Bibliotheca Sacra 47 (April, 1890) 285-303.

                                                  Public Domain.


1890.]                   Primeval Chronology.                         285



                                       ARTICLE VII.

                              PRIMEVAL CHRONOLOGY.





     THE question of the possible reconciliation of the results

of scientific inquiry respecting the antiquity of man and

the age of the world with the Scripture chronology has

been long and earnestly debated.  On the one hand, sci-

entists, deeming them irreconcilable, have been led to

distrust the divine authority of the Scriptures; and, on

the other hand, believers in the divine word have been

led to look upon the investigations of science with an un-

friendly eye, as though they were antagonistic to religious

faith.  In my reply to Bishop Colenso in 1863, I had occa-

sion to examine the method and structure of the biblical

genealogies, and incidentally ventured the remark1 that

herein lay the solution of the whole matter.  I said:

"There is an element of uncertainty in a computation of

time which rests upon genealogies, as the sacred chronol-

ogy so largely does.  Who is to certify us that the ante-

diluvian and ante-Abrahamic genealogies have not been

condensed in the same manner as the post-Abrahamic?

. . . . Our current chronology is based upon the prima

facie impression of these genealogies.  But if these

recently discovered indications of the antiquity of man,

over which scientific circles are now so excited, shall,

when carefully inspected and thoroughly weighed, demon-

strate all that any have imagined they might demonstrate,

what then?  They will simply show that the popular


     1 The Pentateuch Vindicated from the Aspersions of Bishop Colenso, p.

128 footnote.

April]                    Primeval Chronology.                         286


chronology is based upon a wrong interpretation, and that,

a select and partial register of ante-Abrahamic names has

been mistaken for a complete one." 

     I here repeat, the discussion of the biblical genealogies

above referred to,  and add some further considerations

which seem to me to justify the belief that the genealogies

in Genesis 5 and 11 were not intended to be used, and

cannot properly be used, for the construction of a


     It can scarcely be necessary to adduce proof to one who

has even a superficial acquaintance with the genealogies of

the Bible, that these are frequently abbreviated by the

omission of unimportant names.  In fact, abridgment is the

general rule, induced by the indisposition of the sacred writers

to encumber their pages with more names than were necessary

for their immediate purpose.  This is so constantly the case,

and the reason for it so obvious, that the occurrence of it need

create no surprise anywhere, and we are at liberty to suppose

it whenever anything in the circumstances of the case favors

that belief.

     The omissions in the genealogy of our Lord as given in

Matthew 1 are familiar to all.  Thus in verse 8 three names are

dropped between Joram and Ozias (Uzziah), viz., Ahaziah

(2 Kings 8:25), Joash (2 Kings 12:1), and Amaziah (2 Kings

14:1); and in verse 11 Jehoiakim is omitted after Josiah

(2 Kings 23:34; 1 Chron. 3:16); and in verse 1 the entire

genealogy is summed up in two steps, "Jesus Christ, the son of

David, the son of Abraham." 

     Other instances abound elsewhere; we mention only a few of

the most striking.  In 1 Chronicles 26:24 we read in a list of

appointments made by King David (see 1 Chron. 24:3; 25:1;

26:26), that Shebuel,1 the son of Gershom, the son of Moses,

was ruler of the treasures; and again in 1 Chronicles 23:15, 16,

we find it written, "The sons of Moses were Gershom and

Eliezer.  Of the sons of Gershom, Shebuel was the chief."  Now

it is absurd to suppose that the author of Chronicles was so

grossly ignorant as to suppose that the grandson of Moses could


     1 He is called in 1 Cron. 24:20 a son of Amram, the ancestor of Moses; for Shubael and

Shebuel are in all probability mere orthographic variations of the same name.

1890.]                   Primeval Chronology.                         287


be living in the reign of David, and appointed by him to a

responsible office.  Again, in the same connection (1 Chron.

26:31), we read that "among the Hebronites was Jerijah the

chief;" and this Jerijah, or Jeriah (for the names are identical),

was, according to 23:19, the first of the sons of Hebron, and

Hebron was (v. 12) the son of Kohath, the son of Levi (v. 6). 

So that if no contraction in the genealogical lists is allowed,

we have the great-grandson of Levi holding a prominent office

in the reign of David. 

      The genealogy of Ezra is recorded in the book which bears

his name; but we learn from another passage, in which the same

line of descent is given, that it has been abridged by the omission

of six consecutive names.  This will appear from the following

comparison, viz.: 


          1 Chronicles 6:3-14                   Ezra 7:1-5

          1.       Aaron                             Aaron

          2.       Eleazar                            Eleazar

          3.       Phinehas                         Phinehas

          4.       Abishua                          Abishua

          5.       Bukki                              Bukki

          6.       Uzzi                                Uzzi

          7.       Zerahiah                          Zerahiah

          8.       Meraioth                         Meraioth

          9.       Amariah

          10.     Ahitub

          11.     Zadok

          12.     Ahimaaz

          13.     Azariah

          14.     Johanan

          15.     Azariah                           Azariah

          16.     Amariah                          Amariah

          17.     Ahitub                            Ahitub

          18.     Zadok                                      Zadok

          19.     Shallum                           Shallum

          20.     Hilkiah                            Hilkiah

          21.     Azariah                           Azariah

          22.     Seraiah                            Seraiah


288                       Primeval Chronology.                         [April,


Still further, Ezra relates (viii. 1, 2): --

"These are now the chief of their fathers, and this is

the genealogy of them that went up with me from Baby-

lon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king.  Of the sons of

Phinehas, Gershom. Of the sons of Ithamar, Daniel.  Of

the sons of David, Hattush."

     Here, if no abridgment of the genealogy is allowed,

we should have a great-grandson and a grandson of Aaron,

and a son of David coming up with Ezra from Babylon

after the captivity.

     This disposition to abbreviate genealogies by the omis-

sion of whatever is unessential to the immediate purpose

of the writer is shown by still more remarkable reduc-

tions than those which we have been considering.  Per-

sons of different degrees of relationship are sometimes

thrown together under a common title descriptive of the

majority, and all words of explanation, even those which

seem essential to the sense, are rigorously excluded, the

supplying of these chasms being left to the independent

knowledge of the reader. Hence several passages in the

genealogies of Chronicles have now become hopelessly

obscure.  They may have been intelligible enough to con-

temporaries; but for those who have no extraneous sources

of information, the key to their explanation is wanting.

In other cases we are able to understand them, because

the information necessary to make them intelligible is

supplied from parallel passages of Scripture.  Thus the

opening verses of Chronicles contain the following bald

list of names without a word of explanation, viz.: Adam,

Seth, Enosh; Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared; Enoch, Methu-

selah, Lamech; Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

We are not told who these persons are, how they were

related to each other, or whether they were related.  The

writer presumes that his readers have the book of Gene-

sis in their hands, and that the simple mention of these

names in their order will be sufficient to remind them

that the first ten trace the line of descent from father to

1890.]                   Primeval Chronology.                         289


son from the first to the second great progenitor of man-

kind; and that the last three are brothers, although noth-

ing is said to indicate that their relationship is different

from the preceding.

     Again the family of Eliphaz, the son of Esau, is spoken

of in the following terms in 1 Chron. i. 36: "The sons of

Eliphaz: Teman and Omar, Zephi and Gatam, Kenaz and

Timna, and Amalek."

     Now, by turning to Genesis xxxvi. 11, 12, we shall see

that the first five are sons of Eliphaz, and the sixth his

concubine, who was the mother of the seventh. This is

so plainly written in Genesis that the author of the Chron-

icles, were he the most inveterate blunderer, could not

have mistaken it. But trusting to the knowledge of his

readers to supply the omission, he leaves out the state-

ment respecting Eliphaz's concubine, but at the same time

connects her name and that of her son with the family to

which they belong, and this though he was professedly

giving a statement of the sons of Eliphaz.

     So, likewise, in the pedigree of Samuel (or Shemuel,

ver. 33, the difference in orthography is due to our trans-

lators, and is not in the original), which is given in 1

Chron. vi. in both an ascending and descending series.

Thus in verses 22-24: "The sons of Kohath; Amminadab

his son, Korah his son, Assir his son; Elkanah his son,

and Ebiasaph his son, and Assir his son; Tahath his

son," etc.

     The extent to which the framer of this list has studied

comprehensiveness and conciseness will appear from the

fact, which no one would suspect unless informed from

other source, that while the general law which prevails

in it is that of descent from father to son, the third, fourth,

and fifth names represent brothers.  This is shown by a

comparison of Ex. vi. 24, and the parallel genealogy, 1

Chron. vi. 36, 37, 50 that the true line of descent is the

following, viz.: --

VOL: XLVII. NO. 186.                          8

290              Primeval Chronology.                         [April,


In ver. 22-24-Kohath                 In ver. 37-38-Kohath

 Amminadab                               Izbar

 Korah                                        Korah

 Assir, Elkanah, Ebiasaph            Ebiasaph

 Assir                                         Assir

 Tahath, etc.                               Tahath, etc.


     The circumstance that the son of Kohath is called in

one list Amminadab, and in the other Izhar, is no real dis-

crepancy and can create no embarrassment, since it is no

unusual thing for the same person to have two names.

Witness Abram and Abraham; Jacob and Israel; Joseph

and Zaphenath-paneah, Gen. xli. 45, Hoshea, Jehoshua,

Num. xiii. 16 (or Joshua) and Jeshua, Neh. viii. 17, Gideon

and Jerubbaal, Judg. vi. 32, Solomon and Jedidiah, 2 Sam.

xii. 24, 25, Azariah and Uzziah, 2 Kings xv. I, 13, Daniel

and Belteshazzar, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah and Shad-

rach, Meshach, Abednego, Dan. i. 7; Saul and Paul,

Thomas and Didymus, Cephas and Peter, and in profane

history Cyaxares and Darius, Octavianus and Augustus,

Napoleon and Bonaparte, Ferretti and Pius IX.

     The genealogy of Moses and Aaron is thus stated in the

sixth chapter of Exodus: --

     Ver. 16. "And these are the names of the sons of Levi,

according to their generations;  Gershon, and Kohath,

and Merari: and the years of the life of Levi were an

hundred and thirty and seven years."

     17. "The sons of Gershon . . . . ."

     18. "And the sons of Kohath; Amram, and Izhar, and

Hebron, and Uzziel; and the years of the life of Kohath

were an hundred and thirty and three years."

     19. "And the sons of Merari . . . . ."

     20. "And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sis-

ter to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the

years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty

and seven years."

      21. "And the sons of Izhar . . . ."

      22. "And the sons of Uzziel . . . ."

1890.]                   Primeval Chronology.                         291


     There is abundant proof that this genealogy has been

condensed, as we have already seen that so many others

have been, by the dropping of some of the less important


     This is afforded, in the first place, by parallel genealo-

gies of the same period; as that of Bezaleel (I Chron. ii.

18-20), which records seven generations from Jacob; and

that of Joshua (I Chron. vii. 23-27), which records eleven.

Now it is scarcely conceivable that there should be

eleven links in the line of descent from Jacob to Joshua,

and only four from Jacob to Moses.

     A still more convincing proof is yielded by Num. iii.

19, 27, 28, from which it appears that the four sons of Ko-

hath severally gave rise to the families of the Amramites,

the Izharites, the Hebronites, and the Uzzielites; and

that the number of the male members of these families of a

month old and upward was 8,600 one year after the Ex-

odus.  So that, if no abridgment has taken place in the

genealogy, the grandfather of Moses had, in the lifetime

of the latter, 8,600 descendants of the male sex alone,

2,750 of them being between the ages of thirty and fifty

(Num. iv. 36).

      Another proof equally convincing is to be found in the

fact that Levi's son Kohath was born before the descent

into Egypt (Gen. xlvi. 11); and the abode of the children

of Israel in Egypt continued 430 years (Ex. xii. 40, 41).

Now as Moses was eighty years old at the Exodus (Ex.

vii. 7) he must have been born more, than 350 years after

Kohath, who consequently could not have been his own


     This genealogy, whose abbreviated character is so clear-

ly established, is of special importance for the immediate

purpose of this paper, because it might appear, at first

sight, as though such an assumption was precluded in the

present instance, and as though the letter of Scripture

shut us up to the inevitable conclusion that there were

292              Primeval Chronology                          [April,


four links, and no more, from Jacob to Moses. The

names which are found without deviation in all the gene-

alogies are Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses (Ex. vi.

16-20; Num. iii. 17-19; xxvi. 57-59; I Chron. vi. 1-3,

16-18; xxiii. 6, 12, 13).  Now unquestionably Levi was

Jacob's own son.  So likewise Kohath was the son of

Levi (Gen. xlvi. 11) and born before the descent into

Egypt.  Amram also was the immediate descendant of

Kohath.  It does not seem possible, as Kurtz proposed,

to insert the missing links between them.  For, in the

first place, according to Num. xxvi. 59, "The name of

Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, whom

her mother bare to Levi in Egypt," this Jochebed being

(Ex. vi. 20) Amram's aunt, or his father's sister.  Now,

it is true, that" a daughter of Levi " might have the gen-

eral sense of a descendant of Levi, as the woman healed

by our Lord (Luke xiii. 16) is called "a daughter of

Abraham;" and her being born to Levi might simply

mean that she sprang from him (comp. Gen. xlvi. 25).

But these expressions must here be taken in a strict

sense, and Jochebed accordingly must have been Levi's

own daughter and the sister of Kohath, who must in con-

sequence have been Amram's own father.  This appears

from a second consideration, viz., that Amram was (Num.

iii. 27) the father of one of the subdivisions of the Ko-

hathites, these subdivisions springing from Kohath's own

children and comprising together 8,600 male descendants.

Moses' father surely could not have been the ancestor of

one-fourth of this number in Moses' own days.

     To avoid this difficulty Tiele and Keil assume that there

were two Amrams, one the son of Kohath, another the

father of Moses, who was a more remote descendant but

bore the same name with his ancestor.  This relieves the

embarrassment created by the Amramites (Num. iii. 27)

but is still liable to that which arises from making Joche-

bed the mother of Moses.  And further, the structure of

1890.]                   Primeval Chronology.                         293


the genealogy in Ex. vi. is such as to make this hypothe-

sis unnatural and improbable.  Verse 16 names the three

sons of Levi, Gershom, Kohath, and Merari; ver. 17-19,

the sons of each in their order; ver. 20-22, the children

of Kohath's sons; ver. 23, 24, contain descendants of the

next generation, and ver. 25 the generation next follow-

ing.  Now, according to the view of Tiele and Keil, we

must either suppose that the Amram, Izhar, and Uzziel

of ver. 20-22 are all different from the Amram, Izhar, and

Uzziel of ver. 18, or else that Amram, though belonging

to a later generation than Izhar and Uzziel, is introduced

before them, which the regular structure of the genealogy

forbids; and besides, the sons of Izhar and the sons of

Uzziel, who are here named, were the contemporaries of

Moses and Aaron the sons of Amram (Num. xvi. 1;

Lev. x. 4).

     This subject may be relieved from all perplexity, how-

ever, by observing that Amram and Jochebed were not

the immediate parents, but the ancestors of Aaron and

Moses.  How many generations may have intervened,

we cannot tell.  It is indeed said (Ex. vi. 20; Num. xxvi.

59), that Jochebed bare them to Amram.  But in the

language of the genealogies this simply means that they

were descended from her and from Amram.  Thus, in Gen.

xlvi. 18, after recording the sons of Zilpah, her grandsons,

and her great-grandsons, the writer adds, "These are the

sons of Zilpah and these she bare unto Jacob,

even sixteen souls."  The same thing recurs in the case

of Bilhah (ver. 25): "She bare these unto Jacob; all the

souls were seven." (Comp. also ver. 15, 22.)  No one

can pretend here that the author of this register did not

use the terms understandingly of descendants beyond the

first generation.  In like manner, according to Matt. i.

11, Josias begat his grandson Jechonias, and ver. 8, Jo-

ram begat his great-great-grandson Ozias.  And in Gen.

x. 15-18 Canaan, the grandson of Noah, is said to have

294              Primeval Chronology                          [April,


begotten several whole nations, the Jebusite, the Amor-

ite, the Girgasite, the Hivite, etc.  (Comp. also Gen.

xxv. 23; Deut. iv. 25; 2 Kings xx. 18; Isa, li, 2.)

Nothing can be plainer, therefore, than that, in the usage

of the Bible, "to bear" and "to beget" are used in a

wide sense to indicate descent, without restriction to the

immediate offspring.l

     It is no serious objection to this view of the case that

in Lev. x.4 Uzziel, Amram's brother, is called "the uncle

of Aaron."  The Hebrew word here rendered "uncle," though

often specifically applied to a definite degree of relation-

ship, has, both from etymology and usage, a much wider

sense.  A great-great-grand-uncle is still an uncle, and

would properly be described by the term here used.

It may also be observed that in the actual history of the

birth of Moses his parents are not called Amram and

Jochebed.  It is simply said (Ex. ii. I), "and there went

a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter

of Levi."

     After these preliminary observations, which were origi-

nally drawn up for another purpose, I come to the more

immediate design of the present paper, by proceeding to

inquire, whether the genealogies of Gen. v. and xi. are

necessarily to be considered as complete, and embracing

all the links in the line of descent from Adam to Noah

and from Shem to Abraham. And upon this I remark --

     1.  That the analogy of Scripture genealogies is decid-

edly against such a supposition.  In numerous other in-

stances there is incontrovertible evidence of more or less

abridgment.  This may even be the case where various


1 In Ruth iv, 17 Ruth's child is called "a son born to Naomi," who was

Ruth's mother-in-law and not even an ancestor of the child in the strict sense.

Zerubbahel is called familiarly the son of Shealtiel (Ezr, iii 2; Hag.i. 1),

and is so stated to be in the genealogies of both Matt. i. 12 and Luke iii.

27, though in reality he was his nephew (1 Chron. iii. 17-19).  That descent

as reckoned in genealogies is not always that of actual parentage appears

from the comparison of the ancestry of our Lord as given by Matthew and

by Luke.

1890.]                   Primeval Chronology.                         295


circumstances combine to produce a different impression

at the outset.  Nevertheless, we have seen that this first

impression, may be dissipated by a more careful examina-

tion and a comparison of collateral data.  The result of

our investigations thus far is sufficient to show that it is

precarious to assume that any biblical genealogy is de-

signed to be strictly continuous, unless it can be subjected

to some external tests which prove it to be so.  And it is

to be observed that the Scriptures furnish no collateral

information whatever respecting the period covered by

the genealogies now in question.  The creation, the

Flood, the call of Abraham, are great facts, which stand

out distinctly in primeval sacred history.  A few incidents

respecting our first parents and their sons Cain and Abel

are recorded.  Then there is an almost total blank until

the Flood, with nothing whatever to fill the gap, and

nothing to suggest the length of time intervening but what

is found in the genealogy stretching between these two

points.  And the case is substantially the same from the

Flood to Abraham.  So far as the biblical records go, we

are left not only without adequate data, but without any

data whatever, which can be brought into comparison

with these genealogies for the sake of testing their con-

tinuity and completeness.

      If, therefore, any really trustworthy data can be gath-

ered from any source whatever, from any realm of scien-

tific or antiquarian research, which can be brought into

comparison with these genealogies for the sake of deter-

mining the question, whether they have noted every link

in the chain of descent, or whether, as in other manifest

instances, links have been omitted, such data should be

welcomed and the comparison fearlessly made.  Science

would simply perform the office, in this instance, which

information gathered from other parts of Scripture is un-

hesitatingly allowed to do in regard to those genealogies

previously examined.

296                       Primeval Chronology.                         [April,


     And it may be worth noting here that a single particu-

lar in which a comparison may be instituted between the

primeval history of man and Gen. v., suggests especial

caution before affirming the absolute completeness of the

latter.  The letter of the genealogical record (v. 3) if we

were dependent on it alone, might naturally lead us to

infer that Seth was Adam's first child.  But we know

from chapter iv. that he had already had two sons, Cain

and Abel, and from iv. 17 that he must have had a daugh-

ter, and from iv. 14 that he had probably had several sons

and daughters, whose families had swollen to a considera-

ble number before Adam's one hundred and thirtieth

year, in which Seth was born.  Yet of all this the geneal-

ogy gives us no inkling.

     2.  Is there not, however, a peculiarity in the construc-

tion of these genealogies which forbids our applying to

them an inference drawn from others not so constructed?

The fact that each member of the series is said to have

begotten the one next succeeding, is, in the light of the

wide use of this term which we have discovered in other

cases, no evidence of itself that links have not been omit-

ted.  But do not the chronological statements introduced

into these genealogies oblige us to regard them as neces-

sarily continuous?  Why should the author be so partic-

ular to state, in every case, with unfailing regularity, the

age of each patriarch at the birth of his son, unless it

was his design thus to construct a chronology of this

entire period, and to afford his readers the necessary ele-

ments for a computation of the interval from the creation

to the deluge and from the deluge to Abraham?  And if

this was his design, he must of course have aimed to make

his list complete.  The omission of even a single name

would create an error.

     But are we really justified in supposing that the author

of these genealogies entertained such a purpose?  It is a

noticeable fact that he never puts them to such a use him-

1890.]                   Primeval Chronology.                         297


self.  He nowhere sums these numbers, nor suggests

their summation.  No chronological statement is deduced

from these genealogies, either by him or by any inspired

writer.  There is no computation anywhere in Scripture

of the time that elapsed from the creation or from the

deluge, as there is from the descent into Egypt to the

Exodus (Ex. xii. 40), or from the Exodus to the building

of the temple (I Kings vi. 1).  And if the numbers in these

genealogies are for the sake of constructing a chronology,

why are numbers introduced which have no possible rela-

tion to such a purpose?  Why are we told how long each

patriarch lived after the birth of his son, and what was

the entire length of his life?  These numbers are given

with the same regularity as the age of each at the birth

of his son; and they are of no use in making up a

chronology of the period.  They merely afford us a con-

spectus of individual lives.  And for this reason doubtless

they are recorded.  They exhibit in these selected exam-

ples the original term of human life.  They show what it

was in the ages before the Flood.  They show how it was

afterwards individually narrowed down.  But in order to

this it was not necessary that every individual should be

named in the line from Adam to Noah and from Noah to

Abraham, nor anything approaching it.  A series of spec-

imen lives, with the appropriate numbers attached, was

all that was required.  And, so far as appears, this is all

that has been furnished us.  And if this be the case, the

notion of basing a chronological computation upon these

genealogies is a fundamental mistake.  It is putting them

to a purpose that they were not designed to subserve, and

to which from the method of their construction they are

not adapted.  When it is said, for example, that "Enosh

lived ninety years and begat Kenan," the well-established

usage of the word “begat” makes this statement equally

true and equally accordant with analogy, whether Kenan

was an immediate or a remote descendant of Enosh; wheth-

298              Primeval Chronology.                         [April,


er Kenan was himself born, when Enosh was ninety years

of age or one was born from whom Kenan sprang.  These

genealogies may yield us the minimum length of time

that it is possible to accept for the period that they cover;

but they can make no account of the duration represented

by the names that have been dropped from the register,

as needless for the author's particular purpose.

    3.  The abode of the children of Israel in Egypt affords

for our present purpose the best Scripture parallel to the

periods now under consideration.  The greater part of

this term of 430 years is left blank in the sacred history.

A few incidents are mentioned at the beginning connected

with the descent of Jacob and his family into Egypt and

their settlement there.  And at its close mention is made

of some incidents in the life of Moses and the events lead-

ing to the Exodus.  But with these exceptions no account

is given of this long period.  The interval is only bridged

by a genealogy extending from Levi to Moses and Aaron

and their contemporaries among their immediate relatives

(Ex. vi. 16-26).  This genealogy records the length of

each man's life in the principal line of descent, viz., Levi

(ver. 16), Kohath (ver. 18), Amram (ver. 20).  The corre-

spondence in the points just indicated with the genealogies

of Gen. v. and xi., and the periods which they cover, is

certainly remarkable.  And as they proceeded from the

same pen, we may fairly infer from the similarity of con-

struction a similarity of design.  Now it has been shown

already that the genealogy from Levi to Moses cannot

have recorded all the links in that line of descent, and

that it could not, therefore, have been intended to be used

as a basis of chronological computation.  This is rendered

absolutely certain by the explicit statement in Ex. xii. 40.

It further appears from the fact that the numbers given

in this genealogy exhibit the longevity of the patriarchs

named, but cannot be so concatenated as to sum up the

entire period; thus suggesting the inference that the

1890.]                   Primeval Chronology.                         299


numbers in the other genealogies, with which we are now

concerned, were given with a like design, and not with

the view of enabling the reader to construct the chronology.

     4.  In so far as a valid argument can be drawn from

the civilization of Egypt, its monuments and records, to

show that the interval between the deluge and the call of

Abraham must have been greater than that yielded by

the genealogy in Gen. xi., the argument is equally valid

against the assumption that this genealogy was intended

to supply the elements for a chronological computation.

For altogether apart from his inspiration Moses could not

have made a mistake here.  He was brought up at the

court of Pharaoh, and was learned in all the wisdom of

the Egyptians, of which his legislation and the marvellous

table of the affinities of nations in Gen. x., at once the ad-

miration and the despair of ethnologists, furnish independ-

ent proof.  He lived in the glorious period of the great

Egyptian monarchy.  Its monuments were then in their

freshness and completeness.  None of the irreparable

damage, which time and ruthless barbarism have since

wrought, had been suffered then.  The fragmentary rec-

ords, which scholars are now laboriously struggling to

unravel and combine, with their numerous gaps and

hopeless obscurities, were then in their integrity and well

understood.  Egypt's claim to a hoary antiquity was far

better known to Moses, and he was in a position to gain a

far more intelligent comprehension of it than is possible

at present; for exuberant materials were ready at his

hand, of which only a scanty and disordered remnant now

survives.  If, then, Egyptian antiquity contradicts the

current chronology, it simply shows that this chronology

is based upon an unfounded assumption.  It rests upon a

fundamentally mistaken interpretation of the ante-Abra-

hamic genealogy, and assigns a meaning to it which Moses

could never have intended that it should have.

     As is well known, the texts of the Septuagint and of the

300              Primeval Chronology.                         [April,


Samaritan Pentateuch vary systematically from the He-

brew in both the genealogies of Gen. v. and xi.  According

to the chronologies based on these texts respectively,

the interval between the Flood and the birth of Abraham

was 292 (Hebrew), 942 (Samaritan), or 1172 years (Septua-

gint).  Some have been disposed in this state of the case

to adopt the chronology drawn from the Septuagint, as

affording here the needed relief.  But the superior accu-

racy of the Hebrew text in this instance, as well as gener-

ally elsewhere, can be incontrovertibly established.  This

resource, then, is a broken reed.  It might, however, be

plausibly imagined, and has in fact been maintained, that

these changes were made by the Septuagint translators

or others for the sake of accommodating the Mosaic narra-

tive to the imperative demands of the accepted Egyptian

antiquity.  But if this be so, it is only a further confirma-

tion of the argument already urged that the ante-Abra-

hamic genealogy cannot have been intended by Moses as

a basis of chronological computation.  He knew as much

of the age of Egypt as the Septuagint translators or any

in their day.  And if so brief a term as this genealogy

yields, was inadmissible in their judgment, and they felt

constrained to enlarge it by the addition of nearly nine

centuries is it not clear that Moses never could have in-

tended that the genealogy should be so interpreted?

     Furthermore, it seems to me worthy of consideration

whether the original intent with which these textual

changes were made, was after all a chronological one.

The principle by which they are obviously and uniformly

governed, is rather suggestive of a disposition to make

a more symmetrical division of individual lives than to

protract the entire period.  The effect of these changes

upon the chronology may have been altogether an after-


     Thus in the Hebrew text of Gen. v. the ages of differ-

ent patriarchs at the birth of the son named are quite ir-

1890.]                   Primeval Chronology.                         301


regular, and vary from sixty-five to one hundred and

eighty-seven.  But the versions seek to bring them into

closer conformity, and to introduce something like a reg-

ular gradation.  The Septuagint proceeds on the assump-

tion that patriarchs of such enormous longevity should be

nearly two centuries old at the birth of their son.  Ac-

cordingly, when, in the Hebrew, they fall much below

this standard, one hundred years are added to the num-

ber preceding the birth of the son and the same amount

deducted from the number following his birth; the total

length of each life is thus preserved without change, the

proportion of its different parts alone being altered.  The

Samaritan, on the other hand, assumes a gradual diminu-

tion in the ages of successive patriarchs prior to the birth

of their son, none rising to a century after the first two.

When, therefore, the number in the Hebrew text exceeds

one hundred, one hundred is deducted and the same

amount added to the years after the son was born.  In

the case of Lamech the reduction is greater still, in order

to effect the necessary diminution.  Accordingly the

years assigned to the several antediluvian patriarchs be-

fore the birth of their son in these several texts is as fol-

lows : --

Hebrew.       Septuagint.   Samaritan.

Adam             130                          230             230

Seth                105                          205             105

Enosh               90                          190               90

Kenan               70                          170               70

Mahalalel          65                          165               65

Jared               162                162               62

Enoch                65                165               65

    | 1671

Methuselah      187             | 187                67

Lamech            182               188                53

Noah                600                600             600


     A simple glance at these numbers is sufficient to show

that the Hebrew is the original, from which the others


       1 The number varies in different manuscripts.

302              Primeval Chronology.                         [April,


diverge on the one side or the other, according to the

principle which they have severally adopted.  It likewise

creates a strong presumption that the object contem-

plated in these changes was to make the lives more sym-

metrical, rather than to effect an alteration in the chronol-


     5. The structure of the genealogies in Gen. v. and xi.

also favors the belief that they do not register all the

names in these respective lines of descent.  Their regu-

larity seems to indicate intentional arrangement.  Each

genealogy includes ten names, Noah being the tenth from

Adam, and Terah the tenth from Noah.  And each ends

with a father having three sons, as is likewise the case

with the Cainite genealogy (iv. 17-22).  The Sethite gene-

alogy (chap. v.) culminates in its seventh member, Enoch,

who "walked with God, and he was not, for God took him."

The Cainite genealogy also culminates in its seventh

member, Lamech, with his polygamy, bloody revenge, and

boastful arrogance.  The genealogy descending from

Shem divides evenly at its fifth member, Peleg; and "in

his days was the earth divided."  Now as the adjustment

of the genealogy in Matt. i. into three periods of fourteen

generations each is brought about by dropping the requi-

site number of names, it seems in the highest degree prob-

able that the symmetry of these primitive genealogies is

artificial rather than natural.  It is much more likely that

this definite number of names fitting into a regular

scheme has been selected as sufficiently representing the

periods to which they belong, than that all these striking

numerical coincidences should have happened to occur in

these successive instances.

     It may further be added that if the genealogy in chap.

xi. is complete, Peleg, who marks the entrance of a new

period, died while all his ancestors from Noah onward

were still living.  Indeed Shem, Arphaxad, Selah, and

Eber must all have outlived not only Peleg, but all the

1890.]                   Primeval Chronology.                         303


generations following as far as and including Terah.  The

whole impression of the narrative in Abraham's days is

that the Flood was an event long since past, and that the

actors in it had passed away ages before.  And yet if a

chronology is to be constructed out of this genealogy,

Noah was for fifty-eight years the contemporary of Abra-

ham, and Shem actually survived him thirty-five years,

provided xi. 26 is to be taken in its natural sense, that

Abraham was born in Terah's seventieth year.  This con-

clusion is well-nigh incredible.  The calculation which

leads to such a result, must proceed upon a wrong as-


     On these various grounds we conclude that the Scrip-

tures furnish no data for a chronological computation

prior to the life of Abraham; and that the Mosaic records

do not fix and were not intended to fix the precise date

either of the Flood or of the creation of the world.



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