MemberJanuary 24, 2021 at 11:44 am
Thomas, I chose to measure the available ground in the southern Jordan Valley because this is one campsite where the space is physically limited. The final campground, known to the biblical authors as the Plains of Moab, is a circular region confined by the Jordan River on the west, the Dead Sea on the south, and the steep barren slopes of the Rift Valley on the east. The valley stretches to the north, but the narrative specifically states that the Israelites camped between two towns, Beth-jeshimoth close to the Dead Sea coast and Abel-shittim directly opposite Jericho, both tels in the southernmost part of the Jordan Valley.
Num 33:48-49 NRSV They set out from the mountains of Abarim and camped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho; (49) they camped by the Jordan from Beth-jeshimoth as far as Abel-shittim in the plains of Moab.
So these physical restrictions place firm limits on the space available to the Israelites for their final campsite before crossing the Jordan. Their large numbers of livestock (I gave referenced estimates for how many per family) could not have been grazed up on the plateau for this part of the journey… it is about 1000 m above the campsite, and they had already left the Mountains of Abarim. A generous calculation for a conservative 2 million people from 600k men-at-arms gives a space of 2.7×2.7 m for each person, exclusive of livestock which probably numbered many more than the people. This scenario allows for no ground broken up by wadis (in fact there is a lot), no public space or walkways, and no animal pens. For this and many other considerations of pasture, water, ablutions, communications, movement, historical comparisons, and textual anomalies (see all these explained in the thread), it is absolutely out of the question that there were 600k men-at-arms in the exodus. We may rightly argue for historical scriptures, but *something* has happened to the numbers.