Hebrew "yalad" (ילד)

The Hebrew word "yalad" (Strong's number H3205) is another word found very frequently in the Old Testament Bible, one that is usually translated in English using some form of "beget".  This Hebrew word is used particularly in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, and in the study of Biblical chronology a correct understanding of it's meaning is very important. 

Was Salah the immediate son of Arphaxad?

Consider the following verse from Genesis 11,
Genesis 11:12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat [H3205] Salah:

The word "begat" (H3205) means to produce or bring forth, and in this verse specifically means to produce offspring.  Thus Genesis 11:12 is teaching Arphaxad brought forth an offspring or descendant named Salah.  Now the important question that needs to be addressed is whether such a descendant must be an immediate offspring (e.g., a direct son of a father) or whether a later descendant can be in view (e.g., a grandson or great grandson).  Unfortunately many theologians simply assume "begat" must always without exception refer to an immediate descendant, which for Genesis 11:12 would require that Salah be a direct son of Arphaxad.  But was Salah really the direct son of Arphaxad?  Let's look at the genealogy of Luke 3 for an answer to this question,

Luke 3:35-36 Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech,

Here in Luke 3 we find that Cainan was the son of Arphaxad, and Salah was (at least) a grandson of Arphaxad.  That is, Luke 3 is crystal clear that Salah was not an immediate son of Arphaxad.  This means "begat" in Genesis 11:12 cannot require Salah to be a direct or immediate son of Arphaxad since Luke 3 makes him at least a grandson!  So whenever we find the word "begat" (Hebrew yalad) in the Old Testament genealogies, we cannot assume an immediate son is being specified.  The offspring could be, as in Genesis 11:12, a grandson!  

In The Loins of a Father

This result is not particularly surprising since we know the Bible frequently speaks of distant descendents as being "in he loins" of a father who lived long ago.  For example,

Hebrews 7:9-10  And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

In this verse we find that Levi, who would not be born for another 150 years, being spoken of as if he himself had paid tithes to Melchisedec.  Further, Abraham is called Levi's "father", however clearly Abraham was not Levi's immediate father, instead Abraham was Isaac's father, Jacob's grandfather and Levi's great grandfather.  So in this case we find the meaning of "father" being used to indicate parentage or lineage.  And it is this type of usage that we find applies also to the Hebrew word yalad (begat).  That is, Genesis 11:12 could be understood as saying Arphaxad "fathered" Salah through a line of descent that included Cainan.

How Many Sons Did Zilpah Begat to Jacob?

Another example of the Hebrew "yahad", English "begat", indicating offspring beyond an immediate son or daughter is found in Genesis 46, a chapter were the sons of Jacob's four wives are enumerated.  The verses below detail the sons of Jacob by Zilpah, the handmaid of Leah,

Genesis 46:16 And the sons of Gad; Ziphion, and Haggi, Shuni, and Ezbon, Eri, and Arodi, and Areli.
Genesis 46:17 And the sons of Asher; Jimnah, and Ishuah, and Isui, and Beriah, and Serah their sister: and the sons of Beriah; Heber, and Malchiel.
Genesis 46:18 These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter, and these she bare [H3205] unto Jacob, even sixteen souls.

Genesis 46:18 says that Zilpah begat (bare) sixteen sons of Jacob, these sixteen sons being listed individually in verses 16 and 17.  However we know from Genesis 30:9-13 that Zilpah only had two immediate sons, Gad and Asher.  And as listed in verses 16 and 17 above, we find that Gad in turn had seven sons, while Asher had four sons and one daughter.  But in addition Asher's son Beriah had two sons, which would have been Asher's grandsons and Jacob's great grandsons.  Thus the sixteen what Zilpah begat (bare) to Jacob would have consisted of two immediate sons, eleven grandsons, one grand-daughter and two great grandsons!  So here again is a clear example where the Hebrew "yalad" simply demonstrates descendancy, but does not in any sense indicate or require an immediate offspring. 

The Sons of Leah, Rachel and Bilhah

Further examples of this are seen in regard to Jacob's other 3 wives, Leah, Rachel and Bilhah:

Genesis 46:15 These be the sons of Leah, which she bare [H3205] unto Jacob in Padanaram, with his daughter Dinah: all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three.
Genesis 46:22 These are the sons of Rachel, which were born [H3205] to Jacob: all the souls were fourteen.
Genesis 46:25 These are the sons of Bilhah, which Laban gave unto Rachel his daughter, and she bare [H3205] these unto Jacob: all the souls were seven.

Leah is well known to have had six immediate sons and one daughter, yet she is said to bare Jacob 33 sons and daughters, a sum that includes grandsons and great grandsons.  In the case of Rachel, she had two immediate sons with Jacob, but she is said to have born 14 souls to Jacob, another sum that includes future descendants.  Finally Bilhah, who only had two immediate sons, is said to have bare to Jacob 7 souls. So in each case it is found that "yalad" is used in regard to descendants. 

Jochebed, Levi's Daughter and Mother of Aaron and Moses?

In Numbers 26:59 we read that Jochebed was Levi's daughter, begotten to Levi in Egypt, and that she in turn begot Aaron, Moses and Miriam,

Num 26:59  And the name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, whom her mother bare [H3205] to Levi in Egypt: and she bare [H3205] unto Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister.

As indicated above, begat/yalad is used twice, once for Jochebed being begotten to Levi, and again for Jochebed begetting Aaron, Moses and Miriam.  Now let's assume begat/yalad must refer to an immediate son or daughter as some claim.  Now recall that Levi's father Jacob came to Egypt at 130 years old (Genesis 47:9), at which point Levi would have been around 60 years old.  We also know from Exodus 7:7 that Moses was around 80 years old at the Exodus.  And finally we know from Exodus 12:40-41 that Israel was in Egypt for a total of 430 years.  So if Jochebed was Levi's immediate daughter, born in Egypt, then she would have been born somewhere between Levi's 60th year (his first year in Egypt) and his 137th year (his 77th year in Egypt and the year he died).  So how old would Jochebed, if she was Levi's immediate daughter, have been when she gave gave birth to Moses?  Well her minimum age would have been 430 years - 80 years (Moses age at the Exodus) - 77 years (year Levi died in Egypt) = 273 years.  In other words in order for Jochebed to be Levi's immediate daughter, as well as Moses' immediate mother, she'd have had to give birth at an abnormally extreme old age.  Now to put such an age into perspective, we know Abraham's wife Sarah could hardly believe she might give birth at 90 years old (Genesis 17:17), so the idea Jochebed might have given birth at 273 years of age is completely outside of any biblical norm (not to mention that people in her day weren't even living that long)!  So Numbers 26:59 serves as an indirect, yet clear proof that the Hebrew word yalad (begat) cannot require an immediate son or daughter, as it would result in an abnormally old age for Jochebed.


The above examples serve to demonstrate that the Hebrew word "yalad" is a word that simply indicates the production of offspring, and in particular to show lineage or descent.  This word however should never be relied upon or assumed to indicate an immediate father-son or father-daughter (or mother-son, mother-daughter) relationship.  It should also be noted that the use of "yalad" does not mean that the one begetting, and the one begotten, are/were an immediate family relationship since, as was seen in the example with Zilpah above, some of those she begat were grandsons, granddaughters and great grandsons. 

So does this make study of genealogies hopeless?  Not at all!  In many cases context helps to determine whether the one begotten was an immediate son or daughter.  However if the context does not indicate one way or another then the question of whether an immediate or future descendant is in view must be left open.  There is however another help in this regard, in particular it is found that the one naming the offspring begotten is in all cases the actual father or mother.  This specific case is indicated by use of the phrase "called the name" or "called his name" (Hebrew "qara shem").  When this phrase is used it can be known that an immediate parent-child relationship is in view (see the study on "qara shem").  

Additional Comments on Luke 3

Those who seek to defend the idea that yalad/begat can only refer to an immediate son or daughter realize that Luke 3, coupled with Genesis 11:12, categorically disproves their claim.  So they have a big problem.  To this end it seems those advocating this position decided their only recourse was to attack the Greek text for Luke 3.  Their claim here is that the name Cainan in Luke 3:36 is spurious, added by a rogue or negligent transcriber of Luke's gospel.  Their proof of this claim is that Cainan does not appear in any known Hebrew text or in the writings of the first century Jewish historian Josephus.  In reply to these critiques, firstly, the question is what belongs in the Greek New Testament, not what's in the Hebrew Old Testament.  It should be remembered that it's not unusual for the New Testament to expand upon what is found in the Old Testament.  In this particular case the addition of Cainan in Luke 3 could be viewed as divine purpose with the intent to teach a proper understanding of the Hebrew word yalad.  Secondly, in regard to Josephus, it must be remembered that he was not a Christian, he was a Jew who wrote about Jewish history, so it's completely unsurprising he would have cited the Hebrew Old Testament genealogies in his writings and not those of Christians like Luke.  

The next attack leveled at Luke 3 is the supposed fact that the name Cainan does not appear in one of the earliest extant Greek manuscripts referred to as P75 (Papyrus manuscript # 75).  This is a misleading claim because three of the five names in Luke 3:36 are missing, not just Cainan's name. The missing names are Cainan, Shem and Noah.  The two names that do appear are Arphaxad and Lamech, though Arphaxad's name is missing 2 of 7 letters.  The reason these names are missing is because manuscript P75 consists of only fragments for Luke 3.  Remember that these are very old manuscripts, and in some cases all that remain of certain verses are very small bits and pieces of the original writing.  This is the case for Luke 3:36.  BTW, manuscript P75 can be viewed online here.  In addition the text of P75 for Luke 3:36 can be viewed here (you will need to use the drop down menus to select P75 and Luke 3:36).  The transcribed text for Luke 3:36 from manuscript P75 is listed below:

Manuscript P75 --- Luke 3:36 [του] [καιναν] [του] [α]ρφα[ξ]αδ τ[ου] σ[ημ] [του] [νωε] [του] λαμεχ

Note that only the letters in black above actually appear in the extant fragments of manuscript P75 for Luke 3:36, all the letters in red have been added.  It should be noted that website referenced above does not include [του] [καιναν] in their rendering because it has been the judgment of M. L. Lakmann that the name Cainan wouldn't fit in the gaps between the fragments.  This may be true, however it's completely unverifiable.  Further, because we are dealing with small fragments, there is uncertainty as to how the fragments should be placed relative to each other, so making judgments based on available space is far from certain.  So the best that can said for manuscript P75 is that it's possible the name Cainan was omitted, but ultimately unverifiable, making it a tenuous proof at best. 

Now the other important point that makes this claim based on manuscript P75 misleading is the fact that there is another manuscript, referred to as P4, which is from the same time period as P75 (late 2nd century), which includes the name Cainan.  A transcription of P4 can be found here, and is listed below:

Manuscript P4 --- Luke 3:36 [το]υ κα[ι]ν[αν] του αρφαξαδ του [σ]η[μ] του νωε τ[ο]υ λαμ[εχ]

Here again the manuscript for P4 is fragmentary, however in this case sufficient text is available to be certain that Luke 3:36 names five individuals, Cainan, Arphaxad, Shem, Noah and Lamech, despite three of those names missing some letters.  So now we appear to have somewhat of a tie, one late 2nd century manuscript that possibly omits Cainan, and another late 2nd century manuscript that clearly includes the name Cainan.  And if this was all we had there might be some grounds, albeit somewhat weak given what we know of manuscript P75, to question whether Cainan was originally named in Luke's gospel.  Fortunately however there are some other early manuscripts called Unicals, which while not quite as old as manuscripts P4 and P75, are not far removed from them.  Below is a summary of these in regard to Luke 3:36,

Unical 01 (Sinaiticus) - includes Cainan (dates to AD 330-360)
Unical 02 (Alexandrinus) - includes Cainan (dates to AD 400-440)
Unical 03 (Vaticanus) - includes Cainan (dates to AD 325-350)
Unical 05 (Bezae) - omits Cainan (dates to AD 400)

As can be seen three of these four Unicals support the inclusion of Cainan in Luke 3:36, including the two oldest, Unical 01 and 03.  It should be noted however that the dissenting Unical, 05 Bezae, is considered by most scholars to be "an unreliable witness" where it disagrees with other Unical manuscripts.  The Unical and papyrus manuscripts cited here are all of the oldest witnesses to Luke 3:36 (prior to AD 500).  As far as other later manuscripts, virtually all of them support the inclusion of Cainan in Luke 3:36, making the overall case against Cainan being original to Luke's gospel extremely unlikely in this author's judgment.

Additional Comments on Genesis 46

There are some who claim Genesis 46 doesn't in fact teach begat/yalad can refer to distant descendents like grandsons and great grandsons.  They claim the idea of distant descendents comes from a careless reading of Genesis 46:15, and a failure to realize that begat/yalad only refers to Leah's sons born in Padanaram, and not to her grandsons born after Jacob left Padanaram.  And if one were to only consider verse 15 this claim might appear plausible, however when verse 18 is considered one can clearly see this claim is without merit.  Verse 18 reads,

Genesis 46:18 These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter, and these she bare [H3205] unto Jacob, even sixteen souls.

The end of this verse says "... and these [sons] she bare (begat/yalad) unto Jacob, even sixteen souls".  The point here is very clear, Zilpah begat/yalad sixteen sons to Jacob.  Notice too that the translators of the King James Bible, men fluent in the Hebrew language, chose to added the helping word "even" between Jacob and sixteen souls, as they clearly believed this verse to say Zilpah begat/yalad sixteen souls unto Jacob.  And as pointed out above, these sixteen souls include only two immediate sons, the rest are grandsons, great grandsons and a granddaughter! 

By the way, below are two other Bible translations that go even further with Genesis 46:18, the NASB and ISV read:

(NASB) Genesis 46:18 These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Leah; and she bore [H3205] to Jacob these sixteen persons.
(ISV) Genesis 46:18 Gen 46:18  These were all sons from Zilpah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Leah. She bore [H3205] these sixteen children for Jacob.

These translations aren't as literal as the King James Bible, but that is done on purpose with the intent of translating the meaning of the verse as clearly and succinctly as possible so that the English translate would be abundantly clear.

Additional Hebrew word studies:

> Hebrew word "ben" (son)

> Hebrew phrase "qara shem" (to call a name)


Appendix I - Application to Genesis 5

Genesis Chapter 5 begins the genealogy from Adam to Noah.  The above word study of "begat" will assist in determining how these verses are to be understood.  Consider the following verses from Genesis 5:

Genesis 5:3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:
Genesis 5:6 And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos:
Genesis 5:9 And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan:
Genesis 5:12 And Cainan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel:
Genesis 5:15 And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared:

In each verses we find a situation where "A begat B".  But as shown above, it cannot simply be assumed that this means "A is the immediate father of B" unless the context indicates such, or the phrase "qara shem" (called his name) is used.  As far as the verses above, notice in the case of Adam-Seth, and Seth-Enos, the phrase "qara shem" is used (reference Genesis 4:25-26), so we can be sure these two represent immediate father-son relationships, one where the father actually named his son.  So in the case of Seth, Adam was 130 years old when he was born.  In the case of Enos, Seth was 105 years old when he was born, which also means that Adam was 235 years old when Enos was born.  But in the cases of Enos-Cainan, Cainan-Mahalaleel, and Mahalaleel-Jared, the phrase "qara shem" is not used, nor is there any contextual evidence showing what kind of relationship these were.  Therefore we must simply consider Cainan to be a descendent of Enos, a descendant who was produced (begotten) when Enos was 90 years old.  But we also must be very careful with these ages, because it is equally important to note that the age of Enos when his descendant Cainan was begotten (produced) is not necessarily the same as the age of Enos when Cainan was born, especially if he was not an immediate son (see Note 1 below and the study of the patriarchs of Exodus 6:16-20). 


Note 1 - Understanding Age Information

A verse like Genesis 5:9 (And Enos lived ninety years and begat Cainan) appears to be a very straight forward statement, so that one could easily come to the conclusion that Cainan was born when Enos was 90 years old.  Now with this in mind, let's consider Genesis 11:26, a nearly identical statement, but one in which the above logic would result in an incorrect conclusion:

Genesis 11:26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

One might conclude that Abram was born when Terah was 70 years old, along with Abram's brothers Nahor and Haran.  However we can quickly determine this conclusion is incorrect by considering the following verses:

Genesis 11:32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.
Genesis 12:4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. 
Acts 7:4 Then going out from the land of the Chaldeans, he lived in Haran. And after his [Abram's] father died, God moved him from there into this land in which you now live.
From Genesis 11:32 we find that Abram's father Terah lived to 205 years old.  We also find from Acts 7:4 that it was upon the death of Abram's father that he moved from Haran to the land of Canaan.  And finally, from Genesis 12:4 we find that Abram is 75 years old when he left Haran for Canaan.  But notice, if Abram was born when Terah was 70 years old (as Genesis 11:26 appears to say), then when Abram left Canaan at 75 years old, Terah should have been 145 years old.  But Acts 7:4 is clear the Abram didn't leave Canaan till his father was dead, and his father died at 205 years old, not 145.  Instead, we find that Abram was 75 years old in the year Terah died (at 205), so that Abram must have been born when Terah was 130 years old, not 70.  So what does Genesis 11:26 mean then?  In the case of Abram, it probably means that one of Abram's brothers (Nahor or Haran) were born when Terah was 70 years old.  In fact, it was probably Haran that was born first, since he died first, even before Terah came to Haran from Ur of Chaldea (Genesis 11:28).  
The lesson here is that when a verse says that "X lived Y years and begat Z" it doesn't necessarily mean that "Z was born when X was Y years old".  Another example of this would be Noah and his sons,
Genesis 5:32 And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Here again is an example that appears to show that Noah's son Shem was born when Noah was 500 years old.  However a comparison of the following verses shows this would be an incorrect conclusion:

Genesis 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
Genesis 11:10 These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:

In Genesis 7:11 we find that the flood began when Noah was 600 years old (also, Genesis 7:6).  Now recall that Genesis 5:32 appeared to show that Shem was born (along with his brothers Ham and Japheth) when Noah was 500 years old.  This would mean that Shem would have been 100 years old when the flood began.  However notice that Genesis 11:10 says that Shem was 100 years old two years after the flood!  But if Shem was 100 years old two years after the flood, that means he was born to Noah when Noah was 502 years old, not 500 years old.  Thus we have a second proof that "X was Y years old and begat Z" does not mean "Z was born when X was Y years old".  This fact, along with the knowledge that "yalad" does not indicate an immediate son, has huge implications on the study of the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 that unfortunately many biblical chronologists have failed to realize.
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