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Verses 10-26

- Section IX - The Line to Abram

- XXXV. The Line of Abram

18. רעוּ re‛û, Re‘u, “friend;” verb: “feed, delight in, enjoy.”

20. שׂרוּג śerûg, Serug, “vine-shoot.”

22. נחור nāchôr, Nachor, “snorting.”

24. תרה terach, Terach, “delay?” Aramaic.

26. אברם 'abrām, Abram, “high father.” הרן hārān Haran, “mountaineer.”

The usual phrase, “These are the generations,” marks the beginning of the fifth document. Accordingly, we now enter upon a new phase of human development. The nations have gradually departed from the living God. They have not, however, stopped at this negative stage of ungodliness. They have fallen into polytheism and idolatry. And the knowledge of the one true God, the Maker, Possessor, and Upholder of heaven and earth, is on the verge of being entirely lost. Nevertheless the promises, first to the race of Adam, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, and next to the family of Noah, that the Lord should be the God of Shem, were still in force. It is obvious, from the latter promise, that the seed of the woman is to be expected in the line of Shem.

The present passage contains the pedigree of Abram from Shem. From this it appears that the sacred writer here reverts to the second year after the flood - a point of time long before the close of the preceding narrative. “Shem was the son of a hundred years,” or in his hundredth year, two years after the flood, and therefore in the six hundred and third year of Noah, and consequently three years after Japheth. Abram was the twentieth, inclusive, from Adam, the tenth from Shem, and the seventh from Heber. A second Kenan is inserted after Arpakshad in the Septuagint, and in the Gospel according to Luke. But this name does not occur even in the Septuagint in 1 Chronicles 1:24, where the genealogy of Abram is given. It is not found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Targums, or the ancient versions. It does not appear in Josephus or Philo. Neither is it found in the Codex Bezae in the Gospel of Luke. It must therefore be regarded as an interpolation.

The following table is a continuation of that given at the fifth chapter, and will serve for the comparison of the different forms in which the numbers are presented:

Line of Abram
Hebrew Sam. Pent. Septuagint Josephus Date
Son's Birth OwnDeath Son's Birth OwnDeath Son's Birth OwnDeath Son's Birth OwnDeath OfBirth OfDeath
11. Shem (97) 2 600 (97) 2 600 (97) 2 600 (97) 12 1559 2150
12. Arpakshad (Καινᾶν) 35 438 135 438 135 535 135 1658 2096
13. Shelah 30 433 130 433 130 460 130 1693 2126
14. Heber 34 464 134 404 134 404 134 1723 2187
15. Peleg 30 239 130 239 130 339 130 1757 1996
16. Reu 32 239 132 239 132 339 130 1787 2096
17. Serug 30 230 130 230 130 330 132 1819 2049
18. Nahor 29 148 79 148 175 304 120 1849 1997
19. Terah (Haran) 70 60 205 70 60 145 70 60 205 70 292 205 1878 2083
20. Abram cd. Enters Ken. 70 75 70 75 70 75 130 75 2008 2078
Sum 422 1072 1302 422
D. of Flood 1656 1307 2262 2256
D. of Call 2078 2379 3564 2678

From this table it appears that in the total years of life the Hebrew, Samaritan, and Septuagint agree on Shem; the Hebrew and Septuagint on Terah; the Samaritan and Septuagint on Heber; and the Hebrew and Samaritan on all the rest. In regard, however, to the years of paternity, the Hebrew stands alone, against the Samaritan and Septuagint agreeing, except in Terah, where they all agree. The difference is not in units or tens, but in the addition to the Hebrew numbers of a hundred years, except in the case of Nahor, where the addition is fifty years, or a hundred and fifty according to the Codex Vaticanus (B) of the Septuagint. Here, again, it is remarkable that Josephus while agreeing with the Samaritan and Septuagint in most of the separate numbers before paternity, agrees with the Hebrew in the sum of years from the flood to the 70th year of Terah (292 years, Josephus I. 6, 5). In Reu and Serug the numbers are transposed, seemingly by a mistake arising from the inverted order in which he gives the numbers.

In Nahor he, or his transcriber, seems to have added one hundred years according to the uniform law, and neglected the nine. To make up for this omission, the inexact round number 10 has been apparently added to the number of years after the flood, when Arpakshad was born. We have already noticed that some MSS. of Josephus gave 1656 as the sum-total of years from the creation to the flood, in which case the sums of Josephus and the Hebrew exactly agree. We find him also stating (viii. 3, 1) that the world was created 3102 years before Solomon began to build the temple, and that the deluge took place 1440 before the same point of time. Hence, we obtain 1662 years between the creation and the deluge; and this, if we only deduct from it the six years added to Lamek, agrees with the Hebrew. In the same passage he states that the entrance of Abram into Kenaan was 1020 years before the building of the temple.

Hence, we infer that 420 years elapsed from the flood to the call of Abram, which, if we count from the birth of Arpakshad, allow sixty years to elapse between the births of Haran and Abram, and date the call of Abram at 70, will exactly tally with the Hebrew. These sums cannot in any probable way be reconciled with the details in his own text, or in the Septuagint, or Samaritan. Again, Josephus calculates (x. 8, 5) that the temple was burnt 3513 years from the creation, and 1957 from the flood. Hence, the interval from the creation to the deluge would be 1556 years, differing from the Hebrew by 100 years, and reconcilable with it, if we suppose the 500th year of Noah to be the terminating date. He also concludes that the burning of the temple took place 1062 years after the exodus, thus making the interval from the flood to the exodus 895 years, while the Hebrew makes it 852. If we reckon the 100 years from the 500th year of Noah to the flood, the 292 which Josephus gives from the flood to the birth of Abraham, the 75 years to the call of Abraham, and the 430 from that to the exodus, we have 897 years, which will be reduced to Josephus’s number by omitting the 2 years from the flood to the birth of Arpakshad; and to the Hebrew number by omitting the 100 years before the flood, adding the 60 between Haran and Abram, which Josephus here neglects, and dating the call of Abram at 70 years. But by no process that we are aware of can these calculated numbers of Josephus be reconciled with the details of his own text, or the Samaritan, or Septuagint. It seems perfectly clear that the Hebrew numbers lie at the basis of these calculations of our author.

The age of paternity in the Samaritan from Peleg down is beyond the middle age of life, which is contrary to all experience. The editor of the Septuagint seems to have observed this anomaly, and added 100 years to three of these lives, and 156 to that of Nahor, against the joint testimony of the Hebrew and Samaritan. If the year of paternity in the Vatican be the correct reading, a much greater number should have been here added. The Samaritan deducts 60 years from the age of Terah, against the joint testimony of the Hebrew, Samaritan, and Josephus, seemingly because the editor conceived that Abram was born in his seventieth year.

From the Targum of Onkelos and the Peshito it is evident that the Hebrew text was the same as now up to the Christian era. Before that time there was no conceivable reason for shortening the chronology, while national vanity and emulation might easily prompt men to lengthen it. It is acknowledged that the text of the Septuagint is inferior to that of the Hebrew.

The age of puberty in the Hebrew affords more scope for the increase of population than that in the other texts. For if a man begin to have a family at thirty, it is likely to be larger than if he began a hundred years later and only lived the same number of years altogether. Now the Hebrew and Samaritan agree generally, against the Septuagint, in the total years of life; and in two instances, Heber and Terah, the Samaritan has even a less number than the Hebrew. It is to be remembered, also, that the number of generations is the same in every case. Hence, in all human probability the Hebrew age of paternity will give the greater number of inhabitants to the world in the age of Abram. If we take the moderate average of five pairs for each family, we shall have for the estimated population 4 X 5(to the 9th power) pairs, or 15,625,000 souls. This number is amply sufficient for all the kingdoms that were in existence in the time of Abram. If we defer the time of becoming a father for a whole century, we shall certainly diminish, rather than increase, the chance of his having so large a family, and thereby the probability of such a population on the earth in the tenth generation from Noah.

In these circumstances we are disposed to abide by the Hebrew text, that has descended to us in an original form, at least until we see some more cogent reasons for abandoning any of its numbers than chronologers have yet been able to produce. And we content ourselves, meanwhile, with the fact that the same system of numbers manifestly lay at the basis of all our present texts, though it may be difficult in some cases to determine to the satisfaction of all what was the original figure. The determination of the chronology of ancient history is neither a question of vital importance, nor, to us now, a part of the primary or direct design of the Hebrew records.

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