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An Apparent Contradiction in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan Genesis 25:20–26: Was Rebekah Barren for Twenty or Twenty-Two Years?

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While the Hebrew Bible does not specify the duration of Rebekah’s barrenness, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (TgPsJ) Gen. 25:21 introduces a comment that Rebekah was barren for twenty-two years. This appears to produce an inconsistency, both between the Hebrew Bible and TgPsJ, and within the TgPsJ narrative itself. Two references to Isaac’s age—in the context of his relationship to Rebekah—seem to suggest that Rebekah was barren for twenty years: At 25:20, Isaac marries Rebekah when he is forty; and at 25:26, Esau and Jacob are born when Isaac is sixty. This twenty-year gap presumably reveals the twenty years of Rebekah’s barrenness. Indeed, scholars have suggested that TgPsJ’s ‘twenty-two years’ be emended to ‘twenty years’. This article, however, contends that TgPsJ’s ‘twenty-two years’ should be retained, and that the text of TgPsJ proves to be a coherent text when read in the greater context of biblical and Jewish tradition about Isaac and Rebekah.

Affiliations: 1: The Master’s Seminary, Los Angeles, CA, USA


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