MemberJanuary 18, 2021 at 11:09 pm
And this is the last paragraph of my 2014 OT project intro:
It is evident from such circumstantial details that the census figures, if they were intended to represent history, are no longer in their original form. As early as 1906, Petrie insisted that the Israelite population at Exodus could not have been much more than 5000 people, basing his estimate on the population of the Sinai Peninsula in his time, and the agricultural facility of the eastern margin of the Nile Delta where Israel resided before the Exodus.5 Nonetheless, many scholars have wrestled with the large figures in Numbers (and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible), attempting to discover some remnant of historical record, and hypothesising as to how and why they became so impossible.
5 Citing Baedeker’s handbook for travellers, and agricultural and Egyptian population records “before the present European organisation”. W. M. Flinders Petrie, Researches in Sinai (New York: Dutton, 1906), 207–9, http://archive.org/details/researchesinsina00petruoft; Egypt and Israel (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1911), 45, http://archive.org/details/egyptisrael00petruoft.