Bible Contradictions #55: How Old Was Benjamin When He Came to Egypt?

Bible Contradiction 55

In this episode of the Bible Contradictions, I’m going to expose a contradiction that often — by most efforts to understand the bible — goes unnoticed. The question we will ask the bible is how old was Benjamin when he came to Egypt? Unfortunately the bible gives us different answers.

First, if we look to Genesis chapter 44, we find two verses that claim Benjamin was a small child — maybe even a baby — when he came to Egypt. In verse 20 Benjamin has been kidnapped by Joseph. Judah comes to beg for his release and calls him a “young brother” or a “child,” depending on the translation. This is followed by verse 22 where Judah tells Joseph that if “the boy” or the “lad” is taken from his father, the father will die. This second verse tends to imply that the father will die of heartbreak from being separated from his infant son. It’s doubtful the father would die from being separated from a grown son because, as we see in chapter 46, Benjamin’s father came to Egypt with a long list of family members.

So we skip ahead to chapter 46.

The chapter begins by listing all of the Israelites who came to Egypt. The list is quite long. And for the sake of this post, all we need to do is to focus on two verses. Verse 8 tells us that this is the list of people who came to Egypt in the story in chapter 44. In other words, this is not a second coming to Egypt. Verse 21 tells us that Benjamin was a grown man with children of his own when he came to Egypt.

This is a very, very easy contradiction to miss because verses 8 through 27 of chapter 46 is one giant list of names of grown men and women and their children.

Some might argue that “young brother” or “lad” or “the boy” or “child” don’t refer at all to Benjamin’s age, but rather they refer to his status. For example, “young brother” is a vague term. How young is “young”? “Lad,” “the boy,” and “child” are even more vague. They could merely be defining Benjamin as the child of Jacob instead of a prepubescent boy. To be honest I don’t know the answer. The bible is too vague to determine what it actually means by these words. Indeed the Hebrew word for child, which is “yeled” and is commonly used in the Jewish scripts, doesn’t help either. “Yeled” can mean anything from “child” in the literal sense to “descendant.” In other words, I don’t know if this is actually a contradiction because the bible offers us no explanations of what it means by these words. But the opposite can be said to any apologist: They don’t know if this is actually not a contradiction either. No one knows. It’s a puzzle we can never solve.

Then again, the literal words are absolutely contradictory.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
This entry was posted in Bible Contradictions and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Bible Contradictions #55: How Old Was Benjamin When He Came to Egypt?

  1. Andrew says:

    A correction for you brother Zehn– the family of Jacob/ Israel resettled in Egypt at the conclusion of their final trek to bring Jacob during the famine- A full reading beyond verse 8, say looking at verse 20, (chap 46) you will observe the shift to descendants born in Egypt and where it goes on to cover general linuage. Benjamin’s children came some time after the families were settled and at peace with the Egyptian Kingdom.
    What a shame that you read scripture only for the purpose of steering souls from them and the peace they have brought to so many. Perhaps one day you will read them for a more noble purpose.

    • Truth says:

      It is also unfortunate here that the author proudly sites this as a contradiction, only to decide in the end that he doesn’t know whether it is or not. Most people with less knowledge of the scriptures will probably be too lazy to read to the end.

      The fact is that, for there to be a meaningful contradiction in the Bible, it would need to be certain. The anti-Christian argument is that they can disprove the Bible as the word of God because God would not contradict himself. To back that argument, they need a smoking-gun, a contradiction for which no possible solution can be posed. If a Christian can pose even one viable solution, the viability of the BIble as being without contradiction is upheld.

      Unfortunately for anti-Christian debaters, there is no smoking-gun contradiction. All these sites posting supposed contradictions are just latching on to any seeming inconsistency and calling it a contradiction. The tragedy is that they will fool so many gullible people.

  2. Spitfire says:

    I am currently re-reading the entire Bible from cover to cover. I spend time at the beginning of my day reading at least 4 chapters. While reading those chapters I make highlights on the verses that I have questions over. This re-reading is in some ways, a new reading because it is with a Hebraic Bible written by the Institute for Scripture Research which took many many years to write / transcribe and footnote, so its almost like reading the Bible for the first time for me, although I have read it many, many times before now. So today, after reading Genesis: Chapters 44 -48, these same questions came up for me. “Just how old was Benjamin when he was sent for, by Joseph?” My query came from the words in my Bible edition which are being spoken by Jacobs son Judah, to his other son Joseph. “And now, if I come to your servant, my Father, and the boy is not with us (meaning Jacob’s youngest son Benjamin) – since his own life is BOUND UP in his life – then it shall be, when he see’s that the boy is not with us, that he shall die.”
    Which prompted me to seek out Benjamin’s age, as in this reading, it appears that Joseph has been gone for a very long time. Long enough for his appearance to change so much that not a single one of his brothers even recognizes him, not even his youngest brother whom he adores, Benjamin.
    Then we read that Benjamin’s family came out of Caanan with his fathers other family, and it lists the “son’s of Benjamin” as being TEN son’s, with no mention of any daughters. It also does not mention if all these son’s were from one wife, which is a question which could effect the age of Benjamin, considering the 9 month period to birth a child and recovery time, as that would put at least one year between each child. One cannot “presume” to know this though.
    What this does tell us though is that Benjamin was at an age where he was old enough to procreate. He was not a child or an infant or even most likely a teen. He was a full grown man. However, does this also mean that Jacob’s soul could not have been “bound up in” him? Absolutely, positively, NOT!
    Jacob had labored 14 years for his wife Rachel, due to duplicitous behavior on Rachel’s fathers part. Then Jacob labored an additional 7 years with her father to make certain that Jacob would be able to support Rachel and her sister and all their children before taking them away. So Jacob’s entire early life was spent in QUEST of Rachel and Rachel’s happiness. And then Rachel proved to be barren and it was not until later that Rachel ever bore Jacob a son. That son was Joseph. And because Jacob loved Rachel more, of course Joseph was the favored son. And then Rachel died in child birth giving birth to her only other son, Benjamin. This is a serious Trauma Bond. A new life which also brings death. So do we see how that kind of traumatic imprint might have caused Benjamin to be “bound up” in Jacobs soul?
    Does it really matter how old that son was, to see that he was indeed the youngest, the last of the favored wife and that much trauma had come to Jacob from his love of Rachel and her offspring?
    I do not find this contradictory, only curious and it makes me dig and research further. Try not to let the translations of this Biblical “story” make you believe that all is a lie. And also remember that men wrote these stories. And although they may be divinely inspired, if you can fathom how many languages these texts were translated to / from and to again, you would have more patience with them.
    Without faith, we lose hope. Without hope, we falter, we are disconnected and we wonder incessantly about “Why” we are here. There is a divine intelligence in all things, including us. If we were not meant to worship a “Creator” then that divine spark of longing would not be present in us. Think about it! When we lose our faith in our Creator, we start worshiping something else! We worship idols of money, work, sports, sports figures, fame, famous people, and even our own reflections. We have an undeniable NEED to worship. Where did that come from, if not from the one who created us?

    • Truth says:

      The Bible has not been been “translated to / from and to again”. Concerning Genesis, Moses wrote it in Hebrew. After the Babylonian conquest, the Hebrews adopted the Aramaic alphabet (without changing the underlying language) and transcribed the Bible into that. We still have copies of it today. Modern English Bibles are translated directly from this. So, it started in Hebrew. It is still in Hebrew. We’re dealing with one direct translation.

  3. Alex Young says:

    Importantly Genesis 44 takes place in the second year of the famine in the 214th Year of the Covenant. Jacob is age 129. Joseph 38. Benjamin 21-24.

    Analysing Genesis 44:20 reveals H3206 as KJV “child” ought to be rendered as “lad”. “lad” means boy or young man. H6996 as KJV rendered “a little one” can mean “little” but ought to be rendered as “young” or “younger”. No need to add the word “one”. LIkewise prior KJV “an old man” is from H2205 meaning just “aged, old, elder”.

    In all the translation of the MT for this portion of verse 20 can be rendered very close as the LXX has which is more in line with the actual age of Benjamin in the chronology of Scripture that Benjamin being a young man being here greater than 20 years.

    “20 And we said to my lord, We have an elder father, and he has a younger son of his old age, and his brother is dead, and he alone has been left behind of his mother, and his father loves him.” Genesis 44:20 LXX

    In reality there is no contradiction. The contradiction only exist when Scripture is superficially translated and/or a result of improper exegesis. The best thing anyone can do is map out whats going on. The baseline is Jacob 130, Joseph 39 in the 215th Year of the Covenant at the start of the third year of the famine. Go back and map out how Jacob has 11 sons and 1 daughter Dinah with 2 wives and 2 handmaids in the second year of service to his uncle Laban – Genesis 29 and 30. You’ll find that firstborn Reuben was born when Jacob was 85 in the 170th Year of the Covenant and Joseph born after Dinah. Joseph was born when Jacob was 91 in the 176th Year of the Covenant.

    We cannot work out the exact age of Benjamin as he was born sometime between when Joseph was 14-17 years of age. That’s a 4 year window. Whatever the case in the age range of 21-24 when the family comes to Egypt – Benjamin is old enough to have had children. Assuming a minimum age of 15 to begat sons – the maximum age his son(s) would be the year the family comes to Egypt in the 215th Year of the Covenant is the age difference in the years of Joseph that start 3rd year – 39 – less 14 less 15 = i.e. no more than 10 years of age for the eldest son Belah – Genesis 46:21.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s