The Age of Jacob when
Joseph was Born


The events surrounding the birth of Joseph to Jacob and Rachel, although
not directly adding to the determination of the overall chronology, serves
the role of supporting and verifying the correct compilation of the period
Creation to Exodus.

The standard view of the birth of Joseph argues that Jacob was 91 years
old when he fathered Joseph.

  The age of Jacob when he meets Pharaoh                    130  Gen 47:9

  Less  Age of Joseph when he explains Pharaoh's dream  30       Gen 41:46
        Years of plenty before Jacob enters Egypt        7       Gen 41:53
        Years of famine before Jacob enters Egypt        2   39  Gen 45:6

  Presumed age of Jacob when Joseph is born                  91

Joseph was born 14 years after Jacob departed to find a wife in Padan Aram,
refer Gen 30:25-43, 31:41. If Jacob was indeed 91 years old when Joseph was
born, then Jacob would have been 77 years old when he departed for Padan

The age of Jacob when he departed for Padan Aram is important because this
is when a 'father' of Esau (and Jacob) died!

     Gen   27:41   So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with
                   which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his
                   heart, "The days of mourning for my father are at
                   hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob".

Since Isaac lived until 180 years of age (Gen 35:28) and Jacob was born
when Isaac was 60 years old (Gen 25:26), Isaac would not have died until
Jacob reached 120 years of age. This makes it very apparent that the
father of Esau (the father who had died) was not Isaac.

   [NB: Isaac lived decades after this event. Isaac's death
        is recorded in Gen 35:27-29.
        Isaac died when Jacob was about 120 years old. Note that
        it was only about 10 years later (refer Gen 47:9) that
        Jacob and descendants entered Egypt. ]

As previously mentioned, in Hebrew, any male ancestor can be called ones

In respect to the death of Esau's father mentioned in Gen 27:41 it is not
clear from Scripture exactly which ancestor of Esau died at this time.
The immediate ancestors, such as Abraham (who died when Jacob was 15) and
Terah (who died 25 years before Jacob was born) are not options, so more
distant ancestors have to be considered.

A biblically important ancestor who did die about this time is;

*** SHEM ***

Shem died 500 years after fathering his son Arphaxad shortly after the

     Gen   11:10   This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred
                   years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the
             :11   After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred
                   years, and begot sons and daughters.

Although not initially apparent the death of Shem is the event which caused
Isaac to pass on the birthright promises. It must have seemed to many living
at that time that Shem was never going to die, as Shem had outlived many of
his descendants. Hence, Shem finally dying would have been an event which
would have caused many to consider their own mortality. The passing on of
the birthright promises angers Esau and leads to Jacob having to depart for
Padan Aram.

However, identifying the 'father' as Shem requires Jacob to be younger at
this point in time than the standard view would suggest.

Another verse which suggests Jacob was younger than commonly thought when
he left for Padan Aram is Gen 28:9. This verse indicates that at the time
Ishmael was still alive.
Ishmael lived to be 137 years old, Gen 25:17. Most chronologies have Jacob
being about 91 years when Joseph was born and therefore about 84 years
when he first departed for Padan Aram. Ishmael was born when Abraham was
86 yrs (Gen 16:17). Isaac 14 yrs later (Gen 17:17). Jacob a further 60 yrs
later (Gen 25:26). 137 yrs - 14 yrs - 60 yrs = 63 yrs. For Ishmael to still
be alive when Jacob departed for Padan Aram, Jacob would not have been 84
yrs old, but rather about 20 years younger!

There is an area of ambiguity in the Hebrew which would make Jacob younger
upon the death of this 'father' and also result in a more youthful Jacob
fathering Joseph.

The ambiguity can be found in the following section of Scripture;

     Gen   41:46   Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before
                   Pharaoh king of Egypt.

In Hebrew a persons age is expressed in a number of ways. A common
expression is used in this case, ie 'a son of thirty years'. The word
'son' in Hebrew is actually the Strong's Ref 1121, meaning 'build'.
The word in this context places emphasis upon a son's role as builder
of the family name.

Although it is common to view this term in respect to the building of
one's father's family it is also commonly used in respect to a person's
role in building one's wider family. A clear example of this is encountered
in 1 Samuel 13:1 talking about King Saul. A literal translation reads as

     1Sam  13:1    A son of a year Saul when he became king ....

The text makes it clear Saul was not one year old, yet on the surface
this verse appears to be stating he was. This verse is actually stating
that Saul was crowned king in the first year since being called by God.
Saul became king in the same year he was anointed by God as commander
over God's inheritance (1 Sam 10:1).

Another verse which shows that the translation 'son' is not always
accurate is Gen 37:3.

     Gen   37:3    Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children,
                   because he was the son of his old age. ...

This rendering implies Joseph was born many years after his older
brothers. Yet the bible indicates that the only son born later
in Jacob's life was Benjamin. All the other brothers, including
Joseph, were all born within the 7 years after Jacob married.
Joseph was only slightly younger than his older brothers!

The context of this verse is that Joseph is seventeen and had just
brought a bad report to Jacob concerning some of his brothers
(apparently something concerning how they were dealing with Jacob's
This action showed Jacob that Joseph had his father's best interests
at heart. Showed Jacob that Joseph would act to build the family.

Prior to this event Reuben had lost the firstborn right having slept
with Bilhah, Gen 35:22. Jacob decided to transfer the rights of the
firstborn to Rachel's first son, Joseph. In Jacob's old age Joseph
became the firstborn and therefore the 'builder' of the family.

The verse should have been rendered;

     Gen   37:3    Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children,
                   because he was the builder of his old age. ...

So returning to Gen 41:46 we have the question of
whether it had been 30 years since Joseph was born
or was it 30 years since Joseph was called by God.
Joseph was 17 years old when his dreams started
(Gen 37:2), therefore if it had been 30 years since
his calling he would have been 47 years old when he
was called to Pharaoh's presence.

 [ NB: There is one line of reasoning which argues against Joseph
       being about 47 years old at this time.
       When Joseph had interpreted the dreams of the butler and
       the baker he is described as 'young' i.e. a 'lad'. This
       would indicate Joseph was 30 years old or younger at that
       time. Yet we have Gen 41:1 apparently stating only two
       full years passed after this, before Joseph was called
       to interpret Pharaoh's dreams.
       So what is the solution? There is some indication that
       the 'two full years' translation of Gen 41:1 is the issue.
       Not that the  Hebrew is mistranslated. Just that Gen 41:1
       is not referring to the passing of two years, but rather
       is actually an indirect reference to a significant
       re-occurring event. The Hewbrew , ie 'two-years' is
       found in ten other verses (including Gen 11:10, the year
       Arphaxad is born) and may be of valuable assistance in
       compiling the overall chronology of Scripture. ]

The proposed new arrangement means Joseph's age would have been 17
years older than the standard view would indicate.

- Revised View -

    The age of Jacob when he meets Pharaoh                         130

    Less  Age of Joseph when he explains Pharaoh's dream     47
          Years of famine before Jacob enters Egypt           2
          Years of plenty before Jacob enters Egypt           7     56

    Age of Jacob when Joseph is born                            **  74  **

    Less  The 14 years since Jacob fled from Esau                   14
    Age of Jacob when he departed for Padan Aram                    60

to Exodus

to the
Calling of
The Death

The 400 years
& 430 years
Overview of

C h r o n o l o g y   O u t l i n e


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