Based on the implication that Yehuda got married after Yosef was sold, and that it was 22 years later that Yaacov and the family come down to Egypt, during that time Yehuda has his 3 children by the daughter of Shua, marries two of them to Tamar, they both die, keeps Shelah from her so that he can grow up, then has two children by her.

How old were Er and Onan when they died?


2 Answers 2


According to Seder Hadoros (Year 2217) Er and Onan were seven or eight years old when they married Tamar. I'd assume they died quite soon after.

However see Ibn Ezra to Breishis 38:1 who states that it was not possible to procreate until age twelve. He reconciles the 22 years by explaining that "At that time" could mean before the sale of Yosef. (Thanks @Fred)

  • 2
    How could Onan possibly die before puberty?
    – Aryeh
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 11:42
  • 2
    @Aryeh The Seder Hadoros in the link I provided writes that at that time boys reached puberty at age eight.
    – Michoel
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 13:34
  • The Ibn Ezra explicitly disagrees with this opinion (Commentary to B'reishis, 38:1). I'd venture that his opinion is worthy of inclusion in your answer.
    – Fred
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 19:13
  • Thank you but that raises as many questions. How could they be punished at the age of 8 or 12? Even according to the Ibn Ezra I am not sure there are enough years for it all to have taken place, unless Yehuda got married before they even came back to Canaan. Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 9:24
  • @MordYisroel The Rosh asks your question (Hadar Zekaynim L'Baley Hatosofos Parshas Vayeshev), and answers that although they were minors since they were able to procreate they were considered of age.
    – Michoel
    Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 10:29

See the first derasha in the sefer perashas derachim where he posits that the disagreement between yosef and the brothers was if they had a status of Jews or bnei Noah. This may be the answer (although the other brothers held they were Jews, perhaps this can bolster yosefs opinion), by bnei Noah they become of age when they have daas, usually it is at about 8 or 9. Also, on the question of how old people were when they had children see sanhedrin 69b that they had children at 8. See also pirush rabbi chaim paltiel (Talmud of the rosh) parshas vayeshev. enter image description here

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