The Journey of Joseph: A Family of Seventy.

26 All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own descendants, not including Jacob’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six persons in all. 27 And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two. All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.” (Genesis 46:26–27 (ESV)

Moses provided a summarization of the extensive number of Jacob’s family (Gen. 46:8-25). This was organized by the number of his sons; twelve.   

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “This catalog of sons closes the patriarchal period and forms a transition to the exodus from Egypt ((Ex. 1:1-7). The list includes the sons and grandsons of Jacob (some of whom were born in Egypt) through his various wives and concubines, although his daughters and granddaughters, except for Dinah (Gen. 46:15), and Serah (Gen. 46:17) are omitted. Thus the list is designed to culminate in the significant number seventy (Gen. 46:27) to show both God’s blessing on the family and to anticipate their further expansion into a great nation.”

However, there are sceptics who would point to Acts 7:14 where Stephen stated that the number of people belonging to Jacob’s family numbered seventy-five. They would cite this as an example that the Bible contains contradictions or errors. How do we explain this discrepancy?

Dr. John MacArthur states, “Jacob, Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim should be added to the 66. The 75 of Acts 7:14 included an additional five people, born in the land, which were added in the (Septuagint (LXX) reading of Gen. 46:8–27 (cf. Ex. 1:5Deut. 10:22). These five included two sons of Manasseh, two sons of Ephraim, and one grandson of the latter. Genesis 46:26–27Ex. 1:5Deut. 10:22 give the figure as 70. However the LXX (the Greek translation of the OT, which as a Hellenist Stephen would have used) in Gen. 46:27 reads “seventy-five.” The additional five people were Joseph’s descendants born in Egypt.”

The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Such variations occasionally occur and we do not always have the information to explain them. We should also take note from today’s text that Jacob’s sons’ wives were not included in the list (Gen. 46:26).

The number seventy is symbolically significant in the Scriptures. The senate of the Israelites composed of seventy elders (Ex. 24:1, 9; Num. 11:16, 24, 25). Jesus sent out seventy disciples (Luke 10:1–17). The Jews were in captivity in Babylon seventy years (Jer. 25:11, 12; 29:10; Dan. 9:2; Zech. 1:12; 7:5). Seventy weeks were prophesied in the vision of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27). Even the human lifespan is said to be seventy years (Ps. 90:10). Therefore, Moses represented Jacob’s family by the symbolic number seventy signifying a large and complete number.  

One author explains, “Today’s passage lists the seventy descendants that went down into Egypt with Jacob (46:27), a number of offspring far greater than Abraham and Isaac knew personally. Some of Benjamin’s sons listed in verse 21 are really his grandsons (Num. 26:38–41) and were not yet born when Jacob went into Egypt. This shows that the number of seventy should be understood as a general number.”

“Moses numbers Jacob’s family at seventy after telling us that sixty-six descendants traveled with him to the land of the Nile (46:27). This is not a contradiction, Moses is using two different numbers for two different purposes. Sixty-six persons journeyed with Jacob to Egypt, but seventy of his household settled in that country including Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasseh. Moses recorded the number seventy, which is often associated with completeness in Scripture, to teach a lesson. Having seventy of Jacob’s house in Egypt tells successive generations how God kept His promise to Abraham that the full number of Israelites would settle there (15:13).”

The seventy plus members of Jacob’s family became six hundred thousand men in Egypt, besides women and children (Ex. 12:37). God truly keep His promise to Abraham and Isaac (Gen.12:1-3; 13:14-16; 22:17; 26:4). He will also keep His promises to us today.

Have a blessed day in the LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!

The His Word Today Podcast begins June 1, Soli deo Gloria!

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