Chapter 46

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Arriving with his entire household at Beer-sheba (“well of the oath” [LXX], a site at the edge of the desert south of the mountainous region of what later became a part of the territory of the tribe of Judah), Israel (Jacob) “offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.” Apparently he desired divine direction about the move to Egypt, likely recalling that his father Isaac was commanded not to enter that land during a time of famine in Canaan. (26:2; 46:1) In his Antiquities (II, vii, 2), Josephus is more specific than the Genesis account regarding the concerns of Jacob. He feared that the happiness his descendants would experience in Egypt could tempt them to remain there and not return to Canaan and not take possession of it as God had promised them. Moreover, he feared that, if his household entered Egypt contrary to the will of God, the family would be destroyed there. Jacob also was afraid that he might die before ever having the opportunity to see his beloved son Joseph.

“In visions of the night,” God revealed to Jacob that he should not be fearful about going down to Egypt, for there he would make him, through his descendants, a “great nation.” God promised that he would be with Jacob and would bring him (through his descendants) up from that land into Canaan. He assured Jacob that he would see Joseph, for Joseph would “put his hand” upon Jacob’s eyes. This indicated that Joseph would be at his side when he died and would close his eyes. As the firstborn son in the family usually closed the eyes of his deceased father, the words about Joseph may serve to indicate that he should have the right as firstborn among Jacob’s sons. (46:2-4)

According to Josephus (Antiquities, II, vii, 4), Jacob was encouraged by the dream and continued with his sons “more cheerfully” on the way to Egypt. The entire household with all their domestic animals and possessions set out from Beer-sheba and used the wagons that Pharaoh had provided for transport. (46:5-7)

Initially, Josephus gave consideration not to include the names of Jacob’s household. He appears to have recognized the difficulty of conveying the Hebrew names to Greek readers. (Antiquities, II, vii, 4). It was not until he had leisure time in Rome that Josephus had the assistance of certain individuals who helped him to learn Greek (Against Apion, I, 9), but he acknowledged that he was not a fluent speaker of the language. (Antiquities, XX, xi, 2) This may explain why he first thought it best not to include the names. He, however, changed his mind, considering it necessary to show that the ancestors of the Jews came from Mesopotamia and were not Egyptians. The Greek spelling of the names in the work of Josephus usually differs from that found in the text of the Septuagint.

Reuben (Rouben [LXX]; Roubelos [Josephus]) the firstborn son of Jacob (Iakob [LXX]; Iakobus [Josephus]) had four sons — Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi (Enoch, Phallous, Asron, and Charmi [LXX]; Anoches, Phalous, Essaron, Charmisos [Josephus]). The six sons of Simeon (Symeon [LXX]; Semeonos [Josephus]) were: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Cannanite woman (Iemouel, Iamin, Aod, Iachin, Saar, and Saoul [LXX]; Ioumelos, Iameinos, Pouthodos, Iachinos, Soaros, and Saaras [Josephus]). Levi (Leui [LXX and Josephus]) had three sons — Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (Gerson, Kaath, and Merari [LXX]; Golgomes, Kaathos, and Marairos [Josephus]). Er and Onan (Er and Aunan [LXX]; Josephus omits), two of the five sons of Judah (Ioudas [LXX and Josephus]), died prematurely in the land of Canaan. The other three sons were: Shelah, Perez, and Zerah (Selom, Phares, Zara [LXX]; Salas, Pharesos, Ezeloos [Josephus]). Perez is listed as having two sons, Hezron and Hamul (Asron and Iemouel [LXX]; Esron and Amouros [Josephus]). Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah were Jacob’s sons by his wife Leah and his first offspring. (46:8-12; see the Notes section.)

After Leah (Leia [LXX and Josephus]) did not become pregnant during an interval comparable to that between her other pregnancies, she had two sons by her maid Zilpah and later had two more sons of her own. Her son Issachar (Issachar [LXX]; Isakchares [Josephus]) had four sons — Tola, Puvah, Iob, and Shimron (Thola, Phoua, Iasoub, and Zambram [LXX]; Thoulas, Phrouras, Iobos, and Samaron [Josephus]) Leah’s sixth son, Zebulon (Zaboulon [LXX and Josephus]) fathered three sons — Sered, Elon, and Jahleel (Sered, Allon, and Aloel [LXX]; Sarados, Elon, Ianelos [Josephus]). (46:13, 14)

All six sons of Leah were born in Paddan-aram (Mesopotamia of Syria [LXX]), as also was her daughter Dinah. Grandchildren were born in the land of Canaan, and the two great-grandchildren were doubtless born in Egypt. The total of 33 “souls” or persons, sons and “daughters,” may be understood to include one unnamed daughter or granddaughter. Both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint contain the plural “daughters.” (46:15)

Zilpah (Zelpha [LXX and Josephus]), the maid Laban gave to his daughter Leah, bore two sons to Jacob, Gad and Asher (Gad and Aser [LXX]; Gades and Aseros [Josephus]). Gad fathered seven sons — Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi, and Areli (Saphon, Aggis, Saunis, Thasoban, Aedis, Aroedis, and Aroelis [LXX]; Zophonias, Ougis, Sounis, Zabron, Eirenes, Eroides, and Arieles [Josephus]). The four sons of Asher were: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, and Beriah (Iemna, Iesoua, Ieoul, and Baria [LXX]; Iomnes, Isousios, Eioubes, and Bares [Josephus]). He also had a daughter named Serah (Sara [LXX]). Asher’s son Beriah had two sons — Heber and Malchiel (Chobor and Melchiel [LXX]; Abaros and Melchielos [Josephus]). Josephus identifies these two grandsons as two of the six sons of Asher. If Heber and Malchiel were born in Canaan, they must have been very young, especially since their father is listed as the last one of Asher’s sons. The other possibility is that they were born in Egypt before the death of their great-grandfather Jacob. All the “souls” or persons who traced their descent from Jacob through Zilpah were sixteen (two sons, eleven grandsons, one granddaughter, and two great-grandsons). (46:16-18)

By his wife Rachel (Rachela [Josephus]), Jacob had two sons, Joseph and Benjamin (Ioseph and Beniamin [LXX]; Iosepos and Beniamein [Josephus]). In Egypt, Joseph became father to his sons Manasseh and Ephraim (Manasse and Ephraim [LXX]; Manasses and Ephranes [Josephus]) by his wife Asenath (Asseneth [LXX]; Asennethis [Josephus]) the daughter of Potiphera (Petephre [LXX]; Pentephres [Josephus]) the priest of On (City of the Sun; Heliopolis [LXX]). Joseph’s brother Benjamin became the father of ten “sons” — Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard (Bolos, Bakcharis, Asabelos, Gelas, Neemanes, Ies, Aros, Nomphthes, Oppais, and Arodos [Josephus]). According to the Septuagint, only three of these are sons of Benjamin (Bala, Chobor, and Asbel). Six others are identified as sons of Bala (Bela) — Gera, Noeman, Anchis, Ros, Mamphin, and Ophimin. Ard (Arad [LXX]), the last-named son mentioned in the Hebrew text, is identified as the son of Gera or as a great-grandson of Benjamin. In view of Benjamin’s age, he would not have been able to have ten sons in Canaan, let alone sons, grandsons, and a great-grandson. His brother Joseph was only about 39 years old at the time Jacob’s household moved to Egypt and would have been Benjamin’s senior by more than six years. The fourteen “souls” or persons who could trace their descent through Rachel were Joseph, Benjamin, and their offspring (twelve in number). (46:19-22; see the Notes section.)

Bilhah (Balla [LXX and Josephus], the maid whom Laban gave to his daughter Rachel, had two sons, Dan and Naphtali (Dan and Nephthali [LXX]; Danos and Nephthalis [Josephus]). When referring to the “sons” of Dan, both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint list only one son — Hushim (Asom or Hasom [LXX]; Ousis [identified by Josephus as an only or only-begotten son]). Naphtali had four sons — Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem (Asiel, Goyni, Issaar, and Syllem [LXX]; Elielos, Gounis, Sares, and Sellimos [Josephus]). All the “souls” or persons who traced their descent from Bilhah were seven. (46:23-25)

Not including the wives of Jacob, all the “souls” or persons belonging to him who came into Egypt were 66. (46:26) When the recorded numbers (33 + 16 +14 + 7) are added, the total is 70. The recorded numbers in the Septuagint bring the total to 74 (33 +16 + 18 +7). If only the actual names of persons are counted, the number of offspring through Leah would be 32, not 33. Based on the reference to the sons of Joseph being born in Egypt (46:27) and that Joseph did not come to the land with his father Jacob, he and his sons should not be counted. Then by not counting one of the unlisted persons tracing their decent through Leah, the number 66 is correct. According to the Septuagint, nine “souls” or persons descended from Joseph. Even when only these nine persons are not counted, the sum is 65 and not 66. The 70 souls or persons of Jacob’s household who came into Egypt correspond to the total of the recorded numbers and include Joseph, his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim, and one unnamed person. According to the Septuagint rendering, the number was 75 souls or persons, and this is also the number in Acts 7:14. (46:26, 27; see the Notes section.)

Jacob sent Judah to meet Joseph to make arrangements for him to meet his father in Goshen (possibly a region in the eastern part of the Nile Delta). The Septuagint indicates that the meeting place was to be the city of Heroon (Heroonpolis) in the land of Ramesses. Josephus (Antiquities, II, vii, 5) also wrote that this location was the meeting place. In response to the news Judah conveyed to him, Joseph headed in his chariot to meet his father. Joseph fell upon his father’s neck or embraced him and gave way to much weeping. Jacob’s being reunited with his beloved son and seeing him alive proved to be so significant to him that he felt he could die in peace. (46:28-30)

Joseph told his brothers and the rest of his father’s household that he would inform Pharaoh that they had arrived from the land of Canaan and that they had brought their flocks and herds, for the occupation of the men had been that of shepherds and herders. He also requested that this is what they should tell Pharaoh when asked about their occupation. This would make it possible for them to live separately from the Egyptians as an entire household, safeguarding them against losing their identity as a distinct people. If they had been scattered throughout Egypt, they could easily, through intermarriage with the native population, ceased to be the people for whom the land of Canaan had been reserved as their inheritance. Wisely, therefore, Joseph chose to have the men of the household of Jacob mention their occupation as one the Egyptians regarded as abhorrent. The Genesis account does not reveal the basis for the Egyptian prejudice. Targum Jonathan indicates that the Egyptians did not eat with the Hebrews because what was abominable to them was that the Hebrews ate animals which the Egyptians revered. (46:31-34; see also Exodus 8:22, 23.) Josephus wrote (Antiquities, II, vii, 5) that the “Egyptians are prohibited to meddle with feeding sheep.”


At the time Judah arrived in Egypt with the household of Jacob, he may have been about 42 years old. The twin boys Perez and Zerah were offspring by Tamar after the death of Er and Onan who were old enough to father children. Therefore, it is questionable that the grandsons of Judah, Hezron and Hamul, were born in Canaan. (46:12) They may be considered as coming to Egypt with Jacob because of having been born before he died about 17 years later. (47:28)

In verse 20, the Septuagint adds the offspring of Manasse (Manasseh) and Ephraim. By his Syrian concubine, Manasseh had a son named Machir who became the father of Galaad (Gilead). (See Numbers 26:29(33); 1 Chronicles 7:14.) His brother Ephraim’s sons were Soutalaam (Southalaam), Soutala, or Sothala (Shuthelah) and Taam or Thaath (Tahan or Tahath), and Soutalaam had a son named Edem (Eran). (See Numbers 26:35(39), 36(40); 1 Chronicles 7:20, where the Greek spellings of the names differ from those found in Genesis 46:20.)

In verse 21, the first three names are Bela, Becher, and Ashbel (Bala, Chobor, and Asbel [LXX]), and neither Numbers 26:38(42) or Chronicles 8:1 list Becher or Chobor (LXX) as the second one of Benjamin’s sons. The Septuagint reading of verse 21 contains some of the names found at Numbers 26:38(42) and 1 Chronicles 8:1-3, but there is no corroboration that only three were sons of Benjamin. According to verses 1 and 2 of 1 Chronicles chapter 8, five (not three) were the sons of Benjamin — Bela, Ashbel, Aharah, Nohah, and Rapha (Bale, Asbel, Aara, Noa, and Raphe [LXX]). Verses 3 through 5 then identify Addar, Gera, Abihud, Abishua, Naaman, Ahoah, Gera, Shephuphan, and Huram (Ader, Gera, Abioud, Abisoue, Nooma, Achia, Gera, Sopharphak, and Hoim [LXX]) as sons of Bela (Bale [LXX]). Numbers 26:38-40 (26:42-44, LXX) lists five sons for Benjamin (Bela, Ashbel, Ahiram, Shephupham, and Hupham (Bale, Asyber, Achiran, and Sophan [LXX (four, not five)]) and two sons for Bela (Bale [LXX]) — Ard and Naaman (Adar and Noeman [LXX]) The different spellings of the names, different names, and omissions of names in the books of Numbers and 1 Chronicles make it difficult to determine how the reference in Genesis 46:21 to the “sons” of Benjamin is to be understood.

The Septuagint (in verse 22) indicates that the number of descendants of Jacob by Rachel were 18 (not 14 as in the Hebrew text). This higher number may be explained by the addition of four names from verse 20 (Machir, the son of Manasse [Manasseh], Machir’s son Galaad [Gilead], and Ephraim’s sons Soutalaam [Shuthelah] and Taam [Tahan or Tahath]). This would mean that Edem (Eran) was not counted.

In verse 27, the number 75 in the Septuagint may be based on the addition of others from Joseph’s family to the 66 members of Jacob’s household or the 70 members. The extant Septuagint text of Genesis 46:27, says that “nine souls” (not “two” as in the Hebrew text) were born to Joseph in Egypt. Adding these “nine souls” to 66 would make 75 members of the household. On the other hand, the extant Septuagint text of Genesis 46:20 includes the names of Machir, the son of Manasseh; Machir’s son Galaad (Gilead); Ephraim’s sons Soutalaam (Shuthelah) and Taam (Tahan or Tahath), and Soutalaam’s son Edem. When these three grandsons and two great-grandsons of Joseph are added to the 70, the number comes to 75 members for the household of Jacob.