Moshe was 80 when he approached Par'o before the makos, and the makos lasted a year, so he turned 81 in the Adar before the Jews left Mitzrayim. As he turned 120 in the Adar before the Jews entered Israel, the Jews were in the desert only 39 years. What gives?

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    Great question! This gives me more places in the Torah where numbers in narrative are clearly not historically accurate, but rather are teaching ideas.
    – avi
    Commented Jul 13, 2011 at 7:14
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    I just heard a drash a few days ago that when the Torah gives a round number it means 1 less. So the 70 souls going into egypt were 69, or when it says 40 lashes it means 39. You could say that here when it says Moshe was 80 he was really 79. I don't like the answer but it's cute.
    – avi
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 9:17
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    @Avi, would that imply that Moshe died at 119?
    – Seth J
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 2:20
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    I have a slight theory that the age is counted as in a year from 1 Nisan to 29th of the final Adar, with the age of the birthday within that year. So as we had passed 1st Nisan he would have his 80th birthday later that year. My own theory, no source, other than the reign of kings is often counted this way.
    – CashCow
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 15:06

6 Answers 6


Seder Hadorot tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu was born in the year 2368.

It then tells us that G-d spoke to Moshe at the burning bush on the 15th of Nissan in the year 2447. This would mean that Moshe had just turned 79 a little over a month before, on the 7th of Adar. Moshe then goes to talk to Pharoah when he is 79.

(Incidentally, the Seder HaDorot brings many different opinions of when each of the plagues happened, but see the GR"A on Seder Olam, who says that the 12 months the Mishna says Egypt was plagued starts from G-d appearing to Moshe at the burning bush.)

The Exodus from Egypt was a year later, on the 15th of Nissan in the year 2448, when Moshe had recently turned 80.

Moshe then passes away 40 years later on the 7th of Adar, in the year 2488. Moshe was 120 years old and this was the 40th year the Jews were in the Desert.

The question remains: Why would the Passuk say the Moshe was 80, if he was only 79? I'd have to answer, Miktzas Shana K'shana, part of a year can be considered as a whole year (Rashi in Devarim 13:33 uses this logic to calculate how people could have died in the desert before they were 60). Since Moshe had already started his 80th year, the Torah calls him 80.

One possible problem with this. Seder HaDorot tells us that Aharon was 3 years older than Moshe, and born in 2365, based on the passuk quoted in the question. If Moshe was 79 when he visited Pharoah, would we have to say that Aharon was really 82, in his 83rd year? I guess this would depend on which day Aharon was born, which I did not see written in the Seder HaDorot.

The Kehot Interpolated Chumash says explicitly (bold is chumash text, regular is interpolated commentary):

7 Moses was ten months short of 80 years old and Aaron was 83 years old when they spoke to Pharaoh in the year 2447.

However, the source the are quoting from (Likutei Sichot vol 20, p. 26, note 15) doesn't actually say 10 months, it says "less than 79 and a half". The Lubavitcher Rebbe is using our verse (Shemot 7:7) to prove that someone can be called a certain age, once they have entered that year. In our case, Moshe was called 80 even though he had only entered his 80th year, but was still 79.

It appears that the Kehot Chumash says 10 months because the Lubavitcher Rebbe (in Likutei Sichot vol 6, p. 59, note 18) says that according to the simple understanding of Rashi (Shemot 7:25), as well as the Midrashim that Rashi was based on, there were 3 weeks of warnings before every plague (except Makat Bechorot), even the ones where no warning was mentioned. The Kehot Chumash on verse 7:25 says:

Each plague lasted a month: Moses and Aaron spent three quarters of the month informing Pharaoh about what was going to happen and warning him of the consequences of his obstinacy, and the plague itself lasted a week. Thus, the ten plagues spanned a time-period of ten months.

  • Thank you. As you note, there is still a problem with the pasuk that says Moshe was eighty. (Or, more precisely, a problem with Seder Hadoros's saying he wasn't eighty.) But at least this provides more information.
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 20:12
  • Actually, let's consider: I'm not sure how Seder Hadoros can say that Aharon was born in 2365 - he passed away on Rosh Chodesh Av 2487, aged 123, and since הקב"ה ממלא שנותיהם של צדיקים מיום ליום, we can assume he was born on that date too, which would place his birth date in 2364. So it would work out nicely: when they first came to speak to Pharaoh (sometime between Nissan and Av 2447), Aharon was in his 83rd year and Moshe in his 80th.
    – Alex
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 6:12
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    @Alex: Does it say anywhere that Aharon was born on Rosh Chodesh Av? We know that not every Tzaddik passes away on the day he was born. Maybe the Torah emphasizes that Moshe passed away on the day he was born to tell us that he did, but Aharon (and maybe Miriam) didn't.
    – Menachem
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 15:39
  • @Menachem: I thought I saw it somewhere, but I haven't been able to find it. Fair enough, then - we might assume, as you said, that מקצת השנה ככולה, so Aharon was in his 123rd year when he passed away - i.e., he was born sometime between 1 Av 2364 and 29 Tammuz 2365. Based on the verse in Shemos, then, we might further limit the possible timeframe to Av 2364 through Adar 2365, and thus say that in Nissan 2447 he would indeed have already entered his 83rd year.
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 18:27
  • @Alex: and it appears the Seder Hadorot would narrow it down even further, from Tishre 2365.
    – Menachem
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 18:51

The Da'as Zkeinim (and the Chizkuni) at the beginning of Parshas Noach addresses this issue in a different context - The posuk says תמים by Noach, and the Midrash says (Bereishis Rabba 30:8) that anyone described as such lived to an age the which is the multiple of 7 (full שבוע). Noach's 950 do not add (or divide) up. He answers that he lived this amount from the time which the Torah described him as תמים, the 350 years after the Mabul. However, there is an extra year, the year of the Mabul itself, which came after he was described as תמים! Says the Da'as Zkeinim:

סלק שנת המבול שאינה נחשבת לפי שנשתנו בה סדרי בראשית

Remove the year of the Mabul, which is not counted because the order of Creation was altered

So a year in which the laws of nature are suspended does not count.

This answers a very similar question to your own:

the Torah says that Noach was 600 at the start of the flood (Bereishis 7:6), and that he lived 350 years after the flood (Bereishis 9:28), and that he lived a total of 950 years (Bereishis 9:29). So what happened to the year of the flood? It isn't counted, as above.

Similarly by the age of Moshe, the year of the Makkos was not counted as a year of his life, as it was a year in which the laws of nature were not firmly in place (I can't find the medrash which says this explicitly, but I have a team of scholars working on it). Thus, Moshe was still 80 for the count of his years when they left Egypt, and there were 40 years in the desert before he died at 120.

  • I think your team of scholars is slacking off. :)
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 13:35
  • @DonielF It doesn't seem like anyone volunteered for the job...
    – user9643
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 2:43

Moshe was 79 plus when he came first to pharaoh. His 80th birthday preceded the Exodus. He died about 40 days before Israel enterred the land which was exactly 40 years after the Exodus. When a person is past 79 he is in his 80th year, which is what the Torah refers to.

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    Welcome to Judaism.stackexchange.com; I hope you stick around and enjoy. Do you have a source for this answer?
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 15:56
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    If Moshe was 79 and then there was one year of plagues and 40 years in the desert, that would make Moshe 120 years old at death. If so, he would have been in his 121st year, which the Torah, according to your theory, should call 121.
    – jake
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 18:15
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    @jake, but it was his birthday. Arguably (perhaps), even if this answer is correct, only after the birthday would be called "121" and not on it.
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 19:42
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    @msh210 The Maharsha (Kiddushin 38a) says exactly that - he was 120 years, and with his birthday he was beginning his 121st year.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 2:06

It is possible that when the Chumash says Moshe was 80 that it either is rounding (79 rounded up to 80) or that it does not mean right then, but that at some point in the year long process of speaking to Pharaoh, Moses was 80 (that potion being the final 5 weeks in Egypt, when admittedly, Moses really wasn't speaking to Pharaoh).

  • Do you have a source for this? WADR, the rounding doesn't sound right, as Aharon's age is given exactly (i.e., without rounding) in the same pasuk. And the "some point in the process" doesn't sound right either, as it says "when they spoke" — in fact, IIRC, one of the commentaries on that pasuk says explicitly that it means when they first spoke.
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 15:58
  • I can't say I have specific sources for either of these possibilities, which is why I mention them only as possibilities. There are other places where numbers are rounded, especially numbers ending in nine, though none occur to me at the moment. Perhaps in the censuses?
    – Ze'ev
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 2:13

Exodus Chapter 7 / Pasuk 7

.ז וּמֹשֶׁה, בֶּן-שְׁמֹנִים שָׁנָה, וְאַהֲרֹן, בֶּן-שָׁלֹשׁ וּשְׁמֹנִים שָׁנָה--בְּדַבְּרָם, אֶל-פַּרְעֹה

  1. And Moses was 80 years old, and Aaron 83 years old, when they spoke unto Pharaoh. It seems from the language of the Pasuk 7 that he turned 80 only after he and Aron both spoke to Pharaoh together.

There are only 2 time when it actually says that Moshe and Aaron spoke to Pharaoh together, as Pasuk 7 describes. The first encounter is all the way in the beginning.

Exodus Chapter 5/ Pasuk 1

א וְאַחַר, בָּאוּ מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, אֶל-פַּרְעֹה: כֹּה-אָמַר יְהוָה, אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, שַׁלַּח אֶת-עַמִּי, וְיָחֹגּוּ לִי בַּמִּדְבָּר.

And afterward Moses and Aaron came, and said unto Pharaoh:'Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel: Let My people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness.

Second encounter took place during the 7th Plague of the locusts.

Exodus Chapter 10 / Pasuk 3-4

ג וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, אֶל-פַּרְעֹה, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו כֹּה-אָמַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי הָעִבְרִים, עַד-מָתַי מֵאַנְתָּ לֵעָנֹת מִפָּנָי; שַׁלַּח עַמִּי, וְיַעַבְדֻנִי

And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him:'Thus saith the LORD, the God of the Hebrews: How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before Me? let My people go, that they may serve Me.

ד כִּי אִם-מָאֵן אַתָּה, לְשַׁלֵּחַ אֶת-עַמִּי--הִנְנִי מֵבִיא מָחָר אַרְבֶּה, בִּגְבֻלֶךָ.

Else, if thou refuse to let My people go, behold, to-morrow will I bring locusts into thy border;

However you need to go back and read Pisukim 1 thru 6 / Charter 7, before you can understand what Pasuk 7 is saying, because it's one long statement/commanded. We see only here is there an actual commanded for both Moshe and Aron to speak to Pharaoh. And only after Hashem commanded them together did he Moshe turn 80. And this takes place after Moshe first returns from Pharaoh and his second encounter with Hashem.

א וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, רְאֵה נְתַתִּיךָ אֱלֹהִים לְפַרְעֹה; וְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ, יִהְיֶה נְבִיאֶךָ. ב אַתָּה תְדַבֵּר, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּךָּ; וְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ יְדַבֵּר אֶל-פַּרְעֹה, וְשִׁלַּח אֶת-בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאַרְצוֹ. ג וַאֲנִי אַקְשֶׁה, אֶת-לֵב פַּרְעֹה; וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶת-אֹתֹתַי וְאֶת-מוֹפְתַי, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. ד וְלֹא-יִשְׁמַע אֲלֵכֶם פַּרְעֹה, וְנָתַתִּי אֶת-יָדִי בְּמִצְרָיִם; וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶת-צִבְאֹתַי אֶת-עַמִּי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בִּשְׁפָטִים, גְּדֹלִים. ה וְיָדְעוּ מִצְרַיִם כִּי-אֲנִי יְהוָה, בִּנְטֹתִי אֶת-יָדִי עַל-מִצְרָיִם; וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶת-בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מִתּוֹכָם.

ו וַיַּעַשׂ מֹשֶׁה, וְאַהֲרֹן--כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֹתָם, כֵּן עָשׂוּ.

6 And Moses and Aaron did so; as the LORD commanded them, so did they.

ז וּמֹשֶׁה, בֶּן-שְׁמֹנִים שָׁנָה, וְאַהֲרֹן, בֶּן-שָׁלֹשׁ וּשְׁמֹנִים שָׁנָה--בְּדַבְּרָם, אֶל-פַּרְעֹה.

7 And Moses was 80 years old, and Aaron 83 years old, when they spoke unto Pharaoh.

So only after Hashem commanded them together (Exodus Chapter 7 / Pasuk 1 thru 7 to speak to pharaoh, which takes place by the 7 Plague did Moshe turn 80 on the 7th of Adar... 1 month and 7 days before they left Egypt.

The first encounter in Charter 5 Pasuk 1 Aaron was not Commanded by Hashem to speak to Pharaoh, only Moshe was. So that first encounter does not count. Charter 4 / Pasuk 13 thru 27

יג וַיֹּאמֶר, בִּי אֲדֹנָי; שְׁלַח-נָא, בְּיַד-תִּשְׁלָח

יד וַיִּחַר-אַף יְהוָה בְּמֹשֶׁה, וַיֹּאמֶר הֲלֹא אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ הַלֵּוִי--יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-דַבֵּר יְדַבֵּר הוּא; וְגַם הִנֵּה-הוּא יֹצֵא לִקְרָאתֶךָ, וְרָאֲךָ וְשָׂמַח בְּלִבּוֹ

כז וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, לֵךְ לִקְרַאת מֹשֶׁה הַמִּדְבָּרָה; וַיֵּלֶךְ, וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁהוּ בְּהַר הָאֱלֹהִים--וַיִּשַּׁק-לוֹ.

  1. And the LORD said to Aaron: 'Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. 'And he went, and met him in the mountain of God, and kissed him.
  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for your answer! I hope you stick around and enjoy the site. I've a few issues with your answer: 1. It seems odd that something referring to 10:3 should be in 7:7. Do you have this on any authority or did you come up with it? 2. 7:7 doesn't say "they spoke to Pharaoh on God's say-so" but "they spoke to Pharaoh", and that seems to have occurred in 5:1. 3. 4:15-16 sounds like Aaron is meant to talk (even to Pharaoh, see 3:10), and Aaron seems to have understood this (4:30); so even if 7:7 means "they spoke to Pharaoh on God's say-so", that would seem to be 5:1.
    – msh210
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 17:02
  • 1. ein mukdam um'uchar batorah, Exodus Chapter 16:35 Numbers Chapter 14:30..32...34 To your question my own. 2. 7 by itself doesn't, but all the Pasukim start with a Vav Read 1 thru 7, as in one long statement. 3. You are correct that there was no direct order for Aaron not to speak the first time, but there wasn't one to speak. And if Aaron didn't need to be commanded the first time why then did Hashem need to command him the second time?As far as (4:30) Think of Aaron as a pinch hitter. If you Moshe can't come up to the plate then it up to you Moshe to send Aaron in your stead.
    – Ruby B
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 2:09

The first plague lasted 7 days. The next 7 plagues lasted 1 day each. The darkness lasted 3 days. From darkness to Passover was 14 days for a total of 31 days...........The 40 year increments of Moses's life are accurate.........

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, Frank! The question has a given assumption, based on valid sources. If you are merely disagreeing with the assumption and its sources, you aren't really answering the question. Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 23:12
  • @YeZ As phrased, it doesn't answer the question; if the answer would quote sources, then it could be a good answer.
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 23:39
  • @Shokhet I'm not sure how. It would answer how if you took different assumptions then you wouldn't have a question. But it wouldn't be pointing out a flaw in the assumptions given, and therefore wouldn't be answering the question according to those sources. In other words, if he proved the Mishna in eduyos wrong, then sure. But you don't prove a Mishna wrong. Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 1:05
  • Ah, I didn't realize that one of the sources cited by the question was a mishna; got it. ( as an aside, you might reinterpret the mishna in Rishonim; or find a midrash that explains the pessukim in a different way....but it's not likely )
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 2:20
  • @YeZ Shokhet It's not a year from the first plague but from Moshe's return from Egypt (see the prooftext in TYT). Not entirely clear when the first plague itself was.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 2:38

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