Saturday, January 29, 2011

How many children did Jacob have?

Question from Bryan:
How many children did Jacob have? 15?

Answer from Pastor Bob:
Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) had 12 sons (see Genesis 29:31 -30:24 and 35:16-19.) He also had one daughter who was named, Dinah (Genesis 30:21), and there are references to other daughters, but they are not named (Genesis 37:35; 46:7). Thus he had more than 13 children, but we do not know the exact number. The 12 sons formed the twelve tribes of Israel.
Often, the two sons of Joseph (Jacob's grandsons) are each counted as a tribe. They were Ephraim and Manasseh. But the priestly tribe of Levi, which lived in cities and had no land, is left out of the count to keep the number at 12 tribes assigned portions of the Promised Land.
NOTE: Thanks to Pastor Donnie Brannen for pointing out the plural "daughters" in Genesis 37:35 and 46:7, which I missed and had to add here later.


  1. May I ask about the reference to Zilpah in Genesis 46:18, that says this. These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter, and these she bare unto Jacob, even sixteen souls. The 30th chapter of Genesis notes how Jacob went into her. And these children were direct offspring of Jacob. And also the Bible references Bilhah in Genesis 46:25 These are the sons of Bilhah which Laban gave unto Rachel his daughter, and she bare these unto Jacob: all the souls were seven. Counting all these children, it looks like Jacob directly sired 36 children, and the 12 tribes comes directly from Rachel and Leah.

  2. The numbers seven and 16 refer not only to Jacob's children with Bilhah and Zilpah, but their grandchildren as well. If you count Dan and Napthali, plus their sons, it adds up to seven. If you add Gad and Asher, plus their sons and daughter Serah, it adds up to 16.

    Although Jacob sired children in excess of 13, there is no Biblical indication it was as many as 36. There was no word for grandson back then remember, so even grandsons are called sons. If you do the math of mentioned offspring in Genesis 46 it should clear up your question, Clarinda.

  3. Thanks for this article - I felt sure that Jacob had other daughters, besides Dinah, that had simply been left of the list of descendants/children in the bible because they were female. I've always felt it was sad that the only daughter of Jacob that gets named is mentioned only because she was the centerpiece in a tragic string of events. Atozinco.