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Exodus 6:16 states that Levi lived for 137 years. The Targum Yonatan, (ibid) says:

ואלין שמהת בנוי דלוי לייחוסיהון גרשון קהת ומררי ושני חיוי דלוי מאה ותלתין ושבע שנין חייא עד דחמא ית משה וית אהרון פריקייא דישראל.‏

... he lived until he saw Moses and Aaron the saviors of Israel.

Moses was 80 the year that the Israelites left Egypt and aaron was 83. Out of the 210 year exile, (Start from Isaac who had Jacob at 60, Jacob was 130 when he arrived in Egypt = 190. Gd told Abraham 400 years of exile, 400-190 = 210). This means that Moses was born in the 130th year of exile, and Aaron was born the 127th year of exile. (Ex 7:7, see also Rashi Ex 2:1 and Gen 15:13).

In order for Levi to have seen Moses, he would have had to be 7 or younger when he arrived with Jacob in Egypt. That is not possible though, because We know that Levi was older than Josef, (See Gen 29 -30, ), who was 30 when appointed by Pharaoh as viceroy, (Gen 41:46), and 39 when his father arrived, counting 7 years of plenty and 2 years of famine ,(ibid 45:6).

Levi would then have had to be older than 169, (Joseph was 39 + 130 years until Moses' birth).

How is this reconciled? Is it possible that The verse ennumerates Levi's years from when he arrived in Egypt? Is there a different understanding of the 400 count told to Abraham, and consequently the 210 years in Egypt, which could allow for this?

The Ramban, (Ex 12:42) offers alternative counts, resulting in 240, or 220ish years of exile in Egypt, but that only exacerbates the problem, requiring Levi to be at least 199, or at least 179.

Thanks for any ideas!

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I'd have to see that Targum but off-hand that sounds wrong. The verse says first Yosef and all his brothers died, then the slavery began, then Moshe was born. – Shalom Dec 24 '13 at 17:46
I dunno, it has been deemed important enough to be listed alongside Onkelos and others for at least hundreds of years. – Baby Seal Dec 24 '13 at 19:08
Baby Seal, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for all of your great early contributions! I hope you'll stick around and keep bringing your questions and answers here. – Isaac Moses Dec 25 '13 at 6:36
The question is asked by the Chida in פני דוד and he offers no solution:בתרגום המיוחת ליונתן בפ׳ זו כתב דלוי ראה למשה ואהרן .... ושמעתי מקשים דלוי היה לו יותר מן מ״ד שנים כשבא למצרים דיוסף היה בן שלשים בעומדו לפני פרעה ושבע ורעב ט׳ שנים הם ל״ט וחמשה לפחות שנולד קודם יוסף הם מ״ד. וישראל ישבו רד״ו שנה במצרים הסר מרד״ו פ׳ דמשה הם ק״ל וא״כ ק״ל ומ״ד הם קע״ד דהיינו מ״ד שהיה לוי בשבא למצרים וק״ל עד שלא נולד משה הם קע״ד ולוי חי קל״ז א״כ איך אפשר דלוי ראה למשה ואהרן. – Ephraim Jan 3 '14 at 7:13
@Ephraim Where do we see anything about the birth of Miriam? I've been wondering about this, since there are no sources that explicitly mention her age, and unlike Moshe and Aharon, we aren't given her age at death. Perhaps we could assert that Levi was "holding on" until he received nevuah that Moshe and Aharon WILL BECOME saviors of Israel? So he "saw them" in nevuah, but not in actuality? – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 23 at 21:17

Perush Yonason asks this question and does not give an answer. I once heard an answer (do not remember from who) which is difficult to accept. Levi lived 137 years in Egypt. The problems with this answer is numerous, and I think this is a question that has no good answer.

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could you list some of the problems? Off hand, I think Levi being older then Yaakov is strange, although its not impossible. Judah's friend Hira the Adulamite could have lived nearly 1200 years (Gen Rab. 85:4). Also, Levi's death is not mentioned, nor is Amram's or Kehath's. Avraham's, Sarah's, Ishmael's, Isaac's, and Jacob's "expiration", are mentioned. – Baby Seal Dec 24 '13 at 18:45
as a follow up, Levi, Kehath, and Amram are the only personalities whose years are mentioned in this section, and the targum expounds upon all of them, saying that Kehath saw Pinehas, or Elijah, and Amram saw his great-great grandchildren. It would seem as though the Targum Is expounding upon the mention of their ages as a textual anomaly. – Baby Seal Dec 24 '13 at 19:02
Which Targum is this referring to - Onkelos, Yonasan or Yerushalmi? – Joshua Pearl Dec 25 '13 at 13:10
Targum Yonasan. – Baby Seal Dec 26 '13 at 19:12

Rabbi Mordechai Hochman, in "הבנים שאינם נראים"( also in "גרשום – 'הגבר' שבחבורה"), brings the question of how could Levi have lived to see Mosheh and Aharon, but also mentions that the same problem exists for Kehat having lived to see Pinchas (i.e. Eliyahu; see Targum [Pseudo-]Yonatan on v. 18).

To answer this, he brings Liqutei Moharan I:173, which says that the greater Benei Aliyah beget souls beyond the 600,000 that are the basis for most people born, and some of those souls end up in people born in this world.

According to this, R. Hochman understands the Targum to be saying the the longevity of Levi, Kehat and Amram was evidence of they're being of those Benei Aliyah, and through their excellence they were able to spiritually see the souls of Mosheh and Aharon, Pinchas (Eliyahu), and the sons of Rechavyah( mentioned in the Targum [Pseudo-]Yonatan on v. 20) respectively, years before the latter were even born.

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שרת"י במדינות on תרגום יונתן cites אגרא דכלה:

ואפשר ס"ל, דלא מנה הכתוב רק אותן שנים אחר שנולדו לו הבנים, ולא מנו אותן השנים קודם שבא למצרים. ולפי זה היה משה קרוב לשבע שנים כשמת לוי

"Perhaps, he understands that the verse only counted those years after he gave birth to children, and didn't count the years before he arrived in Egypt. According to this, Moshe would have been close to seven years old when Levi died." (i.e. 210-137 = 73 years before the Exodus, or when Moshe was 80-73=7 years old.)

This answer is also given by Avraham Gutenplan in his Keter Torah.

As I indicated in the comments, this answer is unsatisfactory. There's a מדרש that reports that the enslavement didn't begin until Levi died. This itself contradicts the answer of the אגרא דכלה.

See here and here for the explanation that "seeing" is not meant to be literal, but refers to prophetic vision.

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Thank you, +1! Does a conflicting midrash invalidate a point? Can't the targum and the midrash just disagree? – Baby Seal Jan 3 '14 at 7:58
Absolutely we can have differing מדרשים. Indeed, not all מדרשים are supposed to be historical. See תוספות on מנחות לז א heading או קום גלי. There תוספות writes that a certain מדרש doesn't represent real history. However, the מדרש that the servitude didn't start until the death of Levi is cited by Rashi on that very פסוק. That's not some far-flung מדרש! – Ephraim Jan 3 '14 at 8:47
Right, that's where I saw it. Rashi lists it as the reason for Levi's years being mentioned, and gives another reason for Kehath and Amram's years. The Targum clearly disagrees as to the reason for Levi Kehath and Amram's years being mentioned. I think its quite clear, honestly. – Baby Seal Jan 3 '14 at 8:50
The Targum is plainly picking up on the mention of years in the case of these three individuals, as opposed to others in the portion, in my mind. – Baby Seal Jan 3 '14 at 8:53
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Notice that the verses stating Levi's, Kehath's, and Amram's years don't mention death1, so one could argue that the years listed do not account for all of their years, but only for a portion of them. Also notice that in this listing of individuals, they are the only people whose years are mentioned, which causes these years to stand out, open to interpretation. Targum Yonatan expounds upon all three verses in a similar way2.

The אוצר י"ד החיים‏ seen here notices the clear distinction between the enumeration of Levi's years and the statement about his living to see Moshe and Aaron. He explains that the additional years are not considered a part of Levi's life because only years lived predominately by way of a person's granted strength are attributed to them. The additional years, since they came from elsewhere, (a purely supernatural endowment?), and went above and beyond Levi's natural lifespan, are not attributed to him3. The author uses the Talmud in Erachin as a source for this concept, (exact source needed). This concept is only applied to Levi by the author, and not to Kehath or Amram, explicitly.

1. Ex 6:16,18,20. This as opposed to Sarah (Gen 23:2), Abraham (25:8), Ishamel (25:17), and Isaac (35:28-29). see Also Gen 5 and 11. 2. Kehath is said to have seen his great-great grandson Phineas, (see Pirush Yonatan on Ex 6:18, where he raises a similar issue with this statement), and Amram his great-great grandchildren, sons of Rehabia. 3. So when The verse says that Joseph and all of his brothers died, (Ex 1:6), Levis 'death' could be understood as the end of his natural lifespan.

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See my comments above. Levi and Miriam could not have lived at the same time, since the enslavement didn't start until Levi died, and the enslavement reached its worst level when Miriam was born. – Ephraim Jan 3 '14 at 7:26
@Ephraim take a look at this source and idea. I think it make reconcile your issue somewhat. – Baby Seal Jan 8 '14 at 22:19
@Ephraim also bear in mind the nature of midrashim that you are citing. – Baby Seal Jan 14 '15 at 2:10

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