MemberJanuary 24, 2021 at 11:11 am
I have been skipping some sections of my OT project… I would like to publish it at some point so have left out my own proposal for resolving the conundrums of the population of the exodus. Here is a generally applicable part of the Conclusion:
The Exodus and Wilderness narratives can withstand textual analysis and their historical value need not be discounted or dismissed on the basis of unrealistic numbers. Whereas context generally supports the accurate transmission of narrative, numbers are liable to scribal error. When considering the kinds and the scale of likely numerical errors, there appear to be at least five ways in which they may have occurred:
1. The word אַלּוּף aluf (whether ‘leader’, ‘fighting unit’, ‘family’, or ‘warrior’) was sometimes mistranslated ‘thousand’
2. The אֶלֶף elef and אַלּוּף aluf figures were sometimes mistakenly combined
3. Some numbers are out by one or two powers of ten
4. Some totals were added or adjusted by later copyists
5. Some numbers were simply copied wrongly or omitted.
In most cases, therefore, large or discrepant figures can be reinterpreted or explained, whilst recognising that no-one can know for sure how closely the received texts match the original records.