[b-hebrew] Septuagint vs. Masoretes/75 vs. 70: How Many Hebrews Did Jacob Lead into Egypt?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Jan 17 11:37:58 EST 2008

R. Brian Roberts:
You wrote:  “With all due respect, I think you're overthinking things, and 
introducing an overly-complex Vorlage-esque "3rd solution" when either the first 
or the
 second option works better.  It's clear that, of the two (Masoretic or LXX) 
that you prefer the LXX. As do I.  Why not then let it stand on its own?  Why 
are you forcing a third solution?”
A.  Although I slightly prefer the Septuagint to the Masoretic text regarding 
chapter 46 of Genesis, nevertheless the Septuagint has major problems:
(1)  The Septuagint arbitrarily drops the name “Huppim”, which is in the 
Masoretic text as one of Benjamin’s named descendants.
(2)  The Septuagint thus has 18 as the interior subtotal of Rachel’s 
descendants.  But that number should properly be 19.  The number 19 is consistently an 
awkward, inauspicious number throughout the Patriarchal narratives.  Though 
Rachel is Jacob’s favorite wife, and Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph is 
Jacob’s most talented son, and Joseph is Jacob’s only heroic son, 
nevertheless Joseph gets passed over in favor of Jacob naming a son by main wife #1 Leah 
to be the leader of the next generation of the new monotheists:  Judah.  Note 
that (both in the Septuagint and the Masoretic text) Jacob is included in the 
count of Leah’s 33 “descendants”.  So chapter 46 of Genesis neatly 
foreshadows that later, in chapter 49 of Genesis, it will be a son of Leah (namely 
Judah) who is the grand prize winner.  33 is a good number, featuring two 
auspicious 3’s.  The number of Rachel’s descendants should, by contrast, be a 
suitably inauspicious number:  19.  Each of Ishmael, Dinah and Joseph was age 19 “
years” (that is, 19 “years” in terms of 6-month “years”, being age 9½ regular 
years), when he or she, as a nar/boy (with Dinah as well being called a 
nar/boy, not a girl) is involuntarily separated from his or her father’s family.  If 
we add back the deleted name “Huppim”, while otherwise going with the 
Septuagint’s listing of names, we’re right where we should be, in terms of numerical 
(3)  The Septuagint adds the awkward gloss “with Joseph” to Genesis 46: 27, 
words which were probably not in the original text.  The Masoretic text has no 
such words, and such words seem to be an awkward gloss.  That error is part 
and parcel of what I see as being the Septuagint’s numerical error, as the 
Septuagint feels duty bound to add in all of Joseph’s family, getting to a total 
of 75 (vs. the 70 in the Masoretic text), with there now being no basis for 
limiting the number of Joseph’s family that is counted here.
(4)  We should expect to see the number 70 in chapter 46 of Genesis, a number 
highlighted by the Masoretic text, but lost in the Septuagint.  The first 
sentence of the Patriarchal narratives (Genesis 11: 46) tells us that Terakh was 
age 70 “years” when he sired Abraham.  The number 70 is uniquely associated 
with Egypt, as the Egyptian New Year began 70 days after the temporary 
disappearance from the Egyptian sky of Sirius, the brightest star, and a pharaoh’s 
mummification and burial rites had to be completed within 70 days.  The first 
sentence in the Patriarchal narratives sets forth the number 70, which deftly 
foreshadows that Genesis will end in Egypt, the country associated with the 
number 70.  And it should also, per the Masoretic text, foreshadow that Jacob will 
lead 70 Hebrews into Egypt.  This number 70/Egypt analysis is then nicely 
consummated when the last chapter of Genesis reports that the Egyptians mourned 
Jacob’s death in Egypt for 70 days.  Genesis 50: 3
I know that modern people do not like numerical symbolism.  But like it or 
not, the Patriarchal narratives are filled with numerical symbolism.  The number 
70 is an obvious symbolic number in the Patriarchal narratives, whereas the 
number 19 is a hidden symbolic number.  These numbers are important.    
Despite listing above what I perceive to be the manifold shortcomings of the 
Septuagint as to chapter 46 of Genesis, you are nevertheless right that I see 
the Septuagint as being better, on balance, than the Masoretic text here.
B.  A satisfactory solution of this age-old problem needs, in my opinion, to 
explain not only where, but why, either the Masoretic text editor, or the 
Septuagint editor, or (in my opinion) both, went wrong.  Other than chapter 46 of 
Genesis, there are amazingly few differences between the Septuagint and the 
Masoretic text as to the Patriarchal narratives.
Here is a brief overview of what I will explain in subsequent posts.  The 
Septuagint editor saw 66 people and 9 people in the original text, and 
erroneously thought that those two numbers should be added to produce 75.  So the 
original 70 that was in the text was changed to 75.  That seemingly small “correction
” then required the Septuagint editor to make numerous conforming changes, 
one of the most important of which was to drop the name “Huppim” as one of 
Benjamin’s descendants, as we shall see.  The Masoretic editor reacted to the same 
perceived numerical problem in the opposite way.  He changed the 9 to 2, so 
that 66 + 2 = 68.  Then adding Joseph and Jacob gives the right total number:  
70.  But he had 75 actual names staring him in the face, so he dropped one 
entire sentence:  the sentence in the Septuagint that sets forth 5 named 
descendants of Manasseh and Ephraim.  (That dropped sentence may have gone into some 
kind of a footnote or appendix or the margin or something like that originally, 
but later it got lost completely.)
In my view, each editor changed the text of chapter 46 of Genesis in order to 
avoid a perceived mathematical error.  But as we shall see, there in fact was 
no mathematical error.  The original text, in my view, set forth 75 names 
(similar to the 74 names set forth in the Septuagint, but also having Huppim), 
but then went on to say that precisely 70 Hebrews are treated as coming into 
Egypt with Jacob.  That number 70 was important.
You see, the original author of the Patriarchal narratives was smarter than 
the editors of the Septuagint and the Masoretic text.  The original author “had 
his cake and ate it too”, as to the numbers in chapter 46 of Genesis.  The 
original author listed 75 names, thereby deftly matching Abraham’s stated age 
when Abraham first got to Canaan after leaving Harran:  age 75 “years”.  
Genesis 12: 4  But a more important number than that in this connection was the 
number 70, for the reasons set forth above (namely that the number 70 is 
associated with Egypt).  So the original author of the Patriarchal narratives, after 
setting forth 75 names of Jacob and Jacob’s blood descendants, and indirectly 
referring to 2 additional unnamed younger sons of Joseph, stated that Jacob 
should be treated as bringing precisely 70 Hebrews into Egypt.  The difference 
between 75 and 70 has to do with which members of Joseph’s family are treated, 
for purposes of chapter 46, as coming into Egypt with Jacob, as we will see.
In my view, numerical symbolism is one key clue to figuring this whole thing 
out.  70 is the “Egyptian” number.  It should be there when Jacob leads all 
the Hebrews into Egypt.  By contrast, 19 is an inauspicious number.  It should 
be there for Rachel’s descendants when Jacob leads all the Hebrews into Egypt, 
foreshadowing that it will not be a descendant of Rachel (namely heroic, 
favorite son Joseph) who will get the grand prize of being named by Jacob, in 
Egypt, to be the leader of the next generation of the new monotheists.  In my 
humble opinion, we ignore this numerical symbolism at our peril. 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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