The Family of Joseph – Ages of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph Compared

The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis is one of the most inspiring of the bible. Joseph was truly blessed—everything he touched prospered. And that was on account of his obedience to God’s laws.

As we study the account, we come upon a very touching scene where Joseph has to leave the feast with his long-lost brothers so that he can privately weep without them knowing his identity. When that happened . . . and when Joseph later frankly forgave his brothers . . . how old were they? How old was Reuben and Joseph when they shed tears together as Joseph revealed himself?

That is the purpose of the enclosed chart. But before we get started with the data, we need to spend a moment to investigate the methods used to calculate the ages. This was no easy task. Unlike other chapters where genealogy and ages were consistently given, the clues to age in this family are sparse and scattered among many chapters. For that reason, the first diagram shows the order in which the spreadsheet cells were calculated. Using a starting point of Joseph’s age when he is sold into Egypt, ages are calculated forward until other date markers are obtained, and then ages are calculated backward until we arrive at the other book-end: The ages of Isaac and Jacob in their early years.

Please note, the numbers in the cells of this worksheet refer to the order in which that cell was used to calculate neighboring cells:


Worksheet for calculating ages

This second chart contains the actual ages of the men at these key events in their lives:

Isaac, Jacob, Joseph: Ages

Ages of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Reuben at key life events


All key verses are in the charts themselves.


You may notice that the event called “Isaac dies, Jacob and Esau bury him” is listed twice in the chart. That is because age-wise, in relation to Joseph’s age of 17, the death of Isaac occurs when Joseph is in Egypt. But in the Genesis account, his death is recorded (note the paragraph symbol on Genesis 35:27, indicating that these three verses stand on their own) two chapters earlier.

The location of the event in chapter 35 of the account is simply not possible. We know how old Jacob was when he met with Pharoah (age 130). Calculating backward, and knowing that there is a 60 year difference between Isaac and Jacob, Isaac would have died just before Joseph turned 30. And that was when Joseph was in Egypt!


Abraham lived to be 175 years old (Genesis 25:7). He was 100 years old when Isaac was born (Genesis 21:5). That means when Abraham died, Jacob and Esau were 15 years old.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *