And these are the generations

The opening phrase of the parasha Toldot is ‘And these were the generations’. This phrase appears at certain intervals in the first five books of the Torah. The first occasion ‘generations’ appear is in Genesis: These are the generations of the Heavens and the Earth (Genesis 2:4). In this first instance ‘These are the generations’ is without the ‘and’. Each following instance we find ‘And these are the generations….’ In Hebrew the word for ‘and’ is ‘ve’ spelt with the single letter ו vav which as we know is the symbol of a ‘hook’ (See Table of numerical values). It means that the phrase And these are the generations and the term ‘And’ is linked to the previous occasion when the phrase is used and provides continuity.

Each occasion the phrase is used in the Bible, it is followed by a description of the generations of those early personages and their siblings chosen by God to carry forward His word. It shows the continuity of the generations from Adam up until the death of Aaron and Moses with the necessary information to create the family tree of Adam. In the descriptions given in the text we are told: the number of years of each personage in his life on this earth; his age at the time of birth of his firstborn (son) and the subsequent number of years spent on this earth until he dies.

Let us follow the occurrence of this term ‘And these were the generations…’ and in particular note the spelling of the word generations

There are four different ways of spelling generations in the Biblical text:

Taf-vav-lamed-daled-vav-taf: This form of spelling occurs only on two occasions: (a) the first occasion, which is also the first occasion that the word ‘generation’ is used’ in the Bible and describes the creation of the heaven and earth and (b) the second and last occasion that the word ‘generation’ is used’ in the Bible and describes the generation of Peretz that leads up to the birth of Jesse, David and eventually the line of the Messiah

Taf-vav-lamed-daled-taf: This form of spelling occurs initially for the generation of Adam and afterwards, when preceded by ‘and these’, for all the generation of the Hebrew race up to Moses and Aaron

Taf-lamed-daled-taf: This form of spelling, which has no vowels occurs only once for the generation of Ishmael.

Taf-lamed-daled-vav-taf: This form occurs twice in the same chapter for the generations of Esau, after which there is no further mention of the term under the generation of Esau.

The implication of the above analysis is that the four different form of spelling of the term ‘generations’ is that we are considering a family tree where the root is indicated in the first form which begins with the creation of the Heaven and the Earth and ends with the line of the Messiah in the Book of Ruth. The other three forms represent the three branch of the human race (i) through Adam and ending in Aaron and Moses (ii) the branch of Ishmael and (iii) the branch of Esau.

The first occurrence after the creation of Adam is in the tenth generations after Adam: And these are the generations of Noah – where ‘generations’ is spelt taf-vav-lamed-daled-taf (Genesis 10:1)

At the nineteenth generation after Adam it occurs again with the generation of Terah, father of Abram: And these are the generations of Terah – where again ‘generations’ is spelt taf-vav-lamed-daled-taf (Genesis 10:1)

At the time of the 21st generation, the generation of Ishmael the phrase occurs again, but in this case the word ‘generation’ is spelt taf-lamed-daled-taf (Genesis 25:12).

In the case of Isaac also the 21st generation after Adam, the phrase re-appears but ‘generations’ is spelt the same as for Noah and Terah: taf-vav-lamed-daled-taf (Genesis 25:19)

The phrase reappears again in the generations of Esau. On this occasion the Hebrew spelling of the word ‘generations’ is again spelt differently: taf-lamed-daled-vav-taf (Genesis 36:1)

The final occasion the term reappears is in Number 3:1 ‘These are the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day that the Lord spoke with Moses in Mount Sinai’ The word for ‘generations’ is spelt the same as for Noah, Terah and Isaac: taf-vav-lamed-daled-taf).

In summary, the spelling of ‘generations’ in the form taf-vav-lamed-daled-taf is only used for the generations of Noah, Terah, Isaac and Aharon and Moses. The spelling of ‘generations’ in the form taf-lamed-daled-taf appears only once and is unique for the generations of Ishmael, and the spelling of ‘generations’ in the form taf-lamed-daled-vav-taf appears twice and is unique for the generations of Esau.

Notably there is no complementary phrase for Jacob and the phrase appears only once again in a different form for the tribe of Levi.

And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations; (Exodus 6:16).


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