He distinguished himself as a youth at Shittim with his zeal against the Heresy of Peor.

This line is in multiple places, including Wikipedia and The Israel Bible. It implies that Phinehas (aka Pinchas) is under 20 years old (since that's the age used for adult men elsewhere) when this event took place. The Hebrews were in Shittim at the end of the Exodus journey, which means Phinehas would have been born about halfway through the 40 years. Even if you count men in their 20's as youths, Phinehas would have to be born about a decade after the Hebrews left Egypt.

But then we have:

Eleazar, the son of Aaron, took himself [one] of the daughters of Putiel to himself as a wife, and she bore him Phinehas. Exodus 6:25

This line appears before the Hebrews leave Egypt. Does it mean Eleazer married and had one child before the Exodus? Or is this an out-of-order genealogy told earlier for organizational purposes? (We already know, and Rashi cites it repeatedly, that the Torah does not report everything in exact chronological order.)

In addition to the idea that a man in his 40's is really not a youth, we have the issue of Phinehas's mother.

[one] of the daughters of Putiel-: Of the seed of Jethro, who fattened (פִּטֵּ ם) calves for idolatry (see Rashi on Exod. 2:16) and [who was also] of the seed of Joseph, who defied and fought (פִּטְפֵּט) against his passion [when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife]. — [from B.B. 109b] - Rashi's commentary on Exodus 6:25.

Rashi and many other commentators state that Eleazar's unnamed wife is one of Zipporah's sisters, another daughter of Jetro (Moses' father-in-law).

But here's the thing...when would Aaron's son have met his future wife?

Moses left Egypt when he was 40 years old. He stayed in Midian for 40 years. He had little to no contact with his family back in Egypt. I suppose it's possible there were messages prior to when he prepared to leave, but certainly no meetings or serious conversations.

When Moses decided to return to Egypt, he took his wife and two sons with him. But he didn't make it very far with them. They went back home before Moses continued on alone to meet with Aaron. Moses then returned with Aaron to the Nile Delta and stayed for perhaps as long as a year.

After the Hebrews made it to Mount Sinai, Jetro went to visit them, bringing Zipporah and the two boys.

This would have been the earliest time that Jetro could have brought another one of his daughters with him to marry off to his son-in-law's family (in this case, Moses' nephew). Moses might have told Aaron and Elisheba about his sisters-in-law and encouraged a match, but it couldn't have actually happened until Mount Sinai.

So, do we assume that the Torah is being strict with the chronography and somehow Jetro sent his daughter to marry a slave in Egypt before Moses even returned there?

Or can we assume that the Torah has given the genealogy early because it is important and it made organizational sense to include it there, but that this marriage and childbirth actually happened later?

[Note: we have a possible duplicate with Was Pinchas born in Egypt? but it does not talk about the issue of Phinehas' mother or give the level of answer I'm looking for.]

  • Joshua was 54 yet called a youth. The term doesn’t seem to refer to physical age. That said, it’s not actually applied to Phineas in Numbers 25, the incident in question.
    – DonielF
    Dec 19, 2018 at 14:00
  • Thanks for that clarification, @DonielF. Do you have any insight into the issue of Phinehas's mother?
    – Cyn
    Dec 19, 2018 at 15:34
  • I’ll have to look into that - at the moment, no I do not.
    – DonielF
    Dec 19, 2018 at 16:31
  • Thanks @DonielF, I'd appreciate any comments or answers from you or others. I'm trying to compile a list of everyone present at the start of the Exodus and this is one I keep going back and forth.
    – Cyn
    Dec 19, 2018 at 16:46
  • 2
    This Midrash might help: torah.org/torah-portion/outsidethebox-5764-yisro (in case the link ever dies it's a summary of Sotah 11a which says Yitro was previously from Egypt). Maybe one of his daughters stayed behind.
    – Heshy
    Dec 20, 2018 at 18:24

1 Answer 1


First of all The Gemora Bava Bathra 110a says that Pinchas' grandmother who married a man from the Tribe of Yosef was Yisro's daughter, they had a daughter who married Elazar who had a Son Pinchas.

אלא אי אבוה דאמיה מיוסף אמה דאמיה מיתרו אי אבוה דאמיה מיתרו אמה דאמיה מיוסף דיקא נמי דכתיב מבנות פוטיאל

This marriage between the man from the tribe of Yosef and Yisro's daughter (who subsequently had a girl that grew up and married Elazar, after which Pinchas was born from that girl) could have happened very early on when Yisro was still in Egypt as one of Pharo's advisors, before Yisro moved to Midyan, as stated in Shemos Rabba 1,9:

אמר רבי סימון שלושה היו באותה עצה בלעם ואיוב ויתרו בלעם שיעץ נהרג איוב ששתק נדון ביסורין יתרו שברח זכו בניו וישבו בלשכת הגזית דכתיב (דברי הימים א ב נה) ומשפחות סופרים יושבי יעבץ תרעתים שמעתים שוכתים המה הקינים הבאים מחמת אבי בית רכב וכתיב (שופטים א טז) ובני קיני חותן משה עלו

Alternatively, when Moshe went down to Egypt with Tzipora, it could be that her sister came at the same time, converted and got married in Egypt, as they were allowed to travel freely. Only the Jews (except the Levites) were confined to Egypt, as stated Shemos 4,20

ויקח משה את אשתו ואת בניו וירכבם על החמר וישב ארצה מצרים

So its very Possible for Pinchas to have been born in Egypt as the Passuk quoted in the question (Shemos 6,25) clearly states.

If he was between 20 and 60 years old when the decree to die in the wilderness happened that's fine. He could have still gone to Israel because he was a Levite and they were not affected by the decree, as stated in Bava Bathra 121b:

כתיב (במדבר כו, סה) ולא נותר מהם איש כי אם כלב בן יפונה ויהושע בן נון אמר רב המנונא לא נגזרה גזרה על שבטו של לוי דכתיב (במדבר יד, כט) במדבר הזה יפלו פגריכם וכל פקודיכם לכל מספרכם מבן עשרים שנה ומעלה מי שפקודיו מבן עשרים יצא שבטו של לוי שפקודיו מבן שלשים

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .