Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Who did Caleb Marry? Miriam? Bitya? Both?

That's odd.

That being my thought upon realizing my Chumash teacher mandated that Caleb, yes, the Caleb who is so famous for acting as the spy who did not turn traitor, as it were, was married to Miriam. Miriam being Moshe's sister, the prophetess.

After class, I mentioned that I had learned (well, more precisely read, this morning, in fact) that Caleb was married to Bithia (Bitya, Batya, Bas-Phaorah, whatever variant you prefer.)

My teacher gave me a very kind but slightly skeptical glance, and mentioned that there are many Midrashim, and surely I was quoting one of them. But I stated my basis and proof for this concept came from a verse in Chronicles I, and that was when she politely stated, "Well, it's very hard to understand Divrei Hayamim."

I have great respect for my Chumash teacher, but I knew that I had just read this...this morning. So I came home to try to look it up. Except I can't for the life of me find a Tractate Megillah in English or print large enough for me to understand in the Bait Midrash, so I figured I would ask you dear people what is going on.

Who did Caleb marry? Bithia or Miriam? Moshe's adopted mother...or his biological sister?

The fact is, the Gemara seems to bring down two opinions (and both from verses in Divrei Hayamim!), and they vary (a lot.)

Here's the first one, found in Sotah 11b and 12a:

    ...David descended from Miriam, as it is written: And Azubah died, and Caleb took unto him Ephrath, which bare him Hur,39 and it is written: Now David was the son of that Ephrathite etc.40

    And Caleb the son of Hezron begat children of Azubah his wife and of Jerioth,' and these were her sons: Jesher and Shobab and Ardon.41 'The son of Hezron'? He was the son of Jephunneh!42 — [It means] that he was a son who turned [panah] from the counsel of the spies. Still, he was the son of Kenaz, as it is written: And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it!43 — Raba said: He was the stepson of Kenaz.

    Folio 12a

    There is also evidence for this, since it is written, [And Caleb the son of Jephunneh] the Kenizzite.1 Conclude, therefore, that Azubah is identical with Miriam; and why was her name called Azubah? Because all men forsook her ['azabuhah] at first.2 'Begat!'3 But he was married to her! — R. Johanan said: Whoever marries a woman for the name of heaven,4 the text ascribes it to him as though he had begotten her. 'Jerioth' — [she was so named] because her face was like curtains.5 'And these were her sons' — read not baneha [her sons] but boneha [her builders].6 'Jesher' [he was so called] because he set himself right [yishsher].7 'Shobab' — [he was so called] because he turned his inclination aside [shibbeb].8 'And Ardon' — [he was so called] because he disciplined [radah] his inclination. Others say: Because his face was like a rose [wered].

    And Ashhur the father of Tekoa had two wives, Helah and Naarah.9 Ashhur is identical with Caleb; and why was his name called Ashhur? Because his face was blackened [hushheru] through his fasts.10 'The father'- he became a father to her.11 'Tekoa'- he fixed [taka'] his heart on his Father in heaven.12 'Had two wives' — [this means] Miriam became like two wives. 'Helah and Naarah' — she was not both Helah and Naarah, but at first she was Helah [an invalid] and finally Naarah [a young girl].13 And the sons of Helah were Zereth, Zohar and Ethnan.14 'Zereth' — [Miriam was so called] — because she became the rival [zarah] of her contemporaries [in beauty]. 'Zohar' — because her face was [beautiful] like the noon [zoharayim]. 'Ethnan' — because whoever saw her took a present ['ethnan] to his wife.15

If you want, you can read the original Aramaic here.

Rashi has an interesting statement- Caleb married Miriam 'leshaim shamayim' because he knew that the sons often resemble the mother's brothers, and since Miriam had outstanding brothers, he hoped to have outstanding sons. As it is, Miriam became an asset to him- she recovered from her first illness and tzaraat/ leprosy and became so beautiful that other men paid attention to her.

But here we have the problem, Megillah 13a:

    בדברי הימים אמר הכי כל דבריך אחד הם ואנו יודעין לדורשן (דברי הימים א א) ואשתו היהודיה ילדה את ירד אבי גדור ואת חבר אבי שוכו ואת יקותיאל אבי זנוח ואלה בני בתיה בת פרעה אשר לקח מרד אמאי קרי לה יהודיה על שום שכפרה בע"ז דכתיב (שמות ב) ותרד בת פרעה לרחוץ על היאור ואמר רבי יוחנן שירדה לרחוץ מגילולי בית אביה ילדה והא רבויי רביתיה לומר לך שכל המגדל יתום ויתומה בתוך ביתו מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו ילדו ירד זה משה ולמה נקרא שמו ירד שירד להם לישראל מן בימיו גדור שגדר פרצותיהן של ישראל חבר שחיבר את ישראל לאביהן שבשמים סוכו שנעשה להם לישראל כסוכה יקותיאל שקוו ישראל לאל בימיו זנוח שהזניח עונותיהן של ישראל אבי אבי אבי אב בתורה אב בחכמה אב בנביאות ואלה בני בתיה אשר לקח מרד וכי מרד שמו והלא כלב שמו אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא יבא כלב שמרד בעצת מרגלים וישא את בת פרעה שמרדה בגלולי בית אביה אשר הגלה מירושלם אמר רבא שגלה מעצמו

So now I'm confused. My first idea was that maybe these weren't the same Calebs, but they appear to be, as the reason for his wedding Bithia appears to be his rebellious nature (although rebellious in a good way, of course.) This is indeed the Caleb of the Spies.

So...did Caleb marry Miriam? Bithia? Both, at different times of his life? Both simultaneously? (I mean, there must have been an age difference there...Moshe's adopted mother and his sister? Not that it's impossible. In fact, for that time period, it's probably quite logical. Just not something my contemporary mind would immediately grasp.)

Anyone with answers, I'd be most appreciative.


Anonymous said...

why not two wives or a second wife? Both could be true. Also miriam died in the midbar - kalev got chevron, all other women one can assume would have entered EY. Kalev and Bithia are contempararies.

Anonymous said...

Few ideas:

Go uptown to the 5th floor of the libary, more resources

go to an ain yaakov with meforshim to see maharsha etc on this piece.

get a medrash raba with meforshim (shmos rabba parsha 1 pesika 17)

get the DBS for @$300 that has medrashim, gemaras and meforshei tanach searchable & digital

Chana said...

Yay helpful anonymouses (anonymousi?). I should have titled the post 'Teach me how to use my sources.' I shall, when I have more time, go off and peruse various books.

Tobie said...

I don't want to be a wet blanket, but isn't it possible that the midrashim simply disagree? Being said by different tannaim? Not very tosafistic, but probably the simplest explanation.

Lela Harbinger said...

hello darling. i don't assume to have read your entire blog as you and i both know the likelihood of me staying coherent long enough for that is very slim. but i will try.
much love to the effervescent storyfae!

Josh M. said...

The genealogical section of Divrei HaYamim is one of the most difficult sections of Tanach. The commentators all run in circles trying to figure out why names keep popping up out of nowhere and how the parsing of the genealogical tree works, often suggesting that people had 2-3 names. I recall there's a ma'amar Chazal somewhere that says that the primary purpose of Divrei HaYamim is for it to be darshened, and considering the user-unfriendliness of this section, I don't doubt it.

Lab Rab said...

It wouldn't be the first time that midrashim contradicted on matters of fact.

When did Iyov live?

Of course if you asked me I would say that odds are he married neither Miriam or Bisyah, but that he was married to Azuvah, and that Chazal's hermeneutics don't necessarily constrain my reading of p'shat. However, please don't let my kefirah disturb you.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know who Basya really was? I think i remember reading in one of RCK's sefarim that she was the sister of tziporah, moshes wife. Both of whom were adopted - one by pharoh and one by yisro. anyone have any recollection of this?

Anonymous said...

But of course!
I picked it up in B&N right before I left, bloody brilliant if you ask me. How's it all going?

Looking Forward said...

well miriam was something like 6 when moshe was born (or four, can't remember which), and at that age she'd already been named a prophetes for prophesizing moshe's birth, not to mention she was a promenant midwife at the time. (so young, how could paroh even think about asking a 6 year old to kill babies at that age?!)

this is getting really really uncomfortably complicated not to mention i'm starting to become tangiential
(miriam was the oldest of the siblings. her brother whom she helped dance with at moshe's birth was something like 3)

(it so pays to know your chumash well. wish they'd taught it in yeshiva)

Lela Harbinger said...

wait, did you ever see the other old ones? i only saw the first one with you.
c'mon, you didn't think the 70's nostalgia was cute? oh right, the whole movie was worthless, except as a transition. kinda like dead man's chest. a necessary waste of time.

The back of the hill said...

Chronicles 1 2:18
v'chalev ben-chetzron holid et-azuva isha v'et-y'riot v'ele vaneiha yesher v'shovav v'ardon
And Caleb the son of Hezron begot children of Azubah his wife--and of Jerioth--and these were her sons: Jesher, and Shobab, and Ardon.
Chronicles 1 2:19
vatamat azuva vayikach-lo chalev et-efrat vateled lo et-chur
And Azubah died, and Caleb took unto him Ephrath, who bore him Hur.
Chronicles 1 2:20
v'chur holid et-uri v'uri holid et-b'tzalel
And Hur begot Uri, and Uri begot Bezalel.

But also:

Chronicles 1 4:18
v'ishto hayehudiya yalda et-yered avi g'dor v'et-chever avi socho v'et-y'kutiel avi zanoach v'ele b'nei bitya vat-paro asher lakach mared
and his wife Hajehudijah bore Jered the father of Gedor, and Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah--and these are the sons of Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh whom Mered took.

And further:

Chronicles 1 2:46
v'eifa pilegesh kalev yalda et-charan v'et-motza v'et-gazez v'charan holid et-gazez
And Ephah, Caleb's concubine, bore Haran, and Moza, and Gazez; and Haran begot Gazez.


Chronicles 1 2:48
pilegesh kalev maacha yalad shever v'et-tirchana
Maacah, Caleb's concubine, bore Sheber and Tirchanah.

compugraphd said...


When it comes to Divrei HaYamim (Chronicles) I was told you can't take anything literally. There are many things in Divrei HaYamim that contradict things written in other places in Tanakh (Hebrew Bible).

I was taught that Miriam's husband was Kalev (Caleb) and I also seem to recall that Hur was her son (which kind of goes along with the opinion that Kalev was Miriam's husband). But that makes me wonder about the "Miriam was dead before Hur was born and he had a different mother" thing. (Divrei HaYamim Aleph 2:19 as mentioned in a previous comment) which, of course, isn't a problem if you don't take anything literally from Divrei HaYamim.

So does this mean I can or can't think of Miriam as a spiritual ancestor (being that I'm an artist and, because of that I feel that Betzalel is a sort of a kindredly spiritual ancestor of sorts....)? And does this mean I can or can't put this Kalev information in my article about Miriam on Squidoo.com? Chabad.org (http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/526925/jewish/What-was-Miriams-husbands-name.htm) seems to think that Kalev was Miriam's husband..... (and, of course, we can always fall back on the whole "you can't take everything in a Medrash literally either -- since there are Medrashim that contradict each other...)

In any case, since it doesn't say specifically in the Tora (like it does about who was Moshe's wife (Tzippora) or who was Aharon's wife (Elisheva)) I guess we'll never know for sure (until Moshiah comes????)


Anonymous said...

The only hint in DBS is Seder Hadoros where it states in the chronology that Kalev married both of them.

Anonymous said...

Otzar HaChochma is superior:

a number of sefarim mention this two wife vort.. Sh"ut Aderet Tiferet Siman 54 cites the issue of his wives both being older and says it was common... Yocheved was much older than Amram

Anonymous said...

The age difference doesn't bother me too much (even tho Caleb was something like 60 years younger that Batya) -
But somehow - even if it was halachically OK at the time - I don't see Miriam and Batya being married to Caleb/Mered at the same time. (Remember that jealousy was one of Miriam's "issues.")
Now Caleb could have married one after the other died - we know Miriam died about a year before entry into Eretz Yisroel- I don't believe we know when Batya died,and but they would have had to have been married long enough for her to have had 3 kids.When Miriam died Batya would have been about 140 years old, a little too old, I think to have been the second wife.
But, I guess Caleb could have married Batya first, and after she died, (she would have been about 100 when she left Mitzraim), he could have married Miriam)

Another possibility is that I gather Caleb left Miriam for a time when she was engaging in Lashon HaRa- and during that period he could have married Batya. He did eventually go back to Miriam, which could have happened after Batya died.

If anyone has any other ideas or information, I would be very interested. But Frankly, avoiding dealing with Divrei Yamim by saying it is hard to understand is not an acceptable answer. It would make much more sense to just say that the Mered there is NOT Caleb that married Miriam. After all, there had to have been many "rebellious" Jews -- and there still are. In fact, the rest of the geneology given for Mered (nb a close geneaologic relationship with Ezra) isn't really consistent with a Batya/Miriam marriage.

As to other sources to check - I don't live in NY -- all I have available is my meager library and the internet. I've checked hundreds of references and so far, this website contains the best information.

Eliyahu Grossman said...

It is important not to confuse Midrash with history. There is a reason why the ba'al haMidrash wrote what he did, and the job of the student is to discover that.

For example, Mesechet Sanhedrin was mentioned about age-8 birthing. This is because they recognized the problem with the lineage of Betzalel in Divrei Hayomim and was telling us that, showing that for the lineage to work, eash descendant would need to impregnante his wife at exactly the age of 8, and have the kid be born 9 months earlier if we hold that Betzalel was exactly 13 years old when he got his job making the mishkan, his father (Hur) would have been 21,75, his grandfather Uri would have been 30.5, while great grandfather Calev was 39.25 at the time.

In other words, they were expressing a problem with Divrei HaYomim when it comes to genealogy, while omitting that it still would not work, because according to that same verse, Calev was married before! (although, maybe that explains why he didn't have any kids from that first marriage!)

If you are looking for history, works of poetic expression (Divrei HaYomim), of reinterprative exegesis (Chazal), and prosaic representations (midrash) is not going to do it, since each has it's own putpose, and it isn't to teach history, while it does speak around it.

All the best!

Eliyahu Grossman said...

One more thing. Please forgive the misspellings in the previous post, and I meant to say "9 months after" and not 9-months before! Next time I'll check before pressing "post"! (bli neder)

Unknown said...

I think there are there 2 Calebs because Miriam was 87 when they left Egypt and Caleb unborn yet. Miriam died at 127 and Caleb 40. Otherwise Caleb at 18 married Miriam at her age 104.

Unknown said...

I think it's really a different Caleb, since Miriam was 87 when they left Egypt and Caleb yet unborn. Otherwise Caleb at 18 married Miriam at her age 105.