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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

  • Deborah Hurn

    January 23, 2021 at 7:37 am

    History of Interpretation (cont.)

    According to these four models, Israel’s total population leaving Egypt was about 6000 (Petrie), over 20,000 (Mendenhall), about 72,000 (Wenham), or 140,000 (Clark).30 Of these, only Petrie’s figure might comply with the biblical descriptions and circumstances of Israel’s nomadic existence in the wilderness. Albright (1925), however, considers Petrie’s population to be “absurdly small” for “a nation which was to conquer all Palestine”.31 Davies (1995) follows Mendenhall in pointing out that Petrie’s ‘civil’ census does away with a special count of fighting men, and does not sit well with the many military terms and specifications in the texts (e.g. Num 1:3; 26:2).32 Petrie recognises that he cannot account for the Levite clan populations where the אֶלֶף figures are too low to be ‘families’, (Num 3:15-39),33 and Davies also notes that figures for deaths by plague in the same מֵאוֹת : אֶלֶף format cannot sensibly be understood in terms of ‘families’ and hundreds (Ex 32:28; Num 16:49; 25:9).34

    30 Davies amends Mendenhall’s total population to 28,000 if the fighting men have on average five family members. “Mathematical Conundrum,” 460–1.
    31 Albright, “Administrative Divisions,” 20–1, n. 10.
    32 Davies, “Mathematical Conundrum,” 460.
    33 Petrie, Researches in Sinai, 215.
    34 Davies, “Mathematical Conundrum,” 460–1.