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Just Another Far-Fetched
How-It-Could-Have-Been
by Farrell Till


1995 / November-December



Although it was five years late in arriving, I appreciate Mr. Hutchinson's attempt to explain the discrepancy between the length of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt and the Exodus-6 chronology in an Aaronic genealogy. TSR subscribers who have all back copies would profit from reading the Winter and Spring 1990 issues, for this was where Jerry Moffitt and I originally debated the discrepancy that Mr. Hutchinson is now proposing a solution to. A cover letter from Mr. Hutchinson explained that he had just read my original article on the Internet, so his delay in writing on the subject is certainly understandable.

I appreciate Mr. Hutchinson's calling his solution to the discrepancy a "scenario," because that it is exactly what it is, a scenario for which he can offer only assumptions for proof. I hope that readers noticed that Mr. Hutchinson even used the word assumption several times in his article, so I appreciate his candor in that too. I will show that his "scenario" is too far-fetched to be credible and his assumptions too unlikely to carry any force of argument.

Readers of the original exchange between Moffitt and me may recall that Moffitt proposed a "skipped-generations" theory to try to prove that there were two Amrams in Aaron's genealogy and that the Amram who was Aaron's father was not the Amram who was Kohath's son. I think anyone who reads the earlier exchange on this subject will see that Mr. Moffitt failed to offer any credible proof that the Exodus writer skipped some generations in Aaron's genealogy, and, most certainly, Moffitt failed to prove that there is any logical reason to believe that the writer(s) of the Pentateuch was aware of another Amram who was the "father" of the branch of Kohathites who were called Amramites (Num. 3:27-28). Failing to establish the existence of this "other Amram" left Moffitt's explanation with nothing but conjecture to support it, and, of course, mere conjecture doesn't prove anything. Now five years later, Mr. Hutchinson offers another version of the skipped-generations theory, which, as we will soon see, isn't any better than Moffitt's.

This latest theory of skipped-generations attempts to make Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Aaron simply represent or symbolize the four generations whom Yahweh said, in a revelation to Abraham, would serve as strangers "in a land that is not theirs" and be afflicted for 400 years before coming out of servitude in the "fourth generation" (Gen. 15:13-16). A scenario such as this must be assumed, of course, because anyone with common sense knows that more than just four generations will live and die over a period of 400 years. As Moffitt pointed out in his first article on the subject, a study of the genealogies in 1 Chronicles 2 through 7 will show lists of as many as ten generations who had to have lived in Egypt ("The Inerrancy Doctrine Is Found to Be Impregnable," Winter 1990, p. 8), so both Moffitt and Hutchinson are using a familiar inerrantist tactic: when literal interpretation of a passage threatens the Bible inerrancy doctrine, claim figurative meaning. Hence, we now have Mr. Hutchinson arguing that the Hebrew word ben (son) didn't always mean son in the literal sense. It could have meant "offspring" or "descendant." Such an "assumption," he claimed, makes it possible that Kohath wasn't Levi's "immediate son" but only a "direct descendant of Levi," and likewise "Amram could have been a direct descendant of Kohath rather than his immediate son, and Aaron could have been a direct descendant of Amram." I wouldn't turn around for the difference in Hutchinson's theory and Moffitt's. They are both based on the assumption that generations were skipped in the Exodus 6 genealogy, an assumption for which Hutchinson offered no proof, but against which an abundance of evidence can be found in the Bible. Moffitt did at least try to support his claim by arguing that the 8,600 Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites counted in the census taken in Numbers 3:27-28 could not have descended from Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel if one assumes that "sons of Kohath" in Exodus 6:18 means that they were literal sons of Kohath.

Moffitt's mistake in advancing this argument was that he was trying to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy. He wanted the privilege to argue that what was said in the book of Numbers couldn't possibly contradict what was said in the book of Exodus, and so, by necessity, the genealogy in Exodus 6 had to be understood in some figurative sense. The only possible grounds that one could have for making such an argument as this is that the Bible is inerrant in its entirety. That, however, was the very issue we were debating, so I couldn't allow Mr. Moffitt to beg the question. He had to prove that the census figures in Numbers 3:27-28 were accurate, and, of course, he could not do that. Therefore, he had no basis for using this census figure to prove that generations had been skipped in Exodus 6, especially when there are so many sound reasons for believing that the census figures in Numbers and elsewhere in the Pentateuch were greatly inflated, but that is a subject that would require a separate article, which I would be happy to write if Moffitt, Hutchinson, or any other fundamentalist wishes to argue that the Israelite nation was as large as census numbers in the Pentateuch claim.

Besides this problem, there is a widely recognized hermeneutic principle that plays all kinds of havoc with Mr. Hutchinson's "assumption" that "son of" in Exodus 6 could have meant "descendant" rather than "immediate son." This principle was stated by Mr. Moffitt himself in a written debate that we have in progress. "Sound hermeneutics," Mr. Moffitt said, "teaches us that words have their normal import unless the context inhibits the normal use." I wholeheartedly accept that principle and appeal to it now to demand that Mr. Hutchinson show us how the context of Exodus 6:14-25 gives any reason to "assume" that the expressions "son of" and "sons of" should not be understood to have their "normal import." Verse 4 lists Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi as "the sons of" Reuben, and Genesis 46:8-9 also identifies them as the "sons of" Reuben. Numbers 26:5-6 also lists the same four as "the sons of" Reuben. What is there in the context of any of these passages that gives us any reason at all to think that these were not the literal sons of Reuben?

The Exodus 6 genealogy lists Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul as "the sons of" Simeon (v:15) and even mentions that Shaul was "the son of a Canaanitish woman." Genesis 46:10 lists these same six as "the sons of" Simeon and also identified Shaul as the son of a Canaanitish woman. What is there in the context of either passage that gives any reason to suspect that the writers did not mean that these were the literal sons of Simeon?

In the interest of space, I won't analyze every listing in the Exodus 6 genealogy to show that each time the "sons of" whoever were listed, the same names were used that were listed in Genesis 46 and elsewhere when the genealogies of Jacob's sons and their sons were given. If Mr. Hutchinson questions that this is true, then I urge him to investigate by doing a little comparison of genealogies himself. The limited analysis that I have done is enough to challenge Mr. Hutchinson to show us what there is in the contexts of any of these genealogies to suggest that "sons of" did not mean literal sons. If he can't do that, then he finds himself in violation of a recognized hermeneutic principle. I should remind him too that he cannot argue that "sons of" must have been used figuratively some of the times in the Exodus 6 genealogy or otherwise this genealogy contradicts Exodus 12:40-41, which states that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt 430 years. To so argue is to make the same mistake that Mr. Moffitt did in his articles on this same issue, i. e., trying to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy.

If Mr. Hutchinson is going to argue that "son of" in Exodus 6 could have meant that Kohath was only a "descendant" of Levi, and Amram was only a "descendant" of Kohath, and Aaron was only a "descendant" of Amram, then he must also argue that every time the expressions "son of" or "sons of" was used in this genealogy, they had the same meaning, i.e., descendant or descendants. Otherwise, he must deal with the problem of why a writer who was verbally inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity would have so flagrantly equivocated in such a short space as this genealogy occupies in the Bible. Equivocation is the act of using the same word in different senses in the same context without informing the audience that a change of meaning is intended, and that is recognized as a serious writing flaw. Application of this hermeneutic principle means that if Hanoch was a literal son of Reuben, then Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi were also literal sons of Reuben; otherwise, the writer of this verse was guilty of equivocation. Likewise, if Hanoch was only a "descendant" and not a literal son of Reuben, then Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi had to be just "descendants" and not literal sons of Reuben. Otherwise, the writer of this verse was guilty of equivocation.

If we continued analyzing the genealogy, we would see nothing to suggest that the writer was using "sons of" in the next verse, when listing the "sons of" Simeon, in any sense different from the meaning given the word in the previous verse. Thus, if the names listed in Reuben's genealogy were literal sons, the names listed in Simeon's genealogy were literal sons, and if the names listed in Reuben's genealogy were just "descendants," then all the names listed in Simeon's genealogy were "descendants." Otherwise, a verbally inspired writer equivocated.

Again, in the interest of saving space, I won't carry this analysis through the rest of the genealogy, but I have taken it far enough to show that Mr. Hutchinson is forced to argue that all of the names listed as "sons" in Exodus 6 were literal sons or they were all just "descendants." To argue otherwise is to charge a divinely inspired writer with the serious flaw of equivocation.

Those who have not read my original exchange with Jerry Moffitt on this subject may not have understood why Mr. Hutchinson tried to show that Uzziel, who was described as "the uncle of Aaron," in Leviticus 10:4, wasn't really Aaron's uncle but only a "relative." For the benefit of those readers, I will quote a section of my original article to help clarify what Mr. Hutchinson was trying to do:

So far all my evidence has been circumstantial. None of it actually proves that only one Amram was intended in the genealogy, but now that is about to change. The genealogy says that Kohath had four sons: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel (v:18). If I am right in saying that the Amram in this verse was the same Amram identified in verse 20 as the father of Aaron and Moses, then Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel were the uncles of Aaron and Moses. Is there any proof that they were? Unfortunately for the skipped-generation theory, there is. Mr. Moffitt is no doubt familiar with the story in Leviticus 10:1-2, where Yahweh incinerated Nadab and Abihu, the priestly sons of Aaron, for using "strange fire" in their censers. I wouldn't even try to estimate how many you-better-toe-the-line sermons by Church-of-Christ preachers have been based on this story. Perhaps Mr. Moffitt has preached a few of them himself. At any rate, after the fire had "devoured them," we read this: "And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Draw near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp" (v:4). Here it plainly says that Aaron had an uncle named Uzziel.
Was this the same Uzziel as the one in Exodus 6:18 who was "the first Amram's" brother? Notice that Aaron's Uncle Uzziel had two sons named Mishael and Elzaphan (Lev. 10:4) and that the Uzziel in the Exodus-6 genealogy (brother of Amram I) had three sons: Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri (v:22). What will Mr. Moffitt say about this? Will he now come forth with a skipped-generation, two-Uzziels theory? ("Holes in the Two-Amrams Theory," Winter 1990, pp. 5-6).

Mr. Hutchinson, of course, isn't arguing for any two-Amrams or two-Uzziels theory; he is arguing that Amram was simply a symbol of a generation but not literally the "immediate" son of Kohath and that Aaron was also just a symbol of the fourth generation but not literally the "immediate" son of Amram. Hence, the description of Uzziel in Leviticus 10:4 as "the uncle of Aaron" should not be understood literally but figuratively. To think of Uzziel as only a "relative" of Aaron, Hutchinson said, "would be consistent with the proposed scenario" that he is arguing for.

A frustrating thing about Mr. Hutchinson's approach to argumentation is his habit of making assertions for which he offers no proof. For example, he said that the Hebrew word dod, translated uncle in Leviticus 10:4, is "also translated as love, beloved, and well beloved elsewhere in the Bible," but he cited no examples. He could have made my task much easier had he cited book, chapter, and verse where dod was so translated. Before I discuss what my own research uncovered, I must point out that it really doesn't matter how many times dod was translated love, beloved, or well beloved; to give credibility to his argument, Mr. Hutchinson needs to find a place where dod was translated relative, and I think if he had known of such a place, he would have cited it.

In a sense, Mr. Hutchinson is right in saying that dod did have meanings other than uncle, although it is questionable that dod in those other places was the same word as the dod used in Leviticus 10:4. Simply because words are spelled alike and pronounced alike doesn't make them the same word. We can use mean in English as an example. To say that a person is mean is not to use the same word as in either of the following sentences: (1) I know what you mean, and (2) the mean distance from Earth to the sun is 93 million miles. Each sentence uses a different word, and the technical designation for such words as these is homonyms, words that are spelled alike and pronounced alike but have different meanings.

The people who speak and read a language are able to determine from context which homonym is being used. For example, what English speaking person hearing someone say that the mean distance from Earth to the sun is 93 million miles would think that mean was the word that meant "lacking qualities of kindness or goodness"? He would know that the sentence was using the mean that "means" middle point or average. So it is with dod in Hebrew. The context determines what was meant by dod, and this is where Mr. Hutchinson's scenario runs into deep trouble.

A check of Strong's concordance will show that when dod was used in the sense of love, beloved, or well beloved, it almost always referred to concepts or objects but not persons. When the reference was to a person, it was used in the sense of an object of romantic love. The following quotations will illustrate that this is so:

Come, let us take our fill of love (dod) until morning (Prov. 7:18).
For your love (dod) is better than wine (Song of Solomon 1:2).
We will remember your love (dod) more than wine (Song of Solomon 1:4).
How fair is your love (dod), my sister, my spouse (Song of Solomon 4:10).
(I)ndeed your time was the time of love (dod); so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness (Ezek. 16:8).
My beloved (dod) is to me a cluster of henna blooms (Song of Solomon 1:14).
Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved (dod) among the sons (Song of Solomon 2:3).
A bundle of myrrh is my beloved (dod) to me (Song of Solomon 1:13).

As you can see, dod used as Mr. Hutchinson said appears almost exclusively in the Song of Solomon, a book with strong sexual overtones, and those same overtones are also present in the passages in Proverbs and Ezekiel. Let's compare these uses of dod to the places where it has been translated uncle:

If a man lies with his uncle's wife (dowdah, "aunt"), he has uncovered his uncle's (dod) nakedness (Lev. 20:20).
After he [a slave] is sold, he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him; or his uncle (dod) or his uncle's son may redeem him (Lev. 25:49).
Then Saul's uncle (dod) said to him and his servant, "Where did he go?" (1 Sam. 10:14).
And Saul's uncle (dod) said, "Tell me, please, what Samuel said to you" (1 Sam. 10:15).
So Saul said to his uncle (dod)... (1 Sam. 10:16).
And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's (dod) daughter, for she had neither father nor mother (Esther 2:7)
Now when the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle (dod) of Mordecai, who had taken her as his daughter, to go in to the king, she requested nothing... (Esther 2:15).
Also Jehonathan, David's uncle (dod) was a counselor, a wise man, and a scribe (2 Chron. 27:32).

There are other passages where dod was used in reference to a specific male person, rather than an abstract concept or object of romantic love, and each time, it has been translated uncle in the major English translations. When these passages are compared to the places in the Song of Solomon where dod was used to refer to the emotion of romantic love or to a person who was the object of that emotion, the difference in the meaning of the two words is obvious. This is all I need to say about Mr. Hutchinson's quibble that Uzziel was just a "relative" of Aaron and not his uncle. Obviously, the Leviticus writer meant that Uzziel was the brother of Aaron's father, and Uzziel is listed in the Exodus 6 genealogy as a brother of Amram (v:18). So if Amram and Uzziel were brothers and if Uzziel was Aaron's uncle, then Amram was Aaron's literal father, not just an ancestor, and Mr. Hutchinson's "scenario" vanishes into thin air.

We have Mr. Hutchinson's own testimony to the inadequacy of his "scenario," because he himself said, "If we find one scripture that cannot be reconciled with this context, we will have to reject this particular scenario and look for another explanation." I see no way for Mr. Hutchinson to reconcile his theory that Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Aaron were merely symbols or representatives of generations with the fact that Leviticus 10:4 was clearly intended to mean that Uzziel was Aaron's uncle, so Mr. Hutchinson must reject his "scenario" and look for another explanation.

I wonder, however, why Mr. Hutchinson feels the need to "look for another explanation." I'm afraid he betrays a bias so typical of Christian fundamentalists. They interpret the Bible on the assumption that it is inerrant in everything it says, so if a "scenario" can't be reconciled, they "look for another explanation." When a "scenario" that they devise cannot be reconciled with another scripture, why don't they consider the possibility that reconciliation isn't possible for the simple reason that discrepancies and inconsistencies may actually exist in the biblical text? They never want to accept that "scenario"; they just look for other "explanations" that will give at least a semblance of respectability to their irrational inerrancy belief.

Just as Hutchinson's scenario required him to argue that the word uncle was not to be understood literally where Uzziel was described as "the uncle of Aaron," so it must also assign a far-fetched figurative meaning to Exodus 6:20, which says that Amram's wife Jochebed "bore" him Aaron on Moses. Without citing any biblical references to support his claim, Hutchinson simply said that "(i)n Hebrew thought, an individual giving birth to a child becomes a parent to all who are descended from that child." Hence, he tells us, "Jochebed can be said to have borne Aaron and Moses even though she may have actually given birth to their great-grandfather." Oh, I see, and then, of course, when two verses later, we are told that Aaron married Elisheba, who "bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar," these four were not really the "immediate sons" of Aaron; they were perhaps his great-grandsons. Then when verse 25 says that Eleazar, "Aaron's son," married one of the daughters of Putiel, who "bore him Phinehas," we are to understand that Eleazar wasn't really Aaron's "immediate son" and that Phinehas wasn't Eleazar's "immediate son." All of this is what Hutchinson must believe or else take us right back to the problem of a verbally inspired writer flagrantly equivocating within the space of just a few sentences.

Hutchinson wants to claim that "Hebrew thought" could give a broad general meaning to yalad (bear), but, as I pointed out, he cited no examples to support his case. This required me to do his research for him, and what I found wasn't at all friendly to his "scenario." The word yalad appears dozens of times in the Hebrew text, but I could find no examples that would give even a scintilla of credibility to Hutchinson's theory. The listings I found were invariably like the following:

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore (yalad) Cain (Gen. 4:1).
Then she bore (yalad) again, this time his brother Abel (Gen. 4:2).
And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore (yalad) Enoch (Gen. 4:17).
And Adah [Lamech's wife] bore (yalad) Jabal (Gen. 4:20).
So Hagar bore (yalad) Abram a son (Gen. 16:15).

And so it goes, on and on, case after case, where yalad was used to signify the obvious act of a woman giving birth to her own literal child. I won't say that there are absolutely no cases in the Hebrew text where yalad was used in a broader sense, but for Hutchinson's "scenario" to carry any weight, he would have to show that the word was so used often enough to give credibility to the claim that yalad in Exodus 6 had a meaning broader than women giving birth to their own sons. If Mr. Hutchinson can cite enough examples to give his claim credibility, we would like to see them.

In the absence of such evidence, the Pentateuch gives us every reason to believe that the Exodus genealogy was using yalad (bear) literally in reference to the sons that were borne by Jochebed, Elisheba, and Eleazar's wife. All through the Pentateuch, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar were called the "sons of Aaron" (Ex. 28:1; Num. 3:2, 32; 4:16; 16:37; 20:25.) There are many other references, too numerous to list, in which one or more of these were referred to as the son or sons of Aaron, and Phinehas was called the son of Eleazar. Numbers 26:60 even says that Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar were "born" to Aaron. What possible reason can anyone find to suspect that "sons of" and "born to" in these many references were not intended to have their "normal import"? So if literal meaning was intended when the Exodus 6 genealogy said that Elisheba and Eleazar's wife "bore" sons, why should we assume that the same word, in the same context, was being used in a broader sense when it said that Jochebed "bore" Aaron and Moses to Amram?

Even a passage that Hutchinson referred to in laying out his "scenario," if considered in its entirety, establishes beyond reasonable doubt that the writer(s) of the Pentateuch understood that Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar were the literal sons of Aaron. In Leviticus 10:1-2, Yahweh devoured Nadab and Abihu with fire because of an act of disobedience. After their bodies were carried out of the camp by the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron, Moses warned Aaron and "his sons," Eleazar and Ithamar, not to mourn the deaths by uncovering their heads or tearing their clothes or they would die (v:6). The reason why the Leviticus writer had Moses directing such a warning to Aaron and Eleazar and Ithamar seems rather obvious to anyone who isn't looking for how-it-could-have-been ways to shore up an unlikely theory. Aaron was the father and Eleazar and Ithamar were the brothers of the two men whom Yahweh had devoured by fire, so there was a stronger likelihood that they would express disapproval, through mourning, of Yahweh's harsh punishment than would others in the congregation who were more distantly related to Nadab and Abihu. Thus, Moses warned them not to express sorrow or grief over what Yahweh had done.

If this isn't enough to convince Mr. Hutchinson that his "scenario" is completely without merit, he should consider another fact. Exodus 6 is not the only place where the genealogy of Aaron was recorded, and whenever it was recorded, Levi, Kohath, and Amram were listed as the three generations who had preceded Aaron (Num. 3:17-32; 1 Chron. 6:1-2, 16-18). In addition to these complete genealogies from Levi through Aaron, there are some partial ones, which all indicate that Kohath was Levi's "immediate son" or Amram was Kohath's "immediate son." There simply is no reason to think that the biblical genealogists thought that there were any "skipped generations" in the Levi-Kohath-Amram-Aaron lineage. What Mr. Hutchinson is doing, then, is proposing a "scenario" for which there is no proof and challenging me to prove that it is not true.

Mr. Hutchinson prepared a chart in support of his "scenario," which is just as flawed as his general theory is. For reader convenience in following my analysis of the chart, I will reproduce it.

                 Years Israelites Lived in Egypt

Levi 77 years
Kohath 133 years
Amram 137 years
Aaron 83 years

Total 430 years

The chart proposes that Levi spent as many as 77 years of his life in Egypt, and so the generation represented by Levi accounted for 77 of the 430 years of Egyptian bondage; however, the time that Levi spent in Egypt is immaterial to the "scenario" Mr. Hutchinson wishes to present, because Kohath was born before the Israelite descent into Egypt (Gen. 46:11). By what distorted logic does Mr. Hutchinson think that he can assign 77 of the 430 years to the generation represented by Levi and then 133 years to the generation represented by Kohath, when Kohath had to have lived in Egypt all through the 77 years that Levi spent there? Hutchinson is trying to count 77 years twice, and with that kind of juggling of numbers one could prove just about any kind of cockamamie chronological theory. Furthermore, at least some of Kohath's 133 years were spent in Canaan before the Israelite descent into Egypt, and this spells more trouble for Mr. Hutchinson's scenario. Even if Kohath had been an infant in his mother's arms at the time of the Israelite descent into Egypt, he would not have lived his entire life there. Please notice in the passage from The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs quoted below that by Jewish tradition, Levi was 40 and Kohath about five years old when the Israelites went into Egypt. If there is any validity to this tradition, then Mr. Hutchinson's "scenario" falls 82 years (77 + 5) short of the 430 it needs.

Speaking of cockamamie hypotheses, I want to be as kind to Mr. Hutchinson as possible, but his "scenario" is about as cockamamie as any I have seen on this particular issue. It requires such far-fetched hypotheses as "uncle" not really meaning uncle, "son of" not really meaning an "immediate" son, and the verb bear (yalad) meaning remote rather than immediate parentage."While many people dogmatically assert that Moses' parents were Amram and Jochebed," he argued, "such a conclusion is basically speculative. The Bible leaves the door open for a different conclusion." I think I have presented enough evidence to prove that biblical writers obviously thought that Amram and Jochebed were the literal parents of Moses and Aaron, but to settle the issue, I am going to suggested that we allow Jewish scholars to interpret their own literature.

To do this, let's first notice that Exodus 6:20 clearly says that Jochebed "bore" Aaron and Moses to Amram. The same statement is repeated in Numbers 26:59.

The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and to Amram she bore Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam.

This passage not only repeats the claim that Jochebed bore Aaron and Moses to Amram, but it gives an additional bit of information that poses serious problems for any attempt to reconcile the Exodus 6 genealogy with the claim of a 430-year Israelite sojourn in Egypt. Levi's daughter, whom Amram married, was born after Levi had gone into Egypt, so even if Levi's final act on earth was the siring of Jochebed, it wouldn't have been possible for her to have borne Aaron and Moses just 83 and 80 years before the end of a 430-year sojourn. If she had been born even a few months after Levi's 77-year stint in Egypt ended in death, she would have been around 270 years old when she gave birth to Aaron. This figure is easily arrived at by subtracting 77 (the number of years the Israelites spent in Egypt before Jochebed's birth) and 83 (the number of years from Aaron's birth to the exodus) from 430 years (the time that the Israelites allegedly spent in Egyptian bondage). So perhaps Mr. Hutchinson would be interested in debating the problem of the 270-year-old mother that the Exodus-6 genealogy poses.

Hutchinson, of course, will argue that Jochebed wasn't the literal daughter of Levi, so this is why I suggest that we allow Jewish scholars (rather than Christian fundamentalists with a pet theory to defend) to interpret their own literature. The following quotation is from Levi's section of The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs:

XI. When I married I was twenty-eight years old, and my wife's name was Melcha. [2] And she conceived and bore a son, and she called him Gershon because we were living as foreigners in our land (for Gershon means "living as a foreigner"). [3] And I saw in a vision about him that he would not be in the front rank. [4] And Kohath was born in my thirty-fifth year, towards sunrise. [5] And I saw in a vision that he was standing raised above the rest of the congregation round about him [6] (that is why I called him Kohath, which is "beginning of greatness" and "reconciliation"). [7] And as a third son she bore me Merari in my fortieth year; and it was a difficult birth (that is why his mother called him Merari, which is "my bitterness"--and his life too was in danger). [8] And Jochebed was born in my sixty-fourth year, in Egypt; for by then I was much esteemed among my brothers.
XII. And Gershon married, and his wife bore him Libni and Shimei. [2] And Kohath's sons were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. [3] And Merari's sons, Mahli and Mushi. [4] And in my ninety-fourth year Amram married my daughter Jochebed, for they were born the same day, he and my daughter. [5] I was eight years old when I went into the land of Canaan and eighteen when I killed Shechem, and at nineteen I became a priest; and I was twenty-eight when I married and forty when I came into Egypt. [6] And you, my children, are a third generation. Joseph died in my hundred and eighteenth year.

The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs is, of course, a pseudepigraphal work, a fact I'm sure Mr. Hutchinson would not want us to overlook. However, this work dates from the 2nd century B. C. and is considered in scholastic circles to be the work of Hellenic Jews, who wanted to pass along Jewish traditions concerning the final remarks or "testaments" of the sons of Jacob. The collection seems to reflect an effort to relate the last words of the patriarchs to the prophetic remarks that Jacob made about each of his sons before his death in Genesis 49.

Since I do not accept the premise of biblical inerrancy, I certainly won't try to argue that The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs is in any sense inerrant. However, it is reasonable to argue that this pseudepigraphal work does represent what 2nd century B. C. Jews thought about their traditions. With that in mind, let's notice that the author of Levi's testament obviously thought that Levi was Kohath's literal father, that Kohath was Amram's literal father, and that Jochebed was Levi's literal daughter, who had been born to him after the Israelite descent into Egypt. So Mr. Hutchinson's far-fetched scenario finds no support at all in Jewish tradition.

One final testimony from Jewish scholarship should put this matter to rest. Josephus, a Jewish historian whom most Bible fundamentalist rely on whenever they think they have found something in his works to support their case, clearly thought that Amram and Jochebed were the literal parents of Moses. Hutchinson argued that no specific names were given to the "man of the house of Levi" who "took to wife a daughter of Levi," and so "(t)his leaves open the possibility that the unnamed man and woman in Exodus 2 [presented as the parents of Moses] were not Amram and Jochebed, which must be the case for the above scenario to work." We want to remember the statement I have emphasized in italics, because we are going to see that the Jewish historian Josephus offered no room at all for Mr. Hutchinson's scenario "to work." In The Antiquities of the Jews (2:9.4-7), Josephus told an expanded version of the story of the infant Moses who was put adrift in an ark of bulrushes in order to save the child from pharaoh's command to kill all male Hebrew children. In his version of the story, Josephus identified the parents of Moses as Amram and Jochebed and even identified the child's sister as Miriam. After relating how that pharaoh's daughter selected Moses as the name for the child, Josephus said, "For Abraham was his ancestor of the seventh generation. For Moses was the son of Amram, who was the son of Caath [Kohath], whose father, Levi, was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham" (2:9.6). Was Josephus using the words son and father literally in this genealogy? Well, he clearly said that Abraham was Moses' "ancestor of the seventh generation," and all we have to do is count the names in the genealogy to see that only seven were listed from Moses back to Abraham.

Josephus was the son of Matthias, a Jewish priest who lived in Jerusalem during the time that Jesus was allegedly tried and crucified. Coming from such a background as this, Josephus would be expected to be well educated in Jewish thought and literature, so his opinion is certainly worthy of our serious consideration. The passage I quoted above leaves no doubt that he thought that Moses was the "immediate" son of Amram and Jochebed.

Philo Judaeus, another famous Jewish historian, didn't mention the names of Moses' parents in telling the story of the great Hebrew emancipator. However, he did say that Moses was "the seventh generation in succession from the original settler in the country who was the founder of the whole race of the Jews" (The Works of Philo, Hendrickson: Peabody, MA, 1993, p. 459). The "founder of the whole race of the Jews," of course, was Abraham, so again I will point out that if we count down seven generations from Abraham in succession, we have the following genealogy: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses. Obviously, then, this famous Jewish historian thought that Amram was the "immediate son" of Kohath and that Moses was the "immediate son" of Amram. Since Moses and Aaron were brothers, Philo would have thought that Aaron was the "immediate son" of Amram.

There is simply no evidence to support Mr. Hutchinson's scenario or any of the other far-fetched, skipped-generation attempts to reconcile Exodus 12:40 with the Aaronic genealogy in Exodus 6. The writer obviously intended readers to understand that the genealogy was complete from Levi through Phinehas, Aaron's grandson, and the genealogy simply doesn't leave enough room for a 430-year Israelite sojourn in Egypt. I sincerely hope that, rather than looking for "another explanation," Mr. Hutchinson will give serious consideration to the distinct probability that there is at least one discrepancy in the Bible.
 



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