The back of my Feldheim Tanakh has a timeline which gives the birth and death years of various Tanakh characters. The birth years of the sons of Ya'akov are not listed in the order given in Parashat Vayetze, but rather as follows:

2192 ראובן

2193 שמעון

2194 לוי

2194 דן

2195 יהודה

2195 נפתלי

2196 יששכר

2196 גד

2197 זבולון

2197 אשר

2199 יוסף

2207 בנימין

Any idea what the source is for this ordering? Do others say the birth order is in fact the order of mention in Vayetze? What are the constraints? And where does דינה fit in?

Also, in a somewhat related question, why does Divrei Hayamim I 2:1 list them in this order:

ראובן שמעון לוי יהודה יששכר זבולון דן יוסף בנימין נפתלי גד אשר


Yalkut Shimoni (Shemos, sec. 162) gives the birthdates of the shevatim and the ages to which they lived, and Sefer Hayashar (beginning of Shemos) gives similar figures for their ages and adds how many years each lived after the descent to Egypt. Putting these two together yields the order of their birth.

There are variant versions on some of the dates, though, so Feldheim's reconstruction isn't the only one possible. R' Aryeh Kaplan zt"l discusses this whole issue at length in his notes to Me'am Loez (The Torah Anthology) to Parshas Vayeitzei (end of vol. 3b).

I suppose one aspect of it is that it makes sense, for example, that Rachel wouldn't have waited until Yehudah was born before giving Bilhah to Yaakov; as soon as she realized that Leah was pregnant again (with Levi), then that would been enough to establish a chazakah and to take action. Another constraint is that there has to be some time between the births of Yehudah and of Yissachar and Gad, since Leah saw that she had stopped bearing children (Gen. 30:9).

Dinah: Ibn Ezra (to Gen. 30:21) says that she was a twin with Zevulun. There is also an opinion, whose source I can't find now, that Rachel and Leah were pregnant at the same time with, respectively, Yosef and Dinah, and that due to Leah's prayer (Berachos 60a) the fetuses were miraculously switched. (This in fact is one of the sources mentioned by contemporary posekim dealing with issues of surrogate motherhood.) According to this, she would have been the same age as Yosef.

The order in Divrei Hayamim: Malbim there quotes Bereishis Rabbah 73:4, that Dan deserves to be listed before Yosef and Binyamin because he was the direct cause of their birth (i.e., the fact that Rachel gave Bilhah as a wife to Yaakov, so that she would bear some of the tribes, was a critical factor for her own later motherhood).

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  • I don't see how the Feldheim dates fit with your point that there should be a break between Yehuda and Yissachar. Also, once Leah is pregnant with Yissachar, why would Zilpah continue to have children? The straightforward understanding would seem to imply that Yissachar should come after Gad and Asher. – Sam Feb 2 '11 at 4:57
  • Yalkut places Yehudah's birthday on 15 Sivan, and Yissachar's on 10 Av. Those are about 14 months apart - which leaves a break of several months after Yehudah was born before she became pregnant again. And Zilpah could indeed still be bearing children after Yissachar was born; at that point she and Bilhah were full wives of Yaakov, co-equal with their former mistresses. You're right, though, that other sources I've seen make Yissachar and Zevulun only a little older than Yosef, who was unquestionably born in 2199; if I recall correctly, R' Kaplan has them born in 2198 and 2199 respectively. – Alex Feb 2 '11 at 19:19
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    @Alex: It is Targum Yonasan ben Uziel (Bereshit 30:21) who says that Yosef and Dinah were switched in the womb: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=9597&pgnum=393 . I forget if it is he or someone else who says that because of the switch in the womb we see feminine traits in Yosef (he combed his hair) and masculine traits in Dinah (she went out in public). – Menachem Jun 19 '11 at 10:07
  • @Menachem, yasher koach for the source! And interesting idea about their respective traits - it's not in Targum Yonasan, but by some Googling I see this idea sourced to Yagel Yaakov by R' C.M.Y. Gottlieb of Miskolc. – Alex Jun 19 '11 at 18:07
  • @Alex: I found an article online that quotes the Chidah who says it. gtorah.com/category/sources/rav-schwab And here is the Chidah: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=19464&pgnum=52 (although from my cursory reading it appears that the Chidah just mentions Dina's masculine tendencies, and not Yosef's feminine ones). – Menachem Jun 19 '11 at 22:37

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