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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Jan 18 08:38:55 EST 2008

In trying to decide whether 75 or 70 people were led by Jacob into Egypt, we 
need to contrast the Septuagint version of chapter 46 of Genesis with the 
well-known Masoretic text.
Here are the portions of the Septuagint version of chapter 46 of Genesis that 
differ dramatically from the Masoretic text.  In order to highlight these 
differences, I have commented on the key passages in brackets.
“46:20 And there were sons born to Joseph in the land of Egypt, whom Aseneth, 
the daughter of Petephres, priest of Heliopolis, bore to him, (even) Manasses 
and Ephraim.  [Note:  The next sentence has no counterpart in the Masoretic 
text, listing 5 named descendants of Manasseh and Ephraim.]  And there were 
sons born to Manasses, which the Syrian concubine bore to him, (even) Machir.  
And Machir begot Galaad.  And the sons of Ephraim, the brother of Manasses;  
Sutalaam, and Taam.  And the sons of Sutalaam;  Edom.
46:21 And the sons of Benjamin;  Bala, and Bochor, and Asbel. And the sons of 
Bala were Gera, and Noeman, and Anchis, and Ros, and Mamphim.  [Note:  The 
name “Huppim” from the Masoretic text is missing here.  So the Septuagint 
credits Benjamin with only 9 descendants, not 10 descendants as in the Masoretic 
text.  (Though not so important numerically, the Septuagint credits Benjamin 
with only 3 sons, not 10 sons, with Benjamin’s other descendants in the 
Septuagint being his sons’ descendants.  In the Masoretic text Hebrew version of 
chapter 46 of Genesis, the Hebrew word that literally means “sons” is used 
throughout, regardless of whether there is only one son, and regardless of whether the 
descendant in question is a son or a grandson.)]  And Gera begot Arad.
46:22 These (are) the sons of Rachel, which she bore to Jacob;  all the souls 
eighteen.  [Note:  The total here is 18, vs. 14 in the Masoretic text.  
Starting with the number 14 in the Masoretic text, add the 5 named descendants of 
Manasseh and Ephraim who are mentioned only in the Septuagint (but do not add 
Joseph’s two unnamed younger sons, who are not referred to until later).  
Subtract Huppim.  14 + 5 –1 = 18.  (I will later argue that this number should, per 
the original text, properly be 19, which has appropriate {inauspicious} 
numerical symbolism.  The numbers 14 and 18 have no numerical symbolism at all in 
the Patriarchal narratives, so they are suspect as being the correct original 
subtotal for Rachel’s descendants.  By the way, all texts properly show the 
subtotal of Leah’s descendants as being 33, appropriately featuring two 
auspicious number 3’s.)]
46:26 And all the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, who came out of his 
loins, besides the wives of the sons of Jacob, (even) all the souls were 
sixty-six.  [Both the Septuagint and the Masoretic text have this same number 66.  
(Though the number 66 would not normally have numerical symbolism, here it is 
2 x 33 = 66.  That is to say, Leah herself, though only one of Jacob’s four 
wives, is credited with half of the people (33) who come to Egypt with Jacob.)  
This (small) number of 66 appears to explicitly exclude any of Jacob’s 
descendants who were already in Egypt at the time Jacob led the Hebrews into Egypt, 
whereas the bigger number (70 or 75) will include some or all of Jacob’s 
descendants who were already living in Egypt at the time Jacob led the Hebrews into 
Egypt.  (I will argue later that in fact, the bigger number should be 70, and 
should include only those 3 members of Joseph’s family who were Jacob’s sons, 
whether by blood or adoption, plus Jacob himself.)  In the Septuagint, 
exclude Joseph and Joseph’s 7 named descendants, after adding the rest of the 
interior subtotals.  33 + 16 + 18 + 7 –1 (Joseph) –7 (Joseph’s 7 named descendants) 
= 66.  Note that this number of 66 in the Septuagint includes Jacob himself.  
Both in the Septuagint and the Masoretic text, Jacob is part of Leah’s 33.  
Leah, not statuesque Rachel, was Jacob’s main wife #1.  Thus chapter 46 of 
Genesis clearly foreshadows that in chapter 49 of Genesis, it will be a son of 
Leah, namely Judah, not a son of Rachel, namely Jacob’s heroic, favorite son 
Joseph, who will be named the leader of the next generation of the new 
46:27 And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in the land of Egypt, were 
nine souls [Note:  Masoretic text references only 2 descendants of Joseph 
here, not 9;  a weakness of the Masoretic text is that it appears to deny that 
Jacob had any younger sons, whereas Genesis 48: 6 strongly implies that Joseph 
in fact had younger sons];  all the souls of the house of Jacob who came with 
Joseph [note the reference here to “with Joseph”, not to “with Jacob”;  this 
may be an awkward later gloss] into Egypt, were seventy-five souls [Masoretic 
text says 70].”  [(a)  The Septuagint is clearer than the Masoretic text in 
saying that Joseph’s family, which was already in Egypt, is now being added to 
the Hebrews whom Jacob brought into Egypt, to get to the bigger number (which 
in the Septuagint is 75).  The Masoretic text does not actually say that, 
though (per the original text, in my view) it is implied.  Here is what the 
Masrotic text actually says, per the 1917JPS:  “And the sons of Joseph, who were born 
to him in Egypt, were two souls;  all the souls of the house of Jacob, that 
came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.”  (b)  Going back now to the numbers, 
for the Septuagint:  to the 66 subtotal above, add Joseph and Joseph’s 9 
descendants, including Joseph’s 2 unnamed younger sons.  But subtract Jacob, 
because the Septuagint is counting here only the people who came to Egypt (or who 
are deemed to have come to Egypt) with Jacob.  66 + 1 (Joseph) + 9 (all of 
Joseph’s descendants, including Manasseh, Ephraim, 5 named descendants of Manasseh 
and Ephraim, and Joseph’s 2 unnamed younger sons) –1 (Jacob) = 75.]
*       *       *
As we will see, the Septuagint erred, in my view, in adding the words “with 
Joseph” to Genesis 46: 27, words which were probably not in the original text, 
as the Masoretic text has no such words and such words seem to be an awkward 
later gloss.  That error is part and parcel of the Septuagint’s numerical 
error, as the Septuagint feels duty bound to add in all of Joseph’s family, with 
there now being no basis for limiting the number of Joseph’s family that is 
counted here to three [my own view as to how the original text did the math:  the 
three males who were Jacob’s sons, whether by blood (Joseph), or by adoption 
(in chapter 48 of Genesis, Jacob will adopt Manasseh and Ephraim as Jacob’s own 
If it is objected that my reading of chapter 46 of Genesis anticipates what 
does not happen until two chapters later in the text, when Jacob adopts 
Manasseh and Ephraim in chapter 48 of Genesis, we see the same foreshadowing 
throughout chapter 46 of Genesis.  Jacob is grouped with Leah, giving away the secret 
that three chapters later, in chapter 49 of Genesis, Rachel’s son Joseph will 
be passed over in favor of Leah’s son Judah in naming the leader of the next 
generation of monotheists.  And many of Jacob’s descendants who are listed in 
chapter 46 of Genesis as coming to Egypt with Jacob in fact could not have been 
born until long after Jacob moved to Egypt.  (It makes sense, as a matter of 
convenience, for chapter 46 of Genesis to record all of Jacob’s grandsons, 
including (i) grandsons born after Jacob moved the Hebrews to Egypt, and (ii) 
grandsons whose father was Joseph, and who as such did not literally come to 
Egypt with Jacob.  As such, chapter 46 of Genesis cannot properly be viewed as 
being strictly limited to listing what people literally moved from Canaan to 
Egypt with Jacob.)   
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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