MemberJanuary 21, 2021 at 1:44 am
Hi Deborah. [This comment I’m making might be way to long and unedited and redundant, repetitive etc… so most people might just want to skip reading all this.] If these numbers have another meaning, God intended for us to find it out. I believe there was a reason that Jesus’ genealogy (which had its oddities too) was expressly said to be in groups of 14 generations. Critics have run roughshod over Jesus’s two genealogies but because Matthew was explicitly pointing out the groups of 14 generations I understand the author was pointing something out. With Jesus genealogies either Matthew was pointing out that God likes 14’s or that there is some genre meaning. I’m going with the second option there because of how seven’s have been used throughout scripture.
Perhaps God saw through time that we wouldn’t believe the numbers and staggered them in such a way that we could rationalize around them so it wouldn’t be a stumbling block for our faith (Like in Adam’s genealogical line). Maybe some rounding was going on. Maybe it was an artifact of the way the census was conducted and some rounding and estimating was going on as the people were being gathered in groups and counted. I’m probably wrong in all these guesses. I’ll give it more thought but I’m not expecting to fully understand it, though I hope I will. But even if I do end up understanding it who will believe my correct interpretation? As for now, I’ll just assume the numbers are in the ballpark. How many Israelites can live off the land if they do cooking with wood? Scripture says some Israelites boiled manna for example. How much wood was available and how fast could it grow back?
How do we read what you pointed out? Is God’s purpose for us to focus on the message of the story rather than using specific numbers to draw conclusions? Do people just have more favorable impression to these numbers rather than numbers such as 666? or 192,129? The rounded numbers makes for easier reading. I know I don’t “get it” but I remember what Paul said. “The foolishness of God is wiser by far than man is.” At this point I know certain numbers aren’t precise. If the Israelites were being taxed as they took the census, some might have skipped out for that reason. Some may have been sick and not assembled. Maybe the numbers were the way the counter wanted to convey “this is a round number.”
So certainly there was a reason the numbers were counted the way they were. I’m not prepared at this time to think the population was substantially less. Doing so would require me shifting my understanding of the exchange Balaam and Barak had. Would require some other explanation of the total tax collected from each person. If you can locate any other parallel uses of number genre that utilize some aspect of the same pattern to convey a specific message I’ll look at it. I’m familiar with certain patterns of ages of Adam’s line through Noah and then afterward. But this seems different than that.
I appreciate you bringing it up. Now it is on my radar and as I come across other scriptures I’ll try look for parallels that might shed some light on the matter. Or maybe it is nothing other than a stylistic way of rounding numbers with a particular meaning or internal pointer showing this to be a rough number. Or again this is just an artifact of the counting method that I don’t understand.