[b-hebrew] Isaac's Age at the Binding Incident

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Jun 24 10:22:04 EDT 2008


Isaac Fried:
 
You wrote:  “Where did you get this exact figure of fifteen regular years for 
Isaac's age [at the binding incident]?”
 
1.  We start with the fact that Abraham is exactly 50 regular years older 
than Isaac.  Everyone knows that Isaac is born when Abraham is stated age 100 “
years”.  Genesis 21: 5  All ages in the Patriarchal narratives are set forth in 
terms of 6-month “years”.  So Abraham is age 50 regular years at Isaac’s 
birth (meaning, of course, that Abraham will always be exactly 50 years older than 
Isaac).
 
2.  Perhaps the best way to proceed here is to start with Isaac at age 20 
regular years, and then reverse engineer his life at 2½ regular year intervals.  
 
(a)    We know that Isaac is stated age 40 “years” when he marries Rebekah.  
Genesis 25: 20  So Isaac is un-doubled age 20 regular years at his marriage 
to lovely Rebekah.  
 
(b)    The time when Isaac’s father, Abraham, would have found out about 
Rebekah is 2½ regular years earlier than that.  Not long after the binding 
incident, Abraham finds out a bunch of specific information about Rebekah, who is 
living way out in Harran, in northern Mesopotamia.  Genesis 22: 20 - 24  
Realistically, Abraham would only find out that information at his father Terakh’s 
death, when a messenger would have been sent all the long way out from Harran to 
tell Abraham of his father’s death.  That messenger would naturally have told 
Abraham the rest of the family news, including the key information that 
Rebekah existed and, in a few short years, would be the ideal age to marry Isaac.  
Since Terakh was age 70 “years”, in 6-month “years”, at Abraham’s birth 
(Genesis 11: 26), and Terakh dies at stated age 205 “years” (Genesis 11: 31), that 
means that Abraham is age 135 “years” at Terakh’s death.  205 – 70 = 135  
That is the equivalent of Abraham being age 67½ regular years at his father’s 
death, when Abraham finds out the good news about Rebekah, not long after the 
binding incident.  67½ -50 = 17½, so Isaac is age 17½ regular years when his 
father finds out about Rebekah.
 
(c)   The binding incident should then logically occur 2½ regular years 
before Abraham finds out about Rebekah.  That means that Isaac is age 15 regular 
years at the binding incident.  The numerical symbolism is nice here, as Isaac 
is age 30 “years”, in 6-month “years”, and 30 is the good number 3, tenfold.
 
(d)   Consider also the analogy to Joseph.  Isaac is age 30 “years” when 
Isaac’s role as Patriarch #2 is confirmed, with Isaac surviving the harrowing 
binding incident.  When Joseph is named the #2 power in Egypt, Joseph is 
expressly stated to be stated age 30 “years”.  Genesis 41: 46
 
(e)   So in regular years, Isaac is age 15 at the binding incident, age 17½ 
when his father finds out about Rebekah, and age 20 when Isaac marries Rebekah. 
 Note how all the numbers work beautifully in the Patriarchal narratives, on 
all levels.
 
3.  Now let’s examine Abraham’s ages.
 
(a)  If Isaac is age 15 regular years at the binding incident, then Abraham 
is age 65 regular years.  15 + 50 = 65 (since Abraham was age 50 regular years 
at Isaac’s birth).  In the Patriarchal narratives, unlike all other ancient 
literature, the number 13 is awkward.  Ishmael is circumcised at stated age 13 “
years” (Genesis 17: 25), which is awkward in that this painful operation does 
not prevent unlucky Ishmael from being exiled by his own father, Abraham.  So 
the ideal age for Abraham to be at the awkward binding incident is age 130 “
years”, in 6-month “years”, with the number 130 being awkward 13, tenfold.  
That is age 65 regular years.
 
(b)    As explained in #2(b) above, Abraham is age 67½ regular years when 
Abraham finds out about Rebekah.  That is 17½ regular years after Isaac’s birth 
(when Isaac is age 17½ regular years).  The peculiar number 17½ plays an 
outsized role in the Patriarchal narratives (because it was important only once in 
history, during the Patriarchal Age in the Late Bronze Age).  Note that Abraham 
dies at age 17½ “years”, tenfold, namely age 175 “years”, in stated 6-month 
“years”.  Genesis 25: 7  [We know that Abraham is 10 “years” older than 
Sarah (Genesis 17: 17), so Abraham is age 137 “years” (age 68½ regular years) 
when Sarah dies at stated age 127 “years” (Genesis 23: 1).  That means that 
shortly (one regular year) after Abraham finds out about Rebekah at Terakh’s 
death, when Abraham is age 67½ regular years, Abraham is age 68½ regular years 
when Abraham buries Sarah.  Note that all numbers in the Patriarchal narratives 
always fit together perfectly.] 
 
(c)  Then Abraham is age 70 regular years when Isaac marries the perfect 
bride, Rebekah.  Since Isaac is stated age 40 “years” when Isaac marries Rebekah 
(Genesis 25: 20), mathematically Abraham must be 100 “years” older than that, 
which is age 140 “years”, being un-doubled age 70 regular years.  The number 
70 is obviously important in the Patriarchal narratives, as it is the first 
number in the Patriarchal narratives, being Terakh’s stated age in 6-month “
years” at Abraham’s birth (Genesis 11: 26), it is the number of Hebrews that 
Jacob leads to Egypt (Genesis 46: 27, per the Masoretic text, which is correct 
as to this number), and it is the number of days that the Egyptians mourn Jacob’
s death in Egypt (Genesis 50: 3).
 
4.  Now we look to parallelism to further confirm the above analysis.  
Abraham is age 130 “years” in his most awkward moment, which is the binding 
incident.  It’s the same for Jacob.  Jacob’s most awkward moment is when Jacob leads 
all the Hebrews  o-u-t  of the Promised Land of Canaan into Egypt.  The text 
tells us that Jacob was stated age 130 “years” at that awkward time.  Genesis 
47: 9
 
*       *       *
 
It is true that the text does not tell us Isaac’s age at the binding incident 
in so many words.  But all the numbers work perfectly on all levels in the 
Patriarchal narratives, including at the level of consistent numerical 
symbolism.  The only two ages that will work well at the binding incident are Isaac 
being age 15 regular years, and Abraham being age 65 regular years.  Those ages 
fit in perfectly with their determinable ages when Abraham finds out about 
Rebekah, and with Isaac’s stated age (and Abraham’s derivable age) when Isaac 
marries Rebekah.  The numerical parallels to the Jacob/Judah/Joseph cycle act to 
confirm this analysis.  Each of the two great Patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob, 
is awkward age 130 “years”, in 6-month “years”, at his most awkward moment:  
the binding incident for Abraham, and leading all the Hebrews  o-u-t  of the 
Promised Land of Canaan for Jacob.  And each of Isaac and Joseph is age 30 “
years”, in 6-month “years”, when his future as a great leader becomes assured.
 
All of the numbers work perfectly like that throughout the entirety of the 
Patriarchal narratives.  No number is out of phase, and no number lacks 
appropriate, consistent numerical symbolism.  This isn’t Kabala or anything mystical.  
No, it’s just straightforward numerical symbolism, consistently applied.  For 
example, the number 13 is always awkward in the Patriarchal narratives.  The 
number 17½ is always the best number there is.  And so on.  And all the 
numbers always fit together perfectly in a perfectly coherent internal timeline of 
the Patriarchal narratives.
 
So based on the entirety of how numbers are used in the Patriarchal 
narratives, we cannot only quickly narrow down the possible ranges of Isaac’s and 
Abraham’s ages at the binding incident, but also we can determine that, based on 
numerical symbolism, analogy and parallelism, Isaac must have been exactly age 
15 regular years at the binding incident.  All the numbers work perfectly on 
that basis, and only on that basis. 
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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