I'm reading Exodus 1:5 in the Luther bible (1984), and the one word that confuses me is leiblichen.

Und alle leiblichen Nachkommen Jakobs zusammen waren siebzig an Zahl. Josef aber war schon vorher in Ägypten.

And all the ____ descendants of Jacob were together seventy in number. But Joseph was already in Egypt beforehand.

The German is actually quite strange because it departs from the Hebrew.

וַֽיְהִ֗י כָּל־נֶ֛פֶשׁ יֹצְאֵ֥י יֶֽרֶךְ־יַעֲקֹ֖ב שִׁבְעִ֣ים נָ֑פֶשׁ וְיוֹסֵ֖ף הָיָ֥ה בְמִצְרָֽיִם

And all of the persons who came out of the thigh of Jacob were seventy persons; but Joseph was in Egypt.

In the German, there is no mention of Jacob's thigh. And "schon vorher" is gratuitous. I suppose it is a slightly liberal translation.

Back to the question, though. How would you translate leiblichen in this context? The entry on dict.cc gives "corporal, physical" as definitions, but I'm not sure that makes sense here (as a person's descendants are necessarily corporal, it just doesn't add to the sentence).

  • 2
    Use a better dictionary, and the problem disappears.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 7:17
  • @CarstenS Thanks for the suggestion. But keep in mind that I'm a native English speaker looking for a German-English dictionary.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 16:43
  • 1
    Then let me put it more bluntly: dict.cc is not a dictionary. Neither is leo. Here is one: collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/german-english/leiblich
    – Carsten S
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 17:03
  • Danke! That might be a more useful suggestion for me personally. I will look into using this dictionary.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


The adjective "leiblich" is commonly used to denote biological family members (in contrast to adopted ones).

The Leib ("body") that this refers to is the one of Jakob, not his descendants. Think of it as "the ones that originate from his body".

In this case, the word is somewhat redundant - there is no contrast, simply stating "Und alle Nachkommen Jakobs ..." would have had the same meaning ("Nachkommen" are only the biological ones by default unless explicitly stated otherwise). However, you have to keep in mind that religious texts like to pad things and since this only is a translation, the word might have made more sense in the original text (Aramaic or Hebrew I suppose).

Edit: Okay, looks like the original text spells it out in the same way as I described - they originate from Jakob's body. So you are right, this seems to be a slightly liberal translation. A more literal one would have been

Und all diejenigen, die Jakobs Lenden entsprangen, waren 70 an der Zahl...

or something similar.

  • Redundant, indeed. - I recommend looking up variuos translations. There is quite a difference. E.g. in the 2007 Luther Bibel it is "Und alle zusammen, die von Jakob abstammen, waren siebzig an der Zahl." A great tool for text comparison is bibleserver.com Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 9:19
  • 2
    Well, in the Bible there is a difference between »Nachkomme« and »leiblicher Nachkomme«: Jesus is a descendent (Nachkomme) of Josef. Otherwise the lists of Jesus ancestors (Mt. 1, 1-17 and Lk 3, 23-39) wouldn't make any sense. But Jesus is not Josephs biological descendent (leiblicher Nachkomme). Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 9:54
  • 1
    @Hubert Ha, ha - good point! :-) But not yet relevant in Exodus. - And by the way, Jesus (if a historical figure) may well have been a biological descendant of Josef, although he then became famous for allegedly being not. Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 9:57
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    @ChristianGeiselmann: Right. And Jesus's mother, Maria, who gave birth to at least six more children after Jesus (4 boys who's names are listed in the bible, and at least 2 girls (mentioned in plural form) who's names are not listed), stayed a virgin for her whole life until she died. (A fact, that many popes, among them Benedikt XVI, but also Martin Luther, confirmed.) Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 10:06
  • Als "all die, die seinen Lenden entsprangen" würde ich nur unmittelbare Nachkommen zählen, also Söhne und Töchter, keine Enkel und Urenkel. Neben Adoptivkindern und deren Nachkommen dürften auch Sklaven zur Sippe gehören, die je nach Kontext mitgezählt werden oder nicht, als leibliche Nachkommen natürlich nicht. Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 13:30

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