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Exodus 12:37 gives a count of “about 600,000 men on foot, besides women and children.” “Men on foot” may be “foot-soldiers.” Figuring in the women and children, the estimate would be about 2-3 million people. Many scholars believe the numbers are extraordinarily high in comparison to the estimated world population at the time. The logistics of meeting the needs of that many people would be enormous, but not impossible for God. But, on the other hand, that many people should not have been troubled by Pharaoh’s 600 chariots, Exodus 14:7, have difficulty in routing the Amalekites, Exodus 17, or be unable to drive out the seven nations of Canaan. Besides, Deuteronomy 7:7 states the Israelites were “the fewest of all peoples.” A simple calculation, based on Numbers 3:43, shows the number could not have been that high. It gives the number of firstborn males, a month or more old, as 22,273. This means of all the male population, there was one firstborn for every 50 children, which is quite absurd. It has been claimed that some numbers are inflated about 10% higher. On this basis 600,000 of Exodus 12:37, could read, 60,000. James Snapp Jr., author of “The Quest for the Historical Census,” wrote that “the shift from ‘60,000’ to ‘600,000’ would be a very simple shift to make in paleo-Hebrew script.” Another factor is the word ‘elph’ often translated ‘thousand.’ ‘Elph’ can also mean ‘officers.’ James Snapp Jr., noting the military practice of listing officers and troops, proposed that the census numbers of Numbers 1 and 26 could have originally been a count of officers ‘elph’ and the troops under them, counted by thousands ‘elph.’ Later scribes, not understanding the different meanings of ‘elph,’ may have conflated or combined the numbers. In Numbers 1:20, 21, for example, Reuben is said to have 46,500 men. With his proposed adjustment, the tribe of Reuben would have 40 officers ‘elph’ with 6 thousand ‘elph’ plus 500 troops under them. It is easy to see how a scribe would combine the ‘elphs’ into one. He conjectured that the rest of the tribes of warriors could be seen as given here: Simeon (59,300) 54 officers (elphs), 5 thousand (elphs) and 300 troops Gad (45,650) 42 officers (elephs), 3 thousand (elephs) and 650 troops Judah (74,600) 66 officers, 8 thousand, 600 troops Issachar (54,400) 50 officers, 4 thousand, 400 troops Zebulon (57,400) 52 officers, 5 thousand, 400 troops Ephraim (40,500) 36 officers, 4 thousand, 500 troops Manasseh (32,200) 29 officers, 3 thousand, 200 troops Benjamin (35,400) 33 officers, 2 thousand, 400 troops Dan (62,700) 60 officers, 2 thousand, 700 troops Asher (41,500) 38 officers, 3 thousand, 500 troops Naphtali (53,400) 50 officers, 3 thousand, 400 troops The grand total of the Israelite army would now be 54,100, a number closer to 60,000, broken down to 550 total officers supervising 53,550 total soldiers. This would adjust the total population coming out of Egypt from a few million to a more reasonable number of about 250,000 people.
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