Genealogies in Genesis
Daniel J. Dyke
One of the debates that exists in conservative Biblical scholarship centers on the genealogies found in Genesis 5 and 11. People argue whether they are sequential and complete or if they contain gaps. It is the position of this paper that they contain an indeterminate number of gaps. The following points are made in favor of this interpretation:
A. There is a massive amount of recorded history that must be put after the flood, but there is not enough time to accommodate all the events. The following should be noted:1. The human race would have to:B. The genealogies of the covenant lines before and after the flood have exactly 10 generations each (cf. Chart A). This suggests a partially artificial scheme much like what is found in Mt. 1 where there are 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 generations form David to the Babylonian captivity, and 14 generations from the Babylonian captivity to Christ. The people listed were real, but to achieve the correct number Matthew left out people in the first two sections. A suggestion as to the purpose of such an artificial scheme would be to show that the events separated by the list of generations were of relatively equal importance.a. reproduce2. The animals would have to:
b. develop the technology to build the tower
c. after they are cursed to spread throughout the known world
d. develop the respective culture, technologies, social and religious institutions of their new domainsa. reproduce3. The earth would have to:
b. differentiate (micro evolve) in to all the subspecies
c. move throughout the world simultaneously or ahead of mana. recover from the disaster of the flood4. How much time does Genesis allow if there are no gaps in the genealogies?
b. divide in the days of Peleg and recover from whatever that was about.
Birth: Post Flood
Age at Birth
Length of Life
(After Birth of Heir)
Date of Death
Noah -600 (+ length of the flood) 500 350 - Length of Flood Shem -98 100 500 502 Arpachshad 2 35 403 440 Shelah 37 30 403 470 Eber 67 34 430 531 Peleg 101 30 209 340 Reu 131 32 207 370 Serug 163 30 200 393 Nahor 193 29 119 341 Terah 222 70 (205) 427 Abram 292 100 75 467 Isaac 392 60 572a. The implications of this are enormous. See if you can discern them from the following chart.
Status of the person at the Birth of Abraham in 292 PF Status at the Call of Abram (Abram was 75 according to Gen.12:4) in 367 PF Length of Life
(After Birth of Heir)
Date of Death
Death of Abraham in year 467 PF Noah Alive Dead 350- length of the flood Dead Shem Alive Alive 500 502 Alive Arpachshad Alive Alive 403 440 Dead Shelah Alive Alive 403 470 Alive Eber Alive Alive 430 531 Alive Peleg Alive Dead 209 340 Dead Reu Alive Alive 207 370 Dead Serug Alive Alive 200 393 Dead Nahor Alive Dead 119 341 Dead Terah Alive Alive (205) 427 Deadb. There is a period of 292 years from the end of the flood to the birth of Abram and 367 to his call. Please remember he visits Egypt soon after his call and Egypt is a fully functioning political-economic system.c. Questions to be asked and answered.1. If Israel grew to 603,550 people in the 430 years of bondage in Egypt and this was considered phenomenal. Why would this be considered phenomenal if the world they lived in had been undergoing a greater growth rate than this among men and animals? At the time of the Israel's exodus from Egypt only 7231 years had elapsed since Noah's flood and if there are no gaps in the genealogies then it must be concluded that rapid population growth would have been a normal part of their world and Israel's growth would not have been exceptional at all. In fact Isreal's growth would have been considered sluggish.
2. Why weren't Shem, Shelah, and Eber at the funeral of Abraham when extended family is called in for the occasion? Why were they not participating in the redemptive story of Abraham?
C. Biblical genealogies regularly have gaps where the author will leave out a generation or a whole block of generations.
The word "begat" can mean "became the forefather of" and the word "son" can mean descendant (Mt. 1:1).
There is an example of such an omission in Ezra and Chronicles (cf. Chart B). It may be that there were more omissions than the ones made by Ezra. In Aaron's family tree there are nine generations from the building of Solomon's temple to the Babylonian captivity and this period spanned 380 years. That would mean that each man was an average of 42 years old when he had his first child. This is possible but it is easier to deal with if several generations have been omitted. If both genealogies are taken at face value then Ezra and Jehozadak were brothers, but Jehozadak was taken captive in 586 B.C. and Ezra began his work in 458 B.C. That is a difference of 128 years! Obviously there are generations of Aaron's family missing between these two men.
|I Chronicles 6:1-15 (Order inverted)||Ezra 7:1-5|
Exiled by Nebuchadnezzar
Built Solomon's Temple (966/956 B.C.)
|Aaron (d. 1406/1220 B.C.)||Aaron|
C. In Genesis are there any known gaps? Now this is where it gets tricky because the answer depends on many assumptions about scripture. My big assumption is that scripture is from God.D. Where would I put the gaps? Everywhere. Some are big. I am just doing what scripture is doing. If a detailed genealogy were important scripture would have given it. What is important in scripture is to form links. Jesus came from David, Abraham, Noah, and Adam. There is not one heretical statement in that!
Luke 3:34-38 Genesis 5 &11 Abraham Abram Terah Terah Nahor Nahor Serug Serug Reu Reu Peleg Peleg Heber Eber Shelah Shelah Cainan Arphaxad Arphaxad Shem Shem Noah Noah Lamech Lamech Methuselah Methuselah Enoch Enoch Jared Jared Mahalaleel Mahalalel Cainan Kenan Enosh Enosh Seth Seth Adam Adam
1. There is an extra generation in Luke's gospel. How one deals with this is in part determined by his view of scripture and the conclusions he has formed before he read this text. The fact remains there is a gap in this chart.
2. Why are people who claim there are gaps attacked as compromisers or heretics when scripture itself offers incontrovertible proof that gaps exist? After showing a particular person the preceding chart he argued that gaps could exist, but not the "large" ones that I "postulated." Let me make a comment at this point. Yes, I am "postulating" large gaps, but I admit it. I do not see that the word gap and the phrase "large gaps" are examples of the language of compromise. They are phrases that describe a phenomenon found within scripture.
3. What needs to be addressed at this point is the question of large gaps.a. Note that in Matthew's opening genealogy (Mt. 1:1-17) he gives the genealogy of Jesus twice. Matthew gives an abbreviated version of the ancestry of Jesus in 1:1 and an expanded version in 1:2-16. Obviously the first one skips generations. The second does so as well. The most obvious place is vs. 11. It says, "Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon." Jeconiah is an alternate form of the name Coniah. Jeremiah (37:1) says, "Now Zedekiah the son of Josiah whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had made king in the land of Judah, reigned as king in place of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim."
b. In Ex. 2:1 there is a problem if there are no gaps or no large gaps in genealogies. Let me preface the following comment with an observation. Most people who say that there are no gaps or no large gaps in the early genealogies of Genesis hold to what is called a long sojourn. In other words the 430 years of sojourn do not include the Patriarchal period. They have the descent of Jacob into Egypt as occuring 1876 BC, the birth of Moses taking place in 1526 BC, and the exodus event coming in 1446 BC. If the text of Ex 1:1 is read literally then the father of Moses was a descendant of Levi, but his mother was his actual daughter. Moses is born 350 years after the descent of Jacob. If this is all literal then Jochebed was really old when she gave birth to Moses. Scripture makes a big fuss about Sarah being 90 when she gave birth to Isaac and does not even mention this bigger miracle Jochebed. Why? Because no miracle existed. There are gaps in the family tree and there was nothing exceptional about the age of Jochebed at the birth of Moses.
c. Genesis 10 contains a problematic passage called the Table of Nations. It is a listing of the descendants of Noah according to his sons. The question is how to interpret the names of the children. Most names are names of countries but not all of them. Some are names of people. Do these people give their names to the countries? Is the forefather called by the name of the country that comes from him? Where do we have people who are just people and not countries? Many questions emerge as one studies this passage.(1) 6 ¶ The sons of Ham were Cush and Mizraim and Put and Canaan. 7 The sons of Cush were Seba and Havilah and Sabtah and Raamah and Sabteca; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan. 8 Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD." 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, 12 and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. 13 Mizraim became the father of Ludim and Anamim and Lehabim and Naphtuhim 14 and Pathrusim and Casluhim (from which came the Philistines) and Caphtorim. 15 ¶ Canaan became the father of Sidon, his firstborn, and Heth 16 and the Jebusite and the Amorite and the Girgashite 17 and the Hivite and the Arkite and the Sinite 18 and the Arvadite and the Zemarite and the Hamathite; and afterward the families of the Canaanite were spread abroad. 19 The territory of the Canaanite extended from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; as you go toward Sodom and Gomorrah and Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. 20 These are the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, by their lands, by their nations.
(2) Ham's wife gives birth to Mizraim which is the name for Upper and Lower Egypt. Whether it is the name for the forefather of the Egyptians or not is irrelevant because in the 292 years all the people who are called Egyptians have to be born, build a culture, and make edifices. To me this is the biggest gap. The text moves from person to fully developed country in one huge step.
1This figure can be reduced 215 years if the 430 years of Ex12:40f. includes the Patriarchal period. If that is the case then my argument is even more profound.