MemberJanuary 23, 2021 at 7:18 am
History of Interpretation (cont.)
Other scholars, presupposing that the original author(s) “wrote to be believed”,25 have made various attempts to reinterpret the census lists in Numbers 1 and 26 with their related figures (Ex 12:37, 38:24-29; Num 11:21), Levitical reckoning (Num 3:22-39; 4:21-49), and other details (16:49; 25:9; Josh 4:13) in order to gain a more modest total for the number of people in the Exodus. The puzzle is complex and a variety of mathematical solutions has been offered. Any proposed revision of the figures must allege that the national and divisional totals (Num 1:46; 2:9, 16, 24, 31; 26:51), the amount of the Sanctuary tax (Ex 38:25-26; 30:11-16), and the totals of Levites and firstborn males (Num 3:39, 43) were at some point intentionally altered. No theory fully untangles the problems with the census lists and some create more problems than they claim to solve, but together they indicate possible clues to a better understanding of the high figures of the Hebrew Bible.
25 R.E.D. Clark, “The Large Numbers of the Old Testament,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute, 930th Ordinary General Meeting, 87 (May 6, 1955): 83; Merling, “Large Numbers at the Time of the Exodus,” 24.