JOCHEBED (Heb. יוֹכֶבֶד), wife of Amram and mother of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (Num. 26:59). Exodus 2, which describes the birth of Moses, does not name her, or, for that matter, the father or sister of Moses. She is described as the daughter of Levi, born to him in Egypt (Num. 26:59; cf. Ex. 2:1), and thus was Amram's paternal aunt (Ex. 6:20). Marriage with an aunt violates the law of Leviticus 18: 12. This is in keeping with biblical traditions that trace the birth or ancestry of important figures to sexual relations generally prohibited: Abraham and Sarah, his half-sister (Lev. 18:9); Judah and Tamar, his daughter-in-law (Lev. 15:15); Jacob and the two sisters Rachel and Leah (Lev. 18:18); and the marriage of the Moabite Ruth to Boaz (Deut. 23:4). The meaning of the name is problematic. No personal name formed with the component yo (Heb. יוֹ) is otherwise attested before the time of Moses.
[Nahum M. Sarna /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]
In the Aggadah
Jochebed was so called because her face was like the ziv hakavod ("splendor of glory"; Mid. Hag. Gen. 23:1). She was born during the journey of the children of Israel to Egypt (Gen. R. 94:9). She was therefore 130 when she gave birth to Moses. Despite this she is called the "daughter" of Levi (Ex. 2:1) because her youth returned to her, her skin becoming smooth and the wrinkles of age disappearing (Gen. R. 94:9). She gave birth to Moses after she had remarried her husband who had divorced her because of the decree that all male children be killed. Her second marriage was as happy as her first; Amram placed her in a palanquin and Aaron and Miriam danced before her (Sot. 12b). Due to her righteousness, the birth of Moses was a painless one, indicating that she had been excluded from the decree against the descendants of Eve (cf. Gen. 3:16; Sot. 12b).
Jochebed is identified with *Shiphrah (Ex. 1:15), because the Israelites were fruitful – she-peru – in her days (Sot. 11b), and with Jehudijah the Jewess (i Chron. 4:18), because she brought Jews into the world (Lev. R. 1:13). The "houses" given to the two Hebrew midwives (Ex. 1:21) means that she was destined to become the ancestress of the priestly family (Ex. R. 1:17). She survived all her children and was permitted to enter Ereẓ Israel with Joshua when she was 250 (sor 9).
Noth, Personennamen, 111; H. Bauer, in: zaw, 51 (1933), 92ff; J.J. Stamm, Die akkadische Namengebung (1939), 135; H.H. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua (1948), 71, 73, 136, 159ff. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 183. add. bibliography: R. Burns, in: abd, 3:871–72; W. Propp, Exodus 1–18 (ab; 1998), 276–78.