It deals with the archaeological data of the Ancient Near East we have of that period in history and explores various verses that seem to contradict each other and that give us a glimpse of a fascinating element in biblical history. They would have vastly outnumbered the Canaanites had the number 600,000 been intended literally. The Israelites could have inflated their census numbers by ten or so in order keep up with the high numbers presented by other nations. The calculation I was making was based on the population trends of that time. Had the Israelites been a literal 2 or 3 million population, they would have swarmed into the vastly outnumbered Canaanites and could have inhabited their cities and have built many more to accommodate for their mega population of 2 or 3 million. Required fields are marked *. We will briefly examine these options. The Bible Mentions "Egypt" Many Times. Reform Jews do not believe any congregant should have a different status than another, and therefore do not acknowledge these divisions.. See here for verses that were clearly written well after Moses’ times and see here for the possibility for there to be errors in Torah (at least scribal errors over the generations). , It is for this reason that the eleph as clan/unit theory must resort to a less traditional and less orthodox view. What is the importance of the parting of the Red Sea? The verse merely says “the Israelites were fertile and prolific; they multiplied and increased very greatly, so that the land was filled with them.”[vii] A growth rate that was many thousand times greater than the universal growth rate surely should have been given much attention in the verses Yet there isn’t even a single reference to such a miracle.. If the sum total is only to calculate the number of clans or families, then the number should have been a flat 598 or 603 – not 603 with 550 in change. 1. [xv] For an in-depth thesis on this theory see https://www.thetorah.com/article/recounting-the-census-a-military-force-of-5500. 1 should have equaled 598 elephs. Farmers did not have to worry that floods would destroy crops or farms. 3 The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. Naturally, the first impression of a number is that it is literal unless there is strong evidence suggesting otherwise. It should be noted that the number 600,000 is merely a detail in the Exodus narrative and does not mean that we can start radically modifying the entire Exodus account. Also see Ex.  And of course there is the issue of the actual 550 in “change” that follows the 603 thousand. The courtiers who feared God brought their livestock inside and those who did not fear God left them out in the open. 1 and 26, not once do the following numbers appear. How many Israelites left Egypt and wandered the desert? 400 or 500) than those veering off to the more side numbers (i.e. Remember what the Amalekites did to you along your way from Egypt, 1 Samuel 15:2 This is what the LORD of Hosts says: 'I witnessed what the Amalekites did to the Israelites when they ambushed them on their way up from Egypt. Ultimately, with the minimal data we have, we cannot decide conclusively on the matter. Also it cannot explain the extra “change” of 550 after the number 603 (i.e. In this post I would like to establish the fact that the ‘Bantu’ branch of Africans, generally concentrated in Sub-Saharan part of the continent, and their related family branches are actually descendants of the Hebrew Israelites. Then thunder and hail and fire streamed down on the ground of Egypt. And yet you say this (that it was breached on the 17th)? This indicates that eleph does in fact mean thousand, which is why the hundreds were able to add to the eleph number in the sum-total. Moreover, the several-million population of the Jews during the Second Temple era could have fulfilled this promise (but see Deut. What first may appear as a trivial question, the issue of how many Israelites left Egypt and wandered in the desert is a complex topic that sheds light on biblical history and the veracity of the Torah as a whole. Additionally, the context of the number is mostly in a census taken for the specific purpose of knowing the number of Israelites there were in the desert. Each tribe was given their number that represents their spiritual status. [viii] For a discussion on the methods used to estimate ancient populations, see A Demographic Analysis of Late Bronze Age Canaan: ancient population estimates and insights (can be downloaded here). The editor would have mistakenly thought eleph to have been “thousand” instead of being “clan,” “family,” or “unit.” He therefore would have sum-totaled it at 603,550 due to a misunderstanding of the original census. This explanation of numbers signifying a spiritual status may explain other numbers, like those given as the long lifespans to early mankind (see here).  Ex. Some will suggest that it was a miraculous reproduction rate above and beyond physical nature. The Israelites refuse to go to Canaan, so Yahweh manifests himself and declares that the generation that left Egypt will have to pass away before the Israelites can enter Canaan. The Torah says, “A mixed multitude (erev rav) went up with them [out of Egypt].”12 The commentators explain that these were converts who were awestruck by G‑d’s miracles and desired to place their lot with the Israelites. In the 1800’s in the US it was about 3%. Another big issue with this explanation is that the verse mentions nothing of this. 603,550). The Torah, in multiple places, describes a vast number of Israelites leaving Egypt and traveling the Wilderness. The Torah: Divinely-Inspired or Man-Made? This theory does have its issues though. If we are to count the “families” or “units” of each tribe, the total in Numbers Ch. This page last updated: December 21, 2020. The Israelites believed God would never deliver them out of the hands of the Pharaoh. THE RATIONAL BELIEVER © 2021. First of all, even men with multiple women don’t tend to have 50 children. If you say that it was on the first of Ab, the city had not yet been burned. Overview: Challenging the literal interpretation of 600,000 leaving Egypt.Giving scriptural-friendly and archaeological-friendly alternatives to the common notion of the mass exodus from Egypt. Too many people fail to do their homework concerning the years of bondage in Egypt. 200, 300, 600, and 700). From 1800 to 2000, the world saw a major growth boom thanks to technological advances that allowed more babies to survive and extended the average lifespan of adults. Anywhere between 0 to 10,000, 10,000 to 20,000, 80,000 to 90,000, and 90,000 to 99,000. So we will now cite three examples in which the sages themselves interpreted numbers in the Torah as non-literal numbers. And by the end of this lesson, kids will learn that God has the power to do strange and wonderful things. Well, that’s how the word is translated in many biblical verses. After leaving Egypt, the Bible describes the Israelites crossing a deep sea that was miraculously split with walls of water on their right and left. 10:22. The Israelites entered Egypt with 70 men. 10:36, 31:4, 31:5, Joshua 7:3, 1 Sam. For example, Sargon II stated: “I built the circumference of the city wall 16,283 cubits, the number of my name.” (K. R Nemet-Nejal, “Mathematics” in Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998, p. There needs to be a strong case for a non-literal interpretation in order to consider it. Numbers 3:43 records the census taken of the first-born male children of each family/household (. Jacob and his family moved to Egypt, during the famine, 215 years after God’s promise to Abraham. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt. These families could have had 50 or so children each – only one of which would be considered a male firstborn. The reasons to take the 600,000 number as a literal number are quite straightforward and simple. [xvi] Talmud Yerushalmi Taanis 4:5 (23a). Indeed. This is why Pharaoh told the Israelites to dwell in Goshen so they can dwell with their own … It is also more likely that more tribes would be clustered around that middle number (i.e. [vi] See for example Midrash Tanchuma Shemot 5. 10:19, Isaiah 60:22, Micah 5:2), “divisions” (Num. [v] This is a 4 times increase over the original number in a span of almost 2,000 years. Exodus 12:40 declares that the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years until God sent Moses to deliver His chosen people. https://www.biblestudytools.com/exodus/1-9-compare.html, https://jewishbelief.com/genesis-historical-error/, https://www.thetorah.com/article/ancient-egypt-population-estimates-slaves-and-citizens, https://www.thetorah.com/article/recounting-the-census-a-military-force-of-5500, A General History of the Transmission of the Oral Law. Egypt’s Rebellion and Idol Worship. The Children of Israel (bnei Yisroel) were counted to be 603,550 in the census taken in Numbers Ch. The Holy Temple was destroyed millenia ago, but Conservative and Orthodox Jews still acknowledge the three-fold division of ancient Israel into Kohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim. spoiled the Egyptians--The accumulated earnings of many years being paid them at this moment, the Israelites were suddenly enriched, according to the promise made to Abraham ( Genesis 15:14), and they left the country like a victorious army laden with spoil ( Psalms 105:37, Ezekiel 39:10). Anything in the open was struck down, as well as all the grasses and trees. “Son of man, because Tyre said concerning Jerusalem, `Aha, [the gate of the people is broken, it has swung open to me, I shall be replenished now that she is laid to waste].“` At this point we may be wondering how theologically kosher it is to interpret numbers non-literally, from an Orthodox theological perspective. Why did the Israelites need manna if they had flocks/herds of animals that they could eat? After each of the tribes’ numbers are counted separately, the census finishes off with the grand total number. Yet the sum-total is 603 eleph (plus 550 change). Jewish archeologists were left scrambling for answers when their DNA analysis of bones found in an ancient grave dating to as much as 6,000 years ago showed that some of the earliest inhabitants of the land of Israel were aryan-looking with fair skin and blue eyes:. The 7 year famine started in 2031 BC, and the family moved to Egypt after enduring 3 1/2 years of famine in Canaan. Instead of Pharaoh saying that the Hebrews have outnumbered the Egyptians, he is saying that they have become far too numerous and are at the stage of being a threat (and this translation fits with the next verse perhaps better than the first translation). In the 24 numbers provided in Numbers Ch. These instances don’t prove anything but it does show that its theologically kosher to interpret numbers non-literally – especially when the evidence is so compelling. There is also a Midrash in the Talmud[xvii] that says Abraham’s 318 men (mentioned in Gen. 14:14) were actually just his one servant Eliezer. 13:33 is exaggerative.  The idea of a post-editor for Torah may seem radically unorthodox at first, but there’s actually much merit to that claim. Joseph was born in 2068 BC, and became governor of Lower (Northern) Egypt in 2038 BC, when the 7 years of plenty started. 38:25-26. 38:26. Your email address will not be published. Same goes with Ezekiel in his Book of Ezekiel. Another likely possibility is that the numbers of the census were intentionally inflated. [xi] However, with a force of 600,000 adult men, the Israelites would have fallen upon the Canaanites as locusts swarming a crop field. Of course, with the advancement of medicine and standards of life, populations increase rapidly nowadays, but in ancient times, such population growth is unheard of. It doesn’t limit the census to only those born after the Exodus. We can explain that Pharaoh was speaking to the elite class in Egypt, perhaps the bulk of the population in the capital Memphis of whom the Hebrews based in Goshen could have outnumbered with just a population of several (tens of) thousands. 13:25-33. One says that there were seventy men, and each and every one of them was equivalent to fifty thousand men. These numbers (i.e.  Eleph is translated in a variety of ways in the Torah: “thousand” (Ex. [xiv] The veracity of this theory is untested since it enters the realm of spirituality unknown to us. 37. [xiii] The Number of People in the Exodus from Egypt: Decoding Mathematically the Very Large Numbers in Numbers I and XXVI page 198. 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