[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 15:01:40 EST 2008


In order to understand what is going on in counting to either 70 or 75 
Hebrews being led by Jacob into Egypt, we need to understand how each variant is 
doing the counting.
 
1.  Masoretic Text Counting Method
 
There are 70 names.  Simply count every person (including Jacob) to get the 
grand total:  70.
 
(a)  The four interior number subtotals (33 + 16 + 14 + 7) add to 70.
 
(b)  To reduce that subtotal of 70 to 66, as the 66 people who came into 
Egypt with Jacob, subtract Jacob, and subtract the 3 people who were already 
living in Egypt when Jacob came to Egypt:  Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim.  70 - 1 - 
3 = 66.
 
(c)  To get to the grand total of 70, do the reverse of #b.  Start with 66, 
and add Jacob, Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim.
 
The math is easy to follow in the Masoretic text.  But note the artificial 
nature of first subtracting four, and then adding four, in steps #b and #c.  In 
reality, the Masoretic text begins and ends with the four interior number 
subtotals adding to 70.  
 
The Masoretic text dodges the tough issue of which of Joseph’s descendants to 
count by naming and referring only to 2 such descendants, Manasseh and 
Ephraim, no other descendants of Joseph.  In my view, the Masoretic text thereby 
wrongly implies that Joseph had only 2 sons, whereas the clear implication of 
Genesis 48: 6 is that Joseph had other, younger sons as well, as discussed below.
 
2.  Septuagint Counting Method
 
There are 74 names.  Count every person, except subtract Jacob, and add 2 
unnamed younger sons of Joseph, to get the grand total.  74 –1 + 2 = 75.  (Do not 
count anyone not included in the interior number subtotals below.  So do not 
count Judah’s predeceased sons Er and Onan, and do not count Joseph’s wife or 
Joseph’s father-in-law, who are not Jacob’s descendants.) 
 
(a)  The four interior number subtotals (33 + 16 + 18 + 7) add to 74.  [That’
s a minor weakness right there, as the number 74 has no meaning.]
 
(b)  To reduce that subtotal of 74 to 66, as the 66 people who came into 
Egypt with Jacob, subtract the 8 named people who were already living in Egypt 
when Jacob came to Egypt:  Joseph, Manasseh, Ephraim, and the 5 named descendants 
of Manasseh and Ephraim.  74 –8 = 66.  [Unlike the other two methods, this 
subtotal in the Septuagint includes Jacob.  Joseph’s 2 unnamed younger sons have 
not been mentioned or added in yet, so they do not need to be subtracted 
here.]
 
(c)  To get to the grand total of 75, start with 66, add in Joseph’s 9 
referenced descendants (including Joseph’s two unnamed younger sons), plus Joseph 
himself, and then subtract Jacob.  66 + 9 + 1 –1 = 75.
 
Rather than being a weakness, one great strength of the Septuagint version is 
that it posits Joseph as having two younger sons after Manasseh and Ephraim.  
That seems fully consistent with Genesis 48: 6, when Jacob tells Joseph:
 
“And thy issue, that thou begettest after them, shall be thine”.
 
As to the question of whether to count sons and grandsons of Jacob born after 
Jacob moved the Hebrews to Egypt, consider Benjamin.  Benjamin was too young 
to sire 10 sons before the Hebrews moved to Egypt.  So the Masoretic text, in 
portraying Benjamin as having 10 sons in chapter 46 of Genesis, should be 
counting Benjamin’s sons born after the Hebrews moved to Egypt.  The Septuagint 
shows Benjamin with 3 sons and 6 grandsons, but on the issue under discussion 
here, the analysis is the same.  Benjamin’s sons could not have had sons before 
the Hebrews moved to Egypt.  So properly viewed, all versions of chapter 46 of 
Genesis make sense only if all of Jacob’s grandsons are listed, including 
grandsons born after the Hebrews moved to Egypt.  If all of Jacob’s grandsons are 
listed in chapter 46 of Genesis, then Joseph’s younger sons should be 
included on that list.  They are in the Septuagint (though their actual names are not 
set forth), but they are not in the Masoretic text.  That is one reason why I 
view much of the material in the Septuagint text of chapter 46 of Genesis as 
being more faithful to the original text than the Masoretic text.
 
Next week I will set forth my own view of how people were counted in the 
original version of chapter 46 of Genesis.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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