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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 40

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 334

Chapter 40.—How It is Said that Jacob Went into Egypt with Seventy-Five Souls, When Most of Those Who are Mentioned Were Born at a Later Period.

Seventy-five men are reported to have entered Egypt along with Jacob, counting him with his children.  In this number only two women are mentioned, one a daughter, the other a grand-daughter.  But when the thing is carefully considered, it does not appear that Jacob’s offspring was so numerous on the day or year when he entered Egypt.  There are also included among them the great-grandchildren of Joseph, who could not possibly be born already.  For Jacob was then 130 years old, and his son Joseph thirty-nine and as it is plain that he took a wife when he was thirty or more, how could he in nine years have great-grandchildren by the children whom he had by that wife?  Now since, Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, could not even have children, for Jacob found them boys under nine years old when he entered Egypt, in what way are not only their sons but their grandsons reckoned among those seventy-five who then entered Egypt with Jacob?  For there is reckoned there Machir the son of Manasseh, grandson of Joseph, and Machir’s son, that is, Gilead, grandson of Manasseh, great-grandson of Joseph; there, too, is he whom Ephraim, Joseph’s other son, begot, that is, Shuthelah, grandson of Joseph, and Shuthelah’s son Ezer, grandson of Ephraim, and great-grand-son of Joseph, who could not possibly be in existence when Jacob came into Egypt, and there found his grandsons, the sons of Joseph, their grandsires, still boys under nine years of age. 967   But doubtless, when the Scripture mentions Jacob’s entrance into Egypt with seventy-five souls, it does not mean one day, or one year, but that whole time as long as Joseph lived, who was the cause of his entrance.  For the same Scripture speaks thus of Joseph:  “And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his brethren, and all his father’s house:  and Joseph lived 110 years, and saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation.” 968   That is, his great-grandson, the third from Ephraim; for the third generation means son, grandson, great-grandson.  Then it is added, “The children also of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born upon Joseph’s knees.” 969   And this is that grandson of Manasseh, and great-grandson of Joseph.  But the plural number is employed according to scriptural usage; for the one daughter of Jacob is spoken of as daughters, just as in the usage of the Latin tongue liberi is used in the plural for children even when there is only one.  Now, when Joseph’s own happiness is proclaimed, because he could see his great-grandchildren, it is by no means to be thought they already existed in the thirty-ninth year of their great-grandsire Joseph, when his father Jacob came to him in Egypt.  But those who diligently look into these things will the less easily be mistaken, because it is written, “These are the names of the sons of Israel who entered into Egypt along with Jacob their father.” 970   For this means that the seventy-five are reckoned along with him, not that they were all with him when he entered Egypt; for, as I have said, the whole period during which Joseph, who occasioned his entrance, lived, is held to be the time of that entrance.



Augustin here follows the Septuagint, which at Gen. 46.20 adds these names to those of Manasseh and Ephraim, and at ver. 27 gives the whole number as seventy-five.

1 Gen. 50:22, 23.


Gen. 50:22, 23.


Gen. 50.23.


Gen. 46.8.

Next: Chapter 41

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