by Farrell Till
(Farrell Till is the editor of the Skeptical Review, a magazine devoted to the Inerrantist debate.)
The Old Testament claims that the children of Israel spent 430 years in Egypt. As Farrell conclusively shows in this series of posting to the Errancy List, this claim is contradicted by evidence from the genealogical listings found in the Old Testament.
Because the Exodus-6 genealogy lists only four generations from Levi to Aaron and Moses, this presents several problems for inerrantists. First, Exodus 12:40 states that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt 430 years. Since Levi was one of Jacob's sons who accompanied him into Egypt (Gen. 46:11) and since Levi's sons Gershon, Kohath, and Merari had already been born at this time and also were in the group that went with Jacob into Egypt (Gen. 46:11), it is inconceivable that in the space of over 400 years just two more generations would have been born in the Levitical branch that Aaron and Moses were born into, yet this is what Exodus 6:18-20 states:
Exodus 6:18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, and the length of Kohath's life was one hundred thirty-three years.19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to their genealogies.20 Amram married Jochebed his father's sister and she bore him Aaron and Moses, and the length of Amram's life was one hundred thirty-seven years.
Notice that Kohath lived to be 133 (v:18) and that his son Amram (the father of Aaron and Moses) lived to be 137. If we assume that Kohath was just an infant in his mother's arms when the Jacobites went into Egypt and if we assume that in the final year of his life, he sired Amram, and then if we assume that Amram sired Moses the last year of his life, this genealogy would allow for an Egyptian bondage of only 350 years. This number is arrived at by adding 133 (the maximum period of time that Kohath could have spent in Egypt) to 137 (the length of his son Amram's life) to 80, th age of Moses at the time of the exodus: "And Moses was eighty years old and Aaron 83 years old when they spoke to Pharaoh" (Ex. 7:7).
To circumvent this problem, inerrantists will argue that the genealogy of Exodus 6 is not complete, that the writer skipped some generations. Thus, Moses and Aaron weren't necessarily the sons of Amram but could have been his grandsons or even his great-grandsons. They argue this despite the fact that Exodus 6:20 clearly says that "Amram married Jochebed his father's sister and she bore him Aaron and Moses." The father-son relationship of Amram and Aaron and Moses was also claimed in Numbers 26:59, "The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore to Amram: Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam." So two separate biblical passages clearly state that Amram's wife Jochebed bore to him Aaron and Moses, but when inerrantists are in trouble they never let plain language bother them. In this case, they will still insist that the language of these passages was not intended to be understood but that Aaron and Moses were merely descendants of Amram. They have to do this to keep from admitting that the Bible made chronological errors.
In this series of postings, which will consist of six or maybe even more rather long analyses of biblical and extrabiblical texts, I will establish that both biblical and extrabiblical writers understood that the relationships expressed in Exodus 6 were literal family relationships. Thus, to this writers, Levi was literally the father of Kohath, Kohath was literally the father of Amram, and Amram was literally the father of Aaron and Moses. In order to do this, I will be focusing on one of the least prominent names in the genealogy quoted above. Exodus 6:18 states that the sons of Kohath were "Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel." Now if this genealogy was a literal, generation-by-generation genealogy, that would mean that the person named Uzziel in verse 18, who was listed with Amram, Izhar, and Hebron as "sons of Kohath," would have been the uncle of Aaron. That would be necessarily true if Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel were the brothers of Amram, for if all four of these were literally the sons of Kohath, then Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel would have been uncles to any children that Amram produced.
The intent of this series of postings will be to establish that biblical and extrabiblical writers did understand that Uzziel was the uncle of Aaron. Once this is established, it will be hard for inerrantists to argue that generations were skipped in the Exodus-6 genealogy. I will warn the readers in advance that establishing Uzziel's relationship to Aaron will require some rather tedious genealogical analysis. Some people skip over all of the "begats" when they come to genealogies in the Bible, but I find them to be a storehouse of useful information that often spells big trouble for the Biblical inerrancy doctrine.
Let's look at the relevant parts of the Exodus-6 genealogy. I probably won't get to Uzziel in this posting, but my analysis will provide a useful background to build on in follow-up postings on Uzziel that I will send later. Here is the entire genealogy and not just the part that speaks of Aaron's and Moses' descent from Levi:
"These are the heads of their fathers' houses. The sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel [Jacob]: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the families of Reuben. And the sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman; these are the families of Simeon. And these are the names of the sons of LEVI according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari; and the years of the life of LEVI were a hundred and thirty and seven years. The sons of Gershon: Lebni and Shimei, according to their families. And the sons of KOHATH: Amram, Izhar, and Hebron, and UZZIEL, and the years of the life of Kohath were a hundred thirty and three years. And the sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to their generations" (verses 14-19).
I'll interrupt the text at this point to make some observations and then resume the text later (probably in a separate posting). My argument is that the writer of this genealogy was giving what he understood to be a literal father-son genealogy, and the evidence for this is overwhelming.
In support of this claim, let's notice first that this genealogy is in perfect agreement with the listings in Genesis 46:8-11, where the sons and grandchildren of Jacob are listed through Levi's children. Verse 8 says that the SONS of Reuben (who is also identified here as "Jacob's firstborn) were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. Compare this to the beginning of the genealogy quoted above, and you will see that the same names are listed as the "sons" of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel [Jacob]. Were the writers of these two passages being literal in their usage of "sons" and "firstborn."
In telling the story of Jacob's marriage to the daughters of Laban (Leah and Rachel), Genesis 29:31-32 says, "And Yahweh saw that Leah was hated, and he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, Because Yahweh has looked upon my affliction, for now my husband will love me." That should be convincing enough inerrantists to agree that the writers of these genealogies were speaking literally when they said that Reuben was the "firstborn of Jacob" [Israel].
But were the genealogists being literal in their usage of the word "sons" when they said that the "sons" of Reuben were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, etc. Let's notice what Josephus said in Antiquities of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 7, Section 4 when he listed the members of Jacob's family that went into Egypt. This section in Josephus is parallel to the listings in Genesis 46:
"Now Jacob had twelve SONS; of these Joseph was come thither before [meaning that Joseph had already come into Egypt]. We will therefore set down the names of Jacob's CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN."
Let's pause at this point to notice how specific Josephus was. He said that Jacob had twelve "sons," and I assume that inerrantists will not deny that Jacob literally had 12 sons. (The story of Jacob as related in Genesis makes that too clear to deny.) Furthermore, in the text quoted above, Josephus wrote not in terms of Jacob's "sons," as did the biblical genealogists, but he wrote in terms of Jacob's "children" and "grandchildren." Now let's resume reading in Josephus:
"Reuben had four sons--Anolch, Phallu, Assaron, Charmi [the spellings vary because Josephus wrote in Greek, but anyone can see that they are the same names as the biblical genealogies used]; Simeon had six--Jamuel, Jamin, Avod, Jachin, Soar, Saul; Levi had three SONS--Gersom, Caath, Merari...."
Now since Josephus introduced his list with a very specific announcement (we will therefore set down the names of Jacob's CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN), we must understand that he meant for his readers to interpret "sons" literally in the above text. Hence, Josephus obviously thought that Gershon [Gersom], Kohath [Caath], and Merari were literally the SONS of Levi. We can make this determination even more obvious by continuing our reading in Josephus's listing of Jacob's CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN:
"Judas [Judah] had three sons--Sala [Shelah], Pharez [Perez], Zerah; and by Phares [Perez] two GRANDCHILDREN--Esron [Hezron] and Amar [Hamul]...."
So when Josephus came to names on the list that he understood were not literal children or sons of Jacob, he referred to them with the specific term "grandchildren."
EVERYTHING in the biblical text and in Jewish writings point to the obvious fact that Gershon, Kohath, and Merari were understood to be the literal sons of Levi, who was obviously the literal son of Jacob (Gen. 29:31). EVERYTHING points to the obvious fact that the writer of the Exodus-6 genealogy intended for his readers to understand that he was speaking literally when he used the word "sons." A genealogy from Levi through Aaron and Moses is in 1 Chronicles 6:1-3, AND IT READS EXACTLY as the listings in Exodus 6 and Genesis 46. A genealogy of Levi through his grandsons is listed in Numbers 3:17-20, AND IT READS EXACTLY as the listings in Exodus 6 and Genesis 46.
EVERYWHERE the Bible lists the descendants of Levi, the listings are EXACTLY as they appear in Exodus 6, Genesis 46, and the work of Josephus.
This posting is long enough, so I will send it now and give inerrantists something to chew on while I am preparing another posting to continue my analysis of the Exodus-6 genealogy. Eventually, I will get to the matter of Uzziel and show that biblical writers understood that he was literally the uncle of Aaron.
The Uncle of Korah
In two earlier postings, I have given very reasonable evidence that biblical and extrabiblical writers considered the Exodus-6 genealogy to be a literal father-son listing. So far, my analysis has gone through verse 20, so I will now resume with verse 21:
"And the sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg and Zichri...."
This is an important verse, because verse 18 said that the sons of Kohath were Amram, IZHAR, Hebron, and UZZIEL. (I want everyone to watch Uzziel, because something very interesting is going to happen with him.) Now if verse 18 is a literal father-son listing, as I believe the evidence in my other postings has clearly established, Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and UZZIEL were all brothers, who were the sons of Kohath. This is important because most inerrantists who want to claim that generations were skipped in this genealogy will point to this verse as a likely place where generations were skipped. Many inerrantists, for example, will take the position that Amram wasn't necessarily the literal father of Aaron and Moses but only a direct ancestor. This argument, which flies right in the face of the "face-value language of the text, claims that Amram's wife Jochebed could have borne Moses and Aaron only in the sense that she was an ancestor of Aaron and Moses, which, of course, would have made Amram only their ancestor and not their immediate father. In the first two issues of The Skeptical Review published in 1990, an inerrantist took the position that the Amram of verse 18 (listed as a son of Kohath and brother of Izhar, Hebron, and UZZIEL) was not the same Amram of verse 20 listed as the father of Aaron and Moses. He argued that generations were skipped between these two Amrams. Since inerrantists will turn to all sorts of linguistic gymnastics to try to deny that this genealogy means what it clearly says, it is very important to establish that biblical writers understood that Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and UZZIEL were brothers and that the Amram who was Kohath's son was the same Amram who was the father of Aaron and Moses.
So we must notice that the sons of Kohath were Amram, IZHAR, Hebron, and UZZIEL (verse 18) and that IZHAR had sons named KORAH, Nepheg, and Zichri (v:21). Numbers 16 records a rebellion against the leadership of Moses that was led by a man named KORAH, so obviously biblical writers thought that there was a man named KORAH living at the time of Moses. But was this KORAH the same person who was listed in Exodus 6:21 as the son of IZHAR, who was listed in verse 18 as the son of Kohath and brother of Amram? Unfortunately for proponents of the "skipped-generations" quibble, there is a clear indication that the Korah of Numbers 16 was considered the same Korah. This is how Numbers 16 begins:
Now Korah, THE SON OF IZHAR, the son of KOHATH, the son of LEVI, with Dathan and Abiram...."
And the chapter goes on to describe the rebellion that Korah led, which angered Yahweh so much that he caused the ground to open and swallow the rebels alive. Now look at the agreement we have between this verse and the Exodus-6 genealogy:
Exodus 6:16, "These are the names of the sons of LEVI according to their generations: Gershon, KOHATH, and Merari...."
Exodus 6:18, "And the sons of KOHATH [were] Amram, IZHAR, Hebron, and Uzziel...."
Exodus 6:21, "And the sons of IZHAR [were] KORAH, Nepheg, and Zichri...."
Numbers 16:1, "Now KORAH, the son of IZHAR, the son of KOHATH, the son of LEVI...."
At face value, the Bible says that Levi had a son named Kohath, who had a son named Amram, who had a brother named IZHAR, who had a son named KORAH, and the Bible, at face value, says that a rebellion against the leadership of Moses was led by a man named KORAH, who was the son of Izhar,.who was the son of Kohath, who was the son of Levi. Previous postings have included biblical and extrabiblical evidence to show to any reasonable person that both Jewish and biblical writers understood that Levi was the literal father of Kohath, who was the literal father of Amram, who was the literal father of Aaron and Moses. Now the information in this posting shows very clearly that biblical writers understood that the Amram, who was the son of Kohath, had a brother named Izhar, who had a son named Korah, who led a rebellion against Moses in the wilderness.
Now will inerrantists on the list please explain to us how this very compelling evidence leaves any room for skipped generations in the Exodus-6 genealogy? I am by no means finished with this thread, because I intend to establish that UZZIEL was the literal uncle of Aaron.
In my first posting (Uzziel), I analyzed the Exodus-6 genealogy through verse 19 to show that all of the evidence, both biblical and nonbiblical, indicates that the writer obviously understood that he was giving a literal father-son genealogy. To continue, the analysis, let's resume at verse 20:
"And Amram [listed in verse 18 as one of the "sons" of Kohath] took him Jochebed HIS FATHER'S SISTER to wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses; and the years of the life of Amram were a hundred and thirty and seven years."
Now if this is a literal father-son genealogy, Amram would have been a literal son of Kohath, and the woman he married (Jochebed) would have been Kohath's literal sister. If Jochebed was Kohath's literal sister, then she would have been a literal daughter of Levi. Is there any evidence to indicate that biblical writers understood that Jochebed was Levi's literal daughter? Numbers 26:59 says, "And the name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, THE DAUGHTER OF LEVI, who was born to him in Egypt; and she bore to Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister." A widely recognized principle of both hermeneutics and literary interpretation states that language is to be interpreted literally unless there are compelling reasons to assign it figurative meaning. The only reason why anyone would want to assign figurative meaning to the expression "daughter of Levi" is to avoid a chronological discrepancy between the Exodus-6 genealogy and the claim that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt 430 years (Ex. 12:40). The avoidance of discrepancy, however, is not a compelling reason to interpret a passage figuratively when the face-value meaning implies literalism, because that becomes an attempt to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy. Inerrantists, nevertheless, will most certainly want to avoid discrepancy, so we can expect them to argue that Jochebed was a daughter of Levi only in the sense that she was a descendant of Levi.
To so argue, inerrantists will have to ignore a mountain of evidence. In an apocryphal worked called Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, each of the sons of Jacob gave their testaments. In Levi's, he said this in the 11th and 12th chapters:
"I was twenty-eight when I took a wife; her name was Melcha. She conceived and gave birth to a son, and I gave him the name Gersom, because we were sojourners in the land. And I saw that, as concerns him, he would not be in the first rank. And Kohath was born in the thirty-fifth year of my life, before sunrise. And in a vision I saw him standing in the heights, in the midst of the congregation. That is why I called him Kohath, that is the Ruler of Majesty and Reconciliation. And she bore me a third son, Merari, in the fortieth year of my life, and since his mother bore him with great pain, I called him Merari; that is bitterness. Jochebed WAS BORN IN EGYPT in the sixty-fourth year of my life, for by that time I had a great reputation in the midst of my brothers."
"And Gersom took a wife who bore him Lomni and Semei. The sons of Kohath were Amram, Isaachar, Hebron, Ozeel. And the sons of Merari were Mooli and Moses. And in my ninety-fourth year AMRAM TOOK JOCHEBED MY DAUGHTER, as his wife, because he and my daughter had been born on the same day... (quoted from The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, editor James H. Charlesworth, vol. 1, Doubleday, p. 792).
So in this pseudepigraphic work, we see clear evidence that the writer of Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (which I will from now on abbreviate as T12P) understood that both the Exodus-6 genealogy and Numbers 26 expressed literal family relationships. The writer of this work said that Kohath was his son, that Amram was Kohath's son, and that Amram married his DAUGHTER Jochebed. Hence, this extrabiblical text supports a literal interpretation of Numbers 26:59, which says that Jochebed was Levi's daughter who had been born to him in Egypt. Philo Judaeus said this about Amram's wife:
"'For there was,'says the same historian, 'a man of the tribe of Levi, named Amram, who took to wife one of the daughters of Levi, and had her, and she conceived and brought forth a male child; and seeing that he was a goodly child they concealed him for three months.' This is Moses..." (The Works of Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, p. 316).
Philo didn't identify Amram's wife by name but only referred to her as a "daughter of Levi," so inerrantists will probably quibble that this leaves room for her to be a daughter of Levi only in the sense that she was a "descendant" of Levi. However, I have already given sufficient evidence that the writer of Exodus 6 was speaking literally in his usage of the word "sons," so if Amram was a SON of Kohath (who was Levi's son), and if Amram married "his father's sister," then Amram married his grandfather Levi's daughter. AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THE WRITER OF NUMBERS 26:59 said: "The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who was born to him in Egypt." And that is exactly what Levi's testament in T12P says, "And Jochebed was born in my sixty-fourth year IN EGYPT." In Antiquities of the Jews, however, Josephus was more specific and said that Jochebed was Amram's wife (2:9.4, verse 217) and went on to describe how that she and Amram built an ark of bulrushes in order to thwart pharaoh's decree to kill all Hebrew male children. This, of course, is a familiar story about Moses that is known even to people whose biblical studies never went beyond Sunday school. Hence, the evidence, both biblical and nonbiblical, supports my argument that the writer of Exodus 6 was using literal language to describe the relationships of the people listed in the genealogy.
Further extrabiblical evidence to support the generation-by-generation view of the genealogy can be found in Philo and Josephus. Before we look at it, let's notice first that the Bible clearly teaches that Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Levi, and I don't think that any inerrantist would seriously try to dispute that there were just four generations from Abraham to Levi. Therefore, if Levi literally begot Kohath, and Kohath literally begot Amram, and Amram literally begot Aaron and Moses, there would have been just seven generations from Abraham to Aaron and Moses. In his account of the birth of Moses, Josephus said,
"(F)or Abraham was his [Moses'] 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" (Antiquities, 2:9.6, verse 229).
On the subject of Moses' descent from Abraham, Philo said,
"(A)nd Moses is the SEVENTH generation IN SUCCESSION from the original settler in the country who was the founder of the whole race of the Jews: ("On the Life of Moses," The Works of Philo,Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, section II, verse 7, p. 459).
So two major Jewish writers both understood that there had been only seven generations from Abraham to Moses, and Philo even specified that they were generations "in succession."
I will post this as further evidence to support my case that Exodus 6 was intended as a literal genealogy and continue my analysis of the text in a separate posting.
The uncle of Aaron
In three earlier postings, I have examined the Exodus-6 genealogy, compared it to other biblical genealogies and extrabiblical tests, and established to the satisfaction of any reasonable person that both biblical and nonbiblical writers understood that Levi was the literal father of Kohath, that Kohath was the literal father of Amram, and that Amram was the literal father of Aaron and Moses. Along the way, I have established that Amram (the father of Aaron and Moses) had a brother named Izhar, who had a son named Korah, who led a rebellion against the leadership of Moses. Such information as this (confirmed by more evidence than any reasonable person could demand) makes it irrational for anyone to claim that the writer in Exodus 6 skipped generations in his listings in this genealogy. Certainly, the information makes it unreasonable to argue that generations were skipped between Kohath and Moses. To so argue, one must claim that generations were skipped between Izhar and Moses, yet somehow Izhar's son was living in the time of Moses and was young enough to lead a rebellion against Moses.
However, there are still nails to drive into the coffin of this "skipped-generations" quibble, which makes the unreasonable claim that the word "sons" in Exodus 6 meant only "descendants." The nail I'm driving in this posting concerns the relationship of UZZIEL to Aaron. To introduce this argument, let's notice that Exodus 6:18 says, "And the sons of Kohath [were] Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and UZZIEL." Now if I am right in claiming that Exodus 6 is a LITERAL father-son genealogy, it is obvious that Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and UZZIEL were brothers. Furthermore, if they were brothers and IF the Amram in this verse was the literal father of Aaron, then UZZIEL would have been Aaron's uncle. That conclusion is so obvious that nothing further needs to be said about it.
Let's notice again that verse 20 says, "And Amram took him Jochebed his FATHER'S SISTER to wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses," so certainly the "face-value" meaning of the text gives us every reason to conclude that a man named Amram was the literal father of Aaron. Therefore, if this Amram is the same Amram of verse 18, then by necessity, UZZIEL was Aaron's uncle.
With that in mind, let's now look at verse 22: "And the sons of UZZIEL [were] Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri." That seems clear enough, doesn't it? Uzziel--and who could this be but the Uzziel of verse 18, who was listed as a brother of a man named Amram?--had sons who were named Mishael and Elzaphan.
Let's compare this passage to Leviticus 10:1-4, where we are told the strange story of Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu (both of them priests like Aaron), who offered "strange fire" to Yahweh, and so Yahweh did what any self-respecting tribal deity of that time would have done. He sent forth fire to devour them, "and they died before Yahweh" (v:2). So after Yahweh had had his petty vengeance for a petty offense, Moses, the top man on the Hebrew totem pole...well, let's look at exactly what the inspired, inerrant word of God says:
"And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of UZZIEL, the UNCLE of Aaron, and said unto them..." (v:4).
Please notice that these two men, Mishael and Elzaphan, whom Moses called before him at this time were said to be "the sons of UZZIEL." Now keep in mind that the Exodus-6 genealogy said that Amram and Uzziel were the "sons of Kohath" (v: 18) and that verse 22 said that UZZIEL had sons who were named Mishael and Elzaphan. It kind of sounds like the Uzziel of Exodus 6 and the Uzziel of Leviticus 10:4 were the same person, doesn't it? Now bear in mind that if these two were the same person and IF Exodus 6 is a literal father-son genealogy, then Uzziel of Exodus 6 would have been Aaron's uncle.
So notice what Leviticus 10:4 says in identifying who Mishael and Elzaphan were. It clearly says that they were "the sons of UZZIEL, the UNCLE of Aaron." Now I know from previous exchanges with inerrantists on this subject that some will argue that the word "uncle" simply meant a "relative." I could rebut his argument in advance, but I am first going to wait until someone makes it. Then I'll hang him on his own rope.
Four previous postings have presented very convincing evidence that Jacob's son Levi was the literal father of Kohath, who was in turn the literal father of Amram, who was the literal father of Aaron and Moses. The astounding thing about this genealogy is the mountain of evidence, both biblical and nonbiblical, that makes it so easy to establish that Jewish writers, both biblical and nonbiblical, understood the relationships in this lineage exactly as they are presented above. Yet despite this overwhelming evidence, bibliolaters will resort to all kinds of verbal gymnastics to keep from admitting that the face-value meaning of the language in this genealogy makes Moses and Aaron the great-grandsons of Levi, Jacob's son from which the Levitical priesthood in Judaism descended.
Why are bibliolaters so intent on denying the face-value meaning of Exodus 6? The reason is that they must put more generations between Levi and Moses and Aaron than are listed in the genealogy in order to keep the Exodus-6 genealogy from contradicting the claim in Exodus 12:40 that the Israelites had spent 430 years in Egypt by the time of the exodus. However, if Aaron and Moses were only the great-grandsons of Levi, a glaring chronological discrepancy results when the ages of Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Aaron and Moses (at the time of the exodus) are added. First, let's notice that Kohath, the grandfather of Aaron and Moses, was born BEFORE Jacob took his family into Egypt. This determination is made from Genesis 46:11, where Kohath was listed as one of the 70 "souls" who went with Jacob into Egypt.
The text does not state Kohath's age at this time, but if we assume that he was just a nursing infant in his mother's arms when the trip to Egypt was made, he would have spent 133 years in Egypt. That is determined from Exodus 6:18, where it says, "And the years of the life of Kohath were a hundred and thirty-three years." It is unlikely that Kohath was just a nursing infant at the time of the descent into Egypt, because Genesis 46:11 lists him as the second of three sons that Levi had at the time. Since this chapter names Jacob's sons in the order that they were born to their respective mothers, a determination we can make from Genesis 29-32, which tells all about Jacob's escapades with his two wives and two concubines, we have reason to suspect that Jacob's grandsons were also listed in the order of their birth. If that is so, Kohath had a younger brother named Merari, and that would mean that Kohath was not an infant at the time of the descent into Egypt (unless, of course, Kohath and Merari were twins). However, in order to give biblicists every benefit of the doubt, we will assume that Kohath was actually the youngest of the three sons and that he was just an infant when he went into Egypt. This would allow him to have lived 133 years in Egypt.
Kohath, as we have already noted, had four sons: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. For reasons just noted, Amram was probably the oldest of the four brothers, but again, to give inerrantists every advantage, we are going to assume that Amram was really the youngest of the four. Furthermore, we are going to assume that Kohath's last act before he drew his final breath was to sire Amram. It is ridiculous to think that this could have happened, but we are trying to give biblicists every break possible. Since Amram lived to be 137 (v:20), the maximum number of years that could have passed from Kohath's entry into Egypt until the death of his son Amram would have been 270 years (133 + 137). To give inerrantists further benefit of the doubt, we are going to assume that Amram's last act on earth (like his father's) was the siring of a son, in this case Moses, who was obviously younger than both Aaron and his sister Miriam (Exodus 7:7; 2:1-8). Since Moses was 80 years old at the time of the exodus (Exodus 7:7), this would mean that no more than 350 years could have passed from the time of the Israelite descent into Egypt to the time of the exodus. This figure is arrived at by adding Kohath's total age (133 years) and Amram's total age (137 years) to Moses' age at the time of the exodus (80). Any reasonable person would, of course, recognize that the Exodus-6 genealogy won't even allow a span of 350 years from Kohath's descent into Egypt to the exodus, because it is completely unreasonable to believe that Kohath and Amram could have sired sons at the ages of 133 and 137 respectively.
So this is exactly why inerrantists bend over backwards to make the Exodus-6 genealogy not say what it obviously does say. If they admit that Exodus 6 contains a literal father-son genealogy, as it obviously does, then that results in a contradiction between Exodus 6 and Exodus 12:40. I believe that the evidence I have presented sustains my claim that there is indeed a discrepancy in the two texts, so it is now the responsibility of inerrantists to show us that I have incorrectly divided "the word of truth."
This pretty well summarizes the chronological problem that this genealogy causes the biblical inerrancy doctrine, and the bad news for biblicists is that I haven't yet finished analyzing the information that shows that biblical and nonbiblical writers thought that the generation-by-generation descent from Levi to Aaron was exactly as it is shown in the Exodus-6 genealogy.
The Nahshon Factor
My postings on the Exodus-6 genealogy have contained detailed information, both biblical and nonbiblical, to establish that biblical writers thought that Levi was the literal father of Kohath, that Kohath was the literal father of Amram, and that Amram was the literal father of Aaron and Moses. My analyses of the genealogy were done on a verse-by-verse basis to show that the relationships mentioned in the text were all to be interpreted literally. In other words, when the writer used the word "sons," he meant sons in its strictest, literal sense. When he used "father" and "sister," as in the case of describing Jochebed's relationship to Amram, he meant father and sister in the strictest, literal senses of the words. I will now analyze the few remaining verses in the genealogy to show that this literal usage was extended throughout the genealogy. Let's notice verse 22:
"And Aaron took him Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon, to wife, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar."
This verse strengthens my claim that the writer of the Exodus-6 used family relationships in their literal senses in this genealogy. To illustrate this, let's notice an interesting genealogical statement in Ruth 4:18-20:
"Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab, and Amminadab begot Nahshon...."
Perez was the son of Judah, who was born illegitimately as a result of his escapade with his daughter-in-law Tamar (Gen. 38:12-30), so Perez was born before the Israelite descent into Egypt. Furthermore, Perez's son Hezron was also born before the descent into Egypt, because he was listed in Genesis 46:12 with Jacob's CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN who had descended through Jacob's son Judah. (Everyone should remember that Josephus used the specific word "grandchildren" in his listing of those who were descendants of Jacob but not his immediate sons, Antiquities, 2.7.4.) So the chronological problem in this genealogy again becomes very obvious. If Judah begot Perez and Perez begot Hezron and if BOTH Perez and Hezron had been born before the descent into Egypt, how reasonable is it to believe that only three generations (Ram, Amminadab, and Nahshon) would have been born during the 430-year sojourn in Egypt (Exodus 12:40)? That's not very likely, yet the genealogy clearly says that Aaron married Elisheba, the DAUGHTER of Amminadab, the SISTER of Nahshon, so she would represent only the third Israelite generation born in Egypt, according to the "face-value" meaning of the genealogy in Ruth 4:19-20, which reads exactly as Matthew's genealogy (1:3-4) and the genealogy of Judah in 1 Chronicles 2:5-10). There is no genealogy ANYWHERE in the Bible that adds any generations to the genealogy of Perez through Nahshon.
Obviously, inerrantists can't accept the "face-value" meaning of these genealogies, so that is why they will insist that some generations were skipped between Hezron, who was born before the descent into Egypt, and Nahshon, who was obviously a contemporary of Aaron and Moses, because he is mentioned several times during the wilderness wanderings as a leader in the tribe of Judah (Num. 1:7; Num. 2:3; Num. 7:12; Num. 10:14). Interestingly enough, whenever Nahshon was mentioned, he was always identified as "the son of Amminadab." Yes, inerrantists will argue, but "son" could mean just ancestor, so that doesn't necessarily mean that Nahshon was the literal "son" of Amminadab. Well, if he wasn't the literal son of a man named Amminadab, why was he always called the "son of Amminadab"? As many times as he was mentioned, why didn't a biblical writer at least one time refer to him as the son of whoever was his literal father?
A dodge that some inerrantists try to use when confronted with genealogical problems like the one in Exodus-6 is to argue that the names in genealogies represented "ages" or "eras" and not the specific people named in them. Thus, the name Abraham in the genealogy of Jesus meant not Abraham but the "age" or "era" of Abraham. Very well, if that is true, why did the biblical writers consistently say that Nahshon was the "son of Amminadab"? Who was this Amminadab anyway? We really don't know, because outside of the many times that he is listed in genealogies as the "son" of Ram and the father of Nahshon, he was never mentioned. So why would biblical writers have chosen such an obscure person to represent an "age" or an "era" in the various genealogies that list Amminadab? He was famous for nothing except that he had a "son" who was an important leader in the tribe of Judah during the wilderness experiences of the Israelites.
For these reasons, it is entirely logical to understand that the writer of the Exodus-6 genealogy meant for his readers to understand that he thought that Aaron's wife Elisheba was the literal sister of the Israelite leader Nahshon and that this Nahshon was the literal son of a man named Amminadab, just as Aaron's wife was the literal daughter of Amminadab. I have already established to the satisfaction of anyone who doesn't have an inerrancy axe to grind that the writer of this genealogy was using the word "sons" literally throughout the genealogy as he listed the "sons" of Reuben and Simeon and Levi and Kohath, etc. So if Nahshon was not the literal son of Amminadab, then the genealogist suddenly switched the meaning of the word "son" when he said that Nahshon was the "son of Amminadab," and that would be a writing error known as equivocation. And I have said many times in discussing biblical discrepancies, an error is an error is an error. It doesn't have to be a "biggie" in order to be an error.
So here is further evidence that the writer of the Exodus-6 genealogy thought that only three or four generations of Israelites were born between the descent into Egypt and the exodus. He presented the genealogy of Aaron in a way that revealed that he thought that only three generations of Israelites at the most had actually grown up in Egypt (Kohath, Amram, and Aaron) and that Aaron had married a woman who was only the third generation of her family to be born in Egypt (Ram, Amminadab, and Nahshon and Elisheba). It isn't possible to find 430 years in this genealogy, so we can only conclude that there is a chronological discrepancy between Exodus 6:18-23 and Exodus 12:40, which says that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt for 430 years. And an error is an error is an error.