Exodus 6:14 - 26 lists the genealogy of the tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Levi. However, after listing the family tree of Levi, the Torah does not continue listing the other tribes - Judah, Joseph, etc.

I understand the reason for listing Levi's family tree, because Moses and Aaron's great-grandfather is Levi son of Jacob, but why list Reuben and Simeon before Levi, when the Torah does not mention any of the other tribes? What does Reuben and Simeon in particular have anything to do with Moses and Aaron more than the other tribes?

Edit: I have accepted one of the answers, but I am still interested in hearing other opinions from different commentaries.

3 Answers 3


Rav Hirsch says that it starts with Reuven and Shimon to show that Moshe was definitively not of "godly" origin as the mythologies of the goyim will have their heroes. However he and Aharon were in the middle of a fully normal family. They were in the middle of the tribes with fathers, mothers, bothers sisters, uncles, cousins

That is why the register of mames is not confined to the direct line of descent of Moses ans Aaron - Jacob, Levi, Kehath, Amram, Moses - but contains that names of the tribes coming before Levi with all of their descendants, as well as the other branches of the Levi tribe.

It also counters the error that anyone no matter how ignorant or great could become a prophet. Had Hashem wished there were many that he could have chosen. Once Moshe and Aharon are reached, the point of these pesukim that they are the ones appointed by Hashem has been made. Thus no further genealogy is required.

  • Nice answer from Rav Hirsch. I would be interested to see what other commentaries say as well.
    – ezra
    Jan 31, 2017 at 4:34
  • @ezra, I'm pretty sure that this echoes the classic meforshim. R' Hertz also mentions this in his Chumash, which admittedly later. Jan 4, 2018 at 17:49

Rashbam to Shemos 6:14 explains that (according to Mehilta) this posuk provides only the genealogies of those three tribes that Yaacov had censured before he died in order to teach us that those tribes are still important.

Sefer Tzror Hamor (last lines, first column) says that the Torah begins with Reuven in order to remove Jewish people's misunderstandings concerning any shevatim being superior to shevet Levi and so, the text begins with the search for potential shevatim that could have neviim, and then lists their sons, but coudn't find any in the midst of them. But once shevet Levi arrives, it completes the pourpose of reciting this genealogy so far. (According to Abravanel to 6:14 as occurred for the sake of Avraham the listing of genealogies in parshas Noach, so is this genealogy, for the sake of Moshe and Aharon).

  • 1
    I especially like the explanation provided by Rashbam. It really helps you "cope" with the fact that Yaakov pretty much anti-blesses Reuben, Simeon, and Levi on his deathbed.
    – ezra
    Feb 3, 2017 at 20:01
  • According to Tzeror Hamor, shouldn’t Yehudah and Yosef, the two kings, also have been mentioned?
    – DonielF
    Jan 4, 2018 at 17:41

Rashi to Shemos 6:14 gives two possibilities:

אלה ראשי בית אבתם. מִתּוֹךְ שֶׁהֻזְקַק לְיַחֵס שִׁבְטוֹ שֶׁל לֵוִי עַד מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן בִּשְׁבִיל מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, הִתְחִיל לְיַחֲסָם דֶּרֶךְ תּוֹלְדוֹתָם מֵרְאוּבֵן. וּבְפְסִיקְתָּא רַבָּתִי רָאִיתִי, לְפִי שֶׁקִּנְטְרָם יַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ לִשְׁלֹשָׁה שְׁבָטִים הַלָּלוּ בִּשְׁעַת מוֹתוֹ, חָזַר הַכָּתוּב וְיִחֲסָם כַּאן לְבַדָּם, לוֹמַר שֶׁחֲשׁוּבִים הֵם:

These are the heads of their households. Since it is about to give the genealogy of Shevet Levi until Moshe and Aharon, because of Moshe and Aharon, it began to give their genealogy from Reuven.

I saw in Piska Rabbasi that since Yaakov Avinu had cursed these three tribes on his deathbed, the passuk goes back to give their genealogy alone, as if to say that [even] they are important.

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