The Family Of Moses

Q. My daughter sent the following in an email, and I’m not comfortable with my proposed answer. Help!

“I’m a little stumped about Numbers 26:59—“and the name of Amran’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt,”—

Is this literally saying that Jochebed was Levi’s real daughter? Because that would put Jochebed, Amran and Moses, Aaron and Miriam about 400 years before we see them in Exodus, or more literally, right at the time of Joseph. In other words this wording makes it seem like Moses is the grandson of Levi.”

Thank you for your explanations for the Church everywhere.

A. The ancient Hebrew language didn’t have words to identify any thing beyond one generation in either direction. The word father was used to describe all ancestors (our father Abraham) and the words son, daughter, child, or children were used to describe all descendants is in “the Children of Israel.” By the context of the passage you know whether the wording is literal or symbolic.

Comparing Numbers 26 with Numbers 3:17-20 we see that Moses could not have been Levi’s literal grandson because there were at least three generations separating them. Levi, Kohath, and Amram are named in his ancestry, and there might have been others. Therefore Numbers 26:59 should read “Jochebed, the descendant of Levi born to the Levites in Egypt.” It’s explaining that both Amram and Jochebed were descended from Levi, making Moses a full blooded Levite.

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