top of page

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



Chapter Twenty

Eighteen chapters on biblical genealogies with an additional chapter of confirming secular history?  Yes, but Scripture warns us to be careful with them.  Chapter one observed the Apostle Paul’s directive to Timothy:

3As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach false doctrine 4or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith. 5Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6Some have departed from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. 7They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.  1 Timothy 1:3-7 (CSB).

In a word, genealogies can be harmful.  They can even be used to teach false doctrine.  They can go on and on, advance myths and promote speculation opposed to God’s plan.  In contrast, this book has restricted itself to what Scripture discloses of them.  It has functioned under the principle Paul would later write Timothy that “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable” (II Timothy 3:16).  The revelation God has given concerning genealogies cannot be harmful; only its distortions can be.

We began with the genealogy of Aaron listing four names to cover four centuries.  Obviously, names were skipped.  Some therefore conclude Israel didn’t sojourn in Egypt for four centuries.  Chapter two acknowledged that not just Moses, but God and Stephen also testified to four centuries in Egypt.  When Joseph invited his father to move to Egypt to survive the famine, Jacob paused before departing the land of promise.  God spoke to him, repeating the promises He gave to Abraham and Isaac one last time.  God stated specifically that it would be in Egypt that Jacob’s descendants would increase to the numbers that comprise a nation.  Thus, he was not to fear moving to Egypt. 

Paul spoke of 430-years from the promise to the law.  Since Paul would not contradict God (Genesis 15:13), his words must be interpreted to mean Israel would sojourn in Egypt 430-years following those many times God gave the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and concluding when He gave the law at Mount Sinai.  Thus, Paul’s words also support four centuries in Egypt. 

Others reply, “What about Abraham’s call?  Doesn’t the order of the text suggest it came in Haran, not Ur?  They conclude, “Those 430-years began with God’s call to Abraham in Haran and ended with the Exodus.”  Chapters three and four correct this fallacy, showing conclusively that Abraham’s calling from God came to him at Ur of the Chaldees in southern Mesopotamia, not in Haran.  As to the order of the text, Scripture finishes the Terah section in Genesis 11 before beginning the Abraham section in chapter 12.  In addition, numerous other misinterpretations in the accounts of Abraham and Jacob used to support the 215-year error are corrected.

Chapter five is the heart of this book.  It explores many of the over 300 instances in the Old Testament where filial terms are used in a broad sense.  While “son” and “father” normally refer to an immediate relationship, Hebrew writers often used them in the sense of someone further down or up the line.  When filial terms were used this way in a genealogy, that list would be incomplete.  Chapter six presented 16 examples of genealogies that skip generations by using filial terms in a broad sense. 

Creation is the primary evidence for the existence of God.  About two centuries ago the idea of evolution arose.  Evolution’s explanation for the existence of all things is time, not God.  According to evolution billions of years brought about the material universe.  The Bible indicates God created the universe and man thousands, not billions of years ago.  Creationists reject the idea of vast eons of time.  But some have added the years in the genealogies of Shem and Adam to give specific dates for the Flood and Creation.  If those lists are incomplete, their dates are wrong and they discredit creation science. 

Chapter seven addresses Shem’s list and shows that it skips 40-50 generations, pushing the date of the Flood back many years.  This finding is consistent with the thinking of most Old Testament inerrancy scholars.  They have concluded that Shem’s genealogy is incomplete.  The approximate year of the Flood dogmatically declared by certain fellow believers who insist that Shem’s list is complete is beyond doubt too late.  Nowhere in Scripture is the date for the Flood given or even hinted at.  This book concludes that at best Shem’s genealogy only provides a range of years in which the Flood occurred.  Those who date the Flood by adding the numbers in Shem’s list provide an easy target for dismissing all who appeal to the Bible as authoritative. 

The purpose of most biblical genealogies is to relate descendants to forefathers and forefathers to descendants without the necessity of naming every person in the genealogical line.  When this purpose is understood, conflicts between the words of Scripture and the numbers found in the genealogies are avoided.  Thus, a true understanding of the genealogies glorifies God as we handle His Word.  That has been the goal of this book.  It has found that beyond question Hebrew genealogies do not always consist of immediate father-son dependencies.  This understanding frees us from wresting other passages of Scriptures in an effort to date the earth to an exact number of years as did Archbishop James Ussher in Annals of the World.  Yet, neither do we accept evolution’s billions-of-years view. 

Paul’s words about genealogies come at the beginning of his letter to Timothy.  He will speak on many subjects before he is done but this message was uppermost in his mind.  He states his motive for bringing up the subject: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”  I Timothy 1:5.  Paul loved the new Ephesian converts as he loved all converts.  He didn’t want to see their Christian lives bound by false Bible teaching.  His motive was pure, his conscience unviolated, his faith intact. 

But according to Paul those who taught on genealogies had a different motive.  It was not a careful investigation to see what the Old Testament actually taught.  Their goal was to so teach genealogies that gentiles would be forced to embrace the Mosaic law and in effect become Jewish proselytes.  Paul said they did not understand what they were talking about (1:7).  Ephesians chapters two and three shows that gentiles came to Christ apart from the law.  Paul did not identify those who incorrectly taught genealogies.  He simply refers to them as “Certain persons” (1:6).  Timothy would know who Paul was referring to. 

Fast forward to today.  Certain persons teach that the Bible reveals the dates of the Flood and Creation.  They say those dates are revealed in the genealogies of Shem (Genesis 11) and Adam (Genesis 5).  They say that adding the numbers in Shem’s list discloses the date of the Flood and continuing with the numbers in Adam’s list discloses the date of Creation.  But those dates are not found in Scripture and it would seem that such important dates would be clearly stated if God wanted them known.  So instead of appealing to the clear statements of Scripture, these certain brethren appeal to genealogies. 

But what is their motive?  The motive of those Paul wrote Timothy about was no secret.  It was to force gentiles to accept the entire Mosaic Law.  One of their tools was an erroneous teaching of genealogies.  Now for the critical question: what is the motive of those who appeal to genealogies today?  If it is to learn what the Bible teaches about genealogies as this book attempts to do, that would be a good motive.   If that were their motive, they would address them at length, but they don’t.  So their motive is something else.  Could it be an attempt to secure an exclusive following through those elusive dates? 

Challenge to the reader:  study the arguments of this book.  Are they sound?  Do they make sense?  Are they correct?  If you have come to believe so, you will become a part of history, helping to correct a biblical error that has persisted in the church for two thousand years.  What will you accomplish?  Unbelievers will not be impressed with your new view that maybe the earth is 2000 years older than Bible students previously thought.  But the global Flood depositing the many sedimentary layers on the surface of the earth about 3800 to 4100 BC will impress some.   Much evidence supports such a range of dates.  It will be hard to refute.  This will result in some unbelievers having a higher regard for the Bible and will also support the work of creation scientists.  For believers, it will further confirm that the Bible is true history. 

So much of the Bible includes genealogies that we would be amiss in not understanding the Holy Spirit’s true purpose for them.  Rightly understood they are a blessing and have been a great blessing to the author.  Hopefully these truths will likewise inform your faith and make it stronger.

In our zeal for the inerrancy of the Scriptures, we learned more about the dear souls God included in His word along with their exploits and failures.  We gained new insights into relationships and their consequences.  People and their relationships are important to God—even our names—even our organizations—what we do for Him and how we do it.  In the end our biggest concern is what the hymn writer said:

Lord, I care not for riches, neither silver nor gold,

I would make sure of Heaven, I would enter the fold.

In the book of Thy kingdom with its pages so fair

Tell me, Jesus my Savior, Is my name written there?

Is my name written there?

On the page white and fair?

In the book of Thy kingdom,

Is my name written there?

Therefore, as we leave this subject of Hebrew genealogies with its 170,000 words, we hope no one will still be asking what difference 2000 years of human history makes anyway and, really, what’s the big deal?

To them we answer, after all, what difference does correct Bible teaching make anyway?  It makes a huge difference.  There is a grave penalty for teaching the Word of God incorrectly.  James 3:1 gives this sober warning: “Be not many of you teachers, my brothers, knowing that we shall receive the heavier judgment.”  Clearly God does not take incorrect Bible teaching lightly and if He does not, neither should we. 

Glory to God.

Lloyd Tontz Anderson, (Seventh Edition) 

bottom of page