The Exodus Route
The population of the Exodus Jews
The Number of the Exodus
How many Hebrews were in the Exodus

2.5-3.5 million

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Click to ViewExcluded Exodus Routes: Nuweiba Beech, Bitter lakes, Gulf of Suez, Mt. Musa, Mt. Karkom, Ein el-Qudeirat.

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Introduction:

  1. The Bible is the inspired word of God and sometimes there are things in it that are questioned because they defy human reasoning. The number of Jews who exited Egypt with Moses is one of the facts that are questioned like Noah's Ark, the story of Jonah being swallowed by the sea monster etc. We do not believe that an exodus population of 2.5 million defies human reasoning in any way. It is a very believable number.
  2. Israel was "as the sand on the seashore" when they left Egypt and went to occupy the promised land. Today 1.5 million Palestinians live in a tiny corner of the land God promised to give Abraham. It is obvious then, that at least 2.5 million Hebrews would be needed to fully occupy the entire promised land, as they did under Joshua in 1406 BC.
  3. We have reviewed all arguments for the various estimates about exodus population of the Jews in detail and have come to the conclusion that the Bible is consistent in its view that there were 600,000 men (excluding women and children) who left Egypt. We find no reason to question this number for any reason.
  4. The Hebrew word for 1000 is "elep" and cannot mean "clans" in reference to the exodus population numbers.
  5. The exodus population were sustained by miracles: Pillar of fire provided light; cloud provided shelter and water (Isa 4:4-6); manna provided food, their cloths and shoes did not wear out; (Deut 8:4) God gave them supernatural strength in fleeing Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. See: Miracles of the Exodus and Red Sea Crossing.
  6. Some feel that the number of 600,000 men, plus women, children (and flocks) for a grand total of between 1-2.5 million humans, is too large. Some of these who question the numbers revealed in the Bible, simply use it as an opportunity to trash the Bible itself as unreliable and unhistorical.
  7. Some misguided, but sincere Bible believers seek a lower exodus population number (about 20,000) by suggesting that "elep" means clans, not the number "1000". Although they begin with the goal of defending inspiration of the Bible, they actually end up attacking the reliability of the textual transmission of the Bible by suggesting many of the numbers are scribal changes in the both the old and new testaments. For this reason, it must be rejected. Although "elep" can mean "clans" in some places, when used in a census, it always means the number 1000. This is our firm conclusion which preserves both the inspiration and textual integrity of scripture.
  8. Apion was an ancient Egyptian who lived about 50 AD. He hated the Jews claimed there were only 110,000 Jews in the Exodus. Josephus says this number is not right, but is "contrived to agree with Lysimaehus. Although the number is wrong, we can be sure it is not too high, but rather too low. Apion was trying to discredit the Jews and therefore his incentive was to fabricate a number of the exodus that was lower than the known number. This makes it pretty certain that there were at least 100,000 Jews in the Exodus. This also helps us reject the false notion that "elep" means clans because such a false view would peg the exodus population at no more than about 20,000 who left Goshen. "As for the number of those that were expelled out of Egypt, he hath contrived to have the very same number with Lysimaehus, and says they were a hundred and ten thousand." (Josephus, Against Apion 2)
  9. See our page on Apion for detailed discussion.

A. Irrefutable arguments against elep meaning "clans":

  1. The first irrefutable argument against "elep" meaning "clans" is fact that the ransom difference between the firstborn and the number of Levites is a precise 273. The firstborn of Israel numbered 22,273 but the number of Levites numbered 22,000, so a "head tax" had to be paid for the difference of 273. For those who try to make elep mean clans, this passage proves them wrong without question. The numbers are so precise here, that there was a need to pay a special ransom for the 273 extra firstborn of Israel above the number of the Levites. This proves the numbers are real: "Number every firstborn male of the sons of Israel from a month old and upward, and make a list of their names." Numbers 3:40; "and all the firstborn males by the number of names from a month old and upward, for their numbered men were 22,273." Numbers 3:43; "For the ransom of the 273 of the firstborn of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites," Numbers 3:46
  2.  The second irrefutable argument against "elep" meaning "clans" is the collection of money from each male to build the tabernacle. In Ex 38:24-29, the total silver collection given to the sanctuary was the sum of a "head tax" of one beka donation from each of the 603,550 men.  The total silver collected was: 100 talents plus 1,775 shekels. Since a talent equals 6000 bekas and one shekel equals 2 bekas, the total number of bekas is exactly 603,550. The gold and bronze contributions were not based on a donation from every man, but the silver was. Total gold given:  29 talents plus 730 shekels (about 2000 lbs of gold). Total silver given: 100 talents plus 1,775 shekels (about 7500 lbs of silver). Total bronze given: 70 talents and 2,400 shekels (about 5300 lbs of bronze). It is the silver that is directly connected with the census of Num 1:1-46 and the fact that 100 talents plus 1,775 shekels exactly equals 603,550 bekas utterly refutes those who try to make elep mean clans, not the number 1000.

a)      "All the gold that was used for the work, in all the work of the sanctuary, even the gold of the wave offering, was 29 talents and 730 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. The silver of those of the congregation who were numbered was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary; a beka a head (that is, half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary), for each one who passed over to those who were numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men. The hundred talents of silver were for casting the sockets of the sanctuary and the sockets of the veil; one hundred sockets for the hundred talents, a talent for a socket. Of the 1,775 shekels, he made hooks for the pillars and overlaid their tops and made bands for them. The bronze of the wave offering was 70 talents and 2,400 shekels." (Exodus 38:24-29)

b)      "So all the numbered men of the sons of Israel by their fathers' households, from twenty years old and upward, whoever was able to go out to war in Israel, even all the numbered men were 603,550. The Levites, however, were not numbered among them by their fathers' tribe." (Numbers 1:45-47)

B. Exodus census populations given in the bible:

Census Summary Chart

600,000 men on foot

left Egypt

Exodus 12:37

600,000 on foot

left Egypt

Numbers 11:21

603,550 men over 20 years

Mt. Sinai

Numbers 1:45-46

601,730 males

Jordan River

Numbers 26:51

  1. When they left Egypt: "Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about 600,000 men on foot, aside from children." Exodus 12:37
  2. Just after leaving Sinai: "But Moses said, "The people, among whom I am, are 600,000 on foot; yet You have said, 'I will give them meat, so that they may eat for a whole month.'" Numbers 11:21
  3. Census at Mt. Sinai: "So all the numbered men of the sons of Israel by their fathers' households, from twenty years old and upward, whoever was able to go out to war in Israel, even all the numbered men were 603,550." Numbers 1:45-46
  4. Census near the Jordan River: "These are those who were numbered of the sons of Israel, 601,730." Numbers 26:51

C. The Census of Numbers 1, at Mt. Sinai: 603,550

  1. "Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies." Numbers 1:2-3
  2. This was a headcount of males, able to go to war, over the age of 20 years old.
  3. "able to go to war" would exclude adult males who are invalids, the sick, cripples and the lame. On the other hand, they may have been healed by God my miracle for the purpose of making the exodus journey. Although the Bible doesn't record any specific miracles of healing the lame in order to make the exodus, it may have happened.
  4. The rounding to the nearest 50, is very consistent with numbers in the 50,000 range, we accept them. Clearly there would need to be some estimates made and the rounding reflects in scientifically responsible way, an "error bar".

Reuben

46,500

Simeon

59,300

Gad

45,650

Judah

74,600

Issachar

54,400

Zebulun

57,400

Ephraim

40,500

Manasseh

32,200

Benjamin

35,400

Dan

62,700

Asher

41,500

Naphtali

53,400

Total:

603,550

D. The Census of Numbers 26, at just before crossing the Jordan: 601,730

  1. "Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel from twenty years old and upward, by their fathers' households, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel." Numbers 26:2
  2. This was a headcount of males, able to go to war, over the age of 20 years old, like the census of Num 1. Again, it likely did not include men who were crippled or sick.
  3. The rounding to the nearest 50, is very consistent with numbers in the 50,000 range, we accept them.

Reuben

43,730

Simeon

22,200

Gad

40,500

Judah

76,500

Issachar

64,300

Zebulun

60,500

Ephraim

32,500

Manasseh

52,700

Benjamin

45,600

Dan

64,400

Asher

53,400

Naphtali

45,400

Total:

601,730

E. The redeeming of the firstborn and the Levite males: 22,000

  1. The question comes up about the ratio of the firstborn to the total population. There were 22,273 firstborn during the first census at Mt. Sinai and the 601,730 fighting males are over age 20. This also excludes the old and the lame. It says, "those who can go out to war".
  2. You can use these two numbers to get an estimate of the family structure including total number of families with children and average number of children per family.
  3. If the firstborn were 22,273 from one month old and up, out of a population of 601,730 age 20 and older, you get a ratio of at least 27:1: "Also some argue that the 22,273 firstborn of the 12 tribes was an unreasonably small number since the total population of Israelite men 20 years of age and older was 603,550 (cf. 1:46). This would yield a ratio of only about 1 to 27. However, the firstborn of Israel most likely refers only to those who were born after the tribe of Levi was established as a sacerdotal unit. The original statement concerning the firstborn (Ex. 13:11-13) clearly indicates that the implementation of the command was not retroactive to the Exodus but would come into effect in the future. That is, only the firstborn males who were born between the time of the Exodus and the setting apart of Levi about two years later (Num. 1:1) would be counted. So a total of 22,273 would be in line for that period of time since there could hardly be more than that number of families that would give birth to their first sons during that time. (The Bible knowledge commentary, Num 3)
  4. A ratio of 27:1 of firstborn males to total males would mean that on average, there would be 54 children (50% female) born to each family. While the Hebrews were very productive, and even had a reputation for being more productive than the Egyptians, this does seem a bit high: "The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them."" Exodus 1:19. Such a ratio would turn the original group of Hebrews that entered Egypt with Joseph, into a population of 10 million after 430 years.
  5. The solution is really quite simple: The vast majority of the firstborn had already been redeemed with the Passover lamb blood that had been wiped on the doors as part of the 10th plague:
    -"'Moreover, they shall take some of the [Passover] blood and put it on the two door posts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it." Exodus 12:7
    -"For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt." Exodus 12:12-13
    -"Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle." Exodus 12:29
  6. It is important to remember that if an Israelite failed to put blood on the door, only the first born would die, not everyone in the house. The firstborn in Egypt had already been redeemed when they stood at the foot of Sinai.
  7. This brings us to our text in Numbers 3:40-51. The firstborn who were born after the 10th plague and leaving Egypt were 22,273. The time it took to travel to Sinai was 45 days. They spent 11 months, 5 days at Sinai. We are told that the total time from leaving Egypt to the time the census was taken was 13 months: " Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying," Numbers 1:1
  8. The census of the first born excluded infants less than a month, so in 12 months 22,273 first born children were born.

F. Other numbers that indicate a large exodus population:

This section is important because they confirm that the census totals of 600,000 are correct. Most of the number in this section must be rejected as scribal changes for those who believe "elep" means "clans". We accept the numbers below as being what the Holy Spirit originally revealed.

Other large numbers Summary Chart

22,273

firstborn

Numbers 3:43

22,000

male Levites

Numbers 3:39

8,580

male Levites (39-50 yrs)

Numbers 4:45-48

12,000

soldiers fought Midian

Numbers 31:32-35

32,000

Midian virgin women

Numbers 31:32-35

40,000

transjordan tribal soldiers

Joshua 4:12-13

30,000

soldiers fought Ai

Joshua 8:3

  1. The male Levites numbered 22,000: "All the numbered men of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the command of the Lord by their families, every male from a month old and upward, were 22,000." Numbers 3:39
  2. The firstborn numbered 22,273. That would mean there are at least 22, 273 family units: "all the firstborn males by the number of names from a month old and upward, for their numbered men were 22,273." Numbers 3:43
  3. The firstborn of Israel numbered 22,273 but the number of Levites numbered 22,000, so a "head tax" had to be paid for the difference of 273. For those who try to make elep mean clans, this passage proves them wrong without question. The numbers are so precise here, that there was a need to pay a special ransom for the 273 extra firstborn of Israel above the number of the Levites. This proves the numbers are real: "Number every firstborn male of the sons of Israel from a month old and upward, and make a list of their names." Numbers 3:40; "and all the firstborn males by the number of names from a month old and upward, for their numbered men were 22,273." Numbers 3:43; "For the ransom of the 273 of the firstborn of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites," Numbers 3:46
  4. While the male Levites numbered 22,000 the Levites aged 30-50 years old numbered 8,580 men. "These are the numbered men of the families of the sons of Merari, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the commandment of the Lord through Moses. All the numbered men of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron and the leaders of Israel numbered, by their families and by their fathers' households, from thirty years and upward even to fifty years old, everyone who could enter to do the work of service and the work of carrying in the tent of meeting. Their numbered men were 8,580." Numbers 4:45-48. Further, the Levites were given 48 cities: "All the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall be forty-eight cities, together with their pasture lands." Numbers 35:7
  5. 12,000 Israelite soldiers to fight against Midian: "So there were furnished from the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war." Numbers 31:5. Here is the booty: Notice that Midian had 32,000 virgin women, which speaks about just how larger Midian was then Israel: "Now the booty that remained from the spoil which the men of war had plundered was 675,000 sheep, and 72,000 cattle, and 61,000 donkeys, and of human beings, of the women who had not known man intimately, all the persons were 32,000. Numbers 31:3-5
  6. The transjordan tribes had 40,000 warriors who joined the other tribes in the conquest: "The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over in battle array before the sons of Israel, just as Moses had spoken to them; about 40,000 equipped for war, crossed for battle before the Lord to the desert plains of Jericho." Joshua 4:12-13
  7. Conquest of Ai with 30,000 soldiers: "So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night." Joshua 8:3

G. Plagues indicate that the exodus population was very large (1-2 million):

There are several examples of where God killed large numbers of the Jews because they were sinning and in rebellion to His revealed moral laws through Moses. 40,700 Jews were killed within the first two years after leaving Egypt. Then another 24,000 just before they entered the promised land. This is most troubling for those who suggest the entire exodus population was about 20,000. The large number of deaths are consistent with a very large population.

Plagues Summary Chart

3000 killed by Levites

Golden Calf at Sinai

Exodus 32:28

23,000 killed by God

Golden Calf at Sinai

Exodus 32:35 + 1 Cor 10:8

14,700 killed by God

Kadesh Barnea

Numbers 16:49

24,000 killed by God

At Shittim near Jordan

Numbers 25:9

many people killed by God

Zered river

Numbers 21:6

  1. At Kadesh Barnea: "But those who died by the plague were 14,700, besides those who died on account of Korah." Numbers 16:49
  2. At Shittim, just before crossing the Jordan: "Those who died by the plague were 24,000." Numbers 25:9
  3. Golden Calf at Sinai: "So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about 3000 men of the people fell that day." Exodus 32:28
  4. Golden Calf at Sinai: "Then the Lord smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made." Exodus 32:35
  5. Golden Calf at Sinai: "Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and 23,000 thousand fell in one day." 1 Corinthians 10:8
  6. In the Zered Wady valley after leaving Kadesh Barnea for the promised land: "The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died." Numbers 21:6

H. Modern examples of large crowds in small places:

We look at the space a modern city of 2.5 million needs and assume that such a needed large space proves the numbers must be under 20,000. This is wrong for a number of reasons. We have many modern examples of large crowds in very small places. You can easily fit 3 million people inside an area of 3 square km.

  1. 450,000 in 1 square mile for the rolling stones concert at Downsview park, Toronto
  2. 800,000 in 1 square mile for the rolling stones concert at Downsview park, Toronto
  3. 800,000 in less than 1 square mile in Washington, DC

800,000 people in Downsview Park, Toronto, Canada (2.3 sq/km)

On July 28, 2003, 800,000 people easily fit into an area of 2.3 square/km to see the Rolling stones.

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450,000 people in Downsview Park, Toronto, Canada (2.3 sq/km)

On July 30, 2003, 450,000 people easily fit into an area of 2.3 square/km to see the Pope.

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840,000 people in "The Mall" Capital Hill, Washington DC is .6 sq/km

October 16, 1995, a crowd of 837,214 people, (20% margin of error), was in "The Mall," an area of 0.6 square km. (National Park Service, estimate)

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Obama's inauguration:

Between 1 and 2 million people were reported in "The Mall" Capital Hill, Washington DC is .6 sq/km

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I. Things to consider about the amount of room needed:

A. Since they had the cloud by day and night to protect them as a roof, they could all sleep open air, yet we know they used tents. However you need to make room for them to move through the tent city. This means the tents would not be all back to back but in rows or checker boarded. Either in rows or checkered the extra space needed is the same: you need twice the space just to be able to move about through the camp

  1. "This is what the Lord has commanded, 'Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.'" Exodus 16:16
  2. "When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent." Exodus 33:10
  3. "Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased." Numbers 11:10

B. They had herds of animals that needed room:

  1. You need to make allowances for flocks. actually Israel ate a lot of their herds and it was not until the wilderness of sin, day 29 from Goshen. then God started giving them manna about a week after they crossed the Red Sea.
  2. They still had flocks and herds at Mt. Sinai: "No man is to come up with you, nor let any man be seen anywhere on the mountain; even the flocks and the herds may not graze in front of that mountain." Exodus 34:3

J. One million Israelites camping space requirements estimate:

A. Calculation Method #1:

  1. Allowing for the one million to be broken down into 250,000 family units of 4 people (two adults, 2 kids) and given a 16 ft X 16 ft. campsite (256 sq. feet) would equal 64,000,000 sq. feet required. This area could be obtained in several ways:
  2. a square of approx. 1.515 miles on a side (8000 feet on each side)
  3. a rectangle a half mile wide and 4.6 miles long (or semicircular partway around a mountain)
  4. a "donut" shaped area around a mountain. This "donut" has a hole in it 1 mile in diameter for the mountain's base and then a circular "ring" all the way around the mountain that is half a mile (~2640 feet) wide all the way around the mountain. The inner circumference is 3.14 miles and the outer circumference of this circle is 6.22 miles.

B. Calculation Method #2:

  1. 1 square mile = 2,589,988 square meters.
  2. If one person needed an area of 4 meters x 4 meters (a 12x12 foot room) = 16 square meters
  3. 2,589,988/16 = 161,875 people per square mile
  4. 3,000,000/161,875 = 18.5 square miles are needed
  5. 18.5 square miles = an area of 4.3 miles x 4.3 miles = 5 x5 miles
  6. 18.5 square miles = 48 square km = 7 km x 7 km
  7. Conclusion: 50 square km needed for 3 million people. or a square area of 7 x 7 km.

K. Estimate of area needed based upon satellite measurements of modern cities:

The table below was created by measuring the diameter of a population area by satellite. We zoomed in on a city and measured with the computer, the area by drawing a circle. It is a crude method, but one that gives an actual, real life visual.

cities

Population

square miles

People per square mile

circle radius of city, miles

London Ontario

432,000/80

80

5402

5

Saskatoon Saskatchewan

225,000

50

4500

4

Regina, Saskatchewan

192,000

43

4466

3.75

Winnipeg, Manitoba

671,000

165

4066

7.2

Medicine Hat, Alberta

61,000

19

3211

2.5

Lethbridge, Alberta

67,000

23

2913

2.75

Calgary, Alberta

951,000

317

3000

10

Edmonton, Alberta

937,000

250

3746

9

Totals for 8 cities

3,536,000

 

31304

 

Average

 

 

3913

 

Rounded

4000 people per square mile

L. Satellite Estimate of 4000 people per square mile applied to various population sizes:

Population size

4000 people per square mile

square miles needed

square km needed

50,000

/4000

12.5

32.38

250,000

/4000

62.5

161.88

500,000

/4000

125

323.75

600,000

/4000

150

388.5

1,000,000

/4000

250

647.5

2,000,000

/4000

500

1295

3,000,000

/4000

750

1942.5

M. Estimate of area needed based upon Government statistics of modern cities:

The table below as created using formal government statistic:

cities

Population

area

Actual density

Winnipeg, Manitoba

627,000

178

3,640

Calgary, Alberta

879,000

280

3,250

Edmonton, Alberta

782,000

340

2,340

St Catherine's, Ontario

300,000

155

1,950

N. Comparing the two methods of density population:

(Satellite vs. government stats)

Cities

Density from visual satellite measurement

Density from government stats

Winnipeg, Manitoba

4066

3,640

Calgary, Alberta

3000

3,250

Edmonton, Alberta

3746

2,340

O. Modern Canadian cities density of Population:
(average density of smaller Canadian cities: 0.0002665 square miles per person)

Cities

Population

square miles

square miles per person:

circle radius of city

London Ontario

432,000

80

.0001851

5

Saskatoon Saskatchewan

225,000

50

.0002222

4

Regina, Saskatchewan

192,000

43

.0002239

3.75

Winnipeg, Manitoba

671,000

165

.0002459

7.2

Medicine Hat, Alberta

61,000

19

.0003114

2.5

Lethbridge, Alberta

67,000

23

.0003432

2.75

Calgary, Alberta

951,000

317

.0003333

10

Edmonton, Alberta

937,000

250

.0002669

9

Totals for 8 cities

3,536,000

 

0.0021319

 

Average

 

 

0.0002665

 

P. Using density of smaller Canadian cities to estimate space needed for exodus Population:
(average density of smaller Canadian cities: 0.0002665 square miles per person)

Population size

multiplier to square miles

square miles needed

50,000 *

.0002665

13

250,000 *

.0002665

67

500,000 *

.0002665

133

600,000 *

.0002665

160

1,000,000 *

.0002665

266

2,000,000 *

.0002665

533

3,000,000 *

.0002665

800

Q. Using density of large cities to estimate space needed for exodus Population:

There is a clear trend that the larger the city, the higher the density of the populations. In other words, very large cities of the world are very densely populated.

Population

Actual square miles

actual radius miles

Pheonix, Arizona

3,800,000

961

17.5

Minneapolis, Minnesota

3,300,000

2400

27

Denver, Colorado

2,600,000

2500

28

Dallas, Tx

5,819,475

2900

30

Houston, Tx

5,280,077

5300

40

Amman, Jordan

2,000,000

69

5.6

R. Using density of New York City to estimate space needed for exodus Population:

Population

area

density people per sq mile

New York city entire areas combined

8,008,278

303

26,402

Manhattan borough, New York County

1,537,195

22

66,940

New York County

1,537,195

22

66,940

Kings County

2,465,326

70

34,916

Bronx County

1,332,650

42

31,709

Queens County

2,229,379

109

20,409

Dallas city

1,188,580

342

3,469

Houston city

1,953,631

579

3,371

S. Summary chart from of cities to estimate area needed for a population of 2 million:

As we can see, the area needed become much larger when the population is smaller. Larger cities need much smaller areas, in proportion. Of course the area needed by the Jews under the cloud would be much, much less than in a modern city.

exodus population

Known densities of people per square mile for specific cities

area needed in square miles

A circle with radius of miles

r = sqrt(A/ pi)

2,000,000

New York city /26,400

75.76

9

2,000,000

Dallas city /3,469

576.54

24

2,000,000

Houston city /3,371

593.3

24

2,000,000

Winnipeg, Manitoba /3,640

549.45

23

2,000,000

Calgary, Alberta /3,250

615.38

25

2,000,000

Edmonton, Alberta /2,340

854.7

24

2,000,000

St Catherine's, Ontario /1,950

1,025.64

32

T. "Elep" means 1000's NOT clans in the census numbers:

  1. The most common alternate interpretation of the exodus numbers (for those who think 2 million is a problem) is that the Hebrew word for "thousands" is "elep" [Strong's #505] and should be read, "a single Clan of people" not 1000 people by head count. But as we will see, the only way anyone can take this position is by trashing the reliability of the text of both the Old and New Testament. It therefore must be rejected.
  2. Using "clans" results in an exodus population of 5730 men. Using "thousands" results in an exodus population of about 600,000 men.
  3. There are times when "elep" means clan, not 1000: "He said to Him, "O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's house." Judges 6:15 But there many more places that "elep" means the number 1000, not clans. It always means 1000 in the census numbers.
  4. Those who interpret "elep" as clans are divided in their approach to the census numbers. Taking Naphtali as an example with 45,400, approach #1 would say it is 45 clans for a total of 400 individuals. (45,400 = 400 actual men from 45 different clans.) Approach #2 says it is 45 clans plus 400 non Hebrews from the "mixed multitude. (Exodus 12:38) Again, the problem is that the numbers are all rounded off to the nearest hundred. This is rather imprecise. And it makes nonsense of the stated, "head by head" count.
  5. This system of counting by clans in census taking is never found anywhere in the Bible, but is a modern human invention read back into the text. The Jews never counted this way. There are no examples in archeology of this kind of counting.
  6. Also, if this is supposed to be a "head by head" count, why count clans, then round off the actual headcount of individuals? It makes no sense!
  7. The rounding off to the nearest 100 makes better sense if the numbers are 45,400. Here the rounding fits perfectly, although we wonder why it was rounded off at all for an actual headcount.
  8. One of the most obvious reasons for rejecting the idea that "elep" means clans, is because when we apply this formula to the stated grand total, it doesn't match the sum of the 12 tribes. Advocates suggest the grand total doesn't match because of scribal changes in the text. We reject all of this outright and are happy to accept the numbers as they read in every Bible.
  9. So while this may be a possible key to solving what appears to be a too large a population for the exodus, it creates more problems then is solves. Using this method creates many other huge discrepancies which is explained by claiming that a scribe changed many of the texts. This would mean that we cannot really trust our Bible at all and is completely unacceptable. It also makes mush of the New Testament that says in one day 23,000 fell in the wilderness. (A number which corresponds directly in magnitude to the numbers killed in the Old Testament they claim scribes changed. 23,000 is greater than the entire exodus population of 20,000 that they propose. So alleged copyist errors in the Old Testament continue into the New Testament. This is no solution to a problem that exists only in their mind. We have no problem with a population of 1-2 million for the exodus. We believe the apostle Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to record 23,000 men fell in one day at Mt. Sinai.
  10. In conclusion, we must reject the idea that "elep" means "clans" because it would seriously call into question the reliability of the text of both the Old and New Testament. Sometimes we need to just accept what the Bible says. For example most Jehovah's Witnesses don't know that YHWH (Jehovah) is never used in the New Testament, even thought their NWT "Watchtower Bible" inserts the word Jehovah hundreds of times in the NT. The official Watchtower position is that the New Testament originally used Jehovah, but that it was removed by later copyists. Of course there absolutely no proof this is true, (and its not true) but it really shows that Jehovah's Witnesses really don't trust the textual integrity of the Bible. Instead, they put all their trust in the "Watchtower book club" for truth. Likewise, we must accept that the Old and New Testament clearly indicate an exodus population of 2.5 million Hebrews. (600,000 men)

U. How the "Elep" means 1000's is interpreted in the census numbers:

  1. We reject the idea that "elep" means "clans". Here is the new proposed method of interpreting the census information of Numbers, using the idea that "elep" means "clan", not thousands. The result is that the number of men is reduced from 601,730, down to 5730. Advocates of this false view would suggest the total exodus population was about 20,000.
  2. Notice that the "elep = clans" method produces a grand total that doesn't match the sum of the 12 tribes! This is a major problem, which they resolve only by claiming the grand total was changed by a scribe. (untrue)
  3. Keep in mind that there are two calculation methods used by the "elep = clans" crowd. Method one would interpret Reuben at "43 clans for a total of 730 individual men" and method two would interpret it as "43 clans of Jews plus 730 non Jews from the mixed multitude. (Exodus 12:38)

Reuben

43,730 =

43 clans

730 individual men

Simeon

22,200 =

22 clans

200 individual men

Gad

40,500 =

40 clans

500 individual men

Judah

76,500 =

76 clans

500 individual men

Issachar

64,300 =

64 clans

300 individual men

Zebulun

60,500 =

60 clans

500 individual men

Ephraim

32,500 =

32 clans

500 individual men

Manasseh

52,700 =

52 clans

700 individual men

Benjamin

45,600 =

45 clans

600 individual men

Dan

64,400 =

64 clans

400 individual men

Asher

53,400 =

53 clans

400 individual men

Naphtali

45,400 =

45 clans

400 individual men

sum of 12 tribes: Clan total:

596 clans

5730 individual men

Stated Total:

601,730

601 clans

730 individual men

When we compare the grand total with the actual sum of the 12 tribes, we find that that number of clans does not match and the number of individual men is way off.

V. Refuted Arguments of those that reject the Bible and want an exodus population less than 1 million:

A. False argument: Too many to fit on the King's Highway. It would be a line of people 1000 miles long!

Refuted:

"'Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or through vineyard; we will not even drink water from a well. We will go along the king's highway, not turning to the right or left, until we pass through your territory.' "" Numbers 20:17

  1. It is argued that fitting the volume of people on the narrow kings highway would form a continuous line of people 1000 miles long. The answer is simple. With images of a country road in hometown USA with farmland lining each side of a two lane highway, critics of the Bible create a false dilemma. All Moses promised is that he would not cut through their fields or vineyards. The Kings Highway passes through a broad wide plain. This highway had no curbs or telephone poles lining the sides. The kings highway did not have a dotted yellow dividing line on it. It had no paving stones, like in later Roman roads. It was a general path with a wide swath.
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  2. Amazingly, the exodus route from Egypt to Mt. Sinai had only one section where the Bible says they had to "Journey in stages" (Ex 17:1) because of narrow terrain between the Wilderness of Sin and the Wilderness of Sinai. With the small numbers proposed by opponents of the Bible, such "Journey in stages" would never be needed. It is noteworthy that this small section of terrain is the only place that was not a wide open plain. The eastern shore of the Gulf of Suez (see Succoth) and the Wilderness of Shur in North Saudi Arabia are wide open plains.

B. False argument: Organizational hierarchy too small: If there were a million people, Jethro would have said, 10 thousands, thousands and Hundreds.

"Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens." Exodus 18:21. Of course this may be clans, not actual head count.

Refuted:

  1. We are surprised that those who read "clans" instead of "thousands" would not answer their own objection by applying "clans" here.
  2. Perhaps the leaders were over 1000 clans, 100 clans, 50 clans, 10 clans.
  3. Perhaps the leaders were over 1000 families, 100 families, 50 families, 10 families.
  4. Remember that each tribe had a single tribal representative and then there were 70 elders who ruled as well.
  5. If we take it at face value: This means that the actual organization was: Moses, 12 tribal leaders, 70 elders, 3000 over 1000's, 60,000 over 50's and 300,000 over 10's. Those over tens would probably be closely equate to the married men with wives and children. In other worlds the smallest organizational unit was the husband/father of each family. Those over the 50's would simply be the patriarch of a single "clan". A simple announcement could be made to the effect that all husbands and patriarchs were leaders.
  6. We see no problem taking the numbers literally. This organizational system worked for 400 years between Joshua and Saul, before they had a king. Perhaps the high priest came to replace Moses as the top of the organization, or perhaps one of the "Judges".

C. False argument: 2 million Marching around the tiny town of Jericho is absurd:

Refuted:

  1. Having been to ancient Jericho, it is indeed a rather small city.
  2. Bible doubters suggest it is odd that 2 million would encircle the 3000 people who lived in Jericho in a ring around the city. We see no problem with this. Remember 3 million people can fit in an area of less than 1 square mile, as is seen in many modern examples today in the USA and Canada.
  3. These same Bible scoffers suggest that the huge advantage would make marching around the city unnecessary since they could just take the city by the force. But that is the whole point God was trying to make. Even when they had such an advantage, God fought their wars for them.
  4. The Bible does not actually say how many encircled the city, only that "the people" marched. This might imply the whole two million or simply that non-military , women and children may have joined the march.

D. False argument: How could 2 million hear Moses talk, it must have been a far smaller crowd:

Refuted:

This objection is equally valid for 2 million, 20,000 or even 5000 people. Scripture is not intending to say that everyone in the audience would hear the natural voice of Moses, but that Moses directed his words to the entire congregation.

  1. "It came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud." Exodus 16:10
  2. "And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent." Exodus 33:8
  3. "Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, "These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do:" Exodus 35:1
  4. "Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, 'You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." Leviticus 19:2
  5. "Thus Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the doorway of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation." Numbers 16:19
  6. "Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink." Numbers 20:8
  7. "There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them." Joshua 8:35

E. False argument: The 22,000 Levites should have been able to kill more than 3000 men. Shouldn't they have been able to kill many more if they numbered 22,000?

Refuted:

  1. 3000 men is a huge slaughter and actually hurts the case for those who think the exodus population was only 5,000 or 20,000.
  2. This line of reasoning is highly speculative: We don't know the exact number of Levites that were actually involved in the killing. We don't know if God stopped them early on in their killing. We don't know if they just went out and killed any man they saw or if they were looking only for the principle leaders who were involved in the Golden calf or immorality. Perhaps God directed them who to kill. Perhaps only the prime offenders were killed. There are a long list of speculative reasons why 50,000 Levites only killed 3000 men.
  3. "All the numbered men of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the command of the Lord by their families, every male from a month old and upward, were 22,000." Numbers 3:39
  4. "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Every man of you [Levites] put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.'" So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day." Exodus 32:27-28

F. False argument: How could the Aaron and his 4 sons serve a population of 2 million that would have hundreds of daily births, deaths and the need for ritual sacrifices?

Refuted:

  1. Aaron had four sons: "These then are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar." Numbers 3:2
  2. Moses instructed them to show themselves to any priest, not specifically one of the four son's of Aaron: "'When the days of her purification are completed, for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the doorway of the tent of meeting a one year old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering." Leviticus 12:6
  3. Any of the possible 22,000 Levites could help in these duties, not just Aaron and his four sons.
  4. "All the numbered men of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the command of the Lord by their families, every male from a month old and upward, were 22,000." Numbers 3:39
  5. But we also notice that the number of the firstborn approximately equaled the number of male Levite priests and that there was a need to pay a special ransom for the 273 extra firstborn above the number of the Levites. This indicates the numbers are real: "Number every firstborn male of the sons of Israel from a month old and upward, and make a list of their names." Numbers 3:40; "and all the firstborn males by the number of names from a month old and upward, for their numbered men were 22,273." Numbers 3:43; "For the ransom of the 273 of the firstborn of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites," Numbers 3:46
  6. In the end, each individual family unit would have its very own priest at its sole and private disposal! Sounds like God had it all under control! Now that is religion with a grass roots personal touch. Christians today don't get one preacher per family, but Jews got one priest per family for their personal use!

G. False argument: The population of the Middle east could not be 35 million, given Israel was smaller than the 7 nations they drove out of the promised land!

Refuted:

  1. This objection to Israel being 2 million is based upon the fact that they were smaller then the 7 other nations living in the promised land before they drove them out and possessed the land.
  2. "When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you," Deuteronomy 7:1 ""Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven," Deuteronomy 9:1 "then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you." Deuteronomy 11:23 " "When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you." Deuteronomy 20:1 Report of the Spies: ""Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there." Numbers 13:28
  3. Perhaps we should just accept this as a fact, rather than question it.
  4. On the other hand, it may be that the sum of the seven nations were greater than Israel (ie all 7 numbered 5 million) rather than each of the seven nations that were individually greater than the 2 million of Israel.
  5. Remember also that many of these nations, likely had control centers outside the promised land and their area overlapped into the formal promised land.
  6. So the population of the promised land could be projected to be 35 million or 5 million depending on what the expression "larger than you" means.

Conclusion:

  1. The population of the exodus was 600,000 men, excluding women and children. This would give us a grand total "head count" of between 1.5-2.5 million Hebrews who left Egypt.
  2. An exodus population of 2.5 million causes no problems for space, since we have seen that large modern crowds can fit into very small places. While modern cities are far larger an area then the Exodus used, God huddled them under the cloud by miracle for protection.
  3. We must reject outright, the false idea that "elep" means "clans" instead of the number "1000'. It trashes the reliability of the text of the Bible. All Bible translators render it 1000, not clans, and we see no reason to change it.
    1. The redemption of the firstborn in Numbers 3:40-46 utterly trashes those who vainly attempt to bring the population of the exodus down to a few thousand from 3 million. The firstborn of Israel numbered 22,273 but the number of Levites numbered 22,000, so a "head tax" had to be paid for the difference of 273. This difference proves the numbers are to be interpreted, just as they appear in our bible.
    2. The head tax of silver for the tabernacle in Exodus 38:24-29 proves the numbers are real as they read in the Bible and not to be reinterpreted using a formula that elep is a clan, rather than the number 1000. The total silver collected was: 100 talents plus 1,775 shekels. Since a talent equals 6000 bekas and one shekel equals 2 bekas, the total number of bekas is exactly 603,550. This proves that each of the 603,550 men counted in the census each gave one beka for a total of 603,550 or one beka per man. This kind of precision utterly refutes the idea that elep is a clan, as used in these numbers.
  4. There is really no valid reason why we should question or reject the many clear and precise statements that there were 600,000 men (excluding women and children) who left Egypt. We have successfully refuted any counter arguments.
  5. There is nothing in archeology that would cause us to question that the exodus population was 1.5 - 2.5 million.
  6. God created the world in 6 literal 24 hour days. Noah built an ark for the global flood to house the animals God brought to him. Jonah was 3 days in the belly of a sea monster. Jesus rose from the dead after three days. There are 2.5 million Jews who left Egypt for the exodus. The Bible is God's inspired word. Trust it!

By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.

 

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