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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 24, 2021 at 12:25 am

    Population Increase (cont.)

    The total of the names of those who went down to Egypt (exclusive of wives and sisters) is sixty-eight, although Genesis 46:26-7 says “seventy”.81 Whilst in Egypt, the descendants of Israel “were fruitful, and increased very much, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty. And the land was filled with them.” (Ex 1:7 MKJV) Jacob’s twelve sons had between them fifty-one sons, thus averaging about four sons each.82 Although almost no daughters and granddaughters are listed, under normal circumstances this would require an average family size of eight children — indisputably a high birth-rate. The sons of Jacob, however, probably had multiple wives having taken all the women of Shechem in the incident over their sister Dinah (Gen 34:27-9).83 This suggests that an average of four sons per father is the upper limit in the history of the tribes.

    81 These are Jacob, his 11 sons, 4 sons of Reuben, 6 of Simeon, 3 of Levi, 3 of Judah, 4 of Issachar, 3 of Zebulun, 7 of Gad, 4 of Asher, 10 of Benjamin, 1 of Dan, 4 of Naphtali, and 4 great-grandsons — 2 sons of Perez and 2 sons of Beriah — 65 in all. If we add Joseph and his sons Ephraim and Manasseh who were already resident in Egypt, there are 68.
    82 Some errors of transcription are revealed in comparison between the Genesis and Chronicles genealogies, and also the Hebrew and Septuagint genealogies. Benjamin probably only has five sons (Gen 46:21, cp. 1 Chr 8:1-5; Num 26:28), and the LXX reference to Manasseh’s and Ephraim’s descendants adds five names to the list (Gen 46:20). Also some names have been transposed from one line of descent to another: Becher (Num 26:35 cp. Gen 46:21, with no mention of him at all in LXX) and Nemuel (Num 26:9 cp. v.12).
    83 Jacob had an average of three sons per wife.