The Age of Jacob when
Joseph was Born


The events surrounding the birth of Joseph to Jacob and Rachel,
although not directly adding to the determination of the overall
chronology, serves the role of supporting and verifying the correct
compilation of the period Creation to Exodus.

The "standard view" of the birth of Joseph argues that Jacob was 91
years old when he fathered Joseph.

The age of Jacob when he meets Pharaoh                   130  Gen 47:9

Less Prior Years of Joseph

   - Years of famine before Jacob enters Egypt        2       Gen 45:6
   - Years of plenty before Jacob enters Egypt        7       Gen 41:53
   - Age of Joseph when he explains Pharaoh's dream  30   39  Gen 41:46

Presumed age of Jacob when Joseph is born                  91

Joseph was born 14 years after Jacob departed to find a wife in Padan
Aram, refer Gen 30:25-43, 31:41. If Jacob was indeed 91 years old
when Joseph was born, then Jacob would have been 77 years old when
he departed for Padan Aram.

The age of Jacob when he departed for Padan Aram is important, because
this is when a 'father' of Esau (and Jacob) died!

     Gen   27:41   So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with
                   which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his
                   heart, "The days of mourning for my father are at
                   hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob".

Since Isaac lived until 180 years of age (Gen 35:28) and Jacob was
born when Isaac was 60 years old (Gen 25:26), Isaac would not have
died until Jacob reached 120 years of age. This makes it very apparent
that the father of Esau (the father who had died) was not Isaac.

   [NB: Isaac lived decades after this event. Isaac's death
        is recorded in Gen 35:27-29.
        Isaac died when Jacob was about 120 years old. Note that
        it was only about 10 years later (refer Gen 47:9) that
        Jacob and descendants entered Egypt. ]

As previously mentioned, in the Hebrew language, any male ancestor
can be called 'father'.

In respect to the death of Esau's father mentioned in Gen 27:41 it is
not clear from Scripture exactly which ancestor of Esau died at this
time. The immediate ancestors, such as Abraham (who died when Jacob
was 15) and Terah (who died 25 years before Jacob was born) are not
options, so more distant ancestors have to be considered.

A biblically important ancestor who did die about this time is;

*** SHEM ***

Shem died 500 years after fathering his son Arphaxad shortly after the

     Gen   11:10   This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred
                   years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the
             :11   After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred
                   years, and begot sons and daughters.

Although not initially apparent the death of Shem is the event which
caused Isaac to pass on the birthright promises. It must have seemed
to many living at that time that Shem was never going to die, as Shem
had outlived many of his descendants. Hence, Shem finally dying would
have been an event which would have caused many to consider their own

However, identifying the 'father' as Shem requires Jacob to be younger
at this point in time than the standard view would suggest.

There is an area of ambiguity in the Hebrew which would make Jacob
younger upon the death of this 'father' and also result in a more
youthful Jacob fathering Joseph.

The ambiguity can be found in the following section of Scripture;

     Gen   41:46   Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before
                   Pharaoh king of Egypt.

In Hebrew a persons age is expressed in a number of ways. A common
expression is used in this case, ie 'a son of thirty years'. The word
'son' in Hebrew is actually the Strong's Ref 1121, meaning 'build'.
The word in this context places emphasis upon a son's role as builder
of the family name.

Although it is common to view this term in respect to the building
of one's father's family it is also commonly used in respect to a
person's role in building one's wider family. A clear example of
this is encountered in 1 Samuel 13:1 talking about King Saul. A
literal translation reads as follows;

     1Sam  13:1    A son of a year Saul when he became king ....

The text makes it clear Saul was not one year old, yet on the surface
this verse appears to be stating he was. This verse is actually stating
that Saul was crowned king in the first year since being called by God.
Saul became king in the same year he was anointed by God as commander
over God's inheritance (1 Sam 10:1).

Another verse which shows that the translation 'son' is not always
accurate is Gen 37:3.

     Gen   37:3    Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children,
                   because he was the son of his old age. ...

This rendering implies Joseph was born many years after his older
brothers. This was not the case. His oldest brother Reuben was born
after the start of the 2nd period of 7 years, then after the birth
of several more brothers Joseph was finally born near the end of
this 7 year period.

The context of Gen 37:3 is that Joseph is seventeen and had just
brought a bad report to Jacob concerning some of his brothers
(possibly something concerning how they were dealing with Jacob's

This action showed to Jacob that Joseph had his father's best interests
at heart. Showed that Joseph would act to build the family.

Prior to this event Reuben had lost the firstborn right having slept
with Bilhah, Gen 35:22. Jacob decided to transfer the rights of the
firstborn to Rachel's first son, Joseph. In Jacob's old age Joseph
became the firstborn and therefore the 'builder' of the family.

The verse should have been rendered;

     Gen   37:3    Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children,
                   because he was the builder of his old age. ...

So returning to Gen 41:46 we have the question of
whether it had been 30 years since Joseph was born
or was it 30 years since Joseph was called by God.
Joseph was 17 years old when his dreams started
(Gen 37:2), therefore if it had been 30 years since
his calling he would have been 47 years old when he
was called to Pharaoh's presence.

 [ NB: There is one line of reasoning which argues against Joseph
       being about 47 years old at this time.
       When Joseph had interpreted the dreams of the butler and
       the baker he is described as 'young' i.e. a 'lad'. This
       would indicate Joseph was 30 years old or younger at that
       time. Yet we have Gen 41:1 apparently stating only two
       full years passed after this, before Joseph was called
       to interpret Pharaoh's dreams.
       So what is the solution? There is some indication that
       the 'two full years' translation of Gen 41:1 is the issue.
       Not that the  Hebrew is mistranslated. Just that Gen 41:1
       is not referring to the passing of two years, but rather
       is actually an indirect reference to a significant
       re-occurring event. The Hebrew , ie 'two-years' is
       found in ten other verses (including Gen 11:10, the year
       Arphaxad is born) and may be of valuable assistance in
       compiling the overall chronology of Scripture. ]

The proposed new arrangement means Joseph's age would have been 17
years older than the standard view would indicate.

- Revised View -

    The age of Jacob when he meets Pharaoh                      130

    Less Prior Years of Joseph

     - Years of famine before Jacob enters Egypt           2
     - Years of plenty before Jacob enters Egypt           7
     - Age of Joseph when he explains Pharaoh's dream     47     56

    Age of Jacob when Joseph is born                         **  74  **

    Less  The 14 years since Jacob fled from Esau                14
    Age of Jacob when he departed for Padan Aram                 60

Another verse which suggests Jacob, when he left for Padan Aram, was younger than commonly thought is Gen 28:9. Gen 28:9 So Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had. This verse advises that when Esau sort a wife from the family of Ishmael, that Ishmael was still alive. Ishmael lived to be 137 years old, Gen 25:17. Most chronologies have Jacob being about 91 years when Joseph was born and therefore about 77 years old when he first departed for Padan Aram. If Jacob was 77 years old, when he left for Padan Aram, how old would Ishmael have been? - Ishmael was 14 yrs older than Isaac. (100 yrs Gen 17:17 - 86 yrs Gen 16:16) - Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob and Esau are born Gen 25:26. - Esau marries Mahalath after Jacob leaves for Padan Aram. If Jacob departs at 77 years old, then Ishmael at that time would have already died! If Ishmael was still alive he would be 14 + 60 + 77 = 151 yrs old. (As mentioned above, Ishmael died at 137 years of age.) So for Ishmael to be alive when Esau seeks a wife of Ishmael's bloodline then Jacob must be at least 14 years younger than is commonly thought. Hence reducing the age of Jacob, when he departs for Padan Aram, down from 77 years to 60 years of age allows Ishmael to be still be alive when Esau visits him.

Also consider;

JACOB'S SONS - Their Birth Order
to Exodus

to the
Calling of
The Death

The 400 years
& 430 years
Overview of

C h r o n o l o g y   O u t l i n e


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