Where Science and Faith Converge

Does yālad in the hiphil Prove There Are No Gaps in Genesis 5 and 11 Genealogies?

By Guest Writer - March 27, 2018

By Hugh Henry and Daniel J. Dyke 

All attempts to calculate a date for creation and Noah’s flood rest upon one assumption: Genesis 5 and 11 contain complete, father-son genealogies without gaps. This assumption, in turn, rests on the assumption that the Hebrew verb yālad implies a father-son relationship in these chapters.

We have demonstrated in previous articles that yālad in fact represents only a general ancestral relationship—or less. However, no-gap proponents note that a particular hiphil form of yālad is used in Genesis 5 and 11 and cite this particular form as proof of no gaps. For example, J. Paul Tanner wrote in a 2015 publication: “Of the 170 times that a hiphil form of the verb [yālad] is used in Genesis, it always is used of a man being the literal father of a son, not merely an ‘ancestor.’” 1 (Recently Tanner has modified this to a claim of 96% of 176 instances throughout the Old Testament; 2 he acknowledges the exceptions: Deuteronomy 4:25, 2 Kings 20:18, and Isaiah 39:7. 3), the last two being identical passages.

But there is a problem with his statement: It assumes that all relationships without a clarifying biblical narrative are father-son. Yet if all uses of yālad in the hiphil in the Bible are analyzed, it is clear that most of them lack a descriptive narrative to clarify a precise relationship; and often the named individuals appear only in the verse cited. Such relationships are “unknown”; only if a biblical narrative clarifies the relationship can it be considered “known.” Those who wish to use statistics to infer the meaning of yālad in the hiphil in Genesis 5 and 11 must develop those statistics based only on known relationships.

In Genesis there are ~69 instances of yālad in the hiphil ; ~45 of these are unknown, all from Genesis 5 and 11: Genesis 5:6–7, 9–10, 12–13, 15–16, 18–19, 21–22, 25–26; 11:10–25. Only ~14 have a narrative that suggests the relationship. Eight instances are father and son: Genesis 5:3–4, 28, 30; 11:27b, 25:19. In five instances yālad in the hiphil is used for multiple offspring: Genesis 5:32; 6:10 (Noah); 11:26–27a (Terah); and 17:20 (Ishmael). It is significant, however, that the first named for Noah and Terah is not the oldest—meaning that yālad in the hiphil is imprecise. Another instance applies to more distant progeny: Genesis 48:6 refers to Joseph’s potentially longer-term offspring ( môledeth).

In Mosaic literature beyond Genesis there are ~5 instances of yālad in the hiphil ; all are known, and one is clearly father-son ( Numbers 26:58). Three apply to more distant descendants: Leviticus 25:45 refers to future offspring of slaves; and Deuteronomy 4:25 and 28:41 apply to future descendants of the Israelites in the Exodus. One is questionable: In Numbers 26:29, “Gilead” almost certainly means people living in the land of Gilead—not a person. 4

In summary, in Mosaic literature (including Genesis), 9 cases of yālad in the hiphil are father-son; 4 are not father-son; 1 is questionable; 5 are muddled by multiple names; and ~45 are unknown.

The greatest number of examples of yālad in the hiphil occur in non-Mosaic literature. The following are unknown: 1 Chronicles 1:34; 2:18, 22, 36–41, 44, 46; 4:2, 8, 11–12, 14; 7:32; 8:7–9, 11, 32, 36–37; 9:38, 42–43; Nehemiah 12:10–11. Eleven other cases of yālad in the hiphil are figurative, either metaphorical or instructional in the third person: Job 38:28; Ecclesiastes 5:14; 6:3; Isaiah 45:10; 55:10; 59:4; 66:9; Jeremiah 16:3; 29:6; Ezekiel 18:10, 14.

We analyze the remaining known instances as follows:

  1. Seven examples are father-son or probably father-son:
    1. 1 Chronicles 1:34, AbrahamàIsaac
    2. 1 Chronicles 2:20, HuràUriàBezalel ( Exodus 17:10; 31:2; 35:30).
    3. 1 Chronicles 8:1, Benjaminàsons; however, there are discrepancies between the names in Genesis 46:21 and 1 Chronicles 8:1–2 and this is a concern.
    4. 1 Chronicles 14:3 refers to David and his children.
    5. 2 Chronicles 11:21; 13:21; and 24:3 are father-children, but they do not provide useful genealogical information; they only state that Rehoboam, Abijah, and Joash had children.
  2. Eight examples definitely have gaps or use yālad in the hiphil to refer to more distant descendants:
    1. Ruth 4:18–22 and 1 Chronicles 2:10–13 record David’s genealogy with identified gaps.
    2. 2 Kings 20:18 and Isaiah 39:7 are the case of Hezekiah, in which yālad in the hiphil clearly applies to distant descendants.
    3. 1 Chronicles 6:4–14 is the high priest list from the Exodus to the exile—with gaps. 5
    4. 1 Chronicles 8:33–34 (1 Chronicles 9:39–40), King Saul’s genealogy, incorrectly lists his uncle Ner as his grandfather (see 1 Samuel 9:1; 14:50–51).
    5. Ezekiel 47:22 refers to long-term property rights of the offspring of resident aliens among the Jews.
  3. One example is probably not father-son:
    1. Judges 11:1, GileadàJephthah is almost surely another example in which yālad in the hiphil is used for people groups, meaning a man of Gilead.

Clearly the large majority of instances of yālad in the hiphil in non-Mosaic literature are unknown or figurative—and the known instances are roughly split equally between father-son and not father-son.

One other fact gleaned from the above analysis is that all examples of long genealogies using yālad in the hiphil are either unknown (Genesis 5 and 11; 1 Chronicles 2:36–41; Nehemiah 12:10–11) or have gaps (Ruth 4:18–22; 1 Chronicles 2:10–13; 1 Chronicles 6:4–14). This suggests that long genealogies may be telescoped.

Based on the above, it is not plausible to use statistical data to claim that yālad in the hiphil uniformly means a father-son relationship in the Bible. In both Mosaic and non-Mosaic literature, that is the situation with only about half of the known cases. This statistical data thus fails to suggest that the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies are complete and without gaps. To the contrary, this data suggests that there probably are gaps.

Readers are invited to review and comment on any or all of these examples. Only cursory explanations of the above can be made in this brief document, but our e-book God of the Gaps includes a more detailed analysis.

  1. J. Paul Tanner, “Old Testament Chronology and Its Implication for the Creation and Flood Accounts,” Bibliotheca Sacra 172 (January–March 2015): 24–44, https://paultanner.org/English Docs/SpecialArt/OT Chron and Creation-Flood_P Tanner_BibSac 2015 Final.pdf.
  2. Daniel J. Dyke and Hugh Henry, “Biblical Genealogies Revisited: Further Evidence of Gaps,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, November 18, 2013, https://www.reasons.org/articles/biblical-genealogies-revisited-further-evidence-of-gaps.
  3. J. Paul Tanner, private communication.
  4. Gary Knoppers,4. 1 Chronicles 1–9: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, (New York: Doubleday, 2004).
  5. A footnote to 1 Chronicles 6:4–15 in the NIV Study Bible cites four (or six) high priests known from the Old Testament who are not mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6: Jehoiada (2 Kings 12:2), Uriah (2 Kings 16:10–16), possibly two Azariahs (2 Chronicles 26:17, 20; 31:10–31), and Eli (1 Samuel 1:9).

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