Naturally, the first impression of a number is that it is literal unless there is strong evidence suggesting otherwise. Yet the sum-total is 603 eleph (plus 550 change). 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. 12:40 suggests the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years (see as well Genesis 15:13). Then thunder and hail and fire streamed down on the ground of Egypt. This was fulfilled in Exodus 12. They would do so as a sign of strength. If the Egyptian population at the time was several million, wouldn’t this suggest that the Israelites were also several million? By the year 2000, there were almost 7 billion people alive. 38:25-26. Introduction Today, as in the history of the ages, many claim to be numbered among the people of God. With the fall of Samaria to the Assyrian rulers of Northern Iraq in 720 B.C.E., many northern Israelites found refuge in Judah, bringing with them their native literature and traditions, among them the traditions of the Exodus, which depicted the Israelite people as foreigners invading from Egypt. The reasons to take the 600,000 number as a literal number are quite straightforward and simple. They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, 4 who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods(5 The Israelites left Rameses and camped at Sukkoth. Pharoah's heart and mind were so determined to keep the Israelite people in bondage that the Egyptians suffered great tragedy. [xiv] The veracity of this theory is untested since it enters the realm of spirituality unknown to us. Many kings or scribes would inflate/exaggerate the numbers of their military populations. The Israelites could have inflated their census numbers by ten or so in order keep up with the high numbers presented by other nations. How many Israelites left Egypt and wandered the desert? [vi] See for example Midrash Tanchuma Shemot 5. 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. Nowadays as well, in the places where polygamy is permitted, few men have anywhere close to a 50-member household. Moreover, the verses throughout Torah that describe the genealogies of the Israelites never count remotely large households – yet alone 50. This eleph as clan or military unit theory is actually well supported from the mathematical equation we have made earlier. On a similar note, the Israelites are described as being outnumbered by the Canaanites and needed divine assurance to gain morale to fight the superior armies of the Canaanites. A similar explanation is the theory of Gematria. [xi] Deut. 0, 1 ,8, and 9) are the first two and last two in the ten-digit system. [v] This is a 4 times increase over the original number in a span of almost 2,000 years. [i] The number is put at around 600,000 men aged between 20 and 60. Even the Talmud suggests that Jeremiah the Prophet made a miscalculation and documented his error in his Book of Jeremiah! 12:38). Even by a generous estimate, their population comes nowhere close to a million, yet alone several million. 7:13, 28:4, 18, 51), “clans” (Joshua 22:14, Judges 6:15, 1 Sam. When the Egyptians and their chariot force pursued, the water came crashing back down to destroy the entire army.  Ex. 1:10). 83.). The courtiers who feared God brought their livestock inside and those who did not fear God left them out in the open. For God said, “If the people face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. The Israelites believed God would never deliver them out of the hands of the Pharaoh. The numbers range from as few as a fighting force of 5,000 (which is a total population of about 20,000) to as high as a fighting force of 140,000 (which is a total population of about 500,000). [x] Even if these Canaanite population estimates are tremendously off of reality, there’s little chance that the Canaanites numbered more than a million. 1:5, Deut. But here the new king of Egypt sensed in their numbers a threat to his national security and thus decided to deal “shrewdly” with them (Exod. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years until God sent Moses to deliver His chosen people. 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. 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.  There were probably many sacrifices as there were many livestock brought along with the Israelites into the desert (see Ex. 1 and 26, not once do the following numbers appear. The Israelites will have to remain in the wilderness for forty years,  and Yahweh kills the spies through a plague except for the righteous Joshua and Caleb , who will be allowed to enter the promised land. Having the understanding that the Bantu are Israelites… Adding to this confusion, is the lack of a coherent answer to this question. Many Egyptians Left Egypt With the Israelites . The chances of these numbers being absent in 24 total numbers is extremely unlikely. In the 1800’s in the US it was about 3%. The current world population growth rate is about 1%. [x] A Demographic Analysis of Late Bronze Age Canaan: ancient population estimates and insights (can be downloaded here) page 131. 12. Indeed. We will briefly examine these options. After going through the evidence for both sides we will give possible explanations for a non-literal interpretation and also see if this approach fits with conventional Orthodox theology. It is also more likely that more tribes would be clustered around that middle number (i.e.  The concept of Gematria has roots in ancient Mesopotamian culture. Trang tin tức online với nhiều tin mới nổi bật, tổng hợp tin tức 24 giờ qua, tin tức thời sự quan trọng và những tin thế giới mới nhất trong ngày mà bạn cần biết Topics Biblical Interpretation How many came out of the exodus of Egypt By Jeff A. Benner. There are reasons to take this number literally and many more reasons to take it non-literally. The Pillars of Cloud and Fire 17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them along the road through the land of the Philistines, though it was shorter. We must therefore say that the description of the giants in Num. Currently among Muslims it is about 2.5%.  There are two possible answers to this but both seem unlikely. Those numbers represent an average annual growth rate of about 2.24 percent which is extremely common. So, when the Torah says that the tribe of Reuben had 46 eleph (formerly translated as “thousand”) and 500 – it actually means that their tribe had 46 families or units – that each consisted of about 11 to equal in total – 500. Then, during the summer, the Nile spilled over its banks. Numbers 3:43 records the census taken of the first-born male children of each family/household (. An Intellectual Journey Through Belief in Judaism and Torah Theology. , It is for this reason that the eleph as clan/unit theory must resort to a less traditional and less orthodox view. Moses tells the Israelites that they will conquer the Canaanites, yet only slowly over many generations “lest the wild beasts multiply upon you” to inhabit the abandoned cities. Water came to the Nile from rain and melted snow. The calculation I was making was based on the population trends of that time. These families could have had 50 or so children each – only one of which would be considered a male firstborn. 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. So the descendants of Jacob were there for 215 years, before the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. There is another instance in Joshua 7:5 when 36 men died in the battle of Ai where the Midrash in the Talmud[xviii] interprets these 36 men as just one man. 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. Given this background, it becomes obvious how unrealistic it is for the Hebrews to have multiplied to 10,000 times its original number in just several hundred years. Like many cities of the bible, the people who lived there rebelled against God worshiping false gods and idols created by man. These hundreds (in change) within the count of each of the tribes eventually add up to equal five thousand, turning the eleph from 598 to 603. <100, 100, 800, or >900. , A very intriguing theory is the translation of eleph as “clan,” “family,” or “unit.”[xv] Traditionally, the Hebrew word eleph has been translated as “thousand.” But what if we change the meaning of eleph to mean clan, family, or unit. 10:4). 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. Question: "How many Israelites left Egypt in the exodus?"  More realistic numbers of Israelite fighting forces can perhaps be found in Joshua 4:13 where only 40,000 troops are used to attack the military stronghold of Canaan and in Judges 5:8 where the Prophetess Deborah can only muster together 40,000 troops from all 12 tribes of Israel. Overview: Challenging the literal interpretation of 600,000 leaving Egypt. An animated clip narrating the Jewish story of Moses. To put things into perspective, the population during the first century ACE is estimated at 250 million. Baal (/ ˈ b eɪ əl, ˈ b ɑː əl /), properly Baʽal, was a title and honorific meaning "owner", "lord" in the Northwest Semitic languages spoken in the Levant during antiquity.From its use among people, it came to be applied to gods. Archaeology as well only supports a low number. On what merit, you ask? However, various explanations have been put forward on the table. Exodus 15:27 describes the Israelite travel to a particular desert oasis that boasted seventy date palms to feed the starving Israelites. 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. The first is that the census only counted the firstborn males born since the Exodus that happened just two years earlier (Num. Also see The Number of People in the Exodus from Egypt: Decoding Mathematically the Very Large Numbers in Numbers I and XXVI page 208 for a comparison of similar military unit numbers in the Ancient Near East.  So if scribal errors are a possibility and a reality, then there’s no theological reason that there cannot be larger errors of full verses We already know that verses were added well after Moses’ times, so he may have errored in his understanding of the term eleph just as any scribe can error in their copying of the original document. 1:16), “families” (Josh. We can also explain the verse in a different manner that fits with the Hebrew wording and is actually the translation by many famous bible translations (https://www.biblestudytools.com/exodus/1-9-compare.html). In books and articles it is often claimed that the Israelites were only in Egypt for 215 years. When the Israelites left Egypt following the tenth plague, they were told to ask the Egyptians for items of value for their journey. The sum-total just doesn’t work out with the eleph as clan/unit theory. 10:22). In 1 Samuel 6:19 it’s written, “And He smote of the people seventy men, fifty thousand men.”, “Rabbi Abbahu and Rabbi Elazar disagree over the interpretation of the verse. This makes 22,000 firstborn males to be born in just two years to be extremely unlikely (remember that 22,000 firstborn male births would mean many more thousand regular births). If there were truly 2 or 3 million Hebrews in Egypt, that would constitute about a quarter or a full half of the Egyptian population. When the waters went down, they left a layer of dark, rich mud. (A note on the Hyskos and Joseph’s Marriage, p.1) . And by the end of this lesson, kids will learn that God has the power to do strange and wonderful things. This made it difficult to farm there. [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). (Exodus 13:21-22). Also it cannot explain the extra “change” of 550 after the number 603 (i.e. 37. 10:36, 31:4, 31:5, Joshua 7:3, 1 Sam. The Hebrew word eleph once had multiple meanings and depending on context it was translated differently.. At this point we may be wondering how theologically kosher it is to interpret numbers non-literally, from an Orthodox theological perspective. The Torah: Divinely-Inspired or Man-Made? 12:37, Num. If we are to count the “families” or “units” of each tribe, the total in Numbers Ch. 0, 1, 8, and 9) are totally absent from the 24 numbers..  Interestingly enough, the Gematria of Children of Israel (bnei yisroel in Heb.) 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. So we will now cite three examples in which the sages themselves interpreted numbers in the Torah as non-literal numbers. 22:21, 30), “oxen” (Isaiah 30:24, Psalm 8:7), and “tribes” (Num. The descendants of Aaron alone were sanctioned to sacrifice to the Lord. 3 The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. Same goes with Ezekiel in his Book of Ezekiel. In the P source, 215 years pass between the time of Abraham's journey to Canaan and Jacob's migration to Egypt (see Gen. 12:4b, 21:5, 25:26, 47:9), and the period spent in Egypt is given as 430 years (Exod. First of all, even men with multiple women don’t tend to have 50 children. [iii] Genesis 46:26-27, Ex. Giving scriptural-friendly and archaeological-friendly alternatives to the common notion of the mass exodus from Egypt. If we were adamant to make interpret this figure literally, then perhaps we can say that the Israelites multiplied exceedingly fast. Another likely possibility is that the numbers of the census were intentionally inflated. So, from 1800 to 2000 – a 200-year span – we saw the largest growth rate humanity has seen: times seven its original population. Some will suggest that it was a miraculous reproduction rate above and beyond physical nature. Of course, in order to leave Egypt, they had to be there.  And of course there is the issue of the actual 550 in “change” that follows the 603 thousand. Your comment “This growth is unfathomable from a historical perspective” concerning the Hebrew growth rate of roughly 200 to 2M in 430 year is in itself unfathomably ignorant! If you say that it was on the first of Ab, the city had not yet been burned. This is just an example of Gematria while the significance of the other Gematrias may not be known to us and why each tribe was assigned a certain number. 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). Moreover, the several-million population of the Jews during the Second Temple era could have fulfilled this promise (but see Deut. Exodus 12:40 declares that the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years. It doesn’t limit the census to only those born after the Exodus. God Provides in Our Darkest Moments . 12:40 and Ex. [iv] 1,800 years later, by the year 1800, the world population was estimated at almost 1 billion. 23:23), “cattle” (Deut. We are not told whether or not the Israelites … 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. More insights from your Bible study - Get Started with Logos Bible Software for Free! [xiii] Point is, we cannot know how many Israelites left Egypt but it does seem highly unlikely that the 600,000 number was intended literally. In fact, the verses repeatedly stress that it was all the firstborn male children. Thus, the escape of the Israelites from Egypt may be said to represent history in the accepted, contemporary meaning [though many scholars questions whether even this much took place historically]; that this was brought about by divine interference, and was so experienced by Israel, gives the tale of liberation an additional faith dimension. This additional 5 eleph only comes if we take the number after the elephs to be hundreds. Identifying the Bantu as the descendants of the Israelites extremely important. 1:1). Ultimately, we haven’t decided whether or not the number 600,000 is literal or not, but we demonstrated the high likelihood of it being a non-literal number and have presented possible explanations for the number. Well, that’s how the word is translated in many biblical verses. 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. What we are left with is a pile of staggering evidence that the Torah itself hasn’t intended for such a large population. Suitable for teaching 5 to 7s. These numbers (i.e. I respect your literalist approach and we can agree to disagree. What was the meaning and purpose of the ten plagues of Egypt? Also see https://jewishbelief.com/genesis-historical-error/ for a discussion of full chapters of Torah being a possible error. 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. The Torah, in multiple places, describes a vast number of Israelites leaving Egypt and traveling the Wilderness. One says that there were seventy men, and each and every one of them was equivalent to fifty thousand men. If the number were intended to be non-literal, the contributions to the Tabernacle given by each individual wouldn’t have matched up. [xiii] The Number of People in the Exodus from Egypt: Decoding Mathematically the Very Large Numbers in Numbers I and XXVI page 198. The reason why the numbers all cluster around 400 and 500 is because that was the reality of how many troops there were. If this were merely a figurative non-literal number, the point of the census would seem useless. 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