These are they which spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt,.... In the name of the Lord of hosts; and demanded the dismission of Israel, in order
to bring the children of Israel from Egypt; nor did they desist making application to him, until they had prevailed upon him to let them go:
these are that Moses and Aaron; which is repeated, that it may be observed who were the deliverers of Israel, what their names, of what tribe they were, and from whom they descended, and who sprung from them, at least from Aaron. These are they which spake to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt: these are that Moses and Aaron.
The Genealogy of Moses and Aaron. - "These are their (Moses' and Aaron's) father's-houses." בּית־אבות father's-houses (not fathers' house) is a composite noun, so formed that the two words not only denote one idea, but are treated grammatically as one word, like בּית־עצבּים idol-houses (1 Samuel 31:9
), and בּית־בּמות high-place-houses (cf. Ges. 108, 3; Ewald, 270c). Father's house was a technical term applied to a collection of families, called by the name of a common ancestor. The father's-houses were the larger divisions into which the families (mishpachoth), the largest subdivisions of the tribes of Israel, were grouped. To show clearly the genealogical position of Levi, the tribe-father of Moses and Aaron, among the sons of Jacob, the genealogy commences with Reuben, the first-born of Jacob, and gives the names of such of his sons and those of Simeon as were the founders of families (Genesis 46:9-10
). Then follows Levi; and not only are the names of his three sons given, but the length of his life is mentioned (Exodus 6:16
), also that of his son Kohath and his descendant Amram, because they were the tribe-fathers of Moses and Aaron. But the Amram mentioned in Exodus 6:20
as the father of Moses, cannot be the same person as the Amram who was the son of Kohath (Exodus 6:18
), but must be a later descendant. For, however the sameness of names may seem to favour the identity of the persons, if we simply look at the genealogy before us, a comparison of this passage with Numbers 3:27-28
will show the impossibility of such an assumption. "According to Numbers 3:27-28
, the Kohathites were divided (in Moses' time) into the four branches, Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites, who consisted together of 8600 men and boys (women and girls not being included). Of these, about a fourth, or 2150 men, would belong to the Amramites. Now, according to Exodus 18:3-4
, Moses himself had only two sons. Consequently, if Amram the son of Kohath, and tribe-father of the Amramites, was the same person as Amram the father of Moses, Moses must have had 2147 brothers and brothers' sons (the brothers' daughters, the sisters, and their daughters, not being reckoned at all). But as this is absolutely impossible, it must be granted that Amram the son of Kohath was not the father of Moses, and that an indefinitely long list of generations has been omitted between the former and his descendant of the same name" (Tiele, Chr. des A. T. p. 36).
(Note: The objections of M. Baumgarten to these correct remarks have been conclusively met by Kurtz (Hist. of O. C. vol. ii. p. 144). We find a similar case in the genealogy of Ezra in Ezra 7:3, which passes over from Azariah the son of Meraioth to Azariah the son of Johanan, and omits five links between the two, as we may see from 1 Chronicles 6:7-11. In the same way the genealogy before us skips over from Amram the son of Kohath to Amram the father of Moses without mentioning the generations between.)
The enumeration of only four generations, viz., Levi, Iohath, Amram, Moses, is unmistakeably related to Genesis 15:16, where it is stated that the fourth generation would return to Canaan. Amram's wife Jochebed, who is merely spoken of in general terms as a daughter of Levi (a Levitess) in Exodus 2:1 and Numbers 26:59, is called here the דּודה "aunt" (father's sister) of Amram, a marriage which was prohibited in the Mosaic law (Leviticus 18:12), but was allowed before the giving of the law; so that there is no reason for following the lxx and Vulgate, and rendering the word, in direct opposition to the usage of the language, patruelis, the father's brother's daughter. Amram's sons are placed according to their age: Aaron, then Moses, as Aaron was three years older than his brother. Their sister Miriam was older still (vid., Exodus 2:4). In the lxx, Vulg., and one Hebrew MS, she is mentioned here; but this is a later interpolation. In Exodus 6:21. not only are the sons of Aaron mentioned (Exodus 6:23), but those of two of Amram's brothers, Izhar and Uzziel (Exodus 6:21, Exodus 6:22), and also Phinehas, the son of Aaron's son Eleazar (Exodus 6:25); as the genealogy was intended to trace the descent of the principal priestly families, among which again special prominence is given to Aaron and Eleazar by the introduction of their wives. On the other hand, none of the sons of Moses are mentioned, because his dignity was limited to his own person, and his descendants fell behind those of Aaron, and were simply reckoned among the non-priestly families of Levi. The Korahites and Uzzielites are mentioned, but a superior rank was assigned to them in the subsequent history to that of other Levitical families (cf. Numbers 16-17; Numbers 26:11, and Numbers 3:30 with Leviticus 10:4). Aaron's wife Elisheba was of the princely tribe of Judah, and her brother Naashon was a tribe-prince of Judah (cf. Numbers 2:3). אבות ראשׁי (Exodus 6:25), a frequent abbreviation for בית־אבות ראשׁי, heads of the father's-houses of the Levites. In Exodus 6:26 and Exodus 6:27, with which the genealogy closes, the object of introducing it is very clearly shown in the expression, "These are that Aaron and Moses," at the beginning of Exodus 6:26; and again, "These are that Moses and Aaron," at the close of Exodus 6:27. The reversal of the order of the names is also to be noticed. In the genealogy itself Aaron stands first, as the elder of the two; in the conclusion, which leads over to the historical narrative that follows, Moses takes precedence of his elder brother, as being the divinely appointed redeemer of Israel. On the expression, "according to their armies," see Exodus 7:4.