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SBL e-journal

Emanuel Tov

(

2023

)

.

How Many Descendants of Jacob Came to Egypt? – Genesis 46:27/Exodus 1:5

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TheTorah.com

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https://thetorah.com/article/how-many-descendants-of-jacob-came-to-egypt-genesis-46-27-exodus-1-5

APA e-journal

Emanuel Tov

,

,

,

"

How Many Descendants of Jacob Came to Egypt? – Genesis 46:27/Exodus 1:5

"

TheTorah.com

(

2023

)

.

https://thetorah.com/article/how-many-descendants-of-jacob-came-to-egypt-genesis-46-27-exodus-1-5

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Textual Criticism of the Torah: Ten Short Case Studies

How Many Descendants of Jacob Came to Egypt? – Genesis 46:27/Exodus 1:5

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How Many Descendants of Jacob Came to Egypt? – Genesis 46:27/Exodus 1:5

After Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, and Jacob’s family heads to Egypt, the text lists Jacob’s family members, ending with a total:

Masoretic Text (+ SP, Pesh)

LXX

בראשית מו:כז ...כָּל הַנֶּפֶשׁ לְבֵית יַעֲקֹב הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה שִׁבְעִים.

Gen 46:27 …πᾶσαι ψυχαὶ οἴκου Ιακωβ αἱ εἰσελθοῦσαι εἰς Αἴγυπτον ἑβδομήκοντα πέντε

Gen 46:27 …Thus the total of Jacob’s household who came to Egypt was seventy persons.

Gen 46:27 …Thus the total of Jacob’s household who came to Egypt was seventy-five persons.

When the number is repeated in the opening to Exodus, we see the same difference between the sources:

Masoretic Text (+ SP, Pesh)

LXX

שמות א:ה וַיְהִי [נ"ש: ויהיו] כָּל נֶפֶשׁ יֹצְאֵי יֶרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב שִׁבְעִים נָפֶשׁ...

Exod 1:5[1]ἦσαν δὲ πᾶσαι ψυχαὶ ἐξ[2] Ιακωβ πέντε καὶ ἑβδομήκοντα. [3]

Exod 1:5 The total number of persons that was [SP: “were”] of Jacob’s issue came to seventy souls…

Exod 1:5 …The total number, then, of souls from Jacob: seventy-five.

In this case, two Qumran fragments agree with the numbers of the LXX. 4QExodb (4Q13, frag. 2) reads חמש ושבעים נפש “seventy-five souls.” Slightly less clear is 4QGen-Exoda, for which we are missing some of the words, but we have וחמש נפש ויוסף “…and five souls, and Joseph…” This implies that this source also had the number 75 but written in the order שבעים וחמש (seventy five rather than five and seventy).[4]

The variation in numbers in the two traditions is connected with the different conception of the listing of Joseph’s descendants in the Genesis chapter. MT has only the two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, while LXX includes five additional descendants in the lines of these two sons,[5] which matches information in the data of the much more extensive list of Joseph’s descendants in Numbers 26:29–37. The inclusion of these five descendants is not the work of a translator; LXX is undoubtedly based on a Hebrew source.[6]

Itamar Kislev of Haifa University has argued convincingly that the list of the LXX was original, and that the MT was shortened.[7] He suggests that the MT scribe wished to harmonize the presentation in Genesis and Exodus with Deuteronomy 10:22, which refers to seventy descendants accompanying Jacob to Egypt: בְּשִׁבְעִים נֶפֶשׁ יָרְדוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ מִצְרָיְמָה “Seventy persons in all, your ancestors went down to Egypt.”

To make Genesis and Exodus match this verse, Kislev argues, the MT cut five of Joseph’s descendants from the list, bringing the total to 70. In contrast, manuscripts A, F, and V of LXX read 75 in the Deuteronomy verse, likely reflecting a conscious harmonization of Deuteronomy with Genesis and Exodus (these manuscripts are often harmonizing), while manuscripts B and S read ἑβδομήκοντα “70.”

In sum, the early scribes were faced with a contradiction: Genesis and Exodus had Jacob’s descendants in Egypt numbering 75 (Qumran fragments), while in Deuteronomy they numbered 70 (MT). While some LXX scribes decided to correct Deuteronomy to 75, the MT scribes corrected Genesis and Exodus to 70.[8] We can’t know for sure why they chose this route instead of correcting Deuteronomy; perhaps, MT chose “seventy” for its symbolic importance, paralleling the number of the nations of the world (Genesis 10, Deuteronomy 32:8 [see case study 9]).[9] Or possibly the revisor just wished to create a round number.

Published

August 24, 2023

|

Last Updated

April 13, 2024

Footnotes

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Prof. Emanuel Tov is J. L. Magnes Professor of Bible (emeritus) in the Dept. of Bible at the Hebrew University, where he received his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies. He was the editor of 33 volumes of Discoveries in the Judean Desert. Among his many publications are, Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts Found in the Judean Desert, Textual Criticism of the Bible: An Introduction, The Biblical Encyclopaedia Library 31 and The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research.