- The sixty-six persons of verse 26 came from this calculation:
+v.18: 16 persons
+v.22: 14 persons
+v.25: 7 persons
Some of you math whizzes may say "Hey, but that equals 70 persons, not 66!". Yes, this is true. However, I wasn't finished yet. Now that we have seventy persons, we need to subtract Er and Onan, who had died in Canaan (v.12) and Manasseh and Ephraim, who did not go on this trip because they were Joseph's sons who were born in Egypt. Ah, now we have sixty-six!
Then, just to keep us from getting too smug, the very next sentence, verse 27, throws another monkey-wrench into the mix by stating that the number of Jacob's family members who went to Egypt numbered 70 persons. Now we could say that this is the 66 plus Jacob and his three wives [Rachel had already died], for that would equal 70. However, verse 27 states that this new number, 70, includes Ephraim and Manasseh. The only thing I can figure out is that the 70 comes from the 66 plus Jacob, Leah, Ephraim and Manasseh. (Rachel had already died -- see Genesis chapter 35, and I am guessing that they didn't include Zilpah and Bilhah in the count.)
- Another thing to keep in mind is that 70 was one of those numbers which signified completeness, so it may be that if only Jacob's direct descendants are being counted, we could include Er and Onan, who had died, and Ephraim and Manasseh, in order to arrive at 70 (not including Jacob) of Jacob's direct descendants. In this scenario, none of Jacob's wives are counted, not because they are not important, but because they are not descendants. Er and Onan, even though they died and obviously did not make the trip, are still Jacob's descendants and in an ideal sense, would be part of the 70.
- Also, as I am learning, writers have many reasons for including genealogies in an account. Sometimes a listing is very literal, with each generation being counted. Other times a genealogy may skip generations and say that someone is a person's father, when they are actually their grandfather. Or a person may be said to be a son of a particular tribal leader, when they are actually several generations down the line. In this latter case, perhaps all that they are trying to show is that this person is part of that tribal line. Of course, all this ambiguity makes me crazy and leads many to conclude that the Bible has errors, when actually it is just that often we do not understand the writer's purpose. [There is a certain humility in saying that perhaps it is our interpretation that is wrong, not the Biblical account.] I am sure that this topic will come up again. As I learn more things, I will try to include this information, and perhaps gather it all together on a single topical page, with Biblical examples.
- One last observation: The seventy going down to Egypt would have been accompanied by others not included in this count of Jacob's direct descendants. For example, there would have been Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah (Jacob's wives/concubines), and also the former captives (women and children) resulting from the attack upon the city of Shechem. Also, I assume there may have been other servants or employees of the household, as well as the wives of all of Jacob's sons, (v.26) who had not been counted in the 70.
Altogether, I think that one of the main reasons a count is given at all is to show that Jacob's family included a relatively small amount of people when they entered Egypt. Later, true to His covenant with Abraham, we will see that the Lord increases the Israelites exponentially, so much so that the Egyptian Pharaoh starts to get very nervous. However, I am getting ahead of myself again. Right now, Jacob and his household are just entering Egypt!