The Exodus Route
The population of the Exodus Jews
“Eleph” means 1000 not “clan”

The Number of the Exodus
How many Hebrews were in the Exodus

2.5-3.5 million

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1.        The Bible is the inspired word of God and sometimes there are things in it that are questioned because they defy human reasoning.

a.           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.

b.           The exodus population was sustained by miracles: Pillar of fire provided light; cloud provided shelter and water (Isa 4:4-6); manna provided food, water from a rock, their cloths and shoes did not wear out; (Deut 8:4) God gave them supernatural strength in fleeing Egypt when crossing the Red Sea because nobody even stumbled. See: Miracles of the Exodus and Red Sea Crossing.

c.           We do not believe that an exodus population of 2.5 million defies human reasoning in any way.

d.           We have reviewed all arguments for the various estimates of the 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.

e.           Israel was "as the sand on the seashore" when they left Egypt and went to occupy the promised land.

f.            9 million live in modern Israel today. 3 million in 1446 BC is a very believable number.

2.        AD 50: Apion was an ancient Egyptian who hated the Jews claimed there were only 110,000 Jews in the Exodus. Josephus says this number is wrong and is "contrived to agree with Lysimaehus.

a.           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.

b.           This makes it pretty certain that there were at least 100,000 Jews in the Exodus.

c.           This also helps us reject the false notion that “eleph” means clans because such a false view would peg the exodus population at no more than about 5730 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)

d.           See our page on Apion for detailed discussion.

3.        Numerous ancient literary sources say Egypt’s population at the time of the Exodus was 7.5 million. (see below)

4.        Three texts refute the novel idea that “eleph” means clan:

a.           Firstborn ransom: Five-shekel head tax for firstborn proves “eleph” must mean 1000 in Numbers 3:39–51

b.           Head tax: 100 talents + 1,775 shekels = 603,550 bekas proves “eleph” must mean 1000 in Exodus 38:24-29

c.           New Testament: The Hebrew 24,000 in Num 25:9 matches the Greek 23,000 in 1 Cor 10:8

5.        Two Hebrew Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q1 and 4Q13) confirm Stephen was correct in Acts 7:14 when he said 75 persons entered Egypt.


I. Exodus census populations given in the bible:

A. Master Summary of Biblical Census numbers:

Master Census Summary Chart

600,000 men on foot

left Egypt: 1446 BC

Exodus 12:37

600,000 on foot

left Egypt: 1446 BC

Numbers 11:21

603,550 men over 20 years

Mt. Sinai: 1446 BC

Numbers 1:45-46

601,730 males

Jordan River: 1406 BC

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


B. The Census of Numbers 1, at Mt. Sinai in 1446 BC: 603,550

Numbers 1 in 1446 BC



























  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".


C. The Census of Numbers 26, when Israel crossed the Jordan in 1406 BC: 601,730

Numbers 26 in 1406 BC



























  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.


D. 32 Large population numbers that indicate the exodus population is millions not thousands:

Large Population Numbers Summary Chart

1.      1446 BC

22,273 firstborns

Firstborn in Israel

Numbers 3:43

2.      1446 BC

22,000 men

Levites total

Numbers 3:39

3.      1446 BC

8,580 men

Levites ages 39-50 years

Numbers 4:45-48

4.      1446 BC

3000 killed by Levites

Golden Calf at Sinai

Exodus 32:28,35

5.      1430 BC

14,700 killed by God

Kadesh Barnea

Numbers 16:49

6.      1407 BC

many killed by snakes

Zered river

Numbers 21:6

7.      1406 BC

23-24,000 killed by God

Immorality at Peor

Num 25:9; 1 Cor 10:8

8.      1406 BC

12,000 Soldiers

Army against Midian

Numbers 31:32-35

9.      1406 BC

32,000 women

Midian virgins captured

Numbers 31:32-35

10.  1406 BC

40,000 soldiers

Transjordan army

Joshua 4:12-13

11.  1406 BC

30,000 Soldiers

Soldiers fought Ai

Joshua 8:3

12.  1290 BC

400,000 vs. 26,000 soldiers

Battle against Benjamin

Judges 20:2,10,15-17

13.  1290 BC

22,000 killed by Benjamin

Battle against Benjamin

Judges 20:21

14.  1290 BC

18,000 killed by Benjamin

Battle against Benjamin

Judges 20:25

15.  1290 BC

26,000 Total soldiers

Benjamin’s army

Judges 20:2,10,15-17

16.  1290 BC

25,100 killed

Benjamin’s army

Judges 20:35

17.  1290 BC

25,000 killed, 600 lived

Benjamin’s army

Judges 20:46–47

18.  1094 BC

50,070 killed by God

Beth-shemesh: Ark

1 Samuel 6:19

19.  1094 BC

4000 killed by Philistines

1st Shiloh battle

1 Samuel 4:2

20.  1094 BC

30,000 killed by Philistines

2nd Shiloh battle

1 Samuel 4:10

21.  1052 BC

330,000 men

Saul’s army

1 Samuel 11:8

22.  993 BC

1.57 million men of war

David’s census not including Levi, Benjamin

1 Chronicles 21:5-6

23.  993 BC

70,000 killed by God

David’s census

1 Chronicles 21:14

24.  914 BC

1.2 million soldiers

Abijah + Jeroboam army

2 Chronicles 13:3

25.  914 BC

500,000 killed by Abijah

Abijah war with Jeroboam

2 Chronicles 13:17

26.  895 BC

580,000 men of war

Army of Asa against army of 1 million Ethiopians

2 Chronicles 14:8-9

27.  865 BC

1.1 million men of war

Army of Jehoshaphat

2 Chro 17:14–20

28.  750 BC

44.700 men of war

Army of Reuben Gad, Manasseh

1 Chronicles 5:18

29.  795 BC

400,000 men of war

Army of Amaziah

2 Chronicles 25:5–6

30.  760 BC

307,500 men under 2,600 commanders

Army of Uzziah

2 Chronicles 26:12–13

31.  AD 66

3 million Jews worship in Jerusalem

Passover in Jerusalem Monday 28th April

Josephus Wars 2.280

32.  AD 70

1.1 million die inside Jerusalem

Destruction of Jerusalem

Monday, 6th August 

Josephus Wars 6.420


E. Population growth rate heuristic:

1.      Using known world population growth rates starting with 75 persons when Jacob entered Egypt in 1876 BC produces these exodus populations in 1446 BC after 430 years:

a.       Somalia’s current growth rate of 3.8% produces an exodus population of 682 million.

b.      Zimbabwe’s current growth rate of 2.7% produces an exodus population of 7 million.

c.       Israel’s current growth rate of 1.81% produces an exodus population of 170,000.

d.      USA’s current growth rate of 0.74% produces an exodus population of 1800.

2.      Some say the exodus population was 12,000 in 1446 BC with an annual growth rate of 0.7% (population doubles every 100 years).

a.       Their initial population of 12,000 in 1446 BC grows with a .7% annual growth rate to only 384,000 men in 946 BC (time of Solomon). This they say is reasonable. Then they show how unreasonable starting with an exodus population of 3 million is because it grows to 96 million in 946 BC. This is the evidence they use to prove the exodus population is 12,000 not 3 million and that “eleph” must mean clan not the number 1000.

b.      But consider this: Everybody agrees that 75 entered Egypt with Jacob in 1876 BC. In 1446 BC, 430 years later, with an annual growth rate of .7%, you have only 1500 leaving Egypt which is 8 times smaller than their exodus population of 12,000. This shows their annual growth rate is too low.

c.       And consider this: If you start with 12,000 in 1446 BC and run the numbers down to the time of Christ with an annual growth rate of .7%, you have 355 million. It is just as “unreasonable” to have a Jewish population of 355 million in AD 33 as it is to have 96 million in 946 BC. Cutting the population down to 300,000 because of the Assyrian captivity in 723 BC still produces a population of 47 million in AD 33. Suggesting that God will reduce their fertility rate because of their idolatry (Deut 28:18) ignores the fact that .7% is lower than the .74 in the USA today, which is already one of the lowest birth rates in the world.

d.      A total population of 384,000 men, woman and child at the time of Solomon contradicts the Bible:

                                                               i.      In 993 BC David’s census (not including Levi, Benjamin) numbered 1.57 million men of war not including women and children (1 Chron 21:5-6).

                                                             ii.      In 914 BC the combined armies of Abijah and Jeroboam numbered 1.2 million soldiers and 500,000 from the northern tribes of Israel were killed (2 Chron 13:3,17)

                                                           iii.      In 895 BC Asa had an army of 580,000 men who defeated an army of 1 million Ethiopians (2 Chronicles 14:8-9).

e.      Something is seriously wrong when a population model starts with 75 person in 1876 BC but is 8 times smaller than their starting bench mark of 12000 in 1446 BC and 10 times smaller at the time of Solomon in relation to the large armies revealed in scripture.


II. “Eleph” means the number 1000 not “clan” in the census numbers:

A. Understanding how the "eleph means clans” system works:

1.      The number 1000 “eleph” is sometimes used in a metaphoric way, but it still means 1000:

a.       "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 [1000-eleph]." Judges 6:15

b.      Using the number 1000 as a metaphoric reference to the clan doesn’t change the meaning of eleph into something new: “I am the youngest in my father's thousand." Judges 6:15

c.       Taking a single exceptional metaphoric use of 1000 (eleph) and redefining it to mean something different than 1000 violates a long list of Hebrew Grammar rules and common sense.

d.       “Eleph” always means 1000 in the census numbers because eleph is the standard Hebrews word for the number 1000.

2.      Suggesting “Eleph” means a clan guts the inspiration of scripture and therefore must be rejected:

a.       The most common alternate interpretation of the exodus numbers (for those who think 3 million is a problem) is that the Hebrew word for "thousands" is “eleph” [Strong's #505] and should be read, "a single Clan of people" not 1000 people by head count.

b.      Using "clans" results in an exodus population of 5730 men. Using "thousands" results in an exodus population of 601,730 men.

c.       Advocates of this false view would suggest the total exodus population was about between 5000 and 35,000.

d.      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.

3.      Taking “eleph” at face value does not cause any problem or contradiction in scripture.

a.       Using “eleph” to equal the number 1000 all the census lists add up perfectly.

b.      Redefining “eleph” to mean a clan creations contradiction and confusion.

4.      Fabricating the idea that “eleph” = clan in the census numbers assaults the common sense.

a.       Using “eleph” to equal a clan makes the census numbers contradictory, confusing and irrelevant because the whole purpose of a census is to COUNT the number of people.

b.      Using “eleph” to mean clan never produces any usable number or data because “clan” us undefined and unknown.

c.       A census that reported 300 clans provides no useful data to a commander because a clan can be 10, 100, 1000 or 10,000 etc. individuals.

5.      There is no known ancient literary source that DOES NOT take “eleph” to mean the number 1000.

a.       Josephus and Philo both interpret the large number of the Old Testament on face value.

b.      If the modern fiction that “eleph” means clans as a counting system was true, we would find countless examples of it in ancient literature.

6.      “Eleph” = clans never used in scripture as a counting system:

a.       There is not even a single certain case in the Bible where “eleph” was used as a counting system as modern advocates suggest we use in the exodus population numbers.

b.      There are several passages where using the “eleph” = clans system collapses the inspiration of scripture. (see below)

7.      Those who interpret “eleph” as clans are divided into two groups in their approach to the census numbers.

a.       Approach #1: Taking Naphtali as an example with 45,400, means 45 clans for a total of 400 individuals. (45,400 = 400 actual men from 45 different clans.)

b.      Approach #2:  45,400 means 45 clans plus 400 non-Hebrews from the "mixed multitude. (Exodus 12:38) In this approach only the non-Hebrew are actually counted and we have no idea how many 45 clans equals.

c.       A "head by head" count, would not round off the actual headcount to the nearest 100!

d.      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.

e.      The Jews never counted this way.

f.        There are no examples in archeology of this kind of counting.

8.      Both approaches where "eleph = clans" 1 or 2 fail because both methods produce grand totals that don't match the sum of the 12 tribes!

a.       This approach is wrong because the sum of 12 clans (596) does not match the grand total of clans (601)

b.      This approach is wrong because the sum of 12 individuals (5730) does not match the grand total (730)

Exodus population is 5730 if “eleph = clans"


43,730 =

43 clans

730 individual men


22,200 =

22 clans

200 individual men


40,500 =

40 clans

500 individual men


76,500 =

76 clans

500 individual men


64,300 =

64 clans

300 individual men


60,500 =

60 clans

500 individual men


32,500 =

32 clans

500 individual men


52,700 =

52 clans

700 individual men


45,600 =

45 clans

600 individual men


64,400 =

64 clans

400 individual men


53,400 =

53 clans

400 individual men


45,400 =

45 clans

400 individual men

sum of 12 tribes: Clan total:

596 clans

5730 individual men

Stated Total:


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.


B. Defining “eleph” to mean clans destroys the inspiration of scripture:

1.      Three texts that refute the idea that “eleph” means clan:

a.       Firstborn ransom: Five-shekel head tax for firstborn proves “eleph” must mean 1000 in Numbers 3:39–51

b.      Head tax: 100 talents + 1,775 shekels = 603,550 bekas proves “eleph” must mean 1000 in Exodus 38:24-29

c.       New Testament: The Hebrew 24,000 in Num 25:9 matches the Greek 23,000 in 1 Cor 10:8

2.      One of the most obvious reasons for rejecting the idea that “eleph” 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.

3.      There is no problem to solve but this solution creates more problems than is solves.

a.       None of the census number can be added up with any known system, which directly challenges inspiration.

b.      A New Testament scribe must have changed 1 Cor 10:8. This would mean that we cannot really trust our Bible at all.

4.      The case of Uzziah’s army in 760 BC:

a.       "The total number of the heads of the households, of valiant warriors, was 2,600. Under their direction was an elite army of 307,500, who could wage war with great power, to help the king against the enemy." (2 Chronicles 26:12–13)

b.      Notice that 307,500 men are under 2,600 commanders.

c.       This would translate to 307 units of men for a total of 500 men in submission under 2 units of commanders totaling 600 commanders.

d.      Here we have “heads of clans” actually being referenced but the only way the use of the word “eleph” makes any sense is if we take it to mean 1000 not units.

3.      Professional Biblical archeologists look at the small sizes of ancient walled cities like Jericho, Shiloh, Beersheba, Megiddo and Hazor etc. and wrongly conclude an exodus population of 3 million doesn’t match the archeology.

a.       For example, the estimated population of Late Bronze age Jericho is estimated to several thousand, “Within the upper wall was an area of approximately six acres, while the total area of the upper city and fortification system was 50% larger, or about nine acres. Based on the archaeologist’s rule of thumb of 200 persons per acre, the population of the upper city would have been about 1,200. However, from excavations carried out by a German team in the first decade of this century, we know that people were also living on the embankment between the upper and lower city walls. In addition, those Canaanites living in surrounding villages would have fled to Jericho for safety. Thus, we can assume that there were several thousand people inside the walls when the Israelites came against the city.”  (The Walls of Jericho, Bryant Wood, AIG, March 1, 1999 AD) The idea that 3.5 million Hebrews were circling a six acre walled city 13 times over 7 days with 2000 people inside is viewed as absurd. The solution is not in challenging the small number of 2000 inside the city but in recognizing that 99% of the population of the day were nomadic and lived in tents throughout the countryside. The city was a symbolic refuge for the kingdom and was never intended to house half a million citizens. The small size of Late Bronze age cities, therefore, does not prove small indigenous Canaanite populations of 45,000 (Deut 7:7). Biblical archeologists use small LB II walled city sizes to first generate dramatically deflated populations of Canaanites of 45,000 to then argue Israel could not be 3.5 million. A classic case of circular reasoning based upon a false assumption of population based upon the small size of walled LB II cities.  

b.      We need not throw out the exodus population numbers in the Bible and resort to pure guesswork with numbers like ranging from 5000 to 35,000.

c.       The solution to redefine “eleph” from 1000 to clans destroys the inspiration of scripture.


III. Irrefutable arguments that prove “eleph” cannot mean "clan":

A. Irrefutable Argument #1: Five-shekel head tax for firstborn proves “eleph” must mean 1000:

Firstborn Summary Chart



Numbers 3:43


Male Levites

Numbers 3:39


Male Levites (39-50 yrs)

Numbers 4:45-48

1.      THE TEXT: "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. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Number every firstborn male of the sons of Israel from a month old and upward, and make a list of their names. “You shall take the Levites for Me, I am the Lord, instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the cattle of the sons of Israel.” So Moses numbered all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, just as the Lord had commanded him; and all the firstborn males by the number of names from a month old and upward, for their numbered men were 22,273. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel and the cattle of the Levites. And the Levites shall be Mine; I am the Lord. “For the ransom of the 273 of the firstborn of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites, you shall take five shekels apiece, per head; you shall take them in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), and give the money, the ransom of those who are in excess among them, to Aaron and to his sons.” So Moses took the ransom money from those who were in excess, beyond those ransomed by the Levites; from the firstborn of the sons of Israel he took the money in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, 1,365. Then Moses gave the ransom money to Aaron and to his sons, at the command of the Lord, just as the Lord had commanded Moses." (Numbers 3:39–51)

2.      DISCUSSION: The first irrefutable argument against “eleph” meaning "clan" is the ransom of 5 shekels per head tax was paid:

a.       A list of 22,273 names of the firstborn was compiled which itself refutes any idea of “clans”.

b.      In other words, you could to a roll call for each of the 22,273 individuals name by name, one at a time and each would reply, “Present”.

c.       The ransom difference between the firstborn of Israel and the total number of Levites is a precisely 273 persons.

d.      The firstborn of Israel numbered 22,273 but the number of Levites numbered 22,000, so a 5-shekel "head tax" had to be paid as a ransom for each of the difference of 273.

e.      A five-shekel head tax for each of the 273 firstborn equals a total of 1365 Shekels (5 x 273 = 1365 Shekels).

f.        Not does the difference between the two numbers larger census number precisely equal 273, but the total money collected based upon the five-shekel ransom also precisely equals 1365 Shekels.

g.       For those who try to make “eleph” mean clans, this passage proves them wrong without question.

h.      The numbers are so precise here that they only word if “eleph” means 1000.

i.         The 273 head tax due that equals 1365 Shekels proves “eleph cannot mean “clan”.


B. Irrefutable Argument #2: 100 talents + 1,775 shekels = 603,550 bekas proves “eleph” must mean 1000:

1.      THE TEXT: The Head Tax

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)

2.      DISCUSSION: The second irrefutable argument against “eleph” meaning "clans" is the collection of money from each male to build the tabernacle.

a.       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. 

b.       The total silver collected was 100 talents plus 1,775 shekels. Coinage was not used in Israel until 378 BC and before this time talents, shekels and beka’s were specific unit weights of measure. Since we know that a talent equals 6000 bekas and one shekel equals 2 bekas, the total number of bekas for the head tax is exactly 603,550 bekas.

c.        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).

d.       It is the silver that is directly connected with the census of Num 1:1-46.

e.       The fact that 100 talents plus 1,775 shekels exactly equals 603,550 bekas utterly refutes those who try to make “eleph” mean clans, not the number 1000.


C. Irrefutable Argument #3: 24,000 in Num 25:9 matches 23,000 in 1 Cor 10:8:

1.      THE TEXT: Immorality at Peor in 1407 BC

a.       "Those who died by the plague were 24,000." (Numbers 25:9)

b.      "Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day." (1 Corinthians 10:8)

2.      DISCUSSION: The Greek reads 23,000 which is 5 times the population of 5730

a.       All the etymological gymnastics in defining “eleph” in Hebrew is made irrelevant by the Greek number 23,000 in 1 Cor 10:8

b.      The Greek word for thousand is chilias [χιλιάς, Strongs 5505].

c.       The Holy Spirit is showing us in the New Testament that the exodus population was much larger than both 5730 or 12,000 if 23,000 died in a single day because of sin at the hand of God.

d.      The fact that there is a difference in the two numbers (24k vs. 25k) changes nothing because the actual number killed might be 24,500 and Moses rounded the number down but Paul rounded up.


IV. Ancient Literary Sources that say Egypt’s population at the time of the Exodus was 7.5 million:

1.        430 BC: Herodotus was a Greek historian who said Egypt had 20 thousand cities during the time of Pharaoh Amasis II (570-526 BC)

a.           “It is said that in the reign of Amasis Egypt attained to its greatest prosperity, in respect of what  p493 the river did for the land and the land for its people: and that the whole sum of inhabited cities in the country was twenty thousand.” (Herodotus 2.177)

2.        270 BC: Theocritus was a Greek poet who said Egypt has 33,333 cities during his life:

a.           “Ten thousand are the lands and ten thousand the nations that make the crops to spring under aid of the rain of Zeus, but there’s no country so fruitful as the low-country of Egypt when Nile comes gushing up to soak the soil and break it, nor no country, neither, possessed of so many cities of men learned in labour. The cities built therein are three hundred and three thousands and three tens of thousands, and threes twain and nines three, and in them the lord and master of all is proud Ptolemy.” (Theocritus 17.77-78, 270 BC)

3.        49 BC: Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian said the population of ancient Egypt and Egypt in his day was 7 million and Alexandria was 300,000:

a.           “The land of Egypt, then, is fortified on all sides by nature in the manner described, and is oblong in shape, having a coast-line of two thousand stades and extending inland about six thousand stades. In density of population it far surpassed of old all known regions of the inhabited world, and even in our own day is thought to be second to none other;  for in ancient times it had over eighteen thousand important villages and cities, as can be seen entered in their sacred records, while under Ptolemy son of Lagus [Ptolemy I Soter: 323-282 BC] these were reckoned at over thirty thousand, this great number continuing down to our own time. 8 The total population, they say, was of old about seven million and the number has remained no less down to our day. It is for this reason that, according to our historical accounts, the ancient kings Egypt built great and marvellous works with the aid of so many hands and left in them immortal monuments to their glory. But these matters we shall set forth in detail a little later; now we shall tell of the nature of the river and the distinctive features of the country.” (Diodorus Siculus 1.31.6-11, 49 BC)

b.           “The city in general has grown so much in later times that many reckon it to be the first city of the civilized world, and it is certainly far ahead of all the rest in elegance and extent and riches and luxury. 6 The number of its inhabitants surpasses that of those in other cities. At the time when we were in Egypt, those who kept the census returns of the population said that its free residents were more than three hundred thousand, and that the king received from the revenues of the country more than six thousand talents.” (Diodorus Siculus 17.52.6, 49 BC)

4.        AD 70: Josephus said the population of Egypt at the time of Christ was 7.5 million men excluding Alexandria:

a.           “Nor do they, like you, esteem such injunctions a disgrace to them, although they have but one Roman legion that abides among them; (384) and indeed what occasion is there for showing you the power of the Romans over remote countries, when it is so easy to learn it from Egypt, in your neighborhood? (385) This country is extended as far as the Ethiopians, and Arabia the Happy, and borders upon India; it hath seven million five hundred thousand men, besides the inhabitants of Alexandria, as may be learned from the revenue of the poll tax; yet it is not ashamed to submit to the Roman government, although it hath Alexandria as a grand temptation to a revolt, by reason it is so full of people and of riches, and is besides exceeding large, (386) its length being thirty furlongs, and its breadth no less than ten; and it pays more tribute to the Romans in one month than you do in a year: nay, besides what it pays in money, it sends corn to Rome that supports it for four months [in the year]” (Josephus Wars 2.383-386)


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!

"'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
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  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.
  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.


  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:


  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:


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.


  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 22,000 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?


  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 sons 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. 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!


  1. This objection to Israel being 2 million is based upon the fact that they were smaller than 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.
  7. Notice the six known city-states at the time of the Exodus:


J. False argument: Pharaoh’s army of 600 chariots indicates the army numbered less than thousand which would be useless against 3 million Hebrews.


1.      "and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them." (Exodus 14:7)

2.      Pharaoh had high quality 600 chariots along with standard chariots as commanders of the marching army. Each commanding chariot was over many soldiers.

3.      Bible examples of large armies with small chariot numbers:

a.       "Sisera called together all his chariots, nine hundred iron chariots, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon." (Judges 4:13)

b.      "‘I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.’ ”" (Judges 4:7)

c.       "David captured from him 1,700 horsemen and 20,000 foot soldiers; and David hamstrung the chariot horses, but reserved enough of them for 100 chariots." (2 Samuel 8:4)

d.      "Now the Philistines assembled to fight with Israel, 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen, and people like the sand which is on the seashore in abundance; and they came up and camped in Michmash, east of Beth-aven." (1 Samuel 13:5)

e.      "For he left to Jehoahaz of the army not more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots and 10,000 footmen, for the king of Aram had destroyed them and made them like the dust at threshing." (2 Kings 13:7)

f.        "And it came about in King Rehoboam’s fifth year, because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen. And the people who came with him from Egypt were without number: the Lubim, the Sukkiim and the Ethiopians." (2 Chronicles 12:2–3)

4.      The Kurkh Monolith of Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria 858-824 BC dates to 852 BC and mentions two Bible characters: “Ahab the Israelite” and “Ben-Hadad II”. See also: Detailed outline on Shalmaneser III. Notice the ratio of troops to Chariots listed in the stele: “Moving on from the city Arganâ I approached the city Qarqar. I razed, destroyed, (and) burned the city Qarqar, his royal city. An alliance had been formed of (lit. "he/it had taken as his allies") these twelve kings: 1,200 chariots, 1,200 cavalry, (and) 20,000 troops of Hadad-ezer (Adadidri) [Ben-Hadad II], the Damascene; 700 chariots, 700 cavalry, (and) 10,000 troops of Irhulënu, the Hamatite; 2,000 chariots (and) 10,000 troops of Ahab (Ahabbu) the Israelite (Sir'alaia); 500 troops of Byblos; 1,000 troops of Egypt” (Kurkh Monument, Lines ii 89b-102, 852 BC).


VI. Modern examples of millions in small spaces:

A. Amount of space required by Israel:

1.      Since the cloud protected them as a roof both day and night, 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

a.       "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

b.      "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

c.       "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

2.      They had herds of animals that needed room:

a.       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.

b.      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

3.      One million Israelites camping space requirements estimate: Calculation Method #1:

a.       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:

b.      a square of approx. 1.515 miles on a side (8000 feet on each side)

c.       a rectangle a half mile wide and 4.6 miles long (or semicircular partway around a mountain)

d.      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.

4.      One million Israelites camping space requirements estimate: Calculation Method #2:

a.       1 square mile = 2,589,988 square meters.

b.      If one person needed an area of 4 meters x 4 meters (a 12x12 foot room) = 16 square meters

c.       2,589,988/16 = 161,875 people per square mile

d.      3,000,000/161,875 = 18.5 square miles are needed

e.      18.5 square miles = an area of 4.3 miles x 4.3 miles = 5 x5 miles

f.        18.5 square miles = 48 square km = 7 km x 7 km

g.       Conclusion: 50 square km needed for 3 million people. or a square area of 7 x 7 km.


B. 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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C. 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.



square miles

People per square mile

circle radius of city, miles

London Ontario





Saskatoon Saskatchewan





Regina, Saskatchewan





Winnipeg, Manitoba





Medicine Hat, Alberta





Lethbridge, Alberta





Calgary, Alberta





Edmonton, Alberta





Totals for 8 cities











4000 people per square mile


D. 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






























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

The table below as created using formal government statistic:




Actual density

Winnipeg, Manitoba




Calgary, Alberta




Edmonton, Alberta




St Catherine's, Ontario





F. Comparing the two methods of density population:

(Satellite vs. government stats)


Density from visual satellite measurement

Density from government stats

Winnipeg, Manitoba



Calgary, Alberta



Edmonton, Alberta




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



square miles

square miles per person:

circle radius of city

London Ontario





Saskatoon Saskatchewan





Regina, Saskatchewan





Winnipeg, Manitoba





Medicine Hat, Alberta





Lethbridge, Alberta





Calgary, Alberta





Edmonton, Alberta





Totals for 8 cities











H. 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 *



250,000 *



500,000 *



600,000 *



1,000,000 *



2,000,000 *



3,000,000 *




J. 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.


Actual square miles

actual radius miles

Pheonix, Arizona




Minneapolis, Minnesota




Denver, Colorado




Dallas, Tx




Houston, Tx




Amman, Jordan





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



density people per sq mile

New York city entire areas combined




Manhattan borough, New York County




New York County




Kings County




Bronx County




Queens County




Dallas city




Houston city





L. 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)


New York city /26,400




Dallas city /3,469




Houston city /3,371




Winnipeg, Manitoba /3,640




Calgary, Alberta /3,250




Edmonton, Alberta /2,340




St Catherine's, Ontario /1,950





  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 1.5-3.5 million Hebrews who left Egypt.
  2. An exodus population of 3.5 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.      Three texts refute the novel idea that “eleph” means clan. We must reject outright, the false idea that “eleph” 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.

a.       Firstborn ransom: Five-shekel head tax for firstborn proves “eleph” must mean 1000 in Numbers 3:39–51

b.      Head tax: 100 talents + 1,775 shekels = 603,550 bekas proves “eleph” must mean 1000 in Exodus 38:24-29

c.       New Testament: The Hebrew 24,000 in Num 25:9 matches the Greek 23,000 in 1 Cor 10:8

  1. 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.
  2. There is nothing in archeology that would cause us to question that the exodus population was 1.5 - 3.5 million.
  3. You need to believe:
    1. God created the world in six 24-hour days.
    2. Noah built an ark in under 75 years for the global flood to house the animals God brought to him.
    3. Jonah was 3 days in the belly of a sea monster.
    4. Jesus rose from the dead after three days.
    5. There are 3.5 million Jews who left Egypt for the exodus.
    6. The Bible is God's inspired word. Trust it!


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


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