travelling between Mesopotamia and Bethel is, I would say, quite absurd
despite the authority of Ibn Ezra. He hurried as much as he could not only
because he must have been longing to see his parents who were very old,
but especially to ful¢l his vow (see Genesis
28.20 and 31.13).
But if these
points appear to be conjectures rather than sound reasons, let us grant
that Jacob spent eight or ten or, if you like,
even more years on this short
journey, which would make his fate worse than Ulysses’. Even so, they [such
commentators] could certainly not deny that Benjamin was born in the
¢nal year of this journey, i.e., on their hypothesis, when Joseph was ¢fteen
or sixteen or thereabouts. For Jacob left Laban in the seventh year after the
birth of Joseph and from the time when Joseph was seventeen to the year in
which the patriarch himself went down into Egypt, we cannot, as we have
shown in this very chapter, count more than twenty-two years. Therefore,
when Benjamin set out for Egypt he was at most twenty-three or twenty-
four years old, and at this young age it is clear that he must have had
grandsons (see Genesis
46.21, and compare itwith Numbers 26.38^40 and
1 Chronicles 8.1¡.).
This is assuredly no less contrary to reason than
[to insist] that Dinah was raped when she was seven years old or than the
other things we have deduced from the chronology of this story. Hence, it
is su⁄ciently evident that as these unscholarly commentators try to solve
these knotty problems, they merely create others and make it all still more
complicated and incoherent.
15 (p. 133) ‘starts to tell’
‘That is to say, in di¡erent terms and in a di¡erent order than they are
found in the book of Joshua.’
16 (p. 133) ‘Othniel son of Kenaz was judge’
Rabbi Levi ben Gerson
and others believe that these forty years
which Scripture says they spent in liberty begin with Joshua’s death and
‘And God had also reminded him to pay his vow’ (Genesis
31.3 and 13) and promised him his help
to bring him back to his country’.
‘For Bela, the ¢rst-born of Benjamin, had begotten two sons, Ard and Naaman’.
This Annotation exists in French only.
1288-c. 1344),(or Levi ben Gershom) whose acronym was Ralbag lived in Provence, in
southern France.Writing in Hebrew, he was an eminent mathematician, astronomer, Bible exegete
and philosophical commentator on Aristotle, Euclid and Averroes.
therefore include the eight previous years when the people was under the
sway of Cushan-rishathaim, while the following eighteen years should be
included in the total of
80 years in which Ehud and Shamgar were judges.
Similarly, they also believe that the other periods of slavery are always
included in those which Scripture a⁄rms they spent in freedom. But
Scripture states an explicit number for the
years when the Hebrews
languished in slavery and for the years when they were in liberty, and
2.18 expressly tells us that their a¡airs always £ourished while the
judges were alive. It is therefore quite clear that while attempting to
unravel such knots, the rabbi (who is otherwise a very learned man), and
those who follow in his footsteps, are just amending rather than
The same mistake is made by those who insist Scripture means to refer, in
its usual reckoning of years, solely to periods of settled government among
the Jews without including in the total the periods of anarchy
tude since they regarded these as unhappy, interregnal times.
does indeed pass over periods of anarchy in silence but nevertheless nar-
rates the years of slavery no less than the years of liberty, making no
attempt to erase these from their Annals, as such people imagine.
It is also perfectly obvious that in
1 Kings chapter
include in the total he gives for the number of years since the exodus from
Egypt every single year without exception,
and no scholar of the Bible
has ever doubted this. For leaving aside for a moment the exact wording of
the text, the genealogy of David, which is given at the end of the book of
Ruth and at
1 Chronicles 2, hardly allows for so large a number of years
480’ ( in the French)]. For in the secondyear after the exodus from
Egypt Nahshon was leader of the tribe of Judah (see Numbers
and therefore died in the desert
and his son Salmon crossed the Jordan
with Joshua. But according to this genealogy of David,
‘As they call them in their aversion to popular government’ [in French].
‘For to say that the Hebrews did not wish to note in their Annals the periods when their Common-
wealth £ourished, because these were times of misfortune and of interregnum, so to speak, or that
they erased from their Annals the years of servitude, if this is not an insult, it is a chimerical ¢ction
and an absolute absurdity’ [in French].
‘Who is the author of these books, as we have shown’ [in French].
‘Down to the fourth year of the reign of Solomon’ [in French].
‘With all those who had reached the age of twenty years and were capable of bearing arms’ [in
the total of
480 years we deduct
4 for the reign of Solomon, 70 for the life of David, and 40 spent in the
desert, it will be found that David was born
366 years after the passage of
the Jordan, and
therefore it is necessary that his father, grandfather,
great-grandfather, and great-great grandfather
, each one of them, begat
when ninety years old.
17 (p. 134) ‘Samson was judge’: Samson was born after the
Philistines had conquered the Hebrews.
18 (p. 136) ‘we too could’: Otherwise, one is revising the
words of Scripture rather than explaining them.
19 (p. 137) ‘Kirjat Jeharim’: Kirjat Jeharim is also called
Baale-judah, hence Kimchi
and others think that Baale-judah, which
I have here translated ‘from the
people of Judah’, was the name of the
town; but they are mistaken because baale is plural. Moreover, if this text
of Samuel is compared with the version in
1 Chronicles, we shall see that
David did not arise and leave Baal but went there. If the author of
2 Samuel intended to name the place from which David took the ark,
then to express that in Hebrew, he would have said: ‘and David arose,
and set out . . . from Baale-judah, and took the ark of God from there’.
‘Thus it is not necessary to claim that this Salmon was at least
91 years oldwhen he begat Boaz, and
that the latter was of a similar age when David was born. For on the assumption that year
Solomon’s reign is the one referred to in
1 Kings 6, the 480th year after the exodus from Egypt,
David by this count was born in the
366th year after the passage of the Jordan’ [in French].
‘supposing therefore that Salmon, the ancestor of David, was born during the actual passage of the
Jordan’ [in French].
‘Salmon, Boaz, Obed and Jesse’ [in French].
‘In succession in their extreme old age’ [in French].
‘And consequently that there could hardly be
480 years from the exodus from Egypt to year 4 of the
reign of Solomon, if Scripture had not explicitly said so’ [in French].
‘One may doubt whether these twenty years should belong to the years of liberty, or whether they
are included in the forty which immediately precede during which the people was under the yoke
of the Philistines. For myself, I confess that I think it is more likely and credible that the Hebrews
recovered their liberty when the princes of the Philistines perished with Samson. Thus I have
included only these twenty years of Samson among those during which the yoke of the Philistines
lasted, because Samson was born while the Philistines held the Hebrews in subjection, apart from
the fact that in the treatise on the Sabbath, mention is made of a certain book of Jerusalem, where
it is said that Samson judged the people for forty years; but the question is not about those years
only’ [in French].
David Kimchi (c.
1160^1235) noted grammarian, lexicographer and biblical commentator.