#319. Is Jair Manasseh’s son OR great-grandson? (Num 32:41; Deut 3:14 vs 1 Chr 2:22)
#320. Is Gilead a personal name OR a toponym? (Num 26:29-30, 36:1, 1 Chr 7:14-19 vs Num 32:39-42)


This contradiction could just as well have been titled: Two variant traditions on how to legitimate the possession of Gilead.

If we compare the genealogies of Manasseh’s sons as portrayed in Num 26:29, 36:1, Josh 17:1, and 1 Chr 2:21-22 (P) with that of Num 32:39-42 (J) we notice some interesting discrepancies. Not surprisingly, these variant genealogies have their origins in two different traditions: the former list of passages come from the Priestly tradition (or his redactional work), while the latter most likely from the Yahwist tradition. Visually this is what we have:


In other words, J’s command to have Machir go take Gilead, which itself contradictions the traditions in Numbers 21 & Deuteronomy 2-3 (see #317-318), is represented in P’s tradition by making Gilead the son of Machir!

And this brings me to the second contradiction which in actuality is a bit unfair. The name “Gilead”—as with other names in the Torah’s genealogical traditions—is both a personal name and a toponym (a place-name). Usually when such a name appears in a genealogy it’s an indication that the locale of which the name is a toponym is part of that particular tribe’s possession, or geographical genealogy.

What is interesting here is that in the Yahwist tradition of Numbers 32:39-42 Gilead is only used as a place-name. In other words, the possession of Gilead by the Machirites in this tradition is indicated by the fact that all of Machir’s sons now possess a portion of the Gilead. In the Priestly tradition, however, the possession of Gilead is first and foremost indicated by the genealogical fact that Gilead is Machir’s son—a “fact” which then legitimates the possession of Gilead by the Machirite clan. The genealogy, then, serves a political purpose—to legitimate Israelite possession of Gilead by claiming—by creating an archaic story which states—that the ancestry of the Gileadites are Israelite.

10 thoughts on “#319. Is Jair Manasseh’s son OR great-grandson? (Num 32:41; Deut 3:14 vs 1 Chr 2:22)
#320. Is Gilead a personal name OR a toponym? (Num 26:29-30, 36:1, 1 Chr 7:14-19 vs Num 32:39-42)

  1. A wonderful E text is one that I quoted above, Genesis 50:23:

    23Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation; the children of Machir son of Manasseh were also born on Joseph’s knees.

    Manasseh was born before Jacob and his family moved to Egypt (Gen. 41:50). If there were a 430-year Egyptian sojourn, followed by 40 years of wandering in E’s conception, how could Machir still be alive to receive land from Moses per Numbers 32:39-40? (Verse 41 claims that Jair, another son of Manasseh, was also still alive.)

  2. Maybe I don’t understand what is meant by “Sinai tradition”, but certainly the Elohist had Moses receive the Covenant Code from God atop Mount Horeb, which is similar to the Sinai tradition except for the name of the mountain.

    I read somewhere, I think on thetorah.com, that there is a wilderness tradition separate from the Exodus that can be identified, mostly in the Psalms. This makes sense if Israelite culture first developed among semi-nomadic clans that settled in Canaan and Gilead. In this tradition God is celebrated and praised for bringing the people out of the wilderness.

    As for a connection with the Exodus, I think Joel Baden’s reconstruction of the E document has the Israelites leave Horeb, conquer Og and Sihon, deals with the rebellion of Dathan and Abiram, allocates land to the Transjordan tribes, and ends with the death of Moses and the appointment of Joshua. In this case there would be no 40-year wandering and no need for one.

    One theory I’ve read is that the Exodus tradition did not initially include Judah as one of the tribes, so it makes sense for the Israelites to go past the Negev on the way to Transjordan, but when Judah was included an explanation had to be devised, so the spy story was developed as a southern tradition.

  3. John & Robert,

    Thanks for these additions and comments. I’ll have to pick up on the Havvoth-Jair contradiction in Judges. Indeed, my unfamiliarity with Joshua and Judges (and Chronicles) has caused me to miss a few contradictions. You also bring to my attention that I traced Jair’s genealogy inaccurately. His father is Hezron, not Machir as above.

    The problems with the Exodus chronology not withstanding, I have always suspected that the 40-year wondering story was a later tradition. I can’t remember what led me to think this, but it’s certainly more than curious that narratively speaking at the end of Numbers 14 (and 15-19?) we are still in the 2nd year, but then suddenly we jump to the 40th year in Numbers 20! In the composite narrative in Numbers this is a return to Kadesh, but in Numbers 33 this is the Israelites’ first time at Kadesh and that happens only in the 40th year. So there is some conflating traditions concerning Kadesh and the 40-year tradition that I think are intertwined.

    Concerning the Sinai tradition, it looks like this might have been an exilic or post-exilic creation as well! Scholars point out that in other pre-exilic texts, Sinai is not mentioned. For example, the mention of Sinai is absent in passages that summarize the story of Israel’s origins and its conquest of Canaan, such as the covenant ceremony of Joshua 24. The Exodus in mentioned, the Crossing of the Sea is mentioned, and the wilderness sojourn and the Conquest. But nothing is said about Sinai, Laws at Sinai, or Moses having received them. And outside of the Pentateuch, Sinai is only mentioned in two other places (Judg 5:5; Ps 68), and surprisingly there is no mention of Moses nor the giving of the law in these passages! Furthermore, commentators have often noticed the close linguistic connection between E’s burning bush, whose Hebrew word is seneh, and Sinai with its fiery theophany, as if the tradition of Sinai was grafted onto the earlier tradition of the burning seneh. All this leads one to conclude that the Sinai tradition, or more specifically its association with Moses and the giving of the law, was a later exilic creation, and reflects the significance this tradition had on its exilic community. Curious too is the fact that the later Wilderness Itinerary tradition of Numbers 33 glosses over Sinai too. And although the literature on Sinai takes up approximately 1/3 of the Pentateuch (Ex 19 to Num 10), chronologically this only amounts to 11 months and 10 days.

  4. And the holy mountain in 2 Chron. 5:10 is named Horeb instead of Sinai, interestingly enough.

    I noticed that Aaron is mentioned in 1 Chronicles as being set aside for the priesthood, but there are no other details. It’s also mentioned that Nadab and Abihu died before Aaron but there is no mention of offering “strange fire”. And yet, Chronicles could not have been finished before the time of Ezra, by which point P presumably was written. It’s as if the book was maintained over a long period of time and appended to now and then to make it current. Parts of it are incredibly fragmentary as well. The Prayer of Jabez comes out of nowhere in the middle of some genealogies that don’t mention Jabez, for instance.

  5. Robert M wrote:Chronicles also has a story of Ephraim and his sons which only makes sense if Ephraim wasn’t born in Egypt and lived his whole life there.

    Yep, I mentioned that last May and provided a link to a scholarly article:

    The Chronicler mentions the Exodus in 1 Chron. 17:5, 21; 2 Chron. 5:10, 6:5, 7:22, but he makes no mention of the details found in the Torah and only mentions Moses in connection with the Exodus in 2 Chron. 5:22, which he got from 1 Kings 8:9.

  6. Chronicles also has a story of Ephraim and his sons which only makes sense if Ephraim wasn’t born in Egypt and lived his whole life there.

    I don’t know much about Chronicles, but my understanding is it’s basically a priestly document, which makes ignorance of the Exodus curious to say the least. Without the Exodus you don’t have Sinai, and without Sinai you don’t have the Aaronic priesthood. And yet the Chronicler portrays David as spending his life designing the Temple he knows he isn’t going to build. I suppose the Sinai tradition might have been separate from the Exodus at one point.

    I’d love to know how all these traditions developed into the stories we have in the Bible, but I guess we’ll never have more than guesses at this point.

  7. Here’s another interesting contradiction. The Chronicler plainly lists Jair as a close descendant of Hezron, the same Hezron who went into Egypt (Genesis 46:8-9). Now look at 1 Chronicles 2:21-22:

    21 Afterwards Hezron went in to the daughter of Machir father of Gilead, whom he married when he was sixty years old; and she bore him Segub; 22and Segub became the father of Jair, who had twenty-three towns in the land of Gilead.

    The problem is that this is at odds with the tradition of Exodus 12:40, which states that the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years (followed by 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, of course). This is the same Jair who received his allotment after the Conquest (Joshua 13:29). The Chronicler either didn’t know of, or rejected, the Egyptian-sojourn tradition. See also Genesis 50:23, which claims that Joseph, son of Jacob, “saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation; the children of Machir son of Manasseh were also born on Joseph’s knees.”

  8. Since this apparently the last contradiction regarding Gilead, I’ll add this: Did Havvoth-jair get its name from Jair son of Manasseh (Numbers 32:39-41) or from the 30 sons of “Jair the Glieadite,” a judge (Judges 10:3-4)?

  9. My understanding is that the name “Gilead” can be understood as meaning “stone witness”, which means that the name could also be explained as describing the stone erected by Jacob and Laban to mark the boundary between their two territories.

    Or it could be from the altar called Witness that was erected by the Transjordanian tribes after the conquest, as described in Joshua.

    1. Indeed Robert, the etymological sense of the word. I believe I addressed that in contradiction #57, which discusses the Jabob-Laban affair. Cheers.

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