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Genesis 46

26 Jacob’s people who came to Egypt—his direct descendants, not counting the wives of Jacob’s sons—numbered sixty-six persons in all. 27 Together with Joseph’s sons who were born to him in Egypt—two persons—all the people comprising the household of Jacob who had come to Egypt amounted to seventy persons in all.

No mention is made here of Jacob's many servants/slaves. But according the Gen. 17, such people were included in God's covenant with Abraham:

Genesis 17:212-13

Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. 13 Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.

Presuming that Jacob kept this tradition faithfully, his slaves would have been included in God's covenant with Israel. Did these people make the trip to Egypt, but were simply omitted form the tally? If not, would this help bridge the gap between the Biblical record and the ideas of critical scholars and archaeologists who think that most of the people later called Israelites did not participate in the Exodus, because they actually never lived in Egypt?

In other words, did large numbers of the House of Israel - namely servants/slaves born to Jacob's clan and thus included in God's covenant through the rite of circumcision - remain in Canaan when the sons of Jacob migrated to Egypt?

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There is a much simpler explanation.

When Jacob and his family were living in Canaan, we should recall several facts:

  • I agree that Jacob's household would have participated in the covenant just as Abraham's entire household did
  • when Joseph's 10 brothers went to Egypt on two occasions to buy food, they each took a donkey (or two??) to carry back the grain purchased. This would not have been a huge amount of grain and so the household would have been relatively small.
  • Jacob's household would have shrunk significantly during the famine.

[Historical note: Since Abraham raised a private army to rescue lot of 318 fighting men, his entire household might have been about 2000 people. I assume that at its zenith, Jacob's household might have been similar but would have reduced drastically during the famine.]

Therefore, the fact that only 70 people (Gen 46:27) entered Canaan is no surprise to me.

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