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The end of Gen 35:26 reads

... These are the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.

Among these sons is Benjamin (V.24), who was not born in Paddam-aram, but on the way to Ephrath (Vv. 18-19).

Obviously, the verb translated as to be born could also be translated to beget, in which case there would be no problem with verse 26. But I believe the Hebrew text does not allow such a construction in verse 26 because it should then be translated as

... These are the sons of Jacob who were begotten unto him in Paddan-aram.

which, imho, doesn't make sense.

4

If one assumes a unity of the text, then Gen 35:16-20 makes it clear that Gen 35:26 cannot be referring to the sons born "to him [Jacob] in Paddan-Aram," since Benjamin was not.

So that means a different statement must be what is intended, and in fact, a preposition used there can allow for a different interpretation that fits the facts.

The Hebrew of the phrase in question is:

אֲשֶׁ֥ר יֻלַּד־ל֖וֹ בְּפַדַּ֥ן אֲרָֽם

The beth (בְּ) proposition in that construction, however, need not be taken to mean the sons were born in the location of Paddan-Aram (though that is a common use of the beth, so it is an understandable translation course to take). If context allowed it, that would be the most likely meaning. But again, context does not allow it. So what else could it mean? It could be (s.v. בְּ from respective lexicons):

  • Instrumentality (BDB, III.2; HALOT, 16): "by means of" or in this case, since we are dealing with location, "by way of" Paddan-Aram
  • Causal: (BDB, III.5; HALOT, 19): "through" or "on account of" Paddan-Aram.

Either idea would be making a statement not about the locality of where the sons were born, but rather a statement about where Jacob went that afforded him the opportunity to have this family; that is, the fact that by means of (or because of) Jacob going to Paddan-Aram, he found these wives/concubines and thus had these 12 sons born to him.*

Such implications with the preposition must come from the context to construe it so, and relaying that implication more directly in the translation would be something like this (with the implied thought in brackets):

who were born to Jacob by way of [his going to] Paddan-Aram.

Is such an implied thought valid? I believe so.

The context of this statement is right before Jacob finally meets up again with his father Isaac (v.27). Thus the summary statement of v.26 is the end of Jacob's journey away from home, a journey that started out by his leaving to go to Paddan-Aram to find a wife, per Gen 28:1-2 (NKJV):

1 Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. 2 Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.

So now Jacob is returning to Isaac from his journey into the location of Paddan-Aram, but the focus is on account of his journeying to there, all these sons have been born to him, even Benjamin.

Conclusion

The inherent locative of beth used with a place name in Genesis 35:26 is setting up an emphasis within the context of Genesis 35 of Jacob's going there to Paddan-Aram as the means by which any and all of his sons were born to him, not the direct association of the sons necessarily being physically born at that location to him. His family came about by means of his going to Paddan-Aram, as his father Isaac had instructed him to do.


* A question in a comment below arose: "are there any other examples where a place name is the object of -ב and it is something other than locative?" The short answer is a qualified "yes."

For purposes here, an examination of Genesis was done; there are almost certainly other examples beyond, but this shows usages within the context of that work itself (which I believe is essentially a single authored work).

It should be noted that the use of beth with a place name always, by mere association to a place, has a level of "locative" idea behind it. But the context of certain usages adds a focus on that place association with respect to what that location affords by being an instrument or secondary cause toward another goal.

The examples below are from the NKJV; they are not exhaustive of all the ones in Genesis; they start with generic "places" then move to "named" places; the relevant terms translating the beth are bolded; in the discussion following the verses, ILI = 'inherent locative idea' in beth when associated to a place and EEM = 'extended emphasis of means' by context.

Genesis 9:13-16 (object is the place of a cloud)

13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

A rainbow appears at the location of a cloud (ILI), but the focus is on the sign of that rainbow in a cloud as God's covenant with the earth regarding not ever destroying it again by means of rain/flood, and so the focus of the cloud is the means of bringing about the rainbow signification after a rain (EEM). For those that hold to divine inspiration of the text, then God is likely, through the human author, stating a side note about the fact that clouds really are the means of a rainbow forming, for clouds are "a visible mass of minute liquid droplets or frozen crystals," and a "rainbow is caused by light being refracted when entering a droplet of water, then reflected inside on the back of the droplet and refracted again when leaving it (accessed 10/10/2016)."

Genesis 25:23 (object is the place of a womb)

 And the LORD said to her [Rebekah, mother of Jacob and Esau, Israelites and Edomites]: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.”

Two children (Jacob and Esau) are there in womb (ILI), but the focus is on her womb being the means of bringing about two nations (EEM).

Genesis 28:12 (object is the place of a ladder)

Then he [Jacob] dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

The angels were there on this ladder (INI), but the focus is on that ladder being the means of their "ascending and descending."

Genesis 31:18 (object is Paddan-Aram)

And he [Jacob] carried away all his livestock and all his possessions which he had gained, his acquired livestock which he had gained in Padan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

It was there in Padan-Aram (INI) that was the means by which Jacob gained his possessions (EEM).

Genesis 34:10 (object is the land near Shechem)

So you [Jacob and his sons] shall dwell with us [the people of Shechem], and the land shall be before you. Dwell and trade in it, and acquire possessions for yourselves in it.”

There in the land (INI) would be the means of acquiring possessions (EEM), in a sense very similar to the 31:18 reference above, only for the sons in particular to gain.

Genesis 36:6 (object is land of Canaan)

Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan, and went to a country away from the presence of his brother Jacob.

Like the previous two references, Canaan is the place where (INI) Esau had the means to gain his wives, children, servants, animals, and wealth (EEM).

Genesis 41:29 (object is land of Egypt)

Indeed seven years of great plenty will come throughout all the land of Egypt;

Egypt is the place where (INI) and means by which (EEM) a great harvest comes to help not only the land of Egypt, but others who will come to it for help (as Jacob's sons did).

Genesis 42:5 (object is land of Canaan)

And the sons of Israel went to buy grain among those who journeyed, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

Canaan, that had been a blessing to Esau (as 36:6 above noted), was now where (INI) crops were not growing, so the land was the means of the famine (EEM).

Conclusion of Side Note

What the above examples indicate is that there is always some locative sense in beth used with a place, whether generic or specifically named, for a place is by definition a location.

These examples also show that places are emphasized as the means by which certain things can take place, but specifically things related to the obtaining of wives, children, and servants (since places contain people one can join with and acquire for such), obtaining of animals (since places were needed to raise the animals), and obtaining wealth and prosperity generally (since places were where crops are grown, metals mined, wood harvested, etc.). Further named examples along this line are Gen 46:6, 20, 34; 47:4, 6.

While gaining family and wealth through the means of places is the common reference in Genesis, anything a place might afford a means of can color the beth usage with an instrumental use, e.g. a location as a means of burial (Gen 49:29).

Given the nature of association of places with gaining of family, this lends further credibility to an instrumental emphasis in Genesis 35:26.

  • Just curious, are there any other examples where a place name is the object of -ב and it is something other than locative? – Susan Oct 4 '16 at 3:56
  • @Susan Thanks for the edit for resources (duh!). I cannot answer your question definitively one way or the other at the moment. But I never assume any meaning for a preposition when translating, but always examine all the possibilities that "could" exist (logically), then use context to determine what the most likely authorial intent is. Here, unless one deems the author an idiot or an editor incompetent for having just stated Benjamin was born elsewhere (neither of which match my view of divinely inspired writings), then context demands it not be locative. – ScottS Oct 4 '16 at 4:08
  • @Susan: I'm doing a bit of study on your question, and think I can formulate a reasonable answer to it (with a qualified "affirmative"), but it may be a few days before I can get to it. – ScottS Oct 4 '16 at 5:07
  • 1
    Thanks! For one more option along these lines (re-interpreting b-), a footnote in Victor Hamilton's NICOT commentary points out: Noting the accumulating evidence that the preposition bᵉ may at times mean "from," one might translate the phrase in v. 26b as "born to him (who came) from Paddan-aram." If I'm understanding, that asserts an unmarked relative clause with a suffixed pronoun as its head, which makes me a little nervous.... even more so to think that it must then be restrictive (see p. 112) (as if Jacob had been hitherto unidentified), but maybe. – Susan Oct 4 '16 at 5:10
  • @Susan I just edited my answer to discuss the particular answer to your question. – ScottS Oct 10 '16 at 17:25
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This is a case of different traditions stitched together by a later redactor. The bible has many cases of such redaction and edits. It is explained very well In this article discussing the JEPD "Documentary Hypothesis". For more detail on each tradition follow these links:

Yahwist

Elohist

Deuteronomist

Priestly

Although the Documentary Hypothesis is not without it's problems and is only one way that these conditions are explained. Some of the problems are explained here

All of these silly theories are put forward on the support of a certain methodology which exalts literary and linguistic considerations above all else. That all of these theories could be deduced by simply analyzing the text is probably the most outrageous aspect of the Documentary Hypothesis. Archaeology and history are almost discarded entirely in favor of literary and philological considerations. The Protestant Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, for all its errors, actually hits the nail on the head in its article on the Documentary Hypothesis:

"In its standard form the documentary hypothesis rested upon arguments of two kinds: those based upon literary and linguistic evidence, which resulted in the division of the Pentateuchal material into various written sources; and those based upon historical evidence for the evolution of religious institutions and ideals in Israel, which produced an analytical description of the interrelationships among the documents, and a chronological arrangement to account for them"

In this case we see, using the Documentary Hypothesis, to have 3 traditions cleverly stitched together from the J, E, and P traditions. The first scripture you quoted is from the Priestly (P) tradition. Gen 35

35:23 The sons of Leah were Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, as well as Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. 35:24 The sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin. 35:25 The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant, were Dan and Naphtali. 35:26 The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant, were Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan Aram.

The second is from a combination of the Yahwist (J) and Elohist (E).

35:16 They traveled on from Bethel, and when Ephrath was still some distance away, 33 Rachel went into labor 34 – and her labor was hard...35:18 With her dying breath, 37 she named him Ben-Oni. 38 But his father called him Benjamin instead.

From the article Where was Benjamin born By Dr Steven DiMattei

I have often speculated, following the work of David Carr (Reading the Fractures of Genesis), that the 6th century BC Priestly writer was familiar with the earlier Elohist and Yahwist traditions, and that he was consciously redrafting a new Israelite “history” so that it better conformed with his views and his own audience’s specific needs and concerns

The J traditions were mainly oral traditions from the South (Judea) and the E are traditions from the Northern tribes. The relationship between all the tribes was not always very cohesive, often warring with one another. They also had different traditions as to what family line was to be the High Priests and where worship of Yahveh was to take place.

  • I marked your answer as an Answer though it would have been better if you had shown some indication that this Theory might be incorrect on one or more points. Also, more evidence would be appropriate. Thanks. – user10231 Sep 25 '15 at 21:02
  • I'm not understanding your comment, are you asking to add additional information about the pros and cons to the Documentary Hypothesis? Or the story it's self? – seedy3 Sep 25 '15 at 21:16
  • To speak of this hypothesis as fact without acknowledging its speculative nature seems naive. – user10231 Sep 25 '15 at 21:43
  • I appreciate your criticism. I'll edit it with additional information showing the "con" side of the hypothesis. – seedy3 Sep 25 '15 at 21:48
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It seems to me that the context, that is, Benjamin having just been born, influenced the listing of the genealogy such that only those sons which could be counted as 'born' were so referenced(e.g. Numbers 3:15).

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