“Now these were the names of the children of Israel, Jacob and his sons, who went to Egypt: Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn. 9 The sons of Reuben were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. 10 The sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman. 11 The sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 12 The sons of Judah were Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, and Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan). The sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul. 13 The sons of Issachar were Tola, Puvah, Job, and Shimron. 14 The sons of Zebulun were Sered, Elon, and Jahleel. 15 These were the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Padan Aram, with his daughter Dinah. All the persons, his sons and his daughters, were thirty-three.
16 The sons of Gad were Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi, and Areli. 17 The sons of Asher were Jimnah, Ishuah, Isui, Beriah, and Serah, their sister. And the sons of Beriah were Heber and Malchiel. 18 These were the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter; and these she bore to Jacob: sixteen persons.
19 The sons of Rachel, Jacob’s wife, were Joseph and Benjamin. 20 And to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On, bore to him. 21 The sons of Benjamin were Belah, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard. 22 These were the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob: fourteen persons in all.
23 The son of Dan was Hushim. 24 The sons of Naphtali were Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem. 25 These were the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to Rachel his daughter, and she bore these to Jacob: seven persons in all.
26 All the persons who went with Jacob to Egypt, who came from his body, besides 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 persons. All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy.”
As we read through the latter portions of Genesis, we are left to imagine a lot about what took place while Joseph was in Egypt. Jasher 41-56 sheds some extra light on this subject that is worthy of reading (Joshua 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18).
As I’ve read the book of Jasher, I must say that I’ve become fascinated by how old (or young) people were at different stages of their lives– especially when they got married and had children. I plan to show you at least one family member that married very young but first I want to recap a few things.
According to Genesis 37:2, Joseph was 17 years old about the time he dreamed his brothers’ sheaves were bowing down to him. By the time Joseph was 18 years old, he was working for Potiphar. During the time he worked there, Potiphar’s wife, Zelicah tried to seduce him on a daily basis for a year.
Zelicah was so obsessed with Joseph’s comeliness that she couldn’t stop tempting him despite his continual refusals. On one occasion, Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph by his robe and begged him to lie with her. As he fled from her, his robe tore in the front indicating his back was to her as he fled. According to the book of Jasher, Joseph was later beaten and taken to the priests to be judged. When the Egyptian priests examined his robe, they determined he was not guilty because it was torn in the front instead of the back. Even so, he was still sent to jail despite his innocence. That wasn’t the end of it because Zelicah continued pestering him while he was in jail even though her husband knew she had falsely accused him. Jasher doesn’t say if Potiphar knew she continued to pursue Joseph or not but it is clear Zelicah should’ve been content in her own marriage.
During the first 13 years Joseph was in Egypt, his brothers were getting married and raising children.
- In the same year Joseph went to Egypt, Reuben married a Canaanite from Timnah named Eliuram.
- Simeon married his sister, Dinah and also married a Canaanitish woman named Bunah from Shechem.
- Judah married a Canaanite woman named Aliyath. After her death, he eventually fathered twins by the widow of his first two sons whose name was Tamar.
- Levi married a woman from the east named Adinah.
- Issachar married Adinah’s sister, Aridah.
- Dan married a Moabitess named Aphlaleth.
- Gad and Naphtali married descendants of Nahor in Haran–Naphtali married Merimah.
- Gad married Merimah’s younger sister, Uzith.
- Asher married Adon, a descendant of Ishmael but she died without any children. After her death, Asher married a widow named Hadurah, a descendant of Eber, the son of Shem. Hadurah had a three year old daughter named Serach from her first marriage that was raised in Jacob’s house.
- Zebulun married a Midianite named Merishah.
- When Benjamin was 10 years old, his father Jacob obtained a descendant of Terah named Mechalia to marry Benjamin. After having 5 sons with her, he married a descendant of Abraham named Aribath when he was eighteen years old and fathered another 5 sons.
- It wasn’t until Joseph was 34 years old that his wife Osnath had Manasseh and Ephraim (Jasher 50:15).
Let’s go back and take a closer look at Benjamin since his situation is a bit fascinating. Jacob was 91 years old when Joseph was born and he was 100 when Benjamin was conceived, so Benjamin was about 10 years younger than Joseph and he was approximately 7 years old when Joseph was sold into Egypt (Jasher 31:21; 36:8). I was very surprised to read in the book of Jasher that Benjamin was given a wife when he was only 10 years old. That’s just not done in our culture today!
If we continue to do our math, we can see that by the time Joseph stood before Pharaoh to interpret his dreams at the age of 30, Benjamin was only around 20 years old and had already fathered 10 children! Some people believe this is completely impossible but if he had his first child when he was 11 or 12 years old, he could easily have had 10 by the time he was 20 without having twins or triplets! If I had had 10 children by the time I was 20, I think I would have died from exhaustion!
If you think 11 or 12 years old is too young to father a child, you might find it interesting to see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_youngest_birth_mothers and http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_old_was_the_youngest_person_to_ever_father_a_child
As you can see, Jacob’s twelve sons married women of various people groups within what is now known as the Middle East. A few of them even actually married Canaanites, whereas previously Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had specifically avoided marrying them.
In addition to these women, let’s not forget about Serach who was the little girl adopted into Asher’s family when he married the widow, Hadurah. Jasher 45:17 describes her this way: “And the damsel was of a comely appearance, and she went in the sanctified ways of the children of Jacob; she lacked nothing, and the Lord gave her wisdom and understanding.”
These marriages and families seem to be prophetic of the fact that God chooses/marries/adopts and blesses both Jewish and Gentile people:
- The Gentiles have been made “fellow heirs of the same body” (Eph 3:6).
- They are united into one flock with the Jews (John 10:16).
- They have been grafted into the olive tree of Israel (Rom. 11:11-27).
- God’s people are blessed as they are obedient to terms of the Lord’s marriage covenant (Deut. 30:16).
- Believers in Christ are blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to minister to the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7-12).
After Genesis 46 lists all of Jacob’s sons and grandsons, it tells us that there were a total of 70 members of Jacob’s house that went into Egypt. This should catch our attention because it seems to parallel the 70 nations and/or languages that descended from Noah’s three sons: Japheth in Europe (14), Ham in Africa (30), and Shem in the Middle East (26). It’s almost as if God was starting over again with Jacob’s family as He did with Noah’s except there was no flood to destroy the wicked. The idea was that the wickedness of the 7 nations (Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites) would reach their fullness when it was time for Israel to take the Promised Land and they would be destroyed by God’s people at that time. This will also be true when Jesus returns because there will ten kings that initially join the Beast but 3 of them will be put down by the Beast leaving seven that will be destroyed by Jesus and His army (Dan. 7:24; Rev. 17:12; 19:19-21).
You see, God has always desired to have a people set apart for Himself that would seek righteousness and reject wickedness like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These men weren’t perfect but God’s grace was upon them because they demonstrated their trust in Him. Even in Jacob’s final days, he went to Egypt trusting that God would bring his family back to the Canaan – the Promised Land.
As Jacob was about to die, his sons gathered around him so he could bless them. God used that brief moment in time in Genesis 49 to give Jacob’s sons a prophecy concerning their descendants in the last days. Most notable is the fact that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah and that the people of the earth will obey Him (Rev. 5:5; 19:15). Jacob even alluded to the donkey and colt Jesus would ride into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:5) and also hinted that the Messiah will wash his clothes in the blood of the grapes of God’s wrath (Rev. 14:19). I’m sure that what he said to the rest of his sons was just as prophetic as what he said to Judah.
The period of the patriarchs was about to come to an end but it was only a new transition for the 12 tribes of Israel. They needed to learn to trust the Lord as their forefathers had done. It would not be easy. There would be difficult lessons ahead of them but God would be faithful to demonstrate His awesome power, deliver his people, and bring them back to the land as He had promised Abram in Genesis 15:13-14.
What about you?
Do you trust God as you pass through each stage of your life?
Do you flee from the temptations that constantly surround you like Joseph did?
Do you forgive those who have trespassed against you?
Are you daily choosing to focus on the Author and Finisher of your faith despite any turmoil that may encompass you?
Please know that God is faithful to keep His promises. What has been prophesied will come to pass. God wants to use you to bless the people around you. Will you let Him?
BTW, if you are interested in learning more about the 70 descendants of Noah, see http://www.his-forever.com/table_of_nations.htm , http://www.ldolphin.org/ntable.html , and/or http://www.soundchristian.com/man/
All quoted Scripture is from NKJV.