Wednesday, December 24, 2003

More chronology attempts: Updated

This week is a slow one at parshablog. I've been staring at the parsha, trying to make heads or tails out of various timelines. I will try to flesh it out sometime soon but for now here is a general summary of my thoughts. In a post below I tried to address how a 29 year old Yosef can be a naar, and ultimately rejected my suggestion.

I'm thinking about the 14 year gap in Yaakov's life which he spent at Shem/Ever, and how that gap can in fact be partially accounted for instead by assuming a gap between the time Yosef became a viceroy and the outset of the 7 good years. Yosef would then be more than 39, which is not after all an explicit pasuk.

I am also thinking about how old Binyamin is. He seems to be described as a naar and a koton, who cannot readily leave his father's side, and as a ben zekunim. Yet by the traditional accounting he is 30, which is as if not more strange than Yosef the 28-year old naar (see below). By the reckoning of Yaakov's family which came down to Egypt, Binyamin has 10 children, which is hard ti accomplish even for a 30 year old, let alone a koton. I have a suggestion that pshat in the psukim there is that the listing there is not of people who came down to mitzrayim but rather giving a general geneology of the original Jacobite family that came down to Egypt as opposed to the 60-myriads large family that left. Partial evidence is that Yosef and sons are counted even though they did not go down to Egypt. Rather, the sons of Yaakov and all their sons are counted, as well as grandsons who are born at the time of the counting, which occurred at some time X in Egypt, where time X is unknown - perhaps Yaakov's death. (This I would have to get into in more detail, perhaps in a later post.)

This rereading of the geneological list to not require everyone listed to hae been born can allow Binyamin to be a koton at the time the brothers came to ask for food. Alternatively, adding part of the 14 year gap in Yaakov's life to precede the onset of the years of plenty can age Binyamin, allowing him to have 10 children.

{Note: I updated the following because I made the assumption of 39 years for the span, rather than 22.}
The same issue rears its head in terms of Yehuda and his children. Chazal assume he first married the daughter of the Canaanite (=merchant) after the sale of Yosef, so he has 22 years for the Yehuda/Tamar incident to take place (39-17). One year for Er to be born, One year for Onan, and one year for Shelah. Assume Er takes Tamar when he is 13, which is then 14 years into the 39. One year to die and Onan to take her and die as well. Now 15 years into the 22. She waits for Shelah until he grows older, because he presumable is younger (as "Rashi" notes, his mother being in Keziv when she gave birth to him might imply that he was born after she was had stopped giving birth for a while.) Say 1 year for this. Yehuda sleeps with Tamar, and she has twin sons, which would take another year. Now we are 17 years in. They grow up and have kids, for in perek 46 in the geneological list, we see "And the sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul" but we don't see Zerech's children, who exist (as we see e.g. in Divrei Hayamim) but presumably not yet. Could Peretz have gotten married and have had two children at the age of 5? Of course not. So we would have to say that Er/Onan/Waiting for Shelah was even less. This is really hard to say.

On solution would be to say that some of this happened before the sale of Yosef. But Yehuda tends his father's flocks in the Yosef story and his own in the Tamar story. Further, he "goes down from his brothers" which Chazal take as a reaction to the sale of Yosef.

Furthermore, if Yehuda takes his first wife when Yosef is born (unlikely because then Yehudah would be too young) then we have 39 years to work with. We could then say Peretz could have gotten married at the age of 20 and had two children in successive years. Even so this is cutting it close, for Er and Onan would still have to be fairly. And any time you would add to Yehuda with his first wife, or to Er, or Onan, or Shelah, would have to be taken away from Peretz.

This issue again can be solved by adding the gap of 14 years to Yosef after he becomes viceroy and before the 7 years of plenty commence.

It could also be resolved by explaining that the geneology is not of people who came down to Egypt but of the close family that came to Egypt but taken at some point in time in Egypt and counting some people born in Egypt. If so, Peretz's sons need not have been born in Canaan. If so, of the 39 year period we could say something like: the first 21 would create a 20 year old Er. At year 22, Onan would marry Tamar and die. And year 30 Yehuda would sleep with Tamar, since Tamar saw Shelah was not given to her. At year 31 the twins were born, and they were 8 when they went down to Mitzrayim.

The difficulty with all these calculations is that you need to be a real baki in Bereishit and Chazal's reckoning, which I am decidedly not, since each event is related to others, since each event takes time and happens in a specific sequence. We have occasional statements about people's ages, which form constraints, and each time you propose some shift in time, you have to see how those changes cycle to other events and from there to still other events, possibly violating some contraint.

Something I might want to get into before the week is up is a discussion of the word YISHAK in describing Yosef's duties, and a (possibly faulty) analysis of the word SHIBOLIM/shibbolet.

Check back for updates as I hopefully get around to dealing with each of these points in detail.


Avraham said...

I know this is an old post, and you might have something to say on this since then, but if you say like the gemara in ben sorer umoreh that doros rishonim had kids at 8, not 13, then er and peretz married at 8, not 13 and 5. Problem solved with time to spare.

Avraham said...

When I said "time to spare," I meant that in addition to 2 years for 2 kids (Peretzhas 2 kids by 10). The point is that the gemara tries very hard to bring a r'aya for this theory, but clearly doesn't find yehuda and tamar a convincing source. The "time to spare" is the leeway given for, say, a year before yehuda meets tamar, which would make the whole thing unsuitable for a r'aya that they had kids as early as 8.


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