AMRAM, FATHER OF MOSES.
A son of Kohath, and grandson of Levi. He married his own aunt, Jochebed, Kohath's sister, by whom he became the father of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (Ex. vi. 18-20; Num. iii. 19, xxvi. 58; I Chron. vi. 2, 3, 18). From him were descended the Amramites, a Kohathite branch of the tribe of Levi. This family is mentioned in the record of the Mosaic census (Num. iii. 27) and in I Chron. xxvi. 23, where is given the account of the organization of the Levites in David's time (see Moses).
When Jochebed, daughter of Levi—born on the day when Jacob entered Egypt with his family (B. B. 120a, 123b; Gen. R. cxiv.)—was over one hundred and twenty years old, Amram, her nephew—born on the same day as she, according to the Testament of the Patriarchs (Levi, xii.)—married her (Ex. R. i.); and she bore him a daughter called Miriam (mar=bitterness) because of the embitterment of life which had then begun for the Jews, and a son named Aaron (derived from harah, to conceive) because every expectant mother feared for her child. But when Pharaoh issued the edict that every male child was to be cast into the river, Amram separated himself from his wife, saying, "Why should we beget sons that are to be killed?" His example as head of the Jewish high-court was followed by the others. Then his daughter Miriam reproached him, saying to him: "Thy cruelty exceeds even that of Pharaoh!" Whereupon Amram celebrated for a second time his wedding with his wife, who, though one hundred and thirty years old, had under the nuptial canopy become like a young maiden. Aaron and Miriam danced before her, while angels sang, "A joyous mother of children"—Psalm cxiii. 9 (Soṭah, 12a). Amram's example had a good effect upon all, but upon Miriam came the spirit of prophecy, and she said: "My mother will give birth to one who will redeem Israel from bondage!" And when, at the birth of Moses, the house was filled with light as on the first day of Creation when God spoke, "Behold, it is good!" (Gen. i. 4, Ex. ii. 2), Amram exclaimed: "My daughter, thy prophecy is beingfulfilled!" But when Moses was placed by his mother in an ark in the river, Amram again cried out: "O my daughter, what has become of thy prophecy?" Wherefore Miriam remained standing on the shore watching what "would be done unto him in the far-off time" (Soṭah, 12a).
The Haggadah has besides much to relate of Amram, the father of Moses, that is not even referred to in the Biblical story. Amram, like Jesse the father of David (and Benjamin the son of Jacob, and Kilab the son of David), died without sin; or, as the expression is, "owing only to the effect of the poison of the serpent." Consequently he was one of those whose body did not fall a prey to worms or decay (B. B. 17a, Derek Ereẓ Zuṭṭa, i.). He was, like Ahijah of Shiloh, one of the long-lived saints whose life extended over many generations of Jews, to whom he became a transmitter of ancient lore. He instructed even Ahijah, the prophet, in the doctrines taught by the patriarch Jacob. Being the son of Kohath, who, though the second son of Levi, was the one chosen to "lead the assemblies of people in worship" (=ḳehat 'ammim) and therefore, the real heir to Levi, the tenth one (beginning the count from the youngest) of the twelve tribes and for this reason the consecrated bearer of Abraham's blessings and Jacob's traditions (Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Levi, xi.; Book of Jubilees, xxxii.; Gen. R. lxx.), Amram was the "chief of his generation" (Soṭah. 12a). When war broke out between Egypt and Canaan, and the Israelites saw this to be the opportunity for taking the bones of all the sons of Jacob (except Joseph's) to the Holy Land and burying them in the cave of Machpelah, Amram was one of those who took part in the sacred task, and, while most of the people returned to Egypt, he with a few others remained for a long time in the city of Hebron (Book of Jubilees, xlvi. 11).
- Beer, Leben Moses (fragment), in Jahrbuch für Jüdische Gesch. und Litt. iv.;
- Baring-Gould, Legends of the O. T. Patriarchs, pp. 259 et seq.;
- Chronicle of Moses, in Jellinek, B. H. ii. 2;
- Chronicle of Jerahmeel, translated by Gaster, p. 106.