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Home Forums Evidence for Biblical miracles The population of the Israelites during Exodus Reply To: The population of the Israelites during Exodus

  • Thomas Donlon

    January 18, 2021 at 5:42 pm

    I also wonder if there is anything to be learned from this text. The population of the Israelites leaving Egypt might have some bearing on the size of the army that would be thought necessary to recapture the Israelites prior to the crossing of the Yam Suph.

    5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, "What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!"
    6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him.
    7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them.
    8 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, (Exod. 14:5-8 NIV)

    I’m not sure what “six hundred of the best chariots” means. How many total of those chariots were there that were left behind? Are they an elite fighting unit? And why wasn’t a number given for “along with all the other chariots.” Were there too many to count? Did they just hastily put this force together and chase them in such an unorganized manner that they never counted those chariots? Or rather to keep the account brief and manageable the author just focused on the elite force?

    Anyways two thoughts. If a small group left Egypt the motivation to recapture their slaves would have been less. A huge workforce that was doing an incredible amount of labor leaving would be a great loss and worth fighting harder to retain. During the American Civil War the South fought very hard to keep their immense slave force. If the loss of slave labor during the Civil War would have been minimal it is unlikely the South would have fought so hard to succeed from the Union. Scripture indicates the people advising Pharaoh were already telling him “Egypt is ruined” during the plagues. In verse 5 above it indicates that it wasn’t just Pharaoh but also all his officials that were lamenting the loss of what was apparently a very sizable labor force. The text doesn’t say how many chariots were in Egypt “but all the other chariots” sounds like a substantial force was deployed to recapture a sizeable group of runaway slaves as they seen it. They weren’t angry with the slaves for leaving because they realized they had sent them out. “What have we done?” they asked. But, I used the term “runaway slaves” just to point out those fleeing were not experienced soldiers. I am sure they were still strong, but they weren’t skilled soldiers and even if they obtained some weapons as they left Egypt they probably weren’t skilled in using them. This is further bore out that when they later saw the Egyptian army, they were in a panic — they weren’t planning battle activity. “They were terrified.” Probably you want to put together the largest force you could muster if you wanted to recapture millions of people.

    I think Manfred Bietak stated in the original Patterns of Evidence film that Avaris had some 35,000 people or so as far as he could determine. And John B. thought there were 20 other sites throughout the region, not excavated. And then you got other things like a five thousand person slave camp further south which was suddenly abandoned with all the stuff left at the site. Did the Egyptians panic and just force them to leave immediately for fear they would all die? Scripture indicates that. I’m seeing some indications of great departures from Egypt. And some scripture and David Rohl’s new chronology suggests the destruction of Egypt lasted a long time and was followed by the Hyskos invasion.

    Scripture indicates me to me that the loss of an immense slave force would have been seen as a great loss to the Egyptians (a loss they would struggle to prevent) and subsequently Egypt would have been greatly weakened. How big of a slave loss would it have to have been to make the Egyptians forget they all just lost their first born sons?