Genesis 15:16:

וְד֥וֹר רְבִיעִ֖י יָשׁ֣וּבוּ הֵ֑נָּה כִּ֧י לֹא־שָׁלֵ֛ם עֲוֺ֥ן הָאֱמֹרִ֖י עַד־הֵֽנָּה׃

(Modified Sefria.org translation)

'And in the fourth generation they shall come back here; for the sin the Amorite is not yet full.’

If we account for the sin of the spies and the fact that the generation of those that were age 20+ that left Egypt, we find that because the people believed the report of the 10 spies, G-d said that the next generation would be the ones to inherit the land in Cana'an.

So, when G-d mentioned to Avram the 4th generation, does this number include or exclude the fact that the "original" generation would have entered the land had they not sinned by believing the spies' report?

  • According to Rashi, there would be 3 generations in Egypt, and the fourth generation would enter Israel. Accordingly, the 4th generation referenced to Avraham was the "original generation" that would have entered; not the one that did.
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 27, 2015 at 0:12
  • I think the previous comment answers the question, can you confirm that I understood the question correctly?
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 27, 2015 at 0:13
  • @mevaqesh - It's been a while since I viewed my own question. Offhand, you MAY Have answered it - not sure. SInce the verse doesn't explicitly say which generation would enter Egypt, the focus of my question is specifically regarding which generation would actually return there. Technically, even the 4th generation could be the one going to Egypt and then returning, for purposes of answering the question, here. (However, of course, a single generation prob. would not reside in Egypt 400 years.) This, of course, begs to ask how many years is a "generation"?
    – DanF
    Oct 27, 2015 at 13:59

1 Answer 1


The cogent explanation comes from Rashi's commentary on the passage; that is, Caleb represented the fourth generation that entered the land. In this regard, the commentary of the Jewish Publication Society provides that four generations in this context therefore means four lifespans.

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Sarna, Nahum M. (1989). Genesis. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 116.

  • I did see Rashi"s explanation, but I couldn't quite determine that as an answer to my question. Perhaps with this English explanation, it may reveal something.
    – DanF
    Oct 27, 2015 at 13:57
  • @DanF: Based on what Joseph quoted from Rashi, the 4th generation includes the generation that died in the wilderness. Calev was a member of the generation who died, but was the punishment for his righteous behavior. Since he entered the land and was from the "fourth generation", then that generation was included in the prophecy. Oct 27, 2015 at 18:51

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