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.