Bible math is confusing

Genesis 46

The majority of this chapter is spent on accounting for all of the people included in Jacob’s house/family that went with him to Egypt. They are organized by mother. Jacob finally arrives in Egypt, and reunites with his son Joseph. Jacob is brought to tears with joy. Joseph then goes to tell the pharaoh that his family has arrived. He also informs them that he will tell the pharaoh that they are shepherds, and to say the same when they are asked. This is because shepherds are abhorrent to Egyptians.

The chapter states that

Jacob’s people who came to Egypt—his direct descendants, not counting the wives of Jacob’s sons—numbered sixty-six persons in all. Together with Joseph’s sons who were born to him in Egypt—two persons—all the people comprising the household of Jacob who had come to Egypt amounted to seventy persons in all. (Genesis 46:26-27)

The first statement, regarding 66 descendants, I am having trouble figuring out where they got this number. If you count all of his children, you only get 14 (13 sons + 1 daughter). If you include his grandchildren, you get 69 (13 sons+ 1 daughter+ 54 grandsons+ 1 grand daughter). Two of the grandsons, Er and Onan, are dead, so if we take them out, we get 67. The females could be removed, but that would be too low. Also, two great grandsons are mentioned, but that doesn’t help the maths either.

I’m having just as difficult time getting to 70. For this number 2 new sons born in Egypt are added. However, if we just count living male descendants we get 69 (13 sons + 52 grandsons + 2 great grandsons + 2 Egypt sons). But it says all the people who came to Egypt, which I would assume includes women (unless they aren’t people), but that brings the number up to 75.

I am at a loss here, I don’t know how to explain this. I do remember from when I was in catechism class, that we were taught the bible was without error, it was perfect. This right here, unless a good explanation is brought to my attention, falsifies that claim.

Also, why are shepherds abhorrent to Egyptians, and why would you have your whole family want to be the least liked class of people in the new country? I hope this is explained more in the coming chapter. My gut says that this is another kind of scam or something.

Lessons I Learned:

  • The bible isn’t so good when it comes to math.
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One response to “Bible math is confusing

  • Chucky

    I think it is useful to remember that people except in the last few hundred years in the West have not been obsessed with measuring things. So yes, read any text which isn’t from our culture, and you’ll often find that times, distances and numbers are all approximate. That’s not “wrong”, it’s just different. It doesn’t just go for the Bible, the same is true of any text which comes from different cultures.

    But yeah, I don’t have a problem with this passage. You get 69, but you didn’t include Jacob himself (who is presumably in his own household) so you get 70 too.

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