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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 12:28 am

    Population Increase (cont.) Last paragraph:

    From fifty-one grandsons of Jacob, an average of three sons over three generations gives about 1400 males or, over four generations, about 4000 males, producing total populations of around 3000 and 8000 respectively.84 These figures demonstrate that an Exodus population of 6000 is within range of likelihood, and that the average family size is probably between three and four sons. By the time of the Exodus, the balance of the sexes had certainly recovered from Pharaoh’s slaughter of the baby boys in Moses’ generation (Ex 1:22) — a shortage of males would lead to a temporary rise in polygyny, and hence the birth-rate would be unaffected.85 To go from around seven children per family prior to the Exodus to barely replacing the population in forty years speaks to the harsh desert conditions (Deut 8:15) and recurring losses to plague (Num 11:33; 14:37; 16:49; 25:9).

    84 This is just an indication, and does not allow for deaths of the first two generations.
    85 The enslaved Israelites were not in a position to wage war on other nations in order to take female captives, nor could they afford to ‘purchase’ them. By this reasoning, we may assume that polygyny was at a low level for the rest of the Egyptian period and throughout the wilderness period. The capture of Midianite virgins at the beginning of the conquest of Canaan (Num 31:18) appears to have been the first opportunity to take slave-wives since the massacre of Shechem some 270 years earlier (Gen 34:29).