, Moses and Miriam were separated from Amram and Jochebed by many generations.  Moses, the writer, had no intention of deceiving his audience.  People of that day knew their national history, so they knew he skipped generations.  Moses correctly used Hebrew genealogies because their purpose was to knit a nation together.  These three descendants of Levi had to be tightly bound to Jacob’s lineage. 

Example 2 Details—Korah.  

1Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth [Pallu], sons of Reuben, took men.  2And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men.  Numbers 16:1-2.

Numbers 16:1-2 contains four examples of abbreviated genealogies—Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On.  Korah was of the tribe of Levi while Dathan, Abiram and On were of the tribe of Reuben.   The lists of Korah and of Dathan and Abiram will be examined next.  The writer gave the tribe, clan and household identities of the first three, but omitted the household to which On belonged.  In this way the On listing is the shortest list on record.

The genealogy of Korah follows the basic pattern of tribe, clan and household.  Numbers 16:1 tells that Korah, like Aaron, was a descendant of Levi.  Further, like Aaron he was from the Levite clan of Kohath.  But whereas Aaron traced his line through Kohath’s oldest son Amram, Korah traced his line through Kohath’s second son Izhar.  However, merely discussing names without faces and actions doesn’t grasp the mind like associating names with specific events.  So here is the background. 

Korah got others to join him in challenging the leadership of Aaron and Moses.  He envied the honor and privileges of Aaron’s position as high priest.  He found sons of Reuben who were equally envious of Moses (tribe of Levi) who exercised supreme authority in civil affairs.  After all, Reuben was the oldest son of Jacob, not Levi.  Traditionally, family leadership was the right of the firstborn.  Two brothers controlling the entire nation had to be changed.  They found 250 princes of Israel to join their uprising.  This delegation marched on the Tent of Meeting to confront Aaron and Moses, undoubtedly accompanied by an unruly mob of supporters.

With indignation this horde threw down their challenge: “Why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” (Numbers 16:3).  What they forgot was that God had chosen the nation’s leaders.  In the end God opened up the earth to swallow the rebel instigators and fire consumed the 250 princes.  Those 250 princes were national celebrities and had many supporters.  The next day the entire congregation grumbled against Aaron and Moses, blaming them for getting their princes killed.  God sent a plague.  Only the quick intervention of Aaron and Moses prevented the loss of the entire nation.  As it was, the plague took the lives of 14,700 people in just hours.  The divinely sent plague abruptly ended the rebellion.

Numbers 16:1 abbreviates Korah’s genealogy.  It lists the first three generations of the Patriarch Jacob’s third son—Levi, Kohath and Izhar—and then skips down 300 years to Korah.  When Jacob moved his family to Egypt (1876 BC), Levi was about 46 years old while his son Kohath’s was an estimated 20.  Thus, Kohath’s sons, Amram and Izhar, belonged to the first generation born in Egypt.  Like Aaron and Moses, Korah was born over 300 years and up to 12 generations later.

Examples 3-5 Details—Dathan, Abiram, On. 

5Reuben, the firstborn of Israel; the sons of Reuben: of Hanoch, the clan of the Hanochites; of Pallu, the clan of the Palluites; 6of Hezron, the clan of the Hezronites; of Carmi, the clan of the Carmites.  7These are the clans of the Reubenites, and those listed were 43,730.  8And the sons of Pallu: Eliab.  9The sons of Eliab: Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram.  These are the Dathan and Abiram, chosen from the congregation who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the LORD, 10and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, when the fire devoured 250 men, and they became a warning.  Numbers 26:5-10. 

The genealogies of Dathan and Abiram are further identified in Numbers 16 because of their part in the Korah rebellion.  These men were born in the tribe of Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn.   Due to their role as leaders in the notorious attack on Moses they are also singled out in the second census of Israel found in Numbers 26 (above).  Whereas the Numbers 26 census mostly lists tribes and clans, in the case of the tribe of Reuben, the census includes four verses on one household of the Pallu clan, the household of Elias (verses 8-11).  Then the census tells that Dathan and Abiram were sons of Elias, ie, were descendants of the household of Elias.  Without the identification of their household, we would only know their tribe and clan. 

Reuben was about 48 when they moved to Egypt.  Pallu would have been about 20 since he is listed second among Reuben’s four sons.  Elias is not listed among those who went down to Egypt, so he would have been the first of his line born in Egypt.  Dathan and Abiram were born over 350 years after the birth of Elias.  This notice follows the pattern of listing three consecutive generations then skipping down to the individual under discussion.  In doing so it passes over up to 13 generations in the same way the genealogies of Aaron and Korah passed over up to 12 generations. 

On is only named in Numbers 16 which records this dangerous rebellion against Aaron and Moses.  Like Dathan and Abiram, he was a member of the tribe of Reuben.  His line is similar to theirs with one exception.  Even his household is not given.  This is probably due to the other two playing a greater role in attacking the leadership of Moses.  The remaining names are simply Reuben (tribe)-Peleth/Pallau (clan)-On (individual).  His list is abbreviated indeed.

Before tackling more complicated condensed or abbreviated genealogies, Scripture gives four other genealogies that occur during this period—those of Achan, the daughters of Zelophehad, Joshua and Caleb.  Each generally follows the pattern established above: tribe, clan, household and individual.  But further names are added to those who were unknown.

Example 6 Details--Achan. 

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things.  And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.  Joshua 7:1.

Achan descended from Judah who raised twins after his first three sons were grown.  Their names were well known; they formed two large clans in Israel.  The more prominent twin, Perez, became the forefather of Caleb the spy, David and Jesus Christ.  We will learn much of Perez’s descendants.  The lesser known twin was Zerah and from this son of Judah Achan descended.  One of Zerah’s sons was named Zabdi.  He represents level three, the household level, in the organization of Israel. 

The twins (Zerah and Perez) were born about the time Jacob moved his large family to Egypt so Zabdi would have been born 25-30 years later, say about 1850 BC.  Achan served with over 600,000 other sons of Israel in Joshua’s army that destroyed Jericho.  Thus, Achan would have been military age (between the ages of 20 and 50) at the time of Jericho’s fall in 1406 BC.  Because he had considerable livestock and a considerable family, he was more likely nearer 50 than 20, so he would have been born about 1450 BC or 400 years after Zabdi was born (1850-1450=400). 

Achan possessed oxen, donkeys and sheep as well as sons and daughters (Joshua 7:24).  Possibly his lack of honesty had infected his entire household and had contributed to his prosperity.  While the sons of Israel did not have first and last names, their father’s name was sometimes given to help identify them.  Since Achan was an obscure thief his immediate father, Carmi, was named.   Carmi did not pass before Joshua and the priest, so most likely he belonged to the generation that died in the wilderness.  If typical he would have been born 25-30 years (1480-1475 BC) before Achan. 

To summarize, three generations are used to locate Achan’s place in Israel.  They are immediate father-son generations (Judah-Zerah-Zabdi).  Judah fathered Zerah who fathered Zabdi.  Judah was the tribal father; Zerah formed one of the clans of Judah; Zabdi formed one of the households of Zerah.  So Achan belonged to the tribe of Judah, the clan of Zerah and the household of Zabdi.  About 400 years after the birth of Zabdi, Achan was born.  Obviously, many generations came between Zabdi and Achan.  We suggest 12-16.  Only one is mentioned, that of Carmi, Achan’s immediate father.  Due to the efficiency of Hebrew genealogies Achan’s list is shortened by about two-thirds. 

It might be helpful at this point to make some observations about Old Testament names.  Two men named Carmi are found during this period of Israel’s history.  The first was Reuben’s fourth son, Carmi, who formed one of the four clans of the tribe that Dathan and Abiram belonged to.  The second Carmi was Achan’s father who lived four hundred years after the first Carmi and belonged to a different tribe.  He is the Carmi in Joshua 7:1 and is otherwise unknown.

Names were used over and over in Israel and are easy to confuse.  The two famous Calebs in the line of Judah are a well-known example.  There are three Elkinah’s in the line of Heman.  Fathers named sons after an admired brother or ancestor.  Abraham’s brother Nahor was named after their grandfather Nahor.  Unger’s Bible Dictionary lists 23 different Azariah’s in the Old Testament.[1] 

Adding to the challenge of matching the right person with the right name, some people were known by two or even three different names and sometimes the spelling is rendered several different ways.  (The same is true of place names which are commonly rendered by different spellings.)  Sometimes it is impossible to tell if the same name found in different places is the same individual or a different individual.  The careful student will keep all this in mind as he identifies the people in the OT, distinguishing between tentative and positive identifications.

Example 7 Details—The Daughters of Zelophehad.  

Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of Manasseh the son of Joseph.  Numbers 27:1 (cf. Numbers 26:28-33.) 

Zelophehad had five daughters but no sons.  His daughters came to Moses asking for the inheritance of their father so that his name would continue in Israel.  The LORD said that if a man had no sons, his daughters could preserve his name by receiving his portion of land.  Their father belonged to the family of Hepher the son of Gilead, the son of Machir of the tribe of Manasseh.  Their recorded line is Manasseh-Machir-Gilead-Hepher-Zelophehad-his five daughters—six generations.  This follows the pattern we have seen—tribe, Manasseh; clan-Machir; household-Gilead—the typical three level identification telling an Israelite who he was and with whom he belonged.  An additional level is included in the daughters of Zelophehad, the family of Hepher.  This event as we shall see set a precedent.

Now, what are the times involved?   Manassah was born shortly before 1876 BC while the daughters brought their request to Moses just before his death at the end of the 40 years in the wilderness.  Most likely they had a range of ages from 25 to 40 so they were born shortly after the Exodus.  Thus the time span is approximately 430-years.  At the rate of 25 years per generation their list should contain 17 names.  It only contains 6.  It skips about 11.  We must conclude that the genealogy of these daughters follows the standard practice of naming tribe-clan-household and then skipping down to their father, adding only the family of Hepher and that up to 12 generations are omitted. 

Examples 8 and 9 Overview—Sheerah and Joshua, I Chronicles 7:20-27.  Interpreters are all over the map in their explanations of these verses due to duplication of names, the brevity of the list and the grammatical construction.  While they are examples of abbreviated genealogies, they also reveal other practices previously pointed out—the naming of descendants after forefathers and the compactness of lists.  There is yet another reason for including this complicated passage: failure to do so allows it to be used to argue against our position.  We do not claim to have the final answer, but the following interpretation makes far better sense than any other we have seen.

First, we must suggest why the Sheerah and Joshua lists are found in Chronicles.  Two reasons stand out: first, nine chapters record genealogical records that established Israel as a nation and second, each tribe had notable achievers.  Whereas half of the verses in the nine chapters are devoted to just two tribes, those of Judah and Levi, only ten verses (7:20-29) are devoted to the tribe of Ephraim, one of the smallest but most troublesome of all the tribes of Israel.  

While Ephraim would later divide the nation and later yet adopt idolatry wholesale, in the early days it had its proud moments.  Sheerah, for instance, was a famous Ephraimite woman who lived after the conquest of Canaan when Israel was beginning to build a nation.  She established significant Ephraimite settlements and is listed in vv20-24.  Joshua is much better known.  He succeeded Moses to command the victorious forces of Israel in subduing the Canaanites and is featured in verses 25-27.

Example 8 Details—Sheerah, I Chronicles 7:20-24.    

20The sons of Ephraim: Shuthelah, and Bered his son, Tahath his son, Eleadah his son, Tahath his son, 21Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son, and Ezer and Elead, whom the men of Gath who were born in the land killed, because they came down to raid their livestock.  22And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brothers came to comfort him.  23And Ephraim went in to his wife, and she conceived and bore a son.  And he called his name Beriah, because disaster had befallen his house.  24His daughter was Sheerah, who built both Lower and Upper Beth-horon, and Uzzen-sheerah.  I Chron. 7:20-24. 

Scripture frankly states that Sheerah’s two brothers were killed stealing Philistine cattle.  Israel lived in the hills; the Philistines lived on the coastal plain.  The brothers, Ezer and Elead, showed stealth and initiative but they violated the territory of Gath, one of the five Philistine city-states adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea and paid for it with their lives.  This theft and their resulting deaths could only have happened after Israel had invaded Canaan and captured the land God had promised.  Israel began the campaign for Canaan with the destruction of Jericho in 1406 BC.  The campaign for the land took the next ten or twenty years.

What confuses the reader is that Sheerah’s father was named Ephraim after the founder of the tribe of Ephraim who lived 500 years before.  This second Ephraim was crushed.  He had great plans for the land he received in Canaan and his sons were obviously very motivated.  Now his plans were shattered because he had lost them.  Only a daughter remained.  His brothers tried to comfort him but his mourning lasted many days.  Maybe he was already an old man with little hope for having another son.  Sometime later he saw possibilities in his daughter and made her his heir.  Such an action had not been possible until the daughters of Zelophehad came to Moses just before his death about 1406 BC and God revealed that if a man had no sons, only daughters, he could designate a daughter as his heir.  The death of Ephraim number two’s sons and his subsequent act of  making Sheerah, his daughter, his heir could not have happened until Israel began settling in Canaan. 

The error of interpretation comes when commentators confuse Ephraim, the tribal chief who was Jacob’s grandson, with his distant descendant by the same name who came along 500 years later.  They see a long list of names in verses twenty through twenty-seven which ends with Joshua and craft a story about how sons of Ephraim, the tribal chief, went up from Goshen to loot cattle at Gath early in the Egyptian sojourn and eventually Joshua ends this long list of descendants.  They overlook the fact that Scripture says the two brothers went down, not up to steal the cattle. 

They incorrectly deduce that here is a complete list from the beginning of the Egyptian sojourn until the conquest of Canaan 500 years later—up to eighteen generations (depending on how they are counted).  Then they conclude that Scripture does not abbreviate genealogies; families simply had traditions of marrying early or late and this accounts for the wide variation in the number of people in different lines.  Their explanation overlooks the entire point of the list—that the daughter of this second Ephraim pioneered two well-known settlements in Canaan after the Exodus and Israel’s conquest of Canaan.

The standard interpretation is based on a poor understanding of these eight verses.  Hebrew scholar C. F. Keil states that seeing but one Ephraim in the passage makes it incomprehensible[2].  But even two lists, one ending with Sheerah and a second ending with Joshua, though abbreviated, offer far more names than just the two names between Levi and Aaron.  These two lists provide two more arguments that the Levi-Aaron list is extremely condensed and at the same time are themselves examples of abbreviated genealogies.

The portion of Sheerah’s line recorded here is: Ephraim-Shuthelah or Bered-Tahath-Eleadah-Tahath-Zabad-Shuthelah-Ephraim and his children—Ezer, Elead, Sheerah and Beriah (three brothers and a sister), nine generations.  Where the text reads, “Shuthelah and Bered his son,” because it does not say “Shuthelah his son, Bered his son,” it is commonly understood that Shuthelah and Bered were brothers, so these two names represent one generation, not two.  The text does not identify which brother the line passed through. 

But most amazing of all, the list is not connected to the second Ephraim.  You read correctly.  The list concludes, “Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son, and Ezer and Elead, whom the men of Gath…killed.”  The last name in this unbroken line is Shuthelah, the son of Zabad.  The text does not connect the brothers to the second Shuthelah.  Apparently, the story of the brothers being killed while attempting to take Philistine cattle was well known, but the biographer did not have the remaining names in the list to link the second Shuthelah with the second Ephraim and his family.  How many generations are missing?  Our standard of 25 years per generation suggests eleven generations are omitted.    

If all the biographer knew was that this second Ephraim was a distant descendant of the tribal chief named Ephraim, why mention this list at all?  It seems that it is introduced to help the reader place the deaths of the second Ephraim’s sons in the time of the settlement of Canaan.  The point is to get to his daughter who did the notable deed of building those famous Ephraimite settlements.  She could only become the heiress if his only sons were dead and God was yet to give him another son. 

We suggest that with the death of her two brothers, her father mourned.  Losing both sons was a great loss.  Eventually he made his daughter his heir after the pattern of the daughters of Zelophehad.  Sometime later God gave him another son of whom nothing more is said.  But the daughter made a name for her father.  She was a firebrand in the building of those two Ephraimite settlements and thus became a legend in the tribe of Ephraim. 

While an unknown number of generations are missing between Shuthelah #2 and the second Ephraim (we suggest eleven), the writer does give us seven generations between Ephraim and Sheerah, which is 3.5 times as many generations as the two between Levi and Aaron.  This genealogy testifies to the Levi-Aaron line being extremely abbreviated, but illustrates another reason for abbreviating a line—the writer did not have the names that tied the second Shuthelah to the second Ephraim. 

Example 9 Details—Joshua. 

25Rephah was his son, Resheph his son [“his son” not found in the Hebrew], Telah his son, Tahan his son, 26Ladan his son, Amminhud his son, Elishama his son, 27Nun his son, Joshua his son.  1 Chronicles 7:25-27.

  Continuing to unravel the complex record of the tribe of Ephraim, “Rephah was his son” (verse 25) has no connection with verses 23-24 which talks about a man named Ephraim who lost two sons.  Rather, it resumes listing further lines from those first introduced in verse twenty.  It lists many generations and concludes with Joshua who lived in the generation of the man who lost his sons.  Thus, “Rephah was his son” is not a continuation of verse twenty-four but is starting over from verse twenty.

Verse 25 reads, “Rephah was his son, Resheph his son” in the English text.  “His son” is missing after “Resheph,” in the Hebrew text.  C. F. Keil notes that such a construction usually indicates the two were brothers.[3]  The Hebrews frequently named children with pleasant rhyming sounds.  “Rephah” and “Resheph” answer to that practice which further strengthens the idea that they were brothers.  The historian is starting over with a new line from Ephraim in verse 20 to show Joshua’s lineage.  Neither Rephah nor Resheph are listed in Numbers 26 as clans of Ephraim; but, in this list is Tahan and a Tahan is listed in Numbers 26 as the head of an Ephramite clan.  Therefore, the second Tahan is most likely named after his clan’s founder and identifies Joshua’s clan.  This list then is as follows:  Joseph-Ephraim-Tahan-either Rephah or Resheph-Telah-Tahan-Ladan-Ammihud-Elishma-Nun-Joshua, eleven generations in all. 

Let us compare the generations in Joshua’s line to those in Aaron’s line.  Levi is about seven years older than his brother Joseph.  Levi began the Aaron line while Joseph-Ephraim began the Joshua line.  Aaron was 83 at the time of the Exodus while Joshua was about 40; so, Joshua’s father, Nun, would be about Aaron’s age.  Only two names come between Levi and Aaron while eight names come between Joseph and Nun.  Each name represents a new generation.   By this measure 3/4ths of the names are omitted between Levi and Aaron. 

Concerning the integrity of Joshua’s list, while Scripture does not tell his clan, it repeatedly identifies him as the son of Nun.  We also know beyond doubt that at the time of the Exodus the chief of Joshua’s tribe, the tribe of Ephraim, was Elishama and five times in the book of Numbers he is said to be the son of Ammihud.  The only time these two sets of names (Nun-Joshua and Amminhud-Elishama) come together is in the passage before us, thus adding further certainty to the names in Joshua’s line.

Now an estimate of missing generations in Joshua’s line can be made.  Ephraim was born about 1878 BC while Joshua was born about 1470 BC or 408 years later.  At the rate of 25 years per generation, Joshua was born about 16 generations after Joseph.  Since only eight generations are named, eight are omitted.

Example 10 Details—Caleb.    

We have examined the genealogy of Joshua, the spy who represented the tribe of Ephraim.  Now we tackle the genealogy of the spy who represented the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh.  But alas, Caleb’s genealogy is nowhere to be found!  He was so famous in his day that apparently no one needed his genealogy.  Here is the primary record.  Combined with other passages they clearly identified him in Israel without requiring a comprehensive list. 

6Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal.  And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me.  7I was forty years old [Joshua was 39] when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land… 9And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’”  13Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance.  14Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel.  Joshua 14:6-7, 9, 13-14.

After God gave Israel the Law at Mount Sinai, Israel moved to the edge of the Promised Land where Moses sent twelve men to spy out Canaan.  Each of the twelve was a chief from his respective tribe.  At the end of 40 days these leaders returned with their findings.  Ten said the land flowed with milk and honey; but, it was occupied by giants.  In comparison, the Hebrews seemed like grasshoppers.  They concluded, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:31).  Two, disagreed saying, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30). 

The congregation raised a loud cry and wept that night, saying “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt...Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword?...Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt...Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (Numbers 14:1-4).  The two spies with the favorable report, Joshua representing the tribe of Ephraim and Caleb representing the tribe of Judah, said, “If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us...only do not rebel against the LORD and do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us...their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us, do not fear them” (Numbers 14:8-9).

With that the congregation prepared to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb.  Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting, saying,

How long will this people despise me?  And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 12I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.  Numbers 14:11-12.

In the face of impending doom Moses pleaded with God, arguing that “If you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, 16’It is because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them, that he has killed them in the wilderness’” (Numbers 14:15-16).  Moses prevailed.  God relented on destroying the nation but pronounced judgment: none of the men who saw the signs in Egypt would see the Promised Land, except for the faithful spies.  The congregation would spend one year in the wilderness for each day the spies saw the goodness of the Promised Land.  Then God sent a plague that took the lives of the ten unbelieving spies.

At this point we must recall the importance of Perez.  Perez represented the powerful impact of the tribe of Judah on Israel’s history.  Perez is made famous by his son Hezron who fathered Jerahmeel, Ram and Caleb.  Their lines are the subject of I Chronicles 2.  The chapter lists 23 generations of Hezron’s firstborn Jerahmeel (Table 5. 1).  It gives the genealogy of Ram his second son all the way down to David.  Other lists continue that line to Christ.  Of particular interest to us is Hezron’s third son Caleb (also called Chelubai). 

Again, Perez was born about the time God directed Jacob to relocate to Egypt (1876 BC).  Hezron would have been born about 25 years later and Caleb, as Hezron’s third son, would have been born about 33 years after his father’s birth (boy, girl, boy, girl, boy; spaced two years apart).  The key that seems to unlock the door to there being two Calebs is the concluding statement in the extensive genealogical information about the first Caleb in 1 Chronicles 2.  Verse 49 says, “And the daughter of Caleb was Achsah.” 

Just one person bears the name “Achsah” in the Old Testament and her story is most unusual.  The second Caleb was 85 when Canaan was conquered and Joshua was parceling it out to the tribes.  This Caleb was promised Hebron because he followed the Lord fully.  Now he was requesting his inheritance and Joshua granted his request.  Caleb drove out the giants in one area of Hebron, but those in nearby Debir were too strong for him.  He promised his daughter Achsah’s hand in marriage to the warrior that conquered Debir.  His cousin Othneil was successful and received Achsah. 

When 1 Chronicles 2:49 says “the daughter of Caleb [Caleb #1] was Achsah,” it is using the word “daughter” in the broad sense of a distant granddaughter.  Since she was in the first Caleb’s line, her immediate father, the second Caleb, would obviously also be in this line.  Clearly, this second Caleb was named after his famous ancestor, the first Caleb.  Thus, his line begins: Judah-Perez-Hezron-Caleb and ends with Jephunneh-Caleb-Achsah, giving seven names in a period that encompasses about 20 generations.  Perez was a part of Judah’s second family, born after Judah’s three sons had grown up and two had married.  We must count these as two successive generations, not one.  Now we have identified eight generations in the line of Caleb the spy.

Numbers 32:12 and Joshua 14:6 speak of “Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite.”  The Kenazzites were an extended family in the tribe of Judah.  “Son of Kenaz” means a descendant of the father of this household, not particularly an immediate son.  All of this suggests more generations, anywhere from one to six or even more.  Now we are up to nine to fourteen generations in the family of Caleb of the tribe of Judah.

But we are not done.  This first Caleb had a son named Mareshah who named a son Hebron (I Chronicles 2:42).  The town of Hebron was extremely important in Jewish history, being Abraham’s home after he and Lot separated.  It remains to this day the site where he, Isaac, Jacob and their wives were buried.  There Abraham enjoyed great favor with God.  Apparently, Mareshah told the story of Abraham’s years at Hebron so many times that he ended up naming a son after that place of great blessing. 

This line of Judah retold the story again and again.  When the spy assignments were given out, Caleb who was raised on those stories, managed to be assigned to spying out Hebron.  After he gave the good report, the LORD promised that his inheritance would be everywhere he walked in the Hebron area.  When Joshua divided up the land, he upheld God’s promise by assigning the Hebron area to Caleb.  If our conjecture is correct, we can add the names of Mareshah and Hebron to his line: 1-Judah; 2-Judah’s first family; 3-Perez, part of Judah’s second family; 4-Hezron; 5-the first Caleb; 6-Mareshah; 7-Hebron plus Kenaz and five to nine generations surrounding him and finally, Jephunneh-Caleb-Achsah, a minimum of eleven generations and up to twenty generations.   

This list shows us how to take Aaron’s list.  Between Levi and Aaron are just two names, Kohath and Amram.  Here, between Judah, who was born one year after Levi, and Caleb’s father, who was the same age as Aaron, are seven known generations and an undetermined number of missing generations before and after Kenaz.  If we assume just five generations are unnamed, we have twelve versus the two in Aaron’s line.  Aaron’s line seems to be condensed by at least 5/6ths when compared to Caleb’s line. 

Imagine the strain in viewing but one Caleb to uphold a 215-year Egyptian sojourn.  Somehow the first Caleb is the only Caleb.  He is both the son of Hezron and the son of Jephunneh.  He lived early in the Egyptian sojourn and he lived after the Exodus, the 40 years in the desert and the conquest of Canaan.  What a difficult position!  But a 430-year Egyptian sojourn fully accommodates the spy’s line. 

Tripping up Bible Students

As we have seen the Hebrews often named sons after famous forefathers or beloved relatives.  In Sheerah’s list are three such examples: a first and second Ephraim, a first and second Shuthelah and a first and second Tahath.  In Joshua’s list someone named a son after the famous Ephraimite clan leader, Tahan, so when reconstructing Joshua’s list, both Tahans must be included.   The Caleb list contains two famous Calebs born 400 years apart.  Published lists that fail to recognize any one of these five duplications raise questions about the inerrancy of Scripture.  So these lists are very important, not only for the historical data they preserve, but also for their contribution to the integrity of Scripture. 

David, the Bridge (1876-1000 BC), and

Remaining Examples (1446-950 BC)

Example 11 Details—David.    

18Now these are the generations of Perez:  Perez fathered Hezron, 19Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.   Ruth 4:18-22.

5The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul.  9The sons of Hezron that were born to him: Jerahmeel, Ram, and Chelubai [Caleb].  10Ram fathered Amminadab, and Amminadab fathered Nahshon, prince of the sons of Judah.  11Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, 12Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse.  13Jesse fathered…15David….  I Chronicles 2:5, 9-15.  (Underlining ours.)

David’s list spans both the Egyptian sojourn and period of the Judges.  Because of the familiarity of certain names in David’s ancestry, Hebrew practice could reduce it to just a handful.  Of all the names in this list, the most familiar was that of David himself, Israel’s most famous and beloved king, born about 1040 BC.  Another was Nahshon, Prince of Judah, at the time of the Exodus.  Yet another was Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer, who brought the Moabitess Ruth into the line of Christ, a story celebrated in the book bearing her name.   Perez, the first in David’s list, was founder of the most illustrious clan of Judah.  He was born about the time Israel moved to Egypt—1876 BC. 

These are four of the ten names in David’s line.  The ten span an astounding 836 years (1876-1040 BC).  At the rate of four generations per century a complete list might contain as many as 33 names!  Due to adjustments for known circumstances, we reduce this number to 30, of which 20 are omitted.   This list of exactly ten names is found in Ruth chapter four.  It can be followed within the longer list of I Chronicles two.  The names in these two lists leading to David are identical and in the same order, starting with Perez and concluding with David.  They are repeated without change in the lists of Matthew and Luke.  This highly abbreviated list was efficient.  It produced a pleasing effect and it made the story flow.  It was characteristically Hebrew. 

Three Groups Separated by Hundreds of Years

Upon examining David’s list more carefully it is grouped around three periods of Hebrew history—three names at the beginning of the Egyptian sojourn, three names at the time of the Exodus 430-years later, and four names concluding with David, 400 years after that.  Those three groups of names were commonly known to be in a single line of descent.  There was no need to include all the omitted names since the purpose of Hebrew genealogies was identifying ancestry, not proving it. 

The first group should have started with Judah, and the longer lists do include him.  But in Ruth the list starts with Perez.  The name “Perez”, Judah’s fourth son, was almost synonymous with the name “Judah.”  From Perez came not only the bulk of the tribe’s population but its kings, Bezalel the chief Temple artist, Caleb the spy and, most importantly, the promised Messiah.  By beginning with Perez, the list in Ruth contains exactly ten names, a special number in Hebrew culture.  This detail further indicates that the list was abbreviated.  From Perez the line went through his son Hezron and Hezron’s second son Ram.  Hezron was Perez’s oldest son, so if average he would have been born 25 years after his father.  In contrast, Hezron’s second son, Ram would have been born about 29 years after his father (boy, girl, boy, girl; spaced two years apart).  This places the births of Hezron and Ram at about 1851 BC and 1822 BC. 

The second group (Amminadab-Nahshon-Salmon) centers around famous individuals in the line about the time of the Exodus.  The key to their dating is the detail that Amminadab was Aaron’s father-in-law.  Aaron died at the age of 123 shortly before Israel entered the Promised Land.  These numbers place his birth at roughly 1529 BC (1406+123=1529).  Amminadab would have belonged to the previous generation although he most likely was older than 25 when he fathered his daughter whom Aaron married.     

Nahshon, the immediate son of Amminadab, was the famous Prince of Judah who supervised the census for his tribe at the time of the Exodus (Numbers 1) and was presumably Aaron’s peer.   Aaron was 84 at the time, so Nahshon would also be viewed as about that old except for the fact that he was the immediate father of Salmon, the third name in this set.  The OT does not give details about Salmon, but Matthew identifies Salmon as “the father of Boaz by Rahab...” (Matthew 1:5).  Rahab was the famous resident of Jericho who hid the two spies at the time of the Hebrew invasion in 1406 BC.  As a reward they promised that her family would be spared in the coming Hebrew conquest.  A son of Nahshon by the name of Salmon married her, continuing the line of Perez to David.  Many commentators conclude Salmon was one of the two unnamed spies.  If Nahshon were Aaron’s age and he fathered Salmon when he was 25 or 30, Salmon would be very old when he fathered his son, so adjustments must be made.   

 The 1446 BC Exodus date affords an ideal point to estimate Salmon’s age.  Ten of the 12 spies returned a bad report shortly after the Exodus.  God sentenced Israel to a year in the wilderness for every day the spies searched Canaan.  Those spies were around the age of 40.  Apparently, Joshua decided to send more mature spies in 1406 BC—those around 50 or 55.  This would place Salmon’s birth about 1456-1461 BC, ten or fifteen years before the Exodus.  Since he was below military age at that point, he did not die during the 40 years of wilderness wandering.   

As to Rahab’s age when she hid the spies, she had a considerable reputation and an extensive family as well; so she also must have been older, possibly even in her forties, maybe ten years younger than Salmon. 

In summary, about 275 years passed between the birth of Ram, the last person in the first group, and the birth of Amminadab, the first person in the second group (1822-1547=275).  Ram is the only person available to span these nearly three centuries.  On the basis of four generations per century, ten generations are missing between Ram and Amminadab.  Next, we will see that over 300 years passed between the birth of Salmon, the last person in the second group, and the birth of Boaz, the first person in the third group (1462-1153=309).  About ten more generations are omitted between these two groups. 

The third group begins with Boaz.  Scripture says Salmon fathered Boaz.  Since he was born over 300 years after the birth of Salmon, it is using the term “fathered” in the broad sense of being the forefather of Boaz. The final group in this list contains four generations (Boaz-Obed-Jesse-David).  These are immediate father-son relationships. 

The women of the neighborhood gave him [the child of Boaz and Ruth] a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’  They named him Obed.  He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.  Ruth 4:17.

David was born about 1040 BC.  Since he was the youngest of eight sons, his father would have been born about 1080 BC.  The birth of Obed would have been c. 25 years earlier, about 1105 BC.  Boaz was older when he married Ruth, possibly 60, so c. 1165 B.C. would mark his birth.  Salmon, the last father in the previous group, was born about 1461-1456 BC; so, 300 years passed between the births of Salmon and Boaz.  Our standard rate for new generations suggests twelve generations should have occurred during this period.  Adjusting for the late start of families can account for several of these generations, but at least nine are omitted.  Added to the eleven generations omitted between the first and second group, about 20 generations are omitted in this list from Perez to David.  Each of the ten names in the list had an important place in Hebrew history.  Most likely the other 20 were relatively unknown.  This is classic Hebrew genealogy.  It appears without alteration in Matthew and Luke.

Since some may suggest that Scripture gives many examples of starting generations late, we would be the first to acknowledge such examples.  However, they are exceptions, not the rule.  As soon as the difficulty was removed, the normal pattern took over.  Jacob delayed taking a wife when he saw the distress of his parents over Esau’s two Canaanite wives.  He was 81 when God gave him a wife, and in the next ten years he had twelve children (by four wives).  On the other hand Arphachshad, the first named person after the Flood, and the next six generations each started having sons between the ages of twenty-nine and thirty-five.  That was normal then. 

Abraham’s father began his family at the age of 70, but we know the reason—infertility.  Infertility was an intermittent problem in Terah’s line.  His daughter, Sarah, was infertile, having a child by the direct intervention of God at the age of ninety.  Rebekah, granddaughter of Terah, was infertile and had twins by the direct intervention of God when Isaac was sixty.  All of this was abnormal.  When Jacob moved his family to Egypt, his twelve sons were between the ages of 48 and 24.  All of them had sons.  Some even appear to have had grandsons.  Joseph, who died at the age of 110, saw his descendants to the fourth generation (Genesis 50:23).  Starting families between the ages of 18 and early thirties was typical of Hebrew culture after Jacob.

Example 12 Details—The Priesthood of Israel. 

The priesthood upheld the heart of the nation.  God called it to a unique and formidable mission.  Unique—tasked to teach the nation God’s holiness, the essence and acts of sin and sin’s necessary absolution through sacrifice.  Formidable—the nation’s very relationship with God depended upon keeping His laws.  Underlying that relationship were promises within a covenant which were repeated and enhanced.  Thus, the genealogies of the Priesthood were foundational to the very survival of the nation.

God chose this special line when the Hebrews numbered several million and the adult males among them numbered about eight hundred thousand.  From them God chose just one man, Aaron, and his four sons to become the officials assigned with keeping the nation true to God.  His two oldest sons taught, by bad example, that to violate God’s instructions for worship could be lethal.  They offered strange fire and God slew them.  The two remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar and their descendants alone would be the nation’s priests.

Numbers 18:7 cites the divine authorization for this hereditary priesthood.  To Aaron God said: “You and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve.  I give your priesthood as a gift, and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”  Encroaching on the priesthood was no small offense.  It triggered a death penalty.  The priesthood particularly involved “the altar and what was within the veil.”  To assist Aaron in all the work associated with the exacting demands of the Tabernacle operations, all the rest of the tribe of Levi, some 22,000 males, was a gift to him “to do the service of the tent of meeting” (Numbers 18:6).  In the beginning the priesthood of Israel was indeed selective. 

Levi’s three sons—Gershon, Kohath and Merari—gave the tribe its three clans.  They camped on three sides of the Tabernacle while Moses and Aaron tented on the entrance side which faced east.  Levites of retirement age were to guard the Tabernacle, forbidding unauthorized access and putting to death any who violated its sacredness.  Whether they ever executed anyone or not, their very presence assured a proper respect for the Tabernacle.  This institution (priest, Tabernacle, sacrifice and Ark) enforced God’s rule as He dwelt at the very center of the nation.  He was the very cause and reason for Israel’s existence.  To weaken this institution was like making war on God who uniquely established the nation.  Therefore, trifling with the Tabernacle would be a most capital offense.

Numbers 3:4 relates that “Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father.”  Just before Aaron died God told Moses, 25”Take Aaron and Eleazar his son and bring them up to Mount Hor.  26And strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son.  27And Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there” (Numbers 20:25-27).  While all the descendants of Aaron who met the qualifications could serve as priests, only one would wear the special garment of high priest. 

A short time later Israel began whoring with the daughters of Moab (Numbers 25:1).  God said to hang the chiefs of the people to stop the plague He had sent.  Moses ordered the judges to slay the guilty under them.  Phinehas, grandson of Aaron and son of Eleazar, took a spear and plunged it through a prominent Israelite man and noted Moabite woman in the man’s bedchamber.  God said the zeal of Phinehas had turned back His anger from consuming the nation even though the plague took 24,000.  As a reward God said:

12Behold, I give to him [Phinehas] my covenant of peace, 13and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.  Numbers 25:12-13.

This event further refined the official line of high priests in Israel.  While all of Aaron’s descendants qualified genealogically as priests, God appointed Aaron’s older surviving son Eleazar to be Aaron’s successor; and, this verse arranged that the position of chief priest would be given to Eleazar’s son Phinehas and his line.  The next chief priests were all direct descendants of Phinehas. 

Switching from the Line of Eleazar to the Line of Ithamar: Meet the High Priest Eli

Then for some unexplained reason the work of high priest switched from a descendant of Aaron’s older son Eleazar to a descendant of his younger son Ithamar.  How strange, in view of the covenant given to Phinehas.  Since service at the Tabernacle was essential for the accomplishment of God’s purpose with Israel, commentators have surmised that some unusual circumstance led to the necessity of calling on Ithamar’s line, such as the existing chief priest becoming incapacitated, or the next in line being just an infant, or the demands of being both a chief priest and judge being too great for the next priest in line at that time. 

Whatever circumstance led to calling on the line of Ithamar, the elders of Israel must have sought the LORD, and He designated Eli of the line of Ithamar.  Almost unanimously commentators agree that Eli was the legitimate acting chief priest.  However, the official record of I Chronicles six does not mention him.  As far as can be determined it only lists direct descendants of Eleazar through Phinehas.  The equivalent of five generations from the line of Eli served as high priest for well over a century.  After that the position reverted to the descendants of Aaron’s older son Eleazar.  While this switch was strange, the overriding principle was that God needed faithful priests.  In His sovereign choice, He raised up the line of Eli who filled that need for a time.  Although his two sons were worthless men, without question, his grandson Ahitub, and the following two generations were godly men and faithful chief priests. 

Saul wiped out 84 priests of Eli’s descendants wearing the ephod at Nob (I Samuel 22:6-23).  One alone, Abiathar, escaped to David and served under him as David continued to elude Saul.  Abiathar came with an ephod (I Samuel 23:6) which allowed David to inquire of the LORD.  Through Abiathar and his ephod the LORD gave specific instructions concerning David’s efforts to avoid being killed by Saul (I Samuel 23:2, 4, 9-12).   With all but one of the priests who descended from Eli dead and that sole surviving priest being with the fugitive David, Israel had no functioning priesthood.  Scripture does not tell how, but descendants of Eleazar again began serving as priests for the rest of the nation.  So, for a period, two high priests served, one with David from the family of Ithamar and one with the nation at Gibeon from the family of Eleazar. 

Near the end of David’s life, the priest with David (Abiathar of the Ithamar line) supported Adonijah, David’s son who was born next after Absalom and unwisely declared himself as David’s successor when David was bedridden.  By that time Zadok of the line of Eleazar was backing David.  After David made Solomon king, Solomon retired Abiathar; but his son Jonathan, and later grandson Ahimelech served as head of the eight courses of priests made up from the Ithamar line. 

Why Didn’t Samuel Succeed Eli as High Priest?

If the case of Eli was unusual, the case of Samuel was doubly so.  Most Bible students know that Eli’s sons were wicked, even fornicating with female servants at the Tabernacle.  Scripture calls them worthless and said they blasphemed the sacrifices of the LORD.  Their debauchery was a national scandal.  Samuel’s mother, who was barren, saw the need for a faithful priest at Shiloh and vowed that if the LORD gave her a son, she would dedicate him to serve God all his life.  Hannah and her husband Elkanah were descendants of Levi, serving the tribe of Ephraim and thus called “Ephrathites” (I Samuel 1:1).  As Levites they were very concerned for the spiritual welfare of Israel.  But Elkanah was not a descendant of Aaron so he was not a priest.  God gave Hannah the son she prayed for; and, once he was weaned she left him with Eli.  Her prayer of praise in I Samuel 2 contains images of her expectations that God would triumph over evil through righteous servants. 

Through the years Eli found Samuel to be all that his sons were not and trained Samuel to perform the duties of a priest.  Meanwhile God began to give visions to Samuel so that in time all Israel knew that God spoke through him.  Then came the day when Eli’s sons carried the ark into battle against the Philistines who defeated the Israelites, captured the ark and killed Eli’s two sons.  When the news reached Eli he fell over backwards and died of a broken neck.  He was 98 years old.  His two wicked sons were most likely in their sixties and his oldest grandchildren could have been over 30.  One was actually born that day. 

We might expect Samuel, who by this time was about 30, to step into the role of chief priest but he did not.  In fact, he did not call himself a priest and Scripture never calls him a priest.  This is amazing since he wore the ephod, the priests’ garment, and Scripture says repeatedly that he “ministered unto the LORD under Eli.”  How can this be explained?  The answer is twofold—first his genealogy but second God’s purposes.  Samuel was not a descendant of Aaron.  While he was a Levite, he could never be the high priest or even hold the office of priest because he was not a son of Aaron.  As a Levite he could assist Eli in any way Eli asked, but on his own authority, he could not offer sacrifice at the Tabernacle.  He knew his genealogy and honored God by somehow avoiding the designation of priest.  In fact he must have made this clear to his contemporaries because the title “priest” is never given to him in Scripture.  This remarkable dedication in itself is an evidence of the inerrancy of Scripture. 

But secondly, a man of God came to Eli even before Samuel’s call when he was still very young.  After rehearsing the wickedness of Eli’s sons, he said, 30“The God of Israel declares ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.  31Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house” (I Samuel 2:31-32).  Then comes the principle basic to any blessing from God: “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind” (I Samuel 2:35).  Implicit in enjoying any promised blessing of God is a heart submitted to His will.

This explains how Samuel could “minister unto the LORD” yet not officially be a priest.  Above all, God honors and receives the service of faithful servants.  But the story is not done.  I Chronicles 9:22 gives Samuel credit along with David for organizing activities at the Tabernacle.  Apparently when Eli and his sons died on the same day, the fear of the LORD gripped Eli’s remaining descendants and, if not before, they became very humble and teachable.  Samuel began a training program for Eli’s grandsons and over the years both organized and standardized the priestly services at the Tabernacle so that Eli’s next three generations all served faithfully as priests.  Possibly Samuel did this through his office as the last judge of Israel.  Regardless, the intent of his mother’s prayer, that righteousness would prevail, was answered. 

We know Samuel’s genealogy because David appointed his grandson, Heman, to be the chief choirmaster at the Tabernacle.  His apparently complete genealogy beginning with Korah (Table 6:14-16) is given in the Chronicles chapter devoted to Levi’s descendants (I Chronicles 6).  Genealogies were an essential feature to the success of Israel in accomplishing God’s purposes with the nation.  Godly Israelites such as Samuel held the genealogies as the very word and will of God. 

Other Characteristics of Israel’s High Priests

The succession of high priests is not a reliable way to measure the passing of time.  Whereas generations were measured from the birth of the father to the birth of his first son, the office of high priest was just the opposite.  When the high priest died or became extremely disabled, his son assumed the office.  (The same was true for Israel’s kings.)  So in the case of the chief priest, time would be measured from the death of one to the death of the next. 

While on first glance this seems reliable; in fact, it is not.  In the case of Eli, when he died at the age of 98 he was blind (I Samuel 4:15).  His sons (and Samuel) had been doing the work of the high priest but neither of them held the office.  Eli’s sons actually died before their father died and Eli’s grandson succeeded Eli as the next chief priest.  In the case of Israel’s first high priest, Aaron, it seems that his sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, were doing most of the work in Aaron’s later years.  In the next generation Phinehas was very active while his father Eleazar was still alive and held the office. 

The practice of naming sons after famous forefathers was commonly practiced by Israel’s later high priests.  In the list of 23 names of I Chronicles 6, there are three duplicates (Amariah, Ahitub and Zadak) and one triplicate (Azariah).  Eli also followed this practice by naming his second son after Aaron’s famous grandson Phinehas.  His line also first used the name Ahitub which the official line would later use twice.  The Chronicles list also begins with Jacob, Levi, Kohath and Amram before naming Aaron, Israel’s first high priest.  That mentioning is an example of condensing because there are up to twelve unnamed generations between Amram and Aaron. 

As to the completeness of the Chronicles list, Dr. Keil writes: “We find too few names for the time from the death of Aaron to the death of Uzzi (Ozi), when Eli became high priest—a period of 299 years [by the Keil/Delitzsche chronology]….  Five high priests—Eleazar, Phinehas, Abishua, Bukki and Uzzi—are too few; for in that case each one of them must have discharged the office for 60 years, and have begotten the son who succeeded him in the office only in his 60th year, or the grandson must have regularly succeeded the grandfather in the office—all of which suppositions appear somewhat incredible.  Clearly, therefore, intermediate names must have been omitted in our register.” 

Dr. Keil finds the second and third periods (Eli-Solomon and Solomon to the Captivity) to have about the right number of names, serving an average of 25-35 years.  He adds that notable names such as Jehoiada and Urijah “who was certainly high priest (2 Kings 16:10 ff)” are omitted, but that some like Jehoiada might have been known by another name in the Chronicles list and that Urijah was too unimportant to be included.[4] 

Remarkably, in the days of King Joash, Jehoiada was the only priest mentioned from the time he and his wife hid baby Joash until his death late in Joash’s reign.  Jehoiada died at the remarkable age of 130 (2 Chronicles 24:15).  His career was so distinguished that he was buried among the kings of Israel.  The period from the birth of Joash until the death of Johoiada late in the king’s career suggests he was about 90 years old when he is first mentioned in Scripture.  Certainly, his outstanding service to the LORD had gone on for many years before Joash.  He was the face of the priesthood for 50-60 years, yet his name is not found in either the I Chronicles 6 or Ezra lists.  Either his name was dropped from the list by scribal error or he was such an effective priest that even if one or more chief priests in the list ruled during his years of stellar service, they let him represent them. 

With a few exceptions, the abbreviation of genealogies during the period following David is beyond the scope of this study.  This survey of the high priestly line is for the purpose of exploring the possibility of omitted chief priests while guiding readers away from unfounded interpretations.  On the other hand, Table 6.14 shows a definite gap in the line of Ezra the priest when placed side by side with the Chronicles list of high priests.  The observations of Dr. Keil together with our comments on Jehoiada seem to establish a reasonable possibility that even the line of high priests followed the principle of selectivity in the records when it could.  On the basis of 30 year tenures we have entered five successive omissions in the first period as well as several individuals during the second period.  But, most importantly, the high priestly office was a matter of heredity; so, where the correct name was essential there would be no condensing.

Example 13 Details—Ezra the Priest.    

1Now after this in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, 2son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, 3son of Amariah, son of Azariah, [I Chronicles 6:9-7 adds “Johanah, Azariah, Ahimaaz, Zadok, Ahitub and Amariah”], son of Meraioth, 4son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, 5son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest….  Ezra 7:1-5.

Spanning from Aaron to the post-Exile period, Ezra’s genealogy, like David’s, is clearly abbreviated.  It omits six consecutive chief priests that are found in the primary record of Aaron’s line (I Chronicles 6:1-15).  The omission occurred around the transition from the Judges to the monarchy.  Many think Ezra compiled I Chronicles.  Whether or not he did the fact that he is closely identified with I Chronicles shows he was very familiar with that record so his omission was clearly intentional. 

In Ezra 7:1-5 Ezra listed his descent all the way back to Aaron, Israel’s first chief priest.  He began, “Ezra the son of Seraiah” and used the same phrase “the son of” or “son of” with each head priest until he reached Aaron.  From Seraiah to Aaron he listed 16 forefathers.  One has no clue that his genealogy is condensed except that in I Chronicles 6:1-15 the same list is given in the opposite order and contains 22 names from Aaron to Seraiah.   The six names Ezra omits are not an occasional omission here and there, which might then be the result of scribal error, but are the six consecutive high priests that are named between Azariah and Meraioth.  The six omitted priests working back from Azariah are 1-Johannan, 2-Azariah, 3- Ahimaaz, 4-Zadok, 5-Ahitub and 6-Amariah.  After passing over those six consecutive high priests, Ezra continued with “son of Meraioth, son of Zerahiah” etc.  (See both lists side by side in Table 6.13.) 

Viewing the list of high priests found in I Chronicles 6:1-15 in descending order (beginning with Aaron), the six missing priests are the 9th through the 14th (Amariah-Ahitub-Zadok-Ahimaaz-Azariah-Johanan).  Ezra may have abbreviated the list of 22 into 16 for sake of brevity, but then again, there may have been a deeper reason for omitting the six names. 

If Ezra were uncertain about who was really the chief priest during that time of two chief priests, perhaps he bypassed the problem by condensing his genealogy to avoid stating chief priests who functioned as chief priests but did not officially hold the office of chief priest.  Then when the list in Chronicles was put together, the author(s) decided on recording a clear line from Eleazar.  While this explanation is tentative and does not explain why those omitted extended beyond the end of Eli’s line, whatever was the reason for omitting six consecutive priests, it is clear that Ezra did omit them and that this instance adds to the many examples showing that abbreviating lists was acceptable in Hebrew thinking.

Ezra also omitted the generations between Seraiah and him.  Nebuchadnezzar slew his elderly forefather Seraiah.  Seraiah’s successor, Jehozadak, was the high priest during the captivity and presumably Seraiah’s oldest son.  Jehozadak was followed by his son Jeshua who was the first high priest when Cyrus the Great decreed that captives could return to their land.  Then, Scripture names six succeeding high priests.  Possibly Ezra does not name them because he was a descendant of one of the other sons of Seraiah.  All he needed to do was show that he descended from Aaron which qualified him as a priest so he omits the obscure names between Seraiah and himself.  Table 13 shows Ezra’s list side by side with Aaron’s.

Examples 14-16 Details—The Temple Singers. 

King David appointed a descendant from each Levite clan to lead worship—Heman from the clan of Kohath (but not a son of Amram-I Chronicles 6:33 with 6:38), Asaph from the clan of Gershom (I Chronicles 6:39, 43) and Ethan from the clan of Merari (I Chronicles 6:44).  None of these men were descendants of Aaron so none qualified for the office of priest.  But all the descendants of Levi were given to Aaron to assist him in leading Israel in worship and all three were Levites.  Samuel’s grandson Heman, the chief choirmaster, descended from Izhar through Korah the rebel (Tables 5.1 and 6.14).   

Nineteen generations are found beginning with Korah and ending with Heman.  In the same time period the line of Aaron, contemporary with Korah, names but eleven.  We suggest about 26 years per generation in Heman’s line, but 30 years per generation in Aaron’s line and include nine omissions to make the dates work for Aaron.  Heman had 14 sons in his choir (maybe sons and grandsons) so he was most likely older than David.  Like Aaron’s line Asaph’s line is also condensed.  It has twelve names, skipping about seven.  Ethan’s line is even more condensed, containing just ten, thus skipping about nine generations.

These three lines span the very important years of Israel’s early history, about 500 years from Aaron to David.  To picture the distribution of these generations Table 6.11b shows them side by side with David and Table 6.15a shows them side by side with Aaron. 

Strong Chronological Ties of Samuel’s Genealogy—Table 6.17 

David appointed this grandson of Samuel to the position of chief Tabernacle choir master.  His list is recorded in the chapter on Levite genealogies, I Chronicles 6.  It begins with him in verse 33 and goes all the way back to the Patriarch Israel in verse 39.  In a way it follows the pattern of the first seven examples, giving tribe, clan, household and individual, adding only the name Israel.  The individual following an approximately 12 generation gap is Korah (Table 6.02).  But from Korah to Heman are 19 names.  That calculates to 26+ year generations so that part of the list is most likely complete. 

Words fail to describe the ministry of this godly man in the spiritual life of Israel.  Because of so many ties with other lists, his list is a delightful conclusion to this very detailed chapter on lists.  While many of the date assignments are estimates, they must be close to the true dates because of so many complementary lists.  This remarkable genealogy of Samuel concludes the series of lists in chapter six. 

Summary on Condensed Genealogies

This chapter has presented a case for the condensing of numerous genealogies—those of Aaron, Korah, Dathan, Abiram, On, Achan, the daughters of Zelophehad, Sheerah, Joshua, Caleb the spy, David, the priesthood of Israel, Ezra, two Temple singers and Heman.  Among the most obvious are Aaron (Table 6.01), Ezra (Table 6.14) and David (Table 6.11).  The case of Ezra is both straight forward and simple because when comparing his list with the official list in Chronicles, he omits six consecutive names.  Since it is understood that Ezra the Scribe was heavily involved in editing books of the Old Testament and he wrote the book of Ezra, he was at the least very familiar with I Chronicles.  This seems to be another iron-clad example of an abbreviated genealogy. 

The case of Aaron is the iron-clad example we used to unlock this subject in chapter one; however, it requires far more detail to establish than the block of omissions in Ezra’s line.  But numerous other examples have been presented.  While a few may legitimately be dismissed through alternative interpretations, most will remain.  Consequently, those of faith have two duties—both to receive the text of Scripture as the very word of God and to understand it in the light of how words were used when the text was written.  The great encouragement section of Isaiah begins with a reminder that while all flesh is grass, “the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:6, 8).  Our poor minds must defer to that which stands throughout eternity.

While recognizing that the above abbreviated genealogies, at most, make only a difference of 215-years in the date of creation, they do establish a precedent for Hebrew genealogies commonly being condensed.  If the genealogies of Genesis 5 and/or 11 bear evidence of condensing, they could change the date of the Flood by much more than 215-years.  They will be looked at in the next chapter.

Confirmation of the biblical use of genealogies 

In the summer of 2021, I stumbled across an article on the Internet that contained the same information I had discovered from Scripture over the preceding decade and have written in this chapter and the last.  The article was entitled “The Genesis Genealogies” and first appeared in the 1/1/2001 newsletter of Reasons to Believe.  It was comprehensive, well-organized and the writer, Dr. John M. Millam, was a chemist in his mid-thirties.  Thus, two individuals of totally different backgrounds but the same love for Jesus Christ and belief in the inerrancy of Scripture conclude that Scripture uses family terms in the broad sense as well as the immediate sense and that it often abbreviates OT genealogies.   The agreement of such diverse researchers surely argues for the soundness of this view. 

In 2011 Dr. Millam updated his article.  Now as a 38-page pdf file, it answers to an Internet search for “The Genesis Genealogies.”  In personal correspondence he told me the biblical history bug bit him and it has become his passion.  Over the last 20 years he has written about 19 articles for the bimonthly newsletter.  He is especially precise in showing how many of those who argue for the young earth position are inexact in their research.  We agree with him on this point and seek to approach Scripture with all the integrity we can muster.  In chapter eight we will answer his position on the extent of the Flood and duration of the days of creation but these different views must not divide the body of Christ.    

Secular History of the Ancient Near East Confirms Biblical Records

Chapters 1-6 of HB discuss the biblical records from Abraham to Moses.  By giving many numbers including the years of the Patriarchs and the life of Moses, Bible students can date the birth of Abraham to 2166 BC, the beginning of the sojourn in Egypt to 1876 BC and the Exodus to 1446 BC.  These dates fit well with secular history, thus adding confirmation to the validity of Scripture.  Abraham left Ur and entered Canaan at exactly the only time when Southern Persia briefly dominated Mesopotamia until 1500 years later.  Moses also, born 600 years later, lived precisely when Egyptian history could allow it, even though all traces of Israel’s time in Egypt have been erased. 

The Pharaoh Joseph served gave Jacob’s family choice land in the Nile Delta.  Later, Hyksos invaders overcame weak pharaohs and gained control of parts of Lower Egypt.  This allowed the Hebrews considerable freedom since both peoples were semitic.  Some Egyptologist go so far as to say that the Hebrews were allies of the Hyksos.  Scripture doesn’t speak of the Hyksos but does report that Jacob’s descendants multiplied until “the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:7).  Verse eleven reports that a pharaoh set task masters over them to afflict them “lest they join our enemies…and escape from the land.” 

The 18th Dynasty of Egypt was founded by Ahmose who is credited with driving out the Hyksos so he would have been the pharaoh who enslaved the Hebrews.  The next Pharaoh, Amenhotep I, continued the policies of his predecessor, oppressing the Hebrews.  He also expanded the nation’s rule into Nubia.  The third pharaoh, Thutmose I, had a powerful rule and extended Egypt’s control even further.  He fathered a daughter named Hatshepsut by his royal wife.

Meanwhile, even slavery did not stop Hebrew population growth.  A new policy was adopted:  the Hebrew midwives were instructed to kill Hebrew boy babies.  When that didn’t work Pharaoh gave the order to cast Hebrew boy babies into the Nile River.  Moses was born at this time.  His mother hid him for as long as she could (three months; Exodus 2:2), then cleverly prepared a floating basket, put her baby inside and placed the basket where Pharaoh’s daughter bathed each day.  Pharaoh’s daughter spotted the basket, looked inside and saw a baby boy crying.  Scripture says she took pity on him even though she recognized immediately that the baby was a Hebrew. 

The baby’s sister had been stationed to watch.  She offered to get a Hebrew nurse.  Pharaoh’s daughter agreed, the baby’s mother came and Pharaoh’s daughter said “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages” (Exodus 2:9).  When the child grew older, his mother brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter.  Because of this remarkable window of opportunity, one can only imagine how intensely his family worked to prepare him to live as one of their own in Pharaoh’s palace.  Also of importance, Thutmose I would have had to give his daughter permission to adopt a Hebrew as her own son. 

After Hatshepsut was born, Thutmose fathered a son, Thutmose II, by a secondary wife.  In time that son would marry his older half-sister.  Thutmose II suffered from a disease that limited his activity, requiring Hatshepsut to do most of the duties of his office behind the scene.  He also fathered a son, Thutmose III, by a lesser wife. Then he died, leaving Egypt with a two-year-old pharaoh. 

History regards Thutmose II as an insignificant pharaoh.  Only a small number of documents exist for his reign.  Relief scenes during his reign depict both him with his wife and his wife alone.  Only one major monument is credited to Thutmose II and that one was completed by his son.  Unique scarab seals were used by each Pharaoh on official documents and other important works.  Because they were extremely small, they were hard to alter.  The number of seals used by each Pharaoh is considered indicative of that Pharaoh’s importance.  Archaeologists have found 241 for Thutmose I, 65 for Thutmose II and 463 for Hatshepsut. 

Hatshepsut was a prolific builder, commissioning hundreds of construction projects including the Twin Obelisks, the tallest in the world at the time.  She employed the world-famous architect, Ineni.  She produced prodigious amounts of statuary.  She worked on increasing trade and generally conducted a peaceful rule.  Egypt became exceedingly prosperous under her hand.  Whether it was a baby boy or a nation, her instinct was to nurture, to give the best care possible. 

For years scholars debated whether she regarded herself as Pharaoh.  Now they are certain she did, making her the 2nd confirmed female pharaoh in Egyptian history.  In fact, she claimed her father intended that she should succeed him.  It is thought that she even acted as her father’s regent in his final years, was the power behind her husband’s entire rule as well as those first 20 years of Thutmose III’s rule.  These years are characterized by consistent domestic and foreign policies.  When she did die, due to the prosperity she left, Thutmose III could begin the first of 17 military campaigns that over 20 years would extend Egypt’s power all the way to the Euphrates.  He is considered a military genius and was one of the most militaristic of all the Pharaohs.  One historian called him the Napoleon of Egypt. 

Historians use an astronomical event to date the years of Thutmose III.  But it has a major problem.  Where it was observed was unrecorded, so it varies by 20 years depending on whether it was observed from the Delta or up the Nile at Thebes.  What is known is that Hatshepsut continued to rule Egypt.  Thutmose III did not take the reins of power until she died 20 years later.  Formerly, Egyptologists concluded he hated her and, in his resentment, did all in his power to erase her name.  Now they realized he held her memory in high regard. 

Amenhotep II, the pharaoh of the Exodus, not his father Thutmose III, was the culprit.  Why did he do all in his power to defame her?  It was she who caused him such pain by adopting Moses.  Moses brought the ten plagues on him.  Moses caused the death of his firstborn.  Moses caused the loss of his army at the Red Sea.  Moses was the reason Canaan took this time of setbacks to rebel against Egypt’s domination. 

Amenhotep II launched a military campaign to regain control as soon as he could.  It happened during the winter, unheard of in Egyptian history.  He returned with 100,000 captives/slaves, also unheard of in Egyptian history.  These would have somewhat replaced the Hebrew slaves he had lost.  On the other hand, Thutmose III actually built his tomb adjacent to that of Hatshepsut who ruled for him until he was 22.  Most likely, she did all she could to prepare him for a successful life as Pharaoh when he was ready.  He certainly moved forward, building on her prosperous reign, not complaining about the past once he was in charge. 

Fitting Moses into the 18th Dynasty of Egypt (See also Appendix 6.17)

Where is Moses in all this?  Moses wrote in Exodus 2:10 that when the Hebrew nurse brought the child to “Pharaoh’s daughter…he became her son.  She named him Moses, ‘Because,’ she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’”  Thus, Moses himself claimed that he was both named and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter.  Stephen agrees, saying “Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son” (Acts 7:21).  Then Stephen adds, “And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). 

Moses had the best education available in one of the greatest dynasties ever to rule Egypt.  His mind was filled with construction, statuary and arms.  He was trained as a military leader by a nation skilled in warfare.  For most of 40 years he had seen his royal mother, Pharaoh Hatshepsut care for Egypt.  He could appreciate freedom within limits, knowing that his people lived their own lives in a sense while also being used positively for Egypt’s construction projects.  But he had no idea how miserable they were, how mistreated they were.  Then, for some unexplained reason, he visited his people when he was not expected and saw an Egyptian taskmaster unmercifully mistreating a Hebrew slave.  In a fit of anger, he struck down the Egyptian and buried his body in the sand.  When Pharaoh learned of this, he sought to kill Moses (Exodus 2:15).  Moses fled. 

The experiences in Egypt were essential elements in preparing him for leadership during the 40-years Israel was in the wilderness and God was unfolding an earth-shaking plan for the Hebrew people.  But he would need other training as well.  The next 40 years were spent in the family of a true servant of the living God, coping with the harsh climate of the wilderness and caring for sheep.  Until Moses completed this new education, he would not be ready to shepherd God’s flock. 

As to specific dates, Moses was born in 1526 BC.  Most likely Pharaoh’s daughter was younger rather than older at this time, maybe 18.  Possibly ten years later she married her half-brother.  Moses was 40 in 1486 BC when he slew the Egyptian and fled for his life from Pharaoh Thutmose III who was nearing 20.  It is noteworthy that Moses successfully fled and covered the distance to Midian, apparently all on his own. 

Egyptologists maintain a range of dates for the 18th Dynasty.  They call the more recent dates the Low Chronology while the older dates are called the High Chronology where the biblical dates fall.  Regarding the dates, Wikipedia includes an interesting caution: “These dates, just as all of the dates of the Eighteenth Dynasty, are open to dispute…”[5]


[1]Unger, Dictionary, 110.

[2]Keil, Chronicles, 141.

[3]Keil, Chronicles, 142.

[4]Keil, Chronicles, 115-116.

[5] III. 

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